Discuss a part of Rubin’s required text, perhaps such as the echoes in modern culture of ancient misogynist practices

Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Nov 17, 2022


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I have read your short proposal. While it is short, I suspect that it was not easy to do. You appear to give a relatively accurate summary of a good amount of the required “Kinship” section of Gayle Rubin’s feminist anthropological essay. I do not think that this was easy to do, given that Rubin’s article is highly abstract and sophisticated. I believe you drew on my lecture-slideshow, which was good in that it allowed you to understand the major ideas of Rubin’s argument, especially the upshot. So, you now appear to have a good sense of the thrust of Rubin’s required text.
I wondered, however, where you might go from here. After all, the essay should do more than simply summarize Rubin’s complex argument. It should discuss some aspect of it and/or some gender topic.
Here are some possible things that you might want to consider doing:
a) Discuss a part of Rubin’s required text, perhaps such as the echoes in modern culture of ancient misogynist practices (see below for more on this).
b) Discuss some examples of the present misogynist discourses, an example perhaps of “society’s ingrained sexual viewpoint,” as you nicely put it. That is general and abstract, and it may be helpful to make it specific somehow. You can, for instance, use a method that we used in the first essay after you summarize Rubin’s argument (as you have done in the proposal): you may discuss an experience from life to illustrate “society’s ingrained sexual viewpoint.” This might be a good way to develop and anchor your ideas.
c) After you have anchored your essay in experience, you might have some basis for discussing a specific issue in Rubin’s theory. For instance, do you think the sexist discourse and practices can be somewhat alleviated or lessened? If so, how? I suggest that you don’t be too pessimistic. But I also suggest that you don’t be too optimistic either, because the world has been sexist for a very long, and some of the discourses and practices are deeply ingrained. You may consider: What specifically might be improved? Later in this course, we will look at second-, third-, and fourth-wave feminisms that emerged over the last 40 years or so. And we will study some aspects of first-wave feminism, which took place over the last 200 years, I think (before the 1960s explosion of feminist work, but after the 1700s when feminist thinkers first came on the scene or in the 1800s when women organized to fight for their rights, including the right to vote). So, things might be able to be changed somewhat. Every generation appears to discover new types of sexism, if perhaps types of sexism that is less obvious because it is more deeply ingrained. It is often not easy to recognize sexism and misogyny because it is so much part of our culture. I think that the #meToo movement might be the most recent example of people becoming more aware of types of sexism that they did not realize existed (and many conservatives, right-wingers, and Republicans still do not recognize many types of misogyny and sexism).
I guess I am suggesting that you begin with the summary of Rubin’s essay that you offered in the proposal, but then you will need to develop it in some manner. One way is to discuss an example of “society’s ingrained sexual viewpoint.” To do so in general is not easy to do in an interesting way, since people tend to offer vague generalizations and idealizations. One way to proceed may be to use the method that we used in Essay 1: provide an experience that illustrates society’s ingrained sexual viewpoint. This should perhaps anchor your thoughts and your essay and stimulate you and your reader to think about this fascinating but large topic. It is better to somehow focus your thinking and your topic, rather than to jump around a very large topic.
Here’s another idea. As I mentioned above, one way you may proceed is to discuss the echoes of ancient misogynist practices in modern culture. Perhaps, in your essay, you might find and discuss what we called “echoes” or “resonances,” much like Rubin did at one point in the required text about “curious customs” (see below).
These echoes of tribal customs that started civilization can be in marriage customs of modern society.
As I note in the instructions for Essay 2 and its proposal (in the course materials), I suggest that students engage the required text very early in the essay. This has many benefits usually, such as encouraging the writer to avoid the vague generalizations that often appear in the long opening paragraphs of such essays.
I think that it might perhaps be good for your essay to start with a short discussion of a key section (and perhaps quote) of Rubin’s text. Perhaps you may use this quote from Rubin’s required text (a quote that seems to be on the topic of echoes or resonances of customs of the cultures that laid the basis of civilization):
“Women are transacted [exchanged] as slaves, serfs, and prostitutes, but also simply as women. And if men have been sexual subjects—exchangers—and women sexual semi-objects—gifts—for much of human history, then many customs, clichés, and personality traits seem to make a great deal of sense (among others, the curious custom by which a father gives away the bride).” (This quote is from page 4 of Rubin’s required “Kinship” section, which is in BB’s Course Materials, as are all required texts.)
In the essay, you might perhaps before this — or afterward — present other basic ideas from Rubin’s required text in order to prepare to introduce your own ideas, which will come later on.
Students should point to and/or quote specific parts of the required text (perhaps the one above), as they significantly engage it in the essay
Those are my reactions to, suggestions, and thoughts about your proposal. Use what is useful and ignore what you cannot use well. I have just offered suggestions, not specific directions. You are in charge of creating the best and most interesting essay. This is a creative project.
You have done some good preliminary work by summarizing the main ideas in Rubin’s complex and challenging text. There is much more work to do. Good luck in the rest of the thinking process (wherever it might lead you) and in the writing process


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