In Response


[Magritte, Je ne vois pas l'énigme cachée dans la forêt]



After reading some of the continued discussion on the topics I raised in my earlier posts on submission and 'secret'/'secretive' women, I've realized that I left something very important unsaid.


I find these passages frightening because I somehow, in spite of myself, can read them as 'beautiful.' I say 'in spite of myself,' because I think that these words mask something deeply insidious. I also say 'in spite of myself' because I can see and feel the effects of this sort of delicate speech about ugly, messy, horrific things. These passages speak of women as subjects, as slaves, as weak. They say that this is how it ought to be, that this is best. Sometimes the women seem to speak of themselves in the same way. These 'notions' are wrapped up in prose, passed along in anecdote, they influence thought and behavior, they influence notions of gender, of 'normal' and of 'proper.' They rise to the surface everywhere, serve to condone actions that should be otherwise reprehensible, horrific, tragic. It is rare that we question what a book says to us -- especially if it has behind it the weight of a "master's" name -- these are masterpiece works, they are canonical, widely-read, held aloft. We read these books expecting to enjoy, or at least to be impressed, and those intentions set out to confirm themselves.

Of course these are real issues -- the literature relies upon their reality -- but it also serves to perpetuate the reality of this violence and subjugation, in ways that are masked -- these words seem impotent when they are swallowed whole, but they work on our ideas and our actions. As I copied out these passages, from books I read when I was a girl, books I've read multiple times, I had to notice how little I questioned them. I did not question what I read -- at least not until I started to realize how much of 'what I read' contradicted with itself, and also with reality. Now I do the questioning; now I try and navigate this morass of accepted idea and belief -- I try and see what is a sham, what has been impressed upon me -- I try to see if all this ink is really so indelible. I also try to see which ideas and beliefs, if any, are worth keeping.

But I failed to remember that one can contribute to a rhetoric without necessarily intending to. I posted those passages, accompanied them with nice pictures of nice women who are not hurt or in pain or submitting. The women are all alone -- there is no power structure in any of the images. And in doing so, the passages were condoned in a sense. In fact, my excerpts that came without comment (or with only obscure poetastic comment) they can also be read as now-condoned.

I do not condone this sort of submission and demand for submission. I do not think it is beautiful. I do not think it can be noble. I do not think it can be 'love.' And to say more would be to slide away from the point.