I wrote this entry on my way to the country. Public transport is a mecca of sudden bursts of blog worthy ideas.
Obligatory introductory paragraph go! Ernst Lubitsch’s film centers around a store in Budapest where a vivacious woman Klara Novak ( Margaret Sullavan) enters the fray only to find that the mysterious beau she had been romancing via letter is the one and same assistant manager of her new place of employment. The lecture I attended was held in a large lecture theatre the same day. It feels like since the 30 rock episode last week on females undermining other females the vague sense of a building rant has been rising.
So as I mentioned, this week I attended a public lecture for womans day. Found it all rather ironic since the entire process of Woman’s day seems to ‘other’ us more than necessary.
Now three years of a liberal arts degree have led me to the conclusion that in this post modern (to some, post-post modern) the individual is ultimate and infinite in possibility. The rampant individualism leads each and every one of us to very distinct ideas, beliefs, values, morals (one and the same for character creation and reason) These differences mean that everyone has an opinion. So when a room full of people who have some alignment with queer, gender or wom*n studies are asked questions based around patriarchy there is bound to be people who become heated.
Now the typical feminists tend to argue the loudest. I watched with glee as the girl in front of me (one who has been at University for longer than my arts degree and honors year put together but still manages to be enrolled) She had he arm squirming in the air with such fervor and determination to have her say that the forum leader, one Amanda Palmer seemed to delight in ignoring for as long as possible.
Finally being selected to have her say on the topic the girl stood up and began. The discussion at hand was a loosely guided forum for sexuality and queer studies during a free public lunchtime lecture hosted by Melbourne University. She stood up, and very loudly voiced her opinion on females being oppressed and thanks to patriarchic structures ingrained in western society we are trapped in a system which favours men and yadda yaadda yadda.
I love it. I love people with crazy ass convictions as old school as Simone de Beauvoir, Christ she was Satres woman (opps faux pas) she did have some good to say. Good old archetype abject single woman. But to repeat it now is again indicative of the progress we SHOULD have made. I would love to say we are in a post feminist world. Where gender is incidental and we can focus on the actual issues, not just defining and arguing about our differences.
Anecdotal part of the blog for humanizing sake! I stopped shaving for the least feminist reason ever. An old boyfriend told me he liked women how they grew. This was the first time I ever considered not shaving. I used to be a Goth, I shaved my arms, pits, I even shaved my eyebrows, it seemed normal and natural enough to me, since I never even considered not to.
I remember when I was about 13 I went to a protest march for something or other, not because I believed in the cause, but because it was something to do in this small town. This woman got up to speak to the crowd and holy hello, she waved her arms about revealing her hairy arm pits. I remember giggling and being disgusted. I remember thinking how could she DO THAT!? Has she no shame.
(omg DEVIL! I love how it is that she forgot to shave, not that she chose not to)
It’s almost as if gender and talking about gender is indicative of the actual problem. By hosting these queer and wom*n events we are simply insisting on the differences. We exemplify our different status by screamingly loudly about how marginalized we are. (collective noun, hmm maybe not)
So it's not as if I was always against shaving, even now I’m hardly against it. I’m all for doing as you please within reason (oh hey slippery slope) and idyllically not being reprimanded for doing so.
I kept the hair because I already had gone through the transition as 'coming out' as hairy. My friends who had a problem with it had already confronted me. I had already come to terms with men’s reactions to it. I had already found female partners more accepting of the hair, but I think that is because it is apparently a feminist statement. It is a little bit funny that the process of not doing something that grows naturally on me is a statement, but I guess it is. Somewhere between laziness, the luck of having partners who either don’t mind or are supportive and a bit of stubbornness keep this hair around. I’m interested in exploring the different reactions of people around me when it is exposed. A light heated comedic documentary about the way some people are so offended by the whole issue seems like an idea.
(the culprits, HOW COULD SHE DO THIS!)
A young girl, 17, stood up near the end of the allotted two hours. She told us at her private school in Ringwood that her principle had overheard her confession of being confused about sexuality to her friend. The principle acted by getting the girl to come to her office, where she was subsequently told she was wrong to think these things and she needed to keep quiet or she would be suspended.
But it is not exclusively homophobia. People are scared of things that don’t fit boxes. Individuals can have more boxes than others, depending on what they have been exposed to. Humans desire to categorize things, so if a person who is around a lot of the queer community happens to have boxes for transgender, gay, bi, asexual well that just makes sense. Where as someone who has only a vague interaction with the gay community may only have basic gay and straight boxes by which to categorize things.
And thus things which can't fit, will be reacted to with fear, unnerve, curiosity or disgust.
In my home town, before any kind of sexual identity developed I remember being spat on out of a car window for being a 'goth' I’ve had people throw things at me, yell at me, tease me and stare. Granted my home town is small, and back then I guess it was new, couldn’t fit me into an acknowledge box and thus I was either of curiosity or disgust. In the good old anonymity of the city walls I became one of many people dressing as I did. And because there were more of us, more boxes are created. Goth, punk, emo, indie, gay, straight, a-sexual, pan-sexual.
Ive seen girls shunned and teased at punk gigs for being dressed prissy. I've seen Goths laughing behind blonde girls backs at shows. I’ve seen stares of annoyance at people walking into cabaret who look like they don’t belong. Ostensibly, this creation of the other out of the unknown is detrimental to tolerance.
No one can be forced to create new categorical human boxes. They happen naturally through exposure to multiple sources.
I asked Amanda if she thought woman undermining other woman was intrinsic to their biology, and if so what we can do to change. I suggested that a conscious choice to not do so seems so depressing.
best line "Normally we like girls all shaved and nice but she looked like a big man so for me it was scary," an unimpressed trainer told the TV crew.
She went on a crazy tangent about sexuality, but raised a very good point. some of us are fortunate to have the choice to move out of harm’s way. To align yourself where you can be you, in a group of other people who already have a box which you can sit comfortably in. Reminds me of a great quote from Priscilla. "In some ways the big old city keeps us safe’ Bernadette tells Felicia after she has been beaten to a pulp after going out in drag in a small town. And she is absolutely right. Depending on the company you keep it is easy to forget that teens are still struggling to be openly gay, or that schools can suspend you for your sexuality. This brings me back to the individualism which means that generalizations which are so easy to make are impossible to use in considering the strategy to make any difference towards ignorance.
This homophobia is deeper than just hating on gays. It’s intrinsic to human nature to be wary of things they can't fit into what they understand. This is why like with all issues of ignorance, education is the answer. That’s why queer forums for queer people, while insightful are really sort of pointless. These are people who are already aware of these things. It is everyone else who needs to be educated about such things.
S'all pretty crazy
Shop Around the Corner (1940) Ernst Lubitsch. USA
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) Adam Eliot. AUS
Lacan, Jacques ‘The Mirror Stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience’ 1949, Congress of International Psychoanalysis Futher reading: http://www.lacanonline.com/index/2010/09/what-does-lacan-say-about-the-mirror-stage-part-i/
which also asks the hard hitting questions, "Do you think you could stop shaving and feel confident? (Or maybe you already are au naturel?) Or is going the free and easy route only for celebrities who are already too glam and rich to care what other people think?"