In The Shadow of Silence: The pedagogy of shame

Shadow of a woman2

by Karen Barna

The learned politics of ‘speech’ and ‘voice’ growing up in my home was a difficult enigma for me to unravel. As girls we were taught our roles and our place to speak, and when not to speak. My father was a militant dictator who barked out orders for his children to obey. Debates were rarely, if ever, used as a form of formal inquiry to understanding. What added to the confusion was the trauma reeked in the atmosphere of domestic violence. Violent outbursts between my parents were common and part of their marital communication ritual. Fear and intimidation imposed by patriarchial role models were often suffered through growing up. This turned into a fear to speak and be heard. Like Pavlovian Law, we were conditioned on a subconscious level of our worth as women; Silence is Golden. For women, the practice of ‘voice-speech-speaking’ can be carefully hidden and articulated in the shadow of imposed Silence, and since ‘voice-speech-speaking’ are elements of language and all language engenders sentiment and feeling, ‘voice-speech-speaking’ as a form of communication can be a powerful tool (Chodorow, N. 1998). As such, women can be taught to either love or hate themselves. This fact does not only ring true of patriarchal discourses and male-authored discourses but also bears truth in the silencing of female voice by other females when differences of identity, location, and history clash among women. It is for this reason therefore, that the ‘granting’ of spaces for women’s speech may be pedagogically desirable but may have potentially silencing effects (Luke&Gore, 1992a). Even a deadly effect.

As a woman, I had to learn how to emancipate myself from my own fears of speaking out. “Speaking” occurs on many different planes of one’s existence. Body-language, facial expression, choice of attire and the clothes we wear, hairstyles we don, occupational choices, even those we select as mates and life-long partners are all expression of our identity. It is this socio-cultural politic, it is this complexity of identity that represses some women to the side-lines only to be heard as “the voice from the margins.”

Becoming a Targeted Individual (TI) suffering the onslaught of electronic assaults, persistently and continually has had a silencing effect on my identity. This silencing effect marks the “signifier” from the “signified”; and the powerful from the powerless. The role of women’s voice and language, in a traditionally oppressed patriarchial society, have addressed issues surrounding the female learner and gender power inequality, differential distribution of knowledge, differential distributions of resources, the lack of empowerment for the “weak” and disadvantaged, who have traditionally been women and other marginalized groups. It is this differential distribution of knowledge that I would like to address at this point in my paper. What we as, not only women and marginalized groups, but as citizens of the United States are allowed to know and not know because the practice of ‘voice-speech-speaking’ can be carefully hidden in the art of silencing. For this reason, one must be critical of the alleged “facts” as evidence to the signifier’s or the dominant power structure’s case of supposed “truth.” On the contrary, one must analysis and interrogate with a critical eye the assumptions underlying the conceptual framework and practices geared toward emancipatory pedagogy’s truth, all of which rely heavily on the notions of “empowerment” and giving voice to the silenced and oppressed. “Make America great again!” Many are mislead by the promoted statistics, all the good numbers that reflect successful outcomes, while all the negative numbers are hidden in the shadow of the former. On the contrary, it may not be actual lies but rather a mistelling of truth. A distortion. A re-invention of truth. Be careful one doesn’t position themselves as ‘outsider’ readers and reproducers of the pedagogy masculine canon and become just like one of Adolf Hitler’s blind followers. In this atmosphere where the dialectic generates feelings of inadequacy in the competitive environment of the signified, where the “signifier” or power structure’s “voice appear more articulate,” more able to “sustain a rational argument,” and where one is “more accomplished” to give advice and render professional opinion.

“What are the signs that indicate an individual or group is being abusively subjugated because of their social status?” Voice has always been equated with political power. Astute articulation for women has been seen as positive and empowering, as well as a step forward towards the ability to make public utterances of assertion of one’s position on an issue, or the ‘naming,’ of one’s identity and location on the demographic grid of socially ascribed ‘differences.’ Through the smoke and mirrors of deception though, one might read silence as a refusal by one individual or group to ‘confess’ or ‘expose’ the self. However, with the phenomenon of Targeted Individuals (TIs) and electronic assaults, one must be careful they do not misread this silence. Individuals being tortured by electromagnetic frequency signals may not be withholding their truth by choice but rather under the direct manipulation of coercive control by a hidden operator. Just like a telephone operator who directs various lines of communication, connecting people to one another, so too does the controller direct the targeted individual’s will, communication, and behavior. Through this method of indirect manipulation what we witness is a new mode of communication in a system of language. That is, a new social construct to subjugate the “weak” and powerless through an imposed power structure and authority. No longer can we relegate these individuals to “the voices from the margins,” marginalizing and under-valuing their experiences, and misrepresenting their truth as the “schizophrenic mentally-ill.” These targeted individuals have the potential for suffering the same type of silencing as any one of the traditionally oppressed groups in history; women, people of color, black slaves, immigrants, homosexuals, prison inmates, the mentally ill, the retarded, young children and the elderly. The silencing of victims has been rooted in paranoia and fear of the other’s ‘difference’ and “powerlessness.” When a victim steps forward to reveal their truth, the first strategy by the defense team is to try and attack their character and question their sanity. This strategy is a political move in which political opponents jockey for power and position by casting the other in an inferior position, and often times, the truth, and the person’s character are misrepresented.

Genres of power and the linguistic and representational resources that constitute those genres, historically are male-defined, written, and exercised; masculinities that can represent dominant, authoritative, aggressive, active drives that silence and oppress “inferior” groups. It is important to note that marginalized groups have historically been excluded from education, from reading, writing, and speaking the public tongue of politics. And just like women’s historical location outside the logos of male-dominated philosophical discourse has muted and devalued women’s speech (Walker 1998 & Le Doeuff 1998), so too does the act of electronic assaults and electronically targeting individuals. It seeks to locate these TIs outside the logos of “rational argument.” This fact, in and of itself, is one of the biggest flags raised that should be an indication that a form of silencing is taking place, but nothing is being done to prevent it from happening. When targeted individuals come forward with allegations of electronic assault the first thing that is questioned is the person’s sanity. They receive responses like, “Oh, you must be schizophrenic.” Seldom do they receive a response, “I believe you. Because man has harnassed the ability to manipulate electromagnetic frequency signals and man, too, has a history of being violent and abusive. It just maybe that something else is going on. You might be a victim of some crazed deranged lunatic.” Since patriarchy’s historical obsession with repressing the feminine, locates her outside the “law of the father” and renders whatever identity she may have independent of male signification, as unspoken and unspeakable, we must connect the dots and draw a conclusion to the fact that these electronic assaults reflect male-pattern abusive dominance in American culture. Targeted Individuals are the symbolic representation of the silencing of ‘difference’ through voice, speech, language, and communication (Walker 1998 & Le Doeuff 1998).

We must retrace and uncover the muted voices. We must consider Chassguet-Smirgel (1984) and the anal-sadistic’s desire to re-write history by obliterating all boundaries between Objects, as well as Foucault’s philosophies (1978, 1965) and comments on how man has re-wrote history through the acquisition of medical knowledge with the birth of the clinic, harnassing power over the human body. We need to draw correlations and comparisons between the muted silenced voices of past eras and the muted silenced voices of today’s TIs. Like the wrongful murders and wrongful imprisonment of male homosexuals and black slaves based solely on the ‘difference’ they represented, so too does the electronic targeting of individuals represent a criminal wrong in today’s society. It is important to additionally note that women who are not empowered, praised, or supported will be less likely to engage in public political strategies where they can participate in approaches aimed at gaining and maintaining voice in mixed-sex settings. Research has shown that women acquire their ‘education’ passively. They learn to learn on their own and in relative silence (Lewis 1992). Electronic assaults and electronic targeting does not seek to empower people. It seeks to tear down, humiliate, demean, and obliterate.

“Women’s ‘work’ in the academy, whether as student or teacher, marker or research assistant, continues to be under the procedural theoretical and administrative custody of men (Heilbrun 1990).”

The production and reproduction of methods of silencing have been structured on one of the oldest organizational models to survive the medieval era into the 21st century – the university. High tech bureaucracies, research parks, and post-industrial management and control over what is to count as “knowledge,” “intellectual activity,” and “worth (Heilbrun 1990).

The use of electronic assault and electronic targeting is a demeaning and humiliating experience that contributes to the targeted individual’s sense of inadequacy which can perpetuate (indeed reward) their continued silence. The “marks of shame” are made apparent in their subordination, degradation, debasement, isolation, immobilization, and their sense of self as defective and diminished (Bartky, S.L.). It is likely the demeaning treatment of electronic assault is being perpetrated by someone who perceives the targeted individual as someone wholly ‘Other’ and non-human.

“Intellectual sparring and competitive one-up- ‘man’ ship – the expressive mode of choice among men – is not women’s discursive style and is not how most women go about the getting of knowledge. However, such a claim does not exclude a large number of women who have learned the master discourse and language of the other so well that their mimicry of the other qualifies them for (partial) admission into phallogocentrism’s inner circle (Luke 1994).”

However, women who have learned to speak the phallocentric language are quickly labeled “bitchy” and “quarrelsome” “ambitious” and “aggressive” – qualities valued in men but considered “unsightly” in women. In this respect, a woman who displays her sense of feminine-masculine power by asserting herself in either defensive fashion or in alignment with the dominant phallocentric order may find herself silenced and outside phallogocentrism’s inner circle if she is perceived as “too offensive.”

“Silence is generally deplored because it is taken to be a result and a symbol of passivity and powerlessness: Those who are denied speech cannot make their experience known and thus cannot influence the course of their lives or of history (Susan Gal).”

Thus gaining “voice” really becomes about gaining “power.” “Silence” and “mutedness” are then used in the sense of one’s ability, inability, or reluctance to create utterances in conversational exchange, but refer as well to the failure to produce one’s own separate, socially significant discourse. Thus, if one is able to successfully “silence” the other via electronic mechanical mechanisms, this then becomes the avenue in which culturally constructed relations of power, produce and reproduce itself through the interactions between and among various individuals. How does this apply to Targeted Individuals and electronic assaults suffered by people claiming to be targeted? This aspect of communication can make it difficult to link the one who is doing the speaking to the person being silenced by the speaker. But for the “speaker” it may become an illicit avenue with which to express and feel dominance by exerting power over a “weaker” subject. Individuals who failed to meet the traditional social standards of a capitalistic society (financial earnings, sublimating their creative power through acceptable hobbies and paid work, securing legitimate occupational or professional work) may fall into routine modes of behavior in which they gain power and dominance through hidden and clandestine, criminal and illicit avenues that may make it difficult to link the “speaker” to the “subject”. In this case, the one who is “speaking,” by imposing electronic punishment on his “subjects” or targets, is the one who is successful or winning at his game. This is the politics of, not only speech and silence, but of illicit criminals and their victims. This is the politics of abusive power over the abused.

Below are the referenced sources which cite historical, philosophical studies in silencing based on gender, sexuality, psychiatry, and classroom learning.

Chodorow, N.J. (1999) The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press.

Luke, C. & Gore J. (1992a) Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy. New York. Routledge.

Walker, Michelle B. (1998) Philosophy of the Maternal Body: Reading Silence. New York. Routledge. pp. 18. Walker points to Le Doeuff’s reference to the “shameful face of philosophy” which “alludes to the fact that philosophy is unable to recognize its dependence upon the images or metaphors that it plunders from an imaginary outside. Elsewhere she speaks of this as the “internal scandal” of philosophy, its inability to fathom its own inclusory and exclusory devices.”

Le Doeuff, Michele. (1998) The Philosophical Imaginary. Standford, CA. Stanford University Press. Michelle Boulous Walker points out in “Philosophy of the Maternal Body: Reading Silence on page 18 that in Le Doeuff’s exploration of the philosophical imaginary “she traces an elision of woman and interiority in the text of an eighteenth-century physician whose concerns slip curiously from medicine to moral philosophy. The text in question, Systeme physique et moral de la femme, published in 1777, is read in conjunction with some contributions to a contemporary one, Le Fait feminin, edited by Evelyne Sullerot and published in 1978. The fact that just over two hundred years separates these is cause for (feminist) concern when Le Doeuff exposes their ideological function of assigning woman the place of a mute interiority. I should point out that Le Doeuff does not attempt to reduce the structural complexities or specificities of these texts to one simple statement about femininity, but rather that she discovers the echo of an imaginary femininity embedded in a philosophical tradition that can only be labelled phallocratic.”

Irigaray, L. (1985) Speculum of the Other Women. Ithaca, NY. Cornell University Press.

Kristeva, J. (1986) The Kristeva Readers. New York. Columbia University Press.

Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1984) Creativity and Perversion. New York. W.W. Norton.

Foucault, M. (1978) History of Sexuality. New York. Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1965) Madness and Civilization: a history of insanity in the age of reason. New York. Pantheon Books.

Lewis, M. (1992) “Interrupting patriarchy: politics, resistance and transformation in the feminist classroom,” in: C.Luke & J.Gore (Eds.) Feminisms and Clinical Pedagogy, pp. 167-191. New York. Routledge

Luke, C. (1994) “Women in the Academy: The politics of Speech and Silence.” British Journal of Sociology of Education. Publishers Taylor & Fransis, Vol. 15. No. 2. pp. 211-230.

Heilbrun, C.G. (1990) “The politics of mind: women, tradition, and the university,” in: S. Gabriel & I. Smithson (Eds.) Gender in the Classroom, pp. 28-40 (Urbana, IL, University of Illinois Press).

Bartky, S.L. “Pedagogy of Shame,” in: C. Luke (Ed.) Feminisms and Pedagogies of Everyday Life. Albany, NY. SUNY Press.

Gal, Susan. Between Speech and Silence: The problematics of research on language and gender. Retreived online February 7, 2020.

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