exploring art and writing

A Question of Identity.

In Identity on October 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Arthur Rackham's Alice

“One is not born a woman, one becomes one. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine. Only the intervention of someone else can establish the individual as an Other.”
Simone de Beauvoir “The Second Sex” Paris, Gilmond, 1949.

A scary quote to begin a blog with, but before raising any pressing post-feminist matters, if indeed that is what I intend to do, let’s apply it to more than Woman. In fact, let’s surreptitiously extend it by inserting a seemingly opposing semantic field: Man, Male, Masculine, alongside any feminine collectives that appear in Beauvoir’s quote. These words may be polarities to the sex mentioned in the original, but there is more symbiosis between the definitions of Male and Female when considered carefully.

This insertion is not intended to undermine Beauvoir’s intentions in any way; it is perhaps an attempt to manipulate her prerogatives, to add to them but not to denounce them. In 1949 this quote would no doubt have had a deep resonance in many who came across it; exactly fifty years later it had a profound effect on me as a summary and confirmation of my existing beliefs. The reason, therefore, for my arrogance in assuming claim over the opportunity to extend Beauvoir’s premise is born out of the fact that I am a human being who has reached adulthood almost a decade into the 21st century. In other words: a human caught between the often stubborn technologies and attitudes of previous generations, and the chimeric cyborgs that are our younger siblings. We are the semi-cyborgs, constantly resisting but getting irrevocably caught up in the web.

Not ignoring the drum-roll leading up to our apparent social state of virtual-mass-everything, and without intending in any way to ignore the positive importance of cyborg in its nascence, it is hard not to mull over what looms ahead. People sense its omnipresence and then go about utilising it to form their own trap, a temporary and false escape. 21st Century Stockholm Syndrome. Our lives are full of little ironies such as this; we are products of a generation where for the first time Girl/Woman (going by the most basic biological definition) is encouraged to delay procreation for personal economy and become an indispensable cog in the infrastructure, a factor which I genuinely celebrate. But it is a new rhythm that has just begun to pulse, the rhythm of yet another social mantra for the bourgeoisie, shiny and brilliant, and one that is parallel to an equally expanded proliferation of Celebrity as Faux Woman. What about the people who do not and will not accommodate either Beauvoir’s initial definition of femininity or these new reinforced intermediaries?

And what of Man? Man as a (gasp) sex and gender, not Man as humanity. Questions as to what a man is, just as when we allude to what Woman really consists of, are simultaneously ambiguous and dangerously rigid. Without yet branching off on the subject of minority groups and happy eccentrics, the very same OK! mass media of the wild West that teaches girls how to give fuck-me eyes to passers by are consistently pumping the male contingency up with rigorous amounts of hard pecs, hard cocks and hard ideas about big money. The gallant, chivalrous nature of man in the archaic context of Man vs. Woman is playing like a repeated record; I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Rules, or this chivalry (or instinct?) or whatever it actually is, is now as much imposed on men as it is in women to have bigger tits. A confusing and intimidating message for both sexes.

So what is one to do in the 21st century? How are we supposed to determine what sex and what gender we really are? How much of me, if considered in my entirety, would society put in the Male category and how much in the Female? It’s all down to deterrent stereotypes, of course.

This is an introduction from a middle class English white girl; that’s a lot of categories right there and you can do what you will with them. I am not a victim of social repression, I am not being ostracised in any way. I am simply observing. For every mention of virtual realities, cyberculture, mass media and what have you, I am tumbling down the rabbit hole along with everyone else. I am, however, along with others trying my best to make sure that I am not falling headfirst; I like to convince myself that I could land on my feet if I tried hard enough. Stay tuned.

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