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lrperry's picture

At every turn...

At every turn in Martin and Mohanty’s article I was reminded of an incident in a course of mine last semester. It happened during a discussion of an essay by bell hooks, where we were talking about the ways in which what we called “the feminist movement” (a term that these past few readings have called into question… is there really ONE movement? I don’t think so) had strategically oppressed minorities in order to operate effectively politically (or perhaps just because the majority of the women in the movement did not resist this marginalization) – black women marching in the back of “first-wave” feminist parades, etc. A girl in my class raised her hand, and commented in a lighthearted yet serious tone – “well, you know, sometimes it’s just too much to keep in mind!” This statement of hers has stayed with me, and I think her phrasing so eloquently illustrates the problem which Pratt, Martin, and Mohanty are trying to articulate… “what passes itself off as simply human, as universal, as unconstrained by identity, namely, the position of the white middle class” (203). When this student said that “sometimes it’s just too much to keep in mind”, she spoke out of the position of the white middle class, in a language which defines other races, sexualities, and classes as additions or afterthoughts. Indeed, it defines these “others” as politically messy territory, and differences which may challenge the fabric of “feminism”.


Mohanty and Martin suggest that a better way to be politically effective than marginalization is a politics of intimacy, where connections are “made at levels other than abstract political interests” (205). I think Takagi is getting at something similar when she asks about the moment of difference meeting difference, “queer meets Asian”, and how to “engage in dialogue” (30). Takagi says that marginalization is not enough in common. The fact that both of you are oppressed is not enough to guarantee effective dialogue. It seems like intimacy might be what is necessary. Intimacy could be what creates a dialogue that isn’t based on categories, on people as objects, but on people as subjects, who are always something more than their given/taken categories.


She describes her fear of coming out as a lesbian, and thus becoming lost in people’s ideas of the category of lesbian… becoming fit into the general stereotype by virtue of sharing personal information. I think there is one way in which labels serve as conversation stoppers (like heterflexible did for Anne in her meeting), but they can also serve as a moment of intimacy, and as a conversation generator… as long as we remember Judith Butler’s caveat that she is willing to “appear” as a lesbian, as long as it always remains “unclear” what that even means…


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