1. Mirror, Mirror…
Lakshmi Chaudhry clearly does not read the blogs I do. She believes blogs, and YouTube videos as well, are fame-crazed Americans’ attempts to attain a form of micro-celebrity. Voyeurism, narcissism, and exhibitionism are the order of the day. I would not say that about the blogs I read, any more than I would say it about the books, journals, newspapers, and magazines I read, or the poetry readings I occasionally attend.
Chaudhry’s article is entitled “Mirror, Mirror On the Web,” and the title, at least, is descriptive of what I am doing here: setting my thoughts out for myself. I wrote about seeing your oppressor because I have spent several years trying to see my own. Mine, as assiduous readers of this weblog know, came to me most ferociously in the sheep’s clothing of Reeducation. I have been attempting to identify and categorize the tools of this master, or this demon, so that I can cast them out. Many times I have been told, do not think about them, just shrug them off. I find that it is much more of a surgical procedure: one wants to identify and remove the foreign body, repair the failing organ or tooth, and then sew everything back together, just so.
One blogger I read regularly is Heart. She offers radical feminist analysis of life in general. I read her because she is interesting, and also because her perspective, clear but somewhat different from my own, helps to refresh my own analytical skills. One of the main points Heart makes about the news and other societal phenomena she discusses is, “This is an instance of women’s oppression, folks, no matter how else you analyze and/or justify it.” She gets a fair amount of flak for emphasizing gender, in a radical way, over everything else, but I actually think it is useful to look at just women, or just gender, sometimes (and also just race, or just class, or just any one thing) before attempting to put it all together.
2. Banes, Oppression…
I have spent a great deal of time attempting to comprehend the purpose of my infamous Reeducation. All of the possible answers seemed too convoluted, too far-fetched to be real. There is a much simpler answer, which I had guessed at but which reading Heart’s blog has really helped to clarify: reeducation was an instance of the oppression of women, in this case myself. Seeing my oppressor: reeducation: what was the oppression: oppression of women. And seeing this, I can more easily just shake it off, since I know what it is I am shaking.
As Moksha says about Barbie, Pegasus, and Medusa:
Medusa is murdered. Why? For being Medusa. She was not running around terrorizing unsuspecting people. Perseus had to go find her off in a remote part of the world. Most of the trouble associated with Medusa did not start until after Perseus beheaded her.
Medusa is a woman with whom no man can make eye contact without turning to stone. Such a woman is murdered because that type of female power cannot be tolerated. Yet, three thousand years later the new and improved version of the ideal woman, Barbie, the plastic representation of female perfection, rides on the horse that is born from a murdered woman’s blood. How ironic.
3. Marginal, Central
When you throw on the potter’s wheel, you must first center the clay. You must breathe, calm your body, and lean steadily into the center of the mass, no shying away, no loss of concentration, no flinching. You must do something similar in yoga.
I do these things and feel the thrill of transgressive pleasure, since I have been taught all my life that I must decenter myself. I rebelled against this in graduate school, and I was right: it is well and fine for the whitemen to decenter themselves, but I was not willing to claim that the [further] decentralization of non-European literatures in Comparative Literature curricula was liberating. Neither was I willing to participate in an increased marginalization of women, and women writers, in departments of Spanish and Portuguese.
In reeducation we were also expected to decenter ourselves, and I tried it. It sounds perfectly virtuous, on its face. As long as it does not mean annihilation of self, or strangulation of voice. I was, however, participating in my own beheading, as it were. This was a feminist issue which I did not see.
I have only come to see it now, after years of attempting to identify the malaise. I called it other things, and attempted to combat those things. This, of course, never solved the problem. And that is how ideology works, to imprison the mind in a foggy veil.
4. Et nunc
Now, to refresh ourselves with some words not entirely unrelated, we will look at Melanie Rehak’s interesting essay on the life and work of Modernist poet Hart Crane. He apparently wrote to Waldo Frank in 1924:
That window is where I would be most remembered of all: the ships, the harbor, and the skyline of Manhattan, midnight, morning or evening, – rain, snow or sun, it is everything from mountains to the walls of Jerusalem and Nineveh. I believe I am a little changed – not essentially, but changed and transubstantiated as anyone is who has asked a question and been answered.
And this article, on Waldo Frank himself, is interesting as well.