Sunday, December 18, 2005

Speaking for One's Own Self

| by Polly Jones | 6:02 PM |

The other day I had a conversation with a woman from school. She is incredibly beautiful, charismatic, and intelligent. And, she has such presence. We were discussing men, and I was shocked when she told me that she loses herself completely in relationships. She seemed equally shocked when I told her that this was the case for me as well. (Her shock was likely due to the fact that I dominate the classroom discussions far more than I should.)

The simple fact is that women are valued for their connection to others. When I reflect on the relationships in my life they have all been with men who are very different from me - athletes, entrepreneurs, scuba diving instructors...I shake my head. And, so often I have realized well into the relationships that these men don't really like me - in fact, they don't even really know me - they just really like the image I mirror back to them.

So, when I was looking at this woman who I find absolutely fascinating, I began to wonder why I can't hold myself in such high regard. I don't want to apologize anymore for not liking predictable humour; or for refusing to schedule my time around another because all the other girlfriends do it; or for being sensitive...because that is just who I am. I have made a career out of pleasing others, and now I want others to please me.

Someone remarked recently that, in my writing, I seem to be fighting something within myself. In fact, I am fighting for myself. I am not sure this is something most males can understand...Although, maybe. As a man, think how often your emotions, other than anger, are minimized and unwelcomed. As a woman, think how often your opinions and rationales are discounted. What I am saying might seem strange...but, it is something that only becomes apparent when we attempt to step outside the usual ways of being.

These words from bell hooks, in Talking Back, resonate with me:

To speak as an act of resistance is quite different than ordinary talk, or the personal confession that has no relation to coming into political awareness, to developing critical consciousness…it is easy for the marginal voice striving for a hearing to allow what is said to be overdetermined by the needs of the majority group who appears to be listening, to be tuned in. It becomes ways to speak about what that group wants to hear, to describe and define experience in a language compatible with existing images and ways of knowing, constructed within social frameworks that reinforce domination (hooks 1989, p. 14)

So, for me, I am genuinely trying to find words, and a way of being, that is not determined by the gaze of another. While almost painfully simple, I am just trying to speak for my own self.

Via Marginal Notes

Polly, you are a Refugee ... thus we hold you in high regard. You were asked to post because your ideas, rendered in our shared language, ring true. Thank you.
Yes, we are metaphoric refugees as well...
...retreating form ideological violence and confinement...seeking a safe space.
Well, my dear - you are truly safe here with friends. I understand the personal journey you articulated. It goes beyond the dialectics associated with relationships; and is even more than your epiphany regarding women, image and the tapestry of lies we all weave within our extremely delicate sexual relationships.

If men and women cannot be truthful with and about each other, they will always hold each other at arms length; bemoaning the 'war between the sexes' and never, ever quite reaching their potential for fulfillment. So explore away – somehow I think the men and women here will relish going on that journey with you.
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