On silence

you can not
remain
a
war
between
what you want to say (who you really are)
and
what you should say (who you pretend to be)
your mouth was not designer to eat itself

-split

 

 

Nayyirah Waheed

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On depth

“I seek in the perceived world nuclei of meaning which are in-visible, but which simply are not invisible in the sense of the absolute negation […] but in the sense of the other dimensionality, as depth hollows itself out behind height and breadth, as time hollows itself out behind space”

-Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible

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 the musicality of matter and life

“Perhaps the figure of music offers a genuine alternative to both thing and idea, the emergence of rhythm and melody as something more than juxtaposed beats or notes while something less than an explicit thought, as a sense that invade the subject rather than being reducible to an object for it. The rhythm of the heart and the breath indicate the musicality of matter and life from which the mind emerges, and the relation of the lived melody to its virtual score may yet figure the relation between life and mind in an entirely new register, the register of expression rather than of signification. This is a suggestion to which Merleau-Ponty will return in his later writings, but which may already be suggested when he characterizes our relation with nature, in Phenomenology of Perception, as ‘singing the world’”

-Ted Toadvine, Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature

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.