Closing comments here because spoons, but reblobbing because, as Rose says, IMPORTANT. This isn't really about me. It's symptomatic of a much larger issue. That's why it is so important. -s
ETA: comments are open over at Rose's lj; they're only closed here.
I am continuing the discussion of editorial address from the previous entry
, because it is important to me. I think it is important, period, but importance is relative. Yet if you are a reader of this blog, I really do want you to read it.
This entry has two parts. I know, it is long, but both parts of this entry are important. The first one deals with minimal pairs, and the second with gaze.
This entry is not about the Rhysling, but the Rhysling is an acknowledgment of our editorial work. At Stone Telling, two people choose all the poems; two people pitch money to pay for the website, the poems, and the non-fiction entries. Stone Telling is co-edited and co-funded by Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan. Receiving a list of nominated poems is to say "here, you did well selecting these poems. Good job!" It is polite to congratulate the people responsible by name, but it is also just fine to address Stone Telling or Editors, or skip even that and go for Hi!
Clearly, the officer who emailed us thought it was important to congratulate the editors by name. That person looked at our About page, the only place in the magazine where we list our names. That person then wrote an email addressed to Rose Lemberg only, glossing over my co-editor, Shweta Narayan. The person then suggested that the website is not clear enough.
The website is clear. This is about something else, which happens to be quite demonstrable in this case.
Shweta and I have complex identities. In many ways, each of us is pretty unusual and non-mainstream in multiple ways. But considered together, we are, in terms of our identities, very much a minimal pair in the phonological sense
Both of us are female assigned at birth.
Both of us the same age.
Both of us bisexual.
Both of us genderqueer.
Both of us immigrants, and immigrants *multiple times.*
Both of us struggle with issues of language loss.
Both of us spoonies.
Both of us linguists.
Both of us did graduate work at UC Berkeley.
Both of us worked with Eve Sweetser.
Both of us fantasists often working in the mythic tradition.
Both of us neo-pros.
Both of us poets, and published in the same magazines.
Both of us Rhysling award nominees.
Sure, there are some differences. I am a mother. Shweta is considerably better published. But looking at our bios, there is only one major difference between us: one of us has an Anglo-Western name, and the other does not.
This is the distinguishing feature in our minimal pair.Almost nobody ever does this intentionally.
To have intent to exclude is to have malice. Though I have seen and experienced, in this community, such things directed towards me with intent, most people are not malicious. Most people are good people. Most people’s will is good. Most people want to be good to each other.There is agency, which is to say intent, deliberation. Then there is gaze.
Unlike intent, which involves an act of thinking and deciding, gaze is societally conditioned. Gaze is a set of learned behaviors and reactions that we assume towards each other, internalized from what society tells us.
Male gaze is when men are societally conditioned to see women only as objects of desire, and themselves as agents of this desire. Women, male gaze is the thing that often makes important men in your life evaluate you first or only by how good or young you look, i.e. as sexual objects, and not as individuals with autonomous will, wishes, hopes, and dreams. We push against male gaze. We have a long, long way yet to go. But we talk about it and recognize it. Yet women as well as men buy into the male gaze and defend it, because it is the societal default and it is easier not to push against it.
When the person who is the subject of the gaze encounters a person who is the object of the gaze, the subject’s eyes gloss over. Instead of a person seeing a person, the subject sees an object.
It is very hard to push against it, but it is possible with effort. You need your agency, your will, your intent, to push against societally learned knee-jerk reactions that make us glaze over people who are not like us.Most of us are subjects of some gazes, while being objects of other gazes.
Women, we push against the male gaze because it denies us personhood.
Disabled people, we push against the able-bodied gaze because it denies us personhood.
Queer people, we push against straight gaze because it denies us personhood.
Non-cisgendered people, we push against cisgendered gaze because it denies us personhood.
Immigrants and internationals, we push against US-centric gaze because it denies us personhood.
People of color push against the white gaze, because, by golly. By golly, it denies personhood.
Most times this is not intentional. We need intent here. We need to push against these gazes.
We need to do more than this: we need to examine the ways in which these different, societally conditioned, othering gazes have caused harm, often unintentional harm, but harm – that is cumulative and ongoing
. It is not enough to see people as individuals and not objects, though it is a crucial first step. It is also important that we consider how each of us has been harmed by the gazes of which we are objects. How we have been cumulatively harmed by them.
Then, summon your power of decision, your willpower, to make an effort to really see people even when you do not have to, because you are the subject and not the object of this particular type of gaze.