October 11th, 2008
|02:39 am - Long preamble thingy to the cuntspeak carnival|
this is a response to an email conversation. i think i explained things well in it. (a couple not very relevant things were edited out)
I know I'm always talking 'bout her, but: Jane Caputi! (She is my second fave feminist, after Dworkin. fer serious.) http://www.triviavoices.net/archives/issue4/caputi.html is an online explication of cuntspeak. If you have (access to) Not for Sale, and haven't read Caputi's essay, I thoroughly encourage you to do so :) (I've also read Goddesses and Monsters and The Age of Sex Crime, as well as essays of hers in anthologies like "Femicide.")
from her online article:
..."The elitist and phallic trajectory turns inevitably upward: god in his heaven, your Highness, skyscrapers, and so on. But in cunctipotent traditions a winding descent ("down there") is also recognized as a necessary path to wisdom. ...the cunctipotent perspective invites us to restore balance by focusing also on what is below. Barbara Christian powerfully reminds us that Black feminist traditions advise us to look not only "high," but also to "look low, lest we devalue women in the world. . . [and] our voices no longer sound like women's voices to anyone" (1997, 56). Looking low, we can remember that mythically the cunt is understood as a mouth, a vocal and oracular mouth.
"...It is a tradition, which both women and men can engage in, of speaking from the heart, listening to the belly or gut, and attending to the messages issuing from the very bowels of the Earth. Cuntspeak as an integral part of cunctipotence is the infernal internal voice, a voice from what, from the patriarchal perspective, is Hell itself, but in fact is the headquarters of the "underground" resistance to phallocracy, the holy, not horrific, Heart of Darkness."
It is probably favoured by women in academy. I really doubt it's favoured by men in the academy--probably something like "vessel for my throbbing manhood is" :P. Even women are very preoccupied by theorising endlessly on "the phallus." Jane Caputi writes about this--how even feminist women (esp pomos) are so fearful of being labeled as essentialist, that they refuse to engage with a specifically female subjectivity/body--speaking of "the female phallus" or "the artificial phallus" rather than the clitoris, vulva, cunt...
Additionally, one very prominent example of a singer who uses it is Bif Naked. She'was born in India, from a Canadian teenager in a mental institution, and an Indian father. she was adopted by Americans, grew up in Canada, and went to college for theatre. She dropped out to tour with her band. (her bio: http://www.absolutedivas.com/bif/biography.shtml) So she was privileged to some degree. One song, Alphabet Poem, goes like this: "Anxiety Breathless Cunt Damn Excitement Fucking Goodness Heaven Interesting Jitters Kitten Love Mine Never Open Pussy Quiet Restless State This Understanding Vitality Willing X-cuses yes...Zany"
The misuse--hell, the use of it at all--of vagina pisses me off. (grrr! :P) Imagine calling a man's "package" a vas deferens! ;) Or his mouth a sheath...well, I'll stop now : / "(No, sir, you did not likely brush against that unknown woman's vagina on the train! And if you did, you should be prosecuted for sexual assault.)" hahahaha :D
The ungendered body is in practice a MALE body--no discussion of menstruation, pregnancy, vulva, clitoris, etc is even permitted. As I mentioned above, the charge of essentialism is terrifying for many women and feminists. I've gotten to the point were I don't really give a shit, if someone calls me or radical feminists in general that, in the sense it won't change my politics. But this charge takes away our ability to speak AS WOMEN, as women of colour, as lesbians. I don't see men asking "do men really exist?" "is endlessly pontificating about the phallus essentialist?" no, it's women who are forbidden from speaking of themselves as a class, of speaking from and with their FEMALE bodies--from and with the cunt. Even I suffered from this last week, and right after was going WTH? I gave a presentation in Feminist theory on Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" and I even, embarrassed, stopped myself from reading a sentence referencing the clitoris. I had talked about the phallus, penis envy, phallocentricism, even said womb envy makes more sense than penis envy, but I stopped myself from using the word clitoris...why, even for me, is saying that word verbotten? why did i censor that from my presentation? i've used it before in speech, but why, in a feminist theory class no less, did i have such a fear of saying clitoris? why is clitoris so much harder to speak of? ugh!
So, to finally address Dworkin, she believed we were all people, (Or, to use Stoltenberg's theory "there are as many sexes as there are people). But I do think that our bodies inform who we are and how we perceive the world, eg reproductive capabilities--fear of becoming pregnant, need for abortion, menstruation, how some people's genital fluids can impregnant someone else who has a vagina, etc. I don't think that can be wished away, even in a non-sex-class society. It's silly to categorise interests, power, etc based on it, but the body matters. I do believe there is a difference between this recognition and that horribly misused and overused slur (esp by pomos) of "essentialism."
Similarly, I think "the female principle" can be referred to nonessentially, if in reference to physicality, eg reproduction. While not all women can reproduce, and many will never, NO MAN CAN. (And hence, womb envy, and trying to control women's fertility and childbearing) Taking intersex into account, virtually all of them are infertile as well. And even wombed-people/menstruating-people who can't get pregnant for whatever reason don't find that out until after trying to have children most often, and the vast majority spend some part of their life before that protecting themselves against pregnancy, or at least, believing they can become pregnant. The "feminine principle" is rubbish. I'm anti-gender (but not anti-sex, as I think my argument is showing). Femininity is dependent on the opposite in order for it to exist. Like "tenderness" is noteworthy in women much because it's not only discouraged in men, but it's opposite is encouraged. I explain my feelings on gender here: http://demonista.livejournal.com/87417.html. So, I don't think you can separate people from their bodies, but you can eliminate both masculinity and femininity, as well as the terms man and woman. But I do think labels like "wombed-one" and "spermed-one" and "vulvaed-person" and "penised-person" are useful (I stole those ideas from Stoltenberg :))
Eve Ensler, interestingly, also has books about and by women in prison, women who have survived war in the former Yugoslavia, Japanese "comfort" women, child sexual abuse, etc. Here's an interview with her and Kimberle Crenshaw by Amy Goodman: http://www.democracynow.org/2006/6/21/stopping_violence_against_women_eve_ensler
. And here are two reactions by women of colour to The VMs: http://campusprogress.org/fieldreport/2525/vaginas-of-color http://www.coloredgirls.com/Otherviews/poweru.html
. And here's an article I found on a woman being inspired to create The Coochie Chronicles, based on women of colour's experiences, by the VMs: http://www.newsrecord.org/2.7225/1.763596
Also, as I went on and on (!) about above, I think we do speak from our bodies, particularly our genitals. If anything, people cut off the mind from the crotch, shutting down this dialectical source of mutual knowledge. Even I sometimes do something sexually I shouldn't because I'm too busy dealing with the "patriarch in my head" and/or the "patriarch in my bed" rather than LISTENING to my cunt. Like engaging in finger penetration when my cunt doesn't want anyone in it, or letting someone else stimulate my clitoris too roughly. Men are also very shut off from the fleshy, soft, pettablely smooth, exquisitely sensitive penis, instead trying to turn their "mind-of-its-own," frankly "cuntlike" penis into the phallus--hard, insensate except for orgasm, focused on penetration, brain-controlled. Which is where insults re: "she thinks with her cunt" "he thinks with his dick" "what a cunt" "dumb cunt" come from. Using one's body as a source of knowledge is verbotten. Cunt's are especially dishonoured by this--in seeking to separate their penis from the cunt and turn it into the phallus, they locate all dishonour, dirtiness, sin, in the cunt, and the penis, and the man it is a part of, can become "guilty by association" to the extent the penis and/or the man, is "like a cunt"--soft, wet, sensitive, thoroughly responsive, swelling but not invasive, capable of granting entrance inside, of "being fucked."
I do think words that have an honourable past, like cunt, and words that never did, are fundamentally different. Something never "claimed" by the now oppressed cannot be "reclaimed"--which a lot of those who say they want to "reclaim" words don't get. Women calling each other bitch, or black women calling each other hos, or black men calling each other nigger, etc is a horrid triumph of patriarchy "over the will to liberation" (using Dworkin's words in a diff context; she was speaking of antifeminism in general), because these words were never ours in the first place. we aren't taking the power back, we are letting it be lorded over us. we are claiming the oppressor's language as our own. re: nigger, from the Online Etymology Dictionary: "From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks"" Racist fuckhead whites invented it to subordinate, hurt, and help create tolerance and perpetuation of racism. In respect to cunt, shy is being called a word that simply means vulva so oppressive? It lies not in the word itself, unlike fag, ho, nigger, wop, etc but in its oppressive appropriation as a result of patriarchy. Patriarchy did not invent the word cunt; it appropriated it for political purposes--to turn the vulva into something dirty, vile, hated, because to hate women you have to hate their genitals (similarly, to hate blacks, you have to hate what allows the labelling of them as blacks--their very skin)--and that base hatred creates other hatreds--genital and skin hatred create the hatred of black and/or female people's minds, opinions, the rest of their body, the role the oppressors have consigned them to, etc.
I do agree the word can put women off, esp women of colour, because of it's use by misogynists and/or racists. I do definitely see where you are coming from. Should I perhaps rename it, at least to a questionmark after cuntspeak, to also invite dialogue on the word? or call it the "heart/guts/etc" (other assorted words that are related to cunt linguistically and historically/culturally) carnival? maybe i should put all this in the "preamble" to the carnival?
Radfem does put off women of colour, in part because feminism in general is associated with teh white, middle-class ladies who want their piece of the white man's pie. Also in part because radfem is a specifically internet term, by mostly young, middle-class white women who are focused on issues that effect them as that demographic, eg porn, sexual expectations men place on them, music videos, the pornification of mainstream culture--they apply a partial radical feminist analysis (eg the antiporn aspect) to what they see happening to themselves. Not to mention, all the emphasis on "feminism" can exclude women who use the labels womanist, radical women of colour, etc. Even white women who in some ways get it really well, like heart in her inclusion of international politics, understanding of radical feminism as a whole, etc, misses some things, namely a refusal to reckon with her white and class and location (as in US) privileges, and her view that women are oppressed equally, whether in the States, or Thailand; after all she's "every woman."
is a carnival on white women reckoning with their white privilege, it's white women trying to be accountable to women of colour. altho, i think it shouldn't be just white women writing on it, altho i do agree there is a paucity of writing by white women on racism, esp on white women as raced, as privileged.
"Also, as I went on and on (!) about above, I think we do speak from our bodies, particularly our genitals. If anything, people cut off the mind from the crotch, shutting down this dialectical source of mutual knowledge. Even I sometimes do something sexually I shouldn't because I'm too busy dealing with the "patriarch in my head" and/or the "patriarch in my bed" rather than LISTENING to my cunt. Like engaging in finger penetration when my cunt doesn't want anyone in it, or letting someone else stimulate my clitoris too roughly. Men are also very shut off from the fleshy, soft, pettablely smooth, exquisitely sensitive penis, instead trying to turn their "mind-of-its-own," frankly "cuntlike" penis into the phallus--hard, insensate except for orgasm, focused on penetration, brain-controlled."
Y'know, the very weird thing? Is that although I deeply and profoundly disagree with you on porn, and BDSM, and various other things, and I really don't like things you've said about several of my friends or not called others on saying about them, I actually really agree with you about the ways certain kinds of sexual touching and sexual being are ignored by culture. Like what you're saying here about the fleshy and soft penis. I've noticed that too. Really, where we part ways -- and we part ways HUGELY -- is that I actually think that the improved world would include both the phallus and the penis as you describe it, and similarly include many different ways to experience and use cunts and vulvas as well.
I think that's part of why the intense anger, whether it comes from you, your commenters, or Dworkin just messes so much with my head. I can't figure out how you can have so much *right* and then you or others can shrug off comments about violence to people who disagree (and actually, I think you'd find that if you paid closer attention to what people are SAYING, including people like Greene that you've decided are violent and evil, there's a lot that you have wrong about their opinions in the first place, whether wrong or right.)
|Date:||October 11th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)|| |
very interesting post! My brain has taken the day off so I don't have anything to add but thanks for the thoughts!