Here, There, Everywhere

42-15650320Despite not being a Protestant, I find myself often weighed down by the Protestant work ethic, most often online . . . So for weeks I have been writing my posts and trying to keep up varied conversations as if stopping is akin to a great and heinous sin against g-d. And if not Him/Her, certainly against myself as I want to engage certain ideas and people, and b/c part of my need to push away from the screen has everything to do with a certain pair of muppets who have once again discovered my blog and made it all about them in the real world in which we must all work.  (Seriously, boys, its time to get over it ok. You know what you did. I know what you did. I haven’t told yet, and its been years, so move on.) And as I write this drivel passing itself off as a post, I think: maybe the sin is in speaking when you should be quiet. And despite my allegiance to Audre Lorde, there are times when silence is best.

Anyway, this morning the thought came to me as I was crafting a response to the unexplained editing of a comment I made on a feminist blog. I left a comment somewhere pt.ing the author to a place where I had said a similar thing to what she was saying, just days before, and agreeing with her sentiment. She edited my comment so as to remove any reference to her thesis having been said by someone else, somewhere else, prior, before approving it. When I left my comment, I actually thought we’d had a moment of synergy. Now I wonder if she read my thoughts and then wrote her own and is now trying to cover it up as the accolades pour in. If that is true, the sad thing about it is that both the internet and feminist media theory are dotted with the same thought repeated in multiple ways over an extensive period of time. It isn’t my thought. It isn’t her thought. It is a thought many of us have, and some of us have published on, if we do what we do long enough.

To me there is a fundamental difference between intellectual property and collective experience. It is like when my students discover Phenomenal Woman for the first time, and gush with excitement about how it says so much about their lives and their feminism. For them, the experience is unique and empowering, for me it is a regularized occurrence that has lost all of its excitement b/c I see so many girls have this moment in classes. And yet, I don’t look at them with my bored face and say “Thank you Sally but you do realize Ebony had that experience 15 years ago when I first taught that poem so please sit down and think of something original to say.” Nor do I call in Sally, Roberta, Minh, & Dolace  and all the other girls who wrote on the poem and say “which one of you first experienced this b/c the rest of you cheated.” It is not, after all, the same as sitting down to read an acclaimed philosophy text that basically recreates Audre Lorde but only cites men and the author’s own head as the source so that students who don’t read feminist texts all over the country will cite him instead of her and think he is brilliant. These things are different. The reasons, obvious.

As I looked at the edited version of my comment, turned from a comment of sisterhood to an open adulation of the speaker’s brilliance that I never made, I thought “perhaps the sin is in speaking when you should be quiet.”

we’re on a blog break.

5 thoughts on “Here, There, Everywhere

  1. “…perhaps the sin is in speaking when you should be quiet.”

    My mother says something very similar to me, all of the time. She says I tell people too much, and, in the process, I give away too much of my knowledge so people can take it and claim it as their own. This happened to me when I was teaching in Augusta, GA. It was an admin. no less who passed off my idea as his own. This did get back to me, but, I did not have enough self-esteem at the time to confront him. If it were today, boy, I would.

    I am sorry that you had this experience, Prof. . That’s really lowdown. To the point that it makes one not want to speak, but instead, be quiet.

    Don’t take too long of a blog break.🙂

  2. thanks miss profe. the comment thing was just a tiny bit of it all . . . but I’m glad to have finally given myself permission to shut it for a while, so, silver linings

  3. Editing the comment is just weird.

    I also agree that the feminist notion of collective intellectual work seems to be forgotten (or misremembered). Feminism, like many other forms of social justice, depends upon a rejection of the individual’s desires and egos in favor of a group commitment. What happened to the many feminists who used to write anonymously for just a such a reason?

    • It is what it is. I think there are deep divides between theory and practice and the internet is both a reflection and maximized (for lack of a better word) version of them. Collective action has never been a rose garden but it seems more thorny lately . . .

      What happened to the many feminists who used to write anonymously for just a such a reason?

      funny, I’ve been thinking that amidst cries against anonymous blog authors and zine/e-zine writers . . . I keep thinking “am I the only one who remembers the Victorians? The Marxists?”

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