Vizuru This issue of who gets to speak for whom comes up a lot in my research. We may experience hesitation from fear of being criticized or from fear of exacerbating a problem we would like to remedy, or we may experience a resolve to speak despite existing obstacles, but in many cases we experience having the possibility to speak or not to speak. Yet the effects of the two statements are vastly different because the meaning of the claim changes radically ptoblem on who states it. This point might be conceded by those who admit to the political mutability of interpretationbut they might continue to maintain that truth is a different matter altogether. Persons from dominant groups who speak for others are often treated speakinh authenticating presences that confer legitimacy and credibility on the demands of subjugated speakers; such speaking for others does nothing to disrupt the discursive hierarchies that operate in public spaces.
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The question of who can, and who should, speak for whom is an enduring one within feminist thought. It comes up in research, teaching, and activist contexts. This question is important, regardless of whether you claim membership in that community or not, but is particularly salient for identity groups that have seen their histories erased, distorted, or only partially represented within dominant culture.
This question has come up for me repeatedly in my own research on feminist magazines like BUST and Bitch. These are feminist texts, and yet I write in ways that are frequently critical of them. Sometimes, I worry sometimes that my criticism overrides what I see as the value of these texts. Rather, the rituals of speaking call our attention to the contexts in which speaking and being heard are made possible.
But it is also worth noting that there are contexts in which stepping aside might be appropriate. I think of a panel discussion I attended last year on the Occupy movement, held in a large lecture hall.
There were two microphones set up in the aisles for audience members to line up behind to ask questions. Each line had people in it. There was one woman in line. When she got to the microphone, she stated that she had observed the gender disparity in who was lining up to speak, and encouraged other women to ask questions. Share this:.
On the Problem of Speaking for Others
LINDA ALCOFF THE PROBLEM OF SPEAKING FOR OTHERS PDF