September 30, 2019

Movie Pitch

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An action adventure movie in which the “hero” – in fight scene after fight scene – battles and often kills hundreds upon hundreds of faceless, nameless “villains.” But then, in the sequel, decides to travel the world and, without revealing his identity, meet with the families of everyone he killed.



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September 12, 2019

Some passages from The Feminism of Uncertainty

Some passages from The Feminism of Uncertainty by Ann Snitow:


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Everyone who engages in the tragicomedy of activism will negotiate the stretch between speculative desire and the shortfall of action in her or his own way. Happy endings require that one set sail toward a near enough horizon and keep one’s eyes off the inevitable: failure, confusion, and the falling out of comrades. There is no right way to balance these things…


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One can’t help remarking that internecine fights are often the hottest – because of the tearing apart of what is also – in some ways – connected, and because other more powerful enemies are further off, even harder to imagine as subject to change.


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...the strange line we draw between work and play


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The women retold tales Dorthy had loved about the triumph of eros over thanatos, like the one about a woman who falls off an ocean liner and, some hours later, when they discover she’s gone and turn back, they find her because she’s still swimming.

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In an anecdote she loved, a young man decides to kill himself, jumps off a high bridge, changes his mind in the air, straightens his body out into a dive and survives.


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The unorganized are always the most vulnerable to cynical or instrumental manipulation. They can’t produce social institutions that shape or interpret political experience.


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…things come from outside, and people make use of what comes, even from tainted hands.


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How obvious this sounds now, how rare and shocking then. The courage it took to demand a new place in history can no longer be imagined.


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Words are their way of denouncing mayhem and of living in it. As far as I know, writing puts power and powerlessness together like no other experience. As far as I know.


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I live with a composer, Daniel Goode, who has a piece called “Finding the Unison Sentence.” A group of people are to start talking, each one talking continuously, all trying to find a sentence they want to say together. I used to think the piece was a failure, since the groups never came close to unison, petering out instead. But the composer suggested that on the contrary, perhaps the piece shows that there is no unison sentence.


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People make change; it’s never only a matter of macro forces which no one can predict or influence; we are, gulp, in some sense implicated in the construction of our world. Art is one way into imagining something different, activism another. Always people are imagining, wanting, and acting from somewhere in themselves, or rather from often unacknowledged multiple states of self.


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There is always the personal question of how to survive being forgotten or aggressively misunderstood. Inevitably, with longevity or luck, one outlives one’s formative moment. In the case of those who were a part of ecstatic, hopeful, utopian movements, this common tragedy of the mismatch between an individual’s life and the arc of history is likely to be particularly acute. For them, forgetting goes beyond personal loss to the loss of the whole world.

But one step beyond these feelings, that one’s acts and words of protest have been specially chosen for neglect and insult, lies another more reliable experience feminists share: in modernity, feminism keeps returning. Though obscurity and abuse dog feminism, self-conscious feminist struggles are constantly finding new forms. Even if each return is greeted as if it were for the first time – the New Woman again and again – still she keeps coming. And she keeps bringing back some version of feminist resistance.


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Dinnerstein offered a subtle, revealing account of the deals men and women have traditionally struck with each other, including what was for me the first intelligible, usable explanation for women’s shamed acquiescence in male power, and our ambivalence about our own uses of force. She saw the female monopoly of infant care as decisive in all the gender asymmetry of social life that follows. It is a woman who introduces us to the world before we can recognize her as a limited, mortal being like ourselves. Struggling out from under the control of this first alluring, seemingly all-powerful person is the biggest fight we ever fight. Exhausted, we fling ourselves out of the sea full of mermaids onto the dry land of minotaurs who roar and strut but who nonetheless seem much more tamable and rational in contrast to the mother still stalking in an infantile layer of our personality.

Dinnerstein argues that male power in the public sphere feels right, even when terrible; at least male tyranny stands on the firm ground of adult mastery and will; at least it seems solid in its denial of absurdity, limitation, and death. For the most part, public projects are carried on without the constant modifying influence of doubts. One boldly builds the bomb: one doesn’t let anxiety about how to stow radioactive garbage slow one down. Worrying about the waste products of human efforts is somebody else’s job, and that irritating, nagging somebody is a woman. Men agree to build the world while women agree both to support them in this struggle and to give vent, like harmless jesters, to the knowledge both sexes have that “there is something trivial and empty, ugly and sad, in what he does.” A proverb records this bargain: Men must work and women must weep.

In spite of feminism’s extraordinary energy and collective will, which did indeed change so much, hatred and fear of women is entrenched, pervasive within us as well as without. The Mermaid and the Minotaur didn’t rescue me from this fact, or from my vulnerability to policing by men, but Dinnersteinian knowledge shifted the burden, making my common womanish feelings of self-doubt, foolishness, inconsequence into a shared – perhaps an alterable – condition.

Such a public airing of women’s often unconscious, usually private griefs went a long way toward explaining where the powerful rage of feminism comes from in our time. The ancient symbiosis between men and women, with its traditional divisions of labor, was never fully consensual, never reliable. In modernity, the old arrangements show increasing strain. Women notice and suffer from this crisis more. They are now supposed to do both men’s and women’s traditional work, an emotional and physical overload neither honored nor supported by the culture. Because they are the ones who were dependent on that symbiosis to recognize themselves as valuable and whole, they feel bitter when men retreat from the traditional responsibilities of the old bargain. But finally, however much they depend on it, women lost more under the old regime, sacrificing sexual impulse and worldly freedom. From that dear old familiar system’s decay they have the least to lose.



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