The Ivory Tower and Kingdom Come
People say I look like my father, but it’s my mother I think about whenever I take a hard look at myself. She swears she’s fiercely independent. As a single, Black woman and former army cadet who managed to earn collegiate certification in nursing and worked two jobs to support two children; and still found time to cuss people out by phone or in person—well, for the most part, she is fiercely independent. She simply thinks the system—and society as we know it—isn’t worth dignifying. She rationalizes that since white supremacy hasn’t respected her, she will not abide it. However, whether she realizes it or not, she does abide it because she is unable to completely divest from the oppressive systems in our society.
Like her, everyone is subject to eurocentric institutions and harmful hierarchies of cissexism, androcentrism, heteronormativity, and patriarchy bolstered by judiciary ascriptions of primogeniture and patrilineal priorities. Moreover, these institutions have foundations of capitalism; and capital is manifest socially, materially, and aesthetically in accordance to status quos driven by those said hierarchies. Even if my mom holds her head high, she still struggles as hegemonic hubris drags her down. The same supremacist systems that stereotype her are the same ones she fares against; and the same ones she shall never truly overcome. In my case, I know that my work in academia will ultimately assist me in meeting my basic needs.
Sociology, the discipline I’ve dedicated my life to, is founded upon the understanding that we, as humans, are social creatures. “No one is an island” takes on a meaning more literal than figurative in the context of sociology, because the messages and ideas we internalize from our society are ultimately a byproduct of our socialization. Despite oppositions from the white moderate, no one can truly abandon hegemonic belief systems. Connectivity is a necessity as well as a cultivated, calculated craft. The ability to network is an asset and a determinant of not only how far, but where you’ll go and who you’ll go with.
Networking (or rather, strategic networking in accordance to oppressive systems and ideologies) is hard, if not impossible if you’re honest. The disclosure of my positionality as a Black woman actively aware that I constantly negotiate my merit to white dominant spaces is neither acclaimed or well received. In this way, I can relate to my mother; particularly, in her memories of being in army cadets. I see myself as a scholar soldiering on, mobilizing militant ideologies through prose and practicum. My fight is armoured with survivorship and scholarship that involve critical considerations of race, gender roles, sexuality, and rape culture. Unless I oblige the very respectability politics I am against, my dialogue of these subjects is not acknowledged or amenable to change. My analyses aren’t ingenious insights nor are they pedantic prattle. They are intent inquiries into the injustices and inconsistencies of ethnocentric, androcentric, and antiquated values that define pedagogy and protocol in academic spheres.
I repurpose [mostly Weberian] social theories on interpersonality, rationality, and authority to relay the existence of a distinct, pervasive narrative that isn’t emergent, but persistent. I believe that androcentrism, aestheticism, animism (in the context of capitalism and materialism), empiricism, and eurocentrism are recriminatory rationales that essentialize the complexity and diversity of the universe.
Through these -isms, it is no coincidence that the same revisionist stories, methodologies, and theologies have been told over and over again. These stories are acclaimed with accolades as if modernity itself has diversified the discourse, when in actuality, academic institutions largely extol the sins of their fathers. We are expected to celebrate colonial exploits as progressive, inductive revelations of some new world and other ‘discoveries’ that sanctify their speciesism. The learning objective isn’t imagination or revelation, just repetition. Because, if marginalized peoples dare digress, they’re remanded and redirected lest they stray from the white way of doing things.
As a marginalized person, I say that we mustn’t just own our narratives. We must dignify them. Dignity in itself is an act of resistance. I tell my own stories because I refuse to be recognized only in hindsight; because I want to control and navigate my narrative. The reality of cultural appropriation and theocratic idealism is confirmation that academia is a revisionist regime. For every bridge burnt, another is rebuilt or reimagined; but nothing actually goes forward.
My experience as a sociology major with a vast number of electives within the social sciences and humanities has been a sedentary one. A passive pedagogy is definitive of my academic career wherein revolution is romanticized rather than realized or materialized. My professors sell idealism and pompous platitudes. They sell knowing that politics, like white supremacy and its academism, by nature, require evil. They sell knowing that people like me aren’t bought. As I grow older, I grow conscious of how I’ll always be undersold and unable to buy. I feel like life is more a matter of transactions than transitions. Bartering with my brain and body, I constantly sell myself; and I often sell myself short. Visible privileges of whiteness and wealth prosper while visible minorities of non-whiteness and poverty perish. Nobody is here for people like me, for marginalized peoples. If we are not tokenized, we are demoralized.
I say this, declaring that my mother is my skinfolk and kinfolk. It was through her that I learned lessons never broached in the classroom—and her double shifts paid my tuition for my attendance in that classroom. She taught me not only who I was and where I stood, but to always stand my ground. So, I hope to return the favour and teach her a thing or two from what I have gathered from the pretentious politics of which I have acclimated myself. While she taught me the value of speaking up, I hope to teach her that it is more effective to antagonize the white moderate behind a visage of false neutrality rather than reveal outright outrage.
Fallen Matthews is a Black, Métis cis woman and current grad student in gender studies, with concentrations in interpersonality, existentialism, and social theory. She's been published in Model View Culture, The Coalition Zine, Social Dissonance, and the Journal of Comparative Media Arts; in addition to her own erotic fiction under the penname "Fallen Kittie."