Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Ode to Luce; Or How I Became a Post-Feminist

I'm not a feminist.

I used to say that about myself all the time. I would resist the label because I imagined that it went along with the extreme belief that women should be more powerful than men, that they should never have to wear bras or bear children or wear dresses. I am very pro those things. I also believed that being a feminist meant that you had to believe that men and women are exactly the same, and therefore should be treated as exact equals in all things - sporting events being a prime example. And I don't think that's true, so I adamantly denied the title.

I took a course in literary theory and criticism in my fourth year at MUN where I had to give a presentation about a feminist theorist. At the time I was displeased, to say the least, and begrudgingly began studying feminism.

I was assigned Luce Irigary's article "I Love To You." At first I rolled my eyes the entire read-through, and then I started studying about her work, her philosophy, and post-modern feminism. What I learned was eye-opening and inspirational. Irigary, along with many of her contemporaries, is an essentialist, which means that she believes that there are certain characteristics and traits that are inherently linked to the biology of being male or female. However, she believes that this does not excuse a societal norm that treats these differences as one being more or less important than other. Instead, she believes in an acceptance and equality regardless of gender, race, or sexuality; in other words, gender shouldn't be a factor in determining your value or importance in society. It shouldn't be seen as something to overcome; rather, gender should be understood as an part of your being but it shouldn't have any influence on jobs or rights and freedoms.

Hmm. This was a kind of feminism I could get behind.

As I reread her article, I became intrigued and inspired. Basically, Irigary writes that the sentence "I love you" denotes a relationship of power where the subject (I) performs the action (love) to the object (you). She says that this does not show a balanced relationship between the subject and the object, because the object does not have a choice to accept the action; the subject is in total control. She suggests that the sentence "I love to you" gives the object a certain amount of space from the action, allowing them the ability to accept or reject the action. She writes "The 'to' is an attempt to avoid falling back into the horizon of the reduction of the subject to the object, to an item of property." She finishes her essay with a beautiful thought:
What we particularly need is a syntax of communication. For communication amounts to establishing links, and that is a matter of syntax. Thus: how am I to speak to you? And: how am I to listen to you?
I think Irigary's essay is interesting because it has made me re-examine the way I use language. She doesn't mean that we should, literally, stop saying "I love you." I think she's saying that we need to re-examine the norms of our speech and writing patterns. What kind of patriarchal system has been instilled in my speech that reinforces imbalanced notions of power? What kind of expressions do I use that promote one gender and belittle the other? What commonplace diction still suggests that sexuality, gender, and race is something that has to be acknowledged because it is "different"? How can I change the way I think and the way I speak so that equality is the norm and binary opposites are a thing of the past?


So I guess I'm a (post) feminist. But I won't be burning my bra any time soon. 

Day 08 - A Song That You Know All The Words To

In grade 3, Dance Mix '95 was all the rage. I remember going to a birthday party where we played statues to "Saturday Night Dance" and we all did the Macarena. We had just gotten a CD player, and I somehow got a copy of the CD just as the fad was fading. I wanted so badly to fit in before the trend was over that I sat in front of the CD player downstairs for hours at a time, listening to "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I would pause it, rewind 10 seconds, and read the lyrics along with it. After a few hundred times of doing this, I would then play the song straight through and try to sing along without looking at the words. If I missed one, I'd stop the track and repeat the whole process from the beginning.

Needless to say, I memorized every word of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and now I really, really hate it.

3 comments:

Marion said...

Aw, I love this song. Although that might have more to do with my personal past with it, which didn't involve force-feeding myself the lyrics.

Anonymous said...

Now my question is: what did you think about Glee's version on Total Eclipse?

Brittany

Jill S. said...

Oh man, Brittany!

I'm not gonna lie - I cried when I first saw it. It was so well done in the show.