It has been far too long since I have properly blogged and I do apologize.
I would like to offer some reflections on what has been a rather turbulent year. For Antigone this has been both an inspiring and frustrating year. We are so touched and humbled every single day by the submissions we receive from our participants; thank you for dreaming with us. On the other hand, we have encountered so many systemic roadblocks in our advocacy that, for me, it has confirmed more than ever that the fight is not over and will not finish for some time yet….
Preparing to send out my applications for PhD programs in the states has meant that I have engaged in (perhaps too much) self-reflection. I proudly carry the banner of feminism on my shoulders and I am proud to have such caring, inspiring, and intelligent sisters to carry it with me. However, we are becoming a rare breed in my demographic. One of the things I have always believed is that the academic work I carry out is not and need not be divorced from the activism I engage in. In other words, I want my words to do things rather than sit motionless on dusty shelves. I want to affect change. One of the ways I have sought to do this is in publishing Antigone, another will be my work on the intersection between theatre and activism and yet another, my creative works. However, I am finding that my sense of urgency is not shared by those who surround me.
Upon discussing feminist theatre criticism (a phenomenon of the rush for theory in the 80s) with my lovely thesis supervisor, she remarked to me that books which she once read in the 80s with zeal and excitement she now shudders to examine. These women are part of a radicalism she no longer sees as necessary. I responded by saying that we do need these women to buttress the achievements we have gained toward parity. She agreed, if reluctantly. But her initial recoil and wish to dissociate her own position from the ‘zeal’ which these women embody in their criticism was somewhat saddening to me because it speaks more largely of an unwillingness to think about our current moment.
It is certainly true that we have deconstructed gender to the point where “woman” as a category no longer stands as a buttress for second-wave activism. The death of women’s studies is for some a fait accompli. Women’s Studies departments are (happily) no longer the mainstay of the white feminist litigating for “woman” as race, sexuality, and class have broken into the discipline. However, it is also true that the kind of analysis which these spaces undertake CANNOT be diminished by the theoretical impasse which has been reached–nor can a kind of reverse discrimination be undertaken by those who do their work within these spaces. Thus, I return to my title. My question is: is this really a dilemma of my generation, or one which I share with all generations? I would argue the latter. The question of “woman” is the issue of feminism. We can argue the death of “woman” all we like, but feminism as a movement cannot die. Ultimately, for me, feminism is about the act of asking questions.
My supervisor’s reluctance belies her sense of privilege within the category of woman itself, or perhaps her need to disavow her association therein; because, to identify with the term would mean engaging a set of questions which might destabilize her sense of self. It is here that I return time and time again, our fascination as a culture with the phenomenon of the ego. It is my sense that our reliance on a stable self whose relations with others are concrete and definable undermines our ability to reflect critically on our own implication within our situation(s). Have we put ourselves into a place of performative positionality?
My own research centers on the ways in which our conceptions of self have overtaken the possibility of genuine and ethical relations with others. Moreover, I want to ask questions about how in our eagerness to deconstruct the categories of oppression we have in fact reified them further, and in so doing, cut off the affective bonds which connect us all. As I define my research further I am realizing more and more just how much what I do in the world informs what I do on the page. And I am more determined than ever to ‘keep on’…
As I make my way through my research I hope to develop these questions further and I encourage you to enagage with me. I intend to make this a bi-weekly series beginning on September 11th: The Performance of Feminism. Stay tuned!