I have learnt powerfully in the last two years or so some critical and valuable lessons about life on this planet and more particularly on my piece of rock. I am not complaining mind you, or I hope that this is neither a rant nor a rave, I hope I don’t sound bitter. If I do, I cannot help it then and to be truthful I do not want to apologize, it is what it is. Ira Shor that accomplished educator and thinker refers to the ‘Siberia Syndrome’ in his attempt to explain the position that students who feel marginalized take in a classroom: “it is the tendency of alienated and marginalized students to seek out the far corners of the classrooms.” I am noticing how women here are firmly located in a kind of ‘Siberia’, how they have been pushed aside to the far corners of this place, busily moving from place to place hesitant to engage in public, never staying long in one place, inaccessible, locked away behind closed doors.
Here, women are not allowed to represent themselves, they must be represented by a man, if a woman dares to speak for herself then she is labelled ‘feminist’, ‘lesbian’, ‘man hater’ someone who emasculates men or is forced to take responsibility for the ‘marginalization of men.’ So I dared to do that, I dared to speak for myself, but alas I did not realize that as a single, young woman I was not allowed to speak on my behalf, then came the silencing, the banishment to ‘Siberia’ the place to which women who do not know their place, who dare to speak for themselves are ‘exiled’ when they breach the rules of patriarchy. My banishment was particularly shocking, I don’t know why, it just was, perhaps because I believed, mistakenly, that in the final analysis the truth surfaces and reigns supreme, perhaps I had read too many fairy tales or read one too many Mills and Boon romance novels.
It was then that I began to wonder about the women who I had noticed around me who had been banished, those women who were operating from their own places of exile, how did they get there, was the exile self-imposed? How did they get relocated to ‘Siberia’? That is my new task, I want to find out how these women moved to Siberia.
Shor says to combat ‘Siberia’ one has to embrace a critical pedagogy; a pedagogy of questions. That allowed me the opportunity to rethink my ‘exile’ because I believe that it is in exile that I am learning to ask beautiful and profound questions. Can you imagine if we as the ‘exiled’ were able to unite around that principle of ‘critical pedagogy?’ if we were committed to asking the questions we are now asking in isolated exile, as a community of exiles? I think that is my second task; creating community from individuals in exiles!