Monday, July 21, 2008

Announcement / Thoughts

Ami of Ami's Rants of Doom, which was linked in my post Re: The Femiblosphere Better Put On Some Damn Pants - is going to post her rant in her public blog. I'll link it here and mention when she does and change the link on the post itself.

2nd Announcement.

Bellatrys' - The Intersectionality of Hate: Name Magic in the 21st Century. It's a long essay. It's a really long essay. And it's taken me a day to work up to reading it.

Bellatrys often has interesting things to say. But she doesn't blog; she doesn't write conversationally. She writes thesis papers. There's always a little of classical greek philosophy in her essays and more than a touch of history. There are essays to make you think about the world and the places in it where everyone stands and how we got to those places and who put us in those places. This last essay especially does so.

It's spawned a bit by Helix and William Sanders and a couple other names in the mess that keeps on revealing self-inflated bigots who won't listen and will likely never change. I found it very insightful, though I seriously had to put on my thinking cap to read it.

The most interesting part of her essay is about Name Magic, a concept most SF fans know; the power of one's true name gives an opponent power over you. However IRL, in 'meat space' so to speak, Bellatrys argues that in our day to day lives the true power is in not using the real and proper name. That in fact the institutionalized power hierarchy is set up so that individuals who want to belittle or silence you or make you not exist will constantly not use your correct name, bitch about using said correct name, bitch further about having to call you by a group name you specify (ie; blacks, African Americans, African Europeans, Asian Canadians, of Polish Descent), etc...

I hadn't really thought about that before but it pinged to me of my mother being insistent that in America I never let anyone give me any sort of nickname, that my birth name was important and shouldn't ever be set aside. I was pouty and furious because nicknames seemed to be an inclusive thing and not using one seemed to be voluntarily labeling myself an outsider. But now I see that as an adult my mother had far more experience with how teachers and others could have tried to erase me by giving me some diminutive little name, as if I were a pet - or a slave.

There's so much respect involved in naming. We don't call our parents by their first names, in general, and if we do it's not until we're adults ourselves. Mr and Mrs are titles of respect. There was a big deal back in the day about Ms vs Miss and what that said about the speaker and the named. There's the fact that for years white children were expected to call white adults Mr and Mrs, but encouraged to call black adults by their first names or by terms like 'boy'.

Bellatrys even touches on language as a living thing that can be co-opted or twisted and how modern times are times filled with buzzwords and sound bytes that everyone's expected to understand but which actually are codewords or have meanings that are different depending on who started using them, who co-opted them, and who's listening and which meaning they know - the original or the co-opt.


"Women's Issues are about ALL WOMEN."

Sounds the same as it did at the first stirrings of the feminist movement and women fighting for equal rights and the vote. But along the way of said movement, the women of colour were left by the wayside, forgotten by history, shoved in a corner.

Are there women today who say "Women's Issues are about ALL WOMEN" and they actually mean all women? Sure. But the majority of people using that phrase are white women and the issues they're referencing are white women's issues and when someone really does start bringing up an issue that's more relevant to ALL women than one portion (small portion) of the women in the world - they get told to form their own damn movements and leave feminism to feminists.

Which, by the way I have done. Secular Womanism for me. Hurrah.

But naming and the power of names and the power grabbed by abusing names and not using names and the upset folk have at being called a racist vs having actual concern about BEING a racist - Bellatrys is right, I think. It is all name magic and it is a type of modern sorcery and chicanery that's used to hide hate.

Most potent to me was this bit here that she takes from Alice in Wonderland:

Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right --' he began.

'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.

'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right -- though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now -- and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents--'

'Certainly,' said Alice.

'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'

The added emphasis is mine, btw.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

Now, doesn't that sound familiar?


  1. Hypocrisy loves to redraw definitions all the time.

    "Militant" is when you call for justice, not when you shoot immigrants you think crossed the border. "Irrational" is when you use logic and facts instead of listening to those higher on the ladder than you. "Equality" is what the people in power say it is, and therefore, if you disagree, you're working against equality.

    Under this logic, the knife in your belly is "Love" and you should be grateful for it.


  2. Bankuei:

    The knife to the belly and the fist to the face, both being love and a love that wins out over your own stupidity are also very familiar chants - yes?

    Schnackenberg was sniffing in the right direction but missed the huge point that OPPRESSION SPEAKS A COMMON LANGUAGE.

  3. I have thought of the names having power over somebody thing a lot... :( And I think it's veyr true that names can have power and NOT using names or respecting names can also have power :\ Esp like naming ppl as you please, regardless of what they want, how they see themselves :\ Like how in the bible Adam named the animals, as if "I own you, I know better than you who you are, I get to define YOU"


    Also as a transperson, knowing my birth name gives ppl great power to hurt me... and they use it TO hurt me as if "this is who you RLY are" :( There are many transphobes out there who specifically try to learn the names of transppl they want to hurt so that they can always use the names in reference to them :(

    You alrdy know about my old therapist who would use my birth name on me when he was angry as a way to control and humble me to get his way :(

    Neways :\ It rly is true about the power names can have and using names (or not using them) can have... :(

  4. Ami:

    Just one of the many reasons I think you deserve medical/therapeutic personnel in your life who know what the hell they're doing.

    The more I think about her premise the more I realize this was something I've been aware of but I'd never broadened the scope. I don't use my birthname because it brings up far too many unpleasant associations. I've even taken to using my -middle- name in communication with my father, because I don't want to stop distancing myself from said birth name.

    And then there are the idiots chanting Obama's middle name like it's a spell to ward off common sense and possible good government.

    Yes, I don't think a lot of us end up in places to really think about what it means to not be called by our chosen name. Or what it means when someone else decides they know how to pronounce your name better than the way you actually say it - which has happened to me. But I tend to treat everyone who can't pronounce it as if they're idiots.

    Very subtle othering.

    *ponders more*


    Kk there it is :D

  6. Names have a great deal of power. I never knew why it upset me so much that people used the Anglicised version of my name -- after all, it can't really be pronounced properly in English, and they can't hear the difference. Eventually I started using the Anglicised version myself, but only among exclusively English speakers. It's only recently that it became obvious to me what was wrong with it. That's just not my name.

  7. This is fascinating... it explains why I get so mad when my boyfriend gets letters where they fuck up his surname. It's not just that I'm shocked at the ignorance regarding how "van [example]"-type surnames work; it's that it feels like a disregard of him.

    I also remember my frustration as a kid when people would call me "Angela" despite repeated correction. There were also people who'd say "Angelina" or "Angelique", because even for an uncommon name, those are apparently more well-known variants. I think this made me dislike my name; I wanted something which people wouldn't muddle up and which didn't feel so conspicuous....