Thursday, 3 June 2010

Searching for feminine subjectivity

Sue and I were talking last night about female subjectivity would look like. It seems such a vast thing, something so overwhelming, I didn't know where to start. Then, I decided that this was something I needed to explore further, really get in to, really try to understand. Maybe to write about, in a blog or a booklet or something.

What would female subjectivity mean? It would change the world. Everything would change.

So, I wanted to ask some questions and it would be great if you could submit your answers to the questions in the comment section and help me see what this means to the women and men around me. I want to ask you about how you have experienced women in culture and history and society, to try and get a grip on how we experience femininity today and what it would take to see it differently, liberated from patriarchal constructs.

I don't know where i'm going with this. But i'm excited.

1. When you were at school, did your school exercises and problems feature boys and girls?

2. Who are the most famous authors in the world?

3. Who are your favourite authors and why?

4. What do you know about Queen Elizabeth 1st?

5. Who are the most famous women in history and what do you know about them?

6. Who is your hero?

7. Who do you consider to be iconic figures, past and/or present

8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society?

9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they?

10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is?

11. What do you feel makes you a woman?

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman?

That's it for now. You don't have to answer all of them. Those questions were basically off the top of my head, so it isn't very scientific. If you think there are questions i should have asked, then comment and tell me. It would be really helpful!

I think there's something here we can really do, really say something about. I'm really over-the-top excited about it!

9 comments:

Anastasia said...

That's a lot of interesting questions...the ones that speak most to me are the questions of famous versus "favorite" authors. Famous seems like it can draw our attention to both authors in the canon (Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Dante, Chaucer...) and authors in popular fiction, which is a more open list (Stephen King, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts, James Patterson). However, books written and read by females are still treated differently than works considered to be "universal"--a polite way of saying not coded female. For examples, just take a look at the ways the Twilight community gets stereotyped and mocked...

Elly said...

1. When you were at school, did your school exercises and problems feature boys and girls?
Yes.

2. Who are the most famous authors in the world?
Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Charles Dickens, Dan Brown

3. Who are your favourite authors and why?
Jeanette Winterson: she messes with gender identity and writes beautiful prose. She values ambiguity and truth.

And John Irving and Raymond Carver.
Just great stories and sentences.

4. What do you know about Queen Elizabeth 1st?
Very little. She was a fighter I know that much!

5. Who are the most famous women in history and what do you know about them
Princess Di, Madonna, Queen Victoria, Helen of Troy.
I don't know much about any of them except they had good publicists.

6. Who is your hero?
Judith Butler
Michel Foucault
Melissa Gira
Malcolm X
Andrea Arnold

7. Who do you consider to be iconic figures, past and/or present
Madonna
Princess Di
Jesus
Bowie
Elvis

Will get back to you on the rest!
8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society?

9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they?

10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is?

11. What do you feel makes you a woman?

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman?

JenniferRuth said...

Okay, I've got a lull here at work on a Friday afternoon so I'll do my best to answer these. :) I'm interested as to what you plan to do with everyones answers! Are you going to answer the questions yourself?

1. When you were at school, did your school exercises and problems feature boys and girls?
I have to be honest and say that I really don't remember. I don't even remember if my school problems even involved metaphors or analogies! Possibly I should have been paying more attention.

2. Who are the most famous authors in the world?
I guess Stephen King? Also, JK Rowling and the woman who wrote the Twilight novels; Stephanie Myer, I think her name is spelt? And Michael Crichton. I think their fame might be somewhat related to the fact that these writers have all had their books made into films.

3. Who are your favourite authors and why?
Haruki Murakami - I like the detached nature of his protaganists as they wander through his novels. No matter how weird or fantastical the situation they always take it in their stride. I also enjoy his choice of words and his seemingly limitless ability to see the extraordinary in everyday situations.
Ursula K Le Guin - her stories are political and have a depth to them that most other sci-fi authors never manage. I love sci-fi for it's limitless potential and many sci-fi authors often disappoint in this regard by creating shallow, unimaginative worlds. Le Guin has never disappointed me. I also admit that I am fascinated by stories about utopias or dystopias and this is something that Le Guin explores really well.
I like many, many other authors but these are the first 2 that popped into my head.

4. What do you know about Queen Elizabeth 1st?
Off the top of my head I know that she was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boyeln. I know that she was famous for her supposed virginity (based on the fact she never married). She had her sister Mary Queen of Scots executed. I think it was because she was worried that the French would put her on the throne. She was Queen when England defeated the Spanish Armada which also made her very popular. She gave a speech where she said the she had the body of a sickly woman but the heart of a king. Oh yeah and she was played by Cate Blanchett in that film :) That's all I got! I have nothing in the way of dates.

5. Who are the most famous women in history and what do you know about them?
I hope it is okay if I skip over the 2nd part of this question because it would really take too long to write it all out and would likely make for very dull reading!
I think the most famous women in history in no particular order are probably:
1. Marie Curie
2. Joan of Arc
3. Saint Hildegard
4. Boudicca
5. Cleopatra
6. Florence Nightingale
7. Marie Antoinette
8. Mary Read and Anne Bonny
9. Amelia Earhart
10. Rosalind Franklin

6. Who is your hero?
I don't have one. I think you should try and be the best you can be based on what you believe rather than looking to anyone else for cues. There is nothing wrong with admiring someone or learning something from them but considering them a hero or putting them on a pedestal isn't very inspiring.

7. Who do you consider to be iconic figures, past and/or present
When I read this question my mind immediately went to Marilyn Monroe.

JenniferRuth said...

Had to split into 2 comments!

8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society?
I think that they are presented as weak, deviant and in the possession of whomever touches them. Women seem to never have had sole claim over their bodies. We are either considered to be on display for the enjoyment of men or we are hidden away lest we lead men into temptation. Our bodies are political in a way mens are not.

9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they?
I think this is a difficult question. I don't think that you do get to see much representation of women's sexuality. The only images that are offered involved heterosexual, cis women - usually white. It is also usually tied up in consummerism of some sort. Women are represented as using their sexuality as a commodity to obtain what they want rather than just for the enjoyment of sex or their bodies. To be totally honest I think that male sexuality is also limited by this - women are to be obtained and used as status signals. But that is beside the point.
I think the only place I have ever really seen open and honest representations of women's sexuality is fandom. Years and years ago (before I grew up and had to get a job and all those other boring things!) I used to be involved in fandom on the internet. Back in ye olden days of livejournal and fanfiction.net etc. A lot of what fandom is about is porn. Women are writing and drawing porn for one another. Yes, it may be porn about a tv show or a book or a cartoon but I think that is because it A. Makes it accessible since people already know the setting and characters and B. Because it is already something that people enjoy. The porn that women write/draw for women encompasses nearly every aspect of sexuality there is. I have seen porn about masturbation, men, women, orgies, romance, violence, kinks, with a plot, without a plot, and bestiality even. Women even request very specific stories from one another with every kink imaginable! I think it is there because it is filling a need. There is hardly any porn made with women in mind so I guess they went and made their own. Also, they can do it through a pseudonym and are usually in a group of other women who aren't judging them. I think that seeing all the different pornographic stories and art women make for one another anonymously is about the most open and honest representation of women's sexuality that you're gonna get.

10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is?
I don't know. I've thought about this and I'm not sure what feminine subjectivity is because it is going to be different for all of us, right? I would also add that femininity is a social construct and we should be careful in applying it. Femininity is considered passive and without desire; kinda makes feminine subjectivity a sort of oxymoron :)

11. What do you feel makes you a woman?
Nothing makes me feel like a woman. I have always felt just like me. There are things that make me feel female but woman is a gendered label with so many associations and I think it is restrictive. I don't bust a blood vessel about being referred to a woman or anything like that. It doesn't bother me. But ever since I was little I knew that I didn't feel like what a little girl was "supposed" to feel like. I am referring to the cultural and social constructions of girls, boys, men and women here. I just never felt like I fit and I still don't. I reckon most people probably feel that way at one time or another.

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman?
Motherhood, submissive nature, cosmetics, passivity, sexual availability, focus on appearance, beauty, servitude, selfless, gentle, empathetic, shallowness, frivolity, irrationality and a general willingness to put up with shit without complaining.

Damn - how long is this comment?! Hope you didn't fall asleep reading it! I think I need a coffee...

ButchBoi said...

1. When you were at school, did your school exercises and problems feature boys and girls? YES

2. Who are the most famous authors in the world? Dead White Guys

3. Who are your favourite authors and why? I have several fave female authors and several POC authors of both gender that I favor.

4. What do you know about Queen Elizabeth 1st? The Virgin Queen

5. Who are the most famous women in history and what do you know about them? Queens of England and quite a bit (history nerd FTW!)

6. Who is your hero? I don't have one

7. Who do you consider to be iconic figures, past and/or present
Anyone who has dramatically changed our society. Too often, that is men, but women are becoming more and more recognized.

8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society? There has been a significant change from being bound and subjugated to a much more open type of society, though there are still a lot of changes to be had.

9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they? women directed porn sometimes, depends on if they buy into the porn model or not.

10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is? something to think about a lot further

11. What do you feel makes you a woman? my biology because I self ID as essentially transmasculine

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman? body and performance

sianandcrookedrib said...

wow - all these answers are so interesting and so fantastic! it's really interesting to see the different responses and i am really grateful for people taking the time to answer them. i chose those questions because i was trying to think about culture and where women appear or act within cultural significance, and also how and where female sexuality is represented in culture. its given me a lot to think about. you all rock!

Elly said...

8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society?
I think it changes over time. But to generalise womens bodies tend to be presented as mothers, virgins, whores, objects or corpses.


9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they?
ones that acknowledge the oppression of women, but also their agency and ability to seek pleasure and fulfillment. eg www.melissagira.tumblr.com
www.clarissethorn.wordpress.com
www.quietgirlriot.wordpress.com

some films show women's sexuality in a positive active light, eg Show Me Love by L. Moodysson
Secretary
Sex lies and videotape

photographers and artists do also express sexuality eg Dellagrace volcano, frida kahlo, Paula rego

Musicians such as PJ Harvey
Lady Gaga


10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is?
I don't think it exists. Or if it does it is as multiple and diverse as masculine subjectivity. I am interested in 'the female gaze' and women looking, eg at porn. But I don't think it is one fixed thing.

11. What do you feel makes you a woman?
Hips, Lips, Tits, Power!

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman?
Hips, Lips, Tits, Lack of power!

Rose said...

1. When you were at school, did your school exercises and problems feature boys and girls?
- Yes.

2. Who are the most famous authors in the world?
- The most famous or respected writers at the present time are people like Ian McEwan (urgh), Martin Amis, Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, Stieg Larsson, A.S. Byatt, etc. The historical canon of famous writers is, of course, populated by white men, or women who had to pretend to be men. Let's not go there again just now!

Who are your favourite authors and why?
- Margaret Atwood - she is, quite simply, the most amazing writer and person. Pat Barker - her characterisation is second to none and her research is impeccable. Nancy Mitford - hilarious and charming. Aldous Huxley - a visionary. Graham Greene - a craftsman of the written word.

4. What do you know about Queen Elizabeth 1st?
- Rather a lot. The Tudor period is one of my special areas of interest. She was a fascinating woman but was probably less of a feminist than she is made out to be.

5. Who are the most famous women in history and what do you know about them?
- The most famous historical women are people like Mother Theresa, Marie Curie, Elizabeth 1st, Joan of Arc, Boudica, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, Princess Diana...I've run out. Apart from Elizabeth, I don't know a great deal about any of them.

6. Who is your hero?
- I don't really have one. There are many people I admire, such as my favourite authors and individuals that have done a great deal for the causes that I support (secularism and feminism, mainly). If I have any 'heroes' they tend to be real people or types of people, like subject librarians (!).

7. Who do you consider to be iconic figures, past and/or present?
- I wouldn't really call anyone iconic - I suppose someone can be an icon for a certain cause or period, but it's a fairly tricky thing to pin down and they've often been misinterpreted (e.g. Che Guevara being an icon of freedom or Marilyn Monroe being a feminist icon).

8. How do you think women's bodies are portrayed in past and present society?
- In every age, including our own, they have been contradictorily portrayed as something to both worship and abuse - something which should cause pain for a woman and pleasure for a man.

9. What do you think are honest and open representations of women's sexuality? Where are they?
- That's too hard to answer!

10. What do you think feminine subjectivity is?
- I'm not really sure what that means, which I suppose is fairly telling. I think subjectivity is a word that gets thrown around a lot and often means very little. Having studied a lot of critical theory, perhaps I'm reading too much into the terminology.

11. What do you feel makes you a woman?
- That's a hard one. I think it SHOULD just be my chromosomes and my sexual organs, but it probably isn't. I've been socialised into being what society defines as a woman, and I won't be able to fully escape that - nor do I entirely want to.

12. What do you think society feels makes you a woman?
- My chromosomes, my sexual organs and everything that came with my socialisation into womanhood.

deepforestowl said...

Hi! I am emailing because we at Hackgender have decided to extend the project and open up an archive! The archive isn't quite ready yet, but it will be for the relaunch on July 1st. Each month will have a theme, with the first month, July, having a theme of Personal Reflection. We encourage you to submit something or multiple somethings! The archive is not limited to the written word either so podcasts, images, video, etc are all acceptable and encouraged! We were wondering if it was ok to copy and paste your hackgender submission into the archive. As our early adopter, we would be happy to do this work for you so that your submission could be included in the archive. Please let us know if it is ok! We really want it! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us, Thanks! JJ and Ana