Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Off Task

I'm supposed to be reading a paper by an advanced student today, but I'm having a hard time getting to it, so instead of reading it, I've stupidly been thinking about why it's hard for me to get to. And I think I've figured out why: The basic argument is that a certain technology is deeply patriarchal, and that the writer figured this out by analyzing her experience when the technology didn't work for her.

Imagine, then, that our writer embraced road bikes with great enthusiasm, only to find out that her back problems are aggravated by the position. And now the argument is that road bike geometry is anti-feminist.

Through what I've read so far, I really have the sense that if the road bike geometry had worked for the writer, I wouldn't be reading the paper, because she started out embracing road bikes with great hope. But that hope was crushed, and the writer is sort of working this out by writing this paper, and it can't be about a back issue, because blaming oneself is bad.

Okay, the road bike anthology is clumsy, but you get the idea.

I feel like I'm reading someone's therapy, and it's not that I don't basically agree that the technology IS patriarchal and such, it's just that I don't think that's a very original idea. And I really don't care about this person's experience with road bikes, because, really who gives a damn unless they ride road bikes. (Again, the analogy is lousy, but it's lousiness is appropriate. In this analogy, I ride a recumbent.) There's still a level at which the rider is mourning the fact that her road bike just didn't work out.

But that very mourning is within the patriarchal system that loves road bikes, and neither recognizes that, nor recognizes that there's no way out of the patriarchal system that loves road bikes except to accept the patriarchal rejection that comes with riding a recumbent. But this writer doesn't seem to see that riding a recumbent is even an option, and so is rejecting biking because the road bike doesn't work for her back.

Mmmm, my bike looks very appealing right now.


  1. It sounds like this student is having an audience problem--not being able to switch from her interest in the topic as a writer to the arguments needed to persuade an audience that is not herself.

    It's hard not to write "I don't care" on those. But I make liberal use of "so what?" on papers that do this.

    All of this to say, I feel your pain.

  2. Now I'm curious to know what you wrote in the margins to the student. "Ever try a recumbent or a -- gasp! -- hybrid bike?" Just imagine the therapeutic, solipsistic things she'll write if she latches onto the concept of genre transgression!

    I feel your pain. But, to be fair, I'm pretty sure I wrote some similar stuff when I was in college. I think I can feel some of her confusion, too. (Pain is clearly too strong a word for her situation.)

  3. Tree, Thanks :) Your comment about why do I care helped me construct my response!

    Dr. Koshary, Thanks :) The issue is really a lot more painful than bike choices. I think I was able to write a response that will help the student revise. And that's my role here, to help the student.