Friday, May 9, 2008

What’s the Point of Feminism? The (Original Greek) Dialogue

What’s the point of feminism?

ARISTOTLE:

>>Ἔχουσι δ πλείους ο ρρενες τν θηλειν δόντας κα ν νθρώποις κα π προβάτων κα αγν κα ὑῶν· τ γρ θλυ σπερ ρρεν στ πεπηρωμένον· Το δ θήλεος διον μέρος στέρα, κα το ρρενος αδοον,

>>τή γυναικική ἐστιν τν θηλειν

>>ὅμοιον γὰρ κἂν εἴ τις ᾡ̂ μέλλει χρη̂σθαι κανόνι, του̂τον ποιήσειε στρεβλόν.

ASPASIA:

Sir, would you care to say that in English for the audience?

ARISTOTLE:

Ο!

PLATO:

No, Aristotle says. My pupil doesn’t believe in translation. For him, it’s the denigration of our language by the BarBar-ian tongues of the La-La-lands. (He does chuckle when I tell him that those uncivilized Dutch men named the blacks in the remotest part of the dark continent the “Hot-Ten-Tots.” And he’s trying to convince his Great little pupil Alexander to make Jamie Uys translate “The Gods Must be Crazy” into Greek for us.) I’m hoping to persuade Aristotle that Barbarian tongues can be the shadows in the cave, reflections however imperfectly and inaccurately of his original Greek and his logical syllogisms in Greek.

SOCRATES:

“The shadows prove the substance,” my good Plato. But don’t the shadows prove the sunlight?

ASPASIA:

Thanks gentlemen. Today our discussion is placed (“topically”) around our personal politics with respect to our respective genders here. Isn’t it important for the world to know what Greek men and women think? Is there really much value in thoughts if they are only translated in one direction?

PLATO:

Right, Aspasia. I see some of what you mean. But let me take a crack at translating Aristotle’s logic here into English for our wider, worldly audience.

[His major premise here is this. And, mind you, he gets all of his premises from observing hard-fact nature objectively:]

>>Ἔχουσι δ πλείους ο ρρενες τν θηλειν δόντας κα ν νθρώποις κα π προβάτων κα αγν κα ὑῶν· τ γρ θλυ σπερ ρρεν στ πεπηρωμένον· Το δ θήλεος διον μέρος στέρα, κα το ρρενος αδοον,

>>Males have more teeth than females in the case of humans, sheep, goats, and swine. The female, in fact is, as it were, a mutilated male. The respective part of a female is an emptiness, a uterus, and of a male is a spear, a penis.

[Now that the male/female binary is set, and the hierarchy of classification of male / female is established, the minor premise is this:]

>>τή γυναικική ἐστιν τν θηλειν

>>Feminism is female.

[Necessarily, all of Greece, someday the world, must follow this conclusion]:

>>ὅμοιον γὰρ κἂν εἴ τις ᾡ̂ μέλλει χρη̂σθαι κανόνι, του̂τον ποιήσειε στρεβλόν.

>>Therefore, [feminism without much teeth] is like making the stick crooked [and thereby pointless] which is intended for use [straight use straightaway].

ASPASIA:

So that’s Aristotle’s logic, huh? Is it always so pointed? And Plato, isn’t your translation revealing of your own personal politics? Did you read Toni Morrison's essay Home yet? Can you distance yourself from your student’s sexist words, or are you making them your own here, and making them the words of men, despite the tongue?

ARISTOTLE:

σπασία, στι δ κα δύσθυμον μλλον τ θλυ το ρρενος κα δύσελπι, κα ναιδέστερον κα ψευδέστερον, εαπατητότερον δ κα μνημονικώτερον,

PLATO:

[My apology for him. That would be:]

Aspasia, you ignorant slut. I see what you’re doing here, You’re twisting my language, putting things in my mouth. It’s postmodernism and feminism veiled.

SOCRATES:

Now, now, my pupils. Do you see any reason to choke on hemlock now? Pericles listens to Aspasia, and I think you’ll want me in one of your dialogs one day, listening to both of them. What do you think, Plato? And is that really an accurate translation of what your student said? And do you let him speak so? Forgive us, Aspasia!

PLATO:

No, O Socrates, my teacher. I was just practicing dynamic equivalence translation. And I’d been watching too many SNL reruns. Dan Ackroyd is the one calling her a slut in public if after ten o'clock in the evening; Jane Curtin is her I mean.

[What Aristotle is really saying is the following, when to translate his original words by “formal equivalence,” which may be more like your dialectic, which is my ideal, less the realism of Aristotle’s logic anyway. So, literally, Aristotle is saying this in English]:

σπασία, στι δ κα δύσθυμον μλλον τ θλυ το ρρενος κα δύσελπι, κα ναιδέστερον κα ψευδέστερον, εαπατητότερον δ κα μνημονικώτερον,

Aspasia, The female is more dispirited and more despondent than the male, more shameless and more lying, readier to deceive and possessing a better memory for grudges.

Now if I can get my student, Aristotle, to write that down in his treatise on “The History of Animals,” then you, O Socrates, and Pericles too deserve the center places in my “Menexenus” with both of you listening to Aspasia.

SOCRATES:

Thanks.

My dear Aspasia. Will you correct me if I’m wrong?

As for the “point” of feminism, my only question is whether there aren’t feminisms?

Until I get to Morrison, I’ve been musing about Helen Logino’s “Feminist Epistemology as a Local EpistemologyAristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 71 (1) , 19–36 and how she claims that “many commentators take feminist epistemology to be a species of naturalised and social epistemology, but just as there are ways of naturalising and ways of socialising epistemology, so there are ways of doing feminist epistemology.”

And Aristotle, didn’t you yourself get away from the one single naturalizing epistemology “of nature” when you wrote the following?

>>“ἡ ῥητορική ἐστιν ἀντίστροφος τῃ̂ διαλεκτικη̂ ͅ: ἀμφότεραι γὰρ περὶ τοιούτων τινω̂ν εἰσιν ἃ κοινὰ τρόπον τινὰ ἁπάντων ἐστὶ γνωρίζειν καὶ οὐδεμια̂ς ἐπιστήμης ἀφωρισμένης :”?

PLATO:

[Excuse me, O Socrates. That would be this in written English]:

>>”Speakerism is a different creative turn from that “-ism” of talked-through truth. There are, in fact, around these two at least the very common turns that all make, men and women too, in order to know things, and not one of them makes tight precise boundaries around understanding anything.”

ARISTOTLE:

Ο! καὶ να

ASPASIA:

Thanks gentlemen. Thanks, Aristotle, for your question. So, do feminisms need to be as pointed as your question today seems to be? Is sexism always as logically pointed? What is the male author’s intentions? And need a translation always and only veil any reader’s personal politics? Can we all agree that Plato is getting a little better with his translating? This has been a most revealing discussion.

Tune in next time when Barbara Cohen and Bahija Taffuhi Lovejoy join us to talk about their book Seven Daughters and Seven Sons. Warning, at first glance, it’s a story of men, of men from the middle east, of men from the middle east who collapse the gods into one, a male One albeit with ninety-nine names; and they say that He is to be revered and that their daughters are to be veiled. Rather, if you can be conscious of your own readerly sexual politics--the marked and the unmarked--it’s a story, of women, a woman story, as heretical in Jerusalem, except to the women there and everywhere who under stand theology much differently than such theogic-logic allows. It is a book for children but profound enough for adults. It is not all Greek, and yet it sinks deep.

Here’s a sneak peak without giving away anything:

“I wore no veil. After all that had passed between us, to what purpose would I have hidden my face from him? Even my mother couldn’t insist upon it, though she and Darirah had covered theirs. So I didn’t have to answer him. The smile I gave him was enough. . .

‘O Mahmud!’ I exclaimed. ‘Can the son of the Wali of Tyre marry a woman whose name is tossed around in bazaars and khans?’

‘But Buran,’ Mahmud replied, his eyes, his mouth, his whole face smiling, ‘if your story hadn’t been known, my hair could have been white before I found you. . . It’s because of the story that I found you as quickly as I did.’ His hand reached out and grasped mine. ‘Besides how could such a thing be kept secret? Tell me that. How could such a thing be kept secret?’”

2 comments:

mike said...

My wife cannot stand Toni Morrison

J. K. Gayle said...

That's okay, Mike; Jesus still loves her anyway.