Lorraine has been, in her usual fashion, tearing into some of the gender issues surrounding the kos migration. I’m going to quote a bit of Lorraine’s diary here:
1. gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes;
2. gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power.
I share this perspective of locating gender within social relations of power. I share Lorraine’s concerns regarding the body. In this diary, though, I want to take a look at the issues from a different perspective, that of performativity, as offered up by Judith Butler.
While Butler herself is nearly unreadable (I’ll never make the mistake of trying to read her stuff at bed time again), the basic idea is that we bring gender into being through our actions. We perform gender, thus (re)creating it. Those performances take place within the power relations set out above; those relations shape which courses of action are available and what sanctions will befall people should they fail to “act right.”
What we’ve been seeing as an enactment of male privilege, among lots of other things. On the web, we’re reduced to speech acts more than in other settings, but we might recognize the ways that certain types of speech tend to be more common for one gender or the other (or however many we decide there are). I hesitate to attribute certain styles to either gender because: 1) I haven’t studied it; 2) I try to be hestitant in making generalizations; and 3) Everyone who says my swearing is a signifier of my “maleness,” can be pointed to Maryscott O’Connor, who may be the only person to swear more than me….I love ya for it, girl!
However, the speech acts we did see were exhibiting a male prerogative by diminishing critical female (and feminist male) voices. Worse, those voices were “put in their place” via attribution to a gendered victim mentality. Kos has been treating those voices as a “special interest,” not an integral part of the Party.
That brings us to the broader context of this conflagration. The web of power relations in which this took place is one in which those hostile to women controlling their own sexual choices, pleasure, and reproductive freedom hold the reins of institutional power. Women’s actual choices are under attack, rhetorically and institutionally. The very real threat to women’s lives was discounted.
Then it was mocked.
So, while I think Lorraine starts us on the right path by looking at the web of power relations, I think a look at this controversy as the rhetorical enactment of those power relations, particularly within the larger context, leads us to a deeper understanding of what’s been happening.