I respect any woman's choice to be a stay-at-home mom. I think it's hilarious when women have decided to be stay-at-home moms before they've even found boyfriends, which was the case with the two female students I mentioned in my last, just so they won't be called feminists. To me, it's sort of like saying you want to be president--sure, if you can get everyone to vote for you, then you can be president. If you can find someone who can afford you, then you can stay at home, and maybe you'll find someone. Personally, the idea makes my skin crawl, but it's a question of taste, I guess. As I have said, if someone in my family were to be the stay-at-home person, I'd rather that it be me, just as, if me or my brother had to go to war, I'd rather it be me. But not because I see anything wonderful about it in either case.Blosser:
You know, when Sarah Degenhart asked John Kerry in the third (town meeting style) debate whether he could provide her with any assurance that he wouldn't use tax dollars to support abortion, he replied by professing his "respect" for her question. [For two accounts, click here and here.] I think I echo the opinion of others when I say that words are cheap. But that's a detail.Colleague:
I wonder at all this derisiveness you share with so many feminists towards the traditional notion of home. A Freudian might have a field day with this one. Perhaps it's the mother thing-- when we say of women that we can't live with them and can't live without them ... Is it that we long for the warm, soft, comfortableness of mommy's arms, but when we find ourselves enfolded in them we feel claustrophobic, like our identities are somehow going to be swallowed up and lost? For all the ways in which you find that the idea of staying at home makes your "skin crawl," I really can't find in myself what is so oppressive about it. But maybe that difference is simply a function of different childhoods or something. I really wouldn't know. All I can do is testify to the fact that in my experience, home has almost always been a place I'd much rather be than out somewhere else. Someone might be tempted to say that this is because we moved nearly every other hear-- around the world, different parts of Asia, China, Japan, and different States in the U.S.- but I wouldn't make much of that. If there is such a thing as a "homebody," that would be me, I suppose. I'd love nothing much more than staying home, cooking, reading stories to the kids, and doing my own reading and writing as time allowed. So much of jetting about the country and attending conferences to take turns listening to professors quack in front of an audience strikes me as such a colossal waste of time, if not a disease. Touring is something else, perhaps. I enjoy traveling, especially to Spain and Italy and Switzerland where I spent a year. But there's nowhere like home and family, even if it's in Hickory, in my opinion.
I also think it's hilarious the way we pick and choose which feminists we want to base our notion of feminism on--we do so to project our version of politics on the world around us, not out of any regard for statistical accuracy.Blosser:
I don't know that there's a "hard science" to any of this, but it doesn't take much--it seems to me--to stick one's finger up and see which way the wind's blowing, as Dylan says. I wonder what you mean by "statistical accuracy." Do you trust the polls? Have you ever seen their questionnaires? Do you think they mean anything? Is there a meaning in this text? (pace Kevin J. Vanhoozer)Colleague:
I don't smile at all, by the way, to think of you or the Pope as a feminist.Blosser:
Well, that's reassuring.Colleague:
I'm very interested in the question of identity--well, it's not that I've read anything about it, really, but I've thought a lot about it. I don't think, for example, that a person identifies as a Christian, a Lutheran, an English major, or a homosexual because one fits the definition.Blosser:
The word "because" here is ambiguous. It can mean either (1) a subjective psychological motive, something that pushes from the inside, or (2) an objective logical reason, something that pulls from the outside. Before it would make sense to talk about any sort of agreement or disagreement here, it would be necessary to distinguish which sense was your authorial intention, I suppose.Colleague:
I think one may do so for a variety of reasons, and probably the same basic set of reasons in each of the above cases. (I suspect that converting to a religion is very much like discovering a sexual orientation, for example.) Furthermore, I think that one never identifies as any of these things with a sense of fully understanding what the identification means. In other words, I bet few homosexuals would pretend to have fully considered all the theories and all the possibilities and all the data and made a rational decision that they are homosexual--rather, I bet that for a homosexual life is a never-ending journey of discovery of what it means to be a homosexual. I bet it is the same for a Lutheran and the same for a feminist. So I congratulate you, and I wish you well on your feminist journey.Blosser:
Ahem ... [caugh, caugh] Why, thank you. Why yes ... thank you very much indeed ...Colleague:
My advice, though, would be to let it unfold naturally before you and not to be too hasty to decide what your feminism is to mean or where it is to take you. The idea that, as a feminist, you somehow either do fit or can rightly be taken to fit into some narrow stereotype of what a feminist is, is of course propaganda propagated by those who want to use you as a foil to define and exalt their own political agenda, so just ignore them. Also, shave your head, out of solidarity--long hippy hair like yours just perpetuates the oppression of all women. But above all, be patient with yourself. Developing a political identity is like learning a language--it takes time, and practice, and open discussion with others who so identify. Your courage inspires me--perhaps I'll shave my head, too.Blosser:
Now let's not get too solemn and serious about all this. I prefer to just let my hair fall out, as it surely will soon enough.Colleague:
I forget whether we've discussed Sartre's St. Genet: Actor and Martyr. Sartre raised these questions precisely about identity. The question is, Who is Jean Genet? A voice once publicly declared of him: "You're a thief." He had indeed been caught in the act of stealing something. But the question is: is this his identity? Does this define him? Is this who he is? If anything, Sartre is interesting to read, because he's so French-- so extreme in his declarations. Makes him fascinating. Even where one thinks he's dead wrong--just like, perhaps, you apparently thought your father was. Does the fact that reality is more complicated than any theory about it, just as a person is more complex than any identifying label that may be applied by himself or by others to him, mean that it's utterly meaningless to say of a white Anglo-American Protestant male professor here that he is a "White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male" as opposed to a "Black Muslim Lesbian"? One of Confucius' doctrines is called the "Rectification of Names," which involves the conviction that "language be in accordance with the truth of things," that "the names a person uses be spoken appropriately," and so on. Confucius is simply dogmatic about this, as he is in his whole social ethic. With good reason: if he called for a metaphysical grounding, the only thing available might have been some form or another of the monistic dogma which says that ultimately everything is mind and mind is nothing, which wouldn't work very well. But he lived during a period of anarchy, and people required a sense of order so they wouldn't go on slaughtering one another and forcing their relatives to drink the soup they made of them. As finite and foolish as we human beings are, I find little to fault Confucius in his notion that generally (perhaps with some exceptions like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck) people ought to say what they mean and mean what they say and avoid using words in irresponsible ways. I know that may grate. But language can be horribly dishonest, can't it-- as so much of it is these days.
Your question about metonymy--why it is preferable to metaphor--is the crucial one. I'm not sure I know the answer, or whether it's the same for everyone. I will send you a description, if I can find it--it's a good one, I think (hope), a close reading of a couple of pages of Lacan that sort of beaches him on the strand of deconstruction--I'm sure you'll admire it's subtlety.Blosser:
I would admire it if I could understand it. We'll have to see.Colleague:
Here's one way to generalize an answer. Metaphor basically works by equation--by equating one thing like another. But the old, wrinkled truth, to quote this guy I met quoting Shopenhour (sp?), ...Blosser:
... is, that things aren't equal to other things--they simply aren't.Blosser:
Well, now there's a capital generalization. Is that really so? Fichte would enjoy a conversation with you on that subject. He would state that principle of logical non-contradiction rests upon an underlying assumption of a principle of identity. A = A. But that's a discussion for another day. But maybe you mean something else: that two or more different things are never equal (identical). I would agree. But isn't the principle involved in metaphors, like "Red is a loud color" something different still, a kind of cross-modal similarity (betweeen a color and a sound) with respect to something else? If I compare a fast car with a slow one, I'm comparing them with respect to their speed. We could call that an intra-modal comparison. But when I use a metaphor creating an innately ambiguous (that's what makes it interesting) "identity synthesis" between a color and a sound, one finds it hard (at first) to answer the question: "With respect to WHAT are these two things being compared"? Some psychologists (including one named Osgood) in the 1950s did experiments using the "Osgood antonymn scale" and "Osgood semantic differential technique" on samples of Navajos, Mexicans, Japanese, and Anglo-Americans and found a 90% uniformity of responses (identifications like ping is to pong, as ice cream is to warm pea soup, as young girl is to old matron, as Mozart is to Beethoven, and so on). When they tabulated the results, they found that the metaphorical equasions clustered around three discernable categories: (1) potency, (2) activity, and (3) preference. In other words, on their view, if I say that a "Red is a loud color," I'm comparing something in the visual modality with something in the audible modality with respect to "activity" or "potency." Interesting. I just reviewed a Festschrift for a brillian philosopher in his sixties (Robert Sokolowski) which contained an interesting essay on metaphor based on one of Sokolowski's books written some twenty years ago, Husserlian Mediations: How Words Present Things. Fascinating. I'll grant you that this kind of identity isn't simple identity, but I think it's one of the most interesting, meaning-disclosing kind of identity locutions can yield: Red is a very hot color indeed! Red hot!Colleague:
(Case in point: when I call you on your generalizations about feminists, you subdivide them, and generalize about "radical" feminists, but that doesn't work, either--they don't all agree, and they identify out of a yearning for solidarity, not out of allegiance to some set of principles. Why do they need solidarity? Could it be because, without it, they'll just magically, coincidentally, wind up stuck at home doing someone's laundry? Hmm--yes, maybe that's it.) Okay--let's go with that, provisionally, of course.Blosser:
Now that's so cute I could wrap it up in swaddling close and stick a bottle in its mouth. Of course-- with apologies to Clinton
-- that depends on what "that" means. Provisionally I'll agree with you about that, where "that" means that the identity-through-solidarity of "feminists" is found through their relief at not winding up stuck at home doing someone's laundary? Sheeesh. I love the sound of a washmachine, and the smell of clothes in the dryer. I'd make someone such a fine house-husband--as long as it wasn't a "feminazi" !