Thursday, November 6, 2008

Embedding Sexuality in Text

At times the blogosphere can be a space of bizarre encounters and correspondences. This morning, a reader commented on my way of writing. He said, “(…) I didn’t know you were gay. I thought you’d be a girl or something looking at the way you write (…) Your writing [and nature of argumentation] gives your readers hint that you are somewhat girlie, delicate and feminine”.

Two successive moments formed my reaction to this comment -
Moment 1: OMG! Never before had anyone made such heterosexist remark on my writing and opining. In the past, I had people comment on my handwriting and label it as “beautiful, neat and feminine”; but this! was totally uncalled for.
Moment 2: Interesting! If words and thoughts are inseparable and writing is a way of thinking, then does that also mean we map our identities (knowingly or unknowingly) in our written expressions? Is a person’s writing marked and defined by her/his sexuality? These questions have given me a pause for thought.

Let us recall the number of times we’ve tried to gauge the sex of a person [sic] by simply reading a little abstract of his/her work. Let us recall those many moments when we have asked ourselves, if the protagonist of this book is gay, is the author gay too? I guess the question of most interest to me right now is that if sexuality is an invisible trait (Shilts, 1987) how do we make it visible in our expressions – written, oral and/or other? And is this visibility “out there” or is it layered and in need of some deep analysis?

5 comments:

Zlaek February 27, 2009 at 3:00 AM  

Ah, that calls for some cerebration...

Moment 1 of yours is quite naturally so.

About the other part of it...
-- Let's first simplify it. I'm sure you'll agree when i say a write-up is about two things: What you think; and the way you think.
(Let's ignore the linguistic expertise and accuracy aspect of it for the time being, since we're discussing hypothetical constructs at a basic level)
-- Now the two sexes, I think, don't differ to a large extent (specifically) in the conclusions they arrive at (note: not just the final conclusions/inferences).
Where they differ is the way they think. (Not the vagueness or clarity of the process of their thought, but--) the very route chosen to arrive a particular point.
The routes may be parallel, close, far apart, crossing over, common or not common in some segments or/and fragments, etc.

That brings me to the conclusion that we do map our identities (quite unknowingly I'd say- if the whole thing is unintentional that is), but nothing is too transparent there. We cannot say we essentially make it visible in our expressions. However, there are innumerable subjects which elicit obvious responses from each of the sexes (due, of course, to the way our nature is designed. And therefore it's easy to gauge degrees of effeminacy or masculinity).

More importantly though, when it comes to creative writing, and immaterial/conceptual things, gauging the same would be quite a task -- as you say, it's layered, would require some serious analysis. On the other hand, some traits that are "out there" are: degrees of cynicism, romanticism and pragmatism (and maturity of course). These, I firmly believe cannot be and must not be associated with one's sex).

[There's also a whole different thing when it comes to extreme understanding/creativity, where the sexes absolutely merge and become a nothing or a both. That, however, also merges a lot of other concepts and is a bit irrelevant here.]

You know, all these things also change, as the number of days we see in life keep increasing. So it's what I think today... and try to be as correct as one can be. The rest is vapour.
Thanking you for providing scope for exploration,
ZLAEK.

KSH February 27, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I was pleasantly surprised to read your comment.

I believe men, women and transgenders or for that matter, straight, gay and bisexuals bring specific points of view to the table. And this is also to say, that neither of these categories are a monolith especially in present times when there is plurality at each level and within each system.

Having said that, not just the destination ("what you think") but also the routes ("how you think") are plural and ever-changing.

And that leads to a question - if each one of us is constantly in the process of self-discovery, introspection and growth, how can we ever continue to wear single labels?

But again, I think it's just me who refuses to be pigeon-holed or stereotyped. In some respects I position myself somewhere between post-modernism and critical social theory.

Finally, between an artifact and action then, I would describe "writing" as an ever changing act - constantly mapping, representing and shaping our identities and our social-selves, "writing as a thinking tool."

On that note, keep visiting my space and let the written conversations continue. :)

Zlaek February 28, 2009 at 3:39 AM  

"...if each one of us is constantly in the process of self-discovery, introspection and growth, how can we ever continue to wear single labels?"

Don't fail here, to take into consideration the fact that growth occurs on that which is already present. Self discovery/introspection is always in particular directions (unless when subject to heavy influence or dramatic episodes), and the direction is dependant on one's basic character (if one possesses one).

Therefore "writing", I wouldn't say is an everchanging act...
Because styles, perspectives (slightly), vistas may change, but the basic attitudes largely remain the same after reaching a certain point in the journey of one's growth.

What helps us constantly map, represent and shape our identities and social-selves is exploring the universe, tasting it, giving it our bit of thought. Writing is secondary.

Sure, the conversations shall continue. It's an interesting blog out here. :)

ZLAEK

KSH February 28, 2009 at 10:55 AM  

Well, it comes down to the "syntax" and "semantics" of written words. And as I position myself between Critical Social and Post-Modern Theory, I would argue that the "written word is not a concrete object" (BT) or "the concept of dog does not bark" (Spinoza).

You seem to be talking about "writing style", and I am emphasizing on changing meanings in text. We are not on the same page.

But that's the beauty of plurality. Cheers!

Zlaek March 1, 2009 at 3:48 AM  

Aha... "writing" as an ever changing act.
It's not the beauty of plurality or anything- it was just a simple case of me not having gotten your point correctly.

It does comes down to syntax and semantics of words. The 'writing styles' thing as well as 'changing meanings in text' thing.

The point however is that we began with something slightly different (ie, wrt to your post: "I guess the question of most interest to me right now is that if sexuality is an invisible trait...").
And I took the most direct implication of that statement...
And also when you said: "....not just the destination ("what you think") but also the routes ("how you think") are plural and ever-changing."
My response was more for that statement... than for:
"Finally, between an artifact and action then, I would describe "writing" as an ever changing act - constantly mapping, representing and shaping our identities and our social-selves, "writing as a thinking tool." "

By the way I'm sorry, I have no idea what social critical theory is, and as far as post-modernism is considered, I find myself unable to establish a possible relation between that and the thuoght "written word is not a concrete object". Because I have no idea where I position myself but I'm clearly conscious of the fact that I do agree with that anyway.

About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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