Notes Towards Day 27 (Tues, Apr. 24): Unbecoming Women

Anne Dalke's picture

abertolino and buffalo setting the scene
with He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)


Julie Fogarty, Portraits in a Queer Time and Place
I. coursekeeping
Thursday's class: our final teach-in: 8 groups in 80 minutes
= not one moment more than 10 minutes apiece

we'll stop discussion @ 11 today, in order to
complete the end-of-semester evaluations...
I am the primary--and most immediate-- audience:
please write
them as letters of useful advice to me....

I've added a page of further questions, and was intrigued by/
would be interested to hear more thoughts along the lines of

rayj's posting on zones of proximal development:
"Perhaps we have been pushed in some ways too much,
in some ways not enough….
maybe I am at times not challenged enough,
but also pushed in ways that make me shut down intellectually"
and dear.abby's response:

I have felt somewhat overwhelmed this semester ...
I have ended up feeling almost paralyzed. I am confronted with
so many different directions these ideas could go ... that I end up
tying myself (and all the ideas in my head into knots)... I have
paralyzed myself with indecision and the inability to make a
choice when confronted with so many viable options. This is the
paradox of choice....the open nature of subject and assignment
within this course has led me to feel trapped, within my own head.
I feel incredibly challenged and yet I feel this challenge is not
external but rather something I have birthed myself.
(were you pushed too much? not enough? both in awkward combinations?)
did you push yourself too much, not enough? both in awkward combinations?
are there alternative ways (aside from "stage theory") to think about
intellectual growth and development, i.e. paradigm shifting....?)


II. Some further (quite relevant) conversing/blogging with Alex Juhasz:
I’ve been engaging several call and response projects
and I think of the mantrafesto
in that vein (given its circular nature). My recent writing has been about inhabiting
feminist power ...and I do think your students’ understandable hesitation to or critique
of the declarative sits somewhere in this line of thought and action and interaction.

Feminist Documentary: Victim or Adventurer?
what is ...our trope or role of choice? male documentarians ...often
represent their documentary filmmaking... as if they themselves
were the hapless explorers...many feminist documentarians...
making films about women’s oppression,  voicelessness...
physical or emotional danger and violence, cast ...their
...documentary making is a form of victimhood and suffering....
"we get something from this perpetual losing"
once we do have some (more) power than we did, how might we
enact our self-representation as a field through and with power?

IV. Thursday we began to discuss trans issues @ BMC:
what are they? what do we know/need to learn?
how to intervene in-or-advance the conversation?

JD's link to a blog posting on the (absurd!) signage of urinary segregation
(@ least?) one final project arising therefrom (amophrast?)

V. today we're discussing two essays by Judith Halberstam,

“Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies" (2005) &
"Shadow Feminisms: Queer Negativity and Radical Passivity" (2011)

get back into your same "transgender task force" groups to talk
together about how Judith's ideas might add to/interrupt
your discussions of last week: this about more than accommodation,
but a radical critique of normative temporality, space, reproductive logics
(it should push your thinking....); she offers her book as a way of keeping
"transgenderism alive as a meaningful designation of unpredictable gender
identities and practices"; refusing the category of womanhood;
"unbecoming women," "unthinking sex....."


* What happens to the historical mission of women's colleges
["the goal of empowerment... is at the heart of a women’s
college education"] "in a queer time and place," a moment 
of gender flexibility, a "post-gender" world?


* "If we refuse to become women, what happens to feminism?"

* Is it possible (desirable?) to think Bryn Mawr's mission
anew "as the site of failure and unbecoming conduct"?

How might a transgender task force, in other words,
accomodate some Halberstamian thinking?

Report back on this @ twenty til....?

VI. Anne's Reading Notes
“Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies":
"How can a relational system be reached through sexual practices?
...to be 'gay'...is..to try and define and develop a way of life" (Foucault).

"the map of resistance is ot simply the underside of the map of domination
...each gives the lie to the other" (Pile)

Queer uses of time and space develop...in opposition to the institutions of
family, heterosexuality, and reproduction. They also develop according to
other logics of location, movement, and identification...try to think about
queerness as an outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules,
and eccentric economic practices...detach queerness from sexual identity...
the existence of these relations in space and in..time mark out the...menace
of homosexual life...willfully eccentric modes of being (p. 1).

Queer time perhaps emerges most spectacularly...within those gay communities
whose horizons of possibility have been severely diminished by the AIDS epidemic...
The constantly diminishing future creates a new emphasis on the here.... urgency of
being...expands the potential of the moment....Queer time...exploits the potential of
..."the transient, the fleeting, the contingent"....And yet queer time...is also about the
potentiality of a life unscripted by the conventions of family, inheritance, and child rearing
...we rethink the adult/youth binary...queer subcultures...lie outside of those paradigmatic
markers of life experience--namely, birth, marriage, reproduction, and death (2).

respectability, and notions of the normal on which it depends, may be upheld by a
middle-class logic of reproductive temporality....we...pathologize modes of living that
show...no concern for longevity....long periods of stability are considered to be desirable
...But ludic temporality....reveals the artificiality of our privileged constructions of time (pp. 4-5).

The time of reproduction is ruled by a biological clock...Family time refers to the normative
scheduling of daily life...The time of intheritance refers to an overview of generational time
...It also glances ahead to...the future of...national stability...hyptothetical temporality...
demands protection in the way of insurance politics, health care, and wills (p. 5).

A "queer" adjustment in...time...produces new conceptions of space...nonnormative logics
and organization of community, sexual identity, embodiment, and activity...once one leaves
the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance.
"Queer spece" refers to...queer counterpublics (p. 6).

time...is organized according to the logic of capital accumulation...Waiting for Godot
can be read...as a defamiliarization of time spent...nothing has been postponed and
nothing will be resumed (p. 7).

space is naturalized in relation to use values...hegemonic constructions of time and
space are uniquely gendered and sexualized...a separation of spheres graphically
represented the gendered logic of the public/private binary...histories of raciilization
cannot avoid spatial conceptions of time...histories of immigration, diaspora, and
forced migration (p. 8).

Reproductive time and family time are, above all, heteronormative time/space
constructs....all kinds of people...opt to live outside of reproductive and familial
time as well as on the edges of logics of labor and production...By doing so, they
also often live outside the logic of capital accumulation (p. 10).

a "moment," a persistent present," or a "queer tempoality"...is overlooked by
Marxist geographers for whom the past represents the logic for the present,
and the future represents the fruition of this logic (p. 11).

The gender-ambiguous individual today represents a very different set of
assumptions ... than the gender-inverted subject of the early twentieth century
...the transgender body has emerged as...a kind of heroic fulfillment of postmodern
promises of gender flexibilty...as part of a "post-gender" world..the idea of "labeling"
becomes a sign of oppression...uniqueness cannot be captured (pp. 18-19).

I hope [to] begin a dialogue about the meaning of gender variance in queer
communities that moves beyond claims of either uniqueness or unilateral oppression,
and beyond the binary division of flexibility or rigidity...This book tries to keep
transgenderism alive as a meaningful designation of unpredictable gender
identities and practices (p. 21).

"Shadow Feminisms: Queer Negativity and Radical Passivity":
I proposed forgetfulness as an interruption to generational modes of transmission....
Losing one's mother...actually enables a relation to other models of time, space,
place, and connection....I explore a feminst politics that issues...from an undoing...
from a refusal to be or to become woman as she has been defined and imagined....
This femnism...grounded in negation, refusal, passivity, absence, and silence, offers
spaces and modes of unknowing, failing, and forgetting as part of an alternative
feminist project, a shadow feminism...an antisocial femininity, and a refusal of...
the legacy of the mother and...her relationship to patriarchal forms of power (pp. 123-124).

The texts that I examine in this chapter refuse to think back through the mother; they
actively and passively lose the mother....and in the process they produce a theoretical
and imaginative space that...can be occupied only by unbecoming women (p. 125).

If we refuse to become women, what happens to feminism?...Can we find feminist
frameworks capable of recognizing the political project articulated in the form of
refusal? (p. 126)

....consider speech to be something other than the conventional feminist trope
of breaking silence .... Spivak's call for a 'female intellectual"...who can learn
how not to know the other, how not to sacrifice the other on behalf of his or
her own sovereignty ...a feminism that fails to save others or to replicate itself,
a feminism finds purpose in its own failure (p. 126).

I am proposing that feminists refuse the choices as offered--freedom...or death--
in order to think about a shadow archive or resistance, one that...articulates itself
in terms of evaluation, refusal, passivity, unbecoming, unbeing (p. 129).

...where freedom was offered in terms of being propertied, placed, and productive,
the former slave might choose "moving about"...to experience the meaning of freedom
...maps of desire that render the subject incoherent, disorganized, and passive
provide a better escape route (p. 130).

...refusing the category of womanhood altogether...or she
can refuse to be part of any story at all (p. 131).

"self-shattering"...collage...a model of radical passivity and unbeing....Can we
think about this refusal of self as an antiliberal act, a revolutionary statement of
pure opposition....? (p. 136, 139).

"vulnerability artist"...a rigorous refusal of mastery..."amateurism" (143).

an anti-social way out of the double bind of becoming woman and thereby
propping up the dominance of man within a gender binary....If freedom...
was offered to the salve as a kind of contract with capital, then moving about,
being restless, refusing to acquire property or wealth flirts with forms of liberty
that are unimaginable to those who offer freedom as the freedom to become a
master...unthink sex as that alluring narrative of connection and liberation and
think it anew as the site of failure and unbecoming conduct (pp. 144-145).