Friday, August 18, 2006

More feminist quotage

Continuing. Just because.


Women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.
-Mary Wollstonecraft

I recognize no rights but human rights -- I know nothing of men's rights and women's rights; for in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. It is my solemn conviction that, until this principal of equality is recognized and embodied in practice, the church can do nothing effectual for the permanent reformation of the world.
-Angelina Grimke

"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
--Simone de Beauvoir

"However much de Beauvoir is quoted for her opening sentence to book 2 of The Second Sex: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” her work is in contradiction with itself on exactly this issue. On one hand she believes – and shows – how the conditions of women are socially determined. When women are squeezed, torn, and suffering, it is not because of menstruation and menopause, but because of the ways that society deals with womanhood. This is her official and conscious position.

...On the other hand there is her whole attitude to and description of the female body. Its capacity for pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation is never seen as a positive potential, as a source of pleasure or pride, but only and always as a curse, a drag, and a burden.

...In my reading, de Beauvoir is insincere at this point. In her entire analysis, the female body remains a handicap which can only be overcome by minimizing it...

Regarding this model of female emancipation, socialism and liberalism by and large agree, as do large parts of the women’s movement that the notion that the female body is a handicap as persistent and pervasive as the idea of woman as the other. This idea is based of course on the assumption that the model body is male. But what if it isn’t?..."

--Signe Arnfred, "Simone de Beauvoir in Africa"

"Feminism has been fighting for generations against the notion that biology equals destiny. Do we really believe it? Or are we still clinging to a mythos that insists there’s some numinous ontological essence called “man-ness” or “woman-ness”? Transfolk, increasingly numerous, loud and proud, are calling our bluff...

There is no monopoly on oppression. In a culture that continues to put the pole of the masculine biological male on top and everything else below it, this means that biological women and transpeople share a common cause. A sex change, no matter its direction, never reprieves anyone from that particular struggle. This is the very reason so many transfolk become so political. Like women, transfolk have little to lose and a great deal to gain by challenging the status quo.

Positing such challenges is our feminist birthright. Growing up, feminism’s biggest gift to me was the message that people could be and do anything they wanted because it was human potential, not sex, that mattered. There were no qualifiers attached: anything."

--Hanne Blank

"Third World feminism is about feeding people in all their hungers."
--Cherrie Moraga

"In this country, lesbianism is a poverty-as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor. The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression. The danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression purely from a theoretical base. Without an emotional, heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, non-hierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place."
--Cherrie Moraga

"Along with Kate Millet in Sexual Politics, Andrea Dworkin used her considerable intellectual powers to analyze pornography, which was something that no one had done before. No one. The men who made porn didn’t. Porn was like a low culture joke before the feminist revolution kicked its ass. It was beneath discussion. Not so anymore!

Here’s the irony... every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were. She was the one who got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel like you could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize everything for inspection and a bonfire.

The funny thing that happened on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was that some of us came to different conclusions than Ms. Dworkin. We saw the sexism of the porn business... but we also saw some intriguing possibilities and amazing maverick spirit. We said, “What if we made something that reflected our politics and values, but was just as sexually bold?”

--Susie Bright

"Whores...are the dykes of the nineties, the lavender menace whom it's still considered okay to ostracize."
-- Jill Nagle, Whores and Other Feminists

"Who are prostitutes? In law they are defined by behavior, most notably the act of soliciting money for sex.. Any woman suspected of such behavior is likely to acquire the social status of "prostitute."

That status makes her vulnerable to legal controls and punishments and brands her the prototype "whore." Prostitution for women is considered not merely a temporal activity (as it is for men who are clients and often for men who are sex workers), but rather a heavily stigmatized social status which in most societies remains fixed regardless of change in behavior. Often women who themselves view sex work as temporary and part-time work are forced by legal and social labelling to remain prostitutes and to bear the prostitutes status in all aspects of their lives."

--Gail Pheterson

"[P]arallels can be drawn between today's anti-pornography movement and the 19th century Temperance movement. . . By pinpointing Demon Rum as the central issue, could avoid the real (and dangerous) ones like in marriage and women's lack of economic autonomy…"
--Joanna Russ

"I think that most radical feminists and socialist feminists would agree with my capsule characterization of feminism as far as it goes. The trouble with radical feminism, from a socialist feminist point of view, is that it doesn't go any farther. It remains transfixed with the universality of male supremacy-things have never really changed; all social systems are patriarchies; imperialism, militarism, and capitalism are all simply expressions of innate male aggressiveness. And so on.

The problem with this, from a socialist feminist point of view, is not only that it leaves out men (and the possibility of reconciliation with them on a truly human and egalitarian basis) but that it leaves out an awful lot about women. For example, to discount a socialist country such as China as a "patriarchy" -as I have heard radical feminists do--is to ignore the real struggles and achievements of millions of women. Socialist feminists, while agreeing that there is something timeless and universal about women's oppression, have insisted that it takes different forms in different settings, and that the differences are of vital importance. There is a difference between a society in which sexism is expressed in the form of female infanticide and a society in which sexism takes the form of unequal representation on the Central Committee. And the difference is worth dying for."

--Barbara Ehrenreich

"So, don't give me your tenets and your laws. Don't give me your lukewarm gods. What I want is an accounting with all three cultures-white, Mexican, Indian. I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails. And if going home is denied me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture-una cultura mestiza-with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture."
--Gloria Anzaldua

"There is nothing about being female that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices"
--Donna Haraway

“I am against normativities and for sexual freedom. I always hated this saying that feminism is the theory and lesbianism must be the practice."


“Perhaps a new sort of feminist politics is now desirable to contest the very reifications of gender and identity."

--Judith Butler

"We can talk a lot about mother-daughter transgression and generational resentment for a good couple a million decades, but I came to feminism as a lover. Feminism for me was a love affair. I came to feminism as an escaped Baptist. Feminism for me was a religious conversion experience. I came to feminism as a hurt, desperate, denied child, and I would’ve killed for the feminist mama who would take me in her arms and make it all make sense. And I’ve been running after her ass ever since.

I do not necessarily believe that someone can make it all make sense. I am, in fact, in love with the feminist ideal of “get used to being uncomfortable, you’ll learn something.” That is what I need, want, ache for, and I believe absolutely in the future of feminism.

I do not construct feminism as an ethical or moralistic system. When I talk about justice, I am talking about institutions that have ground me and my kind, right down to rock so far back that they owe me. They owe me as a working-class girl. They owe me as a queer girl. They owe me as a raped child. They owe me as a writer who had to raise money and who couldn’t write for years because she had to raise money. Yet, I also know that that voice saying “They owe me” is the most dangerous bone in my body. It is a part of me that I have to resist. It is a bone I cannot stand on, feel or shape. Instead, I owe you, my feminist sisters."
--Dorothy Allison


dresden said...

before i go on a long rant about simone de beauvoir and her detractors (among which i do not number--i enthusiastically adore her), i must ask--have you heard anything about the problems with the english translation of the second sex?

if you have, then my point is moot. but if not, i have a quibble or two with the essay you quote about the second sex that i feel i must air.

Sly Civilian said...

"but I came to feminism as a lover"

That really caught me. There are a lot of places to take the metaphor further...but i think i'm tempted to just leave it there.

antiprincess said...

Dorothy Allison rocks my world.

Iamcuriousblue said...

"Here’s the irony... every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were."

I'm generally a fan of Susie Bright, but when I see this quote I feel like smacking her with a copy of Ellen Willis Beginning to See the Light or Samois Coming to Power. Is Susie talking in the "Royal We" here? Just because it took her a few years to figure out that Dworkin had got it wrong doesn't mean that everybody did. Not everybody drank the Dworkin kool-aid and there was a determined minority within the feminist movement who opposed the cultural feminist/anti-porn tendency, even from the very beginning. They deserve at least a little acknowledgment for getting it right the first time, even if the rest of the movement didn't.

Alon Levy said...

What happened in 1984 that makes Susie Bright consider it so special?

belledame222 said...

That was when the whole Dworkin/Mackinnon ordinance vs. FACT and so forth hit the fan, no?

Iamcuriousblue said...

I always thought the 1982 Barnard Conference was kind of the historic turning point in the "Feminist Sex Wars" – but actually, the publications from that conference didn't come out until 1984, so I guess that was the watershed year.

In any event, I'm pretty sure Ellen Willis' essay "Feminism, Moralism, and Pornography", as well as Samois "What Color is your Handkerchief", both from 1979, are the two earliest blasts from the sex-positive side in the sex wars, unless you count some proto-"sex wars" debates from the early '70s.

I'm sure Susie Bright must know this, but wasn't thinking about it when she was writing that particular essay.

Lorenzo said...

...On the other hand there is her whole attitude to and description of the female body. Its capacity for pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation is never seen as a positive potential, as a source of pleasure or pride, but only and always as a curse, a drag, and a burden.

...In my reading, de Beauvoir is insincere at this point. In her entire analysis, the female body remains a handicap which can only be overcome by minimizing it...

Okay, since I'm a big fan of Beauvoir I feel compelled to come to her defense, somewhat.

I think her antipathy turns on the fact that for most of human history before the widespread availability of woman controlled BC, women had the social imperative of reproduction imposed upon them irrespective of their will. This is precisely what she says in the oft quoted "woman is the victim of the species."

belledame222 said...

You know, I included that second quote not so much as a smack against de Beauvoir, but because I thought that the erm post-colonial/transnational POV was worth including.

but I also get the impression that the author of that piece would agree that that's where SdB's pov was coming from. she's just trying to tease it out from its underpinnings.

belledame222 said...

and no, I don't know about the translation problems; I'd be interested. truthfully it's been a really long time since I read "Second Sex;" it's probably time I revisited.

but I was a big fan at the time, yes.

Lorenzo said...


Heh. I actually missed that it was part of a quote and not your own commentary! Oops.

As for the translation problems...basically the translator butchered her work to the extent that in many places he makes her, an existentialist, sound like an essentialist!

dresden said...

sorry, didn't mean to get all angry at you, belledame! or at least seem that way, if i did. i was insomniac and frustrated, and this is something particularly dear to my heart (and mind!), so... yeah.

i agree that non-white/western/etc perpsectives are indeed important. it just bugs me when people (like infred) feel they have to pick on de beauvoir (or other pioneering western thinkers) to make their point, especially when said picking is based on a (perhaps honestly, often willfully) mistaken reading of the original work. for example, infred accuses de beauvoir of subscribing to a unilinear "march of history" view of political progress, which i don't think could be further from the truth. infred also seems to mistake the (mis)conceptions of women de beauvoir describes as being what de beauvoir herself believed. which is just plain silly.

as for the english translation--i've only recently found out how appallingly bad it is. the translator, a mr. howard parshley, barely knew french when he started! on top of other elementary errors, he routinely translated philosophical terms with very specific meanings as if she had used them in ordinary ways, with the result often barely resembling what she actually wrote. he also omitted words, phrases, sentences and even entire paragraphs without so much as elipses to indicate it. the cuts add up to almost fifteen percent (145 pages) of the original text. and the worst part is, the publisher who puts out this horrid translation somehow holds the rights to there being any english translation at all, and they incomprehensibly refuse to commission a new one. and did i mention?--many translations into other languages (for example, several chinese translations) are based not on the original french but on this english version!

sooooo, this is a bit of a sore spot with me. like in science or mathematics, what terms one uses and what exactly they mean are extremely important in philosophy, and it's extremely frustrating for anglophone readers (like me) to have to work with such a terrible rendering of the text. as a result i'm always suspicious of anglophone writers responding to the book as they read it in english. if infred did so, she could very well be picking up not on de beauvoir's "implicit assumptions" but rather parshley's.

there's a good ny times article about it here; a thorough and lengthy essay by de beauvoir scholar toril moi can be found here.

aaaaaaaaand i'll stop ranting now. thanks for your patience. ;]

Bitch | Lab said...

one more to add, though it's difficult to tell whether it's Carol Gilligan or the authors of ManifestA, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards.

"The hardest place to go with other women is to joy, strength, and energy, because to go there you are now standing on the other side of loss"

IrrationalPoint said...

"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."

Hmmm, can't say that's been *my* experience, lol.