On Cixous’ portrayal of the animal

To imagine that the bird soars in unworldliness articulates a rejection of human and societal constraint more so than an accurate portrayal of the animal, especially when humanity’s impact on the world, through climate change related mass extinction, transcends the bounds of its own knowledge and touches even undiscovered spaces. W. D. Ross asks, “Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?” Does Cixous’ framework speak truly of the animal, or does she make of it a romantic symbol of an ideal human freedom? Cixous’ analysis suggests that the animal brings the human beyond humanity, yet the beyond of this statement stands firmly in the human perspective. The author of G. H.’s story calls this beyond ‘inferno,’ but Hell too remains a biblical cliché.

On Being a Man

“I am a man. Now you may think I’ve made some kind of silly mistake about gender, or maybe that I’m trying to fool you, because my first name ends in a, and I own three bras, and I’ve been pregnant five times, and other things like that that you might have noticed, little details. But details don’t matter… I predate the invention of women by decades. Well, if you insist on pedantic accuracy, women have been invented several times in widely varying localities, but the inventors just didn’t know how to sell the product. Their distribution techniques were rudimentary and their market research was nil, and so of course the concept just didn’t get off the ground. Even with a genius behind it an invention has to find its market, and it seemed like for a long time the idea of women just didn’t make it to the bottom line. Models like the Austen and the Brontë were too complicated, and people just laughed at the Suffragette, and the Woolf was way too far ahead of its time.”

-Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind

On marriage

“Don’t give up. Never give up, and if you feel discouraged read Ariel by Sylvia Plath ­– it’s just pure electricity.” – Robert Montgomery

First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,

Stitches to show something’s missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Stop crying.
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand

To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed

To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit——

Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.

Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start

But in twenty-five years she’ll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.

It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it’s a poultice.
You have an eye, it’s an image.
My boy, it’s your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.

Sylvia Plath, “The Applicant”

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