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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Get on your bikes and ride

When I saw the name Sandra down as the course lecturer for SOSC 318 (Social Movements and the State), I must admit my heart sank. Thus far in my career I've suffered under the flimsy, wussy, soft-voiced, hand-clasping uncertainty of five different female lecturers, and haven't been inspired to respect a single one of them. So imagine my joy at the first lecture yesterday when Sandra turned out to be none of these things - she is LARGE, and LOUD, and very sure of herself, and even has short red-dyed hair. Perfect.

She's also extremely politicised. On the first day of this course about activists and activism, she professed herself to be an activist, hinted at some of her favourite causes (environmental, women's, GBLT, pacifism) and had us talking for two hours about protests and demonstrations. This prepares me to dislike her, but at least I can do so with respect - at least she has enough substance to actually dislike.

The course outline alleviates some of my doubts about the intellectual rigour of the course. It looks as though there will be enough theory to balance the multitudes of guest speakers she has lined up (all activists, of course). The assessment structure is in the form of two essays and a sort of reading log, with the latter due fortnightly and worth 20% of the grade. And with such an impressive lecturer, I don't see myself skimping on the reading for this course, either. I can easily visualise Sandra picking up slack students by their hair like the Trunchbull and hurling them out the window.

The one thing I took real exception to in yesterday's lecture was Sandra's claim that white supremacists don't count as a true social movement, because they aren't trying to make society a better place. They are instead, she says, a counter-movement to the leftist liberals (who presumably, therefore, are trying to make society a better place). This I cannot accept. Mike, bless him, spent three years of my sociology education teaching me to tolerate all worldviews and consider a group's aims on its own terms. In their own terms, white supremacists are surely trying to improve the societies they live in, and who are we to tell them those terms are wrong or bad? We are sociologists and we must, at least initially, remain separate from our subjects. Go to them, talk to them by all means, do what they do in order to understand it - but never, never tell them they are wrong. Imposing one's own worldview on a subject reduces one from a social scientist to a mere troublemaker.

Update: I just Googled the title of this post (in quotes) to make sure it really does come up with the song I intend it to. Guess who's the fourth hit?


gliderguider said...

Well I didn't have to google it ... but are we to assume that Sandra is one of those women blessed with an ample derrière?

gliderguider said...

For the star ... that is ... a member of the set "fat bottomed girls" (though I have few doubts that she would object loudly to being minimized and oppressed as a person if I as a member of the white male patriarchy were to refer to her as a 'girl').

Gael said...

Yes, I guess she probably would. Star is yours.

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