Sunday, December 30, 2012

witchy resistance

quotes from caliban & the witch by silvia federici

"the figure of the witch, who in the tempest is confined to a remote background, in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy: the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the womyn who dared to live alone, the obeha womyn who poisoned the master's food and inspired the slaves to revolt."

"a return of the most violent aspects of primitive accumulation has accompanied every phase of capitalist globalization, including the present one, demonstrating that the continuous expulsion of farmers from the land, war and plunder on a world scale, and the degradation of womyn are necessary conditions for the existence of capitalism in all times."

"it is generally agreed that the witch-hunt aimed at destroying the control that womyn had exercised over their reproductive function and served to pave the way for the development of a more oppressive patriarchal regime."

"feminists have uncovered and denounced the strategies and the violence by means of which male-centered systems of exploitation have attempted to discipline and appropriate the female body, demonstrating that womyn's bodies have been the main targets, the privileged sites, for the deployment of power techniques and power-relations. . . [including] the policing of womyn's reproductive function, the effects on womyn of rape, battering, and the imposition upon them of beauty as a condition for social acceptability."

"the body has been for womyn in capitalist society what the factory has been for male waged workers: the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance, as the female body has been appropriated by the state and men and forced to function as a means for the reproduction and accumulation of labor."

"for capitalism must justify and mystify the contradictions built into its social relations - the promise of freedom vs. the reality of widespread coercion, and the promise of prosperity vs. the reality of widespread penury - by denigrating the 'nature' of those it exploits: womyn, colonial subjects, the descendants of african slaves, the immigrants displaced by globalization."

"marx did not see that the development of workers' industrial powers was at the cost of the underdevelopment of their powers as social individuals, although he recognized that workers in capitalist society become so alienated from their labor, from their relations with others, and the products of their work as to become dominated by them as if by an alien force."

Friday, December 28, 2012

come on out

from the essay lesbian daughters and lesbian mothers: the crisis of disclosure from a family systems perspective by jo-ann krestan from the book a guide to feminist family therapy

"when it is not possible for an individual to have and express a sense of where she stands on important emotional issues without becoming reactive if other individuals in the family challenge her or try to convince her to be different, then an emotional 'cut-off' often ensues in which family members may maintain polite but superficial contact with one another but in which authentic relatedness is not possible."

"it is as though the heterosexual pair operates in an energy field of centrifugal force and the homosexual pair operates in a field of centripetal force."

"although many young womyn are choosing to remain single longer, the re-definition of role for the heterosexual womyn still takes place within a relational context- marriage- which is normative.  a lesbian womyn's struggle to define herself takes place within a context defined as deviant.  she is in many ways an invisible womyn for whom no relational rules exist."

"i believe that all persons need to define themselves in a way which owns their own power, to differentiate a self- distinguishable from their familial, social, ethnic, and cultural context.  this differentiation is necessary if womyn are to function as mature, responsible adults who can direct their own course in life, and yet enter into intimate relationships with other adults."

"such differentiation, however, has traditionally been socially sanctioned, modeled, and reinforced for men, but punished in womyn. . . womyn who do not define themselves through their relationship with men but rather through their relationship to other womyn. . . pose particular threats to more traditional notions of who womyn are."

"as womyn begin to be free to be themselves with each other, they can begin to overcome the effects of a society which silences them.  it is not just lesbian womyn who must learn to be themselves without the need for self-justification.  all womyn need to learn to 'come out'."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


from the penguin dictionary of symbols by jean chevalier and alain gheerbrant

"this charm was used throughout the middle ages.  'one only had to write it down in the triangular pattern shown below and wear it round one's neck as a sort of phylactery or charm to be protected from various diseases and to be cured of fever':


the word derives from the hebrew abreg ad habra meaning 'strike dead with thy lightning'.  in hebrew it comprises nine letters.  'placing aleph on the left side of the triangle - and its ninefold repetition- is the magical element'.

by arranging the letters in a reverse triangle, the celestial energies which the charm claims to entrap are directed downwards.  accordingly, the figure should be seen three-dimensionally as a funnel.  the magic letters slanting down from the wide mouth to the narrow spout comprise the lines of force of a mighty whirlwind.  woe betide the powers of evil which it strikes since they will vanish for ever from the world above into the abyss from which there is no return.

in this sense, the charm, abracadabra, was a response to those same fears which inspired the invention of the amulet, charm or pentacle.  it is only one of the many charms based upon a very ancient symbolism and it has been compared with one of the names of mithras, the sun-god and saviour who offers sacrifice.

like amulets, talismans and pentacles, this charm seeks to give the individual a sense of protection through communication with the higher powers and with the mysterious laws which govern the universe."

Monday, December 24, 2012

the fortress that she saw

"the castle, fortress or stronghold is the near-universal symbol of humanity's inner refuge, the cavern of the heart, that place of privileged intercourse between the soul and its god, or the absolute. . .
in the bhagavad gita (5: 13), the 'castle with nine gates' is a metaphor for the body of the yogi, closed to feelings for and attachments to the outside world, and therefore safeguarding his inner spiritual concentration. . .
just as in stories and in dreams, castles are usually set either upon hilltops, or in forest glades.  they are strongly built and hard to come at.  they convey the feeling of security, as do houses in general, but at a far higher level.  they are symbols of protection.
yet their locations in some measure set them apart in the middle of fields, woods or hill country.  what they immure is isolated from the rest of the world and assumes an aura of remoteness which makes it as desirable as it is inaccessible. . .
spiritual transcendence is the castle's protection.  castles are deemed to shelter some mysterious and intangible force.  they appear in enchanted forests and mountains, themselves laden with the power of holiness, and magically vanish like mirages on the approach of some knight errant. . . the castle symbolizes the realization of the heart's desire."

from the penguin dictionary of symbols by jean chevalier and alain gheerbrant

Saturday, December 22, 2012

concept: parentification

quotes from the essay "women and abuse in the context of the family" by margaret cotroneo (from the book a guide to feminist family therapy)

"the american family has become our society's most violent institution."

in a 1980 study of abused womyn, two important concepts were introduced: "the theory of learned helplessness and the cycle theory of violence.  learned helplessness is a social learning theory which proposes that womyn who are repeatedly exposed to abuse learn that no response will be effective in controlling violence."

"the more a womyn's social ties overlap with those of her partner, the more difficult it may be for her to obtain support in dealing with the battering situation.  in addition, increased levels of violence are associated with a greater likelihood that the responses of friends may be characterized by avoidance and discomfort.  thus, even friendships may be unavailable as supportive resources for moving out of an abusive relationship."

"it is not clear that the victim stance empowers womyn themselves.  when womyn are defined as victims, their entitlement to consideration is contingent upon the responsiveness of others.  this reinforces their inclination to adapt their choices to the expectations of people upon whom they depend while their own wants, needs, and contributions are taken for granted.  furthermore, it feeds a cycle of self-doubt as womyn may come to believe that whatever happens to them, happens simply because they are womyn."

"in my observations of abused womyn in family therapy, i find that it is not relationships that exploit.  rather, it is modes of relating that shape a process of exploitation over time.  a large part of the therapeutic work centers on building trust in the self as a person who can take responsibility for her/his own well-being in the context of caring about others and being responsive to their needs and expectations."

"gilligan proposed two distinct forms of self-definition in relation to others.  they are separation and connection.  separation is characterized by independence, self-sufficiency, and autonomy while connection is characterized by interdependence, mutual reliance, and responsibility for others.  separation is oriented toward an ethic of justice and rights.  relationship is experienced as reciprocity between separate individuals who are rooted in roles and operate out of rules of fairness.  a basic rule is to consider others as one would like to be considered.  the mode of connection is oriented toward an ethic of care and response.  relationship is experienced as response to others on their terms, with a concern for their well-being and the alleviation of their burdens.  gilligan proposes that men more typically construct their relationships in terms of separation and womyn in terms of connection.  she does not view the different orientations of womyn and men as biologically determined but rather that they derive out of childhood experiences of inequality and interdependence.  with equal frequency, both womyn and men construct a self definition that is organized in terms of relationship to others."

"there are numerous examples of abused womyn who continue to respond to their abusers with care, consideration, and protection. . . they are preoccupied with doing the 'right' thing; that is, taking action that is least likely to hurt their abuser.  such responses contradict reason and reality, however, they reflect a genuine conflict about what is owed to self vs. what is owed to others that can be paralyzing.  loyalty of this nature characterizes abusive families.  it is shaped by expectations of care and devotion held in common among family members and transmitted from generation to generation.  loyalty is like an invisible intergenerational tapestry woven from the fibers of caring relationships.  although it often goes unacknowledged in the family, it is considered to be a powerful motivator of behavior."

"it is how the important people in their lives responded to them around the issues of abandonment, betrayal of trust, conflicting loyalties, and entitlement to justice that shapes the lifelong pain of womyn in abusive situations.  when accountability is not elicited in a dialogue among all those who are affected by the abuse, the abused client is left to carry the burden of guilt and shame for the whole family."

"in my work i use the relational concept of parentification to explain the mode of relating associated with loyalty.  parentification is characterized by inappropriate expectations for care and devotion that are enslaving.  persons who are parentified carry a burden of guilt-laden obligation for the well-being of others while their own needs go unacknowledged.  the parentified one is bound to the relationship through a process of giving and receiving which is counterautonomous.  because she does not feel entitled to speak on her own terms, she makes her choices contingent upon the expectations of others."

"a person becomes sensitized to parentification in the family of origin.  when parents, for whatever reason and regardless of fault, cannot appropriately give to their children, the children tend to react to the loss of care with greater emotional attachment.  they become parents to their parents in order to get parenting.  whatever gains they receive are received by meeting the parents' needs.  asking for something for oneself is associated with selfishness. . . thus emotionally bound, they are not free to give appropriately in relationships outside the family unless and until they come to terms with the loss or deprivation of care they have experienced in the family of origin."

"in intrafamilial abuse, this code of fairness requires that care for others must take precedence over care for the self.  parentification is an intensely painful experience for womyn primarily because their contributions go unacknowledged. . . resentment is shaped by the lack of acknowledgement and becomes paralyzing."

"womyn are frequently blamed for what seems to be passivity and adaptation in the face of abuse.  in being strong for others, they appear to be weak.  by protecting their partners, they become sponges for failure and perceive themselves as incompetent.  failing to please their partner, they no longer trust their own judgment.  their thinking reflects their experience, as they continue to assign to themselves the responsibility for their partner's problems, hurts, and failures."

"in working with womyn clients who are abused, i work toward de-parentification.  the therapeutic work is guided by three major considerations: 1. acknowledging the contributions that have previously been taken for granted; 2. exploration and discouragement of the means of parentification; and 3. a retracing of the path of parentification that occurred in the family of origin."

"the therapist needs to remain open to the client's perspective on what she has given and what she has gained in the relationship. . . this should be done without blame or scapegoating of the abuser on the part of the therapist.  otherwise, the client can be caught in a loyalty conflict and might be forced to reaffirm her loyalty to the spouse/partner by distancing herself from the therapy.  the message of the therapist that would be most helpful is a solid, straightforward advocacy of the female client that, at the same time, allows for the humanization and personalization of her abuser.  to genuinely advocate for an abused womyn is to extend due consideration to all those relationships that are important to her, with their resources as well as their limitations.  it is a way of extending trust to womyn who have grown accustomed to being criticized for caring."

"encouraging the client to tell her story to others, including parents and siblings, is also necessary in order to intervene early in the feelings of shame and guilt and thereby to allow the resentment to surface. . . confronting this loyalty system directly is ultimately strengthening because it has the effect of reducing fear and dysfunctional protective behaviors within the abusive relationship."

"abusers tend to take a position of extreme entitlement to unilateral consideration.  however, their genuine entitlement to ask for what they need has been consistently diminished by exploitative actions.  therefore, they use force to strengthen their claim to entitlement."

"family of origin work reverses the parentification in the relationships to one's own parents because it intervenes in the tendency to protect one's parents from one's own needs and wants."

Friday, December 21, 2012

scholars, poets, redemption

from thus spoke zarathustra by friedrich nietzsche, translated by r.j. hollingdale

"i love freedom and the air over fresh soil; i would sleep on ox-skins rather than on their dignities and respectabilities.
i am too hot and scorched by my own thought: it is often about to take my breath away.  then i have to get into the open air and away from all dusty rooms.
but they sit cool in the cool shade: they want to be mere spectators in everything and they take care not to sit where the sun burns upon the steps.
like those who stand in the street and stare at the people passing by, so they too wait and stare at thoughts that others have thought."
from -of scholars-

"but all poets believe this: that he who, lying in the grass or in lonely bowers, pricks up his ears, catches a little of the things that are between heaven and earth.
and if they experience tender emotions, the poets always think that nature herself is in love with them:
and that she creeps up to their ears, to speak secrets and amorous flattering words into them: of this they boast and pride themselves before all mortals!
alas, there are so many things between heaven and earth of which only the poets have let themselves dream!"
"thus the sea gave a stone to the hungry man.  and they themselves may well originate from the sea.
to be sure, one finds pearls in them: then they themselves are all the more like hard shell-fish.  and instead of the soul i often found in them salty slime.
they learned vanity, too, from the sea: is the sea not the peacock of peacocks?
it unfurls its tail even before the ugliest of buffaloes, it never wearies of its lace-fan of silver and satin.
the buffalo looks on insolently, his soul like the sand, yet more like the thicket, but most like the swamp.
what are beauty and sea and peacock-ornaments to him?  i speak this parable to the poets.
truly, their spirit itself is the peacock of peacocks and a sea of vanity!
the poet's spirit wants spectators, even if they are only buffaloes!
but i have grown weary of this spirit: and i see the day coming when it will grow weary of itself.
already i have seen the poets transformed; i have seen them direct their glance upon themselves.
i have seen penitents of the spirit appearing: they grew out of the poets."
from -of poets-

"and when my eye flees from the present to the past, it always discovers the same thing: fragments and limbs and dreadful chances - but no men!"
"to redeem the past and to transform every 'it was' into an 'i wanted it thus!' - that alone do i call redemption!
will - that is what the liberator and bringer of joy is called: thus i have taught you, my friends!  but now learn this as well: the will itself is still a prisoner.
willing liberates: but what is it that fastens in fetters even the liberator?
'it was': that is what the will's teeth gnashing and most lonely affliction is called.  powerless against that which has been done, the will is an angry spectator of all things past.
the will cannot will backwards; that it cannot break time and time's desire - that is the will's most lonely affliction."
"i led you away from these fable-songs when i taught you: 'the will is a creator.'
all 'it was' is a fragment, a riddle, a dreadful chance - until the creative will says to it: 'but i will it thus!'
until the creative will says to it: 'but i will it thus!  thus shall i will it!'
but has it ever spoken thus?  and when will this take place?  has the will yet been unharnessed from its own folly?
has the will become its own redeemer and bringer of joy?  has it unlearned the spirit of revenge and all teeth-gnashing?
and who has taught it to be reconciled with time, and higher things than reconciliation?
the will that is the will to power must will something higher than any reconciliation - but how shall that happen?  who has taught it to will backwards, too?"
from -of redemption-

"it is the stillest words which bring the storm.  thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world."
from -the stillest hour-

Thursday, December 20, 2012

passions of the real, passions of the semblance

from welcome to the desert of the real by slavoj zizek

"we 'feel free' because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. . . our 'freedoms' themselves serve to mask and sustain our deeper unfreedom."

"this underlying logic, of course, is again that of the forced choice: you're free to decide, on condition that you make the right choice."

"the ultimate and defining moment of the twentieth century was the direct experience of the Real as opposed to everyday social reality - the Real in its extreme violence as the price to be paid for peeling off the deceptive layers of reality."

"on today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant properties: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. . . and the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the colin powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration, that is, as politics without politics, up to today's liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while practices like wife beating remain out of sight. . .)?  Virtual Reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the hard resistant kernel of the Real - just as decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like real coffee without being real coffee, Virtual Reality is experienced as reality without being so.  what happens at the end of this process of virtualization, however, is that we begin to experience 'real reality' itself as a virtual entity."

"the same 'derealization' of the horror went on after the WTC collapse: while the number of victims - 3,000 - is repeated all the time, it is surprising how little of the actual carnage we see - no dismembered bodies, no blood, no desperate faces of dying people. . . in clear contrast to reporting on third world catastrophes, where the whole point is to produce a scoop of some gruesome detail: somalis dying of hunger, raped bosnian womyn, men with their throats cut out. these shots are always accompanied by an advance warning that 'some of the images you will see are extremely graphic and may upset children' - a warning which we never heard in the reports on the WTC collapse.  is this not yet further proof of how, even in this tragic moment, the distance which separates Us from Them, from their reality, is maintained: the real horror happens there, not here?"

"the ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian despiritualized universe is the dematerialization of 'real life' itself, its reversal into a spectral show."

"when we hear how the attacks were a totally unexpected shock,how the unimaginable Impossible happened, we should recall the other defining catastrophe from  the beginning of the twentieth century, the sinking of the titanic: this, also, was a shock, but the space for it had already been prepared in ideological fantasizing, since the titanic was the symbol of the might of nineteenth-century industrial civilization.  does not the same hold also for these attacks?  not only were the media bombarding us all the time with talk about the terrorist threat; this threat was also obviously libidinally invested - just remember the series of movies from escape from new york to independence day.  that is the rationale of the often-mentioned association of the attacks with hollywood disaster movies: the unthinkable which happened was the object of fantasy, so that, in a way, america got what it fantasized about, and that was the biggest surprise."

"there was a series of meeting between white house advisers and senior hollywood executives with the aim of. . . getting the right ideological message across. . . - the ultimate empirical proof that hollywood does in fact function as an 'ideological state apparatus'."

"it is easy to account for the fact that poor people around the world dream about becoming americans - so what do the well-to-do americans, immobolized in their well-being, dream about?  about a global catastrophe that would shatter their lives - why?  this is what psychoanalysis is about: to explain why, in the midst of well-being, we are haunted by nightmarish visions of catastrophes.  this paradox also indicates how we should grasp lacan's notion of 'transversing the fantasy' as the concluding moment of the psychoanalytic treatment.  this notion may seem to fit perfectly the common-sense idea of what psychoanalysis should do: of course it should liberate us from the hold of idiosyncratic fantasies, and enable us to confront reality as it really is!  however, this, precisely, is what lacan does not have in mind - what he aims at is almost the exact opposite.  in our daily existence, we are immersed in 'reality' (structured and supported by the fantasy), and this immersion is disturbed by symptoms which bear witness to the fact that another, repressed, level of our psyche resists this immersion.  to 'traverse the fantasy' therefore, paradoxically, means fully identifying oneself with the fantasy - namely, with the fantasy which structures the excess that resists our immersion in daily reality; or, to quote a succinct formulation by richard boothby: 'traversing the phantasy' thus does not mean that the subject somehow abandons its involvement with fanciful caprices and accommodates itself to a pragmatic 'reality,' but precisely the opposite: the subject is submitted to that effect of the symbolic lack that reveals the limit of everyday reality.  to traverse the phantasy in the lacanian sense is to be more profoundly claimed by the phantasy than ever, in the sense of being brought into an ever more intimate relation with that real core of the phantasy that transcends imaging.  boothby is right to emphasize the janus-like structure of a fantasy: a fantasy is simultaneously pacifying, disarming (providing an imaginary scenario which enables us to endure the abyss of the Other's desire) and shattering, disturbing, inassimilable into our reality."

"precisely because it is real, that is, on account of its traumatic/excessive character, we are unable to integrate it into (what we experience as) our reality, and are therefore compelled to experience it as a nightmarish apparition."

"usually we say that we should not mistake fiction for reality - remember the postmodern doxa according to which 'reality' is a discursive product, a symbolic fiction which we misperceive as a substantial autonomous entity.  the lesson of psychoanalysis here is the opposite one: we should not mistake reality for fiction - we should be able to discern, in what we experience as fiction, the hard kernel of the Real which we are able to sustain only if we fictionalize it.  in short, we should discern which part of reality is 'transfunctionalized' through fantasy, so that, although it is part of reality, it is perceived in a fictional mode.  much more difficult than to denounce/unmask (what appears as) reality as fiction is to recognize the part of fiction in 'real' reality.  (this, of course, brings us back to the old lacanian notion that, while animals can deceive by presenting what is false as true, only humans (entities inhabiting the symbolic space) can deceive by presenting what is true as false.)"

"for lacan, the true object of anxiety is precisely the (over)proximity of the Other's desire."

"traumas we are not ready or able to remember haunt us all the more forcefully.  we should therefore accept the paradox that, in order really to forget an event, we must first summon up the strength to remember it properly. . . that which does not exist, continues to insist, striving towards existence."

"when i miss a crucial ethical opportunity, and fail to make a move that would 'change everything', the very nonexistence of what i should have done will haunt me for ever: although what i did not do does not exist, its spectre continues to insist."

"we should not be afraid to draw a parallel with individual psychic life: just as the awareness of a missed 'private' opportunity (say, the opportunity of engaging in a fulfilling love relationship) often leaves its traces in the guise of 'irrational' anxieties, headaches, and fits of rage, the void of the missed revolutionary chance can explode in 'irrational' fits of destructive rage."

"Power generates its own excess, which it has to annihilate in an operation that has to imitate what it fights."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

snow, again

by naomi shihab nye

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again, 
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope, 
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine, 
in the sunniest voice he could muster 
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting 
accumulation. A father goes months 
without speaking to his son. 

How there can be a place 
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet.  The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

snowfall in g minor

Snowfall in G Minor

by Marianne Boruch

Overnight, it’s pow! The held note
keeps falling. And only seems
slow. Because it’s just 
frozen rain, what’s the big deal? the checker
in Stop and Shop told me.
                                           Save warmth
like stamps. The fade of their color
in the 1920s.  Airmail.  The pilot with his 
skin-tight goggle helmet on his 
miniature head could be 
                           All heads are small. Mine’s
lost as a thimble 
in this weather. Where 
a finger should be and be 
sewing, every thought 
I ever thunk. 
                               Just this word
thunk. Never used. 
It lands, noisy
metal in a bucket. That’s
the last of it.  No echo
for miles of this
                              snowfall—as in 
grace, fallen from,
as in a great height, released
from its promise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

inspiration for the zine

bell hooks quotes (from the will to change: men, masculinity, & love)~

"responsible men are capable of self-criticism.  if more men were doing the work of self-critique, then they would not be wounded, hurt, or chagrined when critiqued by others, especially womyn with whom they are intimate."

"patriarchal masculinity insists that real men must prove their manhood by idealizing aloneness and disconnection.  feminist masculinity tells men that they become more real through the act of connecting with others, through building community."

"when a man's emotional capacity to mourn is arrested, he is likely to be frozen in time and unable to complete the process of growing up.  if a man is not willing to break patriarchal rules that say that he should never change- especially to satisfy someone else, particularly a female- then he will choose being right over being loved.  he will turn away from loved ones and choose his manhood over his personhood, isolation over connectedness."

"patriarchal masculinity teaches males to be pathologically narcissistic, infantile, and psychologically dependent for self-definition on the privileges (however relative) that they receive from being born male.  hence many males feel that their very existence is threatened if these privileges are taken away.  feminist masculinity presupposes that it is enough for males to be to have value, that they do not have to 'do', to 'perform', to be affirmed and loved. . . feminist masculinity defines strength as one's capacity to be responsible for self and others."

"to be true to patriarchy we are all taught that we must keep men's secrets.  one of the truths that cannot be spoken is the daily violence enacted by men of all classes and races in our society - the violence of emotional abuse."

“the first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward womyn. instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. if an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.” 

"womyn who stay in long term relationships with men who are emotionally abusive. . . usually end up closing the door to their hearts.  they stop working to create love.  often they stay in these relationships because a basic cynicism, rooted in their experience, affirms that most men are emotionally withholding, so they do not believe that they can find a loving relationship with any man.  many womyn despair of men because they believe that ultimately men care more about being dominators than they do about being loving partners.  they believe this because so many men refuse to make the changes that would make mutual love possible."

"men who are able to be whole, undivided selves can practice emotional discernment. . . because they are able to relate and respond rather than simply react.  patriarchal masculinity confines men to various stages of reaction and overreaction.  feminist masculinity does not reproduce the notion that maleness has this reactionary, wild, uncontrolled component; instead it assures men and those of us who care about men that we need not fear male loss of control.  the power of patriarchy has been to make maleness feared and to make men feel that it is better to be feared than to be loved."

"ultimately one of the emotional costs of allegiance to patriarchy is to be seen as unworthy of trust."

"when culture is based on a dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.” 

"visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. it is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. the soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. when men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. a genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”

quotes from feminist theory from margin to center~

"though labeled 'heterosexual', many womyn in this society feel little sexual desire for men because of the politics of sexual oppression; male domination destroys and perverts that desire."

"heterosexual privilege is diminished when compared to the degree of exploitation and oppression a womyn is likely to encounter in most heterosexual relationships."

quotes from all about love: new visions~

 “imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition.”

“reviewing the literature on love i noticed how few writers, male or female, talk about the impact of patriarchy, the way in which male domination of womyn and children stands in the ways of love.” 

“contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. it does mark us. what we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.”

“if you do not know what you feel, then it is difficult to choose love; it is better to fall. then you do not have to be responsible for your actions.”

“it still took years for me to let go of learned patterns of behavior that negated my capacity to give and receive love. one pattern that made the practice of love especially difficult was my constantly choosing to be with men who were emotionally wounded, who were not that interested in loving, even though they desired to be loved. i wanted to know love but was afraid to be intimate. by choosing men who were not interested in being loving, i was able to practice giving love but always within an unfulfilling context. naturally, my need to receive love was not met. i got what i was accustomed to getting. care and affection, usually mingled with a degree of unkindness, neglect, and on some occasions, out right cruelty.” 

“we fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. most of us prefer to have a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. what becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love.”

 “to love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

the spell of snow

the spell of snow

candles lit and unlit, a holding
cut & down, corners and comforters
with music forever piped
with curtains pulled back in a room

an altar to death and one asking
for love, the same tragic sorrow
compulsively repeated,
gayatri mantra, holy mother

now! it is suddenly a surprise

break my body or was i
mistaken? it was bread, it has always
been bread: what i bring with
polished blood. you are

the other, you are
white and delicate and drifting
a fragment expelled,
a chattering blanket

now! it is suddenly a surprise

how childlike we become
sturdy and cold and innocent
you are not afraid to fall
you are the softness

landing upon rooftops and squirrels
not the frozen car locks
not the icicle fingers
the layer of snow breaks the day

now! it is suddenly a surprise

the spell of death broken
with death. it had been planned
through lifetimes, it seemed, seamless.
this snow, i mean, this first

open mouth of a wide certain month.
graceful the pages blankly drift
scattered, mysterious & most importantly
sweetly, like a friend.

the snow has spelled it's name backwards
forwards and with delight
so now we've won, all sown and stitched
together, this is what it means

now! it is suddenly a surprise
to be whole


Saturday, December 8, 2012

more notes of a native son

from nobody knows my name by james baldwin

"nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch."

"i know that self-delusion, in the service of no matter what small or lofty cause, is a price no writer can afford.  his subject is himself and the world and it requires every ounce of stamina he can summon to attempt to look on himself and the world as they are."

"the question of color takes up much space in these pages, but the question of color, especially in this country, operates to hide the graver questions of the self. . . one can only face in others what one can face in oneself."

"we have a very deep-seated distrust of real intellectual effort (probably because we suspect that it will destroy, as i hope it does, that myth of america to which we cling so desperately)."

"the charge has often been made against american writers that they do not describe society, and have no interest in it.  they only describe individuals in opposition to it, or isolated from it. . . american writers do not have a fixed society to describe.  the only society they know is one in which nothing is fixed and in which the individual must fight for his identity."

"the book is more likely to be a symptom of our tension than an examination of it."

"every society is really governed by hidden laws, by unspoken but profound assumptions on the part of the people, and ours is no exception.  it is up to the american writer to find out what these laws and assumptions are.  in a society much given to smashing taboos without thereby managing to be liberated from them, it will be no easy matter."

"a people deprived of political sovereignty finds it very nearly impossible to re-create, for itself, the image of its past, this perpetual re-creation being an absolute necessity for, if not indeed the definition of, a living culture."

"assimilation was frequently but another name for the very special brand of relations between human beings which had been imposed by colonialism.  these relations demanded that the individual, torn from the context to which he owed his identity, should replace his habits of feeling, thinking, and acting by another set of habits which belonged to the strangers who dominated him."

"the land of our forefathers' exile had been made, by that travail, our home. . . nothing, in any case, could take away our title to the land which we, too, had purchased with our blood.  this results in a psychology very different - at its best and at its worst - from the psychology which is produced by a sense of having been invaded and overrun, the sense of having no recourse whatever against oppression other than overthrowing the machinery of the oppressor.  we had been dealing with, had been made and mangled by, another machinery altogether.  it had never been in our interest to overthrow it.  it had been necessary to make the machinery work for our benefit and the possibility of its doing so had been, so to speak, built in."

"what they held in common was their precarious, their unutterably painful relation to the white world.  what they held in common was the necessity to remake the world in their own image, to impose this image on the world, and no longer be controlled by the vision of the world, and of themselves, held by other people.  what, in sum, black men held in common was their ache to come into the world as men."

"the cultural crisis through which we are passing today can be summed up thus, said cesaire: that culture which is strongest from the material and technological point of view threatens to crush all weaker cultures, particularly in a world in which, distance counting for nothing, the technologically weaker cultures have no means of protecting themselves. . . 'any political and social regime which destroys the self-determination of a people also destroys the creative power of that people'. . .the well-being of the colonized is desirable only insofar as this well-being enriches the dominant country, the necessity of which is simply to remain dominant. . . 'the famous inferiority complex one is pleased to observe as a characteristic of the colonized is no accident but something very definitely desired and deliberately inculcated by the colonizer'."

"in every society there is always a delicate balance between the old and the new, a balance which is perpetually being reestablished, which is reestablished by each generation." -aime cesaire

"cesaire's speech left out of account one of the great effects of the colonial experience: its creation, precisely, of men like himself."

"the determined will is rare - at the moment, in this country, it is unspeakably rare - and the inequalities suffered by the many are in no way justified by the rise of a few.  a few have always risen - in every country, every era, and in the teeth of regimes which can by no stretch of the imagination be thought of as free.  not all of these people, it is worth remembering, left the world better than they found it.  the determined will is rare, but it is not invariably benevolent.  furthermore, the american equation of success with the big time reveals an awful disrespect for human life and human achievement."

"children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.  they must, they have no other models.  that is exactly what our children are doing.  they are imitating our immorality, our disrespect for the pain of others."

"anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor; and if one is a member of a captive population, economically speaking, one's feet have simply been placed on the treadmill forever."

"the emptier our hearts become, the greater will be our crimes.  the south is not merely an embarassingly backward region, but a part of this country, and what happens there concerns every one of us. . . [black folks] are, therefore, ignored in the north and under surveillance in the south, and suffer hideously in both places."

"it is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own: in the face of one's victim, one sees oneself."

Friday, December 7, 2012

on our luck

from happiness after september 11 by slavoj zizek in the book welcome to the desert of the real

"happiness is thus- to put it in alain badiou's terms- not a category of truth, but a category of mere being, and as such, confused, indeterminate, inconsistent."

"in a strict lacanian sense of the term, we should thus posit that 'happiness' relies on the subject's inability or unreadiness fully to confront the consequences of its desire: the price of happiness is that the subject remains stuck in the inconsistency of its desire."

"for example, when 'radical' academics demand full rights for immigrants and opening of the borders, are they aware that the direct implementation of this demand would, for obvious reasons, inundate developed western countries with millions of newcomers, thus provoking a violent working-class racist backlash which would then endanger the privileged position of these very academics?  of course they are, but they count on the fact that their demand will not be met - in this way, they can hypocritically retain their clear radical conscience while continuing to enjoy their privileged position."

"the gesture is that of calling the other's bluff, counting on the fact that what the other really fears is that one will full comply with his or her demand."

"knowledge ultimately makes us unhappy. . . jacques lacan claims that the spontaneous attitude of a human being is that of 'i don't want to know about it' - a fundamental resistance against knowing too much."

"that is the enigma of knowledge: how is it possible that the whole psychic economy of a situation changes radically not when the hero directly learns something (some long repressed secret), but when he gets to know that the other (whom he thought ignorant) also knew it all the time, and just pretended not to know in order to keep up appearances."

"what the emphasis on multitude and diversity masks is, of course, the underlying monotony of today's global life. . . what occludes (and thereby sustains) this monotony is the multiplicity of resignifications and displacements to which the basic ideological texture is submitted."

"it is difficult, properly traumatic, for a human animal to accept that his or her life is not just a stupid process of reproduction and pleasure-seeking, but that it is in the service of a truth.  and this is how ideology seems to work today, in our self-proclaimed postideological universe: we perform our symbolic mandates without assuming them and 'taking them seriously'."

"through all these displacements, the same old story is being told.  in short, the true function of these displacements and subversions is precisely to make the traditional story relevant to our 'postmodern' age - and thus to prevent us from replacing it with a new narrative. . . we make fun of our beliefs, while continuing to practice them, that is, to rely on them as the underlying structure of our daily practices. . . when we think we are making fun of the ruling ideology, we are merely strengthening its hold over us."

"spontaneity and the 'let it go' attitude of indulging in excessive freedoms belong to those who have the means to afford it - those who have nothing have only their discipline.  the 'bad' physical discipline, if there is one, is not collective training but, rather, jogging and body-building as part of the subjective economy of the realization of the self's inner potentials - no wonder an obsession with one's body is an almost obligatory part of ex-leftist radicals' passage into the 'maturity' of pragmatic politics."

"the apparently modest relativization of one's own position is the mode of appearance of its very opposite, of privileging one's own position of enunciation.  compare the struggle and pain of the 'fundamentalist' with the serene peace of the liberal democrat who, from his safe subjective position, ironically dismisses every full-fledged engagement, every 'dogmatic' taking sides."

". . .in the unique [russian] expression awos or na awos, which means something like 'on our luck'; it articulates the hope that things will turn out all right when one makes a risky radical gesture without being able to discern all its possible consequences. . . the interesting feature of this expression is that it combines voluntarism, an active attitude of taking risks, with a more fundamental fatalism: one acts, makes a leap, and then one hopes that things will turn out all right."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

enmeshment, fusion, or relatedness?:

a conceptual analysis by michele bograd, from the book a guide to feminist family therapy

*note: i'm critical of the binary-gendered, heterosexist language, as well as the assumptive, essentialist language of *womyn are/men are...*.  however, i interpret this in a sociological framework, i.e. socialization teaches then reinforces many of these ideas within binary-gendered roles (and this is why these roles must be dismantled if patriarchy is to be smashed!)

"the terms 'enmeshment' and 'fusion' are such basic family systems terms that many family therapists, regardless of their theoretical persuasion, employ them as descriptive of dysfunctional family structures and processes. . . the analysis rests on the premises that: (1) basic family therapy constructs are male-defined and do not adequately address gender differences in human development or the socially constructed conditions of family life; (2) criteria of healthy system functioning reflect stereotypically male characteristics; (3) assessed by these standards, the preferred interpersonal styles of womyn are judged as undesirable or pathogenic; (4) although a distinguishing criterion of family therapy is its emphasis on relationships and interactional patterns, family therapy lacks a language of connection and intimacy."

"men and womyn do not stand in the same relationship to language.  since many of womyn's experiences are not positively encoded linguistically, they are distorted and/or rendered invisible.  language is not simply descriptive but prescriptive: as we narrate an event, we imply what should be."

"bowen developed a linear model of healthy human development.  on one end of the continuum is fusion.  the fused individual has no clear sense of self and is governed by feelings and intuitions rather than by a consistent system of rational beliefs and opinions.  because of poor self/other boundaries, he or she is too oriented to relationships, to responding to the needs of others, and to seeking approval.  in contrast stands the abstract ideal of the differentiated self.  because of clear ego boundaries, the individual achieves relative separation of emotion and intellect and so is motivated by reason and logic, rather than by intense feelings or relationship demands.  acting autonomously, the fully differentiated person is not a solitary individualist but tolerates both intimacy and isolation.  a major goal of bowen family systems interventions is to help individual family members 'rise up out of the emotional togetherness binding us all.'"

"enmeshment is defined somewhat differently.  as defined in minuchin's early works, structural family therapy rests on a curvilinear model of adaptive functioning: boundaries between subsystems can be too rigid or too diffuse.  enmeshed families, in which individual autonomy is sacrificed for the sake of connection, are characterized by blurred boundaries and low interpersonal distance leading to overinvolvement, extreme sensitivity, and acute reactivity between family members.  but too rigid boundaries lead to disengagement: too great interpersonal distance between individuals and subsystems results in limited potential for 'reverberation' or responsiveness and in the relative absence of emotional connection, warmth, and support.  interdependence is the ideal.  boundaries are clear enough to allow individual members to carry out functions without interference but permeable enough to permit contact and the flow of information.  while promoting the experience of self as a separate whole, structural family therapists equally emphasize the importance of mutuality and reciprocity between part and context, between individual and the family system."

"the 'neutral' standards of mental health and human development often reflect prototypically male characteristics.  this is most evident in bowen's model, in which qualities defined as adaptive for the system are stereotypical male traits writ large: rationality, autonomy, detachment, individuality, independence. . . the problem is not that certain 'male' characteristics are valued, but that they are located on a bipolar continuum that devalues or pathologizes stereotypically female qualities of emotionality, need for intense connection, and investment in relationships."

"lacking a positive language of connection and intimacy, family therapists label a wide range of womyn's behaviors as enmeshment or fusion. . . holding the individual womyn accountable for the dysfunctional patterns of the entire family system is a major sexist bias of family therapy."

"although womyn act dependently, they often have a fully differentiated strong self, which is camouflaged for the sake of other family members, particularly the husband. . . the belief that womyn are too dependent, fused, or enmeshed is false.  in reality, womyn are not dependent enough because they assume they need to take care of others without having their own needs met in return.  it is men who are dependent on womyn and who expect to have their needs met and gratified without ever having to acknowledge them."

"the subordinate group becomes the receptacle of traits denied by the dominant culture, such as dependency or emotionality.  because these traits threaten the dominant group, they are encoded in ways that devalue or minimize them."

"attention is deflected away from the consequences of domination by describing subordinates as morally weak, naturally substandard, or less than humyn.  for example, when a womyn is labeled enmeshed, family therapists can ignore how her financial dependence on her husband constrains her freedom, how available social options limit her means of personal development, how fear of male violence curtails her activities, and how social reactions constrain her efforts to transform her role."

"in male-defined models, autonomy and connection, individuation and belonging are defined as mutually exclusive constructs."

"the self develops and is validated through a reciprocal process of understanding and empathy, in which mutual connectedness and empowering the other leads to further articulation of the self.  within this context, womyn develop complex skills.  highly developed cognitive and emotional capacities facilitate their sensitivity to emotional nuances and needs of others.  this requires a strong sense of self characterized by flexible self/other boundaries, permitting intense closeness or caring distance depending on the momentary needs of the other and/or on the situational context.  relying on emotion as well as on reason, womyn have the capacity to tolerate and express a wide range of feelings, which facilitate identification with others.  demonstrating high adaptability to the short-term or developmental needs of others, womyn demonstrate a positive capacity to maintain relationships- a process requiring the ability to tolerate the ambiguous manifestations of change."

"the self develops within a context of relatedness, not by separating from it.  other aspects of the self (such as autonomy, competence, and self-esteem) become articulated through relational experiences of mutual empathy.  the mature self- characterized by complexity and fluidity- co-exists with intense affective connectedness."

"constant availability to others requires delaying gratification, being immediately emotionally present, and tolerating continuous interruptions and demands."

"in a context of inequality, the subordinate group must develop certain skills to insure survival.  first, womyn must acquire superior relational skills to protect and maintain their connection to men who wield symbolic or actual power over them.  since the dominant class tends to deny its vulnerabilities and weaknesses, subordinates develop great sensitivity to nonverbal cues, to what is not spoken.  members of the dominant group don't need to develop capacities for relation and connection, because it is assumed they will be cared for by subordinates."

"the dominant group is often threatened when subordinates begin to name and so legitimize their own experiences and values as this challenges the status quo and reveals the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the more powerful group."

"these polarities emerge from the socially structured inequality of men and womyn, the culturally constituted ideology of gender, and the gender-specific developmental paths of individuals raised in the contemporary family form."

Monday, December 3, 2012


by default number (20)12 is about to get itself copied.  i haven't written an issue since #11 in 2007, so it seems about time.

in honor of this, a dusty poem out of by default #8 (from 2004):

i'm good at imaginary romances

walk me home, walk me
to the afterbar party, walk me
away from romance & into
reality.  no, i'm kidding.

i'm on it.
fire, cloud nine, the moon, etc etc

guess what?  i have no eyes
anymore, i just called
to say anything but
compromise.  see?
you're so unspecific.
i can't help you.

first kisses can be the worst
except special cases when
they're not
like last kisses

my heart belongs to imperfect
optimistic brilliant quirky types

like my father, she says

approach & look directly
long, can you, without
the gossip wedging between
us?  can you slam the
sensual into strange spots
behind ears & elbows?
will you also wrap around
the waste like a lasso
& toss it sky-limitless?
might you be serious &
still once the crowd goes
to bed, like the wing span
of a bird, coasting, coasting?