Conversations I have had with Coalition members tell me that members of this group for any length of time hold one particular trait in common: a strong conviction that, while it is hard work to position oneself at school or in the profession, we cannot risk leaving that positioning up to others. For most of us (if not all of us), it is only through long, tedious and recurring processes of articulating our identities and negotiating others’ perceptions of them that we begin to fit well in any given context. Even then, our fittedness occurs incrementally through extant classifications (i.e., we might be identified as multi-ethnic for purposes of institutional data-gathering, touted as “the rhetorician/writing specialist in the literature department” as a way of proving intellectual diversity, or otherwise engendered to help fulfill a quotient for national ranking or standing).
While some of these designations may be less troublesome than others, their attachments still raise concern that we are not diversifying ourselves – or being understood as diverse – in the best possible way. And if we are not situated on campuses or in communities with explicit commitments to relational dialogue around difference (see UMichigan’s program on Intergroup Relations and FSU’s Teaching for Social Justice initiative, to name only a few examples), then we feel more isolated in our particular viewpoints and lacking in opportunities to honestly and authentically contend with real barriers to embracing equality – whether those barriers are in our own thinking or in the thinking of our colleagues, peers, and each other as feminist scholars with widely differing views. Knowing, through theory and practice, that feminisms occur on a spectrum, where do or can we go to learn more about our own and others’ spectral tolerance? To better understand the barriers to our fit?
I wish I had a comprehensive answer, but I don’t. Even this Coalitional space, to which I am dedicated and for which I am unquestioningly grateful, cannot be a principal identification space for all of us in all moments. (On some days, I’m not always sure of my fittedness to it.) It can, however, make room for those who are willing to show up and help enact or invent new ways of having this spectral discussion around various frameworks. In a little over a month, we convene at the 2019 CCCC for an evening of presentation, celebration, mentoring, and collaboration, to engage with four critical microtalk speakers who will address some of these in/equalities as they limn four intersections.
I hope you will join us for this occasion — 6:00 p.m. in Rooms 301-305 of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center — and specifically join us in asking these questions more interrogatively of ourselves.
– Tarez Graban,