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lrperry's picture

Cal's Personal as Political

“Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. […] I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. I can’t just sit back and watch from a distance anymore. […] Already the world feels heavier, now I’m a part of it” (217).


Cal’s engagement with the language in the first quotation expresses an explicitly political, explicitly feminist, stance toward language and toward expanding the definitions of traditional words. He connects his own lack of words, the deficiency of the English language to express his experiences, with the pre-supposed notion that it is a “patriarchal” language. In the same paragraph, he also describes how this lack of words means he must become more engaged in creating his own story. This sounds like a political move to me – the realization that the world as it is right now is not enough for you, does not include you, or does not allow you to fully tell your own story, and then to become more engaged. His description of himself as “part” of the world after he becomes more involved in telling his own story is exactly how I think feminist political activism works on the level of literature. To tell your own story in a way that works against or avoids the patriarchal structure (of language or of society) is a way to interact with the world, to change the world, through literature.


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