"I also don't like labels in general because they don't benefit me--they benefit those around me. I don't need to pick a word to describe myself for other people--I am what I am and there doesn't need to be a label to proclamate it. Labels don't better me, they describe me to others."Garrison Keillor makes me twitch sometimes, but his Fourth of July speech (heard on his program the evening of the 3rd) made me happy. He talked about how regardless of our politics we could all celebrate the best of America’s potential. Something like that. I forget how he phrased it, but anyway, his focus ended up being on individualism.
He said that all true stories are about individuals, that stories about groups are promotional copy. I liked that.
We talked about our eagerness to share intimate details with strangers and said it’s because we want to be known as individuals rather than known by our group identity.
Thursday’s Teen Voices training was about inclusive writing (i got to make my pitch about how easy it is to write as if of course every sane person agrees with you and how that makes it an unsafe space for disagreement and of course everyone thinks they’re correct but please make sure it’s still a safe space for disagreement; go me and my bravery) and as prelude to that Ellyn had us list our identities. The way she phrased it was “Think about the identities that are important to you.”
I listed: queer, vegetarian, academic, fan, writer
Ellyn included New Englander in her list and given how often i invoke that Yankee grit mentality i was surprised i hadn’t thought of that. And Jackie
I refused to list a political identity since, as we know, i definitely don’t fit any single political identity. Because i’m not really an activist, putting down “political” as an identity. I wanted to somehow note the fact that i’m forever seeking more information; that really defines my political identity better than any party label. “Academic” was the best i could come up with.
Claiming “writer” was interesting because that was a central part of how i identified myself for so long and then i stopped writing much fiction/poetry and so that didn’t feel like a label i could claim for myself anymore, but then i realized that of course i’m still a writer, i’m just a writer of mainly nonfiction now.
And i had to list “fan” ‘cause Whedonverse and my participation therein is so definitely central to me.
There are a lot of identities i have that aren’t central to my self-identity.
Yes i’m a white woman, but neither of those are really central to how i think of myself. (Yes, this is still true even after 3 years at Smith.)
Do i identify myself as a Smithie? I mean, certainly i am one. At the moment it carries so much baggage (Interestingly, i insist on self-identifying as “queer” even though i’m aware of the baggage that term carries. I think the difference is that “queer” doesn’t carry any baggage for me personally -- it’s only in other people’s interpretations of the term -- whereas “Smithie” holds heavy baggage for me personally.) that i’m not sure i feel comfortable claiming it.
One identity i didn’t think of until i was writing this entry is “lower middle-class.” Being SheWhoSpendsNoMoney, my class background definitely comes in how i live my life at least as often as my vegetarianism does.
Am i a capitalist?
Jenny listed adult, and also under-21. I don’t think i’ll feel like claiming the label “adult” until i’m actually living on my own.
I seem to be forever quoting Evelyn Torton Beck (Nice Jewish Girls) these days:
Why is the possibility of "passing" so insistently viewed as a great privilege ... and not understood as a terrible degradation and denial?Reading This Bridge Called My Back, the following from Mirtha Quintanales’ “I Paid Very Hard for my Immigrant Ignorance” struck me:
Yes, lighter-than-black skin color may confer on some ethnic minority women the option of becoming “assimilated,” “integrated,” in mainstream American society. But is this really a privilege when it always means having to become invisible, host-like, identity-less, community-less, totally alienated? The perils of “passing” as white Americans are perils indeed. It should be easy enough at least for lesbians to understand the meaning of being and yet not being, of “merging” and yet remaining utterly alone and in the margins of our society.Reading stuff by queer women/women of color, the importance of being known comes up a lot. I’m used to invoking that in terms of my queerness, but it’s only recently that i’ve started thinking of it in terms of my politics -- how just as heterosexuality is assumed, so one’s politics are assumed by the company one keeps (often even going so far as “If you keep my company you obviously share my politics”).
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect. [...] To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. [...] And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.” [...] The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break the silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."I realized that I hate that societal group of the consciously under-educated." -Joe
-Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”