Sunday, 16 June 2013
Irreverent Goddesses: Tantric and Flippant Feminisms in Dialogue
PC Flippancy is defined as a disrespectful levity or casualness, usually expected of a subject who is talkative and in the case of my poetics, is borne of a congenital lack of seriousness. That is not to suggest that the politics and subject matter, in this case feminism, is not of great weight, but that the attitude and response to it does not demonstrate the gravitas it warrants.
Flippancy operates as a tone of voice, an affectation, in part – a performance – of a constantly moving and faithless reporting of the unfolding feminist politics of contemporary London. The tone is realised through a first-person, who moves throughout the city, attending different events, writing highly subjective lyrics about the experience. Although not disassociated from emotion, flippancy is an attempt to demonstrate humility, the possibilities for bathos that refuses both heroes and idols. It is an attempt to articulate disjunctures and misfits within a category in which one ostensibly fits.
In The Promise of Happiness Sara Ahmed writes about the difficulty of being a feminist, and concludes ‘the history of feminism is thus a history of making trouble’, and my flippancy is an attempt to cause difficulty both within and without my chosen political category. Flippancy is also an assertion of individuality, or at least autonomy, despite my affiliation with a very specific collective. Despite feminism’s need for a united front, the politics benefits from a multiplicity of adherents, to avoid the development of an exclusive category. Ahmed writes that adopting positions ‘require one accepts that one’s own position might anger others and hence allow one’s position to be opened to critique by others’. The flippant speaker within my writing, while critical is simultaneously critiqued through its positioning in dialogue with wider-ranging feminism. This sense of mutual irritation and reciprocal troubling are vital to the progression of a movement that undergoes constant permutation to reflect social change.
NR You’ve just heard the argument against heroes and idols, but what about a little Goddess worship? Let’s throw humility to the wolves, puff up our chests and speak with booming voices. Let’s demonstrate our powers, tell the truth or shamelessly exaggerate, hold hands and sing or stand alone at the top of a mountain and scream bloody murder. The Goddess is a tricky symbol – she elicits a range of reactions, sending shudders and sparks through the crowd. She is an object of religious faith in a multitude of cultures, and yet she is ridiculous and blasphemous according to Abrahamic religious conventions. She is a clay figurine, she tickles the ears of male poets, she leads wild women to smear mud on their breasts, she resides within the modern girl, helping her to achieve domestic bliss… She is all of these versions simultaneously; your fingers get caught as you try to untangle her hair.
The epic trilogy Iovis is Anne Waldman’s meditation on the historical, mythological, and social institution of male power. Men are denounced and deified, but Waldman is no demure priestess, trembling at the feet of her gods. She smokes with the men, argues about politics and philosophy, and then channels that anger and sly pleasure into her Beat-Buddhist-feminist poetics. She is the Goddess you don’t want to mess with (and not afraid to say so herself), the frustratingly beautiful bellicose woman: ‘What is a hero in poetry? What does waiting in ambush mean? What are words for this battle cry? What are the anapests doing in my sleep? Why do I wake up crying every day and loathe the lack of courage that could change this. Women most of you O women unite.’
The Goddess and Western feminist movements converged explicitly in the 1970s, although the relationship between the Goddess and women is ancient and complex. The Goddess transforms across vast historical and geographical distances, she is whatever she needs to be for specific communities and moments in time. Fragments of myth and ritual stick to her skin as she rolls into the contemporary – Goddess poetics embraces, appropriates, and encourages women to reimagine themselves as everything and nothing all at once.