WHOSE VALUES?

Robin Powers


The proposal which I submitted for this paper stated the following under the title "Whose Values?": The university does impart values whether deliberately or indirectly. As we explore this topic, we must ask what values are we or should we be imparting? Should they solely be the patriarchal values that have been taught for generations? Or, as we develop a more conscious awareness of such ethical issues, do we make a conscious effort to include feminist values which also include a multicultural emphasis? Do we desire inclusiveness or will the voices of women and minorities again be silenced? And, in a large state school, how can dialogue occur that will include all voices if a decision-making process is to occur?

Since sending in this proposal last November, I have read and thought a great deal about this issue. Somehow I think I thought then that I would come to you with a paper that named and defined feminist values which would include those views held by women of color and lesbians, both white and of color, to show the complexity that exists. But the combination of becoming even more aware of what feminist values really are about and the concurrent 'overpatriarchalization' of our country (if the Republican party's statements of the past year and their current primaries are any indication of this process) has made me more afraid and concerned about backlash (Faludi, 1991; French, 1992). For the past few years, attendees at women's studies conferences have talked about the F word. Yes, Feminism has somehow become equivalent to a four letter word. This is a direct result of the current backlash. My students in women's studies classes, when asked if they are feminists, for the most part, strongly deny any such identification. But at the end of these courses, after they have learned what feminism really stands for (rather than the media hype which includes an explication of Rush Limbaugh's term feminazi), most of them declare loud and clear that they are feminists.

Thus, using my students' experiences as encouragement, I will today suggest values other than the Buchananite patriarchal ones [Derrick Jackson wrote in The Boston Globe on February 23, 1996 "The Buchanan Lexicon" and under W quoted Buchanan as saying "Women are less equipped psychologically to 'stay the course' in the brawling arenas of business, commerce, industry and the professions. Women are physically unequipped to compete in the worlds of athletics and arms."] as needing inclusion in academe. I will talk about feminist values as contrasted with traditional male patriarchal values in general and will include some voices that are almost never heard in most areas of the academy such as black feminist voices. Since I have once again in my life become abundantly clear about the fact that I have no absolute answers, I will end with a brief overview of Servant Leadership as a possible view that may enable dialogue. We will then have a semi-structured discussion about how one might include such voices in an academic system dominated by patriarchal values explicitly and implicitly.

If you doubt this last statement, remember when women were just 2 and 3% of the law students (in the late '60's my husband's large law school class had three women--all of whom he hated because they were so much brighter and ruined the curve for the rest of the students!) and medical students [and look at the continuing harassment that both residents and faculty still contend with in medicine, e.g., Dr. Frances Conley's and Dr. Margaret Billingham's experiences at Stanford University Medical School ("Women in academic", 1992, January; "Stanford update", 1992, June; & "Stanford update No. 2", 1993, April), and Dr. Heidi Weissmann' at Albert Einstein College of Medicine ("the story of", 1992, January; & "An update on", 1992, June)], look at the fact that despite the fact that over 50 % of the undergraduates in many of our institutions of higher learning are female, only 10% of our full professors are female (Hensel, 1991), at the continuing salary differentials between female and male faculty (DeNeef, 1995), and count the number of rapes [in 1991 the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported a rape every 3.5 minutes and "Intimates (husbands, ex- spouses, boy friends, and ex-boyfriends) committed 20 percent of rapes acquaintances 50 percent, and strangers 30 percent of the rapes reported to NCVS between 1987-1991 (Buchwald, Fletcher & Roth, 1993, p.8)"] and nonrape physical assaults on women that occur on each of our campuses. Perhaps one could say, 'well those are administrative problems--my domain is the classroom'. Then think of the professors on your campus who show videos of fetuses in utero ("The silent scream"?) as ProLife propaganda calling it a biology class (they have every right to their own views, but it is reprehensible for them to present their views as unbiased scientific data to be learned for class). I know personally the pain this behavior causes women taking classes were this occurs who have had either abortions or miscarriages for they have come to talk with me in their pain and outrage. A more subtle expression of patriarchal values is seen in some older data that report "...a paper or thesis bearing a female name gets a lower grade than precisely the same paper or thesis delivered under a male name (French, 1992, p. 125-6)." One would like to think this is history and could not happen today in our more aware, enlightened, egalitarian era. However, last year two of my female students were furious. They had worked in a team with a male on a business course project. All three handed in identical papers (appropriately for this assignment) and the male got an A while they got Cs. To his credit, the outraged male insisted that they complain to the professor who did this. He openly admitted that the females had done much more of the work than he had. Much to my dismay, the females would not have fought alone for their rights--their self-esteem had been lowered by a continuous process of being slighted, ignored, and put-down and they felt it was hopeless to even try to defend themselves and their work.

I could go on and on with hard data illustrating how males and females are treated differently in the classroom, during advisement, in terms of mentoring (or lack thereof, for females), etc. But let us continue.

[N.B. I am not judging individual men or women in the preceding or following discussion. I am well aware that there are some men who dislike patriarchal values and some women who espouse them. I am talking about institutional and political values that benefit mostly white males (and those that act just like their stereotype) and denigrate or ignore women and/or women and men of color.]

In order to understand how such events can occur let me start with some elementary material. We live in a patriarchy which has a hierarchical structure with God at the top of the hierarchy, then men, then women, then children, then warm blooded animals, etc. Each level of this hierarchy has power over all other beings below that level. In the Judeo-Christian tradition a clear example is found in Genesis 1:26 "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (The Holy Bible, 1952)." This statement is then repeated in Gen 1:28, just in case we didn't get it the first time. This patriarchal model is one of power over. One may think that The Holy Bible (1952) is a poor reference and, perhaps, neither scholarly nor appropriate in this context. However, the Tennessee legislature recently voted to have the Ten Commandments displayed in certain public places leading one to clearly see that this model is still used almost exclusively to inform us about values.

Anne Wilson Schaef (1981), fifteen years ago, discussed the four great myths that feed, sustain and justify the white male system: (1) "the white male system is the only thing that exists (p. 8)"--any other system is aberrant and abnormal; (2) "the white male system is innately superior (p.9)"; (3) this system "...knows and understands everything (p.9)"; and (4) "it is possible to be totally logical, rational, and objective (p.10)". These implicit assumptions continue to feed our current political process and most of our organizations including academe. As technology daily increases the sense of world community (we watched students as they were killed in Tiennamen Square; with the Internet we can access any country in the world almost instantaneously, etc.), we find Buchanan saying he will build a fence around the United States to preserve the American Way (translate to conservative, religiously fundamental Christianity, white, western European, male). Affirmative Action is being dismantled in response to claims it is a quota system (in some places it certainly is and wrongfully so!) rather than being restructured to do what it was intended to do (give preference to women and minorities that are equally qualified with white male applicants).

Feminism, in contrast, is about power from within and between (Starhawk, 1989). It, initially theoretically, and as women and men struggle with the issue, more and more in actuality, embraces diversity. It works with the concepts that there are differences between men and women such as power and among women that include such variables such race, class, sexual orientation, and age (Lorde, 1984). The patriarchal culture with it's hierarchical structure sees difference in terms of opposites such as superior/inferior, good/bad, etc. In a model of power from within and between differences are neither superior or inferior. In addition, the realm of feeling is considered an important part of knowledge and there is an awareness that objectivity does not exist outside of context.

Now let us look at a definition of a feminist: "a feminist is a person who favors political, economic, and social equality of women and men, therefore favors the legal and social changes that will be necessary to achieve this equality (Hyde, 1985, p.4)". Please note, this definition says nothing about hate, castration, retaliation, or destruction. Yes, there are Radical Feminist Separatists who dislike men (usually with good personal reasons). Percentage-wise there are probably many less of them than there are White Supremist Male Vigilantes, who, unlike the female group, arm themselves for war within and against our country and do interesting things like set up their own court systems in direct violation of our judicial system. Yet, while we do not lump all white males with such groups (thank goodness!), somehow all feminists (or just plain assertive women) are placed in this category of Radical Feminist.

Faludi (1991) wrote Backlash several years ago to explicate how once again feminists, be they female or male, were being attacked and denigrated. She illustrated quite eloquently how every time the patriarchal system is challenged seriously and almost successfully, the dominant powers [i.e., white males and those espousing what Schaef (1981) has called the values of the white male system] retaliated. Once again women are being told that to have both work and family is a strain on their bodies (as if women haven't always worked!), that the absence of a father in the family is destroying the culture (how in the world did the South survive the civil war and produce a generation to be valued-- many of that generation grew up in homes headed by women due to the exigencies of war; how did young men and women grow and prosper after WWII during which women worked in factories and raised their children alone while their husbands were away at war or died on distant soil, etc.), etc.

Several feminist values are stated above. Equality, embracing diversity, power from within and between. For the past decade a hot debate has been going on in feminist ethics concerning the ethic of care. Carol Gilligan (1982) in In a Different Voice proposed a moral value for women, caring, that was equivalent to the male value of justice. Out of this has come an extensive literature on the ethic of care (for a fairly extensive bibliography see Larrabee, 1993). However, "feminist critics...have worried about the undesirable implications concerning her focus on the 'womanly virtues' that have traditionally been used to keep women in the 'private sphere' (Larrabee, 1993, p. 5)." Manning (1992) recognizes this difficulty but replies that there is nothing in an ethic of care that says only women should be the care-givers (see Chapter. 7 in her book for her responses to criticisms of an ethic of care). She refers to the fact that both in her work and Gilligan's (1982) ,"... men already hear the voice of care (1992, p.139)." However, fear of such a backlash is realistic (see Faludi, 1991). Another serious criticism of Gilligan's (1982) work is that once again the voices are white and some research shows that the voices of African-American women and men may be similar but different (Stack, 1993).

In order to avoid the errors of the past, if we are going to include nonpatriarchal values in the academy, we must also hear the voices of women of color (limited here to African American). The Black feminist movement began in the 1830's in conjunction with the fight against racism, but most of us are unaware of this double pronged work towards liberation because scholars have emphasized the racial aspects of this movement (Guy-Sheftall, 1995). "Theorizing by Black feminists...[womanists]...develops out of Black women's experiences of multiple interrelated oppressions including (but not limited to) racism/ethnocentrism, sexism/homophobia and classism (James, 1993, p. 2)." These multiple oppressions are seen as simultaneous forces and are considered multiplicative rather than just additive (Brewer, 1993). As James (1993) so eloquently states: "Ultimately, the humanistic visionary pragmatism of theorizing by Black feminists seeks the establishment of just societies where human rights are implemented with respect and dignity even as the world's resources are equitably distributed in ways that encourage individual autonomy and development (p.3)". Contemporary African American women avoid and dread being called a feminist. "Fueled by media misrepresentations and exaggerations of what feminism is and what feminists do, black women, and indeed many women of color, assume that in order to be feminist one must put the struggle against racism after against sexism (Cole, 1995, p.550)." The media hype about all feminists being lesbians also adds to this reluctance among African American women to state that they are feminists (even though, like my students, many of them would wholeheartedly agree with the definition of feminism presented above) (Cole, 1995). "One response of African American women has been to insist on defining their struggle for gender equality through the use of words other than feminism (Cole, 1995, p. 551)" such as womanist.

As a psychologist who is interested in peace as well as transpersonal psychology, women's spirituality, counseling, and the psychology of women, among other things, I will use self-restraint and not expound on how the patriarchal system effects all of these areas. Rather, I want to talk about the classroom, office and other places where we work with men and women seeking a higher education. We must encourage female students even more than our male students. Data show that young women seem to have good self-esteem until junior high school and then it plummets (American Association of University Women, 1991). So instead of neglecting them in the classroom we may need to give them more attention than the males. We must treat each other with respect as models of inclusive behavior.

In our pedagogy we must include alternative views to the Western European patriarchal view. I am not talking about political correctness here. Our students are growing up in a global world (despite what people like Buchanan say) and it is imperative that we teach them there are many ways to view various aspects of life and the world. This is most important because most of us, and our students most especially, are usually unaware of the patriarchy. It is like the air that we breath. This was clearly illustrated in a recent editorial in The Pacer, the weekly student paper at University of Tennessee at Martin. In a discussion about the development of a required university course on cultural diversity the writer said the following:

In other words, UTM is going beyond increasing global awareness--it's almost trying to tell students what opinions to have. Think not? According to the Cultural Diversity Course Development Team, the course "was intended to be a course which goes beyond conveying information and developing critical thinking skills; rather, the more encompassing goals of the course were to affect the attitudes (emphasis added) of students towards individuals who are different from themselves. The fact is, when you venture into attitudes, you often get into areas of feelings, emotions and opinions. When did these become the domain of the university? ("Educate," 1996, p.2).
I find this frightening because this student is able to say such things only when the values are different from the patriarchal ' air that we breath'. He/she probably would never question the values implicitly taught in more traditional courses (e.g., he/she actually praises political science for being value free!) in which few have bothered to explicate the values imbued in their presentation.

Nel Noddings (1992) of Stanford University, while explicating how the male standard has informed academe and the results thereof, suggests that, at least in the areas of "...citizenship and social consciousness...not that we eliminate the male standard and substitute a female one but, rather, that we consider both traditions as we plan curriculum and instruction (p.69)."

While I do not have the answer about how we incorporate voices in addition to the traditional I would like to present a model that is respectful of differences in gender, race, and class. It also includes many of the tenets of an ethic of care.

A year ago I was invited to a day long workshop on something called Servant Leadership. As I spent the day listening to the workshop leader tell us about organizations where servant leadership is practiced, I realized that what was being presented was a work world that practiced power between rather than power over. Yes, the leaders had to take responsibility--it was not one big consensus group--but it was done in a nonauthoritarian manner. The basic tenets of this model state that one is a servant first and leads second. The skills necessary to do this successfully include: listening and understanding; acceptance and empathy; knowing the unknowable--beyond conscious rationality; foresight; awareness and perception; and a sense of community among other things (Greenleaf, 1991). I sat there amazed, thinking, this is what I teach in my women's studies classes.

As the day went on I realized that I had come in contact with such a person. Behruse Sethna, the new president of West Georgia College, was a servant leader. From the day he arrived on campus, he wanted input from everyone: he set up "town meetings" for faculty, staff, and students. And, wonder of wonders, he really listened. He was seen helping students unpack their cars as they moved into their dorms. After receptions he was found picking up the trash in the rooms where the receptions had been held. He wrote personally to employees to celebrate their accomplishments or grieve their loses. At first people thought this was some kind of weird way to get good publicity [except there were no cameras as he picked up trash and no one but the individual receiving his letter would know that Behruse (yes, he requests that he be called by his first name) cared that your father died or that you had had a paper published] or that he was a strange foreigner (he is from India) who just didn't understand our ways. But he has been consistent and never talks about these actions. He runs an open administration--as head of the faculty senate he tells the faculty what he is doing, what the chancellor expects and the input he needs from faculty. Of course, this meant more work for faculty at first (the Georgia system is undergoing great changes with their new chancellor)--but their voices were being heard. Yet, Sethna, also takes responsibility for getting things done and does not blame others if he fails.

I present this model as one that espouses the tenets of feminisms although much of the original literature written by Greenleaf is male biased. As Gilligan (1982) and Manning (1992) have shown us, some males already espouse an ethic of care. This model already being used in business (usually a bastion of the patriarchy) successfully and since business success is a kind of the acid test of acceptability in our current culture (including academe) perhaps we can use this model to in begin to dialogue about both the presentation and embracing of more diverse values in the academy.


References
American Association of University Women (1991). Shortchanging girls, shortchanging American. Washington, D.C.: The Greenberg-Lake Analysis Group.

An update on the story of Heidi Weissman. (1992 June). DataLine, 1 (11), ISBN No. 1-880720-12-4.

Brewer, R.M. (1993). Theorizing race, class, and gender: The new scholarship of Black feminist intellectuals and Black women's labor. In S.M. James & A.P.A.Busia (Eds.). (1993). Theorizing black feminisms: The visionary pragmatism of black women. (pp. 13-30). New York: Routledge.

Buchwald, E., Fletcher, P.R., & Roth, M. (Eds.). (1993). Transforming a rape culture. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions.

Caplan, P.J. (1993). Lifting a ton of feathers: A woman's guide to surviving in the academic world. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Cole, J.B. (1995). In B. Guy-Sheftall (Ed.). (1995). Words of fire: An anthology of African-American feminist thought. (pp. 549-551). New York: The New Press.

Deneef, A.L. (1995). Academic salaries, benefits, and taxes. In A.L. Deneef, & C.D. Goodwin (Eds.). (1995). The academics handbook. (pp. 158-176). Durham: Duke University Press.

Educate; don't indoctrinate. (1996, February 22). The Pacer, p. 2.

Faludi, S. (1991). Backlash: The undeclared war against American women. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.

French, M. (1992). The war against women. New York: Summit Books.

Greenleaf, R.K. (1991). The servant as leader. Indianapolis: The Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Hensel, N. (1991). Realizing gender equality in higher education: The need to integrate work/family issues. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Research Report no. 2. Washington: George Washington School of Education and Human Development.

Guy-Sheftall, B. (Ed.). (1995). Words of fire: An anthology of African-American feminist thought. New York: The New Press.

Hyde, J.S. (1985). Half the human experience: The psychology of women. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath & Co.

Jackson, D. Z. (1996, February 23). The Buchanan lexicon. The Boston Globe. Taken from Nando.net.(February 23, 1996).

James, S.M. (1993). Introduction. In S.M. James & A.P.A.Busia (Eds.). (1993). Theorizing black feminisms: The visionary pragmatism of black women. (pp. 1-9).New York: Routledge.

Larrabee, M.J. (Ed.). (1993). An ethic of care: Feminist and interdisciplinary perspectives. New York: Routledge. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider. Trumansberg, NY: The Crossing Press.

Manning, R.C. (1992). Speaking from the heart: A feminist perspective on ethics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Noddings, N. (1991, December; 1992, January). The gender issue. Educational Leadership.

Schaef, A.W. (1981). Women's reality: An emerging female system in a white male society. Minneapolis: Winston Press.

Stack, C.B. (1993). The culture of gender: Women and men of color. In M.J. Larrabee (Ed.). (1993). An ethic of care: Feminist interdisciplinary perspectives. (pp. 158-176). New York: Routledge.

Stanford update: The academic "pipeline". (1992, June). DataLine, 1 (11), ISBN No. 1-880720-12-4.

Stanford update No. 2: The aftermath of Billingham's complaint. (1993, April). DataLine, 2 (5). ISBN No. 1-880720-16-7.

Starhawk (1980). Truth or dare: Encounters with power, authority, and mystery. Glenview, IL: Harper Collins.

The Holy Bible (1952). Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons.

The story of Heidi Weissmann. (1992, January). DataLine, 1 (7), ISBN No. 1-880720-08-6.

Women in academic medicine - Stanford University Medical School. (1992, January). DataLine,1 (7), ISBN No. 1-880720-08-6.

Note: DataLine may be contacted at 848 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.


Copyright Robin Powers

FAX: (901) 587-7841


Talk to the Conference Participants


Questions and comments may be directed to the Conference Convenor, Alvin G. Burstein or individual authors by clicking on his/her name.

HOME


This page has been accessed times.

Last updated: May 24, 1996