Monday, December 17, 2007

Waves of Feminism(s), Rhetoric(s), & Translation(s)

We use (English) words as particles, as precisely defined units. For example, we assume definitions for terms like feminism, rhetoric, and translation. When we use the words in context, or read them in context, these little particles are found in fields, in relationship with the other words, and most importantly in relationship to ourselves and other people.

Today, I'm interested in (y)our perspectives of feminism, rhetoric, and translation (not only as words in contexts but also) as waves.

Historically, many of us already see feminism (in English, in the USA especially) in waves. But I want us to consider this: that each one of us participates in feminism (and/or is complicit in sexism) to some degree (whether we are willing to use such words as labels). Can you be as honest and brave as Rachel (of Rachel's Tavern), who says "Backing up a little bit, I’ll have to say I usually don’t write about my own feminism or get involved in debates over feminism" but who can also say "my feminism very much informs how I think and act"? So how do you ride the waves of feminism (or of sexism and racism)?

Typically, we think of rhetoric as the slippery weasily thing lawyers and politicians must do when they wink at the defendant or wave at the crowds. But won't we consider this: that every one of us is interested in using signs and symbols, especially words, to influence other people and their beliefs. Will you admit that even your reading of someone else's text can be rhetorical, that you're using the words to back your beliefs? Look at how re-translator April D. DeConick rightly cautions us to read betrayals of others: "Although we should continue to work toward a reconciliation of this ancient schism, manufacturing a hero Judas is not the answer."

As if scientific or artistic, translation is usually regarded as what the original meaning gets lost in, like a persistent sea foam demolishing the child's sand castle or a Katrina our cities. But sometimes translation can be Lydia He Liu's translingualism (where a host language kindly welcomes a guest) or Mikhail Epstein's interlation (in which the stereotext finds, not loses, meanings). Would you read as humbly, as experientially, as ambiguously, as meaningfully, Suzanne McCarthy's multilingual learning of "some of the tenderest, sweetest and most endearing, yet most elusive words" in translation?

The flux of feminism, the ripples of rhetoric, and the traduttore traditore of translation will always catch each one of us and watch us ride the changing surf or crash. In other words, how (y)our community participates in sexism (or racism or some other othering -ism) really is, profoundly, up to me (and you).

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