Vocabulary Expansion!

I’ve learned two awesome words recently!

1) Kyriarchy

Kyriarchy – a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

Patriarchy – Literally means the rule of the father and is generally understood within feminist discourses in a dualistic sense as asserting the domination of all men over all women in equal terms. The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).

– Glossary, Wisdom Ways, Orbis Books New York 2001

See, I’ve never been terribly comfortable with the term “patriarchy.” The description of power along gender lines just didn’t seem complex enough to fit my description, and the root of the word referring to fathers just made me uncomfortable. Felt like demonizing scrotum-toters. It just didn’t explain my experience of power and the way that it’s used. Kyriarchy does, though. I’m glad to know it.

2)Voluptuary

Pronunciation: \və-ˈləp(t)-shə-ˌwer-ē\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural vo·lup·tu·ar·ies
Date: circa 1610
: a person whose chief interests are luxury and the gratification of sensual appetites

So I can simplify my business card next time I create them. “Gabe, Voluptuary and Pleasure Advocate/Activist.”

In celebration of the vulva!

Last week I went to a really wonderful student performance of the Vagina Monologues at put on by LSU’s Women Organizing Women. The women were excellent performers, and really got into their various roles. It was beautiful, and the balance they struck between celebrating bodies and mourning the violence done to them was quite impressive. I enjoyed myself.

That said, there were a few things I had issues with. The first was a quote from the ever-irksome Andrea Dworkin about how equality can never exist alongside (among other things) pornography. As someone who finds a lot of legitimate personal expression in creating (and often viewing/reading) pornography, I was a little annoyed. And being intimately involved with a woman who does the same, and to see her sexuality insulted like that in a venue supposedly dedicated to building it up was rather infuriating.

Also, the head of LAFASA (Louisiana Foundation Against sexual Assault) for whom the event was a fundraiser, mentioned the recent controversy over New York’s Governor Spitzer being discovered to have patronized a prostitute. She said it was nice to finally be holding a man responsible for the “social ill of prostitution.” It seems to me that prostitution itself is not a social ill, but the way it’s generally practiced is a result of the way which we as a society treat sex. Her comments seemed to disregard all of those who choose to become and remain sex workers. Demonization of prostitution seems only a step away from demonization of prostitutes, or better, regarding them as in need of pity, deluded, or abused because of their profession. Work to erase the violence against them, not to eradicate what they do. That’s like attacking agriculture because of abuses of migrant workers.

Finally there was a slide that said “Resist Rape Culture” and gave as examples of this covers of Maxim (or some such magazine), Girls Gone Wild, and what looked like scenes from porn.

But as I said, the performance itself was top notch! The entrance to the International Cultural Center (where the show was held) was decorated with draped red and pink fabric with a pink paper lantern at the apex. I got a chuckle out of that. And I was engrossed enough in the performance that I hardly even cringed when there was a bit about someone shaving her vagina. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against shaving. But trying to shave one’s vagina would probably lead to a trip to the emergency room for some very uncomfortable stitches. I love the play, but I’d love to see some vulva love as well.

There was also a “Vagina Art Show” afterwards with lots of female-genital related pieces of art: paintings, sculptures, fabric arts, collage. It was really amazing. After discovering that I could use my debit card to purchase I piece, I had to go for this reimagining of the Mother of God, entitled “In A New Light”.

I see it as an affirmation of the sacredness of our bodies as well as of the fleshiness of Mary and Jesus. It’s a nice escape from the too-frequent attacks on the body within Christianity.

And I have to say, the play, the art show and the piece I bought inspired me to work at creating some body-positive art of my own. Tonight I went to Hobby Lobby and got some polymer clay and paint and made vulva art!

To show the size, I placed a lighter next to the pre-baked piece and later photographed it after baking and painting.

0018yr0g.jpg 001918yb.jpg 0019272p.jpg

Next up? Penis art!

Transphobia and Feminism

I’ve been reading Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw, and it’s really a wonderful book. I think it works much better as a memoir and personal exploration of gender than it does as theory, but I like the blending of the two. I’m less interested in dry argumentation than I am people’s stories of how gender affects life.

One thing that’s really thrown me for a loop, though, is the idea of transphobic feminists. I mean, I’d heard about Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and their policies of gender assignation and exclusion, and part of me can at least accept the right free association that they’re practicing even if I disagree with them, but some of the things that certain feminist writers have written about transgendered people was even more infuriating. For example, Janice Raymond writes:

All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves …. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.

It seems to me that Raymond has a problem determining where she stops and others begin (thank you Elizabeth for that phrase). Claiming that self-identification and owning oneself is an act of violence against others is in(s)ane. It is, it seems to me, a claim of ownership of the identities and bodies of others. How that falls under the same philosophical heading as “The radical notion that women are people too” I simply can’t understand.

Of course any philosophy that is based on preserving binary gender is not going to resonate much with me anyway.