Why, you may ask, did I have you write down so many questions about the image of the pink high-top sneaker? In this mini-lecture, I want to briefly consider why we are so often not curious and then why being curious, in the form of asking lots of questions, is central to Women’s Studies and its analysis of power, privilege and injustice.
WHY AREN’T WE CURIOUS?
- We are afraid to ask questions because it exposes what we don’t know or how we are uncertain
- It is a lot of work and requires too much energy
- It stirs up too much trouble and might force us to rethink our most basic assumptions
- We are trained to receive and accept information instead of questioning it, challenging it or wondering about it
WHO (and what) BENEFITS WHEN WE AREN’T CURIOUS?
- Those who wish to maintain the status quo and who resist change
- Power structures—inside households, within institutions, in societies—that depend on our mere acceptance of ideas as “natural” or “given”
- Those who wish to hide the political workings of terms and concepts that we have been trained to merely accept
- Those who don’t want us to think critically about how systems and structures work and at whose benefit and whose expense
- Those who want privilege (who has access to it and who doesn’t) to remain invisible and uninterrogated
WHAT CAN ASKING QUESTIONS ENABLE US TO DO?
- To ask why something is the way it is is to suggest that it could be otherwise or that it shouldn’t be the way that it is
- Enables us to pay attention to how things really work and how those things may serve to reinforce unjust power relations between people, communities, nations, institutions
- Enables us to explore those things that we are afraid to question or to think about
- It opens up a connection, a space, for engagement between us and the object of our questions or between us and the others to whom we ask the questions
- Allows us to move beyond merely receiving information, to critically engaging with it
- Trains us to wonder, to pay attention, and to be engaged in the world
- Encourages us to reflect on how power and privilege work and how they contribute to oppression and injustice
Additional Readings. For more on questioning and feminist curiosity, check out some of the readings that inspired this mini-lecture:
Enloe, Cynthia. “Being Curious about our Lack of Feminist Curiosity”
Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw
Butler, Judith. “A Bad Writer Bites Back”
Freire, Paulo. “The Future of School” and Learning to Question
Once you are done reading this entry and clicking on the other readings/blog entries, click here to go to the next part of this exercise.