Minutes of second planning meeting, 1977

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TO: The Scholar and the Feminist Planning Committee September 30, 1977

FROM: Elizabeth Minnich, Academic Coordinator and Ellen NcManus, Women's Center

SUBJECT: Minutes of Second Planning Meeting, September 23, 1977

The suggestion that we have a different format this year was made again, and while it was agreed that the theme should be allowed to determine format, it was suggested that the possibility of change be kept in mind to avoid being trapped into a particular structure.

The discussion started by focusing on the theme of an exploration of the nature/nurture debate in a cross-disciplinary forum, juxtaposing two dis- ciplines such as anthropology and psychoanalytical theory. This, it was pointed out, would fit with the previouly suggested idea of highlighting internal or cross-disciplinary debates among feminist scholars. It could also be explored in the context of the discussion of "female perspective,” or as part of the "political" vs. "cultural" feminist debate. A strong objection to placing the nature/nurture debate at the center of the con- ference was that it turns us away from analyzing "social reality," and

is not productive of creative feminist scholarship. It was pointed out in support of this objection that since there is not yet enough data in this area, a debate can produce rhetoric and speculation.

It was argued, however, that this debate could lead to a feminist synthe- sis and that it is important at least to examine the issues involved--that in fact the strong feelings on both sides indicate that it should be deba- ted, not ignored. It was suggested that focusing on a concrete argument, such as female vs. male intelligence, might prove more productive and generate less rhetoric and emotion than a theoretical debate. Finally,

it was pointed_out that the nature/nurture debate surfaces periodically in times of change and that it might be productive to review the history of the debate to see why it is a focal point for what has become a political argument and what its danger as well as promise is for feminist scholars But the objection that it was not a "productive" debate continued to be stressed. It was argued that in our effort to go beyond exposing or docu- menting sexism in a particular field or theory, we should focus on, and thereby encourage, radical new theories, not just ‘syntheses of old and per- haps falsely polarized positions.

This position led to a discussion of how knowledge advances, by increment, synthesis and/or by "the creative leap” (which, it was argued, is a roman-

_ ticized View of scholarship). Though it was agreed that the body of know-

ledge must most of the time increase and change gradually, sustaining a

tension between old paradigms and new visions, at times there really are radical changes of vision, as in the work of Adrienne Rich or Batya Wein- baum. we might examine how such seemingly Visionary works are created or arrived at, and explore the connection between these "explosions" and the

step-by—step working out of new theories-—how each leads to and requires the other in mutual dependency.


It was stressed here that we must avoid the "star syndrome” and recog- nize that even visionary work is not done in a vacuum but is built on the work of a scholarly or artistic community. It was hoped that we could provide this recognition and at the same time acknowledge that some work is truly visionary and does break new ground. We might some- how docuent the process of synthesis and collective work, while show- ing the flashes of insight which allowed someone to step outside trad- itional boundaries, because our goal is to help open the way for other scholars to move beyond past sexist scholarship.

This brought the discussion back to the connection between feminist ar-

tists and scholars. It was hoped that the conference could include vis- ual examples of creative "explosions"--in painting, sculpture, film and

video--as well as literary analyses and creative works on the structures of language and myth that now quite literally shape our visions as well

as our thought. It was suggested that we might invite a woman artist to talk about her work and a feminist scholar to analyze it——and feature a

discussion of the relationship between knowledge and vision.

This cooperation of scholars and artists raises the question of socie- tal paradigms of "The Scholar” and “The Artist", working collectively or individually. Artists, more than others, are seen as working alone, hav- ing private, individual visions. It might be pointed out that in art, just as in scholarship, there is both collective and individual work, though they may be in different proportions for or seen differently by artists and scho1ars.A feminist artist, it was thought, might see her life in the world as the collective part of her work, drawing from the work and visions of others. But at the same time we should recognize that a denial of individuality has been the traditional fate of women and collectivity must be examined critically before it is accepted as a femi- nist goal or norm. Collectivity can be destructive without critical exa- mination and a better understanding of how the collective process works, and how it does or does not foster the discovery and expression of indi- viduality, too.

At the conclusion of the meeting we felt as if we had narrowed our focus and were ready to test it by thinking of possible participants who could analyze and/or exemplify the discovery and development of a new non-sex- ist vision. And we reaffirmed our willingness to include those who are arriving at new paradigms and new concepts as the result of work that is unquestionably "sound" by the canons of accepted scholarship Egg those who have taken a chance, opening themselves to either being ignored or attacked because they want to try out a new method, a new concept, a new


The next meeting was set for Friday, October 7 at 1:00 P.M. in the Women's Center. Committee members are asked to come prepared with names and con- crete suggestions for speakers and workshops.