It turns out…

Photography, Thoughts

That my home is actually quite pretty. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to escape it, and lately, I’ve been making a conscious effort to become more connected to it instead. 

This September, my promise is to keep renewing these connections whilst holing away in the ivory tower. 

Next time people ask me what I’m studying (followed by an inevitable request for elaboration because my initial explanation is always shit), I just want to show them this. 

Philosophy isn’t just about books and abstract theorizing. At least, the good philosophy isn’t. Philosophy is the nameless experience, the intelligible concept, the gentle wonder. Philosophy is encounter. And so, philosophy is this– and I didn’t need to leave to find it. 

(yours, mine, ours)

Poetry, Thoughts

‘…your story begins the moment Eros enters you. That incursion is the biggest risk of your life. How you handle it is an index of the quality, wisdom, and decorum of the things inside you. As you handle it you come into contact with what is inside you, in a sudden and startling way. You perceive what you are, what you lack, what you could be.”

Sometimes, life makes happy accidents out of us. I chose a book, who mentioned a book, which was authored by a woman, who spoke about something, that grabbed me deeply, just when I needed to be moved.

Anne Carson; thank you. Thank you for eros the bittersweet. Thank you for grief lessons.

One line, and I knew exactly what I wanted to write, because it is something I have been wanting to say.

How to better get at what we are, and what this is. How to get at what it means to live a life (yours, mine, ours).

For the next two years, this is my project. Yes, I am actually getting paid to learn–and write about, something that I am deeply concerned with, and moved by. And I think that helps to get at it, or, at least, it must be a start.

An introduction to the big idea?

Desire as absence. And what that means for you (me, us).

Stay tuned, friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Remember

Poetry

Rather fittingly,  a love poem from Anne Sexton. I read this fondly:

I remember

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color—no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

-Anne Sexton

On gossip and oppression: Q & A

Thoughts

Q: Is gossip be a form of oppression?

A: I am a bit weary of the idea that gossip, often associated with women, is something we should be criticized for. I think gossip can actually be a tool to fight oppression for many women.

Reminds me of an article I had read:
“At best, at most revolutionary, we can understand gossip as weaponized intimacy — as the power of marginalized communities to build guerilla information networks to keep ourselves and each other safe. In order to do this, we need to help each other discard forms of talking and thinking that blame each other and ourselves for our oppression, so that we may together have more space to thrive and grow.”

On rationality: Q & A

Thoughts

Q: How do you respond to the claim that rationalism is patriarchal?

A: What has helped me to understand + respond to these ideas, is exploring where the idea came from in the first place: in Western philosophy women have often been relegated to the private/familial/bodily/emotive spheres. Wherein, women don’t possess the rationality to exist in the public sphere of “citizen” or “person”. In this, the masculine public sphere became associated with rationality, wherein rationality was superior to the body/emotions (of which women were subsumed). The point, I might tell that person, is that this patriarchal understanding of rationality is not a full understanding of rationality at all. Rationality does not exist in a dichotomy — it is holistic. Rational people have emotions and bodies and logic, and it is because of this that they CAN become rational. In a sense; they aren’t wrong. Western rationality is patriarchal, however, this is a skewed understanding of what rationality is (and in this sense, you can argue, it isn’t rational at all).

On men

Poetry

Olivia Laing says [and this is important]:

They hate art, women, the earth,

what the fuck do they like

.

— Oh, I hope it fills you

with indignation, the kind

that does not still

.

Because you remember the first time

you told her that you cared

-and you were both scared

and that was ok, because you meant it

.

And here was a way

for you to speak

what wasn’t meant for speaking

in a language that rolled

like honey

off a mother tongue sweet,

and strange

.

You knew soft-heartedness

and it fills you,

with indignation

.

In which case,

I would tell you,

we, are on the same side

 

Feminist Myth Busters 101

Thoughts

Ah, feminism. A word that has become loaded with meaning, especially to those who don’t identify as such. And honestly, a year today, I might not have either.

Talking to a professor of Women’s Studies one day, I had an incredibly interesting discussion, wherein we shared some stories about our own feminist “awakenings”. Why is it, she sought to know, that so many young people refuse to identify as a feminist?

At its core, feminism is the simplest of notions: that all genders should be considered and treated equally. 16 years in school, and somehow, the majority of my peers had found it within themselves to refute this basic idea.

Even in the 60’s, this basic message had been more clearly understood by the masses than today, some 50 years later. How did such a promising movement become so stalled and muddied?

One thing the women’s rights movement could not forsee, were the astoundingly successful attempts made by the conservative traditionalists to co-opt feminism as an antagonistic term. No longer were feminists those seeking mere recognition as full persons — now, feminists were positioned as bra burning, men hating, angry “butch”rebels.

This radical, stereotyped image has since pervaded public discourse, and the misunderstandings coming with it have been many.

While I could continue to spend hours of my time attempting to demystify stereotypes online, it seems a better use of my emotional labour to do so here, in one go.

So, my interested/open-minded/willing to learn/discuss friends, please enjoy this episode of feminist myth busters!

1.Feminism is about women and advancing women’s rights only.  

No! Feminism recognizes that gender stereotypes/traditional gender roles are oppressive to everyone.

Have you ever heard: “You throw like a girl!” /”Dude, are you crying?!” /”She’s got you whipped!” / a million other gender stereotypes?

Yes? Then feminism is about you too. Men should be emotional, and increasingly, we realize the consequences of those who fail to interact with them in a healthy way, choosing instead that they be repressed. The amount of violence or self harm associated with male rejection is case in point — just months ago, a young girl was murdered by a boy, just for saying “no” when asked to the prom.

Further, it is all too often that feminine traits are seen as subordinate, or less desirable than masculine ones. Why is it that “unisex” most often means masculine clothing? And why is it that women can wear pants, or “boyfriend” styles jeans without question, but men would arose ridicule for wearing feminine style garments? The reason is sexism in action. We have associated all that is feminine with all that is shameful when taken in the context of a man. A thought experiment I like to refer to goes as follows:

You are in a store, and you need to buy gift for a set of fraternal twins (one boy and one girl). You know that they will fight if they get something different, so you must buy them the same one. There is a small selection: two pink sleeping bags, or two blue sleeping bags. Which do you choose? As I am sure most of us can imagine, we would much rather purchase two blue, seemingly “unisex” sleeping bags, than have to give the male twin a pink “feminine” one. Why? Because feminine is, again, seen as oppressive, while masculine is seen as desirable and normative (the default, per say).

As human beings, we all possess stereotypically gendered traits, both masculine and feminine. And being pressured by society to suppress one side, is denying our full way of being us. 

 2. Western women aren’t the ones who are oppressed– it could be so much worse!

As a wise classmate one said, this isn’t the oppression olympics. We are all impacted by systemic discrimination in different ways — this is called intersectionality. We should not compare our oppression to others, nor should people use the position of other’s to justify the status quo. Even if women can vote, go to school, etc, in the West, this does not mean that sexism is any less problematic. Sexism is a systemic issue that rears its head in different ways. Although it may manifest itself differently in different situations, the impact is the same, for it conceptualizes the value of the sexes unequally.

3. I believe in gender equality. Feminism is about women’s superiority.

Again, no! If you believe in gender equality, then you are a feminist by definition. It really is as simple as that.

4. If it’s about equality, then why is it called FEMinism?

Because feminism is about advancing the rights of the oppressed/undervalued gender (women) to be equal with men, it is named for those who are yet to be equal. If you feel better calling it the women’s rights movement, then by all means, go by that too! I often hear people making the argument for “humanism” as the new title, but that contradicts the very logic of the movement.

If all humans were equal already, that would be great. Unfortunately, we have quite a ways to go, so it would be inappropriate to connote that we have already reached equality, as humanism does.

5. Why can’t feminists take a joke? Or a compliment? 

We can! But if a joke or a compliment perpetuates harmful sexism, we have a right to be upset.

Things like “the friend zone”, for example, are actually quite problematic jokes to make.

As the cool people at everyday feminism explain:

“A key problem with the idea of the friendzone is sexual entitlement – the idea that certain people deserve sex. The idea of the friendzone is as follows: person A (usually a man) is interested romantically and sexually in person B (usually a woman). Person B, however, sees person A as a friend and isn’t interested in them in a romantic or sexual sense. In other words, the man is the one who desires the woman and the woman is the one who rejects the man. Often, the discourse on the friendzone shames women for ‘friendzoning’ men who are nice to them. Because if you’re a good person and you want to sleep with, or date someone, you should be able to do so – right?

Well, no. 

What about the other person in that situation? What about what they want? Why are they shamed for their desire to remain friends while the other person’s desire to pursue a relationship generates empathy? Being decent to someone should be expected. We shouldn’t expect to get rewarded with sex or a romantic commitment simply for being a decent human being. The thing is that we’re socialized to view women as trophies we reward to men for good behavior. Think about the plot outline of most male-centric movies: when the male character overcomes the central conflict, and proves himself to be a good, heroic person, he ends up with his female love interest. As a result, we think of ‘nice’ men as deserving of a woman’s time, love and affection. This has the effect of insinuating that men are entitled to certain things from women, and women are awful for rejecting men.

Underplaying female desire is the other side of perpetuating male sexual entitlement. Why is it that we don’t often sympathize with women who feel like they’ve been ‘friendzoned’ by men? Is it because we don’t feel that women are entitled to sex and romantic relationships simply for being ‘nice’? Or is it because we buy into the stereotype that men are always the pursuers and women are always pursued? Ultimately, the idea of the ‘friendzone’ upholds the idea that men deserve women, which objectifies women. Additionally, it shames women for making their own decisions regarding their sexual and romantic relationships.”

6. Am I really privileged by sexism?

It can be hard to see one’s own privilege, especially if one doesn’t identify as female. Sexism can be overt, but it can also be very subtle. Consider some of these examples, and if you have ever been:

  • violently or sexually catcalled on the streets
  • touched or grabbed without your consent
  • conscientious about covering your body, or the way you dress at work or school
  •  treated like you body was someone else’s property, or decision to make
  • blamed for someone else’s crime against you (rape, harassment)
  • told an action was “unladylike”
  • told you were selfish for pursuing a career, instead of having/raising children
  • unwantingly asked out, and only left alone once you said “I have a boyfriend”, instead of just “I don’t want to”
  • expected to be submissive, or defer to a male’s judgment over your own
  • expected to adhere to impossibly standards of beauty and body type
  • etc, etc, etc…..

As a women, we feel the impacts of sexism on a daily basis. Regardless of our various backgrounds, women share a common interest in dismantling a system that denies us autonomy, the right to feel safe, and equal respect.

If you’ve made it this far, I think the big takeaway is that sexism is a permeating system that is hard to abolish in just one day. None of us are perfect, and we will trip up sometimes, but learning to be cognizant of the way sexism works is a huge first step towards gender equality. Learning from each other is possible, and if we engage in discussion in a respectful and open minded fashion, there need not be such polarizing hatefulness surrounding issues of feminism. Feminism needs everyone behind it, including the allyship of men, in order to be successful.

Things that used to be safe

Poetry

Things that used to be safe:

pounding smoke from warm asphalt, a body

sucking cloth like a bandage

turned white, turned clear, turned skin.

.

Holding myself like sand, when

the wind blew from the opposite direction

Touched pieces of me,

that my hands wrapped tight made

my skin forget

what fresh air felt like

.

a bare thigh plastered on cracked vinyl train seats.

Hands free to

press, on cold veiled windows

move a finger in circles

to draw, not will

my space to shrink

Politics of Persepolis

Uncategorized

“If I have one message to give to the secular American people, it’s that the world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you. And our governments are very much the same.”

-Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel that was written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi. It illustrates the life of a semi-fictional character, Marji, whom is actually based on Satrapi herself. Written partially as a memoir from Satrapi’s experiences during the Iranian revolution, this novel explores conflict between the East and the West in an admirable way. Persepolis serves to communicate the overarching theme that real human experience exists within abstract ideas- specifically, the ideological conflict between the West and the East. Satrapi designs her pages in a way that allows the reader to identify with the main character, Marji, as well as the experiences she undergoes. That is, in reading Persepolis, one gains an understanding of Marji that transcends the experience into which she has been typified. Satrapi’s story and art serve to express the realness of human experience within the East-West dichotomy by conveying relatable themes without falling prey to sensationalism or “othering”. Gillian Whitlock explains the “othering” that takes place within the “veiled best seller”:

“We are often blind to the more banal forms that deliver stories shaped by the colonial present, and veiled best-sellers are a case in point: they reproduce haunting and exotic oriental fantasies and engage our consent to trespass without shame.” -Gillian Whitlock

This perpetuation of “othering” that is so often found in the “veiled best seller” often hinders the reader’s ability to recognize the more mundane and familiar experiences that characterize the identities of those we are reading about. And, as Satrapi puts it, these experiences help us to see that many of the people we perceive as irreconcilably different, are more than capable of relating to each other on similar terms. As Sue Tait says, “mass mediated suffering tends to render audiences as passive consumers” (1225), thereby hindering their ability to bear witness, as mass mediated suffering lacks an explanation of why a traumatic event has occurred and what kind of action the consumer can take in response (1225). By avoiding “othering” (which is evident in many autobiographies distributed in Western book markets), Persepolis allows the reader to bear witness in the full sense of the term, by increasing the readers proximity and relation to those who are suffering. This stops the reader from viewing  suffering in the East as a distant or extraordinary phenomenon of which there is no clear explanation or cause. And in doing so, Persepolis also prevents the reader from viewing Marji’s pain as something that we are not accountable for, or able to respond to. One reason among many as to why Persepolis has received such widespread acclaim, has to do with the fact that it breaks the mould of the “veiled best seller” in such a meaningful way.