Inadvertent Comedy from the ASA, or, an Ecofeminist Does Milk
No such luck. Despite the inadvertent comedy of its title, “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies” really exists, and my is it in earnest. How many things had to go wrong — intellectually, socially, morally — to account for prose like this:
Because milk is produced by female mammals, a feminist perspective seems to offer a logical foundation for such inquiry. From the start, feminism has been a movement for justice: at its heart is the centrality of praxis, the necessary linkage of intellectual, political, and activist work. Feminist methodology puts the lives of the oppressed at the center of the research question and undertakes studies, gathers data, and interrogates material contexts with the primary aim of improving the lives and the material conditions of the oppressed. Using standard feminist methodology [standard feminist methodology?], twentieth-century vegan feminists and animal ecofeminists challenged animal suffering in its many manifestations (in scientific research, and specifically in the feminized beauty and cleaning products industries; in dairy, egg, and animal food production; in “pet” [note the scare quotes] keeping and breeding, zoos, rodeos, hunting, fur, and clothing) by developing a feminist theoretical perspective on the intersections of species, gender, race, class, sexuality, and nature. Motivated by an intellectual and experiential understanding of the mutually reinforcing interconnections among diverse forms of oppression, vegan feminists and ecofeminists positioned their own liberation and well-being as variously raced, classed, gendered, and sexual humans to be fundamentally interconnected to the well-being of other nondominant human and animal species, augmenting Patricia Hill Collins’s definition of intersectionality to include species as well.
Charity prevents me from offering an analysis of this vaguely minatory tripe. Considered as a rhetorical product, it is pitch perfect in its bristling opacity, touching gently on a vast host of political and intellectual clichés while maintaining a semantic content of nearly zero. The amazing thing is that Ms. Gaard keeps it up for nearly 25 pages. “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies” is a seamless production, as wondrous in its way as anything by the doyenne of angry, reader-proof “feminist” verbiage, Judith Butler, an early, and eminently qualified, winner of the storied “Bad Writing Contest.”
There’s lots of talk these days about the “higher education bubble.” Glenn Reynolds’s forthcoming book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself vividly details the train wreck that is the institution of higher education in this country. “What can’t go on forever, won’t.” Reynolds makes the economist Herb Stein’s observation a centerpiece of his book. Repellent pseudo-intellectual horrors like “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies” cannot go on forever; therefore, they won’t. This ruin of taxpayer money, to say nothing of the intellectual sanity of students and teachers, is too egregious to continue. It will not continue. “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies” is just one of many, many signs that the house of intellect in this country has become a sort of Augean Stables, full of malodorous waste and bovine mooing. It awaits its Hercules to perform a much needed lustration. The assembled cattle may not know it, but Glenn Reynolds shows that his advent is nigh.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage created using a modified Shutterstock.com image.)