Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Evening Post: Cat Chaperoning

Tonight witnessed, in order of cosmic significance:
  • Paranoid vigilante Nathan Bedford Forrest George Zimmerman found not guilty;
  • UK soldiers in Afghanistan found killing themselves at higher rates than dying in combat;
  • Several highly fatal commercial transit accidents across the world;
  • The Iowa Supreme Court's confirmation to the rest of the country that yes, it's okay to fire someone (read: a woman) for being way too hot;
  • Two hapless civilians run over by Chicago's signature downtown gentrification annual;
  • Our cat Ariel (pictured above) repurposing our bathtub as a toilet.
Given my own infinitesimally minor role in the grand farce of existence, it is this lattermost event that requires me most urgently - a fact for which, as my mother wouldn't hesitate to remind me, I should probably be thankful.  Adult supervision is my Saturday night which means, of course, drinking and reading, which means, of course, reading stuff on my computer screen.  The first item was a defense of radical feminists from accusations of transphobia so rhetorically and intellectually head-and-shoulders above the Jacobin piece that purports to call it out that I am forced to accept that I should probably keep my mouth shut about the whole thing (especially because the aforementioned journal is getting sued for their efforts).  The second was an absolutely searing piece co-written by Mal Ahern, whose acquaintance with me has been reified as actual friendship by capitalism's most cost-effective intelligence agency.  I'd be lying if I claimed it didn't inflame my contrarian impulses on more than one occasion, especially as a flesh-and-blood sometimes-symptom of the version of man-child she and co-author Moira Weigel semi-ludically propose.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't also recommend the piece as a humbling, sterling polemic on the boy's game of academic leftism.

"Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child" is structured as a damning critique of French Marxist collective Tiqqun's screed Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, whose title its parodies.  Some especially wounding excerpts:
"Tiqqun offers an edgy update to such misogynist metaphors deployed for the purposes of demystification. At times, it speaks longingly of women who have not been utterly corrupted by capitalism. But when it learns what it knew all along—there is no outside; all human relationships have become reified—its disappointment at finding no one authentic to grow old with intensifies its vitriol. “It wasn’t until the Young-Girl appeared that one could concretely experience what it means to ‘fuck,’ that is, to fuck someone without fucking anyone in particular. Because to fuck a being that is really so abstract, so utterly interchangeable, is to fuck in the absolute.” Tiqqun’s language may be obscene, but its point is nothing new. The failure to see women as “anyone in particular,” or as subjects endowed with their own ends, has allowed men to fuck women over for centuries." 
"When we look at the comment sections where men fantasize about violating and decapitating female bloggers, or ­OkCupid diaries where they rant about dates who spurned their sexual advances, we recognize immediately that the Nice Guy doth protest too much. Typos make it easy to call a sadsack sociopath a sociopath. But we imagine that our male colleagues at cultural institutions are aware of how women have been exploited.  So when one asks whether we would like to co-author a paper, undertaking all the translation for it because he does not “do languages,” we try to shake it off. He cannot ­really imagine that we spent years of our adult lives mastering foreign words and grammar just so we could do the tedious housework of gathering sources while he takes credit for the conceptual heavy lifting. (Even his verb choice—“do”—makes it sound like this was a hobby, like tourism, as if we just happened to get off on playing with textbooks.) When the co-organizer of an exhibition calls to ask, on a few hours notice, whether he can borrow sheets for the futon on which he volunteered weeks ago to put up a visiting artist—it was just coincidence that he called us and not Patrick or Andrew, right? We want to believe this. And yet, we look at the female faculty who seem to participate in every committee and conference and supervise over half the dissertations in their departments, and we feel afraid."* 
"When we accept the knowingness that the Man-Child trades in, we put off thinking about how differences of gender, sex, and sexuality operate in diverse lives. That sort of thinking takes work, work that many of us would often rather avoid. Because utopia never arrives, this labor gets passed on to the exploited, who do not have the choice of temporarily ignoring the question. In many workplaces, including academic departments, this means that race becomes the “job” of people of color; sexual politics the “job” of people who are female and/or queer and/or transgendered."
*I imagine the "co-organizer" and colleague who "does not 'do languages'" know who they are; one only hopes they read The New Inquiry. 

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