About hgmacki3191

I like eggs. And I met a girl who's name was Rio and she dances on the sand. I'm stubborn and complicatedly emotional. I invent words like "complicatedly" and say things like "Explain to me your skills of grammar". I win. Always. So, basically all you need to know about me is: 1) I'm a hybrid pesca-lacto-vegetarian for mixed reasons 2) I make up words and shit 3) Abortions are my cup of tea. Always. 4) I hate politics, so don't even try to get me started in a debate with you. 5) My religious beliefs are probably different than yours, so don't try to engage me in a religious discussion. You will cry. And I don't try to convert/pray for me. Mmkay? 6) I like anime, video games and Cosmopolitan. Contradiction? Maybe. Awesome? Yeah. 7) I win. Always.

A View from the Future: Sexuality in Fefu and her Friends

Pardon me while I go on a bit of a stream of consciousness journey as I try to work through some themes and concepts in Maria Irene Fornes’ Fefu and her Friends. I can’t promise that my discussion will be all too clear or connected, but it will be thoughtful.

I am very interested in synthesizing this play with Foucault’s History of Sexuality, mostly because I happened to be lucky enough to read it for class, but also because it just makes sense. First, let me point out, in the way of Foucault, how we are viewing this play in a certain light because of where we are in time and in society. In other words, we are reading into this play elements that may or may not actually exist (though, to be fair, if we weren’t, would reading this play be any fun?). It’s sort of like this: Professor Perez briefly mentioned in class how his Intro to AES class read this play and was completely unaware that it had lesbians in it. Then when we read it, without fail everyone in our class was like “Okay, cool, it’s a play about lesbians.” Several of our classmates even noted how the entire play can be seen as the 8 women flirting the entire time–a reading that isn’t entirely that far off, based on this productive I found on YouTube:

Also, for your consideration, here is the scene in the kitchen with Paula and Cecilia:

There are actually a few things to note about this production: 1) that this scene, in my opinion, is fairly flirtatious, if not pretty sexualized. Which is odd, because as I was reading the play, this particular scene did not stick out to me as one that was overtly sexual, but hey, different directors can do what they want with a play. And 2) I found it really interesting that they chose to dress Cecilia in a suit and tie. Mostly because, as written, the play takes play in 1935 and such blatant cross dressing was not commonly accepted, especially in what we are going to assume is a fairly bourgeois household. However–and we discussed this in depth in class–this play does not exist in a vacuum. Fornes wrote it from a feminist perspective in the 70s, and while there is no specific mention as to what, exactly, Cecilia wears in the play, what does it mean that this interpretation puts her in a suit? Not only that, but either the actress naturally has a fairly masculine voice, or she tones it down for the role; either way, this is a fairly clear queering of an already fairly queer text.

So what? What are we left with to unpack here? Back to Foucault (yes, I have direction here!), I want to analyze what this production does to the play. Foucault argues that when we as a society view the past (specifically, this period, as it so happens) as “sexually repressed”, we take on an assumption that we can then become sexually liberated in the future. Or, in other words, because the past is so miserable and unfair and obsessed with repressing anything overtly “perverse,” we focus all of our energy on making the future better, that we in turn have become a sexually repressed society ourselves.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think this is 100% accurate, especially in our country right now. There is a HUGE campaign against teaching sex education in public schools (because abstinence works all the time, right?) because people are afraid to talk about sex. On one side of the coin, we acknowledge (or at least, according to Foucault, incorrectly acknowledge) that the past was this time of sexual repression, but what are we in now? We are just as “hush hush” about things now as we assume society was in the past. Nothing much in the way of our sexual discourse has changed; what has changed (barely, I would argue) is our acceptance regarding the sexually “perverse,” as Foucault has identified for the sake of argument. We acknowledge them now and (the progressive individuals in society) are trying to rectify the problem; that is, we are trying to bring the discourse back into light and no longer repress sexuality.

Then, with regards to this particular production of Fefu and her Friends, it is very clear that the director and crew have gone to lengths to point out “Hey! We’re progressive! We have a lesbian in the play!”, something that I don’t think necessarily needed any highlighting. Please please please don’t read into my reading here as negative: I mean, Cecilia could’ve been wearing a suit for all I know. I don’t know Fornes’ intentions with the play, and it never is specified exactly. I just think it should be noted that that’s the particular choice they went with, as if to shove it in the audience’s face.

That being said, even I feel subject to the downfall that Foucault suggests in that yes, I am reading into this play what I know, what I have grown up around, and what I have learned from my very brief exposure in an ENG/AES course. I know that I myself went into reading this play with the expectation that it was going to be about lesbians in some degree; Cecilia and Paula are very clearly former lovers, however as a class we have read into the play that Fefu and Cindy are currently having an affair, and that perhaps Fefu and Julia once had a fling. Things like that that we are projecting into the play, based on a view that as a society we need to solve the “assumed” sexual repression, something that we are again assuming Fornes has written into the text. But, it should be noted, we shouldn’t claim to be able to read one way or the other, neither should we make a definitive claim with regards to the sexuality of any character as being the end-all decision, for that would diminish the importance of this play as a whole, something that I think society does enough of to various works of literature already.

Identity exclusion in the liberal arts

“Identity is about situatedness in motion: embodiment and spatiality. It is about a self that is constituted through and against other selves in contexts that serve to establish the relationship between the self and the other” (Rodríguez 5).

(I feel that I ought to preface this blog entry with a brief disclaimer about my academic self and history. This is the first course with any AES/WGS elements to it that I have ever taken at Willamette and in that light my linguistic toolbox may be a ill-prepared for the discussion that I am about to embark on. That being said, please bear with this newbie as she stumbles around a hopefully thoughtful conversation about Latin@ countercultures.)

There are a variety of things from Rodríguez’s book that I particularly enjoyed, but one particular stood out to me as absolutely fascinating – the malleability of our internet identities. In her chapter on chat rooms, she frames our use of technology as sometimes a “sensuous seductress” and other times a “cruel dominatrix”, which holds the endless possibilities of conquest and experiences. There is a certain release that we can gain from forays into an online, nearly anonymous environment – I regularly hang out on the well known internet communities tumblr and reddit, seeing who else shares similar interests and bonding, passively but often actively, with these cyber-strangers outside of any physical boundaries – but there is a certain risk, absolutely. I portray my likes, my hopes, and my fears – everything I identify as – out for all to behold, which invites dialogue at best and insensitive bullying at worst.

We are who we attempt to construct online, which gives us the greatest liberty – but this liberty implies a level of social detachment, of being alone at the start. It is through common interests that we build new communities, if we can, which is what got me interested in an article I stumbled upon on Google. The article in question a column written anonymously regularly in Smith College’s Independent Student press, titled “Sex and the Smithie: The Exlcusion of QPOC” (see bottom of post for link to article). In the article, the author writes passionately out of frustration towards her school and the apparent disregard (to the point of total exclusion) of not only femme lesbians but queers of color in general. She had come to Smith dreaming of a school that would provide a “safe space” for her femme queer identity, on the (false, rumor based) presumption that Smith College is made up of mostly lesbians; instead, the school has ignored her, and she laments that “the measuring stick [she] was up against did not have any color or feminitiy on it.”

Now, this is not to say that the school around her does not support queerness. In fact, Smith, being an all-woman’s liberal arts college, claims to champion the queer identity on campus, boasting its LGBTQ cultural phenomena, BDOC (Big Dyke on Campus). According to the author, however, she has yet to see any Latin@ or femme BDOC’s.

Her anxiety is something that we have brought up often in class, and something that I feel continues to be a persisting problem, especially in the spectrum of liberal arts universities. Her peers seem to understand at a surface level the inclusion process of the queers within their community, with slightly awkwardly labeled group, BDOC. In their bold attempts to fit the mold of what an open minded university should be (read: that exact safe haven that the author herself looked for when arriving as a freshman), they seem to have overlooked the other possibilities of what gender identification can be. Certain images (possibly due to the overexposure of celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Jane Lynch) come to mind, and those images are waved around like a flag, perpetuated by the creation of the BDOC.

More worrisome still is the author’s fear that brief moment of self-doubt, wondering whether or not she should change her identity as a queer to fit the image her school seems to accept. This leads me to the above quote as well as the tie in with Rodríguez’s chapter on Internet identities: identity exists spacially, that cannot be denied. As we also mentioned in class, our society holds us to a certain standard of interpellation. That is, we only function properly as a society if we have these identities and thus the ability to acknowledge the identities of others. We feel the need to label people, just as we as people respond when others label us. Granted, some individuals within our society are more apt and culturally equipped to do this identifying, and many of the ladies at Smith College seem to have good intentions when they boast such a community. However, they neglect to understand the consequences of such labeling and in doing so end up creating a very exclusive community, and the narrator herself feels ousted, thrown to the fringes of the community because she doesn’t fit the bracket of queer her school identifies.

After reading through this article and thinking about it, it has made me realize how lucky this class is to have such a safe and understanding space. It got me thinking about Willamette as a whole and I realized that I really don’t know much about Willamette’s gender and identity politics. On the surface (and from my incredibly untrained viewpoint) Willamette seems safe and welcome enough, but I’m sure there are plenty of those who feel like the article’s author, in one way or another. If anything, reading this article has got me rethinking my inadequate knowledge, and as this course progresses, I will attempt to rectify that situation.

Link to article: http://www.smithsophian.com/opinions/sex-and-the-smithie-1.2996567#.USqXB-t37iM