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Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Theory Makes my Head Spin

If gender is socially constucted, then how can the catagory "woman" exist, and therefore, how can anyone claim to be feminist or speak for women if the whole catagory is in question?

I'll get back to you kn this after the pay gap goes away, when congress is 51% woman, when the university faculty is 51% women and whent he works of women composers are taken seriously in their lifetimes and posthumously.

Did it cause a major need to papers, books and scholarship in ethnic studies departments when somebody realized that race was socially constructed, or was race always obviously socially constructed, what with it's "one drop" rules and other contortions of reason?

Noam Chomksy says that if somebody is causing you trouble by agitating and you want them to go away, a good way to do it is to appoint them to things, give them tenure, get them in a system where they talk about stuff a lot and don't take any action. Jane Alden (music professor at Wesleyan) notes that there is gonzo amounts of feminist scholarship, but that the pay gap is generally getting worse and the condition of women (or "women" for those of you who have just been awed by Judith Butler) is not improving. She hypothesizes that having so much scholarship is making people lazy and they think things must be ok since so many papers are going around. I think perhaps instead that activists are being drawn to scholarship. Out of the street and into the campus.

I want to write a piece where a narrator repeats "the woman question" a lot and then "what is the role of women?" "what is the role of 'women'?"

Of course I think that theory is important! Wasn't I just talking about Cixous a couple posts ago?

Thought has always worked through opposition,
Speaking/Writing
Parole/Écriture
High/Low

Through dual, heirarchical oppotiotions. Suprior/ Inferior. Myths, legends, books. Philosophical systems. Everywhere (where) ordering intervenes, where a law organizes what is thinkable by oppositions (dual, irreconcilable; or sublatable, dialectical). And all these pairs of oppositions are couples. Does that mean something? Is the fact that Logocentrism subjects throughout - all concepts, codes and values - to a binary systems, related to "the" couple, man/woman?

Ok, that paragraph has heavily influenced not only my thinking but my sense of self. Theory is totally important. But still, real-world problems persist. They're getting worse. People who do not read theory, people who are anti-theory are busy smashing everything. And we're not mounting an effective resistance. Why? Because they control mass media? Because the theory of progress makes us complacent? (There are laws against sex discrimination. They're not perfectly enforced, but once they are, everything will be fine.)

I just went to a lecture about feminst theory and my head is spinning. Maybe I'll go to the post-lecture discussion tomorrow morning. Or maybe I'll continue deconstructing the Star Spangled Banner and finding it's points of commonality with The International. Not opposition, of course. Male domination is what got us into this mess.

Philosophy is constructe on the premise of woman;s abasement. Subordination of the feminine to the masculine roder, which gives the appearance of being the condition for the macinery's functioning.

Now it has become rather urgent to question this solidarity between logocentrism and phallocentrism - bringing to light the fate dealt to woman, her burial - to threaten the stability of the masculine structure that passed itself off as eternal-natural, by conjusring up from femininity the reflections and hypothesis that are necessarily runious for the strong-hold still in posession of authority, What would happen to logocentrism, to the great philosophical systems, to the order fo the world in general if the rock upon which they founded this church should crumble?

If some fine day, it suddenly came out that the logocentric plan had always, inadmissably, been to create a foundation for (to found and fund) phallocentrism, to garuntee the masculine order a rationale equal to history itself.

From "Sorties" in The Newly Born Woman, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Trans Betsy Wang. Exerpted in The Hélène Cixous Reader, New York: Routledge. Ed. Susan Sellers p 38 - 40

Theory is useless. Music is useless. Except that art and thought and theory are how we understand ourselves and construct ourselves and how we think about things and how we see (or don't see) problems. So really, it's very very useful. but one must always be willing and ready to take to the streets, which must be done often. Eternal vigelence is the price of freedom.

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