Monday, May 31, 2010

An Excerpt from My WS 580 Final Paper

I should preface this by saying that I finished the bulk of this in a 36-hour no-sleep marathon in the library with Sarah. Not necessarily because I'm a procrastinating asshole (which, admittedly, was part of the problem) but because my other English junior seminar paper consumed my entire finals life. What I'm posting is basically just my intro, which ended up being four pages because a) I needed to take up space and b) I like talking about myself. Enjoy!

It’s funny.

Sitting here in the library, over caffeinated, sleep-deprived and futile in my attempts to write an eloquent introduction, I think about all the ways I shouldn’t, by most logical standards, be here. A product of the multiple oppressions of gender, class and ability, I have experienced my fair share and more of the cold, harsh reality of living in a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Having never really had a sense of security in my formative years, I spent a great deal of my adolescence alienated from my peers, depressed and anxious, always searching for something I could never quite put a name to. Fast-forward some odd years, and I’ve matriculated into high school—I’ve got a fairly stable social life, and I flourish academically. Yet there was always that oppressive sadness and knowledge that I was very different from my peers. At the risk of over-sharing, when I said that by most logical standards I shouldn’t be here, I also meant that in my sophomore year of high school, I attempted suicide. I had been in therapy for about a year with the childhood psychologist I seen when my father died when I finally decided that I couldn’t go on like I had been for a good portion of my life, just going through the motions and doing my best to live up to the standards others set for me.

To this day, I have never forgotten the moments leading up to my decision to end my life—I haven’t forgotten them because they were something I have felt ever since I can remember. All the therapy, mood-altering drugs, friendships and familial support in the world couldn’t help me at that low point in my life. I had meticulously kept journals from that year in an attempt to better understand what it was exactly that lead me to the point of no return, and what I realize now that I didn’t know then is that there are an inordinate and unfortunate amount of people who have suffered and continue to suffer from the same systems of oppression that I do. Though I was chock-full of experience, I had no means to articulate them constructively to better understand myself. My introduction to feminism and feminist theory has quite honestly and literally been life-saving for me. Because it was my life experience that sparked an interest in learning from and engaging with other feminists before me, I feel—I know, rather—that my social location informs every facet of my being—the way I speak, think, and write—how I resist and exist. Though I will fully admit I’m biased in my cracker-ass whiteness and fondness for the sixties and seventies (feminist movements and otherwise), I disagree with the current shift of feminist theory from identity politics to politics of difference and decolonized solidarity.

Over the course of the semester, my thoughts, opinions and preconceptions have been constantly challenged by theories of so-called “third world” feminist thinkers. Be it general disinterest in things not directly related to my existence or unwillingness to open myself up to any additional feminist heartaches , I hadn’t the remotest interest in transnational feminisms pre-WOMST 580. Yet because of the way I have been constantly bombarded with my own complicity in the white capitalist patriarchy and have been forced to reflect upon and challenge my own dearly held feminist ideals, I don’t know that I’ve ever been as sincere, devoted or grounded in my feminist beliefs as I am because of this class. Though I continue to struggle on several levels with the transnational feminist paradigms of understanding and challenging the multiple systems of oppression, I know that it is helping me to construct a much more fluid feminist identity that will grow and evolve as I further my education and life experience under white capitalist patriarchy.

Despite my belief that having my entire world flip-turned upside-down strengthened my commitment to a feminist agenda and politic, my engagement (or lack thereof) left something to be desired with some of the theorist’s use of language. As an English major, I’m all for subversive use of language and reclaiming one’s own identity through a particular word or style of writing, but when it becomes inaccessible even to students of feminist theory, I’d argue that it’s gone too far. For all the talk of decolonizing theory and practicing solidarity, I saw almost no attempt on the part of Chandra Talpade Mohanty to actualize her theories. For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone supposedly so committed to the cause of “third world” women would write in such a way that the women themselves wouldn’t understand (plus there’s the whole issue of being published within academia’s masculinized publishing frameworks that are a part of the systematic oppression of everyone who is not a white heterosexual mid-to-upper class male).

Because I tend to lean towards the tangential when it comes to things I disagree with, for the purposes of this essay I’m going to specifically focus on the works of Mohanty and the theorists that she draws upon. I realize that this limits the scope of my essay in several ways, but Mohanty’s work was the one I reacted the most strongly to and rather than just dismiss her as just another full-of-herself academic diva, I’d like to really engage with her theories and understand why it is that I’m so drawn to and opposed to her style of writing and why I resist some aspects of her theory. As a brief overview, I’m going to begin with an overview of the state of feminism in the nineties, followed by my own personal views on the state of feminism now and the direction I see it going in. Then I’ll be discussing an article of Mohanty’s that centers around identity politics, in addition to her engagement with her contemporaries, and vice versa. Finally, I’d like to propose some activist applications of theory in addition to reclaiming the politics of identity and experience as inherent steps to the path of feminist theory.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shit List Revisited: Chad Kroeger

Exhibit A: In 2007, USA Today reported that "few bands inspire such intense hatred as Nickelback."

Well played, USA Today. Well played.

Exhibit B: In 2010, membership in a Facebook group entitled "Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?" rose to 1.5 million Facebook fans. The pickle did indeed garner more support, adulation and fandom than the group itself.

Exhibit C: When posited the question, "Have we got any Nickelback fans in Portugal?," Kroeger's noggin was met with the wrath of a thousand pissed off Portuguese plus a rock.

Exhibit D:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Girl Power

I am unashamedly and unabashedly a fan of the Spice Girls. Prefeminist prepubescent me soaked up that commercialized message of Girl Power (!) like you wouldn't believe. I had the dolls (two of them, anyway), the unofficial fan books, the purse, mini figurines, diary (complete with the inscription 'if you're anyone other than my family, GET OUT!' and their cassette tape (side note: I fucken miss those tapes).

'Course now I realize that 'strength and courage and wonderbra' doesn't have the most enlightening feminist message; still, their message of female empowerment really spoke to the alienated, awkward and friendless me and inspired me to aspire to things greater than marriage and motherhood (side note: not knocking these, just was never sure they were for me). I also refused to wear anything other than platform shoes, which lead to foot problems...but that's a different story.

I've been considering the evolution of feminist consciousness throughout my life (not to be confused with the evolution of dance: similar, but less gyrating) as I've been considering senior comp topics for next spring. I've also been reading some old-school (read: 90s) feminist texts, and Susan J. Douglas' Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media has enriched my understanding of self as it relates to popular culture and society, not to mention legitimizing my vitriolic hatred of the "Be passive, be dumb, be a martyr, keep your mouth shut, and learn how to make Spam-and-Velveeta croquettes" ethos of the 50s (quote taken from Where the Girls Are).

In chapter entitled "Why the Shirelles Mattered," Douglas discusses at length girl groups I have never heard of, excepting The Supremes. I guess I probably would have appreciated the chapter more if I had any fucken idea who she was talking about, but one quote in particular stood out to me: "Girl group music gave us an unprecedented opportunity to try on different, often conflicting, personas." Douglas really hits the nail on the head here, which transcends the thirty-plus year difference between [insert band I've never heard of] and The Spice Girls, TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, SWV and Destiny's Child. These women walked the line between hypersexuality and propriety, commodification and conquering, exploitation and empowerment much like women in America and other developed countries today troll the lines of double-standards. Which is bullshit, I'll grant you, but at least there are women in the entertainment industry who can be agents of change and social progress while still being gorgeous, silly and sexy.

Future post: going gaga for GaGa.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You're Never as Alone as You Feel You Are; or, A Lesson in Blogger Creepin'

It's funny.

What should have been a six-month period of adventure and self-discovery turned out to be a drastic reclusion (pretty sure I just made that word up) into myself; my anxiety, my self-loathing, my apathy, my complete and utter untogetherness.

(I guess it's only funny if you appreciate self-deprecating ironic humor.)

A series of events brought me here, spurred upon by my genetics, family history, and penchance for angsty dispositions--a complete and utter desire to remove me from myself in order to gain some much-needed perspective. Perspective did I gain, and in my typical perspective-getting state: fatigued, lonely, bored, longing.

(Apologies for ineloquence; it is four in the morning and my body is tired but my mind cannot rest until it is satisfactorily purged goddamn I sound pretentious.)

Per the creation of this post, I am maddeningly convinced that doing two separate comps is a good idea, as I want the opportunity to focus solely on a topic that has and continues to plague my existence: mental illness. More specifically, women and illness, and how it gets pathologized and even romanticized as a kind of creative rite of passage. Sexton, Plath, Dickens--all tortured and brilliant and tragic. Wurtzel, Baumgardner and Hornbacher--these women have saved my life; they continue to save lives--their stories are my story, their pain is tangible, their message unwavering: you are never as alone as you feel you are.

Through some recent and inadvertent creeping, I came upon the blog of someone I'm acquainted with who struggles with illness and disorder. My heart eagerly devoured her every word, and if I ever have the chance I'll write brave and inspiring on her arms.