Saturday, January 16, 2010

Delirious Feminism: question #1 of 3

The blog Delirious Hem is pushing for a Feminist poetics by posting essays by poets, followed by questions. The latest is from Jennifer Bartlett. Scroll down for the link.

I'm responding to her three questions in three blog postings. My response may not be as direct as she would want, but I'm musing. I'm a muser. (Always a muser, never a muse?)

1. Where have you seen mainstream Feminism and disability intersect in positive ways?

Okay, First the definition: I see mainstream Feminism is an impulse similar to that impulse which voted in our first black president, a desire to make amends and a hope the amends (such as Obama) is intelligent and capable. (He is.) In other words, men and women sense equality of male/female capability, each according to their light, which can cause confusion, hurt or ridicule: We are all well armed with expectations and mindsets.

Disability? Since women have been objects of a "gaze" for several millennia, our level of self-consciousness about our appearance is near electric and at odds with disability's perceived threat to our poise and ability to navigate male (and female) expectations. As more women are more conventionally successful, the culture has expanded its zone of the amount of "differentness" it will tolerate. This extends to disability, but only some. Only if it's not threatening. People are really easily threatened and difference is scary, I guess.

I have to laugh at the word "differentness" and the underlying presumption that there's a fine woman who is slim and straight-haired, fair, and is what the Creator intended. That the rest of us are "different." What a crock, but how we all buy into it.

I hope that women become more willing to be at least a bit different, to access our inner-Annie Oakley. Alas I see evidence to the contrary. I'm old school, 70s Feminist and also pulled between urges to be femme and urges to be tough. I'm all over the spectrum of sexuality, and was was astounded when I reached that certain age and began to realize the new breed of young women poets always wear skirts and make-up and are a bit restrained. They're smart and talented, but, as I see them, many aren't women to object too loudly. I could simply be describing the shock between the culture of 70s Feminism and contemporary Feminism.

Old-style Feminism was not all about being feminine. Not at all.

I present differently, at times, than what these new Feminists are comfortable with. One young woman who has a good teaching job, and more opportunities offered to her than I'll ever have, made a snarky remark to be about how angry old time Feminists were. I replied that it did seem to parallel the anger of African Americans of a certain age who, like the Feminists, were subjected to old school prejudice. She is black and didn't respond. I found her comment, the one mentioned and others, hurtful. Her only experience of me at that point was of my poetry and humor, and I didn't take it personally, but hey, I'm a Feminist and I'm angry. Sorry, honey.

We love Nature's diversity. Wow, man, there's eels and tulips and lichen. But when it comes to people, women being people and people being people, we have a long way to go.

Finally, I wrote several poems about my mother's painful (for the daughers and for her) self-inflicted twenty-year bout with cancer and the ravage on her face. This is not a disability. My mom's true disability was a slight limp ("First Appearance of the Angel Evelyn") from the polio epidemic of 1919. But her disfiguration is really hard for people to handle. Just throwing that in.
Jennifer Bartlett's essay at:

1 comment:

  1. Bravo,

    Perhaps our next book will be on poetry of New Feminism. In meantime, we are offering online browsing of our newest book, "Wings & Dreams: 4 Elements of a New Feminism" through this link.