Saturday, January 20, 2007

For background:

Heart's accusation that Little Light has appropriated the cultural property of radical feminism in her poem, the seam of skin and scales. Heart has posted Robin Morgan's in total at her site, but she might have to edit it since it is a violation of copywright.

I just posted this at Heart's place. I realize I made a lot of statements without explanation and I'll make an attempt to add those here, since I don't want to clutter Heart's blog with words that disagree with her.

Here's a part of my post #165 at Heart's:

Heart wrote: “What we are supposed to do, as females, is — still, in 2007 — be quiet about what pertains specifically to us as females, about what we believe violates us. I can frame my resistance to appropriation as carefully as possible– doesn’t matter. ”

For the record, I disagree with your original post because:

1. I disagree that Robin Morgan was the first to make the comparison between monsters and feminism. Shelley, Perkins Gilman and Angela Carter are all part of the same tradition. I believe Morgan recognizes and acknowledges that in her other writing.

2. I disagree that Little Light’s poem uses the monster metaphor in the same way Morgan did..

3. I disagree that Robin Morgan’s words are the property of a certain kind of feminism. While Morgan is a radical feminist, she and her writings are accepted and celebrated by all kinds of feminists. I think that’s a wonderful.

4. I disagree that feminist writers benefit from owning certain words, metaphors, etc.

5. I disagree that Little Light’s goal on her blog or in her poem was to colonize women.

I have not asked you to shutup. In fact, I’ve asked you to speak more and to clarify so I can understand your point of view. Disagreement with you on this issue does not spell hatred of women. I have read comments from many people in many places that disagree with you without “going over” to the side of your enemies. And I think it’s sad that you do not see us and do not support us.

OK. More to come. I need to look at the threads more closely and do that thing I was afraid I might: compare the two poems like the English major I used to be before I dropped out of college and joined the working class -- one of the best decisions of my life because I absolutely hated college and I pretty much love my craft.

10:42 pm -- Edited to add a comparison of the two poems

Comparing the poems:

Morgan speaks from a place of sheer exhaustion:

"Listen. I’m really slowly dying
inside myself tonight….

"Well, I am dying, suffocating from this hopelessness tonight,
from this dead weight of struggling….

"Do you understand? Dying. Going crazy.
Really. No poetic metaphor….

"Oh mother, I am tired and sick."

Morgan desperately wants to be in another place, but sees that reality as a far-off dream:

"I want a woman’s revolution like a lover.
I lust for it, I want so much this freedom,
this end to struggle and fear and lies
we all exhale, that I could die just
with the passionate uttering of that desire….

"Just once in this my only lifetime to dance
all alone and bare on a high cliff under cypress trees
with no fear of where I place my feet…."

"Sweet revolution,…"

Morgan believes the only way overcome her exhaustion and reach her desire is through pain:

"…to admit suffering is to begin
the creation of freedom….

"You’ve already taken me away from myself
with my only road back to go forward
into more madness, monsters, cobwebs, nausea…

"May my hives bloom bravely until my flesh is aflame
and burns through the cobwebs.
May we go mad together, my sisters …."

Little Light’s poem, on the other hand, rejoices in her struggle, in her refusal to give in to the pain:

There are a million and one ways out of this body, and I have clung to it, tooth and claw, despite an endless line of people and institutions who would rather I vacate the premises, and have sometimes been willing to make me bleed to convince me they're right…

"I have looked leaving my body in the eye and I have said, in the end, hell no….

"I will cling fast to this life no matter how far you drive me, how deep, with how many torches and pitchforks, biting back the whole way down. I will not give you my suicide. I will not give you my surrender…."

Little Light hangs on because the way forward is not pain, but solidarity:

"There is too much to do, too much to love, too many who need one more of us to say hell no and help them say the same…

"…because this is a monster's creed. It is for the cobbled-together, the sewn-up, the grafted-on. It is for the golden, the under-the-earth, the foreign, the travels-by-night; the filthy ship-sinking cave-dwelling bone-cracking gorgeousness that says hell no, I am not tidy. I am not easy. I am not what you suppose me to be…

"This is for the Gorgons and the vampires and the chimaeras, for Cybele and Baba Yaga, Hel and Ashtoreth, for Lamia and Scylla, for Kali and Kapo 'ula-kina'u. This is for all of them with teeth…."

"My monstrousness is not a place of shame. It is a strength…."

Little Light’s desire is not the dream Morgan lusts for, it is a reality she can create and demands to have acknowledged right here and right now:

" It is time. It is time to say that we are beautiful in our fierceness, and that we are our own. We are not the rejected of what we can never be. We are what we were meant to be. We are not pieces of wholes thrown together incorrectly. We are not mistakes….

"I am throwing my head back, here, and saying it: no more being afraid. Hell no.

"I am choosing to stay here, and it is mine to choose. And if that means changing shape, if that means putting together the unexpected, that is any monster's ancient right."

Therefore I see Morgan's poem as an expression of despair, pain and a stoic determination to go forward knowing the dream is a long way away.

I see Little Light as refusing to acknowledge the pain, to chose love and solidarity and to rejoice in our differences.

These are two very different viewpoints of life as we live it now and of what the future holds for all of us.


belledame222 said...

Yep. Smart analysis. I think that's exactly right. And y'know, so then Heart goes, and it's as true now as it was back then...

which makes me think, well, shit, that's not very good then, is it? I mean: you keep longing nostalgically for this golden era of radical feminism, but at the same time yer saying it's not gotten any better since then; if anything, worse. Does that not suggest that perhaps one might want to reconsider one's tactics? and/or philosophy? I mean, thirty-six years is a long time, in human terms, y'know...

and yes, while they're both expressions of defiance, LL's is much more of an affirmation, expansive, even. Morgan (and this is reflected in her essays as well i would say) is more about a clamping-down, a narrowing, boundaries up and up and up.

which, sometimes i think that's necessary on an individual level; but, as a widespread political movement, it ain't that hot. i don't think.

also, as long as we're in lit-analsyis mode, this?

>"I want a womanÕs revolution like a lover.
I lust for it, I want so much this freedom,>, well, kinda flat. "Show, don't tell."

which applies in several ways here, really.

belledame222 said...

although i might quibble; i think it's not so much that LL refuses to acknowledge the pain as that she refuses to let it bring her down, or to define her.

...which, the latter part if not the former, i would say is another key distinction between her and Morgan/heart. i mean, i think that worldview is -overwhelmingly- based on solidarity through suffering. which, yeah, it's there, it needs to be said; but sooner or later, y'know, isn't there anything -else?- Celebration? I mean, yah: there's MichFest. I sure hope they enjoy it. I mean, I hope it's really worth all that sturm und drang, you know...

belledame222 said...

and frankly, that "may we go mad together, my sisters?" That is an invitation I cordially decline. Especially after having witnessed all that mess just now and over the last while; which i would say is in fact exactly what's been happening.

"I want you to hurt like I hurt" is a way of connecting, but it's not exactly the -healthiest- one, yeah?

belledame222 said...

lines just remembered from a quirky little horror flick called "Ginger Snaps," about two outcast sisters, high school age, one of whom (ginger) gets bitten by a werewolf and slowly morphs into the wolf--there's a lot of stuff about sexual awakening of course, menses, and then it gets way darker. it's also, i think, good in the way it explores the darker side of sisterhood--even before the biting they have a very close, but possibly not the healthiest, relationship--very insular, very kind of Dylan and Kliebold-ish, and Ginger's very dominating as well as protective of her younger sister. anyway, at one point when Ginger's just about gone over for good, and she's got a terrified Bridget backed into a corner --i think she wants to bite Bridget and so make them united again, it goes something like:

GINGER: ...Remember, B? We had a pact! [before the biting] We're in this together! I said I would die for you!

BRIDGET: No, you said you would die -with- me. Because you had nothing better to do.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

(Followed you over from your link on LL's place to see what you had to say.)

I'm currently poking through examining some of my own monster-bits for something that'll go up on my blog when I get done with it. And one of the things I'm poking at sort of summarises as:

This whole "womanhood is defined by shared suffering" schtick? Makes me glad I'm a monster instead.

Ravenmn said...

Belledamme wrote: "i think it's not so much that LL refuses to acknowledge the pain as that she refuses to let it bring her down, or to define her."

Damn, I wish I had thought of that. I had trouble getting my meaning across when I wrote that and you've said it so well. I appreciate that!

BD: "but at the same time yer saying it's not gotten any better since then"

Yeah, that's one of my sore points. We've got to acknowledge the hard work of those who came before us and how our lives have been made better because of it.

We haven't made it to paradise, but we're a lot better off than we were.

Ravenmn said...

Welcome Dw3t-Hthr! Thanks for the comment.

Yeah, focussing on our suffering as a point of solidarity misses a lot of the fun stuff.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

It's also just a really godsawful way of framing things.

"I am defined by my pain" not only means that there's some sort of identity crisis if somehow it doesn't hurt, but means that that pain cannot ever be healed from or gotten over.

I just can't see that being a sane or a healthy place to build an identity from. I mean, I was raised by people who in their various ways let their pain define them, and they sucked to live with.

Ravenmn said...

"I mean, I was raised by people who in their various ways let their pain define them, and they sucked to live with."

What a wonderful way to state the obvious! I've been meaning to post a bit about growing up with a sociopathic father and wondering how to explain it without sounding pathetic. And then you just put it right out there: it sucks! OK?

Very cool!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I actually thought about being more detailed, but the fact of the matter is that the details don't matter. Both my parents were heavily invested in an identity rooted in their pain when I was a kid -- some of it derived from their own experiences, some of it cherished heirloom crazy. (One of them has since started working on getting better.)

Ravenmn said...

DH, I'm not sure if you're talking about the same thing, here. But I once hooked up with a guy who could always "dive for the most helpless role". No matter how bad my life was, he could find a reason why his was worse. He could never give me comfort, but I had to help him all the time.

It took a mental health professional to show me the pattern. Once I figured it out I had a bunch of great tools, including my favorite: being patronizing.

"Yup, your life sure does suck. I'm glad I'm not stuck there like you are. I guess you'll just have to wallow in your pain."

"While you do that, I'm going to take some action to make my life better. See you later!"

Worked like a charm.

Trin said...

I think there's a difference between pain as a symbol of endurance and strength and pain as people defining themselves by their woes. It's very subtle, but it's there. I actually read LL's piece as compatible with that sort of -- enriching, growth-provoking pain. She's willing to fight back, to let every punch solidify her will to keep standing.

In Morgan's piece I think the "may my hives bloom bravely" line is supposed to mean the same thing. May my pain lend me fierceness and strength.

But for me, the choice of "hives," although it's a great image and one of the few times she does show rather than tell, doesn't quite give me that feeling.

Hives are annoying and itchy, and something you're a bit of a whiner if you're too concerned about (unless you're about to go into anaphylaxis.)

What she really wants to say is may my pain strengthen me, reforge me. But the idea that that kind of pain -- that kind of monstrous terrible suffering that either kills us or makes us teh brave sort of monster LL's discussing -- just gives you hives? Nah.

I'm probably more critical than I would be if I'd randomly read Morgan. But LL's piece is just so much more real. You can smell it, taste it, touch the roughness of scales and the softness of fur and feel the breath on your neck.

Where with Morgan, I want to toss her some calamine lotion.

And also -- though I sound terrible to myself here -- point out that a kid's favorite "monster" on television is cute. He wasn't necessarily calling her genitals horrifying. He could have just been calling them silly.

Not that there isn't a feminist point in that, too -- but young children giggle at a heck of a lot.

Trin said...

Oh, and I also really have trouble with the lovely little throwaway

"dead totally from the waist down"

line describing the paraplegic.

Yeah, poets have license. But if this is a political work: it's only PWD ourselves who get to decide how and whether the parts of our bodies that don't work like yours are "dead."

Fuck you, Robin Morgan.

belledame222 said...

Where with Morgan, I want to toss her some calamine lotion.


well, perhaps that would just be part of that whole "she writes like an emu" thing...

Ravenmn said...

Welcome, Trin!

Trin wrote: "But LL's piece is just so much more real. You can smell it, taste it, touch the roughness of scales and the softness of fur and feel the breath on your neck."

Totally agree and what a great way to phrase it!

BD, I hear the Emu Writers Union is sending around a petition to demand you cease your vile slander!

Trin said...

"Welcome, Trin!"


belledame222 said...

yah, but, being emus, they got it assbackwards and insisted on attempting to collect the signatures before writing the petition. it may be a while.

belledame222 said...

btw, i just wrote (finished) a response riffing off this post and expanding on the "Ginger Snaps" association, among other things.