Professor Anthony Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities at Rice University. He earned his B.A. from Columbia University, and M.Div. and Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University. He is an author, humanist, and public speaker. Also, and this is in no way a complete listing of titles or accomplishments, Pinn is the Founding Director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL) at Rice University.
Here we talk about the gender, race, humanistic aesthetics, and more.
Professor Pinn and I talked about gender, race, and humanism. I appreciated the time taken by one of the foremost humanist thinkers in America, especially for a Canadian. When I asked about the manifestations of the more restricted gender roles for men and women, I framed the question within European-American and African-American communities.
Pinn responded from a different perspective. That is, the view of gender roles cutting across the construction of race in social life. He stated, “That is to say, the restricted and restrictive nature of, say, masculinity and femininity are not defined in terms of ‘blackness’ or ‘whiteness’ but rather in terms of the larger social framework of the Western World. The difference is this: for African Americans, for instance, these restrictive gender roles are also tied to certain forms of stigma associated with race and class.”
I then asked about the humanistic outlook. The ways in which humanism may provide a broader set of possibilities for gender roles for men and women.
“Humanism doesn’t necessarily provide a broader set of possibilities for gender roles. This is because humanists live in cultural worlds, just like theists. As a result, humanists can be just as guilty of encouraging restrictive gender roles. The difference is this: humanists don’t attribute this bad thinking to divine forces,” Pinn explained.
Pinn has expertise in multiple areas. One domain seemed like the aesthetic of African-American humanism. He said, “My answer depends on what you mean by ‘aesthetic.’ In a general sense, there is no overarching ‘style’ or ‘mood’ associated with humanism in African American community – just as there is no one way to be ‘black.’”
I wanted to conclude on knowing some the nuanced and updated to the modern period expectations. The ways in which men and women can contribute to North American societies with newer roles suited to the times.
“The key isn’t to simply “borrow” from one group to correct the problems of others. The key is to understand the constructed nature of gender, to privilege healthy life options that promote the freedom to define and perform ourselves in complex and layered ways,” Pinn concluded, “The goal should be to remove modes of injustice that work against health life options and the beauty of diversity in its various forms.”
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