Dear Mr Postmodernist by Michelle

Dear Mr Postmodernist,

Stop telling me the body is nothing more than a ‘text’, merely ‘discursive’, nothing concrete, but fragmented, ‘engaged in performativity’.

What is that all about?
How is that helping?
What revolutionary purpose does it serve?

These insights of yours are purported to be groundbreaking, radical, cutting edge, liberating because they break down
‘binaries’,
‘dichotomies’,
‘totalities’,
all ‘essential’ and ‘universal’ notions.

Apparently I should be thankful to you for all this, kissing your arse, because these insights of yours claim to be able to free me from the shackles of the biological & embodied reality of being ‘woman’, I can now be liberated from that ‘essential’ identity category ‘woman’.

Thanks to the insights of you & your brothers, other male academic elites, fathers of the anti-radical feminist bodies of thought, postmodernism & poststructuralism, my sisters & I can now treat our identities as women as ‘discursive’, constructed of language nothing more, free-floating. So now we can play around with our sex/gender identity, because they are ‘texts’, constructed out of ‘discourse’, not blood, skin and bones.

But tell me Mr Postmodernist, up there in your ivory tower, away from reality, the reality of real women’s lives, how talking about bodies and identities as ‘texts’, is helping to liberate women?

Women’s bodies are ‘texts’? We should see ourselves as ‘texts’? We should celebrate our ‘textuality’ by playing around in ‘discursive spaces’, postmodern stylee?

No.

No, women’s bodies are not fucking ‘texts’. ‘Woman’ is not a ‘text’.

Because women, women’s bodies, women’s fleshy bodies,
skin, blood, bones & brain, heart & mind are
bruised, battered, bloodied, bludgeoned & boxed in every day,
because they are ‘woman’.
Domestic violence, rape, FGM, cosmetic surgery, eating disorders, man-made images & lies
leaving their indelible, very real mark on women, women’s bodies, women’s fleshy bodies.

Women’s bodies aren’t fucking ‘texts’ THEN.

They aren’t ‘discursive constructions’ playing postmodern games with their gender and sexuality, ‘engaged in performativity’ THEN.

Mr Postmodernist, no matter what you say, no matter how hailed you are for revolutionising the academy with your revelations about how bodies and identities are ‘discursive’- you haven’t and can’t-revolutionise women’s lives for the better.

You cannot contribute to women’s liberation.

In fact your theories, coming at us in that precious, overly-academic, inaccessible language, (even though you claim to give a shit about the ‘real people’ aka the non-academics, the poor, the oppressed), are stalling women’s liberation.

Because if we can only talk about women as ‘texts’, that means we can’t talk about women as real human beings. And if we can’t talk about women as real human beings, that means we can’t deal with what happens to women as real human beings.

Because lest you forget Mr Postmodernist, women, women’s bodies, are only too real.

A woman has a body, a real fleshy body, which she inhabits, feels and experiences as real, all too often painfully, particularly when the patriarchy gets his hands on her.

Yes, that’s right, PATRIARCHY, that big, bad, naughty word we can’t say anymore thanks to you Mr Postmodernist, up there in your ivory tower, because to talk about patriarchy is too simplistic, too ‘totalising’, too ‘universal’.

Well, fuck that.

Patriarchy exists. ‘Woman’ exists.

Listen here. Woman exists, woman’s body exists,
– when she is penetrated against her will by ‘man’-
– when her breasts are cut open & inserted with a man made substance –
– when she’s aborted because she is the female sex-
– when she starves herself to conform to the media images you postmodernists love so much-
– when she’s wolf-whistled at by man on the street for possessing a female body.

Are you really telling me, Mr Postmodernist,
That women’s bodies are texts HERE?
That patriarchy doesn’t exist HERE?

Tell me, how do these realities fit into your world of postmodern, ‘textual play’?

I’ll answer for you. They don’t.

Don’t you see? Your emphasis & preoccupation with treating bodies & identities as ‘texts’ does harm to women.

To women’s liberation.

Only men, only male, middle-class academics like you Mr Postmodernist, could come up with such bull. Because you have the privilege to, because you aren’t woman, and therefore haven’t, nor will you ever, experience the above realities.

You think, Mr Postmodernist, that you can come along & proclaim the ‘death of the subject’, of the body, of patriarchy? Well of course you fucking can because you were the ‘subject’, never the object, never the body but the ‘rational mind’, never subject to the patriarchy but its perpetuator.

So now thanks to you, radical feminist theory is ridiculed & lambasted.

Andrea Dworkin? Catherine MacKinnon? Shulamith Firestone? Kate Millet?

‘Who were they?’ proclaims Mr Postmodernist, ‘but over-simplifiers, ‘totalising’ woman and man, pointing the finger at patriarchy all the time?’

‘No’, says Mr Postmodernist, ‘here I am with the new and improved theory (even though I also proclaim the ‘death of theory’) that will do away with all that radfem crap. Now it’s all about ‘discursive identities’, ‘multiple subject positions’, and power as ‘decentred and dispersed’.’

Mr Postmodernist, they weren’t perfect, those radfem theorists, I’ll admit it. But your ‘total’ lambasting of them is uncalled for.

Because truth is, they did way more for women, real women, the women beaten, abused, oppressed & exploited, than any male, supposedly cutting edge, elite, privileged postmodern theorist like yourself.

They wrote theory that spoke the truth, that tried to uncover the truth, of women’s reality. They were bold. They were righteous. They weren’t afraid to tell it like it is, to get their hands dirty in the task of explaining women’s exploitation.

More than you, Mr Postmodernist. But then you don’t like dirt & stark realities, do you? You prefer style over substance, flowery words over plain and clear ones, medium over matter, to immerse yourself in the play of performance than the poison of pain and oppression.

No, these women were not postmodernists. They were radical feminists.

A lot easier to say. A lot easier to spell. A lot easier to understand. And a hell of a lot more relevant & useful.

They recognised woman, her fleshy body; a body that bled every month and gave birth, a body that because it belonged to a woman, meant susceptibility to rape, abuse & all the other manifestations of man bullshit.

So no, Mr Postmodernist, they didn’t see the ‘body as a text engaged in performativity’.

Because they were too concerned with the minor, trivial, unimportant stuff.

Like treating women & their bodies as real, penetrated against her will, bloodied, bruised & bullshitted to at the hands of fucked-up men with too much fucked-up power thanks to the fucked-up man-made, man-owned, man-ruled, man-controlled society woman inhabits.

These radfems’ sins according to you? They called out the patriarchy. They defined women as a collective, a potentially revolutionary collective at that.

Oh, how convenient that you came along to denounce all that, Mr Postmodernist!!

‘There is no patriarchy’, you say, ‘power is more decentred and dispersed than that. Women, you can’t go calling out male-dominated institutions for their sexist bullshit, it’s not as simplistic as that!’

‘Woman’, you say, ‘cannot be generalised, in actual fact you don’t exist, there is no ‘woman’, there are too many differences between you, so there’s no way you can organise yourselves into a revolutionary collective.’

Oh, Mr Postmodernist, how can I ever thank you? Just want I wanted, another man to come along to sort me out, tell me what’s right and wrong, to shit on women.

Of course these insights of yours are very convenient for you; to follow them through means we ignore the oppression played out on women & their bodies & resign ourselves to the fact there is no patriarchy and give up forging links with other women. Oh, how very convenient. Suits your male privilege just fine!

And they call you the radical? YOU?

But your theories- which laud individualism, style, imagery, flashy fairy lights, pretty playful sparkle, masks & make-up- fit right into the Western conservative, capitalist consumer culture.

Did you not know? Politicians & big business love you, Mr Postmodernist.

They want us to see ourselves as individuals, without stable identities, so that we won’t organise as political entities bent on change.

They want us to see ourselves as ‘texts’, so that we’ll go shopping & spend our money on fashion & things in order for us to take part in postmodern play.

Seriously, having your theories gel with conservative politics & capitalist big business is in no way radical, Mr Postmodernist.

So, to end let me tell you this.

I am a radical feminist.
I believe there is a patriarchy.
I believe there is ‘woman’.
I see & experience women’s bodies as flesh, not ‘text’.

And I think I’m in a better position than you, Mr Postmodernist to say this.

Yours in ‘embodied womanhood’,

Michelle

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4 Responses

  1. I loved reading this, postmodernism can never be trashed enough as far as I’m concerned. It’s advent has made it so hard in academia to say or argue anything feminist – you’re either dismissed, or laughed at, or subjected to terrible amounts of hostility.

    One thing I’ve noticed about all this postmodern sensibility, at least in my own field (Australian literature): no matter how much critics might talk about ‘multipe subject positions’ or ‘hybrid identities’ or the break-down of ‘master narratives’ and how wonderful that has been for the poor little oppressed people of the world, the ONLY people who get quoted in their articles are white males. It gets really ridiculous. White heterosexual men talking about other white heterosexual men, and all congratulating each other on the ‘diversity’ and ‘complexity’ of voices that are now recognised because of postmodernism.

    And those voices are where exactly? Because I sure as hell have never come across them, only the usual patriarchal wank fest.

    Dissenter.

  2. yay! a fellow anti-pomo!

  3. […] Dear Mr. Post-Modernist is a really awesome angry post by Michelle against post-modernism. […]

  4. […] Dear Mr Postmodernist Filed under: Postmodernism — by lonergrrrl @ 2:18 pm Also posted at Spinning Spinsters […]

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