Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012

How you think is almost as important as what you think. When I write poetry, I warm up by reading . . . Plato. It reminds me of my brother-in-law, Morris. Morris is an engineer. And he loves to work on cars. But he hates to get his hands dirty (he takes three showers a day, every day).
He solves this dilemma as follows: when he goes into his garage to work on a car engine, first thing he does is dunk his hands. up to the elbows, in a bucket of crankcase oil.  Now Morris is ready to work on cars! Plato is my crankcase oil for poetry.
     For prose, for the journals especially (for I wrote a novel along with the ten journals in 2012), I read the most dense, scholarly essay I can find. I read it and think about it, usually tear it apart in my mind. That's how I warm up for the journals.
     This morning I'm reading an essay by a psychologist. A feminist psychologist. So here's what I think about psychologists and about feminist psychologists.
     When the few women who were psychologists found Woman's Liberation exploding around their ears in the 1960s, they saw a great chance to advance in their profession. They began to develope a feminist psychology. But it was the same problem as happened in feminist art and feminist everything. The landlords were all men.  The heads of departments were all men, all the Deans, all the Chancellors, all the grant-givers, all the tenure-givers, all the donors whose names adorned the library and the Psychology Building, all the psychologists, all men! All men. All the editors of all the psych journals.
     So, little by little the feminist psychologists became claiming their piece of the pie.
     It's like Ed Whitfield said one day in our Tuesday morning "Democracy Char" that F4DC began years ago. Ed told us, "They say if they give you a fish, you eat for a day. But if they teach you how to fish–or rather, if you go into debt in college and learn how to fish–you'll eat forever. What they don't tell you is they own all the fishing holes."
     And another thing. Lucy Lippard, the first and best feminist art critic, says "We wanted a piece of the pie. But the pie was poisonous." Because women artists ran into the same problem women psychologists were running into. The Museums and the Art Galleries were all run by men, or by women playing by the men's rules. So the artists and psychologists and the fisherwomen, too, I guess, began slowly pecking away at the pecking order. Entering into the patriarchal hierarchy.
     And they were successful, at least the over-educated white women were. But it was still a hierarchy. Only they were in the middle of the muddle, not at the butt-end anymore.
     The rules stayed the same. That was the problem as the '60s and 70's became the '80s and '90s. Women psychologists thought they would be the ones to redefine gender in feminist terms. But every time they tried to bring politics or society or values or history into the equation, they got flummoxed and stymied. The male rules of Academia allowed no mention of Native American Indian genocide nor no Native Americans, no mention of Slavery nor African Americans. So the women, to get ahead, played the game within the confines of the Academic/Military/Industrial/Captalist Complex.J. G. Morawski concludes, for example:

The study of gender remains embedded in conventional interpretive frameworks that view human action as corresponding to some stable, identifiable, and internal state thqt is to some extent unalterable by some of the same dilemmas that feminists faced earlier in the century . . .
     Thus is explained the entire intellectual history of Feminism in our time. It began creatively and dynamically. Then it began to be institutionalized, as everything is in Capitalism, for gain. As ideas become institutionaized they lose their elasticity and become moribund, as did feminist activism. Of course, no one blames themselves; everyone justifies. So when feminism became too hard to sustain and activists got tired out, they said it’s the backlash, we’d still be commited to social justice but for the big bad backlash. Academia is especially good, shallow ground for the grounding of high fliers. Moreover, the roosters still ruled the roost, although the hens were getting a few bucks and caps and gowns now for laying eggs. What was needed in Art as in Psychology, in the Sciences as in the workplace, was a feminist politics, a feminist value system, a feminist society, the inclusion of people of color, immigrants, and different sexual preferences. Gender and Sex itself had to be newly defined and deconstructed. The fishing holes had to be occupied

As you know, two blogs ago I began selecting new entries from my ten journals to include in my blogs, hoefully with lots of illustrations. What I'm most interested in the past couple of days is Sex & Gender (excerpts from my Sex Journal). There's a collection in the bookshop called Sex & Gender, a couple of dozen essays, neither terribly interesting or terribly boring--but provocative. That's what I've been riffing off these first three blogs (December 8-9-10). But now, I've got a treat for you, although it will take some tough love and tough mindfulness. bell hooks. A book came in today, by bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990). I'm reading the chapter entitled, "Reflections on Race and Sex," pages 57--64.
     But, first, I have a story for you, first published in my "Bookshop Journal." Kind of about bell hooks. Really about Chelsea, but every time Chelsea came into the bookshop, she bought a book by bell hooks.
     One day she came in with her father. It was a Sunday and only a few hours before, ol' Chels had graduated from . . . Guilford College! (I've never met a Guilford College student, and I've met dozens and dozens, that didn't love Guilford.) Yep, the Graduation Ceremony had just taken place, and Chelsea was feelin' good! Her Dad is a rich doctor from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Costs a pretty penny to go to good old Guilford.
     They browsed through the books, there's some 5,000 in the store, hundreds of strong feminist Women and Gender Studies for Chelsea to pour through. Not so many 50-cent novels for the Dad. But he found something, came up to the cash register to pay, grabbed Chelsea's book out of her hands, and triumphantly handed them to me as if to say, "I'll -- take -- care -- of -- all -- this!"
Big smile, full wallet.
     That'll be 50 cents for your book, sir," I said, "and $35 for the bell hooks."
     "What!!!" The doctor began thumbing through the rather slender bell hook collection of essays, as if to discover why it was so expensive. He read the Table of Contents.
     "It's only a paperback!" he complained.
     "Yes, but published by Routledge in London. They're the most expensive Woman and Gender publisher in the world." 
     Dr. Man siddled up to his daughter. Remember, now, she had just graduated from college that morning. She was standing there like a statue, as if she wasn't even in the room. He whispered to her, so I wouldn't hear, "You''ll pay half?" Chelsea nodded her head, looking straight ahead.
     All smiles again! Doctor Dad back to the register. Here comes  the black wallet. Paid for everything. Last of the Big Spenders. And they left. As she walked out the door, Chelsea finally came to life. Looking sharply at me, she hissed, "It's bell hooks on sex, Al!" she said.
So here comes bell hooks.

She begins by saying that the bodies of Black women were the "playing fields" where racism and sexuality converged. "Rape as both rite and right." Rape, too, was what the White Man from America and Europe were doing to Africa and the "colonial" world.
     As for gender, providing a metaphor for colonization. Domination. Served to remind the oppressed who they were, and they couldn't do anything about it! "Fucked and fucked over by the dominating victorious male group."
     bell hooks says there is no adequate history of what the white man did to black women, no "psychosexual" history. Sexual voyeurism. Even if a white man got romantically involved with his black slave, he was simply declared insane. Couldn't upset the dominant paradigm of oppression. Instead of a true story, she explains, the white man invented a lie, that black men were after their pure white women, to violate those bodies. Revenge the motive.The sexual metaphors have been accepted, she feels, political domination equated with sexual domination. She reminds us of Eldridge Cleaver claiming that raping black women he did was merely practice for the eventual raping white women (Soul on Ice), "to redeem my conquered manhood."
     Sexual exploitation of black women was used by slave-owning whites to dominate and humiliate white women, phallocentric dominance within the family. Freedom = manhood for both black and white men. Men bond across class, race, and nationality, using rape. Does male commitment to maintaining patriarchy erase difference?
     Racism and sexism are interlocking systems of domination,
upholding, sustaining one another.

     bell hooks can't see any separation between racism and sexism. But she fears white women see spending time on racism as taking time from sexism. Yet they are interlocked! Yet this separation supports the belief that black males wish to use sexuality to assert
dominance and manhood. Not good.
     ""The stereotype that all black men are rapists is re-inscribed and reinforced." Yet statistically, men rape women of the same color as themselves. Black male lust--white woman sexuality . . . popular in music videos. The real issue is white supremacy as genocide. The media motive for perpetuating the lies is political of course. Black women are not listened to when theuy condemn black male sexism; instead, they are seen as "bashing" black males. Raciscm and sexism are interlocking forms of dominance. The whole society is racist/sexist. All women's bodies are devalued, but black bodies hold less value than white. She sees why young, black men are nihilistic and despairing. Not valuing their own lives, how can they value the lives of others? Black people, particularly black men, are just scapegoats.
     We must engage in anti-racist, anti-sexist work.  New identities have to be built. Malesness is not Black Liberation. There is a collective plight. There is no degree of difference in a black man harming a black woman or a black man harming a white woman.. It is the same harm, it is not racism.
     bell hooks is a critic of quick judgements on black authors by white women in the women and gender field. She feels there is a superficial judgement being enacted in the name of boycotting misogyny and sexism; she devlopes this theme in another essay,  "Feminism and Black Masculinity," but we will say s'long to bell hooks for today, and move on..


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