Lit. Crit. (was: Re: More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana))

Nat Case ncase at
Tue Jun 5 11:51:35 EDT 2001

Phillip wrote:

>At the risk of getting into a major argument here, though, I have little time
>for this idea that it is necessary to study things from a "feminist" point of
>view.  I have every sympathy for the cause of Women's Liberation, 
>but this idea
>that there must be "feminist" criticism, "feminist" this that and the other,
>makes me want to sign up for Men's Lib at the next opportunity.  What happened
>to balanced viewpoints (even assuming that objectivity is impossible)?  Sorry.
>End of rant.

>[snippity snippity]

>Outside of a dictionary (and even inside it, at some level), and in particular
>in a human mind, a word doesn't have a definition.  What it has is layer upon
>layer of connotations.  What I mean is, if we hear - or read - a word, what
>comes into our mind is not some formal definition, but a collection of
>experiences that tell us about the word, or that we associate with 
>it.  This, I
>think, is an inevitable result of the way we learn our native language.  (The
>way we learn a foreign language is different, and we seldom if ever become
>fluent until we've built up the layers of connotations based on experience).
>One important upshot of this is that no two people ever have exactly the same
>internal definition of a word, since no two people have the same 
>experiences to
>relate to it.  It occurs to me only now that this may be one reason why
>languages evolve...

It seems to me you have answered your own objection to feminist 
criticism: Feminism requires a fracturing of the concept of Objective 
Truth, the idea that there is a Platonically balanced view (e.g. the 
views of Plato). This sort of relativism (which I wholeheartedly 
believe in myself) seems to me to be exactly what you are saying abut 
word definitions: instead of nailing down the commonalities and 
focusing on those, you note that we all have differences. One of 
those differences, at least as far as humans are concerned, is sex. 
The core of the movement seems to me to have consisted in pointing 
out assumed commonalities that aren't necessarily common across the 
gender divide (or in more recent scholarly developments, the 
gender-preference divide).

Am I off base here? Tell me if I am...

To me feminism breaks down when it insists that noting the divide 
between sexes is where discussion should end, setting up a new double 
monolithic truth-- men are from Mars, women from Venus and there are 
NO SPACECRAFT. If you read the comic CEREBUS, this is where I think 
Dave Sim lost it. He's focusing so much on that duality, he's lost 
the point of a lot of the other joys in life (his gay-bashing doesn't 
help). I still find him an amazing read in the same way I find 1984: 
I really have to work to find the holes in his arguments.

And there IS Men's lib. All kinds of men's lib. Ever read Robert Bly? 
Ever listen to Fred Small? Personally, give me a morris team any 

Whatever happened to balanced viewpoints? It seems to me one of the 
major intellectual developments of the last few decades is the idea 
that individual humans are incapable of truly balanced viewpoints... 
it doesn't mean we can't try, just that like avoiding ALL sin, it 
simply isn't possible. We all have subjective viewpoints, and we all 
have biases, and the best we can do is try and realize what they are, 
and get over whatever the most destructive of them are.

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