When I first read Klages’ chapter on Feminism, I was a bit confused by the idea that women, being further away from the central controlling influence of the system, have more play. Weren’t women stuck with narrowly defined roles in the past, which they weren’t able to eaily break out of? I’m thinking of the idea of the housewife, or the idea that women cannot leave the house without an escort/being veiled/etc. And don’t men have equally strict roles (the breadwinner, the one who has to deal with the problem, etc)?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is tue that women have more play; it’s just not in the way I was originally thinking. It’s okay if a girl is a tomboy; people aren’t really bothered by it. But if a boy is more feminine, then he better watch out! Boys are still encouraged to be “manly,” while there is a lot more leeway for a girl to go against the gender norm.
When I wandered into class last Thursday, I thought I understood. I had just read Klages’ chapter on Deconstruction the night before; while I had a few questions, I thought Deconstruction was pretty straightforward. I thought that Dr. Pound would provide me with that extra bit of clarification that I needed.
Boy was I wrong.
I sat through class wondering what the heck was going on. It was only after the first half hour or so that I figured out we weren’t talking about Deconstruction yet. And when we finally moved onto Deconstruction, things only got more confusing. I will admit here that part of my confusion stemmed from Klages. I read her discussion of the centre as the centre being separate from the binary opposition. Klages says “The center holds the whole structure in place, keeping each of the binary opposites on its proper side of the slash” (55). This makes it sound like the centre is separate from the two terms in the binary opposite. As an example, in the case of heaven and earth, God would be the centre. From this example, God is part of the system, necessary for it to function, but apart from it. This example works if God is the centre of the entire system of Western Thought, which is made up of all these binary oppositions. But in class we have been talking about the binary oppositions as systems all their own, which is where my real confusion appears to be stemming from. A friend of mine who took this class in the past even lent me some notes, and I was going to say “I get it” as I tried to explain it here, but I find that I really don’t. Binary opposites are made up of two opposing terms, such as “light” and “dark.” You cannot have both at the same time. We priviledge the first term over the second. In class, we have been calling this priviledged term the centre of the system. The centre keeps everything in place, but also allows for play between its elements. In the case of “light” and “dark,” I cannot really see how “light” keeps the system in place. In a different example, such as “teacher” and “student,” I can kind of see how the teacher would keep the center in place. But it makes more sense if an outside force, such as “the education system,” is imposing the opposition of “teacher” and “student.” This is similar to what Klages said: “every system posits a center, a place from which the whole system comes and which regulates the system” (55). It also makes sense that the centre is not one of the two opposing terms, as otherwise the centre would have to be bound by the system. The teacher is bound by the education system as surely as the students, just in a different way.
But if you take the example of “teacher” and “class,” the story is a bit different. The teacher is part of the class, but is not one of the learners. In that way, the teacher is then outside of the classroom system. But to be outside of the system, how can “teacher” be the opposite of “class?”