not yet over it

Kaye's picture

Anne and I had designed tonight's class intending to diffract theory and action and to explore how Butler, Barad, Humbach and Welsh might inform and strengthen our work for social justice.  However, our lesson plan (or apparatus in Barad's term) revealed a different dimension of this phenomenon.  The political responses you shared at the end of class addressed (as we had hoped) important problems of gender and sexuality and were theoretically informed, but what struck me was their raw emotional power.  I had not anticipated this irruption of emotion, for theory often presents itself as abstract, rational, distant and can be interrogated using just our intellect.  What generated this more visceral response?  Unquestionably, rape is a charged, emotional, non-abstract experience for too many people.  Yet, we can write papers about rape culture, post responses on Serendip, critique representations in the media.  But, perhaps those formats don't engage us the same way as what what we asked you to do tonight?  In some ways, academic papers don't ask students to "appear" as whole people, but let them just engage intellectually.  Perhaps, academic papers and postings on Serendip are not really public, not really private, but exist in some interstitial zone?  I also wonder how much the reading of Ensler's litany and the power of repetition, the speaking out of the violations, the rhythm of her words resonate with our bodies and evoke a more embodied response?  I remember the first time I went to a display of the AIDS quilt and how powerfully the reading of  names of people who had died from HIV/AIDS hit me.  The litany was like a drumbeat that took me out of my head and connected me with my body where I could feel the losses more fully.  Although I don't presume to know what were the triggers for any individual tonight, I did feel how hard this class was for some of you and hope you find comfort. 

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AmyMay's picture

In response to both Anne and Kaye

Tonight was very difficult for me personally.  I felt blindsided by the second portion of the class, and wish there had been some warning before today about what the content was going to be.  I have talked academically about issues of sexual violence before, but always in the context of a reading where this was specifically the issue, so I was emotionally prepared when I walked into the classroom.  In talking the whole thingover (diffracting?) with my roommate when I got home, she mentioned that many feminist sites have "trigger warnings" before content related to issues that may "trigger" unwanted emotional responses in their readers (such as sexual violence).  In the future, I would suggest a "trigger warning" before bringing up such a personal issue in class.  This would allow people to decide in advance if the topic is something they are prepared to discuss openly in the presence of others.  

Personally, these are issues I want to talk about, and that I want other people to talk about.  It was very powerful for me to hear things that I feel deeply personally about come from many of the people in our class (in the "in response to __ we propose __" portion).  It was one of the few times I've felt truely understood, like my voice was being heard without me having to try to find the words.  Many of you got it.  That means more to me than I could ever say.  Though it was emotionally exhausting, by the end I felt we were bodies in alliance.  So speaking only for myself, thank you for your work.  

S. Yaeger's picture

I want to echo all that

I want to echo all that AmyMay has said here.  Last night was triggering for me, but it was also powerfully bolstering.

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