Every so often I revisit the work of Michel Foucault. His theories on power, truth, ethics, problematization and care are central to my own vision of practicing an ethics of care on and offline. Today, I came across Foucault’s “So it is Important to Think.” Here are two passages that I want to ruminate on and remember:
Stupid Institutions think too.
There is always a little thought occurring even in the most stupid institutions; there is always thought even in silent habits. Criticism consists in uncovering that thought and trying to change it: showing that things are not as obvious as people believe, making it so that what is taken for granted is no longer taken for granted. To do criticism is to make harder those acts which are now too easy (456).
a fragment of autobiography:
Every time I have tried to do a piece of theoretical work it has been on the basis of elements of my own experience: always in connection with processes I saw unfolding around me. It was always because I thought I identified cracks, silent tremors, and dysfunctions in things I saw, institutions I was dealing with, or my relations with others, that I set out to do a piece of work, and each time was partly a fragment of autobiography (458).
Even as I’ve slowed down (a lot!) on posting in this virtual space, I’m still thinking and reading about trouble. When I have a chance, I want to check out Rebecca Solnit’s The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. How is she using the term “trouble”? And why does she juxtapose it with spaciousness?
Yesterday I posted about Serena Williams as a troublemaking role model who, when asked why she wasn’t smiling and happy in a post-match interview–a question that is imposed of women all the time, resisted the demand to be a polite good girl and challenged the reporter’s right to even ask the question. This morning, while scrolling through some old tweets, I found another example of refusing to be smiley and likable: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her talk at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards:
I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world….That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.
Reporter: Serena, you just won the match, and … normally, you smile when you win … you laugh. What happened tonight, is it because you beat Venus or because you’re thinking about [the next match]? What’s wrong?
Serena: It’s 11:30 … to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now, and I have to wake up early to practice. And I don’t want to answer any of these questions, and you guys keep asking me the same questions. So … you’re not making it super enjoyable. [laughs] Just being honest.
I love Serena’s response. Makes me think of my problematizer, Smile of Die! from a few years ago.