I think I am an average bloke, really. I am not different than you, or about to preach you to position myself as better. I am not better. And I guess that, like many men, when I am exposed to the spontaneous #MeToo movement (not exactly a ‘campaign’), I get at the same time hopeful and inspired and upset, but also reflective and ashamed about certain regrets, immaturities and retrospect stupidities (although I never touched a woman without consent). But what I have to say is not about me, as an individual, but about our society and time.
We might just be living a momentous shift in the appreciation of, and resistance to, the unfair treatment and structural inferiority of women. But because anti-feminist arguments are still common, it is good to start by taking stock of how much we, men, have actually benefited so far from the gender-equality movement: by creating the conditions for fathers to have significantly more meaningful and affective relationships with our children; by having our life-partners shoulder in the house’s responsibility for income; by ridding us of the tedious and violent position of being in a constant cock fight, or being always ‘strong,’ if not by generally liberating us from emotional repression; by allowing men of alternative sexualities to be equally happy, as well as letting us all have a larger variety of sexual and other non-conforming experiences; by making the women and girls we love live up to their potential with confidence and security, and by letting our boys enjoy their lives in more ways than before. Feminism provided/s us with new opportunities, as well as betters our practice of fairness and emancipation from domination, so we benefit both as men and as human beings.
Last week, we watched Rashdash’s award winning show Two Men Show. I cannot recommend this show strongly enough! (Despite a redundant [and inaccurate] opening and various class issues). Its a powerful experience, phenomenal performance and extraordinary text. The show is about gender and [its] language and more, by a duo/trio that calls itself ‘radical feminist,’ but in my view, everything that is feminist today beyond liberalism is quickly titled radical, which is more telling about our misogynous time than about the radicality of the feminists. During most of the show, I was able to enjoy it as a comrade, sharing the criticism that was overall suggested about other types of masculinity. Yet, the feeling that it is not about me did not last to the end of the show (no spoilers), and I have then enjoyed discovering another layer of masculine dominance populating my subjectivity.
Anyway, the reason why I decided to write about the show was not (only) to recommend it and Rashdash generally, but also because of something entirely different. A while ago I wrote a hypothesis about how literacy, prevalence and dominance of numbers and digits have changed and design our ways of thinking. Well, in a discussion after the show, the artists mentioned the book The Alphabet versus The Goddess, as influential to their work. In the the book, anthropologist Leonarad Shlain has made similar – but more gendered – arguments about how alphabetic literacy has changed our thinking from holistic and feminine ways into textual-lexomatic-iconic-linear and masculine thought. So I just wanted to leave an update on this thread.
Notes about transsexuality, Palestinian-hybridity, and subjectivity in liberalism
1) Is transgederism humanist/liberal?
According to one typical narrative of ‘trans people,’ certain individuals ‘have always known that they were a man/woman locked in the wrong body.’ (By the way, the following analysis is equally true for cisgenders, who also, albeit silently, ‘know’ that they are inside the correct body). This narrative is anti-queer in its acceptance of normative definitiveness of categories of sex (men/women) and gender (masculine/feminine), as well as their respective alliance.
More importantly, such narratives assume that a subject can rise above a gender-sex ‘mistake,’ listen to one’s body (neutralisation), ‘know it,’ t and then want to, or demand to, or actually correct it, at ‘will.’ In this way, gender is ‘chosen’ or ‘sensed’ by an individual, and is not a latent social discursive structure (unlike race or class). Put another way, to say that you ‘have always known your true identity’ is a practice that reproduces subjectivity (against the poststructuralist view that subjectivity is created by discourse, and that individuality is a concept that in itself needs to be critically contextualised with socio-political-cultural-historical context(s)). The above narrative is arguably part of the naturalised liberalist zeitgeist that foster it, where individual’s agency is exaggerated.
Many Jewish women fantasise about their wedding day, even though the ceremony is a public celebration of their inferiority. Allegedly, modern Jewish weddings amongst seculars or liberals are characterised by more individualistic and egalitarian traits. We have erroneously come to believe that the oppressive and subordinating nature of the marriage ritual and its accompanying language have been nullified. Yet, despite all the (welcome) changes, the core of weddings remains the same: it symbolises of the purchase of a woman.