Saturday, June 13, 2015

Positionality and Rats

The point is that the packaging of an idea should not dismiss it, rather than that packaging alone might justify an idea.

You may be noticing that I enjoy using Disney movies to pepper my writing. It's because I totally love watching Disney. Also, illustrative examples with cute animals = yes.

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Remy, the rat, prepares amazing cuisine in the movie Ratatoulle.  The moral of the movie as presented by third wave feminists would be that we should accept opinions and frameworks because of the disadvantaged position of those who speak them.

However, that's not actually the moral of the movie.

Remy is not allowed to present trash as cuisine simply because he is a rat. Nor is he allowed to skip basic hygiene in the kitchen. Remy's disadvantaged position doesn't gain him respect in the kitchen.

Linguini (the main human with a large nose and very red hair) doesn't have his cooking respected just because he's a lowly kitchen boy who has just lost his mother. In fact, Linguini is chastised for getting self important and believing that his opinion should be respected simply due to his reputation.

Rather the injustice is that Remy's passion and talent at preparing complex delicious food are not recognized because of who he is. Opinions, viewpoints, and - in this case - food, have to be held up to rigor and standards before being accepted and consumed. Remy's food needs to be judged by the harsh food critic, held up to a rigorous standard outside of Remy's disadvantaged status. The narrative arc isn't complete until the critic has both analyzed Remy's cooking and accepted him despite his rat-status.

I often find an insult buried in the third wave suggestion that disadvantaged people shouldn't be held up to this sort of heavy critique we expect of academics or other privileged people. Our work and our intellect are just as capable and honestly our work can stand up to honest and academic criticism. Suggesting that our ideas will flop over at the measliest criticism seems to underestimate the strength and integrity of marginalized people's minds and theory. In fact, I've found that the grounding of struggle leads to much better theory than ivory tower navel gazers.

We can all learn a little from rats that teach themselves to cook.