At the Rhetorics & Feminism’s conference at Stanford, in 2013, I and my (now) girlfriend led a roundtable discussion in which we expressed our interest in feminisms. We were interested in what that word means and what it implies, what its focus is in our current theoretical ‘moment’ – what that paradigm looks like and how it can be articulated.
I (as does my girlfriend) tend to work from the axiom that all claims to objectivity and accuracy are problematic and, as we work through the differing epistemological frameworks and their applications and appropriations to feminist methodology, in something like Hesse-Biber & Leavy’s discussion and articulation of feminism in Feminist Research Practice: A Primer (2007), we wondered if they weren’t suggesting that some claims to objectivity and accuracy are unproblematic (i.e. the implication that any of the various schools of feminism has the capacity to more “objectively” observe and communicate/report what “really is”). We wondered, too, if our own theoretical claims could escape flirting (at least a little) with essentialism. I could go on, but I won’t. The conference was nice. Informative. Eye-opening. It generated more questions.
But then, just as now (and, indeed, before), I realized that I had connected my own feelings of disenfranchisement from some aspects of heteronormative conceptualizations of masculinity to the amorphousness that feminism, itself, seems to have reached. What did it mean, in other words, to be a male or a female? What essentialisms do I hold to? What is masculinity? Is ‘masculinity’ unrecoverable and doomed because of its history as a tool and construct of patriarchy? Most of my scholarly focus is on identity theory and, thus i’m always considering things like gender and ‘reality’ and language – in the discourse of being. But with this, comes uncertainty. It’s difficult to articulate oneself in the wake of such theoretical exigencies. And, then, you must contend with ‘real life.’ I remain caught in (as we all are) an intricately interconnected web of contradictory theories and embodied experiences and interactions with culture, concepts, geography, language, concepts – my terministic screens. I’m often wary of the term feminism, though I identify as such, because I don’t know what it means anymore (because queer theory and such seems to be taking up the mantle of inclusivity that once seemed exclusive to feminism) and because of its amorphous nature. It seems I’m intimidated by the uncertainty. And that’s a feeling. And so I come to understand why it can be (and mostly is) difficult to articulate oneself (as a discipline or individual), especially in a discursive space so wrought with violent and paradigmatically limited histories. I can understand it, but it doesn’t make my self-articulation any easier. What am I, really? What does it really mean to be a male, a man, or masculine? I don’t know how to answer that without resorting to identification via negatives (binaric in nature). I don’t know how to answer the question, “Am I ‘masculine’?” And I don’t know what it means. It seems, to me, we are in the midst of a theoretical schism in which poststructuralism, deconstruction, social-constructivism, etc., ad infinitum, no longer satisfy us because we’re still uncomfortable with uncertainty and instability. And that’s a feeling. So, help me. What does it mean to be masculine, now? Can there be a definition that exists outside of essentialist paradigms and old claims to (T)ruth? And do we need it?
What is serious is that we know that after the order of this world there is another. Which is it? We do not know. The number and order of possible suppositions in this domain is precisely infinity! And what is infinity? We do not exactly know! It is a word we employ to indicate the opening of our consciousness towards an immeasurable possibility, indefatigable and immeasurable. And what exactly is consciousness? We do not exactly know. It is nothingness. A nothingness we employ to indicate when we do not know something from what side we do not know it and we say then consciousness, from the side of consciousness, but there are a hundred thousand other sides.
Artaud. “To Have Done With the Judgment of God.” Watchfiends & Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period. Ed. & Transl. Eshelman, Clayton & Bernard Bador. Boston: Exact Change, 1995. 296-297. Print.