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Naming the Silence

Notes towards Day 13 of
Critical Feminist Studies

Naming the Silence:
Moving from Susan Stryker to Sor Juana

"...que se etienda que el callar no es no haber que decir,
sino no caber en las voces lo mucho que hay que decir/

One must name the silence, so that what it signifies may be understood."

I. some coursekeeping
--today @ 4 in Dorthy Vernon Room, Haffner: Susana Silverman on Bilingual Memorie
--tomorrow @ 12:15, also in Dorothy Vernon: Raka Ray on the (Missing?) Feminist Revolution
--paper responses to return/on-line (some of you didn't tag "WebPaper2," please do!!)
--next (6pp.) step/draft due before Thanksgiving, happy to talk further, individually
--revised syllabus on-line; books in Bookshop & on reserve; on-line texts @ ~adalke/femstudies
--@ Steph's prodding, some further fiddlings/contemporary theorizings/
--reading something NEW (i.e. written since she started to read....!)
--for Thursday: de Beauvoir's introduction & conclusion (plus --for Steph--
Sherry Ortner, Christine Delphy: in folder outside my office)
--for next Tuesday, watching Paris is Burning? (HOW??)
--sign-up on Thursday for $20 tickets (for $43 show) for Age of Arousal
at the Wilma, Th, Dec. 13 (bring friends? get funding?)

II. any relevant stories from break?

Reporting on my own visit to the
Susan B. Anthony Memorial Unrest Home:
a dance of welcome and exclusion....

III. An appropriate "framing" for today's discussion,
from your reports on "what needs working on" here:

--I still think we need to find a way to beter integrate the conversants...I also find our dance around political issues frustrating. Let's take them on and not be afraid to challenge each other. I don't know how to make the class a safer space, a space where all can feel comfortable speaking.

--sometimes there is a really hostile/competitive undertone

--I wish for more class interaction, more debate....I want a chance to respond!

--we need to try harder to strike a balance and give everyone the opportunity to speak

--people are sometimes to busy defending their own points to really listen to what others are saying

--a failure to actually listen to each other and an intolerance...a tendency to attempt to hold on to one's point of view...the lack of listening

--I think the class has a ways to go before we can all still address each other in a community conversation.

Shall we work together on some guidelines/"rules of engagement"?

What enables community and conversation?

Can Susan Stryker or Sor Juana help us here?

IV. from Sor Juana's 1690 "Respuesta/Response"

"que se etienda que el callar no es no haber que decir, sino no caber en las voces lo mucho que hay que decir/ One must name the silence, so that what it signifies may be understood." (43)

"si no es interviniendo vuestros prespectos, lo que es por mi defensa nunca tomare la pluma/Unless your instructions intervene, I shall never in my own defense take up the pen again" (97).

"'y que no es solo para ellas taceant,' si no para todos los que no fueren muy aptos/'Let [them] keep silence' was meant not only for women, but for all those who are not very competent" (83).


my impatience w/ your silences: name them--and their sources?

llauher: Stryker's texts and presence in class were really awe-inspiring.

Linda Kauffman warned us about: personal testimony as conversation stopper....

Were we expecting SS to make herself known without putting our selves @ risk?

Were we handing authority over to SS? Handing speech over to SS? Handing sight over to SS?

Is silence a space for processing sight? Were you choosing silence in order to see?

What did you see?

YJ: All during class I felt pretty guilty, especially after she began talking about everyone's need to gender (or misgender) her because I too felt the urge to box her into some "knowable" category. It made me feel terrible to realize just how tied I am to these social constructs, this gender binary. As much as I would like to consider myself this liberal feminist, I still can't seem to ever step away from those social norms pertaining to gender and sexuality, not even for a moment. Since Stryker is actually the first transgendered person I've ever met, it was the first time I think I really felt how powerful I've been socialized to perceive others in a certain way.

llauher: There are (at least) two members of this course who also identify as transgender. :)

VI. What are the "marks of gender" (Susan Stryker's phrase) that each of us looks for, that each of us "reads," as we encounter one another? How do we recognize gender? What clues are we given to read against our expectations, and how attentive are we to those markers? How important is it, that we attend to one another in this way?

Let's talk about revising the script "written on the body..."

How often has each of us been misgendered?
To what degree is each of us transgender?
To what degree is each of us gender queer?
To what degree is each of us other? monstrous? hybridized?

VII. How Stryker, Sor Juana and Anzaldua answer these questions:

"The transsexual body is an unnatural body. It is the product of medical science. It is a technological construction. It is flesh torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born. In these circumstances, I find a deep affinity between myself as a transsexual woman and the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Like the monster, I am too often perceived as less than fully human due to the means of my embodiment; like the monster's as well, my exclusion from human community fuels a deep and abiding rage in me that I, like the monster, direct against the conditions in which I must struggle to exist. " (Susan Stryker, "My Words to Victor Frankenstein")

¡Qué dieran los saltimbancos
a poder, por agarrame
y llevarme, como Monstruo,
por esos andurrïales

de Italia y Francia, que son
amigas de novedades
y que pagaran por ver
la Cabeza del Gigante,

deciendo: Quien ver el Fénix
quisiere, dos cuartos pague,
que lo muestra Maese Pedro
en la posada de Jaques!

¡Aquesto no! No os veréis
en ese Fénix, bergantes;
que por eso está encerrado
debajo de treinta llaves.

Y supuesto, Caballero,
que a costa de mil afanes,
en la Invencion de la Cruz,
vos la del Fénix hallasteis,

por modo de privilegio
de inventor, quiero que nadie
pueda, sin vuestra licencia,
a otra cosa compararme.

What would the mountebanks not give
to seize me and display me,
taking me round like a Monster, through
byroads and lonely places.

in Italy and France, which are
so fond of novelties,
where the people pay to see
the Giant's head; and crying:

"If the Phoenix you would view,
step up and pay two farthings,
for the Mighty Pedro's showing the bird
here in Monsieur Jacques' tavern!"

Not that! Your fortune you'll not find
with that Phoenix, you merchants:
for this is why it is confined
behind thirty locks, in the convent.

And as we may suppose, good Sir,
that by trial and tribulation
on the Invention of the True Cross
you found this Phoenix-invention:

by way of the privilege that is shown
any esteemed inventor,
I want no one to compare me to anything else
without your express permission.

--Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, (Selection from
"Romance Epistolar/Epistolary Ballad"),
on refusing to be made "extraordinary" and "other"
I want to speak of the nos/otras concept. It used to be that there was a "them" and an "us." We were over here; we were the "other" with other lives and the "nos" was the subject....There was a very clear distinction. But as the decades have gone by, we...have been reared in this frame of reference, in this field....We're complicitous because we're in such close proximity and intimacy with the other. Now 'us' and "them' are interchangeable. Now there's not such thing as an 'other.' The other is in you, the other is in me....We all of us find ourselves in the position of being simultaneously insider/outsider....We're becoming a geography of hybrid selves...(Gloria Anzaldua. Interviews/Entrevistas. Ed. Ana Louise Keating, 2000)
VII. What's silence got to do with any of this?


(Sor Juana, again): "'Let [them] keep silence' was meant
not only for women, but for all those who are not very competent.'"

Why was Sor Juana silenced?

"I have been persectued...because of my love for learning and letters" (71).

"I brought myself with me, and brought my greatest enemy in my inclination to study" (51).

"Nothing could I see without reflecting upon it, nothing could I hear without pondering it, even to the most minute, material things" (73).

"...not even my sleep has been free of this ceaseless movement of my imagination. Rather, my mind operates in sleep still more freely and unobstructedly, ordering with greater clarity and ease the events it has preserved from the day" (77).

IX. Not only a compulsive early interdisciplinarian!

"...these subjects help one another, shedding light and opening a path from one to the next, by way of divergences and hidden links--for they were set in place so as to form this universal chain by the wisdom of their great Author" (57).

Fractal Art: a vibrant interdisciplinary area