This is a continuation of earlier posts.
When I was a French teacher at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, I started to place critiques, mainly (although not entirely) of the current school system. At first, I merely printed off the articles, but then I started to provide a summary of the article along with the article. I placed the summaries along with the articles in a binder (and, eventually, binders), and I placed the binder in the staff lounge.
As chair of the Equity and Justice Committee for Lakeshore Teachers’ Association of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS), I also sent the articles and summary to the Ning of the MTS (a ning is “an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks”).
As I pointed out in a previous post, it is necessary for the radical left to use every opportunity to question the legitimacy of existing institutions.
The author (Shannon Sullivan) of the article, “Reconfiguring Gender with John Dewey: Habit, Bodies, and Cultural Change,” argues that Dewey’s concept of habits as a set of created structures of the body at the individual level that constitute the self is useful for characterizing the gendered body and its transformation over time. At the social level, habits become customs. Both habits and customs can be transformed through friction between contradictory or opposing habits or customs.
It is the task of education to ensure that children and adolescents develop flexible, not rigid habits characteristic of many adults.
Even adults can develop flexible habits as their habits come into conflict with each other; at the level of society, customs can be transformed through the clash of customs. Individual habits that lead to the need for the connecting with other like-minded individuals can lead to the transformation at the cultural level. Feminist movements can and have transformed habits and customs.
The author gives the example of how the defining of gender according to the rigid binaries of male and female gave way to a greater acceptance of the provision of health care and other benefits to same-sex partners of employees by employers.
However, the example by the author itself furnishes food for thought. Employers have been obliged to accept same-sex relations. Such relations may question gender customs, but they do not question the premises for the existence of businesses in the first place. What happens if equity and social justice requires the questioning of such premises? For example, are not employees human beings who, practically and legally, are treated as things to be used by other people rather than people (human agents).
Few feminists and few teachers and indeed few of those who fight for equity and social justice question the premises for the existence of employers. If habits and customs related to the existence of employers are going to change, however, it is necessary to adopt and develop theories that enable people to question such premises.
The author lacks a critical awareness of her own feminist limitations. By providing an example of how employers incorporate gender flexibility into their practices, she does not question how employers control the body of employees as employees; to be an employee is to be a body that is controlled by others (employers or their representatives—such as principals in the case of school divisions).
Equity and social justice is much more demanding than many believe. To fight for equity and social justice often involves persecution by those in power of those who fight for equity and social justice. If those who are concerned with equity and social justice are not persecuted, in all likelihood they are not really fighting for equity and social justice. To fight for equity and social justice requires opposing those who control other human beings in various forms. To fight for equity and social justice, it is necessary to question the premises of social structures—and those who believe in them and defend them. To question such premises will likely result in persecution by those in power in one form or another.