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Today I am returning a 224 page book entitled Who Owns Antiquity? to the publisher. Since I named my bunny Galen…. I thought it might be me so I went ahead and checked out the contents. It turns out the question is much simpler than you might’ve expected.
Contents of Contents:
1. Political Matters
2. More Political Matters
3. The Turkish Question
4. The Chinese Question
5. Identity Matters
My cell has been dead since the night of the 21st. If you haven’t said it by email after that then I haven’t heard it. Sorry. Oh– and– before that: no voice for weeks. Sorry. In a terrible/wonderful turn of events I can only text.
In preparation for Hollywood:
And then T and I killed the tofu and ate it.
Yogic show-off cat:
Eats Freud, is not edified.
These books fit perfectly into this box:
Gunpowder and corn muffins:
Afterpneuma. Miraculously, this red glow in the bookstore basement is produced by a product called “the book hug:”
This is my co-worker dramatically posing for me on the day we got to send Diablo Cody’s b.s. memoir back to the manufacturer:
Bye bye, Diablo:
And now with my little love:
In these days before thankgiving all that is left is: explanations, facts, cupcakes. Here are some and not others. I’ve let the big ones hush. Excuse all the quotes. I’m not sure I understand what people mean when they say it anymore and so I’ll just tell you what was there.
My father is ill.
In Alaska, a friend’s father died in a dogsled accident last Wednesday. She wants me to contact someone who seems to have disappeared.
He is so ill and told my sister he would be letting himself die over the course of the next year. But not “Put a gun to his head or anything.”
In some kind of revolt: all of the casual ellipses of my writing have been gently rotated. Someone from the far side of the other line took and shoved the sentences so that the dots crowded and stacked. Now all I have is: this embarrassing proliferation of colons.
I told my mother about my father because I thought she should know. They were married for so long. After all.
I saw a thumbnail from The Wind That Shakes the Barley and it made me cry. So did explaining Montreal Mont Royal Montreal. Mont Royal. The Pont Street Pont.
Something strange has happened and MSWord can now recognize the word “transsexual” but not “moments.” I’m alone long enough that I begin to wonder if I didn’t make up “moments.”
The psychic-vampire in my Buddhism class has started calling me “sir.” I think this is supposed to be an example of how he is a feminist. I get the feeling that he wants me to ask him about it so he can tell me about it. Which is my example of: not feminist.
What got switched. In the dialog box I had written “Really” and she responded with “18.” On her computer, on a table under “Killed” she wrote “Ok.”
This seems to tell the story much better.
What do you want from me?
At Lamont yesterday a middle-aged white man crossed the entire room to interrupt my crocheting. He explained, “In the liberated city of Cambridge only Men are allowed to do needlework.” He looked at J.
There’s a bunny in my home now. It’s living under my wastefully high counter-top with all the doom and gloom.
In the meantime I wrote my heart out.
Which explains, I hope, where it is.
And the world came:
I’m an academic which means I get to hear and participate in messy and effective readings of Judith Butler. And I get to do it pretty often. Every semester another straight, white, wealthy professor assigns Gender Trouble and every year we get to ask questions about Judith Butler’s motivations. In a really amazing leap we get to ignore both the linguistic implications of her work and the queer origins to read exactly what we want: delightfully famous writings on compulsory gender identity. It seems my straight, white, wealthy profs and classmates are really interesetd in how they’ve been oppressed without their knowledge!
Who doesn’t like some well-intentioned grave head nodding to stories aout things like:
-omg. it was kinda hard to be a tomboy bc I was always making my barbies play war and btw i’m so married and girly now.
-it was tots sad to watch my sis-in-law buy her infant son blue cloths.
And, sure, we’re sad about that. Let’s take a moment to be how sad. Awww. Okay.
So after a few years of ignoring this reading I begin to wonder— how much ignoring can we do? I mean sometimes the queers speak up but there’s really no space for that since trauma stories are beyond reproach and how can we argue with the pain of it all? We can tell a different story– about how gender/sexuality oppresses queer people differently but it just sounds like another piece of evidence, more proof of just how bad it all hurts us.
The corollary, the punch-line, where we go/get after two weeks of incorrectly reading every word of Judy is: female masculinity, cross-dressing, and transsexuality are all progressive, radical acts which challenge and erode the normativity of gender. Which leads my classmates to do things like:
-use transgender “activities” as the site for experimental theory
-feel politically effective by doing feminist things like wearing unisexcloths and not falling into the Traps of Femininity
-read queerness as a political project
That’s it. We close Butler and move on.
This is so frustrating because Butler is largely not speaking of people whose masculinity is performative-for-the-sake-of-large-scale-social-critique-or-revolt. She is analyzing, in part, the linguistic fall out of some people’s gendered realities. And they’re not just experiments where people go home taking pleasure in the gradual erosion of normativity.
The way that normativity is destabilized entails daily violences against the body. The social attempt to control the body is not a painless process and the individual doesn’t usually win. S/he is tortured, erased, violated, silenced, murdered. It’s a little bit horrific to hear that the ‘point’ of Brandon Tina is how you can convince your brother-in-law that he should let his nephew own a doll.
This all to say: I’d like to propose we think of butch/femme a little differently. Or– there’s stuff missing in the way we talk about it now.
Helpfully, maybe, we (femmes and butches invested in butch/femme) often rewrite historical narratives of butch/femme. I mean we literally write them down in books, articles, chapters, essays, stories, poems and blags. And this reproduction makes sense because, I think, the dynamic of butch/femme is importantly historically linked. Perhaps we envision ourselves as a community united across time. It also makes sense because conversations about butch/femme forge a space and method to describe important things we might need to say but find risky to personalize. Identifying with older narratives encodes safely– it’s shorthand for: we can do this in a healing way OR I am not going to hurt you OR I see your body OR I see your work and it’s okay. Also. It’s not, I think, an obvious narrative or one that’s readily apparent in queer or mainstream conversations. Butch/femme, because it involves so much conscious articulation through/about gender, needs to be re-iterated in contemporary queer contexts.
But anyway.. the new stuff… the new stuff… isn’t this enough for now? I can expand on the new stuff later. I’m not even going to perform the rereading of the rereading this time. Maybe next time. And while I’m working on it: G and I are putting together a book? about butch/femme. Wanna help? Friends. Strangers. Everyone, welcome.
Doctor to a dyke on sleeping with an FTM guy: You don’t need to worry. You’re not susceptible to STIs.
Doctor to FTM on sleeping with a female sex worker: You need to get tested immediately.
I was selected for random screening and apologized to the woman who was going to have to carry my bag. It’s full of books, I tried to warn her. And she was shocked anyway. At how heavy.
Earlier this week I had an upper GI series done and spent three hours in the hospital drinking barium and lying in unpredictable contortions for periods of ten minutes while a technician told me how tragic it was that Palin had lost the election for McCain. The radiologist, a short, white man in his sixties with enormous glasses and enormous hands, kneaded my body unapologetically, sweeping closer and closer to my face with his thick, brown and gray toupee. As I stood waiting the technician warned me that the cup of barium would be heavy. I tried to tell her I knew it would be heavy. She didn’t think I could possibly imagine How Heavy.
“What do you study?” Each woman asked me. At the airport, as soon as I had been selected for special screening, a young man ran over and offered to perform the search. Uh-huh. She raised her eyebrow critically at him and I was immediately endeared. “Religion.” I told her and she asked me if I found that kind of thing interesting while Brian told me about how he goes off-roading a lot. She asked and so I told her, “I was raised Episcopalian,” and she wanted to know if that was still my thing. She, too, was raised Episcopalian but couldn’t get down with any religion in which serving god as a woman meant becoming a nun. Brian asked me if my boots were worn because I was a horse-back rider and told me that sometimes he goes hiking, “…like, if I’ve been off-roading for a while and I just need a break.”
I tried to do this all the night before. Fly, I mean. I got to ride to the airport and I got to wait in line but I didn’t get to do security or, you know, arrive at my destination. I joined the end of the “Bag Drop” line behind two HBS Brians. I know they were HBS guys because some kind of logo-happy fleece factory had exploded all over their torsosluggagecapsfaces and also because they were having their conversations sideways and loudly. They were turned half toward me, maintaining a minimum of eye contact with each other, and boasting loudly about things they already knew about each other. Like how many offers and which they were going to accept. Soon, Third Brian walked over to chastise his friends for stupidly waiting in line, “you should ditch this line and go check in curbside. Seriously. It’s way smarter.”
“We can’t,” they told him. They had already gotten their boarding passes.
Undeterred by information, he continued loudly, “No. Leave the line and go do this outside. It’s quicker. Much more efficient.”
They explained. He restated. They explained. He restated. Until we had advanced at least four or five feet in line and I had also had a chance to hear about Third Brians offers and which HE was going to accept.
Then he turns to me, “Oh. By the way, I’m not butting in line here. I already checked in outside. I’m just waiting with my friends.”
“I heard you telling your friends. They checked in here. You checked in there. Your way was more efficient and now they are stuck here. I got it. We’re all up-to-date.”
Third Brian wonders how I could possibly have heard the conversation he had enacted for my benefit.
Finally, on the plane, I overhear a conversation between the people behind me. One, a young Texana woman and one an white man, presumably in his mid-50s.
Brian: “You in school?”
Brian: “Taking a long party weekend?”
Woman: “No. My grandfather died. I’m going home for his funeral.”
Brian [undeterred and still smarmy]: “Oh. So you decided to leave home for school instead of staying in Austin? You don’t like Austin.”
Woman: “I do. But I decided to go in Boston. I might come back for law school.”
Brian: “Oh? You got in?”
Woman: “Not yet. But, it would be an option.”
Brian: “Yeah. IF you get in. Better see how that works out first.”
Brian: “So what school do you go to?”
Brian [pauses]: “Oh. Yeah, my daughter goes to NYU. What do you study?”
Woman: “Literature and politics.”
Brian: “My daughter is trying to do English. I am trying to get her to do something more practical– something she can actually get a job with. Not waste her time with something like English.”
Woman [pauses. I crane around in my seat and make eye contact with her and raise my eyebrows at Brian. She grins back at me and answers him chuckling]: “I just figure the best way to get into law school is to really excel and it will help to have a strong background in literature and politics.”
Title lifted from Chapter 4 of Research Design and Statistical Analysis.
Brian: “Yeah. I guess that’s the argument. Well, we’ll see, won’t we.”
So, today, I was in the bath– trying not to fuck up my manicure while shaving my legs and trying not to drip on my book while I texted T and I thought, “is this getting a little out-of-hand?”
No. It’s just about right.