Monday, January 5, 2015

Academic feminism and classism

As much as I'd like to see a word as overused and misunderstood as "privilege" take a nice, long vacation, I need to address how the feminist blog world views "educational" privilege, particularly among its non-academic ranks.

Progressives have always been hesitant to talk about class, and mainstream feminism is tethered to academia even though many women who call themselves feminists aren't academics -- probably most aren't. But more than that, it's insular and clubbish. This is a bigger problem that its simply being tied to formal women's or gender studies classes. What I'm seeing quite a bit of now is leveling "privilege" arguments that pit those who "know" feminism against those who don't. This assumes that if you studied feminism in a formal setting, you have "educational" privilege and if you didn't, well, you don't.

Fairly simple, right.

Personal anecdotes aren't facts, but for the sake of example, let's say I never took a formal gender studies course (I haven't.) But it's something I've been interested in and have independently studied for more than twenty-years. Am I still and uneducated rube or do I possess "educational privilege?" I realize that sounds silly enough to border on parody, but there's more than a hint of classism in thinking the only correct way someone could acquire knowledge correctly is in a classroom setting. Why isn't is just as classist to assume your readers won't know what you're talking about if they haven't studied it formally?