Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is Ululations *Masculinist*???

Gabriel Gudding wrote in a comment box recently:

i know the flar-fist blogs are v masculinist.

To which I responded

Um is my blog masculinist?


Gabe’s reply follows in blockquotes with my responses interleaved:

i don't read many blogs, nada.


OK, and clearly you don’t read mine with anything like attentiveness, or you would not say something so absurd about it.

but i mean, aside from the fact that entire notion and action of ritualized transgression, esp as it manifests in art, has lots of homologies with masculinized behavior (self-aggrandizement, anger as means of appropriating needs, fetishizing of technique),


Well, if I own up to the first two, but feministically, as a way to aggrandize what has been belittled & oppressed and as righteous anger to, yes, appropriate needs, can I say what I have said a billion times in this space here before, if you had thought to pay attention to it, that I do not fetishize technique. I do not think really that what the flarf collective does can be reduced to “technique.”


if the motto of your blog is any indicator, then yeah yr blog is totally masculinist:


Really, Gabe, how glib can you get? Totally masculinist? I really do not think so. The fact that you would attempt to summarize everything I have written on the seven years I have kept this blog as masculinist because of your willful, twisty misreading of its epigraph (no, not its “motto.”) is in itself a kind of warlike, aggressive, unmindful gesture!

tristan tzara: ""Beauty and Truth in art don't exist; what interests me is the intensity of a personality, transposed directly and clearly into its work, man [sic] and his [sic] vitality, the angle under which he [sic] looks at the elements and the way he [sic] is able to pick these ornamental words, feelings and emotions, out of the basket of death." (Tristan Tzara, from "lecture on dada" p. 107)"


the focus on intensity, directness, clarity, man, vitality, looking-at, manipulator-of words/feelings/emotions, and the whole heroic stealer-from / fighter-with "death" -- is totally very all about eurocentric conceptions of manly manliness.


I like the quotation because it stresses the ornamental, a key concept I have been meditating on here in writing since the beginning of this blog, and also because it imparts a Spinozan sense of the infinite horizon against which we seize the day, intensely, to make our works. I don’t read it as you do, at all, and in any case, I correct the pronoun throughout, in case you didn’t note that.

then there's the whole 20thC-europe refusal of beauty thing -- edmund burke was right to suggest an ideational substrate in european culture that yokes beauty with smallness, femininity, pleasure, roundness, light and the sublime with hugeness, masculinity, terror, dark.


I don’t refuse beauty; rather, I insist on it (perhaps because I am so small, feminine, pleasure-focused, round, and radiant myself, prrroww, oh and sublime, too, did I mention that?) – but I insist on a hugely expanded definition of it. What I refuse is “beauty,” and I think that’s what Tzara was getting at, too; that is, the notion of beauty as confined to accepted limits of what beauty might be, beauty in constraints, beauty that is only symmetrical or harmonic or non-grotesque. To me, that isn’t beauty, and I don’t think it was to Tzara, either. Have you looked into Tzara recently? Because to me his best writings sound a lot like koans, not like Eurotrash.

plus there's the whole performative defiance, verbal club/gang thing. a show of one's supposed autonomy in an energetic fantasy of defiance against other poetry. i mean there's a reason why a-g movements are almost completely guy-based, more even than mainstream circles.


I do enjoy performative defiance (don't you? isn't your own "outside" posturing a kind of performative defiance, too?), it’s true, in part because there’s energy to be found there (as you point out), and that does help to fuel production. A narrative with no conflict is not really interesting, is it? The thing is, what we do in the flarf collective is simply not guy-based. It’s just not. The women involved are strong and hilarious and brilliant, and power is diffused throughout. A little fact-checking might have served you here.

so yeah i guess kinda.


No, Gabe, not even kinda. And now that you mention it, I can’t think of any flarf blogs that are “masculinist,” not in the way Dale’s aggressive thrown gauntlets are, in any case. Look at Stan’s recent post on “boundary issues,” and the ensuing comments. Gary’s blog is a mass of gushing, almost girlish,enthusiasms about the world and its cultures. Drew’s is about attentive listenings. Kasey’s is rhetorically masterful, it’s true, but not in a “masculinist” way; he’s just good at what he does, and thoughtful, and smart. So is Anne, and a lot of her posts are about what it’s like to be a mother. Is that “masculinist?” Sharon doesn’t post frequently, but if you look at her blog right now you will see a long post about her reminiscences of her early time in NYC, all described in heartfelt, luscious, emotional detail. What is masculinist about that?

Gabe, what are you talking about? Like so much of what gets leveled at my cohorts, this is really inaccurate and honestly kind of dehumanizing. I really do expect better thinking from you, and from everyone else, too.

15 comments:

odalisqued said...

Nada,

I remember reading somewhere once that NO POETRY BLOGGERS had blogged about Gaza, but so many of the bloggers I'd read had mentioned Gaza, and then I looked at the blog roll, and saw that it was made out of men, in particular the ones devoted to upholding "information" and "opinion" and "professionalism."

There are still some poetry blog rolls where this uniformity of gender is the case, so is it any wonder that there are the men who read the blogs of men, and then move through the world having arrived at the opinion "poetry blogs are masculinist" not having (or seeking) adequate information?

I read you and Laura Carter and Alli Warren and Sandra Simonds and Kari Frietag and Reb Livingston and Barbara Jane Reyes, (I also miss Stephanie) & also there are others, men and women, so few of them blowhards, and so I would make all these other generalizations like "blogs are so feminine like diaries and letters" or "how intellectually open and vulnerable we all are here together in a place that is often dangerous" or even sometimes "so much conversation about secretions and reproduction and love" or "god these diaristic tendencies are embarrassing and bound to do us harm."

But I don't think Gabe is really saying anything about these little places full of bunnies and belly dancers and vaginal discharge and cute kid stories and struggles and books -- it's more some other world he has imagined and/or lived in, I bet. Also, I think probably this is what is going on with flarf, that for some people it is inconceivable to imagine a group of people making art together not centered around alpha males looking for a fight. I can't even figure out if I'm included in "flarf" most of the time but you know, birthdays are great there and stuff, and I love you.

I'm pretty sure "avant-garde" died along time ago and that is GREAT, because it gives us so much opportunity, but I'm learning there is a small group of dudes who keep blowing on it "stay alive, stay alive, we need you! stay alive, or at least your pathological formations!"

Anne

Dale said...

Nada, the term "masculinist" simply applies to what you don't like. End of story.

Nada said...

'Taint so, Dale, just 'taint so. And it's not the end of the story. Stop being so lazy and dismissive.

Nada said...

Anne, yes.

Ryan said...

I don't think blogs have genders, can we please stop applying gender to blogs?

My blog is female, and masculine. It also listens. It asks for directions.

I'm confused about why it's just plain wrong to say "men never ask for directions" (where did this inane stereotype come from, anyway?) but the statement, "blogs are masculinist" gets press. Go figure.

Gabe, or whoever else says this, needs first to define masculinist. Do you mean characteristic of a tendency toward the masculine? Writing? Masculine? Like what? Straight razor shaving? Beards? Huntin'?

What's masculine?

The world needs more transgendered writers; I'm sick of this binary neighborhood.

Nada said...

Gabe has written an essay on masculinism, so he has, in a sense, defined his terms.

I'm with you, Ryan, on the continuum model.

Joe Safdie said...

Hi Nada -- isn't the Keats quote you gave up top a model of a process that's both masculine and feminine? "With him all things were more or less sensational; his mental faculties being, as it were, extended throughout the sensitive part of his nature" . . . sounds pretty good to me! I just get confused about the gender stuff. I was recently accused of being masculinist myself, by a good friend (a woman) who's also a member of the Flarf collective, but at the time it seemed to me that she was being more "essentialist" than I was by ascribing certain qualities to woman and others to men . . . so just count me as puzzled.

Ryan said...

Nada,

Clearly I need to read that essay.

Joe's statement really applies to the entire debate, that there seems to be too much essentialist twinge in the idea that a blog is masculinist (the idea of hiding out, or revealing oneself behind a cybernetic facade can't possibly be attributed as masculinist posturing.. can it? I mean, even the binary opinion that there are, somewhere in academia or blogademia, a gaggle of alpha males seems reductive: certainly alpha males aren't the only people getting into mean-spirited debates.

Jordan said...

Where did this term "masculinist" come from, and how long has it been in circulation? When I was asking around about Leslie Fiedler's teaching at UB for a piece I wrote last year, several people characterized Fiedler to me as masculinist. I got from it that these people perceived in Fiedler an indifference to women as academics or (mainly) as authors of texts worth study.

Actually, I'm inclined to think that Gabe's use of the term is a lot of hooey, and that his phrase "venally hyping" sounds to me like a character name Roald Dahl rejected, not to mention grossly inapt; whereas Dale's denigration of flarf poems as tag clouds strikes me as half an insight putting the yoke of half an argument on half an ass.

Meg said...

I don't think that people who do not understand the underlying argument of "feminism" (and that goes for feminists themselves) can ever argue logically, fluidly or passionately enough to change one damn thing.

Because of course...when one takes up a side in an argument it is because they have passion about something...isn't it? They want to change something that is unjust...isn't it?

Look for the equation before trying to solve the riddles.

And that would include the Gaza conundrum as well.

Henry Gould said...

I always thought a "masculinist" was a manicurist who specialized in male toenail care, but I have learned a lot from this discussion.

shanna said...

I don't understand either & supposedly I'm very intelligent. Anyway I luv your blog, Nada. and I think it might be true that most people in the list don't even do blogs?

Anonymous said...

I realize this is a bit off-topic, but I think there would be strong interest for this among readers of Nada's blog. So I just wanted to share this web site I only found out about yesterday. It is the site of my former Milwaukee roommate John Beadle, with whom I'd lost touch for many years (he's still in Milwaukee-- he's been building motorcycles at Harley Davidson for nearly three decades). Already, back in the
80s, when we were living together and selling The Militant newspaper at plant gates at 6 AM, he had an astonishing collection of African records. For four or five years he had a weekly African music radio show on a public station in Milwaukee, can't remember the call letters now. And now his collection, this is no exaggeration, is one of the most important on the planet. He is married to a woman from Nigeria, so he's been going over there annually for many years now, bringing back the latest, and also the obscure oldies.

Anyway, please check this out, and drop him a note of appreciation for this wonderful and long labor of culture work.

http://likembe.blogspot.com/

Kent

Ryan said...

Meg,

To whom is your statement directed?

I'm wondering if anyone should even be using the term "masculinist" at all. It seems so essential, so reductive, and so deadended.

Steve said...

Anne Boyer, you're very sharp and trustworthy -- actually I think that most everybody here is, at least most of the time, but you seem particularly so at this moment -- so I cannot wait to start reading your books. Sorry I haven't already, but, like everyone else in the world, I don't always "keep up." Who can? During the Bush years (?) ...