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47

On Liking Women

1
terms
5
notes

the famous essay on TERFS etc

Long Chu, A. (2018). On Liking Women. n+1, 30, pp. 47-64

52

[...] These stories have perhaps less to do with What Really Happened than they do with what Fredric Jameson once called “the ‘emotion’ of great historiographic form”—that is, the satisfaction of synthesizing the messy empirical data of the past into an elegant historical arc in which everything that happened could not have happened otherwise.

To say, then, that these stories are rarely if ever “true” is not merely to repeat the axiom that taxonomy is taxidermy, though it cannot be denied that the objects of intellectual inquiry are forever escaping, like B-movie zombies, from the vaults of their interment. It is also to say that all cultural things, SCUM Manifesto included, are answering machines for history’s messages at best only secondarily. They are rather, first and foremost, occasions for people to feel something: to adjust the pitch of a desire or up a fantasy’s thread count, to make overtures to a new way to feel or renew their vows with an old one. We read things, watch things, from political history to pop culture, as feminists and as people, because we want to belong to a community or public, or because we are stressed out at work, or because we are looking for a friend or a lover, or perhaps because we are struggling to figure out how to feel political in an age and culture defined by a general shipwrecking of the beautiful old stories of history.

—p.52 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

[...] These stories have perhaps less to do with What Really Happened than they do with what Fredric Jameson once called “the ‘emotion’ of great historiographic form”—that is, the satisfaction of synthesizing the messy empirical data of the past into an elegant historical arc in which everything that happened could not have happened otherwise.

To say, then, that these stories are rarely if ever “true” is not merely to repeat the axiom that taxonomy is taxidermy, though it cannot be denied that the objects of intellectual inquiry are forever escaping, like B-movie zombies, from the vaults of their interment. It is also to say that all cultural things, SCUM Manifesto included, are answering machines for history’s messages at best only secondarily. They are rather, first and foremost, occasions for people to feel something: to adjust the pitch of a desire or up a fantasy’s thread count, to make overtures to a new way to feel or renew their vows with an old one. We read things, watch things, from political history to pop culture, as feminists and as people, because we want to belong to a community or public, or because we are stressed out at work, or because we are looking for a friend or a lover, or perhaps because we are struggling to figure out how to feel political in an age and culture defined by a general shipwrecking of the beautiful old stories of history.

—p.52 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago
58

[...] trans-exclusionary feminism has inherited political lesbianism’s dread of desire’s ungovernability. The traditional subject of gay panic, be he a US senator or just a member of the House, is a subject menaced by his own politically compromising desires: to preserve himself, he projects these desires onto another, whom he may now legislate or gay-bash out of existence. The political lesbian, too, is a subject stuck between the rock of politics and desire’s hard place. [...] But true separatism doesn’t stop at leaving your husband. It proceeds, with paranoid rigor, to purge the apartments of the mind of anything remotely connected to patriarchy. Desire is no exception. Political lesbianism is founded on the belief that even desire becomes pliable at high enough temperatures. For Jeffreys and her comrades, lesbianism was not an innate identity, but an act of political will. This was a world in which biology was not destiny, a world where being a lesbian was about what got you woke, not wet.

—p.58 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

[...] trans-exclusionary feminism has inherited political lesbianism’s dread of desire’s ungovernability. The traditional subject of gay panic, be he a US senator or just a member of the House, is a subject menaced by his own politically compromising desires: to preserve himself, he projects these desires onto another, whom he may now legislate or gay-bash out of existence. The political lesbian, too, is a subject stuck between the rock of politics and desire’s hard place. [...] But true separatism doesn’t stop at leaving your husband. It proceeds, with paranoid rigor, to purge the apartments of the mind of anything remotely connected to patriarchy. Desire is no exception. Political lesbianism is founded on the belief that even desire becomes pliable at high enough temperatures. For Jeffreys and her comrades, lesbianism was not an innate identity, but an act of political will. This was a world in which biology was not destiny, a world where being a lesbian was about what got you woke, not wet.

—p.58 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

(adjective) dear treasured / (adjective) ; discreetly cautious; as / (adjective) hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks / (adjective) slow to grant, accept, or expend

59

Desire is, by nature, childlike and chary of government.

—p.59 by Andrea Long Chu
notable
11 months ago

Desire is, by nature, childlike and chary of government.

—p.59 by Andrea Long Chu
notable
11 months ago
59

[...] nothing good comes of forcing desire to conform to political principle. [...] you can’t get aroused as an act of solidarity, the way you might stuff envelopes or march in the streets with your sisters-in-arms. Desire is, by nature, childlike and chary of government. The day we begin to qualify it by the righteousness of its political content is the day we begin to prescribe some desires and prohibit others. That way lies moralism only. Just try to imagine life as a feminist anemone, the tendrils of your desire withdrawing in an instant from patriarchy’s every touch. There would be nothing to watch on TV.

—p.59 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

[...] nothing good comes of forcing desire to conform to political principle. [...] you can’t get aroused as an act of solidarity, the way you might stuff envelopes or march in the streets with your sisters-in-arms. Desire is, by nature, childlike and chary of government. The day we begin to qualify it by the righteousness of its political content is the day we begin to prescribe some desires and prohibit others. That way lies moralism only. Just try to imagine life as a feminist anemone, the tendrils of your desire withdrawing in an instant from patriarchy’s every touch. There would be nothing to watch on TV.

—p.59 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago
60

[...] I doubt that any of us transition simply because we want to “be” women, in some abstract, academic way. I certainly didn’t. I transitioned for gossip and compliments, lipstick and mascara, for crying at the movies, for being someone’s girlfriend, for letting her pay the check or carry my bags, for the benevolent chauvinism of bank tellers and cable guys, for the telephonic intimacy of long-distance female friendship, for fixing my makeup in the bathroom flanked like Christ by a sinner on each side, for sex toys, for feeling hot, for getting hit on by butches, for that secret knowledge of which dykes to watch out for, for Daisy Dukes, bikini tops, and all the dresses, and, my god, for the breasts. But now you begin to see the problem with desire: we rarely want the things we should. Any TERF will tell you that most of these items are just the traditional trappings of patriarchal femininity. She won’t be wrong, either. Let’s be clear: TERFs are gender abolitionists, even if that abolitionism is a shell corporation for garden-variety moral disgust. When it comes to the question of feminist revolution, TERFs leave trans girls like me in the dust, primping. In this respect, someone like Ti-Grace Atkinson, a self-described radical feminist committed to the revolutionary dismantling of gender as a system of oppression, is not the dinosaur; I, who get my eyebrows threaded every two weeks, am.

Perhaps my consciousness needs raising. I muster a shrug. When the airline loses your luggage, you are not making a principled political statement about the tyranny of private property; you just want your goddamn luggage back. [...] So it’s not that these aren’t aesthetic decisions; it’s that they’re not personal. That’s the basic paradox of aesthetic judgments: they are, simultaneously, subjective and universal. [...]

—p.60 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

[...] I doubt that any of us transition simply because we want to “be” women, in some abstract, academic way. I certainly didn’t. I transitioned for gossip and compliments, lipstick and mascara, for crying at the movies, for being someone’s girlfriend, for letting her pay the check or carry my bags, for the benevolent chauvinism of bank tellers and cable guys, for the telephonic intimacy of long-distance female friendship, for fixing my makeup in the bathroom flanked like Christ by a sinner on each side, for sex toys, for feeling hot, for getting hit on by butches, for that secret knowledge of which dykes to watch out for, for Daisy Dukes, bikini tops, and all the dresses, and, my god, for the breasts. But now you begin to see the problem with desire: we rarely want the things we should. Any TERF will tell you that most of these items are just the traditional trappings of patriarchal femininity. She won’t be wrong, either. Let’s be clear: TERFs are gender abolitionists, even if that abolitionism is a shell corporation for garden-variety moral disgust. When it comes to the question of feminist revolution, TERFs leave trans girls like me in the dust, primping. In this respect, someone like Ti-Grace Atkinson, a self-described radical feminist committed to the revolutionary dismantling of gender as a system of oppression, is not the dinosaur; I, who get my eyebrows threaded every two weeks, am.

Perhaps my consciousness needs raising. I muster a shrug. When the airline loses your luggage, you are not making a principled political statement about the tyranny of private property; you just want your goddamn luggage back. [...] So it’s not that these aren’t aesthetic decisions; it’s that they’re not personal. That’s the basic paradox of aesthetic judgments: they are, simultaneously, subjective and universal. [...]

—p.60 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago
61

[...] The grammar of contemporary trans activism does not brook the subjunctive. Trans women are women, we are chided with silky condescension, as if we have all confused ourselves with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as if we were all simply trapped in the wrong politics, as if the cure for dysphoria were wokeness. How can you want to be something you already are? Desire implies deficiency; want implies want. To admit that what makes women like me transsexual is not identity but desire is to admit just how much of transition takes place in the waiting rooms of wanting things, to admit that your breasts may never come in, your voice may never pass, your parents may never call back.

Call this the romance of disappointment. You want something. You have found an object that will give you what you want. This object is a person, or a politics, or an art form, or a blouse that fits. You attach yourself to this object, follow it around, carry it with you, watch it on TV. One day, you tell yourself, it will give you what you want. Then, one day, it doesn’t. Now it dawns on you that your object will probably never give you what you want. But this is not what’s disappointing, not really. What’s disappointing is what happens next: nothing. You keep your object. You continue to follow it around, stash it in a drawer, water it, tweet at it. It still doesn’t give you what you want—but you knew that. You have had another realization: not getting what you want has very little to do with wanting it. Knowing better usually doesn’t make it better. You don’t want something because wanting it will lead to getting it. You want it because you want it. This is the zero-order disappointment that structures all desire and makes it possible. After all, if you could only want things you were guaranteed to get, you would never be able to want anything at all.

This is not to garner pity for sad trannies like me. We have enough roses by our beds. It is rather to say, minimally, that trans women want things too. The deposits of our desire run as deep and fine as any. The richness of our want is staggering. Perhaps this is why coming out can feel like crushing, why a first dress can feel like a first kiss, why dysphoria can feel like heartbreak. The other name for disappointment, after all, is love.

—p.61 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago

[...] The grammar of contemporary trans activism does not brook the subjunctive. Trans women are women, we are chided with silky condescension, as if we have all confused ourselves with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as if we were all simply trapped in the wrong politics, as if the cure for dysphoria were wokeness. How can you want to be something you already are? Desire implies deficiency; want implies want. To admit that what makes women like me transsexual is not identity but desire is to admit just how much of transition takes place in the waiting rooms of wanting things, to admit that your breasts may never come in, your voice may never pass, your parents may never call back.

Call this the romance of disappointment. You want something. You have found an object that will give you what you want. This object is a person, or a politics, or an art form, or a blouse that fits. You attach yourself to this object, follow it around, carry it with you, watch it on TV. One day, you tell yourself, it will give you what you want. Then, one day, it doesn’t. Now it dawns on you that your object will probably never give you what you want. But this is not what’s disappointing, not really. What’s disappointing is what happens next: nothing. You keep your object. You continue to follow it around, stash it in a drawer, water it, tweet at it. It still doesn’t give you what you want—but you knew that. You have had another realization: not getting what you want has very little to do with wanting it. Knowing better usually doesn’t make it better. You don’t want something because wanting it will lead to getting it. You want it because you want it. This is the zero-order disappointment that structures all desire and makes it possible. After all, if you could only want things you were guaranteed to get, you would never be able to want anything at all.

This is not to garner pity for sad trannies like me. We have enough roses by our beds. It is rather to say, minimally, that trans women want things too. The deposits of our desire run as deep and fine as any. The richness of our want is staggering. Perhaps this is why coming out can feel like crushing, why a first dress can feel like a first kiss, why dysphoria can feel like heartbreak. The other name for disappointment, after all, is love.

—p.61 by Andrea Long Chu 11 months ago