One of the best things about blogging is the connections you make with other writers. These connections are especially vital to feminist blogging, which comes with more than its fair share of detractors—the feminist blogging friends I’ve made have supported, motivated, and educated me. It is my pleasure to introduce you to one of these friends—Dr. Georgia Platts, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. Georgia’s expertise is in women’s psychology and social psychology, and her posts over at BroadBlogs have introduced me to important research and expanded my perspectives. In addition to writing for her own blog, Georgia blogs for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos, and some of her pieces have been picked up by The AlterNet, Democratic Underground, and Political Mosaic. Her writing is direct and honest, and her insights both deepen an understanding of feminist issues and encourage critical thinking. I enjoyed getting to know her a bit better, and I’m delighted to share our conversation and Georgia’s work with you.
What issues do your women’s studies students raise most often? What do they struggle with as they navigate both social and professional lives in our half-changed society?
I tend to write about the issues that my students seem most interested in: Sex and relationships, body issues, and things that are unfair to women like the double standard and being blamed when someone rapes you. When I write I’m always thinking of my students as my audience. At that age they are looking for some guidance. I wish I had known all this stuff when I was their age. Some have told me they wish they had learned the things I teach/write about in high school, and think it should be a required course.
Actually, about 1/5 of my students are men and they want to understand both themselves and women more, and women want to know more about themselves and men. Hence, “A broad blogs broadly on women’s and men’s psychology: sex, relationships, equality.”
You mention in your blog biography that you teach and blog because of your teachers. What teacher or teachers influenced and inspired you the most, and why?
The teachers who inspired me the most were those who helped me undergo paradigm shifts. One was a sociology professor who taught about the social construction of reality. I found that mind blowing. I didn’t get it at first. My early quiz scores were all D’s. But after I underwent the shift I was fascinated and easily got A’s.
Another course was from high school. I had a leftist political science teacher and an economics teacher on the right and they each taught what was good and bad about both sides of the political spectrum. That’s where I learned the difference between liberals and conservatives.
The poli sci teacher is the one who created the paradigm shift. Before that class I had thought that people were poor because they were lazy. Of course some people are poor for that reason. But there also isn’t a level playing field. Kids who come from privileged homes have much better educations and connections that constantly help them to succeed. Poor kids may be hungry, and who can focus on schoolwork when you’re hungry? Or when your health is bad and you can’t get healthcare? Their parents may not understand what they are learning enough to be able to help them with their homework. So I became very interested in leveling the playing field. Making sure that kids have food and medical care and tutoring.
How does your background—social psychology and the psychology of women—influence your perspective? Do you see social issues through a particular lens, and if so, how would you describe it?
Yes. I see the world through the prism of the social construction of reality. A lot of things that people think are biologically-based are actually socially constructed. Like the breast fetish.
I also look at the world from the perspective of the powerless instead of the perspective of the powerful: the social construction of knowledge. Most of us see the world from the perspective of the powerful – rich, white, male, hetero — because they have more control over ideas, having control over media, and the political and religious pulpits. Not to mention rich business interests who fund think tanks that try to get their perspective out into the world.
You sometimes mention your Mormon background—and your movement away from the repressiveness of patriarchal religion—in your posts, and you are currently part of a Women’s Spirituality Group. How has feminism helped your perspective on religion to evolve?
First, I probably wouldn’t be a big feminist if it hadn’t been for growing up Mormon – and the backlash against feminism and women’s rights which that religious perspective laid on me. I had grown up pretty devout, and then began to realize that my church was telling me that men were superior to me. I felt like they were trying to limit me. It felt like a betrayal.
So I became very interested in religious perspectives that were egalitarian and empowering for everyone – and that recognized the dignity and worth of each person and that encouraged everyone’s potential. So I started hanging out with the Unitarians since everyone in that religion is on their own individual journey, but they are all doing it together. And they are very female-positive. A breath of fresh air!
Along with Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolfe, and Audre Lorde, you list some men who inspire your work, including Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner. What inspires you about these men? What unique perspectives do you think male feminists/feminist allies bring to the struggle for equality?
I really appreciate people who fight for the equality and dignity of people outside their own group, and these men definitely do that. These men all do men’s studies and I am very interested in understanding men, too. And they are all very humane and wise. I also find it easier to bring feminism to men by citing feminist men. I feel it is very important to encourage men to be feminist. You can’t create an egalitarian culture by only appealing to women.
You’ve mentioned the detrimental effects of porn for both men and women in a few of your posts (such as “Real Men Competing with Porn Stars” and “How Women Feel About Porn”). The current state of pornography is misogynistic and presents women as disposable sex objects. Do you think porn can be feminist (as the Feminist Porn Book claims)?
I do think that porn can be feminist. In fact, I have a piece I posted on that called, “Porn: pro and con.” It looks at feminists who are pro–porn and those are against it. When I first posted it I got a lot of hits from people who were searching for, “porn pros,” which is a porn site. Wonder if they were disappointed or just surprised that some feminists were pro-porn?
Those who are for it tend to feel that separating sex from reproduction frees women. Often they prefer something that is nonviolent and not degrading. Others prefer a perspective that allows women to do whatever they want.
You are involved with a few social justice organizations—can you tell us a bit about each one, and what inspires you to volunteer?
Overall, my interest stems from that political science teacher who helped me to see that there is not a level playing field.
Also, I feel that what is good for the general population is good for us all. Right now we are going through a time when certain rich interests are basically (if not formally) bribing Congress members with large campaign contributions to vote in ways that benefit the rich and that hurt everyone else. As a result, the middle class is being squeezed. In the long run, that will harm the rich, too, because who will be able to buy their products? And who wants to live in a Third World country with a lot of poor and a few rich? You tend to get low economic growth and depressions when you have just a few rich and everyone else is poor, and America is moving more and more in that direction.
With Rootstrikers and Rebuild the Dream I am primarily concerned with the influence of Big Money in politics. We need a country where our representatives are listening to their constituents instead of rich business interests. As it is, we are becoming a plutocracy instead of a democracy.
RESULTS is an organization that fights poverty, and whose focus is on health care, education and economic empowerment. RESULTS works in both the US and globally. We meet with members of Congress and encourage them to fund programs that help the poor to help themselves – to level that playing field by funding education and health care, to give small loans to start businesses and incentivize work, and to help families save money.