Thursday, 10 December 2015

secret: why writing, why words, why why?

So, I'm doing preliminary research for my Masters dissertation. It's going to be about creative leadership, creativity and the rhetoric specifically around female artists as leaders and role models - all to the end of pushing for a different view of traditional leadership, where the language we're using for narratives of creative leadership might be used in a broader manner to expand what we mean when we call someone a leader or a role-model.

Yeah, working on it. Stay tuned #musicpun

I'm reading some amazing stuff this morning about language. The reading that just blew my mind by verbalising everything I've felt about this has pointed out that "... it is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs" (this is Cheris Kramarae referencing Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, in fact).

I'm thinking about why I write. I'm thinking about how I write. I can feel my brain expanding. This is why I'll eventually quit my administrative desk job for an academic desk job (desks: a patriarchal construct? Discuss). I get all radical and want to explode the whole world open.

Laying it all out here: my biggest fear is not being heard, not being listened to, not being understood. Conversely, I am also very fearful of situations where I have many people listening to me, when I am dropped into a situation which requires an articulate response. In principle, I am very keen for critique and constructive criticism, but in practice, I'm not sure how I will do with it - will I be able to  listen to my feedback the entire way through before I interrupt to defend myself?

These feelings and fears, while being very real and formative in my life thus far, are, I'm certain, not at all unique to me, or even to these convenient categories of Gen Y, or Woman, or White. There's all the words in the world that I concede I have not read about this very thing, but fuck it, I'm talking about myself here, and I'm an expert on the subject matter.

My fears about not being listened to were self-perpetuated - I continually dated iterations of That Guy who thinks he's all about equality but actually does not care for me talking or taking up any space. A tiny person inside of a regular sized person (me) started to just constantly be screaming about this. Luckily for everyone else, but not so much for me, the screaming was internal.

WHY WON'T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME??????? - Ad nauseum, Ad infinitum. #isthatlatin?

I'd been a writer in high school. It was scared out of me by self-important privileged University of Melbourne assholes (spoiler: I was one of them too, I was just doing it wrong). I didn't think I'd read enough or knew enough to write anymore. I stopped for a while. Then, when I realised that even if nobody could give a flying fuck what I had to say (real high point of my mental health here, folks), I could write it down and read it back to myself, at very least.

A phenomenon I first noticed consciously as an out and out radical feminist undergraduate: put a collection of women in a room and you're hard-pressed to get a turn to speak. You can't get us to shut up our faces, at all. Another thing I started to notice: women speaking passionately about something get told to calm down and tone it down and turn it down and down down down. Plus all the bullshit about women's emotions and lack of rationality and our general triviality in that super-important thing we call life. Someone else decided what was trivial (and rational, and emotional). Most people in the world actually didn't get a say in that. Let that sit for a second, wouldya?

Somehow we learn to keep quiet, to defer to others. In my case, sitting in a living room and sharing my own story about experiencing the sharp bite of that goddamned patriarchy, be it emotional abuse or cat-calling or trying to feel beautiful/powerful outside of the constant messaging to the contrary, gave me some strength and some words back. Words of my own.

In my experience, women use words to connect. We may speak over each other, but it's not the interruption we know from the patriarchy. We overlap like waves do. We build upon each other, layers upon layers of tree bark and stories. Done in the best and warmest way, we build each other up. Interruption is a cancelling out of words - I'm not saying I'm not guilty of it - but those voices building up in that living room in Brunswick, those few times we made a point of trying out a women's group, those voices (mostly) cancelled nothing.

I started writing again to share while in Canada, and on and off I've kept it up. Why writing? While I agree that our language is oftentimes a flawed tool to use in expressing the big ideas that fall out of the brain onto a page, when you sit down to read something I've written, I am giving the directions. You have to listen to me. It's a game - I have to make you want to keep reading - but it's a game I'm happy to keep playing. Every time someone speaks to me about something I've written, or even just reads it, I win again.

I can sit here and name the patriarchy as the perpetrator of language that excludes, silences, even harms people; you're still here, reading me.

I can sit here and tell you that there's words I don't use anymore, to make my tiny little point. Just like there's things I don't eat anymore, to spread the ripples of change. I can let slip the fact that I want to change the world completely and I don't actually have to see your physical response to that. I can tell you I don't care about your stupid feelings and you are still reading me.

Maybe my next step is to say things bit louder, more publicly. Maybe it's to anticipate being misunderstood and just straight up not care about explaining myself (or agreeing to your explanation of myself to me).  That's what I mean about language restricting us. I would really like to start ignoring a few more rules. Not road rules (always use your indicators please), but those ones around how I'm allowed to use the words, how loudly I can say them, which ones I'm meant to say in public and which ones behind closed doors. I'm jumping on the bandwagon, the Feminist Agenda: YOU WILL BOW DOWN AND LISTEN TO US. Or maybe even LET'S LISTEN TO EACH OTHER PLEASE.

I'm not specifically wrapping up with a call to action here. Just talking my feels. Just trying to make you think what I'm thinking. Again.


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