Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Washington Post GlobalChat (plus)

Here is the interesting question posed over the weekend by "Washington Post" GlobalChat blog (in bold) followed by the highway scribe's answer, in which he somehow manages to (legitimately) plug his book.

And then a fellow named Daniel engaged the scribe in a back and forth which we reproduce here for your enjoyment.

Are women making real breakthroughs in the 21st century or is it still one-step forward, two steps back for half the world's population?

A fine and important question posed in a season of hope for renewal.

Women have gained some and yet the world has not changed much.

You can lead Germany, but some daffy dope from Texas can find it within his right to give you a public back massage.

You can be a woman in power, but not rule with woman power.

On this planet the maxim that “might makes right” continues to reign. You can elect Margaret Thatcher, but she must start wars in distant lands to gain legitimacy. If she possesses any particular feminine wisdom, you will never know it.

You can give a woman all the rights in the world, but alone on a street she must still be afraid for masculine physicality remains highly valued and too often utilized (ahem) preemptively.

the highway scribe wrote his novel from a woman’s perspective; a definite no-no in today’s environment where only blacks can write about blacks, Latinos about Latinos, and women about women.

Where do you come off writing from a woman’s perspective, highway scribe? What do you know about what a woman feels?

Until we can transcend this easy conceit, we can never understand women, blacks, Latinos and other losers on the balance sheet of violence. We must learn to accept the difference between us as the gift. the scribe’s simple answer to his critics was that he listened to women and put the feelings they expressed to him in his story about La Vedette, Gloriella, “she who brings to mind the words of Arabi who said the sight of God in woman is the most perfect of all.”


highwayscribery, I find myself puzzled by your post earlier. You seem to believe that a woman must be a liberal to be a woman--that if she is not liberal she is being forced to act like a man or something (or put in a subordinate position).

For example you trash Bush for rubbing Merkals back which would classify as putting woman in a subordinate position. Then you point out Thatcher as an example of woman not being put in a position of subordination but being forced to act like a man to get legitimacy.

So according to your scheme a woman is not really a woman if subordinate or demonstrating male characteristics.

I really would like to see what women think of that.

Even more problematic you go on to complain that the book you wrote was not greeted well by women and then you insist you do understand women.

But women cannot demonstrate male characteristics like Thatcher while you, super sensitive and totally in touch with woman, can understand the feminine?

Logic would dictate that if you can be Mr. Sensitive a woman can just as well be highly masculine and compete with men without having been expected to act like a man by men.

I think your liberal politics has totally confused you--so overlapped your notions of male and female that a woman must be a liberal and cannot be anything else unless forced into subordinate position or irrationally made to act like a man by men.

This political position of yours might be for the emancipation of woman in the sense of removing her from being subordinate, but it prevents her from acting like a man because in your scheme of things for her to act like a man is to be Republican (to be forced to act like a man to gain legitimacy).

Furthermore we can add that your scheme of things shortchanges men because they are forced into both allowing women to become more powerful and to act only in a "feminine" manner (nothing which may be construed as Republican). Essentially men must become more feminine as you understand it...

So you have this notion of the female that not only men must conform to, women must conform to it as well...

I suggest you do not understand men and women at all. I suspect men as well as the women you "write for" feel you have no understanding.

You have simply overlapped political categories on notions of male and female--and for that reason it can be said you have no understanding of politics either.

But perhaps you can write a book now explaining me as a man.

the highway scribe:


You make some fine points, if in a rather cantankerous way. the scribe doesn't claim to be either "super sensitive" or to understand women, because he's not, and doesn't (his wife can vouch), but thinks it important to try. the scribe feels activist women should be taken to task for joining other "identities" in claiming their experience can only be expressed through themselves, because that means we lose opportunities at comprehending one another. the scribe grants that you are correct regarding his "confusion" about the sexes today, which, he thought, was somewhat universal. Still, it must be said that there are masculine and feminine archetypes, and the highway scribe's liberal politics didn't produce them (his analysis is typically anarcho-syndical). Out here in California we have a governor whom referred to his "left" opponents as "girlie men" long before there was a highwayscribery. When the president massages Germany's leader (it's Merkel, I recommend you try the "preview" feature before you post), it's hard not to notice he didn't choose Tony Blair instead, or Gerhard Schroeder long before her, because that would have been a feminine and productive thing to do, given their relationship. Your best point involves the emancipation of a woman precluding her from acting in a masculine way, which, it's true, would sort of un-emancipate her, but the scribe would hope the elevation of women's status and power might offer us a broader, kinder horizon. If he's wrong, then it's kind of too bad, no?

Daniel's rejoinder:

I thought about your earlier post some more and it seems to me now what you actually did rather than superimpose your liberal beliefs on how you expect women to behave is superimpose something of an idealized feminine on the entirety of existence as poets do...

In other words you have an idea of the idealized feminine toward which liberal politics must move and this of course must replace Republican politics...

I can understand now why liberal women would feel you do not understand them. Instead of emancipating woman you expect her to conform to the idealized feminine and for this to rule the world.

According to your scheme women must not only resist being subordinated (which is correct and liberal) they cannot act as men as Thatcher did without somehow having been forced to act contrary to their nature (forced to act like men to gain legitimacy).

But the latter portion is not conducive to the liberation of women at all. It might be that some women are forced to act like men, but other women actually do have male characteristics and consider the release of them perfectly consistent with liberal politics...

It seems you are so against Republican politics and have such an idea of the idealized feminine that you are something of a super liberal toward which everyone must conform...

What makes it even more strange is that you have a particular idea of the idealized feminine--in other words there is not just one idealized feminine.

Your idealized feminine is totally non-violent, completely nurturing,--a total opposition to male characteristics.

But if you study the features of the statue of liberty or the myth of Pallas Athena or other conceptions of the idealized feminine you find that by no means is there a consensus and that in fact a woman can be quite masculine, beautiful and powerful without this being at odds to womanhood or manhood...

This discussion is getting interesting. I wonder now how much politics is getting both confused and clarified by changing conceptions of the sexes. We have a left and right politically and male and female. How do these dualities influence and interpenetrate each other? How can they be disentangled and then reentangled for maximum movement and development?

Sorry Merkel for misspelling of name. Spelling is not my strongest point....


Daniel, thanks for your response. the highway scribe can't help but feel you are more trapped in a "liberal/Republican" paradigm than he; who never once uses either term. Is the scribe's feminine a poet's idealization? Perhaps. Does he care about its relationship to GOP or Democratic politics? Not a wit. And the scribe never said women don't think he understands them. He said certain women don't feel the scribe, or any man, should attempt to express feminine realities in literature. Again, the scrivener thinks it's good to walk some miles in someone else's shoes in the name of deeper understanding. Reading your comments the scribe can't help but feel you're twisting yourself in a knot trying to paint him as something "other" than yourself, and is somewhat flummoxed at how a rather whimsical and sentimental post -- bereft of real political rhetoric -- so repulsed and raised your ideological hackles. There is no "scheme" proposed in that first offering; no call to "superimpose" anything on anyone, and, for the world, the scribe doesn't see where you got any of that. Try "Vedette" (Buy My Book! $$$) You will find nothing in her that is "non-violent, completely nurturing" as you put it. If there is nothing transcendent about the female, if she is not the missing ying to our unbalanced and violent yang, if women are naught but another political interest out to get theirs at the expense of others, then why should we care? Finally, you're right, the discussion is interesting, but woefully underattended by comparison to other GlobalChat topics. That may speak to this question better than all the words spilled between us.

Join the conversation here.

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