March 15th, 2012 / 4:07 am
Word Spaces


I understand the necessity of addressing the issue of gender imbalance in the publishing industry–I understand that this is something that isn’t being talked about enough and needs to be talked about more, but part of me always wants to insist that the entire program that is feeding this dichotomy is where the real problem is. Positing the issue of statistical counts of biological Male vs. Female bodies in the publishing industry is excluding any outliers to this constructed binary, the opposition of Male to Female bodies inherently erasing any room for discussion of the gray area. That which lies between, or somewhere on a spectrum outside of this opposition, is completely eradicated.

Of course, statistical analysis of anything, where numbers reduce actualities and items must be rounded down or up because we as humans understand that .4 of a person doesn’t mean anything–this is a structural analysis that always seems to miss the forest for the trees. Even within the realm of women-bodied authored writing, there is (often) an insistent phallocentric pathos that leads the narrative, generally within the construct of heterosexual relationships (the penetrative function of the penis is ostensibly what we all actually mean when we use the term “patriarchy”). If we want this overwrought homogeneity of patriarchal rule to end we cannot simply count on the binary of female-bodied versus male-bodied authors divorced from their content to be the deciding factor that we focus on. This changes nothing. The function of phallocentrism immediately ignores any sort of feminist thought, immediately assuming the role of the prick as presence and the vagina as void/absence (though we must consider the fact that Kathy Acker is one of the few people I am aware of who was able to subvert the dominant paradigm while writing what is arguably phallocentric sex).

The three errors concerning desire are called lack, law, and signifier. It is one and the same error, an idealism that forms a pious conception of the unconscious. And it is futile to interpret these notions in terms of a combinative apparatus that makes of lack an empty position and no longer a deprivation, that turns the law into a rule of the game and no longer a commandment, and the signifier into a distributor and no longer a meaning, for these notions cannot be perverted from dragging their theological cortege behind–insufficiency of being, guilt, significations. (Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus)

Of course just adjusting this in writing won’t actually affect publishing, shit needs to work from the inside out rather than the outside in–this is a larger problem, this is a core problem. The entire-fucking-world is phallocentric, and systematically this is oppressive–not just to women, either. If we focus less on the engendered binaries that serve as nothing but oppressive categories and more-so on how writing is functioning as a persuasive mode of discourse (which, let’s face it, it does), then perhaps progression can be made.

Let’s temporarily eschew the obvious fact that liberalism is terrible and nowhere near far enough left to accomplish anything ever. Let’s ignore the fact that radicalism is the only way to make the world better because I don’t want to derail from the point here–as much as I might desire your dick, I don’t want to hear about it. This is inherently, perhaps, part of the problem I find with what has recently been claimed as “feminist” writing by younger women, this idea that to be progressive means to become transparent and gain control by documenting sexual exploits in a public realm. The problem with this is that most–if not all–of this writing is still privileging the phallus.

I’ve always found it ironic the way the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual” work. I understand that on a basic semantic level this is simply positing “male and female” as heterogeneous and “male and male” as homogeneous, because generally, from both a level of experience and a level of, I don’t know, objectivity, it’s heterosexuals who are closed off to a wide array of sexual experiences, whereas homosexuals, more specifically anyone who identifies as queer (I’ll avoid going into the separatist insistence of certain realms of “gayness” that is as limited as a stringent heterosexuality), are those whose sexual lives live in the world of the heterogeneous–binary denying worlds of desire.

As much as the world would be a better place if everyone were in some capacity queer (this would remove this terrible binary and open up the world to a heterogeneous zone of pleasure), I’ll concede to the assumption that not everyone is built that way (but really, it’s arguable that 1200 years of a patriarchy is enough to brainwash even at the most subconscious level), and provide an example of a text that is primarily ‘heterosexual’ in its construction, while maintaining an insistent theme of anti-phallocentricism: Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye. If you haven’t read it, here’s a link to a zipped PDF of it.

Ok, now that you’ve read that, here’s a key passage from Allen S. Weiss’s brilliant essay “Demented, Deoedipalized, Deconstructed,” a reading of the story that follows up on Barthes’s canonical essay on the novella and incorporates Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus:

According to Catholic dogma, through a metaphoric relation, the wine symbolizes Christ’s blood and the wafer symbolizes Christ’s flesh; Sir Edmund’s blasphemous revision of this symbolism, with urine instead of wine and semen instead of wafer, metonymically symbolizes God as Phallus, God in the form of the Priapus. The tale’s anti-phallocratic theme is sustained: indeed, the phallus and God as transcendental signifiers are missing. While present in the nominalist structure of the sexual triangle, the phallus is lacking from the coordinating metaphoric series eye-egg-testicle. (The penis is only metonmically related to the testicle, as the Priapic God is metonymically related to the host as semen.)

The textual logic of Story of the Eye is organized by the alterations of the eye’s position on the sexual triangle, and by its metaphoric and metonymic variations. Thus the signification of the tale is not dependent upon the absolute position of a transcendent God; the position and significance of such a God itself is dependent upon the relation between the sexual triangle and the symbolic series eye-egg-testicle. This deus absconditus becomes a signified forever lost in an infinite play of signifiers: the signified “God” operates at best through a forlorn mode of identification, where “You are what you eat” (e.g., the bull’s balls or the lover’s sperm instead of the Eucharistic hosts). Such a God, therefore, may serve at best a fetishistic purpose. [ed. note: post-Nietzsche, we know that God, the ultimate patriarch, is dead]

Throughout the entire narrative, through many transgressive (in the Foucauldian sense) acts, the phallus is never privileged in relation to sex-act. Bataille understood as early as 1928 that that shit was played out.

This system of thought transcends theory though, it moves well into practice. I feel fortunate in the fact that I live, in terms of fluid sexuality, in what has to be the most heterogeneous zones of desire in America, if not the world. San Francisco is filled with trans- and hybridly identified sexualities, gender pronouns are never obvious and a male body dressing up in women’s clothes (and vice versa) cannot simply be labeled a fetishistic transvestism (though that’s not to say the Bay is perfect, there are still factions of fascistic homosexuality dominating more higher-income zones of living).

I met a beautiful goddess-diva ever-so briefly one night in San Francisco, a tumblr icon from Chicago, the future in the best way. Mark was fiercely ready for the future, she was ready, but something happened and now she’s no longer with us. I’d like to quote one of her tumblr posts:

I will not re-situate my ideas for a neoliberal framework

I think it’s fair for contemporary art to ask of its audience that they reframe themselves, not that the art come to the audience on their terms

I think it’s fair for contemporary art to accomplish work within a highly specific frame rather than make falsely broad statements

I think it’s fair to abide by the rules of the frame I choose rather than break the rules I choose to keep for the sake of a dominant paradigm

I believe Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”


tip the axis


I don’t care about your gaze


my tools belong to me


this conversation is tired

[from here]

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