Something of a companion thread to Feminist Blogs/Communities I Have Known... but less focused on blogs.
Also a space where we can have multi-gendered dialogue from the outset, so we don't have any confusion.
― emil.y, Sunday, 12 February 2012 22:56 (1 year ago) Permalink
I'm v v confused about gender and what it all means but that's p inherent in the discussion I guess?
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:03 (1 year ago) Permalink
Well, yeah - I purposefully phrased the title in a way that allows for those whose identity is not always recognised. I was initially going to include queer theory in the thread concept, as I've recently found myself with groups where feminism and queer politics are completely intertwined, but I don't feel that I should be the person to say whether or not this is a good place to discuss that.
― emil.y, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:09 (1 year ago) Permalink
Actually, "completely" is not true. I think that would be impossible. But they work closely together, a lot.
Ha ha no, I understood what you meant in naming the title that, I like the inclusivity of it. I'm mostly confused by mine own gender and ~what it means~ and always have been so I was just pointing out that confusion is inherent in the process for some ppl. (as recognised by the title)
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:12 (1 year ago) Permalink
Yes. I've never felt like "I'm really a boy" but performatively I often feel more akin to males. But then, that's based around the socially constructed sides of gender, so it's less confusion, more rejection. I didn't always understand that, mind you.
― emil.y, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:20 (1 year ago) Permalink
not to get all graduate seminar on this thread but: do we have a good definition of "gender" that isn't culturally essentialist? I'm sure it's out there but my reading in Feminist/Queer/etc theory is lacking. I don't necessarily have a problem with a culturally essentialist reading of gender, but i'd be interested in alternatives. For instance, where and when does the cultural proscribed notions of gender we have run up against actually being attached to, say, a penis? And how do you talk about this intersection without bogus and lame biological essentialism?
― ryan, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:46 (1 year ago) Permalink
I really want to look at this question, because not having a satisfying answer to it is one reason why I'm really unhappy defining groups of people as 'men' and 'women' and setting policy accordingly.
― Also unknown as Zora (Surfing At Work), Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:48 (1 year ago) Permalink
I certainly know that most working definitions of gender are crude and essentialist and problematic. I get that. But when talking about many of the blunt force issues I have to confront, I know the people who are perpetuating this shit on me are male bodied ppl who identify as male and a huge part of the reason they were doing it to me was because they perceived me as female and had a specific set of assumptions about what that meant, so it's really hard not tp talk about this stuff without using the shorthand no matter how clumsy it is. Otherwise you end up mumbling vague shut about kierarchy (lord knows how my iPhone will render that) and no one outside a graduate program knows what you're on about.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:58 (1 year ago) Permalink
yeah that's a great point. I think one of the challenges in getting people to accept something like cultural determination of gender is that their first line of defense is a reductio ad absurdum like "is my penis [or whatever] culturally constructed?!?"
it's similar to the "well I know my grandpa wasn't a monkey" defense against evolution.
I think, at bottom, there's an enormous amount of anxiety that goes into gender identity (one might even say this is the entire purpose of gender) that's gonna always leads to exactly the kind of hysteria you see in homophobia and the like. so defusing that anxiety remains, i think, a big part of the goal.
― ryan, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:09 (1 year ago) Permalink
Like Deborah Cameron said in a debate I saw, utterly demolishing that Baron-Cohen "male brain" prick with her magnificent logic "The fact that women give birth is not in any way a Societal Construct. But what it ~MEANS~ that women give birth is completely a Societal Construct"
<3 D-Camz so hard, she cuts through so much of that Mars/Venus guff so effectively.
But um yeah, anxiety around gender is so damaging.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:16 (1 year ago) Permalink
I can see that a lot of the time the shorthand is unavoidable, but what I'm afraid of - in myself and others - is letting the shorthand frame the debate. I see so many people embracing these powerful narratives about what it means to be male or female, that exclude people's real experiences in horrible, damaging ways. In a space like this, where we can afford to be nuanced perhaps more than elsewhere, it would be cool if we could approach it with that in mind - and WCC I'd love to hear some of that grad school stuff if you can explain it to a psych graduate with little to no study of sociology under her belt.
I'm too tired to talk properly now, but anyway let it be known that I am very much looking forward to getting into this stuff with ILX0rs and I'm *grateful* for the clusterfuck.
― Also unknown as Zora (Surfing At Work), Monday, 13 February 2012 00:18 (1 year ago) Permalink
Hey just remember I didn't go to grad school, I'm an art school dropout I picked up much of this stuff in the library and on the web and from a friend who is doing a PhD in feminist linguistics or sociolinguistics or whatever it's called. I sm not an expert.
I get tongue tied up in this bcuz so much of my *need* for feminism comes from not conforming to trad expectations of "woman" and wanting to widen up the definitions of "woman" when maybe I should be getting rid of gender entirely? But back when I was 20 queer theorists didn't want to talk to me (bcuz bisexuality or pansexuality didnt ~exist~ back then as far as those individuals were concerned) but feminist theorists did so that's where I ended up.
I always want to widen the idea of "woman" not narrow it but that has a tension with the desire for a safe space bcuz who defines or owns the idea of woman? It's a recognized tension, we have to work to resolve.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:26 (1 year ago) Permalink
Sorry to go off topic, but I'm so tempted to take this out of context: <3 D-Camz so hard. You love David Cameron! You love David Cameron!
Back on topic, yes, grad-school discussion is more than welcome from my perspective: I know bits and pieces, from A Level Sociology, lit theory, and philosophy, but I could definitely do with more thinkers to pursue and avenues to contemplate.
― emil.y, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:29 (1 year ago) Permalink
"A Level Sociology" is one clause there, I progressed some way beyond that in the latter two disciplines, ha. (Not braggin', just sayin')
Deborah Cameron. Don't get over excited.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:30 (1 year ago) Permalink
what I like about that Deborah Cameron quote (i should look her up) is that it nicely points out that yes there is biology and whatnot but that we can't TALK or THINK about this stuff except within the parameters of MEANING...you'd dont get to crawl outside of cultural meaning using a ladder called "biology" or whatever.
― ryan, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:37 (1 year ago) Permalink
so yes there is an "outside" or limit to culture/meaning but we only have access to it as a kind of negative capability.
― ryan, Monday, 13 February 2012 00:38 (1 year ago) Permalink
gender's odd. it's clearly a cultural construct, both in a hazy, general sense that exists outside any specific individual and in the various ways we all individually (re)construct & perceive it. but that's not all it is. unlike "race", there's a substantial biological component to gender. of course, as others itt have pointed out, we can only understand what this might mean at several levels of remove, as filtered through a thicket of complex constructions from which we can't even sensibly hope to extricate our perspectives.
i'm biologically male. for better or worse, i find that my subjective experience of gendered-ness squares pretty well with what my culture seems to describe as generic masculinity. i deviate from what i take to be the "masculine norm" in all sorts of ways, some trivial, some quite dramatic, but i assume that this is true of most everyone (everyone worth knowing, anyway), and i'm pretty happy with the space i've carved out between cultural expectations and the seemingly gendered aspects of my own internal landscape.
unfashionable as it may be to say, it seems to me that biological gender drives a great deal of human behavior and that these drivings do sometimes reciprocate those "dubious" cultural constructs we've inherited. men, for example, seem in general to be more openly and aggressive than women, to the extent that male violence is a serious problem the world over. would say the same with varying degrees of confidence about things like female nurturance and consensus-building, male vs female approaches to competition and "mating behavior", masculine self-sufficiency, etc.
while biological gender is generally self-evident, gender identification can only by known when it is communicated. we know that someone identifies as female when they tell us so. we also know that that the things people say aren't always true. perhaps for this reason, i suspect that many of us would have trouble accepting the presence of an apparently straight-normative biological male in a women's bathroom or domestic violence shelter simply on the basis of her reassurance that it's ok because she "identifies as female". much as we might like to reduce all gender to pliable constructs, it can be very hard to let go of the last shreds of biological essentialism.
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Monday, 13 February 2012 09:26 (1 year ago) Permalink
i am glad this thread is here.
― BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Monday, 13 February 2012 09:44 (1 year ago) Permalink
― tmi but (Z S), Monday, 13 February 2012 10:18 (1 year ago) Permalink
Any time that anyone starts going on about the "substantial biological component to gender" I just want to refer them to Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine and Pink Brain Blue Brain by Lise Elliott (sp?) and just carry on repeating - outside the obvious physical documented secondary sexual characteristics (the girl/boy lego) the actual measurable differences in cognition, in brain function, in all that stuff that matters are TINY. Not only that, but even with the DOCUMENTED and measurable differences (for example, height) - the variation WITHIN each gender is often FAR GREATER than the "difference" between genders.
This isn't just one or two outlier studies suggesting this. There are HUGE bodies of work on this. Analysis. Meta-analysis. Meta analysis of meta analysis. The OUTLIER studies which suggest men's and women's brains are from different planets are the ones that get all the attention BECAUSE THEY ARE OUTLIERS. And they are often NOT replicable. Which is your guaranteed sign of being NOT SCIENCE.
I'm not just "deferring to a authority" here. I am saying, there is shitloads of evidence on this one if you even scratch the surface of doing research on it. There is, like, "Climate change is a real thing" levels of evidence on this one. And I'm just saying, in advance, that if anyone is going to continue to insist that gender is a ~biological~ thing, I'm going to treat them like a climate change denier, and just not engage with nonsense.
Gender is a construct. Just because something is a construct does not mean it is not *meaningful* or that it does not have real world consequences. (Money is also a construct, but try doing without that one in western society.) But construct means "we made up the rules" and it also means "other societies or other possible societies can put the rules in different places and in different orders." (Try walking into a shop in England and buying something with an American dollar. Money is a construct that means different things in different places.)
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 12:55 (1 year ago) Permalink
that seems very otm. people who talk about aspects of humanity that are "outside of culture" shd probably point to some examples of humans that exist outside of culture. good luck with that.
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 13 February 2012 13:12 (1 year ago) Permalink
I had to get off line to compose the next bit so this is a continuation of the previous bit, rather than a response to you, NV, but here goes:
i find that my subjective experience of gendered-ness squares pretty well with what my culture seems to describe as generic masculinity. i deviate from what i take to be the "masculine norm" in all sorts of ways, some trivial, some quite dramatic, but i assume that this is true of most everyone
This is the problematic bit with the whole "biological" conception of gender. It's not biological at all, it's what your culture says is "masculine."
And if you, as a Western (I think you're North American?) man who conforms fairly well to your culture's expectations of masculinity were suddenly dropped into, e.g. Ancient Sparta, you would be thought of as an effeminate wimp or e.g. 18th Century French Court you would be thought of as a rude uncultured boer (bore? boar?) who needed to sort out a more masculine wig immediately.
For *me* (specific, personal) the problem is not whether someone identifies with their visible biological gender (though I recognise for many, many people this is a completely valid problem and source of oppression) it's how arbitrary the divisions into "masculine" and "feminine" are - how *brutally* they are policed - and policed in the service or protection of *whom*?
But those are conversations you can't really have without the entry of that nebulous concept of kierarchy (which spell check tells me isn't even a word.)
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 13:28 (1 year ago) Permalink
idk i'm kindof with that and not with it.
i know trans guys who have talked about the really visceral physico-psychological feelings of taking testosterone for the first time. and pretty much anyone who has ever been a teenager probably knows that hormones tend to do things to you. and yeah there are varying degrees of testosterone and oestrogen. and the binary of gender is culturally substantiated.
i mean i don't want to be misunderstood, this is not to say that we can understand some set of biological imperatives, primordial urges. i think its closer to what monique wittig meant when somebody asked her if she had a vagina and she said "no." i mean maybe i should explain that monique wittig was a lesbian and concluded that as she was a lesbian, she was not a woman because woman is something that is constructed within heterosexist gender relations. she's not insane, she wasn't denying that physiologically her body corresponds to a female body, but that the the body itself is something that is constructed by language and culture. still though, the matrix of signification is not one that is closed at the level of "culture" but that bodies are *part* of culture. folds of sensations, particular materialities, pleasures, warmth, movements, hormones. its not that these things are anterior to culture but it isn't the other way around either.
― judith, Monday, 13 February 2012 13:35 (1 year ago) Permalink
yeah sorry i certainly wasn't trying to privilege culture-and-nothing-else, just reflecting that the links are inextricable and not reducible to "this but not that" arguments
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 13 February 2012 13:41 (1 year ago) Permalink
<I>"The problem with the word 'vagina' is that vaginas seem to be just straight-out bad luck. Only a masochist would want one, because only awful things happen to them. Vaginas get torn. Vaginas get ‘examined’. Evidence is found in them. Serial killers leave things in them, to taunt Morse . . . No one wants one of those."</I>
― Andrew Farrell, Monday, 13 February 2012 13:59 (1 year ago) Permalink
Though obviously my inability to click the "Convert Simple HTML to BBcode" button is due to Evolutionary Psychology.
― Andrew Farrell, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:01 (1 year ago) Permalink
Yeah but that whole "men are just biologically different because: hormones!" ignores the fact that women also have a set of those exact chemicals sloshing around our bodies (except doctors call them androgens we have them) and not to mention the fact that it's even sometimes sold as a pseudo health concern by the kind of behavior police-y magazines all "OMG do you have an interest in maps and systems thinking? You might suffer from too much testosterone giving you ~male brain~ oh noes panic!" (This was an actual article I read in the launderette.)
And how things get interpreted like - I dunno, maybe I have an endocrine malfunction I should get checked out bcuz I totally get very male-coded aggro if I'm driving a car I get v aggressive about defending my territory (one of many reasons I don't drive) but when men do that, they have "testosterone" as their excuse but If I'm being all competitive in that pissing contest sense and male-coded, do I just do it bcuz I missed that particular bit of training in how to be ladylike? Or can I blame my ~androgens~?
I don't buy the "it's hormones" excuse entirely
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:09 (1 year ago) Permalink
I type so much less coherently when I'm on an iPhone. Don't know if the little screen makes me male brain or iv it's just the lack of ability to see the whole post to sense check it. That was almost incoherent. Sorry.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:11 (1 year ago) Permalink
that can apply to "personality" across the board tho. western society is increasingly big on medicalising personality in general - "are you like this? maybe the chemicals in your body need readjustment". there are maybe models for personality that rely less on societal norms - we can think about people's personal goals or happiness, ask whether their behaviours are self-limiting or destructive in some way - but a lot of hormonal/brain chemistry/genetic arguments have become standardised ways of looking at humanity and life experience. it's an excuse, as you say, and takes on virulent forms when used against women - lol PMT etc - but personality in general is increasingly policed, i guess, in ways that previously the power structures only sought to police behaviours.
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 13 February 2012 14:15 (1 year ago) Permalink
and yeah there are double standards, sometimes we are at the mercy of our internal chemistry and sometimes it makes us who we are
― dayove cool (Noodle Vague), Monday, 13 February 2012 14:19 (1 year ago) Permalink
...runs the argument
Yes, all that, too.
What I'm trying to say is, it varies within gender as well as between them. Some women are aggressive and competitive. Some men are warm and nurturing. (Most humans have some mixture of the two.) You can say "it's testosterone" or you can say "it's cultural conditioning" but the important thing is that it varies and that variance is OK.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:23 (1 year ago) Permalink
Hey Emily - Thank you. :)
― wolf kabob (ENBB), Monday, 13 February 2012 14:26 (1 year ago) Permalink
gonna check in later because this will likely be a thread to learn from, just please do me a favour and explain/link any jargon ( "culturally essentialist" up there threw me, though to be fair it also took me three attempts at processing "climate change denier" before I realised it wasn't talking about sheerer stockings.)
― thomasintrouble, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:31 (1 year ago) Permalink
Anyone who takes potshots at the surreal typing lysdexia caused by my iPhone is gonna get a crack on the head for asking. Just saying, like. My spelling is gonna be all over the shop.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:34 (1 year ago) Permalink
Yes I am aware of the hilarity involved in an amateur Li ghost (that was linguist, iPhone - but I'm gonna leave that to show what this thing does to me) who cannot spell but chomski my Sapir-wharf hypothesARSE if u wanna rib me about it. ;-)
^^^^^ha ha this is all a clumsy joke but if you ever can't google something or want a clarification pls say "srs question" and I'll try to de-jargon-ify
It's not so much learning new jargon as learning a new language requires a new way of thinking coz replacing words w/o replacing the thought processes is not progress. It's trying to unlearn so many of the kierarchy's ideas which is often the hard part.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:42 (1 year ago) Permalink
Right, why is why "can't google" isn't necessarily the problem - a lot of this is going to be "but what do you mean by that word / in this context?"
― Andrew Farrell, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:45 (1 year ago) Permalink
the funniest iphone autocorrect i've seen is changing "sexting" to "destiny" :/
― first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Monday, 13 February 2012 14:50 (1 year ago) Permalink
Yeah but there's a difference between "who is Dale Spender" and "what do you mean by kierarchy in this context" - happy to discuss the latter. Not so much the former.
I dunno, "cultural essentialist" seemed to be the opposite/corollary of "biological essentialist" and didn't really need clarification? But I guess maybe we should touch on how there are two (opposing?) schools of thought saying gender difference is the result of nature or nurture. Obv almost all arguments of this kind are at their heart an and/both proposition not an either/or.
But the biggest difference is that the Cultural crew believe that this stuff is nurture - and therefore can be changed and the Biological crew think this is impossible (and maybe even "against nature") to try to strive for gender equality
(see if you can guess which side I'm on, huh?)
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:56 (1 year ago) Permalink
if anyone is going to continue to insist that gender is a ~biological~ thing, I'm going to treat them like a climate change denier, and just not engage with nonsense.
biological gender IS a thing, and anyone who continues to insist that it isn't is simply wrong, full stop. in an overall sense, we can measure the differences between men and women any number of ways, not just in terms of the gross architecture of the body, but also in terms of more subtle things like its chemistry and DNA. we don't fully understand what all of this means, of course, and individuals vary greatly, but this doesn't mean that we can't scientifically "perceive" biological gender. we can.
of course and like i very clearly said before, we can only perceive and understand the significance of biological gender at a remove, as filtered through the understandings of gender that we've inherited. that's what makes this subject interesting. we know that we are driven both by biology and by the cultural constructs that compose our understanding, and there's no way to clearly distinguish between the two.
to repeat another thing i said earlier, we can see the workings of gender in male violence as a phenomenon. male violence exists and is a problem in every culture in the world, and this has always been true throughout human history so far as we know. you suggested that if i were dropped into ancient sparta, i would be perceived as a wimp. of course i would. in case you missed it, that was the entire point of the paragraph you were responding to: that gender is, to a substantial extent, a cultural construct. but it's worth noting that ancient sparta was no less dominated by male violence than our world is today. this does not conclusively "prove" that male violence is a product of male biology, of course, but it does incline me to suspect that biology plays a role.
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Monday, 13 February 2012 17:37 (1 year ago) Permalink
You're not *even* wrong.
You seem to inhabit this weird fantasy world where male power is not prized and rewarded at every turn, and female power is not demonised and punished at every turn. Where male violence is not *fetishised* and portrayed as noble and good and female violence is not denied in order to keep some wonderful "pure" vision of "femininity" as opposed to "masculinity."
This fantasy world where violent women from Boudiccea to Margaret Thatcher can just be handwaved away.
A fantasy world where structural inequality does not codify "male" supremacy over "female" at every step because the rules were written to keep it that way. These ideas are not reinforced with cultural narrative over and again until ppl believe they are true bcuz other views just don't get presented, or are actively derided by those w the most to lose?
And then you want to turn around and talk about this highly contrived and exaggerated version of "masculinity" as being somehow inevitable, even biological?
And I just call: bullshit.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 18:30 (1 year ago) Permalink
I've been looking for the past half hour to see if I can find any studies that strongly demonstrate even the simple premise that testosterone leads to increased aggression. Can't find anything. And conversely, if you google 'violent women' you get lots of hits about violence against women, a review of a book about Hollywood fetishisation of female violence, and a Daily Mail article about teenage girl gangs.
If the starting assumption for discourse is that men are perpetrators and women are victims, which it seems to be, it excludes from serious consideration the violence women do against men, the violence women do against each other, and the (sexual) violence men inflict on other men. I'll keep looking for biological underpinnings to the assumption, there may well be something, but I'm inclined to think it'll turn out to be by far the lesser factor.
― Also unknown as Zora (Surfing At Work), Monday, 13 February 2012 18:42 (1 year ago) Permalink
I mean let's get this straight. I'm not denying that there's such a * thing* as male violence, or that male violence especially as used as a method of control against women (hello Chris Brown and domestic violence awareness) is not hugely problematic.
What I'm denying is this idea that violence is something automatically and essentially coded into masculinity from biological sex up - rather than something which is learned, reinforced and rewarded at every step of a man's life.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 18:43 (1 year ago) Permalink
i think you're responding to an imaginary person in your head, cuz it sure as hell isn't me.
of course male power is prized and rewarded at every turn. or course female power is demonized and punished i don't wave any counter examples away. but the history of human violence, not just in western culture but in every culture ever known, is predominantly the history of male violence. to my mind, in conjunction with what little we do know about male and female biology, this makes it reasonable (not certain, just reasonable) to suppose that male biology plays a role in male violence.
would say the same of many other ostensibly gendered characteristics and behaviors, that biology probably does play some role. again though, it's impossible to clearly distinguish between the urgings of biology and cultural conditioning. but the fact that we can't know exactly what role biology plays does not mean that biology plays no role. in order to understand such things clearly, we have to accept huge amount of uncertainty. i.e., if you align yourself with either "crew", Cultural or Biological, you're missing the larger picture.
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Monday, 13 February 2012 18:45 (1 year ago) Permalink
i suspect that both factors play a role, nature & nurture.
Zora there's evidence that testosterone is released by men who are victors *after* the aggression is over but little evidence that testosterone causes violence or aggression. It's complicated, as all hormonal things involving humans tend to be.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 18:45 (1 year ago) Permalink
If the starting assumption for discourse is that men are perpetrators and women are victims, which it seems to be, it excludes from serious consideration...
i don't think you need a starting assumption. i think it's better to look at the available information and work up from there.
― Little GTFO (contenderizer), Monday, 13 February 2012 18:47 (1 year ago) Permalink
Contenderizer you keep repeating the same things over and over as if you haven't read what I've posted (and certainly none of the books I've referenced) so you are also having a conversation with someone who is not me.
― White Chocolate Cheesecake, Monday, 13 February 2012 18:48 (1 year ago) Permalink
i guess the more you process a given form of art the less likely it is to have deep personal resonance, but i read quite a bit and i can't imagine this ever happening. hope it doesn't.
And, way xp -- I'm trying to think of an author I felt altered my ideas about sexual politics in the way those women are describing... and I've read my share of 'mid-century misogynists,' haha. I do remember backing off of Milan Kundera after reading several of his books in a row. Sure, his men are caricatures, to some extent, but seeing women through their eyes still made me feel icky. My guess is that it has a lot to do with the life stage you're in when you encounter them. If read early (before sexual exploration), or later (once you're comfortable in your own skin), they lose their power to shape or disturb.
― Cherish, Wednesday, 4 December 2013 16:44 (1 week ago) Permalink
For me a great deal of the appeal of novels at all is that empathic leap that a person has to make, maybe even a sense of human universality if i'm being a hippy about it. But... when the majority of your novels are about the same kind of self-absorbed wanking white dude, this mediocre man who has overstretched himself in the service of a selfish ambition, then you're still not making any sort of empathic leap, you're just watching latest fleshing out of a particularly well-trodden archetype that we happen to have mistaken for the norm.
― thighs without a face (c sharp major), Wednesday, December 4, 2013 11:24 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
wait what novels are we even talking about that are all like this? is everyone just talking about updike and i guess maybe some richard ford?
i eventually read a whole bunch of mid-century suburban set novels and short stories and it was pretty amazing to put them all together because a) it really _isn't_ anyone's version of literature anymore, to the extent (dubious) it ever was, and b) it was this sort of great window into another time and set of values -- the way people thought and acted.
so you might read something and say 'it doesn't speak to me' but that doesn't preclude 'wow, this is really interesting how some group of people apparently actually see the world and their place within it'. which is what i appreciated from the excerpt -- this recognition that if the people you wanted to engage with read a certain set of stuff, and self-conceptualized that way, then maybe by reading that stuff you would understand those people. so the 'problem' (if it is one -- don't necc. wanna judge here) is not in the book, but in the fact that it is good at actually reflecting a certain worldview, and now you've gone and decided that people with that worldview are the people you want to engage with, so maybe you should change how you act to navigate that, and maybe it isn't a problem in the small, or its the only thing you can do in the small (because you don't necessarily get to choose everyone you engage with, or every characteristic about them), but it just reflects a broader issue in society in the large. and maybe the book isn't reinforcing that issue, or is only modestly so, compared to how its letting us externalize these archetypes so we can all discuss and think about them, and then maybe, because we _do_ have common reference points to who a 'brenda' is or w/e, then we can have a better conversation about rejecting them.
i mean that said, i enjoyed the sportswriter, but independence day was incredibly tiresome, cheever is p. great, but sloan wilson is a total bore, etc. so this isn't a blanket endorsement, like you can still be a dull writer about dull uninteresting stuff.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 14:13 (1 week ago) Permalink
And again, it gets considered "neutral" because it reflects the status quo. I'm not even going to start on how self-consciously that whole body of writing is wrapping itself IN that supposed neutrality on purpose, because that kind of critique isn't my strength, but it's very apparent to me.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Wednesday, December 4, 2013 11:23 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
this is also an interesting point. because the writing itself makes the move for 'neutrality' in a deliberate way, and this is an important and sometimes powerful authorial gambit. its what makes madame bovary tick, for example! Don't forget the subtitle, as ironically dispassionate as it gets: Provincial Life. (give or take the nuances of translation).
the novelists i think we're talking about are all i think similarly interested in questions of authorial voice and legitimacy, and they adopt different tactics and ironize them -- this is a key modernist move as a whole, and the later crowd are working in the shadow of and directly against naturalism as a tradition, and for that reason actually probably more celebratory of subjectiveness. the first rabbit (which is really good!) is like a study in how to write in the third person while inhabiting a single point of view intensely, and also how to undermine that point of view at the same time.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 14:21 (1 week ago) Permalink
fpd spacecadet for 'eminently reasonable' otherwise good talks everyone imo
― mind totally brown (darraghmac), Thursday, 5 December 2013 14:40 (1 week ago) Permalink
the novelists i think we're talking about are all i think similarly interested in questions of authorial voice and legitimacy, and they adopt different tactics and ironize them
You know how annoying it is when white people try to ironize racism? No, but seriously...When someone who is, for the purposes of this convo, white, male, and has academic or intellectual privilege and access to publishing and critical acceptance, and they use it to write about neurotic, underachieving young white men who are over-impressed w their own potential and the whole book is about their inner experience and pain, even when the auth is purposefully skewering some part of that on some level, and then A WHOLE SCHOOL OF WRITING COMES OUT OF IT where for a while all the "smart" books that serious ppl read and talk about are the same, it becomes indistinguishable from mirroring reality. At some point it's just the woodwork, it's the water we're all swimming in.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 15:24 (1 week ago) Permalink
I would even argue that the amt of skewering that the author is really able to do is debatable, centered as they are within the exact thing they're trying to dissect.
Also, writers are in competition w each other, or at least in a dialogue w each other, or with "culture," and trying to achieve ever-increasing subtleties in their ironization, putting finer and finer points on their jokes or observations...until being "ironic" itself is the proof of skill? Seriously, I know we love that shit around here but when done without heart this is the ultimate in tedium.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 15:32 (1 week ago) Permalink
Or, sorry, that was hyperbolic...even when there is "heart" or...if that level of earnestness is too much, even when there is "understanding" that's supposed to represent shared emotion...it's just sailing too close to the wind for me, I guess. I lose interest a long time before the joke turns on its final point.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 15:42 (1 week ago) Permalink
A complicated subject because only in the last ten years have I reckoned with what my neutrality meant. For many years I read fiction and poetry with the expectation that I would never experience a connection with the material. I'd empathize with characters and scenarios and study the prose rhythms and mimic them in my own work but that's it. When I told a friend I was reading George Eliot and h/she would say "Ugh, no, I can't relate," I'd recoil. I'd think "What does that have to do with anything? Can't you use your imagination and enter this complicated mid 19th century rural world?"
When I accepted my sexuality I realized these responses were in part stunted. For some novels and poems my neutrality stemmed from my inability to point at a heterosexual romance and "relate" to it. To some extent I still do it and as some of you know I'm still loath to consider intentions as a valid way to judge work but I'm aware. For a gay Hispanic man in his thirties the act of reading demands a constant negotiation among contrary impulses, animal curiosity about the way literature is assembled, and awareness of privilege. I still got a lot to learn.
― the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 December 2013 15:57 (1 week ago) Permalink
That's a great post!
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 16:38 (1 week ago) Permalink
― the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 December 2013 16:41 (1 week ago) Permalink
― Noodzilla (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 5 December 2013 16:44 (1 week ago) Permalink
About halfway through The V(erificationist -Ed). and I'm trying to give it a fair shake but I'm increasingly irritated by the whole incestuous circle of academics attacking each other and/or each other's work and sleeping with each other/'s wives and over-sensitive middle-aged men having crises of wondering where it all went wrong with their marriages and looking for consolation from rosy-cheeked young women or just women who represent something without being PEOPLE and ARRGH. This is overcoming any appeal the writing or ideas might have had, although in the beginning I was still amused enough to keep going. Am I just inordinately bothered or is there a rawther large body of work that uses this setting/premise and WHY?!?I remember now that the same issue that nagged me about White Noise although a) it was warmer and less, erm, self-consumed? and b) Ben assures me that it was ground-breaking, basically the first of its kind and should get a bye for originality plus the writing is genius. He may be right but I think I'll pass on anything further in this vein.― Laurel, Tuesday, October 4, 2005 10:27 PM (8 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
I remember now that the same issue that nagged me about White Noise although a) it was warmer and less, erm, self-consumed? and b) Ben assures me that it was ground-breaking, basically the first of its kind and should get a bye for originality plus the writing is genius. He may be right but I think I'll pass on anything further in this vein.
― Laurel, Tuesday, October 4, 2005 10:27 PM (8 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 17:28 (1 week ago) Permalink
Evidence that I really only have about three posts that I write, in different ways, over and over.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 17:31 (1 week ago) Permalink
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, December 5, 2013 10:24 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
i think we're talking about totally different authors?
i'm not gonna go to bat for the baker who i haven't read, and i mean white noise has lots of limitations as a campus novel (even if a clever one) but you could apply 90% of those limitations and then some to like jane smiley--so i think its less race/gender and just that the subject matter takes _lots_ of work to make interesting because its been, as you note, so thoroguhly mined. but then you look at an ur-campus/young man novel like 'lucky jim' and its wickedly funny satire despite reflecting a v. sexist society. or maybe dubus who even when doing that sort of stuff (though he tackles middle-aged ppl) in like "we don't live here anymore" is really delicate and heartbreaking.
so its not like a celebration and then a skewering but at least in some cases a very sharp painful self-awareness (of ppl who you don't care about is the problem?).
like, it depends, and at a level of generality where we're not naming names and not talking about particular books and authors i don't know what to say.
i do want to rep for some updike and mailer for sure. The Executioner's Song is a stunning book. Just freaking magnificent. Among his faults, mailer was _not_ a one trick pony (tho you might think it from his early career).
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 17:45 (1 week ago) Permalink
lol I actually did enjoy Lucky Jim and the Rachel Papers but got nowhere with subsequent works by Amis the Younger. I read a couple of them and was like, this world is terrible, I don't want to mentally live there anymore much like I don't hang out w people I loathe irl.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:03 (1 week ago) Permalink
rachel papers is fabulous
― flopson, Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:04 (1 week ago) Permalink
but i haven't read any others
― flopson, Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:05 (1 week ago) Permalink
It and Experience are his best books.
― the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:06 (1 week ago) Permalink
Women should name names so that you can go down the list and disprove them one by one? Uh no thanks, I'll pass. Roth and Updike take the blows in this excerpt but the real book release is next week and I'm very interested in the whole thing.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:13 (1 week ago) Permalink
no not so i can disprove!
i suspect i might agree on e.g. baker.
i just think we're talking past eachother because you're thinking about certain writers and i'm thinking about others. and at this level of generality i think we're gonna disagree _more_ for that reason. the later updike i've looked at, apart from the bechs, has been pretty dull. but rabbit run really did something for me, etc.
if you want to have at richard ford's midlife crisis emoporn then i'm totally going to agree.
its just "white men write like _this_" doesn't seem a very useful, or even feasible proposition.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:27 (1 week ago) Permalink
i avoided some of this stuff for years because i was convinced it would be dreary, and then i was surprised by how much was going on with it, and how much why it worked has not been part of almost _any_ critical discussion i'd encountered w/r/t it.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:29 (1 week ago) Permalink
not that I've read many, if any of the authors being floated here (lol hardcore anti-"literature" stance since 1991) but s.clover, surely part of what you're seeing re: people not taking into account what you're seeing in some of these works is a necessary function of a difference in perspective between the semi-strawman of "white dudes talking about themselves" and what you would bring to your reading? just throwing that out there, no idea if it makes sense or not because like I said, I actively avoid the authors you all are currently discussing
― SHAUN (DJP), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:32 (1 week ago) Permalink
I never read any Ford, actually! For me personally, this list is Salinger, DeLillo, M Amis, Updike, Roth, Atrim (ugh), Franzen, Chabon even though there are bits of Mysteries that I love. That's about all I tried to tackle, here and there, before I gave up and went back to genre fic by women. Academia can keep them.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:40 (1 week ago) Permalink
Mysteries of Pittsburgh, one of the novels whose fascination with sexual fluidity made a considerable impact on me, is boneheaded about women.
― the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:42 (1 week ago) Permalink
i think it's unfair to characterize philip roth as writing about being a white man
― Mordy , Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:43 (1 week ago) Permalink
still... i dunno, lots of modernist stuff does seem seem quite neutral/analytical, like you can self-identify with the general truth of a book and not necessarily specific characters or who they are.
Funny you should say that because one of the big proponents of the no-self-identification angle was Nabokov
Who preferred his books to be puzzles
And once published a book of chess problems paired with poems
― 乒乓, Wednesday, December 4, 2013 11:20 AM (Yesterday)
nabokov definitely liked to toy with/upturn a lot of literary conventions, but i don't know if he was necessarily against self-identification. can you point me to an essay that argues this?
― k3vin k., Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:50 (1 week ago) Permalink
I'm not at all sure that all these writers were always thinking, I'm going to write about being a white man! I think to some extent they were just, or thought they were just, writing about being. But the same kinds of "truths" keep getting revealed and other people's truths are erased, over and over.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:52 (1 week ago) Permalink
though the dude was opinionated, i'm sure he's said something himself xp
― k3vin k., Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:53 (1 week ago) Permalink
i'm just not convinced that the truths roth was revealing were the truths of being a white man bc i'm not sure what it means to say he's a white man. he was writing about what it means to aspire to whiteness (esp in American Pastoral) or to be firmly outside whiteness. He wasn't writing about whiteness the same way Updike was - who basically breathed the whiteness.
― Mordy , Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:54 (1 week ago) Permalink
like i guess on some level you could reduce Human Stain to a book about being white, but it's also a book about not being white too - ditto Plot Against America, Communist, Shylock, Portnoy, etc
― Mordy , Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:55 (1 week ago) Permalink
The Human Stain also concerns what whiteness means and its modes of behavior.
― the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:57 (1 week ago) Permalink
I myself heard it second hand from a professor but I believe that it came from the lectures he did at Cornell xo to k3v
― 乒乓, Thursday, 5 December 2013 18:57 (1 week ago) Permalink
Whoops -- too late
I honestly can't answer this bc my exposure to Roth is v superficial, but wasn't he writing a great deal about what it meant to be a man?
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:00 (1 week ago) Permalink
Doing a search for Nabokov and identification brings up a lot of snippets
He then described his requisites for reading the assigned books. He said we did not need to know anything about their historical context, and that we should under no circumstance identify with any of the characters in them, since novels are works of pure invention. The authors, he continued, had one and only one purpose: to enchant the reader. So all we needed to appreciate them, aside from a pocket dictionary and a good memory, was our own spines. He assured us that the authors he had selected—Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, and Robert Louis Stevenson—would produce tingling we could detect in our spines.
― 乒乓, Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:01 (1 week ago) Permalink
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, December 5, 2013 1:40 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
see outside of roth i think yr pretty spot on here (unless you just mean super-early roth -- the article linked really made that a big distinction too)! i guess salinger is the prototype for this sort of stuff, and the one i've sometimes felt guilty i never really 'got'? & some early delillo i liked but i dunno if i'd still like it going back to it -- by the time he got into underworld mode i found him basically unreadable.
and i do think the rabbits fit yr description but at least in rabbit, run there's something fresh and astonishing in the prose that makes it work anyway.
djp -- i'm not arguing i identify w/ these authors, i don't. but i identify with the article, in that there was something about reading e.g. rabbit run, and feeling like it was a very precise description of aliens from another planet, and that this was something i appreciated.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:03 (1 week ago) Permalink
see this is what I get for half-reading a thread that has veered into shit I've actively avoided but am semi fascinated by
― SHAUN (DJP), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:05 (1 week ago) Permalink
in orbit -- yeah roth's early stuff is about young men, but its also very much about identity, and in the later stuff he really moved to a much broader span of concerns and ideas.
when young ppl write novels they aren't usually equipped to write about much more than their immediate experience, or at least they need to get that out of their system, if they can, before they can go new places. & i agree the cavalcade of identikit writers workshop bildungsromans can be wearying, and absolutely that its a v. male genre. but at least some authors can go to much more interesting places when they grow out of that, and ad least some things in that vein can be really good, at least when taken individually.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:07 (1 week ago) Permalink
the thing with the earlier generation too is maybe they're better with time.
like if i was reading rabbit right after its publication (or cheever contemporaneously, etc), it maybe would have been a world i was more exposed to, even if vicariously, and so it wouldn't have been as interesting to me. but now its like a time machine.
― lollercoaster of rove (s.clover), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:08 (1 week ago) Permalink
I'm sort of past it now, or it's just not that relevant to my life anymore bc my engagement is mostly with like feminist and Black/intersectional feminist theory as it relates to social justice work, these days. But for a while, maybe around 6-8 years of my life and maybe bc it was That Moment and I worked in a bookstore with "serious" ppl, these were the novels you had to have read in order to talk about...anything. Or have influence. And years later, even when that moment was over, you still had to have an appreciation/critique of the same authors and their works in order to function at a high level in conversations with references, tossed off asides, joeks, etc--to just understand the feel of things.
I, like Dan, avoided the whole bolus but kind of floated around the edge where I could afford to roll my eyes but still had the option of trying to peer through the peephole via my friendships w ppl who were "in." But I always felt like my choice had been an anti-intellectual one or something...anyway, I want to read more about how this grouping of choices I made wasn't just me, I want to locate it in something more complex.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:21 (1 week ago) Permalink
Basically it's good to see my experience reflected, even if it's 15 years later.
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:41 (1 week ago) Permalink
i love delillo but fuck the rest of them
― max, Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:49 (1 week ago) Permalink
Avoided all american authors
― mind totally brown (darraghmac), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:55 (1 week ago) Permalink
IYO who are the best Irish female authors
― 乒乓, Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:57 (1 week ago) Permalink
Maeve Binchy iirc
― Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Thursday, 5 December 2013 19:57 (1 week ago) Permalink
― mind totally brown (darraghmac), Thursday, 5 December 2013 20:00 (1 week ago) Permalink
Many, many x-posts but isn't it possible to identify with a character in a novel, whilst also noticing yourself doing that, and noticing whatever biases it may be giving you as a reader? Although I think someone else upthread said it wasn't an either/or thing, identification, anyway.
― cardamon, Thursday, 5 December 2013 21:56 (1 week ago) Permalink
Interesting to note how strongly some of us fall to either end of the pro/anti identification spectrum as readers
― cardamon, Thursday, 5 December 2013 21:59 (1 week ago) Permalink
<a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin">"It’s funny, The Anxiety of Influence came out at just the time that women were discovering other women writers and saying, Hey, we have influences! We never did before! Here were all the men worrying about the anxiety of being influenced and the women were going, Whoopee!"</a>
― if you're happy and you know it, it's false consciousness (c sharp major), Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:28 (2 days ago) Permalink
the anxiety of bbcode
― if you're happy and you know it, it's false consciousness (c sharp major), Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:29 (2 days ago) Permalink