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Scene 2 (Gender and the Body)

Erin (5th July, 20:57):
Is there anything that is ``inherently essentially (biologically)'' masculine or feminine? If so, how does it inform our social selves? What is it?

Debbie (25th June, 09:51):
There are no essences of identity. Spivak suggests that a person does not choose her or his ``bio'' (meaning life as it is linked to one's biology) and that one's ``bio'' is graphed by a history, by a language and by a culture. My reading of her work here is that there are personal experiences of one's own ``bio'' which may be both similar and different to the lived reality of others. Thus her position can allow that bio-cultural experiences of women may differ from those of men without grounding this difference in some essence. That is, there are bio-lived relations that constitute our identities which is why there is also a boundedness to cultural identities.

Erin writes (25th June, 4:44):
Yes, if we have cultural inscription alone, it becomes problematic when we look at the ``fringes'' of society; the ``deviant'' cases. For instance, how does cultural inscription explain gay and lesbian culture? Or choices of deviant sexuality? In the beginning Michael asked ``Can we be sure of the fact that there are men and women?'' This is a good question. One might state it another way: ``Do female hormones (estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin) affect emotions and cognition? If so, are emotions and cognition predicates for our definition of ``identity?'' I would suggest that yes, they are. However, this complicates things when we start addressing issues like gay and lesbian identity.

Michael (10th July, 17:12):
Feeling has this tactile thing about it; being touched by something, we are moved. This is emotion. Things have an impact on us, we are moved. In fact, we are always already in some mood or other, always enveloped in some mood or other, always attuned with the world as a whole in one way or the other. Our being-in- the-world is always already mooded. We hear that a friend has died and we are moved to tears. We sob, we are depressed, we do not smile. The body participates in every mood we are in, and our respective mood shows itself in our bodily behaviour. But that does not mean that the mood is in the body. By participating, the body is moved; this is emotion. But what does this mean for sense-perception? We do not feel because we have skin, nerves, etc.; rather, we have skin, etc., because we feel, because we are always already mooded.

Erin (10th July, 23:20):
You wish to invert the order of causation?

Michael (12th July, 11:56):
No, I'm leaping out of causation altogether.

Fiona (11th July, 16:30):
There is a parallel between trying to rid oneself of the divisive way of thinking about gender and trying to rid oneself of the subject/object distinction (Michael's point about causation being tied to this latter attempt). I think both of you are fundamentally in agreement about (a) the primacy of process (overriding the subject/object binary mode) and (b) that there is an ambiguity in what it is to ``be there.'' That is, by placing primacy on process, the notion of presence or being present becomes displaced. Thus Erin is interested in the issue of whether gender displaced in a sensory virtual reality would change the very notion of gender (because the notion of the situatedness of gender has changed).

Erin (7th July, 21:18):
Are any traits inherently female? For instance, are females inherently locked into a more compassionate mode because they carry babies?


Erin (10th July, 23:20):
But if you cut off your arms and your legs, would you still be ``you?'' Most would say yes, but the fact is that your experience of the world would be different from that moment onward and therefore the cumulative experiences which comprise the ``you'' that is ``you'' would be substantively and contextually altered.

Fiona (11th July, 16:36):
Women who have a mastectomy are very sensitive about it. This is a purely bodily thing (at first glance) which suggests that the role that our bodies play is important in self-perception. Although, perhaps, it is the way in which others perceive our bodies that is important or, at least, the way in which we think others perceive it. Indeed, can you separate the body from perception of it?

Erin (10th July, 22:01):
Butler notes that no matter how hard we try to get at the materiality of the body, we won't succeed. If there is a material body that precedes discursive appropriation, we cannot know it. This is why some bodies end up mattering more than others. This is not to say there's only language and nothing else. It's to say that we cannot have the thing in itself ... not even the body in itself. Even the materiality of the body has a history. We will have always already, to use a Heideggerianism, thinged the thing.

Fiona (11th July, 14:38):
Interesting. I wonder about the conclusion (``that is why some bodies end up mattering more than others''), though. Is it that some bodies end up mattering more or is it that some forms of discourse and interaction about bodies end up mattering more? Or are forms of discourse about bodies the intermediary stage and then we, so to speak, return to the bodies themselves as if they were themselves really what the discourse was about and thus the bodies themselves come to be what is important (even if this step is ultimately mistaken)?

Erin (8th July, 22:10):
Yes, the simulacra (the image of the object) becomes the object itself. Therefore the subject-object distinction disappears. Text becomes its own context.

next up previous
Next: Scene 3 (No more Up: ACT 3 Previous: Scene 1 (Gender -

Fri Jul 25 22:00:35 MEST 1997