Friday, 5 October 2012

Ambient sound and awesome feminists

Earlier this year I plunged a q-tip into my left ear without care and created a new dynamic there, whereby I experience a constant low-level ringing in that ear. At times I accept it, and at others I desperately want to forget about its presence, and surround myself with loud sounds (preferably music) to drown out the monotonous symphony that will probably never fade out of my background.

It upsets me that I may never again hear true silence. I have a referral to see a hearing specialist, but I'm too scared of the most likely conclusion they will be forced to deliver: I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do.

Nevertheless, I'm determined to see the bright side. It's a neutral sound, not unpleasant. I'm trying to relax into it, instead of making myself a bit on edge every time I become consciously aware of it again. Maybe I will coax myself into being extra nice to myself to compensate for any stress this new condition may cause me.

Last weekend was pretty intense - freshly sans the silvery wrapping that protected my severely burnt limb from possible infection, and looking forward to shaking off the blues that had accumulated from two weeks' confinement to the couch, I stepped out in style and attended a series of talks at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas before chilling out at Sydney's Parklife music festival.


It was my second Germaine Greer talk. She's been described as brilliant, eccentric, elegant, sensible and looms large amongst my role models. At FODI she spoke on how 15% of women in the (I assume American) military had been evaluated as suffering from sexual trauma, and how while the solution was not to discourage women from entering the military, it was to discourage anyone from being part of the military. It's no place for a human being, she asserted with her typical inspired gravity.

Greer claimed that academics were impotent and later advised one of the audience members not to take on extra responsibilities within it because it was easy to get overloaded. She made me uncomfortable by ascribing to women who knit pervasive loneliness and an attempt to convey their deep affection for their families, even as their home-made produce would be most likely neglected, and admitted that she was describing her own practice.

Germaine's next book is supposed to be on her life in a rainforest, which sounds both like bliss and a nightmare - so many creatures around you, yet few people to talk to as you benefit from communing with nature.

The foremost feminist is an advocate of The Real, and while her achievements within that frame are superlatively immense, as a postmodernist I can't help but wish she shared my views on the social construction of reality. Then again, I could say the same for anyone.

My criticism of the idea of womens' liberation from a feminist perspective is that equality is not a weak concept. When given the space it deserves, I believe it emerges as the most radical stance of all. I do believe that women and men have relatively few biological differences, and much of what is popularly perceived to be biological difference in 2012 is actually social conditioning. Women are conditioned to be more emotionally expressive, men are conditioned to be more technically astute. If women make better counsellors and nurses, it's because they've been given millenia to grow into the roles of care-takers and providers of emotional support. If men are overrepresented in the hard sciences it's because this has been a traditionally male arena ever since it was first performed. Unconscious bias and phobia shapes much of our career choices and personality formation. Equality would necessitate we think of ourselves in a gender-neutral way, even make the concept of gender obsolete... It took me a trip to Scandinavia to realise that, at that moment in time, I had no idea what equality might look like. The gender binaries are so deeply embedded into our conceptual frameworks that I would be lying if I said I could imagine a world in which they didn't exist. This epiphany led me to stay open-minded about how I might change in the future, as I continue to innovate at the edges of my societies. I could grow in so many ways completely unforseen at present. Anything remains possible, and unprecedented subversions need to occur to get us closer to equality, so I'm just trying to stay connected to the constant flow of radical women and men making their visions of gender politics the next new thing.

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