Minutes of second planning meeting, 1977, page 1

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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.