words of wisdom* from my enlightened* uncle (via trenchantashell)
He brought this up again this evening, just a few minutes ago. I gave him the finger while he had his head turned away, talking to my father, but mum grabbed my hand and gave me a long-suffering look.
A woman from the audience asks: ‘Why were there so few women among the Beat writers?’ and [Gregory] Corso, suddenly utterly serious, leans forward and says: “There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the ’50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up.
Stephen Scobie, on the Naropa Institute’s 1994 tribute to Allen Ginsberg
Yes yes YES. Psychiatry has a terrible history of being used to silence subversive figures: particularly outspoken women.
BNR: Meanwhile, Anaïs Nin is just writing ‘journals.’
JW: Journals, right, journals! If I want to use myself as a fictional character, why can’t I? Over the years, it’s been one of the most frustrating things. If you call yourself ‘Jeanette’ in the novel, then it’s all about you. And I’m thinking, No. This is a person I’ve invented. Why shouldn’t I? That’s what I mean by an asymmetrical judgment because Paul Auster, Henry Miller, Milan Kundera, any of those writers who quote themselves directly, Philip Roth, for God’s sake! We all say, ‘That’s so great! That’s so interesting!’ But if you do that as a woman, it becomes confessional and autobiographical…
This isn’t exactly a sex thing but God does it plague some geek circles. I know because I’ve been the cool chick. I’ve played the “don’t worry, I’m not like those other girls, I’m not into gossip and drama” card; I’ve played the “well, you have my permission to objectify me, because I take it as a compliment” card; I’ve even played the “that mean lady was such an uptight no-funster for having boundaries” card.
Those cards are the fuck out of my deck now. And I’ve paid the social price for that. There’s definitely some people in my circles who’ve put me in their “uptight no-funster” mental box since then, or who deliberately bait me about “watch out, Holly, I’m going to patriarchally oppress you!” because ahahaha she’s an angry little lady isn’t that cute.
I don’t blame a woman who sees this go on, decides she wants friends more than she wants to start fights about some abstract problem that doesn’t seem to affect her personally, and starts telling her male friends not to worry, they can be sexist around her, she’s cool. The problem isn’t her. The problem is all the people who made it so much easier and more pleasant for her to be a “cool chick” than a woman who gives a damn how people think of her gender.
Natalie Reed is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers. She hits the nail on the head again. Excerpted from her blog:
Trans women were of course, as soon as we’d emerged in public consciousness, used as a sort of ultimate weapon in the fight to cast femininity and womanhood as merely a construct rather than an honest expression of self. We were exactly what the struggle to maintain patriarchal concepts of male and masculine as the “neutral” or “default” state needed at that moment. A group of women who appeared at first glance to be entirelysuperficial, cosmetic, artificial and constructed
For us, we do need to fight to be women. We need to work against the natural state of our bodies. But it is ONLY the bodies that we really seek to change (and even that isn’t a given), not our identities or selves, and the female traits that are expressed through the use of hormones already existed as natural potentials in our genetic structure. Media conceptualizations emphasise the surgical, prattle on as much as possible about breast implants and brow recontouring, discuss a dramatic process of changing into a new person, making it sound asmedically difficult and scientifically miraculous as they can, finally summing up this process of fabricating an artificial woman in the inevitable “before”/”after” comparison, in which they find the most stereotypically masculine picture of us as a child they can find to drive the home the degree to which modern science has managed to create this wholly new being.
What never receives focus is the degree to which this is for us a process that typically feels natural and like a relief, an unburdening of unnatural constraints… how the woman was not constructed, but already there. How transition is not about becoming a new person, but allowing yourself to stop hiding the person you already really were. What ends up on the cutting room floor are our discussions of how we fabricated and constructed an artificial male pose.
Yes. We constructed our masculinity. The masculinity was the disguise, the unnatural state, the artifice, thepose that we crafted. It, not the femme, was superficial and shallow. It was the aesthetic consideration we had to deliberate upon and mind the details. It was the face we put on in the morning. It was the mannerisms we choreographed. The clothes we carefully chose. The uncomfortable shoes.
An artifice of masculinity.
But in so far as trans women’s narratives are accepted, they are accepted in a manner in which they challenge cultural assumptions of gender as little as possible. Our existence is already a fundamental threat to basic assumptions of masculine preferentiality. Adding in the degree to which we threaten the assumption that masculinity is a natural state, that it’s not something learned, trained or affected with a particular aesthetic dictated by the whims of style, would just make us far, far too dangerous.
So instead we get used and out narratives and experiences misrepresented to drive home the point that there’s nothing real or valuable about the feminine. We get filmed in front of mirrors, putting on our make-up, squeezing into uncomfortable shoes, and griping about all the incredible effort and pain that goes into being femme. As though there were no effort or pain at all involved in being masculine.
The pain of wearing heels or plucking my eyebrows is fuck all compared to the pain of denying, suppressing and hating who I was while hiding behind a male mask for twelve years.
Part of me wonders if this plays into the way that butch or tomboy trans women are not acknowledged in mediaat all. I’m sure there are many, many layers to this erasure, but the fact that such women suggest that a female identity is not the same thing as a feminine identity, that gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation and physical sex do not determine one another and can occur in any combination, and that it is possible to transition to being female with very little artifice or make-up involved, that transition can consist almost entirely of simply stripping away a masculine and male disguise, that is just something that could too easily bring the patriarchal/binary house of cards crashing to the ground.
Miles Davis to Nancy Reagan at a White House dinner in 1987 after she’d inquired as to what he’d done with his life to merit an invitation (via marxisforbros)
Eh this is completely wrong. He was actually quite fond of the Reagans. It was at a White House dinner however. Here is what actually happened. From his autobiography.
Miles writes: “She looked at me and turned all red and shit, then she said, ‘Well, what have you done that’s so important in your life? Why are you here?’
“Now, I just hate shit like this coming from someone who is ignorant, but who wants to be hip and has forced you into a situation where you’re talking to them in this manner. She brought this on herself. So then I said, ‘Well, I’ve changed music five or six times, so I guess that’s what I’ve done and I guess I don’t believe in playing just white compositions.’
“I looked at her real cold and said, ‘Now, tell me what have you done of any importance other than be white, and that ain’t important to me, so tell me what your claim to fame is?’”
Oh hey, look at that. The original quote was a scathing critique of race and unearned ambition but the popularized version simultaneously glorified sexism while confining Davis to the caricature of the angry black man.
Go fucking figure. (via akagoldfish)