Posts tagged: female professors
With straight white men—even ones that I adore and who are much better people than I’ll ever be—our conversations have a stopping point. This applies to gay and queer white male friends too.
I’m tired of having to explain that feminism (even SUPER WHITE SECOND WAVE FEMINISM) is a *thing* that exists and is legitimate (simply even le-gi-ti-mate) to straight white men, and I’m tired of them rolling their eyes when I say “straight white men.” I’m tired of being a Chinese woman inhabiting mostly hetero white spaces and having my invisible illnesses be all the more invisible because they aren’t registered as readily applicable to me. I’m especially tired of every time I think of me, or me being confessional, I ultimately repent with guilt-drenched hours where I repeat sorry, sorry sorry everywhere. Sorry so sorry, was that too much? I can’t stop, I’m so sorry.
For those that have attacked me for using toooooo many words, It Hurts My Feelings when you delegitimize my use of the one thing I’ve relied on as possibly sometimes being in my court. And props for derailing a conversation about race for other means because you don’t think I could possibly know as much as you. Elaine Castillo writes, “If you are a person of color and/or a working-class person, do you also feel the dilemma of always either being too literate, or not literate enough?”
Finally, I feel like a complete idiot that when I meet wildly intelligent white male writers—these days in New York and elsewhere—how surprising it has been to comprehend what complete dickheads they are, and how much they perform under false consciousness. To those that claim feminism as a special ground from which to carve their identity: please.
You are being stupid though, as West says, and I wish someone could make you believe that even for a brief moment.
can i lie in bed all morning thinking the ugliest most illegitimate thoughts, smoke cigarettes all day thinking thinking traveling hoping, withdraw from speaking, speak wildly and too much, can i
shrink every time i hear a criticism of a woman, because even if you are an enlightened university of chicago graduate student who admires many female academics, as soon as there’s a woman professor whom you don’t like, every sexist pathologizing weapon becomes available for you, all of the sexist energies in our culture open up to your use:
him: “i totally stay away from [this professor.] did you hear about how she sent an email to jake that said, p.s. eat something!”
me: “that’s so weird, why did she do that?”
him: “because she’s anorexic and needs to fatten up everyone around her in order to feel okay about herself!”
it’s not safe to be a woman who takes up space in this world. it’s skating on such thin ice. people are ready to pounce on you if you do something wrong. a man who makes a mistake is wrong and can be corrected. a woman who makes a mistake is fucked up.
there are literally zero women in the lincoln music scene. a girl tried to make crappy keyboard rap, and she received endless shit. it was crappy. but when boys make crappy things, people applaud their efforts and see it as part of a necessary trajectory to possible greatness. when women make crappy things, it’s seen as them stepping out of their place for no reason. samuel johnson: “sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
and what if you disagree with their negative valuation? what if you find this woman’s art, or teaching, or taking-up-of-space, whatever it is, to be good? it will be hard for you to defend her. the quiet queer girl who has different tastes, or different expectations, might find it in her best interests to keep her mouth shut. i didn’t defend this professor. i wish i had flipped a shit. but i was staying at his house. and she *has* hurt people, or mishandled the (extremely delicate) power relations of rockstar professor and student, themselves so fraught with fucked up dynamics (i wanted so badly for her to be my mother…). what a complicated conversation to try to have. i didn’t want to make a festival of feminism on my first night there. we were out drinking on the one year anniversary of his mother’s death.
sometimes i feel like
i don’t know
marie calloway is such a classic case of this too. that’s why her recent collage on criticism is so amazing. and why i felt so helpless and angry when i read this clever, flattening critique by janey smith. why is it so bad if our interest in marie calloway is prurient? i disagree with this claim, but i still want to ask the question: what if we like marie calloway simply because she has made herself and her messiness public? women are rarely allocated their fair share of attention, & so when they are brave enough (misogynists would say desperate enough) to try to seize it, this seizure has always had to be illegitimate, the way a whore is illegitimate. what an attention-whore. whores are this strange site of hate—you hate the whore for exciting your bad desire; you hate yourself for having bad desire. what if i don’t want to hate either the whore or the bad desire?
sorry, jane, i’ve wandered. thank you for giving me this occasion to write things that i didn’t realize i needed to write. those men are not better than you. let’s just read james baldwin’s letter to his nephew, over and over again:
The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, though the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shinning and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is our of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations. You, don’t be afraid. I said that it was intended that you should perish in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go behind the white man’s definitions, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention; and, by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, those innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality.
and this adrien rich quote, via hysteriarama:
“No woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness. When we allow ourselves to believe we are, we lose touch with parts of ourselves defined as unacceptable by that consciousness; with the vital toughness and visionary strength of the angry grandmothers, the fierce market women of the Ibo’s Women’s War, the marriage-resisting women silk workers of pre-Revolutionary China, the millions of widows, midwives, and the women healers tortured and burned as witches for three centuries in Europe.”