beyond the green: collective of middlebury voices

a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications

pleasetrytolisten

or, everything I want to say before graduating

by Lily Andrews

 

because beyond the green continues to be misunderstood and that’s annoying

there is no place like Middlebury that makes me feel as fed up on a daily basis (this isn’t actually that true)

but lately, I’ve been lucky enough to overhear choice conversations and comments that make me feel like some justification and defense is in order (once again)

first I will remind you that beyond the green exists because we do not find that the effort it would take to make our opinions, experiences, thoughts and feelings heard in the campus or middbeat is possible or sustainable. on the contrary such an endeavor has already proven to be exhausting. if the campus merely reflects, and there are only so many on campus who represent, possess or embody a certain opinion, politics and experience, then how should we hope to be convincingly represented in the newspaper? how much extra effort would that require? screw that approach. this is on our terms.

let me reiterate it once again. beyond the green exists to provide space for experiences, voices, feelings, thoughts, opinions and politics that are actively and passively marginalized

it should not be any individuals burden to fight for their representation, but on this campus, it is. we are fighting. so stop telling us to engage in the way that you prescribe. it only works for you.

we have created a new space that many find affirming and necessary. (it’s working).

no comments, a foundational mission and politics, and an informal style makes this safety possible. the voices that have already been heard on beyond the green create a sense of safety for individuals who haven’t written yet, including alumni and prospective students. no comments is especially important because it encourages people to engage with one another in a way that feels safe and affirming to each of them (so, maybe, not in a big group, or maybe, conversation is not even possible in every instance). the internet doesn’t allow for people to be accountable and respectful in disagreements that face to face conversation (not debate) forces people to be.

however, and this brings me to my second point, this is not the only thing that beyond the green does. beyond the green is not simply a site for “cultural production” or “knowledge production.” we don’t submit our posts and stop there (though, we should ask, what the hell would be wrong with just writing, just posting, just expressing?). rather, we are busy making change. and beyond the green is busy supporting this change – we have always and will always be tied to changing the structures, culture and climate of middlebury that many find oppressive, silencing, unwelcoming, unsafe, uncomfortable and marginalizing (yes, this is the same place that so many others enthusiastically call home). we want to see middlebury become affirming and supportive to all of its students. but we aren’t there yet. so we write, and this is a fundamental part of a larger project. stop denigrating it.

we have advertised, we exist, and we’re not going away.

third, beyond the green cannot be pinned down to one, two or three individuals. from the very, very, very beginning, we have been a community project – a large group from alumni to students to faculty have shaped what beyond the green is and continue to do so. many claim ownership over beyond the green, and there is space for more, because it is a community project – a COMMUNITY PROJECT – so stop looking for it to be associated with or represented by just a few individuals

if you still have questions, if you still haven’t heard, then please do some reading and your research. the information is out there. (and i should acknowledge that emilie munson did a good job covering beyond the green in the campus, in my own very individual opinion, so shout out to that).

 

when you are blessed enough to hear truly enlightened opinions

a couple week ago, I had the pleasure of over-hearing the idea that Malcolm x is colorblind. that his ideas and speeches and political organizing have their greatest value and truth when they are applied outside of the context of race. effectively, I heard black nationalist leader Malcolm x being taken away from the black community, from anti-racist organizing, from challenging white supremacy.

I thought this was impossible.

news flash: universalizing Malcolm x is not necessarily an enlightened move.

 

maybe i should stop being controversial

and take a middle road where I read all opinions and entertain all ideas, even when they come conspicuously close to hate speech, violence and flat out ignorance

the problem with this is, I already read these opinions, everyday. If I don’t read, them, I hear them. If I don’t hear them, I see them.

i don’t need to turn to a book to find out that most americans believe that any individuals lack of employment or incarceration is their own fault, and not the result of violent, discriminatory and controlling structures; or go to a talk to find out that white students consider affirmative action “unfair” and “discriminatory” and “reverse racism,” and if they are generous, “only necessary for about 25 years or so.” I don’t need to turn to scholars or literature or classrooms to realize that most of us – especially the most privileged, like those here on legacy – buy into ideas of meritocracy and think that everyone (except scholarship kids or students of color, of course!) are here because we deserve it.

most of us are bombarded by these ideas EVEY SINGLE DAY because they are the dominant, hegemonic ideas; ideas that are reflected in policy and on the news; the ideas that those in positions of power espouse

ideas do not exist equally in the universe. rather, some have an enormous amount of power behind them and already manifest institutionally, structurally

so don’t tell me to pick up a book by those that disagree with me. I already hear and see what they think. I already know these opinions. we are all steeped in them, and the real effort is seeking out the dissent. (see miss auditorium for much much more on this subject).

i may seem angry, but there is also a deep pit of sadness in my stomach.

 

most of what I encounter on this campus is the definition of the patriarchy

patronizing statements and assertions that assume that whoever you are talking to hasn’t already done the work of thinking about what they are saying or doing

 

because I am worried that btg is still unaccessible to some, feels unsafe to some

please print your opinion. we want diversity of tone and voice.

please send in your vlogs

please scan and send in your art

if you can’t do this for whatever reason, we also want to respect that.

 

at middlebury, myself and 99% of people I know struggle with mental health

is it really each of our individual faults

that we have panic attacks that force us to exit classrooms or parties,

don’t leave our rooms for days on end,

hide ourselves in spaces something like a closet to binge eat more food than we think we are supposed to,

yell at people we love because we are too stressed to deal with our emotions,

fail to smile at peers on the street or in buildings because we are too vulnerable to risk their rejection, or too shy to engage

is it really my and your fault

that we either resist or accept prescription meds, and try our best not to abuse them

that we either go to a therapist we don’t like because they’re affordable, or for the rich among us, pay out of pocket to get someone better in town

avoid phone calls from our parents and/or siblings and/or figures from home because we don’t have the time and the energy for them

miss so many classes, or meals, or dates, or engagements, or events for lack of energy, or nourishment, or faith, or ability to handle it

share our past stories of break downs or freak outs because we’re conceited and not over it yet, or choose not to speak because we don’t want to be conceited and need to be over it now

don’t submit our stories of rape to IHH because it happened too long ago, or we have too many friends whose assaults matter more, or we still feel embarrassed, or we still think it doesn’t count, or we don’t completely trust the man, woman or person behind the screen or behind the podium, reading it at the other end, our faces reddening and palms sweating as they do so

don’t ask each other the hard questions because our relationship is already hard enough

ditch each other, leave each other, abandon each other and lose eachother

that we don’t have time for each other

that we don’t have the energy or confidence to make the community we want here

that we eventually leave and ultimately devalue eachother

is any of this really our individual faults

that we do this

will I miss middlebury? probably, maybe, it’s difficult to make friends out there

 

the discourse around discourse is the definition of the patriarchy; and do you think this is a feminist blog?

here I would really like to reprint a bomb paper I wrote on btg… and give you the option of not reading it. And yeah, I’m a little embarrassed for doing this, but like I said, it’s bomb and explains btg in an extremely theoretical way. WHO SAID GSFS was EASY.

 

Empowering Patriarchy through Calling for Legibility and Debate

I argue that patriarchy should be defined broadly – a definition that goes beyond notions of individual oppression of female-identifying people by male-identifying people. Patriarchy is, and thereby critiques of patriarchy should be “dynamic and not limited to a parochial understanding of ‘women’s issues’” (Carby 276). Here, I define patriarchy as a knowledge system (phallogocentric thinking) and a prescribed mode of engagement (debate). Phallogocentric thinking not only values rational thought and advocates a mind-body separation, but also requires that people and ideas, especially those that are marginalized or devalued, be explained and made legible to the dominant, the universal, or the norm in terms that they have sanctioned and already understand. A debate-like mode of engagement accompanies this rational, ultimately masculine knowledge system: debate, as a mode of engagement, assumes the intellectual nature of ideas; sets up a false universal and equal ground on which these ideas can be exchanged; and accepts only rational, often decontextualized defense of these ideas from unmarked bodies. Only skills count within this framework, not lived experiences.

At Middlebury, I find that phallogocentric thinking as well as a debate-like mode of engagement are widely promoted and celebrated as the exemplary form of liberal education and exchange. Patriarchy is evident in these areas because both this way of thinking and mode of engagement come from a predominately masculine, detached, disengaged, dispassionate and unemotional understanding of knowledge. Moreover, patriarchy is evident in the result of this hegemony: unmarked bodies are the ones that primarily benefit from the practice of these assumptions.  White, cis-male bodies are able to engage in this way without reflecting on the social location of their voices, thereby reaffirming the importance of their opinion even on topics with which they lack experience; without considering structural forces that simultaneously elevate their voices and silence the voices of others; and still gain access to ideas on their own terms, at the expense of the marginalized subject who is constantly required to defend herself.

Although this node of patriarchy exists primarily as a dominant way of thinking and mode of engagement, it becomes structural as it is claimed by a number of institutions: Middbeat, The Campus, the Symposium – and I would argue – the liberal arts nature of this institution, which expresses this ideology at various points: defending the presence of a racist speaker on campus, promoting diversity measures primarily as means of enriching discourse, and pretending that Middlebury exists as a neutral marketplace of freely exchanged ideas. By being formally adopted by these publications, (phal)logocentrism becomes a structural form of patriarchy because these institutions formally claim it.

At Middlebury, I have most dramatically experienced patriarchy as this particularly patronizing set of assumptions, spouted by these institutions. It has become clear to me that certain ideas on campus are taken for granted; in order to receive legitimacy, individuals who challenge oppressive structures at Middlebury must follow modes of engagement determined by those who benefit from these structures. More specifically, a number of students and I have recently been denigrated for not engaging directly with mainstream discussion platforms, i.e. The Campus and Middbeat – both of which profess a (falsely) neutral stance. We have been “warned” that our efforts will fail, and accused of choosing to preach to the choir rather than challenge, reach and educate those who disagree with us. All of these arguments are made on the grounds of phallogocentricism and the debate mode. Moreover, these arguments aggressively reject the erotic choice that we have made to affirm ourselves, instead mandating that we engage in ways that are fundamentally draining of our energies. In this essay, I examine particular arguments that are made in defense of this patriarchal world view, and use Audre Lorde’s argument in “Uses of the Erotic” to contest them.

beyond the green (a new blog) has received the following push-back: “If you want to engage in a constructive dialogue and make productive gains in changing the ‘structural neoliberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications,’ start showing up to these types of events with questions and ideas that stimulate, rather than stifle discourse” (Middbeat comment). “love the new blog and everything it stands for, but really confused about why they don’t allow comments on it. It seems to inhibit any useful dialogue (not that all dialogue is useful), which is pretty counterproductive and fits right in line with the pretty disastrous state of dialogue on issues of oppression…” (Middbeat comment). And, “I don’t think the middbeat hate is fair because you have access to joining whenever you’d like…. I think by creating this separate blog you are separating your voice from the community that might or might not exist” (email exchange). These quotes express the conceit that a space within Middlebury can be neutral, and that entering and speaking in these spaces is accessible and feels the same to everybody. Most importantly, though, there is the notion of being productive with our dialogue. The goal of these patriarchal assumptions is transactional, is profit: the exchange of ideas, the change of opinions, and the enrichment of discourse. As Lorde writes, “the principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need – the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment (2). What is being asked in this instance is for marginalized students to engage in a way that is prescribed by and benefits privileged, unmarked bodies – and to do so at the expense of their own health.

This particular form of patriarchy serves to further delegitimize the voices of the already marginalized, and performs the goodness and equality of structurally affirmed voices (those willing to engage). As ex-nominated gendered and racialized voices line up on one side of this issue, male identified and/or white bodies are further empowered as egalitarian subjects, willing to engage on proclaimed equal terms. Ducille’s idea that whiteness manifests as “omnipresence… yet is all but silent about itself” illuminates the sites of enormous patriarchal power that is the debate mode and phallogocentric knowledge system (40). This became most clear to me during the symposium: white students presented on affirmative action – omnipresent in race discourse, but thoroughly silent about their whiteness – how were they set up to arrive at college? It is the dislocation of these bodies and voices that primarily give weight and power to the idea that ideas are equally, freely exchanged (Ducille 40). Dislocation also gives power to the idea that these concepts can be engaged with intellectually, in a mode that disengages from material realities and real lives. Moreover, many women support this patriarchal mode of thinking and engagement by “continuing to operate under an exclusively European-American male tradition;” I would argue that the ability to do so is facilitated by intersecting factors of whiteness and heteronomativity, which allow these women to also benefit from these structures as unmarked persons and beneficiaries of privilege, and to not account for their own blind spots (Lorde 5).

Just like the fallacy of social equality that Cooper highlights (quoted by Carby in her essay), it is a fallacy that we can ever engage on equal terms within institutions that are already gendered, racialized, sexualized and nationalized in ways that uphold the dominance of powerful social groups. It is a fallacy that we can be productive in a discourse that is already disembodied and not self-reflective. Adhering rather to Lorde’s advice then, let us engage in ways that feed us: “Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama” (5). Engaging in pursuit of change – transforming the values at the core mission of liberal arts institutions – differently – from a standpoint of nourishment and encouragement – could indeed give us renewed energy.

 

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This entry was posted on May 8, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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