Being curious and asking questions about ideas and objects is an important method for uncovering and critically reflecting on how power, privilege and injustice work. Moreover, as Cynthia Enloe argues in her essay, “Being Curious about our Lack of Feminist Curiosity,” it enables us to pay attention to and take seriously the lives of women. She writes:
…a feminist curiosity finds all women worth thinking about, paying close attention to, because in this way we will be able to throw into sharp relief the blatant and subtle political workings of both femininity and masculinity (4).
Here I would add that a feminist curiosity may also enable us to expose the visible and invisible political workings of power, privilege and oppression as they function through gender and its intersections with race, class, ethnicity, sexuality and much more. To have a feminist curiosity about the world is to persistently ask questions and wonder why and at whose expense/for whose benefit certain ideas, institutions, or systems function in the ways that they do. Of course a feminist curiosity is not the only thing that is necessary for taking the lives of women (or of all species, human and non-human, for that matter) seriously. However, it is an important part of the process and it provides a compelling way to bring a wide range of issues into conversation with each other.
Now that you have made it to the end of this lesson, I have one final assignment* for you.
- Pick one of the questions that you wrote down or one of the questions I posted in the previous entry that makes you curious and that you feel engages with issues of privilege and/or power.
- Now, spend a few minutes writing down as many questions as you can think of that relate to that first question and that guide your thinking towards a reflection on how power and privilege work. Hint: you can use one of my sets of questions (like those grouped under labor or marketing) as your guide.
- Once you get to a question that you are particularly interested in thinking about (and that you think really gets at how power or privilege work) then stop.
- Don’t spend too much time on your questions (just a few minutes), but do this exercise every day for the next week. Your questions don’t all have to connect to or follow from the initial image of the pink sneaker. Just make sure that they are guided by a feminist curiosity–the desire to take women’s lives seriously and to expose invisible and visible workings of power and privilege.
- At the end of the week, post a 200 word comment to this entry that includes one set of your questions and your thoughts on the experience of asking so many questions.
*This final assignment is a modified version of Kate Bornstein’s “The Ten-Minute Gender Outlaw Exercise” from My Gender Workbook.
2 Possible Additional Readings for exercise:
Enloe, Cynthia. “Being Curious about our Lack of Feminist Curiosity”
Bailey, Alison. “Privilege“