Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Archive for July, 2008

Somehow, I’m sure the patriarchy is to blame.

Monday, July 28th, 2008

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My computer stopped turning on over the weekend. (* cue sound of sobbing children *)

I push the power button. Nothing! I unplug her, wait a minute, plug her back in and push the power button. Nothing! I pray whilst pushing the power button. I am struck by lightning*, but my computer does not turn on.

So, until I can get a new** power supply***, posts might be a bit erratic. A bit, um, more erratic.

You have been warned.

* - The lightning had a funny, dismissive “you don’t even even mean it,” flavor.

** - I actually have two spare power supplies, but neither has the right power cord layout. Arr.

*** - At least, I hope it’s the power supply.

Any color so long as it’s black.

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

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Over at Punkass, Lisa has an interesting bit on how women are functionally censured no matter what choice we make with respect to childbearing (and, of course, many other things).

She concludes, wondering,

Why, in a country purportedly founded upon the rights of the individual to choose any number of things–why we have created a situation where doing so is overwhelmingly disapproved of, a situation where the only fix in terms of general societal approval would be to remove entirely that right..?

I think it’s because we… don’t. We as a society don’t genuinely value individual choices, desires, and responsibility. We don’t like agency, and we don’t like individuals to have actual power to affect change. We like to say we do, though, because we can leverage that narrative of free choice to legitimize our institutions. “See,” we might say, “women don’t actually want access to employment and equal pay, for when completely free of coercion of any kind, they choose to stay at home and have kids.” Or we might say, “Look, those poor blacks / immigrants / white trash wouldn’t be poor if they didn’t choose to live that way.” Or perhaps, “Fattie fattie fattie stop choosing to be fat fat fat.”

The thing is: if you hold a gun to someone’s head and say, “Believe this. Do this. Live like I tell you to,” you lose a certain amount of authority to claim that your way is superior to any other. Shallow Nietzschen ethics aside, we have some intuition that “because otherwise I will shoot you,” is not an argument that supports, “society should be structured like this.” We aren’t, in short, interested in a free, liberated society because such a thing is valuable for its own sake. We are interested in a free, liberated society—or at least the appearance of one”because it supports our ideology. Because then we can say, “hey, whatever your qualms, with it people freely choose to support a white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” as if such a thing were even possible.

So first of all, this is why it’s important to make individuals responsible for every single negative thing that has happened to them—if not directly, then situationally, in that they have failed to choose to overcome the same adversity that everyone else obviously does. Mockery, derision, and distilled shame are the only effective medicines.

It’s also particularly evident when we decide to—what’s the euphemism? “Export colonialism?” “Engage in neo-democracy?” Something like that, anyway. Especially when the state we’re trying to build isn’t particularly popular with anyone, y’know, living there, maintaining the illusion that this is Exactly What They All Want is crucial.

This is also why we like innovative! entrepreneurial! driven! straight! white! men! who are rebels! bucking the system! by making money and exploiting others in a very slightly novel way. We particularly like IEDSWMWARBTS when they aren’t technically straight, white, or men”after all, Oprah shows us that any black woman can attain incredible wealth, fame, and power, since, see, one has!

In all of these cases, it is completely acceptable and desirable for anyone and everyone to passionately pursue their desires and boldly make individual statements and choices, so long as those choices support and reify patriarchal power structures. Women choosing their career over their children are obviously heartless and demonstrate the need for men to help them make the right choice; women choosing their children over their careers obviously demonstrate that feminism did no good for anybody; women insisting that the choice is a false dichotomy and working against to support their carers and family are, sadly, simply unrealistic.

And God help you if you’re a childless lesbian (tragic), a lesbian with kids (gross!), or a single lesbian (metaphysical impossibility).

The gender game.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

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There is a simultaneously cool and infuriating post over at Feministe about kids and gender policing. It’s made me think about how kids relate to gender, and how the patriarchal gender structures slowly mold little-kid gender play into big-adult gender conformity.

Because, make no mistake, gender is a game. Especially for kids. It has rules, like any game—this means girl, that means boy—but at least initially, those rules aren’t strong. A genderqueer friend of mine works with kids. When they ask zir if ze is a boy or a girl, ze says ze isn’t either. And that’s cool more than it’s weird, at least for a certain age group.

Of course at some point, kids start realizing that the adult world is playing this game much more seriously than they are. And that breaking the rules, or bending them even slightly, can put you in a dangerous place. And that conversely, if you see someone breaking the rules, you can call them on it and gain power over them. That’s when it starts to go sour, and that’s how, eventually, all of us start to forget that it’s just a game.

I think that’s the best way to present it to kids, if they’re young enough.

What kid isn’t familiar with dress up? What boy hasn’t tried on a dress; what girl hasn’t tried on a suit? When it’s all play, it’s harmless, and that’s when they’ll be really receptive to, well, the truth—all these rules about boys wearing this and girls wearing that? Those are just the rules. You can bend them. You can break them. You can make your own game that’s similar, but different. But when you do that, you’re highlighting the fact that this gender thing? It’s a game. And that’s a thing that a lot of us grown ups have forgotten, or a thing that we need to be reminded of at times even if we haven’t forgotten it entirely. And when you remind people that the thing they use to gain power over others, to hold onto power they have, is a game? Well, sometimes they’ll get a wee bit defensive. Sometimes they’ll try to hurt you—sometimes, they’ll succeed.

That doesn’t make it universally not worth playing. And there’s definitely the potential for real harm there, and make no mistake that kids will become really, really aware of that. The thing is to keep it from crushing them. People will make you play, sure. And sometimes, they’ll make you play by their rules, under threat of blood. And that’s simply injustice, oppression, and there are women who will never be free from that.

But sometimes? Sometimes, you make the rules. Make them glorious.

Pride is not the opposite of shame.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

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I got back from San Francisco pride a couple of weeks ago, and that is one intense. fucking. party., let me tell you.

I thought I would be writing right now about the commercialization, commodification, and normalization of “the gay lifestyle.” I thought I would be talking about how the rainbow-banner Bud Lite banners were vaguely cute but also vaguely sickening; about how the marriage industry is opening its arms to (heteronormatively-attractive and “normal-looking”) gay couples without missing a beat; about how the entire pride industry is a concerted force to push “normalish” (white, affluent, could be straight if they, y’know, wanted to be) gay people into the mainstream whilst marginalizing everyone else.

And I expect much of that is true, but those words didn’t come, in part I’m sure because we didn’t go to the “core” pride festivities at the civic center. We went to the tranny march and the dyke march, both at Dolores park; we also went, albeit briefly, to the giant rave held at the intersection of Market and Castro, where twenty-thousand people pack into the streets and just… dance. And my girlfriend and I cuddled in my friend’s backyard, and watched fireworks that we and nobody else made, and talked about moving to the city.

We thought, just a little, about getting married.

(more…)

Pride: intense!

Monday, July 14th, 2008

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I got back from San Francisco two weeks ago, and I’m still processing. I have many words to say about the experience and the city. A summary:

raw vegan tiramisu! / has that wheel always been there? / dykes on bikes! / no scripts / civic center is so overrated / so many queer girls / we must move here / omgwtfbbq.