May 25th, 2003

i fight fire with words

Sometimes i wonder if i think too much.

The problem with songs is that the politics behind them almost have to be simplified to make sure the song has punch.
-Mary

I read Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body because Joe recommended them. Winterson does interesting things with fluidity of time and identity and possibility, interesting uses of sex and history, and i didn’t hate the four books of hers that my town library has and which i read a year or two ago, but i found her overrated. Written on the Body has lots of thoughts on love (and loyalty/commitment and body) that i was tempted to copy down, but i’ve grown weary of the ideas that long-term commitments are necessarily dull and life as a string of love affairs and it being all about sex and the only love that can last forever is when the parties are necessarily separated; it strikes me as adolescent. I want to read the paper Joe wrote for school on Winterson and love in those two books. The end of Sexing the Cherry introduces this eco-warrior, and maybe i’m just burned out on the Left, but it felt gratuitous, tacked on, and too black-and-white. [As a sidenote, an earlier character discusses grafting, which i see as a precursor to “genetic engineering,” and that would be an interesting discussion to have in a nonfiction forum. Continuing on this tangent, this is an interesting article.]

I just finished reading Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. I thought about giving it to a friend, but it frustrates me that so many of the stories in it are women’s stories and he is, well, not. I understand that lesbianism was a major part of second-wave feminism so there are a lot of narratives of women who came to a bisexual identity through lesbianism/feminism and the problems they had/have, and i’m not complaining about the fact that i’m a generation removed from these women so my world is little reflected in their stories, but there are 47 women’s stories and 19 men’s stories (and 2 gender-ambiguous persons). The fact that both editors of this book are women i’m sure contributed to that.

However, in that book, there’s a question in an interview (Marcy Steiner’s interview with Arlene Krantz): Do you think bisexuality is part of a ceratin personality — are there other things about you that kind of fit in? Like being ambivalent, not in a negative sense, but being open to different possibilities? I don’t think bisexuals are necessarily any more open-minded than anyone else, but i thought it was interesting that for all my interest in consistency and connectedness, seeing how different parts of myself relate to and inform other parts of myself, i hadn’t thought to connect my identifying as queer with my insistence on complexity and multiple viewpoints and all. (Sidenote: Judith Butler says that gender is something we do, not something we are, and that explains why i so often think of myself as nongendered, or rather just don’t think of myself as a gendered individual -- and why [among other reasons] the genderlog, that first Intro WST assignment, was so difficult for me -- because i don’t perform gender much, and we live in a time when what i do isn’t seen as genderqueering but merely as participating in an expansion of what it means to be woman.)

I like this book better (though for the same reasons as the previous book it feels like it’s mostly FTMs and their female partners), but one of the introductory essays reminds me why i dislike postmodernism (though this book says a lot of interesting things that make a lot of sense to me, and if i ever get a handle on this postmodernism thing there’s gonna be a post about it): the idea that there is no single Truth, that there are only the truths of lived experience. This works sometimes, but a lot of times i find it very troubling, and i'm too tired to go into it at length, but like i said, one of these days there'll be a post about post-modernism.

What i remember most about Les Feinberg’s Trans Liberation is her “Universal free health care is a good goal, just look at Cuba.” Collapse )

Neil Gaiman:
Meanwhile, I read this article on the train to Lille today and was fascinated by the idea of US intelligence operatives being "forced to listen to the Barney 'I love You' song," something that probably ought to be specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Later in the article, though, we learn that "it's a myth that being tortured is effective. The best way to win someone over is to treat them kindly," which makes me wonder if the forced playing of the Barney "I Love You" song is having deep, insidious and unconsidered effects on US intelligence agents.
So, i saw this post:
The bad idea that never dies: Seems like every Democratic primary season someone comes back to this one: mandatory community service. The characterization of the problem(s) to which this policy is supposed to be the solution shift around from time to time-- indeed, they've been shifting ever since William James first came up with this shockingly illiberal idea. (Any idea that is born in an explicit attempt to marry militarism to socialism really ought to be regarded with some skepticism.) Sometimes it's rhetorically joined to civic republicanism, with which it really does share some affinities (and so much the worse for civic republicanism), sometimes to Tocquevillean civil society volunteerism, with which it doesn't. Sometimes the emphasis is on all the problems that could be solved with an army of conscripted teenagers; more often it's on the improvements such conscription will make to the character of the teenagers. Ever since I was a teenager myself, listening to endless primary campaign speeches in New Hampshire in the 80s, this notion has outraged me. On lots of topics my teenage outrage has turned into more moderated and nuanced positions; not this one, which still seems to me a basic signalling device as to whether someone thinks individuals belong to the state or vice-versa.

The culprits this year, for those who don't follow the link, are Kerry and Edwards.
I think it's because i'm still in college, so i'm used to community service being required for most every application, but when i first read it i thought he meant that the Powers-That-Be keep trying to make a community service requirement for presidential candidates.