Saturday, March 24, 2007

Self and Other

To reject something, to ignore it, to elide it, to set it aside for more important matters is, at the same time, to include it, to be shaped by it, to be one with it. In the history of "philosophy" thus to be a rationalist is not to be an empiricist; to reject Kantianism, Hegelianism, Nietzsche, "postmodernism", analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, etc. is to dialogue with it. To reject is to affirm. And thus, rejecting is to give power, and to ignore is to still retain an attitude towards something that makes it a reality to be ignored. It is thus the same to be American. To be democrat is to affirm replublican, to reject both is to libertarian, to reject all of these is to green. To reject "politics" (known so constraintly), to be outside the din of the political scene, is to assert its power to influence oneself.

This insight founds my recent thinking about identity politics. However useful identity politics is for creating coalitions, resisting hegemonic forces, asserting a sense of self it remains terribly problematic in that no identification can encompass the complexity of what it means to live human. Identity, for all its liberative pretenses, shackles us. And yet, by this very same logic, to transcend identity (or identity politics) is to reaffirm it. We are simultaneously shackled and liberated by our own understanding. Even to deny this logic is to affirm the power of irrationality as an other that is always on the edge to be shielded against.

There are many dialectics that attempt to respond to this. Hegel attempts to rework this into a teleology of historical progress, the dialectic of oppositional forces--and this structure is still exceptionally effective at describing the workings of discourse. Nietzsche and Foucault, Wittgenstein and others have all attempted to work out how to transcend the oppositional forces of history. Buddhist logic of two truths works quite well at delineating a methodology for occilating between two binaries--the conventional and ultimate. "Beyond Good and Evil" as Nietzsche says.

But, my concern is to understand not just how we come to accept oppositional discourses, but how we can transcend them into something new, something untainted by the need to assert identity in opposition to an other. Indeed, this seems to be a regular theme in thought since Hegel (at least).

But, this pedantic meandering of thought seems to me to be of great import. How do we transcend identity--both that which we take up to understand ourselves and work in the world, and that which is given to us to prop us up or dominate us. How do we move beyond ourselves and all those ways we have come to know ourselves. Foucault seems to have been the closest at coming to some answer--it is only through understanding how we have produced ourselves that we can then see clearly that there are vast vistas of possibility, untouched frontiers that only need our imagination limits us from reaching. How do we go beyond ourselves?

How can Americans extract themselves from Republican/Democrat, Feminist/Anti-feminist, Gay/Anti-gay and all the other ways of knowing that limit them (and similarly everyone else)?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

interview meme

Direct from Thinking Girl is the interview meme. The point, which seems interesting to me, is to ask to be interviewed on someone else's 'interview meme' post on their blog and then answer on your blog and hopefully this will create a network of interviews and so forth. I like it. Because I'm a narcissist. So anyway, I axed Thinking Girl to interview me. And, even though she doesn't know me very well, she complied--what a kind soul (not that I believe in souls).

Now, one particular issue with all this is that I am increasingly becoming a big fan of pseudonimity (sp?) and am increasingly worried about lame students or potential employers finding me online and my wacky ideas and being jerks about it. What I do on my own blog time is my "binnis". But, I know, curiosity and all that. So, I made this blog... hopefully it will stick this way. I mean, it's a very small corner, so I'm not doing anything crazy like masking IPs and stuff... that's way too much work. Anyway, just to preface my interview answers...

Femanist - OK, here goes!
1. I don’t know anything much about you, so we’ll begin with some basics: How old are you? What do you do? I know where you live… where are you from? Are you single or in a relationship? You have a cat (who has a cute little moustache); what is its name?

Alright, basics are good. I is 30ish years old, and I am a teacher at a large Canadian University. I comes from the West of Canada, though I generally only miss the Rocky Mountains. My relationship status is interesting: I am living with my best friend, though we often call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend and we see other people. My cat's name is Sidney Poitier, and she is a she--and kinda dumb, but I'm sure that has more to do with her catness than her gender. Perhaps my expectations are too high.

2. Who would you rather see in the PM’s office (I assume you’re not a fan of Harper, since you’re a feminist!)? Why? What are your most important political issues?

Well, though I cannot stand Harper and his lame Canadian version of the neo-con agenda, it is hard to say who I'd rather have in office. I like teh Liberals in general (not Ignatieff) cause of their social issues, and love NDP politics more for the same reasons, though I am not into Jack Layton too much. The head of the Green party impresses me for her acumen and the political stances she takes. Probably Green is my favorite. My most important issues are social and environmental. I would rather we have less "economic wealth" as most indicators are highly biased towards the movement of capital, instead of indicators of wealth being based on quality of life. People first, money second.

3. Should we be in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

Hmm... complicated question. Should we be anywhere? Since North America and Europe are the centers of the economic and colonial stuctures that have caused most of the world-wide issues in unstable states, I think a case can be made to say either "enough already, get teh F-O-D" or "The least we can do is help out with this mess we've made". In terms of specifics, it depends on implimentation. Was it good to get the Taliban out? Yeah. Is our current effectiveness at re-constructing Afghanistan working? Not really. The problem with most of these ventures is that we have the ability to topple regimes, but we lack the forsight to fix what's left. If we had more concerted efforts and especially more focused global-resource management in implimentation, then I might be more for it. As it stands, my position is populist, with concern for the "people on the ground" and with class and gender issues being at the forefront. I only support what we are doing if it shows improvements to the everyday lives of everyday people. I am not sure if this is what is happening in Afghanistan. But, what would be the consequences if we left? How does this affect the populous? With these questions in mind I would interrogate the situation--though, admittedly, I know very little about Afghanistan and our (Canadian) place there.

4. As a man who is a feminist, what was your process like becoming a feminist? Do you find it difficult sometimes to not take things feminists say about “Men” personally? How can feminists get more feMANists to take up the cause?

My process of becoming a feminist was quite natural. I have always had a deep distrust of authoritarian structures and hierarchy. So, once I got to University and began studying feminism, Marx and so forth, I think I naturally just included it into my subjectivity. What really coalesced my understanding was how I brought all this together with Orientalism. I do not find any difficulty not taking things said about men personally. Stats prove it. Sure, I may be an exception, but it is quite clear that men in general and patriarchy structurally "needs fixing." To this end, I want to promote a Feminism that carefully analyzes the ways that Patriarchy also enables men (and women) in general to continue to take up structures of gendered oppression. I think it is important for feminists to think not just about a negative response to Patriarchy--that is, for example, that we cannot blame the victim and must but the onus on the oppressor (i.e. rape and the culture of rape). I also think we need a positive approach that can analyze and strategically counter Patriarchy. As such, I think men are way too overlooked. We need approaches that can reframe what it means to be a man so that men don't rape, men do something about their own privilage, and so forth. In this light, I think both men and women need to be vocal about 1) pointing out the problems with popular discourses about masculinity and 2) finding strategies to popularize new ways of being "masculine" or more importantly more ways of being a man that do not reproduce patriarchical structures. I think some people are doing such things, but it is hard to combat the feminist backlash and the Maxim hallowing out of masculinity.

5. Name one(or more, if you have them/want to) hidden talent you have that not too many people know about, or would be surprised to learn you possess.

Oh, that's hard. I have so few talents. Those who know me are often surprised at how well I can play basketball, or even that I play at all. But, hidden? Hmmm... since I brag so much about how good I am in bed, that is not hidden--hehe. Ok. Serious. I think a hidden talent I have is reading people. I often don't comment to people how much I pick up from them, but I think most would be surprised at how well I observe them. I think? This is hard... I am mostly an open book, so not much is "hidden". Perhaps I am operating with false consciousness though.

Thanks Thinking Girl, this was fun!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Canadian Feminism

Hello all. *Stands up* "My name is Femanist, and I am a feminist." So take that and shove it.

For a debriefing on what it means to be a feminist see below:

All your feminist questions answered

And for those of you, especially women, who say: "I am not a feminist" - 1) shame on you. and 2) read this:

Yes you are.

Finally, for those from the Great White North, like me, who like to get their read on, check la:

Feminism in Canada


Guess who finished their comp (rehensive exam)?


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The irony of state coersion

Most blogger's know that it was International Women's Day on the 9th. What most blogger's don't know is that the great country of Canada houses the same kind of problems as any other state. In this case police assaulted female demonstrators on this very day. See here. Montreal is very well-known for its police zeal, and Canada has had many problems with police brutality and overzealousness especially with protesters. In this case, the irony, if you haven't caught it by now, is that on International Women's day state representatives commited vioence against women. So, state-sponsored misogyny on a day to celebrate gender equality. Funny world we live in.

Update: I didn't read the article thoroughly last time, and I have a few comments. One thing that non-Montrealers may not know is that Jaggie Singh is a local demonstrator celebrity--kinda the best version of demo-whore you can think of--up on his politics, raising awareness etc. And the Montreal police obviously have it out for him and they are always singling him out. Miss Kitten thought it was funny that Jaggie is the focal point of an article on I Woman's Day and female protestors being assaulted. The ironies continue unabated. Also note, for those who care about relationships, that Dolores Chew, the author who wrote the article I linked to, is a well-known academic and social activist in Montreal.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Feelings of the Day

Grading undergraduate papers rots the brain.

Utopia High

Well, for this weekend's short blogging (cause I have a comprehensive exam next week and am studying up a storm) I wanted to mention a post by Berube who is now guest blogging at Pandagon. Bam. In this post he talks about prenatal testing etc. One of the things I noticed, however, was how much the commenters were discussing Down's Syndrom. My uncle has Downs, and is awesome, so I took special notice of MsKate's post, where she mentioned that there was a prom queen with down's. One google search later and I found this article which shows the very best of public education in a K-12 setting that seems to be increasingly Lord of the Flies and babysitting all in one. I give you Utopia High.

To summarize: Prom king is gay and Prom Queen has Down's. And they got that way, not in some lame ressentiment ala Carrie, but because their peers thought they were great people! Talking with Miss Kitten earlier about this led us to wonder about something like this being tokenism or contributing to it. Nonetheless, better that there is at least one shining example of our Brave New World than worry about it only being one example. Kudos to Murrieta Valley High School.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kal Penn's accent

Kal Penn is best known for his work as Kumar in Harold and Kumar. This show is stoner comedic gold on par with Supertroopers. He tried his hand with Rise of Taj, but holy cow can he not do an Indian accent. Seriously, mine is better. And that ain't saying much. So now he is in a movie by the director of Monsoon Wedding called The Namesake, which takes a look at diaspora issues. I don't know if I will see it, but all I know is that I hope for the film's sake--as much as I adore Kal Penn--they don't make him affect a South Asian accent. There is authenticity and there is artistic realism. Ya know?

Is the gay mecca of the North as gay friendly as we think?

There was an article in the cbc that brought to light a report about homophobia still being present in Quebec. It is kind of a no-brainer, because homophobia still exists everywhere. But, it is still telling that in "San-Francisco North" we have a current of homophobia. I know this because a close friend of mine was gay bashed near Berri-Uqam metro last year. Another gay friend is experiencing domestic problems because his roomates got a another roomate, a "muslim" who declared literally won't speak to him or touch him. Cause he's gay. It is sad that the ignorant can hide behind the smokescreen of their religion to justify their bigotry. Since the other roommates feel that my friend should be more understanding about this homophobe's beliefs, my friend is moving out. For the second time this year. What also gets me is that this bigot decided to move into a place with a gay person, in a gay neighborhood, in a gay city--and the heteros stood by him. So lame.

So yeah, homophobia is well and alive even in the most accepting places. Sad isn't it?

When Vagina is a bad word

An article in the NY Times (via Shake's Sister) is the latest in a kerfuffle down in the States about a group of high school students who in a production of the Vagina Monologues actually said Vagina and got reprimanded for it. Let me ask you this: what the hell else are they supposed to call it?

Feminists and Cats

Cause all the cool kids are doing it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Culture Critique - Contemporary American Zeitgeist

Since this will be my first content post, I figured I would list some of the influences of this post. Most of these are feminist blogs, and I will list my current, and subject to change, favorites (according to the criteria that they have the soundest theory I have found--that is, those that agree with mine--hah!):

Pam's House Blend
Women of Color Blog
Queer Dude
Bitch PhD

Many of these blogs deal with feminist and "progressive" (or whatever) issues and all are based in America. As a Canadian, I feel like I have a certain amount of distance from the fray, however much I sympathize with the issues being raised. I also feel like I can provide an interesting analysis about the cultural situation down there.

One of the things that these blogs have in common is their engagement with the many faces of "bigotry" and "conservativism" (their terms) that pervade the American public sphere. I have much sympathy for their arguements, though I only relate in lived experience in terms of how what goes on in America only somtimes affects me directly, but very often indirectly. So, I do have a small stake in this debate, because as we all know local issues are somehow also global issues--the details depend on the place and issue. Nonetheless, for all their differences, many cultural issues in America also play out in variously similar and different ways in Canada. So, on to my analysis.

The title of this post mentions the term Zeitgeist. As such, I want to comment on an element of American discourse to which I feel I can bring an interesting insight. One of the things I have noticed about self-identity in America is how it is becoming increasingly polarized. The stakes are high and people are digging in their heels. Now, for another confession, I am a Nietzschean (which is a reference to this book). And since I daily pick up a spot of Nietzsche for ingestion, my Nietzschean thought of the day inspired this post. There is a section from The Antichrist that I think is salient to contemporary American discourse. What I see as problematic about this polarizing discourse, aside from the devisive and hate-encouraging feelings it engenders, is how it embodies a fundamental weakness of spirit (which, I should note, I don't believe actually exists, but is like a chimera we can imagine to tell a story about the real--which, in a weird Baudrillardian way RIP is also like a chimera) . I will allow Nietzsche to elaborate for me (note: I have changed the gendered pronouns to make it more fun):

One should not be deceived: great spirits are skeptics. Zarathustra is a skeptic. Strength, freedom which is born of strength and overstrength of the spirit, proves itself by skepticism. Men of conviction are not worthy of the least consideration in fundamental questions of value and disvalue. Convictions are prisons. Such men do not look far enough, they do not look beneath themselves: but to be permitted to join in the discussion of value and disvalue, one must see five hundred convictions beneath oneself--behind oneself.

A spirit who wants great things, who also wants the means to them, is necessarily a skeptic. Freedom from all kinds of convictions, to be able to see freely, is part of strength. Great passion, the ground and the power of her existence, even more enlightened, even more despotic than she is herself, employs her whole intellect; it makes her unhesitating; it gives her courage even for unholy means; under certain circumstances it does not begrudge her convictions. Conviction as a means: many things are attained only by means of a conviction. Great passion uses and uses up convictions, it does not succumb to them--it knows itself sovereign.

Conversely: the need for faith, for some kind of unconditional Yes and No, this Carlylism, if one will forgive me this word, is a need born of weakness. The man of faith, the "believer" of every kind, is necessarily a dependent man--one who cannot posit himself as an end, one who cannot posit any end at all by himself. The "believer" does not belong to himself, he can only be a means, he must be used up, requires somebody to use him up. (The Antichrist, Para. 54)

While this passage hints at many things, and Nietzsche is explosively interpretable, it does point at a weak quality of character that seems to have entered much of American subjective experience. Many, conservative, liberal, or other, have much too much conviction and much to little skepticism. Passion should be built upon the pile of beaten, dead horses that are one's past convictions. Convictions should be used and used up for our passions. Passion? Conviction? What is the difference? Conviction is ideologically stagnant; it is an intellectual invalid. Passion is encouraged by conviction, but is only strongest when those convictions are in its service--and not the other way around. Passions allow the questioning, overturning, transcending, or transforming of convictions--that is, a healthy dose of skepticism allows us to be more authentic about our convictions. On the other hand, an unexamined conviction, especially one allowed to run amok, is weak. It is assuredly inauthentic by the very weakness that it cannot allow itself to be questioned (the weakness of fear, the fear of weakness), while passion, great passion, strong passion, authentic passion, can be exponentially more authentic because it is continually tested by routinely critically engaging its convictions.

As a hyperbole let us say that Americans (and slowly, increasingly, Canadians) are of these two types. Ask yourself this: Which am I? How can I prove that I am of this type?

Now, what is the your answer to that question?

My first post

This post is to say hello. Hello. Not for big speeches now, and because I want to fiddle with the blog settings, I will only say that I am starting this blog to give my own perspective on contemporary events. As the title and handle of this blog suggests, I am a male feminist. I hope to provide another voice and another set of experiences for the blogging community--of whoever cares for considerate, liberative discourse. A little about myself? I am a phd student, someone who likes to litter his speech with academic jargon and the latest slang from wherever I can find, a father, a lover of all things theory, someone whose intellectual leanings involve French, German, South Asian and East Asian traditions of thought, and whatever other identities you will impute to me anyway. Good Blogging and have fun out there!