Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Heo Explains it All - 1

There are a number of questions that have come up in response to my recent -- and not so recent -- posts. I will attempt to answer as many of those questions as I can in this post.

Recent Posts:

1) Are you interested in the literary or historical value to be found in texts?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: I consider literature part of a cultural conversation that also includes history, philosophy, language, science and art. I have yet to find a piece of literature that doesn't respond to its cultural surroundings while simultaneously trying to influence the direction the larger conversation will take in the future. What the work says, and how it goes about saying it can be interesting, but it is generally much more interesting if the surrounding conditions are taken into account.

2) Do you think the value of a literary work inheres in the author or his/her product?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Again, I see literature as part of a conversation. One group incessantly flapping their jowls at all the other groups makes for one hell of a boring conversation, even if the jowl-flapping is fairly melodious. The artificial divisions in culture over the years have assigned all people to certain 'spheres.' We have then decided that the ways in which those assigned to the top of this pyramid scheme expressed their thoughts and beliefs were superior to the expressions of those in lower strata. That's just silly.

3) Don't you think that assessing an author's value based on his or her gender is 'identity politics?'
Short answer: Yes, and I love that phrase.

For my longer answer, I will now provide you with the Sparknotes version of identity politics as it has played out in literature over the centuries:

Tradition: Anybody who is not one of "us" can't speak because they have nothing worthwhile to say!
Resistance: We do so have worthwhile stuff to say, and we've brought proof.
Tradition: (peruses proof) Well, you don't express yourself like we do, so nobody should worry about your stuff.
Resistance: Fine, then we'll say this stuff your way. (leaves to alter text, returns)Here! We've now adopted your silly rules in saying what we think. We've even quoted various authors you like to support our thoughts.
Tradition: (peruses altered texts, gets angry) It's wrong for you to pretend to be like your betters. Ergo, we will now legislate against your speech in the laws of religion and the state, and we'll at least shame you in public for speaking.
Resistance: We're going to use your authors and your logic to prove that you're a batch of nincompoops for trying that.
Tradition: That's subversion! We can kill you for that.
Resistance: There's no way you'd kill over something like that, you value reason too much.

(Massacres ensue, inconvenient knowledge is destroyed or hidden)

Tradition: Anybody who's not one of "us" can't speak because we have no evidence that they have ever said anything worthwhile!
Resistance: You know what? Bite me! You've been cooking the books, and we can prove it. We have strong evidence that people from our groups have had interesting, insightful, and important things to say all along, and we demand that their voices be heard.
Tradition: You know, assigning value to speech based on gender, color, or class is 'identity politics.' It's just bad policy to decide whether you'll study the speech of others based on their gender, color or class.
Resistance: You don't say? Unfortunately, we now have to attempt to repair as much of the damage you've done in DOING JUST THAT as is humanly possible.
Tradition: It's only 80% about us! We feel wronged, cheated, oppressed!
Resistance: I'm sure you do, but it's not all about you anymore.

Not-so-recent posts:

Question: Why are you mean to anti-feminists? Answer: They totally started it.

Question: If you want to be equal to men, why don't you just go out and do the work necessary to be equal to men? Answer: First of all, which men are you talking about? For me to be equal to some men, I'd have to shrink an inch, give back a couple of degrees, and erase the memory of several hundred books I've read. That's a lot of work, and I have no intention of doing it. If we're talking about men I'd like to share equal status with, I am doing that work.

Question: Don't you think it's unfair and self-defeating to blame an amorphous patriarchy for oppression? Answer: When oppression is systematized, I think it's very reasonable to blame the system for that oppression. I don't think it's self-defeating in any way to notice that a system of oppression exists, and fight to end it.

Question: Don't you think feminism deepens the divide between men and women? Answer: Nope. Unless, of course, we're talking about men who can only feel manly if the women around them pretend to be morons. I don't mind being divided from those guys, they suck!