Feminist Values?

Nov 1, 2011 by Jessica

Much of what we read this week focuses on the body.  The works emphasize the ideas of Bacon, who considered Nature to be “matter”– tied to form but also in need of domination.  Nature and matter are all associated with the body, and the body is associated with females.  Evelyn Fox Keller examines the need to differentiate from the mother (and therefore the body) through agression or some other tactic.  This agression was found primarily in boys.  Union with women, with bodies, with “Nature,” is not only erotic, but also suffocating and a reminder of our own mortality.  I add the last becuase union not only can be joyful, but also a potential threat to our own selfhood.  If nature and “inert” matter and women were to hold sway in society, we would be admitting our own defeat, because we would have to acknowledge that we are not only pure forms (or men aren’t), but that there was another sinister element we had to deal with– and that would be the formless matter that makes up our own bodies and leads us inevitably to decay a death.  So we (men and women) deny our bodies.  We drive around instead of walk, and we take chemicals to manipulate the physical brain’s processes, and we eat food that’s strangely colored, and we read newspapers and listen to music and watch TV instead of meditating or listening to the birds outside.  We shut down our bodies and our senses.  We betray the body to control the body, because it is representative of our entire enviorment; that is, the natural world, which, as Wallace Stevens suggested, is also an all consuming mother that devours us.

What I am trying to get at as that the feminists we read this week are striking a deep nerve.  They seem to be suggesting that science suffers from the male-bias not becuase it is “bad” science, but becuase at its foundations it is not idealologically sound.  That means science must be radically changed.  However, for this to happen, I believe our whole society must shift.  I am continually sceptical concerning science.  In truth, it does often seemed biased.  It seems, at least in fields where the differences of the sexes are concerned, to find out exactly what everybody “knows.”  It seems, at least where the environment is concerned, to favor something strange called progess over a peaceful co-existance with nature.  Those things aside, I am also often surprised, amused, and pleased by what science has to offer.  In fact, it often seems perfectly functional.  Perhaps feminism is too extreme.  Perhaps feminists are only pursuing their own interests to the detriment of others.

The solution might not be one of some grand ideological change, but actually simply a matter of science opening its doors to more women.  In the end, that may be what it takes to shift science.  And the shift may not be only a case of including and acknowledging women, but other people who don’t have much of a voice at all.  I believe that the men/women, form/matter, rational/irrational dichotomies are still with us and play out in society over and over, but I am also not in favor of implanting values into science.  As time goes on, and more diversity (which must be assured) is introduced, then the shift can come organically.