Monday, March 03, 2008

Delirious Hem: Dim Sum + WaPo Trashes Women

Mendi recently pointed me and others towards this site, Delirious Hem: Dim Sum, which I'll let its creators describe:

Some of us wished the women poets we admired would write more about poetry and poetics, experimental, post-avant. Some of them weren’t writing about these things at all. Why not? They’re busy, some of us surmised. Some of them were writing about these things, but some of us were greedy, and wanted them to write more. Some of them were men, and some of us wanted some of them to write about experimental women poets, gender performativity on the page, masculinity via grotesque, etc. Wanted some of them to write about some of these things more/at all.

What if some of us built a platform? What if the parameters were informal, relatively boundless? What if the form invited conversation and huzzah?

But some of us are busy, too. Some of us can’t possibly fit one more dish on our plates, and some of us can’t possibly spin one more plate in the air, and some of us can’t possibly...

You can start with this conVERSation: Tonya Foster and Evie Shockley engage in a radiant, critical dialogue/critical notebook, sparked in part by Juliana Spahr's and Stephanie's essay, "Numbers Trouble," as well as "poetics and politics--specifically Gloria Steinem’s NYTimes piece in support of Hillary Clinton and Ishmael Reed’s BlackTimes response to Steinem’s arguments."

A snippet:

...despite the increased participation of women within the traditionally male-dominated ‘avant-garde,’ and the various advances of feminism, gender politics continues to be a contested site within aesthetic practice and its articulation/translation/ reception in a still largely phallocentric system.
JS & SY (93-94)
ES: Though I’m willing to consider this open to debate, my general feeling is that, indeed, aesthetics still tends to operate in phallocentric terms, especially those aesthetics that have been described as “innovative” or “avant-garde.” Part of what happens when innovative poetics defines itself against “traditional” or “mainstream” poetics is that the latter categories are “feminized,” even in the face of significant or predominant numbers of men practicing such poetics (I’m thinking of Romantic and confessional poetries here). An important related problem is that often African American innovative poetics—in particular, the poetics of the Black Arts Movement—is similarly “feminized” (despite the phallocentrism attributable to BAM itself) as opposed to the (real) (white) avant-garde. This move turns on the significance to BAM “black aesthetics” of asserting a (“black”) “self” in the face of the oppressive and dismissive aesthetic standards that have been imposed upon the writing of African Americans since the era of Phillis Wheatley. An important point related to the foregoing is how critical it is for us to recognize that sexism is racism, at times, without losing the specificity of either category in our analyses.

TMF: This “dismissal” you write of seems related to dismissals of the term ideological as it operates in the world(s) of poetry—too much socially and historically constituted subjectivity is rather passé. I don’t know Evie...I can’t think of phallocentrism without the racialized, nationalized and naturalized. What you point out is important to me in thinking about both the power and the limits of definitions built mainly in opposition. It means that the phallocentric “center” still determines the terms of engagement.


In an attempt to slam female supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, i.e., a large portion of the current US electorate, the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section has outdone itself, yesterday publishing one of its most ignorant, offensive articles in quite some time. Initially titled "We Scream. We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?", the following headlines accompanied the piece: first "Women Aren't Very Bright," which was then changed to "Why Do Women Act Dumb?" An untrammeled burst of misogyny and sexism by a notorious female anti-feminist and conservative crank, Charlotte Allen, it's generating outrage all over Blogistan.

You know what you can do: contact the Washington Post and tell the editor or ombudsperson how disgusted you are by this crap.

Oh, and remind that Washington already has a pro-business, right-wing rag, owned by the Moonies and edited by avowed white supremacists, so the Post ought to consider occupying a different niche in the diminishing world that is major-city newspapering.

And to think this paper seriously claimed it was trying to increase its female readership!


  1. hey john,

    "An important point related to the foregoing is how critical it is for us to recognize that sexism is racism, at times, without losing the specificity of either category in our analyses."

    This formulation can easily be reversed to 'racism is sexism, at times, without losing the specificity of either category in our analysis.' Here's a common narrative: Muslim (Asian) men are hypersexualized, while Muslim women are victimized, so the white subject can save the Muslim. (Sharene Razack has a new book out that develops this theme mentioned above).

    The reason why I mention this is not because I have any aversion to feminist politics. I am more interested in foregrounding 'race' and sexuality because they have been marginalized in social theory and in poetics (particularily, experimental) aesthetics.

    I also think about the ways that feminist writers do not think about their own 'race' (or absence of 'race') in their poetics. It is highly disturbing to me when I see one writer (experimental feminist writer), for example, uses Atwood as an example of nuanced feminism. Bannerji argues that Atwood propogates a white settler heritage myth in much of her fiction. The figure of the schizophrenic white subject who is 'coming to terms' with his lack of national identity in a context that simultaneously erases the presence of 'others' in its quest for 'place.' A reoccuring trope in Can-lit.

    So yes, how to be self reflexive in ones aesthetics, for sure, but how to also be aware that 'race' is continually marginalized and feminism is often used as a means to colonize other countries.


  2. Asher, v. good point, but I'd say that Evie and Tonya are factoring the reverse of the Evie's equation, so that the racial issue isn't written out; the equivalence is intersectional, I think. Does that make sense? Interesting point about Atwood and thanks for the tip about Razack's new book!