02 November 2005

politics of the everyday

I suppose as a response to comments on my earlier rant regarding the topic: "Feminism: still relevant? still useful? discuss." and given that others too, seem bothered by the post-feminist assumption that we're over it already, or perhaps even more to the point: get over it already, I wanted to note a particular tenet of mine. Which, in the end, relates to the religion/faith discussion we had earlier. I'm also prompted to link to the even earlier discussion about how there is only one narrative, really, and here we are again.

Yes. Hilary in '08. Absolutely. Hilary-Obama or perhaps Obama-Hilary. mix it up a bit. but as friend Dan knows quite well, the political also occurs on the everyday, minute level. the level of: here's who I am, and I'm not going to be cowed by your assumptions about who I am into being someone else. this goes for being gay, a woman, or just in general queer. and by that I don't mean gay. I mean undercutting the norms in general.

So if that means speaking your mind in a meeting, interrupting or cutting off someone else in a loud voice, even if you don't have a penis (sorry Mom—so hard to say that word in front of your Mom, no?) then that's what it means. And yes, it's not a battle that one signs up for. Or gets paid to do. It's a daily, groveling, crap battle that demands nuance, respect for others, wit, and a generosity of spirit. Often, it is fought by those with cynical, small, close-minded ways who demand others bend to their will, or risk being labeled "fascist." [Sam and I call these types of people, usually left-leaning and well-meaning, "close-minded open-minded people"] but one hopes, for the future of the universe, that it is fought from the generous side of listening but then also arguing for what is, fundamentally right. Like equal opportunities for each person, the right to work for a living wage, the right to maintain one's health without breaking the bank, the right to speak your mind in meetings or on the web regardless of the expectations of gender or race or class. These are things that we do not yet have. Perhaps will never have. And yet they are still important to argue for and stand up for. In a generous, open way, but one that promotes debate and discussion not: I'm okay, you're okay.

so it's not about squashing others' opinions, it's about fighting for something that is right. And everyone's opinions are, in the end, not equally correct or right. one only needs to read a few undergraduate papers to learn this universal truth. we need to stop looking at the sexism thing as about individuals, individual choices, or individual opinions. it's not about blaming some single person, it's about recognizing the atmosphere of misogyny and ameliorating it where we can. it's a systemic, all-encompassing sludge that we are all in: women, men, transgendered, and the rest. our job should be to try to clean up this sludge one molecule at a time.

(don't know where that metaphor came from. sorry about that. damn you metaphors!)


Transient Gadfly said...

here is what i have been thinking lately re: second-wave, third-wave, post-fem, what's next, etc: "the personal is political" is completely screwing us over. clearly, at its inception, it was genius. it was in response to comments like, "it isn't politically important if a woman is being beat by her husband, leagally in their home every night because that's just a personal problem." it had an emphasis on that little word -- the personal IS political. and it's not that it's no longer true (it was always true of course). it's that it is serving us very ill these days. it makes everyone's opinions and experiences equal. it leads to our students concluding (and voicing) things like, "my husband and i do the same amount of work around the house so there's no more need for feminists." and less absurdly, it means that women and men look around at their lives and see that their workplaces and classrooms look pretty equal in number and so equality must be achieved. they don't look at national or international politics or wage and hiring trends or links to racism or classism or heterosexism or anything else -- and at least in part it's not because they are short-sighted and narrow-minded but because they've been told it's all about their experiences and opinions and all opinions are good and valid. the emphasis has shifted. now the PERSONAL is political.

sageblue said...

Well, right. To be anecdotal, in my infamous Women's Studies class, I finally screamed at them that I didn't care about their lives, as they would use as evidence their personal experience to rebut claims that women were not equal. It's great that you do the dishes for your working wife, but I don't really care. Unfortunately, feminist theory has not been chaos theory: a high-minded househusband in Baltimore, flapping his feather duster, will not in fact affect the corporate executive who underpays women in Santa Clarita. Maybe down the road it will--maybe maybe maybe--but not anytime soon. And, Hilary '08 had better not happen because she'll lose. But then, I'll really have incentive to move to Canada.

Transient Gadfly said...

I really don't know if Hillary will de facto lose a presidential election. I admit it seems that way because a lot of people hate her to pieces. Two things: one, the people who won't vote for her because she's a woman have to overlap pretty heavily with the people who hate her to pieces; two, there are about 125 million people in this country who hate GWB as much or more, and yet he's president.