Know Well Dominant Forms of Thought
Feminism has been extremely critical of the masculinity of Cartesian rationality and the concomitant separation of body and mind. In coming to learn this we might be encouraged to think that as feminists we therefore do not need to ‘know’ masculine forms of rationality as they have been ruled outside legitimate ways of feminist being and knowing. We might also believe that once we have learnt that a theory or principle is problematic then it will no longer have power over or within us. However, we need to recognize that although we might now critique how rationality has been constructed in this way we have been encouraged, through, for example, our schooling, to master its discourses (Davies et al., 2001). When Walby (2001a: 494) comments in her critiques of experience that feminists ‘smuggle in modernist assumptions’ she is alerting us to how we have both been taken up by and take up the reason of mainstream science. We cannot assume that even if we so desire we can free ourselves so easily, and certainly never totally, from such powerfully dominant discourses.
Brah (1999: 8) suggests that the Althusserian idea of interpellation is useful as it makes sense of ‘being situated and ‘‘hailed’’ socially, culturally, symbolically, and psychically, all at once [and thus] it takes seriously the relationship between the social and the psychic’. Indeed, while we should seek to thoroughly know rational thought and how it works on us to persuade, we should also apply these principles to dominant discourses within feminism. How have we been hailed or situated by this, and other, discourses? To answer this question it is not necessary to reject these discourses, although we might, but it is necessary to know how dominant discourses work on us and on others and why we are so powerfully committed to or rejecting of such discourses. This will help us come to understand why we might take up, or we might be persuaded by, particular forms of argumentation.