Thursday, April 06, 2017

Love work

Had the great pleasure of introducing a room full of students to the life and thought of Sally Ruddick today. Feminist philosopher Ruddick was a major presence at The New School just before I arrived, most appropriate to the class, which is called "Women's Legacy at The New School." I framed our discussion by reading through this course description (from 1977), which allowed me to reflect on her work as a teacher (on the work of teachers), and on the amazing things she did in class. In a way, "Philosophical Aspects of Biography" was a sort of precursor to today's class. Both pleasingly and a little disconcertingly, Ruddick's reflections on the difficulty women have taking their work seriously ("the ability to work" in the course description) seemed to the students still entirely relevant. What a privilege to sharie the reimagining of work emerging from her rejection of the gendered work/love distinction:

In college I learned to avoid work done out of love. My intellectual life became increasingly critical, detached, and dispensable. If I self-deceptively denied my desires for the conventional loves of a man and children, I refused even to recognize the loves that work demands in its own name: love for oneself, love for the ideas and creation of others, love for the people one works with, love for the knowledge, change, and beauty that work alone can achieve.
"A work of one's own," in Working it out: 23 women writers, artists, scientists, and
scholars talk about their lives and work, ed. Sara Ruddick & Pamela Daniels (1978), 136

So much love! And this even before we got to Ruddick's most lasting legacy, "maternal thinking." Work shouldn't be loveless, as thinking shouldn't be careless. Failure to appreciate this (too common still) undermines the quality of love, care, work and thinking!

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