Would you tell me a story of yours?
I’ve heard incredible stories here, from very different people. Each of these people cracks me up and shocks me and makes me think, with the casual stories of their unique lives. And with every story I hear, my narrative of the people around me becomes a bit more enriched.
It’s narrative of the body – and woman’s body especially – that me and a few others came to question, starting with our involvement in the Vagina Monologues here at the University of Chicago. We became very aware of stories that weren’t being told, of a space for body-positive stories aware of their constraints in time and space – stories of people here at the University of Chicago. We want to tell those stories through the Bodylogues, a set of stories about the UChicago community today.
Your stories might involve women’s vaginas, but might speak of women’s lips instead, or their fingers or thighs or knuckles, during their midterms or parties or love stories or internships or relationships or prayers, of the things their bodies go through. You could identify as male, or female, or neither. Just living in this gendered world gives you a story to tell about it.
So tell me your story about your experience with the feminine, whoever you are. I hope to bring together a group of around 15 five-minute stories by the end of winter quarter, illustrations of the infinite, vividly different feminine experiences surrounding us every day right here. Send it (or any questions about the nature of this project, confidentiality-related or otherwise) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org from now through Friday of second week next quarter – That’s January 17th. After a quarter of slowly tuning your story to say exactly what you want it to say with workshops and rehearsals, we’ll make it part of a performance for our friends in the spring – either through your own performance or through the anonymity of another performer’s voice. The nuances of this project are ultimately in your hands.
So, tell me your story?
UChicago Class of 2015
“I work so many hours at the factory. I need to find a way for my daughter to live a better life than me.”
“How do you do that?”
“I’m not sure. No time to think about that.”
Writing and thinking about the conditions that enable one to “think” and participate in the production of knowledge, I found this post on Humans of New York very interesting.
It’s obviously not directly talking about the literal or figurative “room” that Woolf argues for, but the conditions that allow one to think outside the everyday need to make ends meet seem to remain relevant today for both sexes.
I think this video ties in nicely to discussions we’ve had about how much has been accomplished with gender equality and how far we’ve yet to go, as well as cultural production. It’s interesting that most of the positive examples focus on popular media and women in media, while the negative examples are much more politically focused, though this may just be a conscious choice of the creator of the video. I found it surprising, too, how much biology and “hysteria” still figure into discourse against women.
Sidenote: Miss Representation, the film by the creators of the video seems pretty relevant to what we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks, as well. Trailer below!
The Gubar and Gilbert article reminded me of this poem in a couple of ways. It was performed by a Barnard student at the College National Poetry Slam earlier this year, and I thought you all might find it compelling.
Gubar and Gilbert , in their work, “Infection in the Sentence: The Woman Writer and the Anxiety of Authorship,” describe a tension between the ability of women to create art and what has been considered the social norm of femininity. They describe the eternal woman’s ill-fated past as one of both mental and physical sickness caused by the patriarchal socialization of women. They describe nineteenth century femininity as socially conditioned female illness, “…nineteenth-century culture seems to have actually admonished women to be ill. In other words the ‘female diseases’ from which Victorian women suffered were not always byproducts of their training in femininity; they were the goals of such training” (54). Given that the state of women was expected to be ill or frail (or alternatively ‘monsterous), it’s a wonder as how women could be expected to do much of anything – let alone participate in creative endeavors. They quote Sexton in saying that female art, “Has a ‘hidden’ but crucial tradition of uncontrollable madness” (56). This passage reminded me of A Room of One’s Own where Judith Shakespeare, if she existed, would have been considered mad and driven to literal madness, while her male counterpart would be, and was, considered a genius.
They also describe a phenomenon of interirorization of women that marks the struggle for women writers in artistic self-definition. Women writers are confined to be thought of in terms of their male counter parts. Gubar and Gilbert generally describe the writer’s burden as one in which, “…writers assimilate and then consciously or unconsciously affirm or deny the achievements of their predecessors, [which] is, of course, a central fact of literary history…” (46). Thus, there is an anxiety of authorship which is caused by the inability of one to escape the work of their predecessors. Specifically for female writers, the authors describe this burden as producing an ultimatum, “Thus, as Virginia Woolf observed, the women writer seemed locked into a disconcerting double blind: she had to choose between admitting she was ‘only a woman’ or protesting that she was ‘as good as a man'” (64). Not only must women face a near debilitating anxiety of authorship, but they must also face the challenges of writing as a women (ie qualifying one’s writing according to the norms of the patriarchal socialization of women).
Can we really say that the challenges faced by Victorian women and of women today are much different? Many social pressures remain the same as well as the still unchanged fact that women do not have as great a history in art as men. How much can we really say has changed in the ability of women to produce knowledge?
Hi all, in honor of Raoule and Jacques…
Have you ever wanted to experience the internet genderswapped? Well, there’s a chrome extension for that! And a firefox and safari one too.