adrienne rich, “when we dead awaken: writing as re-vision.”
i used to have this argument with my ex-boyfriend in which he would accuse me of “looking for different things” in art than he did. by which he meant: i was looking for clues, or i was looking for myself, or, as adrienne rich says, “she goes to poetry or fiction looking for her way of being in the world, since she too has been putting words and images together; she is looking eagerly for guides, maps, possibilities; and over and over in the ‘words’ masculine persuasive force’ of literature she comes up against something that negates everything she is about; she meets the image of Woman in books written by men.”
i found his argument to be profoundly patriarchal, coming from an entitled white male who could find powerful images of himself everywhere and always had, who had never been an 11-year-old jewish girl in catholic school in the 1980s who was sexually terrorized by boys in her class and had the usual girl eating issues and read ms. magazine instead of doing her homework and who didn’t know anyone almost for two decades with similar emotional, intellectual, and political affiliations; who only knew, in the meantime, ani and tori and liz, and that wasn’t even until the 1990s; who needed to look desperately for clues. not to mention that his desire to identify with male artists who are not entitled white men has its own long and politically problematic lineage.
i also found the implication that i privileged content over form, and that such a privileging was unsophisticated, to be deeply patronizing. first it wasn’t true: i absolutely enjoy misogynistic music; it’s just that i don’t “just” enjoy it. my favorite part of this ongoing argument was when he would talk about a black female friend of his who loves rap because she is ”moved by the beat” or “listens with her heart as much as her head” or something like that and i was like: you’ve got to be joking if you think one woman speaks for all women and you’ve got to be joking if you think you know everything about the way she experiences this music and you’ve got to be joking if your argument is basically what ellen willis said in the 1960s. which is all a long way of saying that there is nothing aesthetically or intellectually immature about being the kind of person who, in their experiences of art, looks for clues, because we still need to. if you don’t, wow, what a privilege.