Well, this is a relief. I’ve had two good days in touch with my so-called real self: the scholar-writer person. I’ve been wondering about this particular persona for a while, since she’s been so out of touch. Did she still live, after all this time? Could we still talk, hang out? Would it feel the way it used to? And what about her dearest companions, our books? Would they still reassure me, communicate their serious love? Would I still feel serious love for them?
It was, I am happy to say, very much a good experience. I love to be in the library, especially when it is empty, as it is during spring break and summer. The elevator always comes promptly, and I don’t have to wade through the hordes of students draped all over the the place like seals on the way to my blissfully set-apart study. And there I find these things, bound in cloth or, lately, plastic and string and god-knows-what kind of glue, that have carried me through these years. My friends. There is that one, who, like the other dear ones, has been with me through the whole terrible broken-from-the-start love-affair with X, and then after that through the heartache of Y, and then my father’s death, and the strange eye-in-the-storm calm that followed, when I was so busy with the estate, and felt, for a change, important, respected, needed.
I’m tempted to go into some inquiry about what precisely it is that makes teaching so horrible these days, so impersonal, so mechanical. Not that I feel like a machine. No, that’s the problem. It’s not just the institution, but the students, who want me to be like a machine. They want me to be like a tv program, or, better yet, like a music video, that fascinates and manipulates them, that robs them of their subjectivity. They only seem to experience their subjectivity these days when they are feeling outraged over having been denied some service that they are convinced they have already paid for.
Having to read, discuss and write thoughtfully about feminism is definitely not what they signed up for. And I’m not quite as trim as I used to be. I no longer wear those killer tight miniskirts and high heels. No, these days I’m more likely to show up in the only pair of jeans that still fits, a ski vest I’ve had for 12 years (Patagonia), and a long t-shirt. I think my ratings used to be higher.
Okay, so it’s true, Peter Weddle, this workplace has been making me sick for a long time now. And I certainly have been guilty of not taking care of myself by forgetting that it is up to me to care for the fitness of my career–not my academic department or mentor.
Why has it taken me so long to “stop drinking the koolaid,” as Sabine Hikel so wisely advises? There have always been a few, wonderful students who have made it all worth while. They are usually women, gay men, and black men, but there have also ben some fantastically alert and open-minded heterosexual white men in my women’s studies classes. There’s no reason to trash the entire genus. As I as saying, there are the few students who make it all good, who not only do the reading and follow what I’m saying but who for some totally inexplicable reason seem to live on the same planet as I do, and who, like the few people left who seem to be willing to declare themselves feminists, grasp how important it is to understand how we all participate in a world of predictable gendered patterns, and that we step outside of the normative patterns at our peril.
Not just the people who don’t fit into the heteronormative paradigm, the resolutely heterosexual people in the J. Crew catalog, are hurt by sexism, by narrow conceptions, rigidly enforced, of gender. No, even the pretend-people’s earthly representatives, the really, really, really, you-can’t-even-imagine-how-rich rich people, who benefit from these crude stereotypes, are limited and depressed by them and the system that they perpetuate. Okay so the pretend-people in the J.Crew catalog are better off than the women in Snoop Dogg music videos, and the men in those videos. At least the crude stereotype that they are personifying do not depict women as universally nymphomaniac, narcissistic slaves or black men as thugs. (On this, see the entire brilliant documentary Dreamworlds 3)
Ja, even the guys at the various apex points of the multi-dimensional power-grid that we all inhabit, unequally, are damaged by these narrow visions of sexual identity. Because these are so incredibly limiting. Men have so much more to offer than they are represented as offering in the media. And so do women. Obviously.
Yep. Think that’s where I’m gonna end this one.