On gendered violence

Does a gendering of violence imply a gendering of trauma? I would answer no. Just because a certain group is disproportionally subject to a specific form of violence does not mean that the reaction is fundamentally different than if it were experienced in a different context. To be a victim of violence is to be a victim of violence. Women do not get to lay claim to violence, nor should they. As feminists, we should not believe that womanhood is ontologically grounded in trauma, so why would we want to lay claim to it?
There is an overabundance of critiques of PC culture which vilify the trigger warning by painting caricatures of wounded students unable to cope with difficult ideas. These, of course, are absurd. Still, I see in feminist philosophy an oversimplification of the role that experience ought to hold in theory. Yes, women hold a more vulnerable position in society than men and this leads to a common experience of trauma and vulnerability. But does a communal experience of vulnerability imply that vulnerability ought to be theorized as a feminine concept? Certainly, vulnerability is a gendered emotion; the communal experiences of women as particularly vulnerable attests to this. But from this communal experience of violence, there has come a reification and normalization of trauma in the name of vulnerability. Now, women are not confined to the home because men tell them the world is too violent, but those same myths have been appropriated into the feminist mainstream. Vulnerability is a normal and necessary human emotion, but trauma is not. Trauma distorts reality and gives meaning to situations that would otherwise be interpreted as ordinary. This does not imply that the experience is not valid, but it does put into question the role of the experience of trauma within an ontology of womanhood. When that distortion of reality is carelessly elevated to the level of theory, trauma becomes a necessary component of womanhood rather than a tragic consequence of navigating the world as a woman.
The relationship between womanhood and trauma is contingent. To theorize a privileged relationship between womanhood and trauma mistakes contingency for necessity and commits a logical error that threatens any feminist project aiming for a radical revision of our social relationships.

On epithets

“From a man’s mouth, the epithet ‘female’ sounds like an insult; but he, not ashamed of his animality, it proud to here: ‘He’s a male!’ The term ‘female’ is pejorative not because it roots woman in nature but because it confines her in her sex, and if this sex, even in an innocent animal, seems despicable and an enemy to man, it is obviously because of the disquieting hostility woman triggers in him”

-Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

On Truth

“Woman does not entertain the positive belief that the truth is something other than men claim; she recognizes, rather, that there is not fixed truth. It is not only the changing nature of life that makes her suspicious of the principle of constant identity, nor is it the magic phenomena with which she is surrounded that destroy the notion of causality. It is at the heart of the masculine world itself, it is in herself as belonging to this world that she comes upon the ambiguity if all principle, of all value, of everything that exists.”

-Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

On Lovers

“Lovers live the carnal bond as a fleshed supplication. Each risks being violated in their otherness. Each asks to be received by the other in their vulnerability. Each offers themselves to the other as a fleshed gift. Each lives its excess with the other. Each turns to the other in the generosity of disclosure where the aimlessness of desire immerses itself in the flows of the flesh.”

-Debra B. Bergoffen, “Beauvoir: (Re)counting the sexual difference”

On laughter and wine

“Freedom assumes its real, flesh and blood figure in the world by thickening into pleasure, into happiness. If the satisfaction of an old man drinking a glass of wine counts for nothing, the production and wealth are only hollow myths; they have meaning only if they are capable of being retrieved in individual and living joy. The saving of time and the conquest of leisure have no meaning if we are not moved by the laugh of a child at play. If we do not love life on our own account and through others, it is futile to seek to justify it in any way.”

Simone de Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity

On consuming the animal

“Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?”

Every living being must eat; to be alive is the necessity to eat. Cixous maintains that animals and humans, then, are bonded in eating, to sustain themselves, to keep themselves alive. As the nourishment of life, then, eating is a good without which there would be only death. Or, perhaps worse, inedibility, for even the nutrients in our soil depends upon a previous death. Without eating, there would be only stagnation. Cixous realizes, however, that eating is simultaneously a cruelty. For the human to eat, she must turn life to death and transform an animal body into meat, and an object of consumption. The animal is cut into bite-sized pieces, seasoned, and judged on its flavor. Ross argues that “eating is the cruelty of the necessity that devious animals for the sake of human beings. Well beyond humanity.” For Cixous, the need to eat links the member of society, of humanity, to life, to goodness, to death, to cruelty, and to animals: it reminds the individual that behind the neatly crafted world of men lies an unordered realm, paradoxically full of goodness and of cruelty.