The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Living Feminist Theory at Grinnell: Modeling an alternative, non-polemical, approach to political questions

Last semester, Anna published a biweekly column entitled “Living Feminist Theory at Grinnell.” The column sought to provide a critical feminist perspective on current issues and events on campus.  This semester, Anna will be collaborating with Ian Byrd ’16 to expand this project. While we still intend to foreground feminist concerns, we are more interested with exploring how we approach political questions than prescribing certain opinions or standpoints. To that end, our column will be an exchange of ideas and questions raised by particular topics, rather than the more polemical form and tone of many op-eds. While these opinion pieces are valuable, we think they might foreclose rather than spark dialogue. Often they serve more to confirm the author or reader’s assumptions or biases, which reinforces an either/or, us/them mentality in political discussions.

We hope the open exchange format of our column will pose questions rather than provide concrete answers, and cast doubt in positive rather than negative terms. For that reason, we will select provocative topics that offer no simple solutions. These complex topics come with a radical uncertainty that calls our prior assumptions into question, and as a result, may make us (and others) feel uncomfortable. Although there is a certain comfort in developing strong opinions about particular topics, we would like to push ourselves and others to bracket these presuppositions and test new ideas. For example, the recent film American Sniper has generated a wave of negative responses from many people who have never actually seen it, but take issue with what they perceive as its pro-military agenda. While this, admittedly, was also our initial reaction, such a vitriolic response may shut down meaningful discussion of the issues raised by the film. It also misses a valuable opportunity to consider why it has become a cultural phenomenon.

These knee-jerk reactions strike us as emblematic of the way political discussions are often framed. We want to challenge ourselves to think more expansively by valuing the process of discussing political issues without the anticipation of a particular end. We have offered this short narrative only to clarify our aims and goals for the column—our future work will take the form of discussions, sometimes with guests. Though brief, we hope this introductory column sets the stage for the provocative exchanges that will follow.

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