A couple days ago I was mindlessly killing some time and unboredifying myself by clicking the random button at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. After awhile of this, a certain comic pulled up. The caption read “Who says money can’t buy happiness?” and, in the panel, an enthusiastic, smiling man was handing a syringe over to another man, raising his fists in joy, while saying “here’s your heroin!”.
Jul 17 2012
One of the most lovely aspects of the internet, one of those that has most consistently lived up to the somewhat utopian visions the medium’s emergence promised, has been its capacity to offer a highly democratic, highly populist form of media, information exchange, communication and community.
In a recent “tranchat” (a twitter-based discussion that occurs each Sunday), the topic came up of the tension in feminism between theory or academia, and “real life” issues, everyday praxis, the street level experiences that feminism suggests the capacity to speak to, of, about. It occurred to me, though, that this tension seems much less prevalent and noticeable concerning trans-feminism. Trans-feminism has, thus far, not been a product of academia, nor is it even really practiced there… at least not in any form even remotely resembling the trans-feminism which I’m involved in and accustomed to. Trans voices are not exactly welcomed and embraced within academia, and the experiences of trans people in that milieu, students and faculty alike, are markedly different than those expressing or embodying other queer identities (totes not in a good way, either). Rather than us being the speakers in academia, we are the objects of study. Rather than theorists, we’re something the theorists struggle to explain.
Like other activist movements built from minorities (or ideological minorities) that had previously been scattered, isolated from one another in circumstantial diaspora, with very little access to information, community, publication, media, connection or infrastructure with which to organize, trans-feminism has been overwhelmingly a product of the internet. The internet in general has had an immense influence on trans people and our capacity to even exist, turning what had once been something often impossibly remote and difficult to understand, with intense limitations on who could or could not access the resources to make into a reality, into something that is far far more of a genuine, tangible possibility for those who need it. But beyond simply making our lives so much more livable, and our needs so much more attainable, and our identities and experiences so much more comprehensible, it is has also given us the capacity to find one another, communicate, and organize.
This was the spirit and media in which trans-feminism was born… isolated individuals who had been intensely marginalized from the dominant media and narratives reaching out to one another through the means that were available. It has not been something handed down from “community leaders” to “the people”, but instead something that emerged collectively. In this sense, it feels like those theory / praxis, academia / “real life” tensions aren’t as important for us. Or at least, that we have the opportunity to avoid them becoming important or meaningful. If we do this right, those tensions shouldn’t have to exist, shouldn’t have to feel at all relevant or worth talking about. If we do this right, we will always be a discourse that emerged from and between the people it speaks of, not ever having to position academics, theorists, experts or leaders to speak on our behalf. It’s a pretty awesome thing.
Jul 16 2012
Language has for a long time been one of my big passionate interests. In addition to simply feeling an intuitive draw to it, intellectually, it also strikes me as one of, if not the, most distinct feature of human beings. It and semiotic systems in general, anyway. Lots of animals can use tools, but only human beings can pass that knowledge and innovation along, and build upon it across generations, such that we don’t need to quite literally reinvent the wheel every time we wish to roll something. Lots of animals have societies, but only human beings can record and share those social structures, adapt them into and through signs and messages and rituals and myths, build them into a culture.
Language and semiotics are, perhaps, what makes us human.
I’m drawn to it, to learning about it, to thinking about it. I love its hidden structures. I love its relativity. How much it means despite being so arbitrary and nonsensical in what is “really” there (squiggles and tongues and teeth and pixels and paper). I love its fluidity. I love its breadth. I love how it is both social and yet intrinsic, both structured and emergent, both arbitrary and indispensable, both mutable and inevitable. And in all those contradictions and paradoxes of language, I never really feel lost. It always ultimately makes sense to me. The contradictions always balance out.
Jun 26 2012
Let’s say you’ve got yourself a little diner in the States.
You want to offer pie to your customers, but you’re running a low budget operation, so you can only offer one particular type of pie. To figure out what kind of pie you should sell, you ask some of your regular customers what their favourite pie is, but you get a whole bunch of different answers: pumpkin, key lime, pecan, lemon meringue, tart cherry served heated up with a scoop of vanilla icecream on the side, etc.
That leaves you without much to go on, so instead you ask these same customers to fill out a little survey ranking ten different pies in descending order of preference. You find, looking at the data, that although no one actually picked it as their favourite, apple pie ends up being the one that averages out to being the least objectionable and most consistently “okay” with people. So you decide to serve apple pie, and thanks to your maths and research, it ends up selling better than any other pie you may have chosen instead… even though it isn’t any of your regular’s actual favourite.
Jun 20 2012
Jun 17 2012
Just a little bit longer…
Hang on, Natalie. Imagine how much sweeter your terrible, cheap, back-pain-inducing mattress will feel if you make it.
And then sleep ’til Monday. Wake up and then PARTY FOREVER BECAUSE EVERYTHING WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD FROM THAT POINT ON WITH NOTHING BAD EVER AGAIN.
I think I might be just about all used up in terms of things to talk about, or things I’m actually capable of talking about in my present state.
I wish there was some kind of grand, awesome, sweeping, thematically-unifying thing I could think of to write here, to somehow tie it all together, but I’m sorry, I just don’t have that. I barely even remember what exactly I’ve written about.