Sunday, July 20, 2008

gurlesque answer to D

Hey D!

As far as the D&G, I don't have it in front of me-- but if you are talking the becoming- chapter... it is the chapter where they posit to become ANYTHING first you must become woman (The ultimate becoming is imperceptible/minoritarian/essence I believe). In other words, the first magical transformation is always into the female from which all other creation (to animal, child, etc) is possible. One could read this I guess as an acknowledgement of feminine power, but my read is that it places the male energy solar-ly, and woman as the first mask or emanation. Nothing new there.

Claiming victimhood vs. playing with the subject position: I don't want to play anymore. I don't feel like a girl anymore and most of girl-trappings do feel placed (on me as consumer by external capitalist deciders). I guess if I was mightily attracted to any of it--I'd keep it and flaunt it. I wear heels, after all--but never pointy toed shoes. Here's my difference, again... I don't see my "womanly" retention of 4 inch heels as doing much damage (though in my dreams they can). I can imagine a poem where those shoes do work--oh yes I can--like Addonzio's red dress. But in the poems I think of as gurlesque I don't always see that work. I don't see the subverted gaze you speak of or the implication of the reader. I see tons of coy and pout and hairflip... but I *think* what is being gurlesque wants to claim the skewering, and dammit I DON'T SEE ENOUGH SKEWERING. I would just please like to see more skewering. I'm sure Johannes and Lara wd back me up on this desire. That's all.

And you ask, what do you get with womanhood? A little invisibility (the kind you have a right to, not the kind you must liberate yourself from--that comes back with old age). That is what D&G say all transformation aims for... imperceptibility, and only then revolution. To become, for once, the unwitnessed gazer. And to achieve something like it after 30 years of feeling all eyes critiquing is something I can admit to enjoying when it happens (thus the draw of the urban landscape where I do not have to turn into a soccermom to disappear). Glitter for chardonnay (but isn't this Sex and the City and aren't they exceedingly gurlesque?)--not so hot. Glitter for the presidency, a prime ministership, an endowed chair--I'll take.

Where I do agree with Arielle is that when I was young I thought I'd be able to do anything. But I do not think my way to standing by that child is to affect her--it is to grit my teeth, bear down, and push my way through any means necessary to the anythings I want to do-- the poems I want to write, the novels I want to publish, the professor I want to be. The trappings have always been something beside the point in my world--the things (as I said in my earlier post) that I had to do without to get the ballet training I loved... so military in its regulations, so sexist and hierarchical in so many of its modes, and yet so damn USEFUL, as it got to the heart of training and *learning to train* my body to do anything else it wanted to (modern dance, yoga, aikido).

My take on my own poetic project is similar... the content is mere exampling of the deeper structures. Any aesthetic in which the content is a central/defining feature will undoubtedly raise my poetic hackles... I believe the personal is political because we are examples. We are examples. It is enough.


D said...

Okay, now it's almost like we're chatting over a glass of wine. Except no wine and no in person, boo!

Yeah, I'm thinking about the "becoming-minoritarian" section of that chapter. I think I must've read it a little differently, as I read them as separate becomings one could go through: becomings-woman, -child, -animal, or -molecule. Becoming-girl struck me as a wonderfully deranged line of flight, in their terms, because it would maybe combine all those. But I'm not ready to argue what I'd eventually like to; that becoming-girl creates an existential rift, a rift in discourse. Is a line one could take even out of manhood. (Did I tell you that A's considering a knuckle tattoo that says "GIRL"?) It has something, in my addled pre-thoughts, to do with pain, unmaking, my Elaine Scarry trip. More reading for me.

Oh, yes, I think everything could use more skewering! Do call for it! I'm curious about the evolution of the Gurlesque, considering how young some of these poets were when Arielle started noticing the tactics...whether or not their work becomes performatively more complex, more eviscerating, and how it continues to relate to "girl" or the legacy of growing up a girl in the second wave...And maybe this is something to watch with younger women poets in general. Tina Celona, Cathy Wagner, Cathy Park Hong, Sabrina Orah Mark, Arielle herself, heck you and me...stranger and fiercer. These are poets in whose first books I saw not only the achievement of those poems on the page, but the potential to ratchet it up, to skewer or eviscerate or provoke. Poets who in each successive project manipulate/attack/reject gaze more expertly and effectively (and that's where I think the gendered/female-bodied subject is key). Poets who have an increasingly greater degree of thrill and terrify in the work... And for a lot of us, it's been a long road. I was 25 when I finished that first book, and still identified as often as not as "girl."

Now, older, messing around with "girl," I like to think in the way Kathy Acker does--a la Blood and Guts in High School. And my kid's a girl, so I've got that to wrangle with. She does respond to the consumer pressures that designate girl markers. I don't want her to feel guilty for enjoying these things she's cultured (whether or not I resist) to like. I want her to find a way to claim them and pervert them, if need be. If she sees me as radical feminist mama/womanish/girlish in arm warmers and shimmery eyeshadow, does it help? Does it bust open some of her performance options? Dunno. And I see your point, but I'm not sure that trading in the glitter for the pantsuit buys one an appropriately greater measure of respect...If Hillary had worn glittery eye-shadow, would the discourse have been any more tiresomely sexist? As it is, Obama's younger women supporters are getting some serious Paris Hilton treatment. I actually heard a pundit on CNN claim that if Hillary got the nomination, all Obama's twenty-something girls would be "passed out drunk," and wouldn't make it to the voting booths. Can you imagine saying that about any other identity category? Gag! I gag, puke and speechless.

Has anyone ever gotten tenure in glitterati?

But I thought you wore the four-inch heels because you've got those cloven feet ballet dancers get when they sell their souls to the dance devil ;).

kirsten said...

Yes, wine and skewering, def. Again (I'm in Hbg. without my books) D&G presented a range of things to become... but anything not majoritarian (the default power structure) had to become- itself. Even woman has to become- woman (which maybe in your read wd be to perform woman). And I do believe they call becoming-woman the first becoming, a special case... but I'll reread when I get back.

And I get this take, really I do... but reject or embrace or claim-- I want to acknowledge my culturedness and *move on.* I am an essentialist if I can redefine the term as not believing that certain identities have certain essential characteristics, but that essence infact exists. That surface is not all. Nurture and nature are in combination (I married a geneticist after all).

Now, a knuckle tattoo of girl I like. That plays where play is indistinguishable from skewer.

And don't you even think I'm wearing pantsuits (they don't hide my barbed tail as well as the dresses). But wd the wrong clothes have killed Hill much earlier? Damn straight. We still live there... there are still varying degrees of the bullcrap we have to deal with and various ways we can avoid engage or shovel that crap (or smoke it to get high). Each way we deal has ramifications. Knowing them and choosing how to resist (and there are a thousand plateaus from which to hurl our spitballs or crossbows or trebuchets I agree) is every girl's right. I just want to be a little higher on the ladders (admittedly not built by me or anyone like me) with some boiling oil (for its dramatic effect). I don't want (any longer) to be the bait which pulls the enemy toward the cliff. But the bait shd do as it will.

That's it in a nutshell--I hate for my act of resistance to be mistaken by *anyone* as ignorance or complicity. And of course I'm complicit but I try like hell not to be. I'm not as against guilt as many. My boys feel guilty about their gun and war play and about their imperialist pokemon collecting. They can do it but I ask them how they'd like to be "collected and contained" and brought out only to fight others of their kind for sport. It's a tough world in which to raise carefree kids. Give Hazel a big kiss for me, she's an awesome superhero.