Monday, December 11, 2006

Excellent feminist rant on being "of a time"

I really enjoyed Ide Cyan's "Timeless" on the Feminist SF blog; it's a polemic on Time and social change, and was sparked by Ide's notice of the ubiquity of the defense that a sexist or racist or otherwise annoyingly biased person was a product of their time. This sets up a framework in which "now" is seen as a product of progressive linear evolution with Now and Us ethically on top. I agree with Ide Cyan that this is a false construction, a construction in which Time stands in by a trick of rhetoric for individual responsibility and agency; a construction that is deeply harmful.

The part has become the whole.

It’s very, very convenient. It’s very, very easy. And it means the oppressed vanish in a puff of rhetoric.


Her concluding paragraphs using synechdoche and the body (namely, assholes) was hard-hitting, outrageous, and deeply funny!


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6 comments:

Prentiss Riddle said...

Would your objection be lessened with the progressive linear evolution removed and the phrase applied to a person in the past whose moral vision was superior to ours? If, say, an exemplary voice for peace or women's rights were said to be "of their time" because they lacked 21st-century doubt and disillusionment?

Liz said...

Maybe lessened, because it would be so much less smug. And yet even what you describe would take away something of the agency... the will and personhood... of the exemplary person.

Maybe it is easier at certain times to be a voice for peace or human rights. If some critical mass is reached, or certainly by people who have a lot of privilege.

In general though I agree with Ide that people decide to do things and they are responsible for their decisions and actions. And the "of their time" attitude removes that personal responsibility from the picture.

Ide Cyan said...

You're oversimplifying, Liz. It's not "personal responsability" I'm talking about. It's political interests.

And prentiss_riddle doesn't get it at all.

Liz said...

Well, fortunately your excellent essay gets to stand on its own without depending on my imperfect understanding of it, or what I get out of it to apply to my own understanding of life and history which might not be what you meant 100% exactly, or my not quite accurate summaries of some of its arguments!

I love your ideas and talking with you but sometimes like right now, I perceive you as a bit abrupt and hostile and it is hard to take. I can't even tell if you mean it that way - angry - or if it is more on my side, of being uncomfortable with that style of arguement from an ally and friend...

Liz said...

Testing!

Brdgt said...

Teaching the history of science and medicine I encounter this so much. My students believe that science and medicine have been on this onward and upward march and any exception to that rule is just "bad" science. Wrapping their head around Tuskegee and how that was representative of both experimentation and racialized medicine makes them unbracket it as something that they can judge. It's our responsibility to judge history, otherwise it's just a pile of useless facts.