Wednesday, June 07, 2006

From object to subject; the personal is political.

All that said, the personal, she is still political, yahyup.

What's my own stake in all this? Well, I could point to a number of things.

But a lot (not all) of what brought me to where I am today was a long-going formative experience that went something like this:

YOUTHFUL ME: i...i...i...o god. i think i might be...(swallow).. you know. gay.

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Lots of girls your age go through that phase. It doesn't mean anything. Why, when I was your age...

YOUTHFUL ME: yes yes but but you see i think about girls a *lot,* and i have these...feelings--

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Those feelings are natural! for your age. Ignore them. It doesn't mean you're gay!

YOUTHFUL ME: i know but i don't feel that way about boys.

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Well, you might just be a late bloomer. Everyone develops at their own rate!

YM: then why am i feeling this way about girls?

AF: I told you. You're young, and you're confused.

YM: i'm confused?

AF: Yes.

YM: i guess i am at that. anyway i feel just awful.

AF: Do you remember those tests you took? Here, I want to show you the results. Your tree drawing shows that you have no gender identity confusion. People who are confused about their gender identity draw a split trunk. Your trunk is straight!

YM: but i thought you said i am confused.

AF: You're not that confused.

YM: oh.

AF: Anyway, you're still developing. Stop obsessing so much! You'll be fine.

YM: (bursts into tears)

AF: There, there, dear. Don't get upset. I just told you: I think you're fine. You're normal! Here, I think what you need is some affirmation from a Man.

DORKY MALE AUTHORITY FIGURE: I know just how you feel. When I was your age, all I could think about was my weight. I would eat and eat just to fill the gaping hole inside...

YM: are you saying that i'm fat?!?! (fresh tears)

DMAF: No, no, honey! I was talking about me. I know how hard is it when you're young and confused and have low self-esteem. That's all I'm saying.

YM: oh.

DAF: You know what? Have you seen the movie "The Princess Bride?" I think you should go and see it. Because you are a princess, you know.

YM:...(sniffle) um, thanks.

FEMALE AUTHORITY FIGURE: And I'll tell you what, I think you need to get out more. Do you go to church?

YM: no, we're Jewish.

AF: Do you go to...temple?

YM: no.

AF: I'm going to recommend to your parents that you start.

YM: okay. why?

AF: Because you need to be among your peers.

YM: but why do you want us to go to synagogue?

AF: Because.

YM: okay.

AF: And I'm also going to recommend that you start this modelling course at John robert Powers. I think you'll enjoy it.

YM: well, that does sound like fun. i do like clothes and makeup...

AF: Good. See you next week.

YM: but...

AF: oh, WHAT?! I mean, yes, dear?

YM: butwhatifiREALLYAM???

AF: (deep sigh) Look, I told you. I don't think you're gay. I just don't see you living that lifestyle. least wait until college before you do anything about it.

Now. Go home. Follow the advice I gave you. Try to stop obsessing so much.

YM: okay. if you really think that will help.

AF: And put on a sweater. No, not that one. The pink one.




Anonymous said...

The word socialize has two meanings

hexy said...

Not to mock your pain, but "are you saying that i'm fat?!?! (fresh tears)" made me giggle insanely.

I had a similar, yet vastly different experience. No worries at all with the "Gee, I think I might be a lesbian" thinking. It was when the fact that I'm attracted to males as well emerged that I got horribly confused and frightened.

antiprincess said...

hexy- I'm sure she won't take it mockingly if it wasn't meant mockingly.

When I came out to my parents, I said "I'm gay", and they said with exasperation,"oh no you're not."

Bamboo Lemur Boys Are Mean To Their Girls said...

So, did you put on the pink sweater? I preferred the green myself...
smitten as usual

belledame222 said...

hexy: thanks, and yes, it was meant to be funny. the whole piece makes me laugh out loud now, honestly...which doesn't mean it wasn't painful, of course.

EL said...

When I came out to my parents, I said "I'm gay", and they said with exasperation,"oh no you're not."

Exact same experience for me.

midwesterntransport said...

my dad said, "yeah, i've heard bisexuality is a big trend on college campuses these days."

then later he turned that around and said that *I* had made that comment.

no, dad, i don't think i would say something so insulting about myself. to you. while coming out.

sorry, buddy.

Anonymous said...

I knew I was queer (that's what everyone called it in the 60's) when I was eleven, but I
didn't tell anyone until I was 18. When I was fourteen I was depressed and my mum took
me to a psychiatrist. He asked me a load of questions, and while homosexuality was
never mentioned (dare not etc, etc,) he told me my problem was that I hadn't come to
terms with being a girl and the fact that my future would therefore necessarily entail
getting married to a man and having babies. This attempt to objectify me actually failed.
The knowledge I'd already had for 3 years or so crystalised privately in my head at that
very moment and I knew that this was exactly what I was not going to do - whatever else
happened or didn't happen. Clarity is a marvellous thing.

My mum, however, was perplexed at the good doctors subsequent report to her. (because
of what he wouldn't say, I guess) She was a solo working mother with 3 kids and money
was scarce. 'I've just spent twenty-one bloody guineas to be told by an expert that you're a
girl', she spluttered.

To her credit though, my mum never objectified me. She had no expectations for me to
disappoint her in and made no negative judgements about my being a lesbian when I told
her. All that good stuff was left to the rest of the world.

Sorry that list hasn't appeared yet, belledame. I typed it up in the wee hours this morning
and when I went to post it the page had expired, and I couldn't get back here so I lost it. I
don't know that it's much use actually, having read your whole series, but let me know if
you'd like me to post it anyway.

I agree with the comment you make about what it means when one feminist claims that
another isn't one because she has a different view about something. I think that *is*
objectification and I've seen, as have we all, quite a bit of it on the net. It's good to be
alerted to it in these terms. I've just thought, frustratingly, 'how is it that women's actual
experiences and feelings so often don't seem to matter - to *feminists*!!? I wonder if they
realise themselves what they're doing...

belledame222 said...

One of the commenters over at paleofeminist's just made a remark that I found kind of telling; she was basically pitting the individual against the collective (i.e. "Class Woman"). and something or other about how (note the passive voice) "sacrifices will have to be made."

i like it; it makes me feel all be-stirred and ready to march in unison, you know, fist a-pumpin' and boots a-stompin'.

Anonymous said...

Gah! I bulleted 'other' and typed 'cicely' too. It worked last night. If it doesn't work now - you know comment 8 is me. :)

Alon Levy said...

Sorry for going off-topic, but I asked Lindsay about how prevalent anti-porn attitudes are, and she said that at the feminist events she went to, the people were unanimously pro-porn. She said she didn't know about academic feminism (that I'm going to ask Jessica the first time I go to a feminist event in New York), but among activists offline she didn't notice the Twisty/BB contingent.

EL said...

Alon Levy,

I used to be (recently, and happily, quit) a very active feminist organizer in NYC, at the same time that I am a feminist academic working on my PhD.

What I saw was a VERY marked age difference in pro-porn and anti-porn attitudes was constant whether in activist or academic circles. I'm not saying that EVERY woman over 45 was anti- and EVERY woman under 45 was pro-, but honestly, those outliers were very much outliers.

There's this certain taboo with regard to mentioning that age factors into this (at least, if you're in the younger category) because it is a generalization and it does play into stereotypes of the Second Wave, but it's really just true.

I've had countless professors truly aghast at our willingness to consider porn as not always and everywhere a War on Womyn. I've also gotten into some of the most contentious fights I've ever had in my entire life with "older" women in "the movement" who truly thought we were dismantling everything they'd worked for.

But, if you are active in activist or academic circles of "younger" women, the ones railing against porn are VERY few and VERY far between. I'm not surprised that you say your friend hasn't found them.

eponymous said...

Heh, that reminds me of the talk a friend of mine had in high school when she got caught making out with a girl behind the stage.

After getting the guilt trip from all authority figures in her life, private school, years of therapy and finally trying to "fuck the gay out" by sleeping with many men, she eventually realized who she was.

Thank god.

belledame222 said...

@EL, alon: According to BL, anyway, you mostly find it (wrt activism) in rape/domestic abuse prevention work, and the environmental movement. The former I can understand; the latter, not so much.

Like I said, I'd never encountered the anti-porn and so forth among *young* women until I got into blogland; but I figured it was possible that my own sampling (New York City, mostly queer/lesbian) was biased itself. anyway the Dyke Drama collective, which really was in many regards, frequently had and probably has its shows sponsored by the likes of Toys in Babeland and local leatherdyke parties.

belledame222 said...

(whereas the TG or not to TG thrash, the straightgirl or not straightgirl thrash, the men or not men thrash, the should-we-go-more-commercial/hierarchical-or-now-what thrash, the how-do-we-become-more-ethnically-diverse thrash, the how-much-should-we-charge-and-still-not-alienate-the-working-class thrash, and many more, not to mention of course various tie-ins with antiwar activism, pro-choice rallies, and so forth, were all very much a part of the experience)

Alon Levy said...

First, what's TG?

Second, what B | L said partially agrees with my observation that anti-porn activism is intimately connected to rape feminism. Honestly I'd let wild overstatements of the risk of rape fly by if they weren't used to justify an authoritarian agenda.

But I haven't seen a similar connection to DV feminism. Perhaps I'm biased because my main exposure to anti-DV activism has been through Trish Wilson, who's very sex-positive, but to be honest I don't see any parallels between Trish's anti-DV and Twisty's anti-porn rhetoric, whereas I have seen some parallels between Amanda's anti-rape Twisty's anti-porn rhetoric.

belledame222 said...

TG= transgendered. mostly a thrash on account of what does it mean for a women-only organization to have TG members?

Alon Levy said...

Well, I didn't see any of these thrashes in the YK feminist roundtable, which, contrary to my expectations, was genuinely feminist. We talked a bit about minority and poor women, and we talked a bit more about poor women in the abortion roundtable, which has almost the same set of participants. And we talked quite a lot about tying in the feminist movement to health care, poverty, and pacifism.

However, there were no thrashes: anyone suggesting that feminism should exist apart from general left-wing politics would have been ignored, the language used did not exclude men, and I observed none of the pathologies of radical movements. That was pure liberal feminism: focused, unrelenting, inclusive, effective, and not taking any shit from oppressors.

belledame222 said...

Sounds good. maybe I'll have to check out YK and so forth next time; I'd love to be around effective, focused, inclusive, unrelenting.

Alon Levy said...

Don't get your hopes up too much - the convention itself was a hotbed of not caring about women. It's now almost official Democratic Party policy to ignore civil rights issues, a policy Kos has spearheaded. The feminism roundtable was a pleasant exception, and indeed we spent a bit of time complaining that the Democratic Party was ignoring choice.

belledame222 said...

yeah, I had certainly heard that about Kos himself. so, are you saying that Kos is *responsible* for that turn in the D party? or was it pretty much that way already.

you know, it's one thing to not want the whole party to buckle under an endless war of ever-splintering Peoples' Front of Judea vs. Popular Peoples'...and so on.

but I mean: hello, civil rights, not exactly small. If we're not about civil rights what the fuck are we about? balancing the budget? getting out of Iraq? beating the other guy at football?

Alon Levy said...

Beating the other guy, mostly. I mean, Violet is wrong to say Kos cares only for winning. In reality there's a perfectly understandable reason many Democrats don't give a damn about anything but winning: Bush is bad and his perception even worse, so beating him has taken top priority. But once this view took root, it created a split between Democratic bloggers and liberal ones.

I don't think Kos is responsible to this view, though. Let's face it, Daily Kos has a readership of 500,000 and barely any outside syndication. It's a drop in a lake so far. The problem is, it may be a drop of Ice-9. And Kos is certainly responsible to this view's being so ubiquitous on the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

its amazing that other people in your life will try to make you feel confused, even when you're telling them exactly who you are and what you want. just because it doesnt fit into their ideas of who you should be. or because they themselves dont know how to deal with it.

i think that every adult has had a conversation like that before. i know i have.