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September 28, 2006

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c.m.

Well, I often wonder if it isn't due to a recent generational shift of attitude that most of the women I know rarely define themselves as straight--even the ones who are happily married to men. Shows like Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives are nasty examples of the sort of feminine friendships infinite th0ught describes above, premised on competition, the deployment of capitalism, and the male gaze nonpareil...but it honestly troubles me that you are so quick to say you experience this across the board in your real friendships with other women, Jodi. Doesn't such an outlook and admission make you complicit in perpetuating the problem? I also have to disagree with the thesis that all sexual relationships between women are about the internalization of the male gaze. Or no, let me complicate that further: let's say that even IF the male gaze opens up a cultural space for those relationships to happen between women, the subsequent experience of emotional intimacy between women works to undermine the limits of "hetero-normative" (whatever that means) social positioning. I'm not sure what gratification you take from agreeing with the thesis that friendship bonds between women not premised on shopping, bi-sex, or discussions of boyfriends are almost impossible. Although perhaps I just gravitate toward women who already have a complicated relationship to performative femininity and am missing something.

Sinthome

Wow. I have no real comment, but yesterday in my ethics class, I was introducing Epicurus. Epicurus argues that in order to attain happiness, it's necessary to attain freedom from anxiety, overcome our fear of death, and health, and that these things are sufficient for a happy life... Nothing more, not fame, wealth, excess, etc. I was asking my students what causes them anxiety, hoping to be able to underline the point that the things we get anxious about are a function of our own desires (for instance, I wouldn't worry over money if I lived a life where I didn't need money to satisfy my needs, etc), and was floored when one of the women spoke up and said "other women". Nothing in the preceding discussion had brought up gender relations, so it came as a surprise that this was the first thing that came to her mind.

Jodi

CM --thanks for your comment. When I think of the friendships in Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City, I don't see the male gaze as mattering, except as something that the women talk about. The bonds between the women are more important than any link with a man (although the unfortunate straight couplings/"resolution" at the the end of the series disrupts/undercuts this point). So, I don't think either IT or I saw all female relationships in terms of the the male gaze, not at all, in fact, the point is to emphasize how a female gaze is at work.

I see IT's point as addressing capitalism as a structuring principle. One of it's ideological components is, now, female capitalist reason, which women experience as a feminine big other, a gaze upon themselves that is a woman's gaze. This seems right to me. All I added was that even under these conditions, there can be friendships.

Does acknowledging a feminine big Other make me complicit? I guess I have to say yes, since the big Other doesn't exist except through our recognition/acknowledgement/experience
of it.

Last point on impossible friendships--I think friendships between women that escape the problems you delineate are rare and exquisite. I have a couple, and I cherish them. I also think, and this was my point about shopping with my friend, that women's friendships that occur through shopping shouldn't be reduced to shopping; rather, the friendship shines through this, becoming something more than and irreducible to this substrate. Also like knitting or scrapbooking (I'm a scrapbooker)--the friendship isn't just 'about' these practices; the practices enable it to shine through.

bibliochef

Frienship is under valued. And to be treasured. And rare. Between women, I think sometimes my expectations are too high and my own performance qua friend too low. And with men, my expectations too low sometimes. But there are some, too few, who I know are always there, even when they are not, and where I always am, even when I am not.

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