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11

The Pink

Happy new vagina

by Andrea Long Chu

0
terms
4
notes

some really thoughtful reflections on the meaning of "feminism"

Long Chu, A. (2019). The Pink. n+1, 34, pp. 11-17

11

[...] It would be no novel observation to remark that getting a tattoo is very painful, although it is a peculiar quality of pain that it never really gets old. All bodily pain begins with shock at the audacity of physical trespass, a kind of astonishment at the frankly unbelievable insinuation that one is not, in fact, the center of the universe. [...]

In truth, I was collecting pains, pinning them like insects to the corkboard of my brain, scribbling little labels below. Together I hoped they might testify to a deeper metamorphosis than the mere rearrangement of flesh [...]

—p.11 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago

[...] It would be no novel observation to remark that getting a tattoo is very painful, although it is a peculiar quality of pain that it never really gets old. All bodily pain begins with shock at the audacity of physical trespass, a kind of astonishment at the frankly unbelievable insinuation that one is not, in fact, the center of the universe. [...]

In truth, I was collecting pains, pinning them like insects to the corkboard of my brain, scribbling little labels below. Together I hoped they might testify to a deeper metamorphosis than the mere rearrangement of flesh [...]

—p.11 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago
13

The second objection — that not all women had vaginas — was trickier to address. In the first place, it had the distinct advantage of being true: not all women do have vaginas, nor do all vaginas have women. Then again, the pussyhat was not an artistic rendering of the female genitalia but a simple bit of costuming. Its most literal suggestion was not that the wearer was a woman but that the wearer was a cat. This ensured that the relationship between the hat and the sex organ was, whatever else it was, figurative: a verbal and visual pun that afforded demonstrators a sly bit of plausible deniability in matters of bourgeois decency. After all, it was not as if attendees were required to flash their gash before gaining entry to the Women’s March. The real question posed by the pussyhat was not whether women should be directly equated with an elastic muscle — a laughable notion, espoused by literally no one — but whether the refracted image of a vagina could be trusted to play the role of political symbol for a feminist movement that has largely denied itself the luxury of symbolism.

[...] After all, the pussyhat could be arraigned on charges of biological essentialism only if one had decided in advance that the only possible relationship to the vagina was having one. “Not all women have vaginas,” our defenders seemed to say, “but we do.” At worst, this line of thinking served as cover for the same old transphobic obsessions with our genitalia. Somehow, under the guise of inclusivity, cis women had given themselves the responsibility of reminding us of our dicks. At best, it assumed, with marvelous ignorance, that trans women simply wouldn’t be interested in a vaginal imaginary — as if our basic psychic integrity did not regularly rely, like everyone else’s, on identification with things we do not, in the hollowest sense of reality, possess.

I’m getting worked up. Whatever. The pussyhats were silly and cutesy and looked like your mom made them. [...] The real problem with the pussyhats was that they offered up, with the winsome naivete of the recently radicalized, the promise of a universal category of womanhood, which feminism has long made a cardinal virtue of forgoing. It would not be fantastic to suppose that those feminists who criticized the pussyhat most fiercely did so in part because they saw in its blithe adopters a younger, warmer version of themselves, still ugly-sweet on the romance of political consciousness, not yet having learned to be frugal with their hopes. Embarrassment is usually just pride, later.

damn, never thought i'd be so fascinated by an analysis of the women's march

—p.13 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago

The second objection — that not all women had vaginas — was trickier to address. In the first place, it had the distinct advantage of being true: not all women do have vaginas, nor do all vaginas have women. Then again, the pussyhat was not an artistic rendering of the female genitalia but a simple bit of costuming. Its most literal suggestion was not that the wearer was a woman but that the wearer was a cat. This ensured that the relationship between the hat and the sex organ was, whatever else it was, figurative: a verbal and visual pun that afforded demonstrators a sly bit of plausible deniability in matters of bourgeois decency. After all, it was not as if attendees were required to flash their gash before gaining entry to the Women’s March. The real question posed by the pussyhat was not whether women should be directly equated with an elastic muscle — a laughable notion, espoused by literally no one — but whether the refracted image of a vagina could be trusted to play the role of political symbol for a feminist movement that has largely denied itself the luxury of symbolism.

[...] After all, the pussyhat could be arraigned on charges of biological essentialism only if one had decided in advance that the only possible relationship to the vagina was having one. “Not all women have vaginas,” our defenders seemed to say, “but we do.” At worst, this line of thinking served as cover for the same old transphobic obsessions with our genitalia. Somehow, under the guise of inclusivity, cis women had given themselves the responsibility of reminding us of our dicks. At best, it assumed, with marvelous ignorance, that trans women simply wouldn’t be interested in a vaginal imaginary — as if our basic psychic integrity did not regularly rely, like everyone else’s, on identification with things we do not, in the hollowest sense of reality, possess.

I’m getting worked up. Whatever. The pussyhats were silly and cutesy and looked like your mom made them. [...] The real problem with the pussyhats was that they offered up, with the winsome naivete of the recently radicalized, the promise of a universal category of womanhood, which feminism has long made a cardinal virtue of forgoing. It would not be fantastic to suppose that those feminists who criticized the pussyhat most fiercely did so in part because they saw in its blithe adopters a younger, warmer version of themselves, still ugly-sweet on the romance of political consciousness, not yet having learned to be frugal with their hopes. Embarrassment is usually just pride, later.

damn, never thought i'd be so fascinated by an analysis of the women's march

—p.13 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago
15

FEMINISM NEVER succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself. This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women. The result is a kind of negative theology, dedicated to striking down the graven images of a god whose stated preference for remaining invisible has left the business of actually worshipping her somewhat up in the air.

Perhaps the simplest solution to this paradox has been to quietly shift the meaning of the word feminism. In popular culture and especially online, feminism has become the go-to signifier for what the legal scholar Janet Halley calls convergentism: the belief that justice projects with different constituencies have a moral duty to converge, like lines stretching toward a vanishing point. Once the name of a single plank in a hypothetical program of universal justice, feminism now refers, increasingly, to the whole platform — hence the so-called Unity Principles put forward on the Women’s March website, which include calls for migrant rights, a living wage, and clean air as well as the familiar demands for reproductive freedom and an end to sexual violence. “It ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional,” tweeted Ariana Grande in March 2019, echoing a viral 2011 blog post by the writer Flavia Dzodan. Dzodan’s original phrasing was “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”; popular variations now include the formula “If your feminism doesn’t include x, then it’s not feminism,” where x might be trans women, women of color, fat women, sex workers, nonbinary people, or any number of other groups. The idea is not that feminists, being desirous of justice, should also commit to antiracism, anti-imperialism, and all the rest; it’s that feminism by definition consists in the making of extrafeminist commitments, such that without them, it would not be feminism at all. This is weird. It is as if, having guiltily assimilated the impossibility of speaking on behalf of all women, feminism has resigned itself to the modest virtues of playing hostess for other, frankly more persuasive political discourses — most of whose constituencies are composed of women, of course, but never simply as women. In this arrangement, feminism describes not a concrete political project but the moral imperative to do politics in the first place.

articulating something i'd vaguely wondered about never really crystallised. awesome

also, the negative theology aspect reminds me of china mieville's essay on apophatic marxism

—p.15 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago

FEMINISM NEVER succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself. This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women. The result is a kind of negative theology, dedicated to striking down the graven images of a god whose stated preference for remaining invisible has left the business of actually worshipping her somewhat up in the air.

Perhaps the simplest solution to this paradox has been to quietly shift the meaning of the word feminism. In popular culture and especially online, feminism has become the go-to signifier for what the legal scholar Janet Halley calls convergentism: the belief that justice projects with different constituencies have a moral duty to converge, like lines stretching toward a vanishing point. Once the name of a single plank in a hypothetical program of universal justice, feminism now refers, increasingly, to the whole platform — hence the so-called Unity Principles put forward on the Women’s March website, which include calls for migrant rights, a living wage, and clean air as well as the familiar demands for reproductive freedom and an end to sexual violence. “It ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional,” tweeted Ariana Grande in March 2019, echoing a viral 2011 blog post by the writer Flavia Dzodan. Dzodan’s original phrasing was “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”; popular variations now include the formula “If your feminism doesn’t include x, then it’s not feminism,” where x might be trans women, women of color, fat women, sex workers, nonbinary people, or any number of other groups. The idea is not that feminists, being desirous of justice, should also commit to antiracism, anti-imperialism, and all the rest; it’s that feminism by definition consists in the making of extrafeminist commitments, such that without them, it would not be feminism at all. This is weird. It is as if, having guiltily assimilated the impossibility of speaking on behalf of all women, feminism has resigned itself to the modest virtues of playing hostess for other, frankly more persuasive political discourses — most of whose constituencies are composed of women, of course, but never simply as women. In this arrangement, feminism describes not a concrete political project but the moral imperative to do politics in the first place.

articulating something i'd vaguely wondered about never really crystallised. awesome

also, the negative theology aspect reminds me of china mieville's essay on apophatic marxism

—p.15 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago
15

That night, in bed at my apartment, I wept. I wailed, actually, the way mothers do in ancient manuscripts. My voice, which I have over several years trained myself to lift and smooth, grew raw; at a certain point, it broke, like a woman’s water, and something low and hoarse and full of legs crawled up my throat and out of my mouth. The truth was, I didn’t feel any more like a woman. I felt exactly the same. The pitiless beauty of the operation is that it’s all the same nerve endings, reclaimed like lumber from an old boat. This meant my vulva was alive, full of sensation, but it also meant that these sensations were the very ones I had gone under the knife to escape. The ship would always be Theseus’s, no matter how many parts I replaced. I guess I should have known this beforehand. I did, intellectually. You can stand on the beach and spy a sandbar across the water; if you swim, you can stand on the shoal and look back. Your location will have changed, but your position will be identical. You will always be Here, wherever Here happens to be. The tide goes in and out, but distance as such—that is the unswimmable. There, there is only drowning.

new tag on being trapped as oneself, unable to change despite wanting to?

—p.15 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago

That night, in bed at my apartment, I wept. I wailed, actually, the way mothers do in ancient manuscripts. My voice, which I have over several years trained myself to lift and smooth, grew raw; at a certain point, it broke, like a woman’s water, and something low and hoarse and full of legs crawled up my throat and out of my mouth. The truth was, I didn’t feel any more like a woman. I felt exactly the same. The pitiless beauty of the operation is that it’s all the same nerve endings, reclaimed like lumber from an old boat. This meant my vulva was alive, full of sensation, but it also meant that these sensations were the very ones I had gone under the knife to escape. The ship would always be Theseus’s, no matter how many parts I replaced. I guess I should have known this beforehand. I did, intellectually. You can stand on the beach and spy a sandbar across the water; if you swim, you can stand on the shoal and look back. Your location will have changed, but your position will be identical. You will always be Here, wherever Here happens to be. The tide goes in and out, but distance as such—that is the unswimmable. There, there is only drowning.

new tag on being trapped as oneself, unable to change despite wanting to?

—p.15 by Andrea Long Chu 9 months, 1 week ago