Tag Archives: Cultural studies
I’ve been thinking about neutrality and the way it’s deployed in arguments to show that the *feminist line* has an agenda, is political, whereas the Common Sense Bloke point of view (shut up and stop talking about unpleasantries, and it’s just not that bad anyway) is neutral. Whiteness and masculinity have worked that way forever, taking to themselves titles of ‘neutral observer’ (and a whole series of the valued terms in other binary divisions that will have to wait for another post) as against the politically invested and therefore unreliable Other.
Nothing is ‘neutral’. Not science, not gender, not even the sexes of bodies.
Not the way men look at women, or the way women respond to men…not even the fact that men/women *do* look at each other…think about it…you knew before you started feeling feelings of attraction that men and women were ‘supposed’ to look at/think about one another…that it was ‘normal’, that it was ‘natural’. Do you really think that wasn’t formative of your own desires?
When people hear that I had a female lover I watch them go “A-ha!”. To them my political views make sense now they can peg me: as gay, as bi. The feminism finally makes sense. I respect that for many sexuality is an identity, that in the face of the prohibitions on how and with whom you can love/enjoy sex, in the face of the violence and control exercised over sexuality, that identity is power, is fighting, is pushing back. But to me it was never about identity or reclaiming some hidden ‘truth’…
So when people seek to attribute my politics to what they see as my underlying ‘identity’, I’m frustrated, since it wasn’t my *inner lesbian* that drew me to my politics, it was my politics that allowed me to choose people over rules.To allow the possibility, to not be cowed into never considering something perfectly reasonable just because the “rules” are that you *can’t*, that if you *consider* it, if you *think about it*, you need to accept that you’re booted from Camp Normal into Different Identity Camp and judged as A Different Kind Of Person always and forever after.
It’s frustrating for many reasons, one of which is the idea that heterosexuality is neutral rather than systematically, culturally and insistently compelled. We were born into a heavily monitored system of compulsory heterosexuality. We grew up within it, into it, we absorbed all the messages that to be Normal People, we were never supposed to think about THAT! Quick, quick, you thought it, you better repress it, don’t you DARE follow through, if you wanked over it, feel shame, feel dirty, go back to proving your identity.
Anyway. I should be writing admin law papers. But the idea that there is anything in this world that is neutral, that is not filtered through our system of language, our prior understandings, our frames of reference of normal/possible/permissible is excruciating to me. Science? Oh yeah. Science is just ‘neutral’. Telling us that there IS only Male and Female. It’s just *documenting* in a neutral way the Truth that is there. Really?
1.7 of all live births are of children whose bodies do not fit the strictly defined categories of male/female*. Almost 2 in every hundred. Think about that for a moment. *Scientific observation* strictly speaking undermines the claim that there are *only* and uncomplicatedly male and female bodies. It casts these bodies as deformed, as mutated, as lacking, as monstrous and it co-opts them back into its stories of nature/natural/neutral by carving them up (literally, physically, by carving into infant bodies) and *making* them signify as male/female again. So that we can all breath easier safe from the *threat* to our ‘naturally occuring’ sense of order.
Just thought I’d put that out there. If you can’t rely on male/female as neutral and naturally occuring, then what CAN you posit as neutral/natural?
If you can’t tell I’m missing Cultural Studies and that way of thinking immensely. The possibilities, the excitement, the beauty and the joy of thinking things through in different ways, imagining new ways of being…not being beholden to the violence of ‘is’, ‘must’, ‘normal’, ‘neutral’…
*Morland, Iain (2001) “Is Intersexuality Real?” Textual Practise, 15:3 at 529