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What do people want?

2009 January 30
by Anne Dalke

Every man I know has mentioned this article to me this week, Sugar Spice –> to point out (with a chuckle) that women don’t know what they want; I’ve tried to point out, in response, that we’re engaged in a very complicated dance between consciousness and the unconscious. It very much puts me in mind of the conversation Michelle and I were having a few days ago about the unpredictability of desire.

The article actually interests me on another level, which has less to do with gender difference, and everything to do with the technologies of education. As a student in my other course (where this article is also making the rounds; it’s quite a provocative article!) observed, the sexologist spoke

“always with a scientist’s caution, a scientist’s uncertainty and acknowledgment of conjecture — about female sexuality as divided between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective.”

What stood out most to her was the author’s characterization of a scientist as cautious, uncertain, and full of conjecture. “When did this did this become the norm for scientists?” she asked. “Has this uncertainty always been a hallmark of science? And if so, why didn’t anybody tell me??”

For me, that’s also the most intriguing part of the piece–not what it says about what women want (or don’t), but what it says about how we make knowledge, and how we understand that making–how uncertain it is.

So: while I’m on THAT topic…another recent NYTimes quote:

A few years ago, a faculty committee at Harvard produced a report on the purpose of education. “The aim of a liberal education” the report declared, “is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves.”

All of which is a long, quote-ridden way of saying that I’ve been thoroughly enjoyed our introductory getting-to-know-you-and-our-topic sessions, as well as this tumbling-all-over-itself forum. I am hoping you’ve been @ least somewhat disoriented. You all have taken me, already, way beyond my own imaginings of the interrelationships of gender and technology. Lifted up, indeed!

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