Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Whack the Weeds, or Wait?

He threw another story beside their own personal stories:

The royal palace in the skies is like someone
who planted good seeds in her garden
and while the people were asleep
her enemy came and and planted the seeds of weeds among the seeds of
and went away.
When the flowers flowered
then the weeds also appeared.
The garden attendants came to the gardener,
and said to her,
"Ma'am, didn't you plant flower seeds in the garden?
Where do the weeds come from?"
The gardener told them, "My enemy did this."
"Do you want us to go and whack them down?"
said the garden attendants.

[to be continued]

Today, some of my favorite bloggers are asking questions:

Samhita at feministing asks Why "there is preference for male children" in India, where female babies are aborted?

David Ker of Lingamish asks "How can my kids navigate the net when it is full of nut jobs and porn?"

April DeConick at the Forbidden Gospels Blog asks "Can we ever have another leader with a higher social vision?"

The Feminist Chemists ask "How many times have you heard the argument that men are more rational than emotional, whilst women are more emotional than rational? So, where does this idea come from in the first place?"

Sounds to me like some of the kinds of questions Mohandas Gandhi and Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King Jr. and Nechama Leibowitz had to ask. (Leibowitz in the taxi cab with a baal agalah as equal, is also really asking, as we all might: mah kasheh leRashi?) So when the work of an enemy is so overwhelming: What to do, what to do, what to do, what to do?

[the story beside mine and yours continues]

"Ma'am, didn't you plant good seeds in the garden?
Where do the weeds come from?

Do you want us to go and whack them down?"
said the garden attendants.
"No, in whacking down the weeds you would whack down the flowers.
Let both grow together until it's time to cut the flowers for the arrangements.
Then I'll tell the flower arrangers,
'Now whack the weeds and rake them in piles to burn,
but put the flowers in my vases.'"

When it's time,
you'll know what to do.
I've just retranslated
Willis Barnstone
Yeshua Ben Yosef

Here's what Matthew hears:

ἄλλην παραβολὴν παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων

ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ
σπείραντι καλὸν σπέρμα ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ αὐτοῦ
ἐν δὲ τῷ καθεύδειν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους
ἦλθεν αὐτοῦ ὁ ἐχθρὸς καὶ ἐπέσπειρεν ζιζάνια ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σίτου καὶ ἀπῆλθεν
ὅτε δὲ ἐβλάστησεν ὁ χόρτος καὶ καρπὸν ἐποίησεν
τότε ἐφάνη καὶ τὰ ζιζάνια
προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δοῦλοι τοῦ οἰκοδεσπότου
εἶπον αὐτῷ
κύριε οὐχὶ καλὸν σπέρμα ἔσπειρας ἐν τῷ σῷ ἀγρῷ
πόθεν οὖν ἔχει ζιζάνια
ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτοῖς ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος τοῦτο ἐποίησεν
οἱ δὲ δοῦλοι λέγουσιν αὐτῷ
θέλεις οὖν ἀπελθόντες συλλέξωμεν αὐτά
ὁ δέ φησιν οὔ μήποτε συλλέγοντες τὰ ζιζάνια ἐκριζώσητε ἅμα αὐτοῖς τὸν σῖτον ἄφετε συναυξάνεσθαι ἀμφότερα ἕως τοῦ θερισμοῦ καὶ ἐν καιρῷ τοῦ θερισμοῦ
ἐρῶ τοῖς θερισταῖς
συλλέξατε πρῶτον τὰ ζιζάνια καὶ δήσατε αὐτὰ εἰς δέσμας πρὸς τὸ κατακαῦσαι αὐτά τὸν δὲ σῖτον συναγάγετε εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην μου

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Translation That Breaks Your Heart

Yet the shift toward intersubjective, Self-Self relation challenges the boundaries of anthropological discourse and raises some crucial questions: Is this turn toward identification going to lead us to ever more insular forms of anthropology? Even to anthropology’s demise? On the other hand, on a less apocalyptic note, couldn’t we say that the new focus on the possibilities and limits of identification is making anthropology finally and truly possible by leading us toward greater depth of understanding, greater depth of feeling about those whom we write about?

. . . Daring to speak of his sorrow, of his loss, his rage, daring, yes, to privilege sentiments, he dares to be ‘feminine’—that is, feminine in the terms of our cultural logic and the way we ascribe genders to our writing. And immediately the sons come along to chastise him for not being macho enough.

“. . . but I say that anthropology that doesn’t break your heart just isn’t worth doing anymore.”
And I mean it. Really mean it. Because my heart is broken. Because the one person I wish had heard me sing this lament for him isn’t here. Can’t be here.
--Ruth Behar
“Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart”
The Vulnerable Observer:
Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart

The Bible is written mostly by men, about men, for men mostly. Far and away, most translators of the Bible are men. Mostly, they want what Aristotle wants:

  • Objectivity in observation
  • A fixed original text
  • A fixed equivalence in the target language
  • Agency for the text (i.e., “And the intent of what the Word is saying here is, circumcise the foreskin of your heart Man of Judah—so come on you woman, don’t feel so excluded, since you have one too, don’t you?”)
  • Authority in the text since it, the text itself, observes that, by nature, man is over woman in marriage, in public speaking, in teaching, and in body
  • Language that is “felicitous, and that is “faithful,” to what men “describe” as “felicitous” and “faithful” language, which is what Aristotle means by objectivity in observation
  • Insider status to the text, because it’s mostly by men, about men, and for men

Most of these men translators mostly feel—or rather think—that anything other than these things is going to lead to the demise of standards. In fact, the standard is logic, dimorphic logic. If it’s not objective—because cold heady objectivity is good—then it must be bad.

Of course, like most of the Bible translators, most translators of Aristotle’s treatises are also men. They want what most of the Bible translators want. They feel—or rather they understand that they should be—close to the texts because the texts are written by a man, with that big tool of Logic and defining macho Dialectic, for men.

[What few anglo-centric and euro-centric men realize is that we really are outsiders to the texts which are written for men of another time, another exclusive race. And in Aristotle’s case, any translation, especially one that breaks your heart, is not worth doing for it puts us in appropriative flux back to the daring Heraclitus, who is not macho enough:

The theory of Forms occurred to those who enunciated it because they were convinced as to the true nature of reality by the doctrine of Heraclitus, that all sensible things are always in a state of flux; so that if there is to be any knowledge or thought about anything, there must be certain other entities, besides sensible ones, which persist. For there can be no knowledge of that which is in flux.

Now Socrates devoted his attention to the moral virtues, and was the first to seek a general definition of these [20] (for of the Physicists Democritus gained only a superficial grasp of the subject and defined, after a fashion, "the hot" and "the cold"; while the Pythagoreans at an earlier date had arrived at definitions of some few things--whose formulae they connected with numbers--e.g., what "opportunity" is, or "justice" or "marriage"); and he naturally inquired into the essence of things;

for he was trying to reason logically, and the starting-point of all logical reasoning is the essence. At that time there was as yet no such proficiency in Dialectic that men could study contraries independently of the essence, and consider whether both contraries come under the same science.There are two innovations which, may fairly be ascribed to Socrates: inductive reasoning and general definition. Both of these are associated with the starting-point of scientific knowledge.

συνέβη δ’ περ τν εδν δόξα τος εποσι δι τ πεισθναι περ τς ληθείας τος ρακλειτείοις λόγοις ς πάντων τν ασθητν ε εόντων, στ’ επερ πιστήμη τινς σται κα φρόνησις, τέρας (15) δεν τινς φύσεις εναι παρ τς ασθητς μενούσας· ο γρ εναι τν εόντων πιστήμην.

Σωκράτους δ περ τς θικς ρετς πραγματευομένου κα περ τούτων ρίζεσθαι καθόλου ζητοντος πρώτου (τν μν γρ φυσικν π μικρν Δημόκριτος ψατο μόνον κα ρίσατό πως τ θερμν κα (20) τ ψυχρόν· ο δ Πυθαγόρειοι πρότερον περί τινων λίγων, ν τος λόγους ες τος ριθμος νπτον, οον τί στι καιρς τ δίκαιον γάμος·) κενος δ’ ελόγως ζήτει τ τί στιν·

συλλογίζεσθαι γρ ζήτει, ρχ δ τν συλλογισμν τ τί στιν· διαλεκτικ γρ σχς οπω τότ’ ν στε δύνασθαι (25) κα χωρς το τί στι τναντία πισκοπεν, κα τν ναντίων ε ατ πιστήμη· δύο γάρ στιν τις ν ποδοίη Σωκράτει δικαίως, τούς τ’ πακτικος λόγους κα τ ρίζεσθαι καθόλου· τατα γάρ στιν μφω περ ρχν πιστήμης)· (30)]

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Sound (of the) Opening Line

Let me start my little commentary on the first line of the Rhetoric of Aristotle and its feminist translation by saying something personal about me.

I have some awful affinity with Aristotle: I'm privileged (or right at the top of the heap) by virtue of my society’s values of gender, race, class, religion, education, profession, nationality, language, literacy, and technology.

The personal irony is this: I am no authority on the subject (i.e., “rhetoric”); I'm not a woman (if a “feminist”); and I speak and write only by living languages (such as “English”). When I do speak or write (for instance here on this blog), I can be difficult, weird, or downright intimidating. And what's more, as often as I can, I perpetually enjoy reminding myself that we are all outsiders to what Aristotle wrote; he wrote neither to us nor for us. He wrote for the special class of literate Greek boys who were forming and expanding the world for Pan-Hellenism.

From where we sit, here then is what I say:

Aristotle's feminist subject is ῥητορική. He’s got a serious problem when he opens a treatise by writing these words:

ἡ ῥητορική ἐστιν ἀντίστροφος τῃ̂ διαλεκτικη

But we’ve got a serious problem when we translate those words with these:

Rhetoric is an antistrophos to dialectic.

(Our academic translation, here, we get from rhetoric scholar George A. Kennedy).

Should we talk about Aristotle’s problem first, or ours?

Aristotle’s problem is this: He can’t define and classify this subject called ῥητορική (or “rhetoric”) without abandoning his big tool “logic” as the only big tool.

Oh, logic is his baby; really, he invented the word and the method: he calls it λογική. It’s a refining of the method for truth seeking of Plato, his teacher; Plato’s method is διαλεκτικη, which we’ve called “dialectic.” Logic is Aristotle's famous defining binary: X = X, but not NOT X. Aristotle is less interested in what the ideal truth and reality might be and is more interested in what his logic can tell him nature IS. By using logic, before he turns to his feminist subject, Aristotle has already defined and classified the following: dialectic, sophistic, philosophics, metaphysics, physics, ethics, poetics, politics, analytics, topics, sophistic fallacies, biologics, theologics, meterologics, motion, categories, and interpretation. By logic, Aristotle defines and classifies his privilege: males over females, Greeks over nonGreeks, free men over natural born slaves, and dialecticians over sophists.

But to define and classify this subject called ῥητορική, Aristotle has to use it.

Now our problem: our traditional academic translation (above) is snobby. It requires a dictionary, or a graduate education in rhetoric or in Greek classics or in philosophy or in some other such discipline. And even then, we just learn all the arguments over each of the technical terms--we're never sure we really get it, and that matters. For the common person, however, rhetoric is mainly just what the politicians and the lawyers and the used-car salesmen and the tv preacher and the madam in the brothel uses.

Our academic translation gives us no clue that Aristotle would have a problem. Our translation doesn’t even hint at the fact that “rhetoric” and “dialectic” are undefined. They are, at the very least, newly defined neologisms for Plato’s male students only. They are coined words. Everyone outside the academy—even girls and women—would know that a ῥητορ is a speaker and that διαλεκτος is “talking through” or “deciding on” something. But not everyone outside Plato’s academy would read Homer and Hesiod as ancient poetic stuff to despise, though all might hear the “-icky” suffix that is Homer’s and Hesiod’s rare play on the word “virgin”: Homer and Hesiod made a kind of sexist word when they said and wrote παρθενικῇ, something like “virgin-esque.”

Our academic translation provides no clue that “antistrophos” is a term used in poetry. Aristotle uses it, undefined, a couple of times a lot later in the Rhetoric when he’s disparaging the poets. The poets are as slippery with language as the non-dialectic, the non-philosophic, the non-logical sophists. They are as common as the uneducated classes, and as they women. In fact, they dupe the common people with language. Remember Homer’s and Gorgias’s plays on words around Helen, who went with the Trojans?

So listen to how rhetorical Aristotle’s opening line is. Hear how undefined and untechnical and unsnobby and uneducated and how feminesque and how common it is:

ἡ ῥητορική ἐστιν ἀντίστροφος τῃ̂ διαλεκτικη

The speakeresque is a creative turn taking different from truth through talkesque.

Friday, April 25, 2008

untitled poem: "how great it was"

Raped isolated silent
I counted the years
she spent in that place
and no one ever knew

but the natives knew
that the whore had been

that is why she was

called a whore

and treated as such

and no one in her family knew
where the rumour started
or that is was true

she said that someone
had bothered her
but that's all
because you don't want anyone to know

that the missionary's wife
can be taken down
and he didn't want to know either
because that would spoil his perfect family

so there it is
a successful professional man
who still doesn't know why
his wife doesn't want
to go around
and tell everyone
how great it was
to be a missionary

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Since Aristotelians Need Definition & System:

Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago [in 1985]. It was my hope that at that time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.
--bell hooks
"Feminist Politics: Where We Stand"
Feminism is For Everyone: Passionate Politics
page 1

Hell Burns

There's been all this blogging and commenting on Cinderella, and Hell, and Evolution, and Theology, and whether Lingamish supposes they all might not be "right." (Nobody even heard Daniel say something about how absurd the right-or-wrong sides must be who say you must be either right or wrong. And what one Chesterton says: "When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock. We must answer that it is . . . " What is it really, then?)

And one of "them feminists" says:

The subjective brings us to the objective. It's a different way to get to the same truth.

ps: only the subjective allows Lingamish to be my favorite blogger--he's still working on his theology of the body.

ps2: Aristotle started with the objective and figured out the chicken and the egg question--he also figured that women have fewer teeth than men, a terrible theology of the body that he was convinced he had to be "right" about.

ps3: I hate to be too obvious but the labels for this post are dedicated to Nathan, a fledgling feminist--but can men be feminists? Can God be feminist?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cancer is cured! Sexism is solved!

We wish. Now would that be cool, or what?

Here are reminders about a few things for all the ostriches with heads in the sand:

1. Amy at FemmeFare shows how "the feminist backlash has painted sexism a non-issue and feminism so very uncool."

2. One of the Think Girl writers, republishing Madeleine M. Kunin, makes "the case for more women leaders" as Lee Iacocca keeps asking "where have all the good leaders gone?" and Kunin has us looking from "Jesus to Hilter, from Aristotle to Machiavelli."

3. John at Oratorical Animal pledges to vote for Senator Clinton when cancer is cured.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet Wars of Women, for Men Only

There’s implicit sexism in a snippet of Aristotle’s Rhetoric that earlier translators have not brought out. (Despite the protests, we secretly posted on that earlier this week). Are these earlier translating men complicit in the misogyny? I’ll let you be the judge.

So here’s a feminist retranslating (and some quick commentary below that):

ἐπεὶ δὲ τὸ νικα̂ν ἡδύ,
̓νάγκη καὶ τὰς παιδιὰς ἡδείας εἰ̂ναι
τὰς μαχητικὰς καὶ τὰς ε

πολλάκις γὰρ ἐν ταύταισγίγνεται τὸ νικα̂ν̓
καὶ α
̓στραγαλίσεις καὶ σφαιρίσεις καὶ κυβείας καὶ πεττείας

Since victory is pleasantly sweet,
there’s a force even in sweet child’s play
which is also battle-ish and strife-ish.

Many times, in fact, these are birthed in victories
in games with tossed bones, with balls, with dice, and with boards.


There’s a good bit of Greek “cultural literacy” in this excerpt.

The phrase τὸ νικα̂ν̓, of course, invokes Νική or Nike the goddess “Victory.” The conjoined phrase τὰς μαχητικὰς καὶ τὰς ἐριστικάς calls to mind two other women. First, there’s νδρομάχη or Andromache, who’s Hector’s wife in Homer’s Illiad and in Euripides’s play named for her. The name is a compound noun meaning a “Man’s [or Husband’s] Battle.” Second, there’s Έρις or Eris the goddess or demoness of “War.”

Now, I dare say that the child’s play Aristotle is referencing for his students of rhetoric, or speakerism, has nothing to do with girls. After all, his students, such as the conquering Alexander the Great, are all boys. And the games Aristotle mentions are for boys only.

The passage comes along as the teacher is discussing what is pleasant, what is sweet to the taste. This makes for some interesting juxtaposition when he starts calling victory sweet. Aristotle is talking about victory for children. Games are benign enough, and normal for kids. But he makes clear that, for Greek boys, they have to do with the kind of warring, battling, and striving that female deities and that mortal women stir up. In the very next section (not included here), Aristotle gets to the big boy games, the man stuff, where women are never allowed.

Made a mistake and kissed a snake

The scripts we read from as grownups are written on the playground. And these scripts are often inherited from our primordial parents. Saint Nick and Valentine's Day have creepy pasts. And most of our fairy tales have passed through the Grimm filter where their brutality was either concentrated or highlighted.

But in the short term, most fairy tales are inherited from our parents. And in our family this happens rather unevenly. Our children, spending most of their childhood outside of the US, have gotten most of their "American-ness" from their parents. And it is a weird time-warp sort of America filled with Brady Bunch and Bonanza and Mork & Mindy. Sometimes we try to suppress things that we'd rather not pass on to them. In a strange bender on the normal genders, Hilary once started singing, "Beans beans the musical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot the better you feel. Beans beans with every meal." I stopped her at about "fruit" but that was enough for our scatological sons. They are unsure about the remainder of the rhyme but they can guess!

While Hilary is teaching the kids flatulant poetry, I have been passing on jump rope rhymes. The kids are all learning to jump rope. This is something that I now think is really cool since in high school I watched all those boxers in the Rocky movies doing all that macho twirling. But as a kid, jump rope was only for girls. Still, I remember one of the rhymes. So when I grabbed the rope and started hopping I couldn't do it without singing, "Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take?"

Cinderella's name is derived from the word for "ashes." And encapsulated within that little rhyme is the entire Gospel. We have a heavenly "fella" who turns out to be a snake (the basis of countless Country Western songs). And the doctor refers to the Great Physician as well as Dear Abby. We don't think about such things when we're children. But I think they lodge in our brains and guide our destiny. Cinderella's granddaughters are trapped in boxes in the sidebar of Yahoo mail. Christina is always over there beckoning with her free video. Will she be freed by my visit or will I be enslaved? Such is the mystery of Grendel's mother. When Beowulf descends into the watery depths, how many doctors will it take to repair him from the wound of their encounter?

It's all myth and metaphor, I know. But somehow I think Mr. Brady has as much to tell us as Aristotle. Ben Cartwright's wives and Mork with his mixed emotions (with Mr. Bickley downstairs) are the fairy tales that constrain our happy endings. I'm glad my kids have skipped Bart Simpson and Seinfeld. When they return to America I hope they are able to improvise their own rescues like MacGyver with his Swiss Army knife.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Tennice Anyone?" -- Aristotle

ἐπεὶ δὲ τὸ νικα̂ν ἡδύ, ἀνάγκη καὶ τὰς παιδιὰς ἡδείας εἰ̂ναι τὰς μαχητικὰς καὶ τὰς ἐριστικάς πολλάκις γὰρ ἐν ταύταισγίγνεται τὸ νικα̂ν̓, καὶ ἀστραγαλίσεις καὶ σφαιρίσεις καὶ κυβείας καὶ πεττείας

Aristotle has written this in his Rhetoric

(see Book I, Chapter XI, Verse 15;
Bekker 1370b lines 34-35 and 1371a, line 1).

How do you read that?

Which of these translations do you prefer, and why? (How would you better translate?)

Since winning is pleasurable, necessarily, games of physical combat and mental wit are pleasurable (winning often takes place in these) and games of knucklebone and dice and backgammon.” – George A. Kennedy, 2007/1991

But since winning is pleasant, competitive and emulous games must also be pleasant (for in them winning often comes about), as well as ‘knuckle-bones’, ball games, dice playing and backgammon.” – Hugh Lawson-Tancred, 1991

The pleasantness of victory implies of course that combative sports and intellectual contests are pleasant (since in these it often happens that some one wins) and also games like knuckle-bones, ball, dice, and draughts.” – W. Rhys Roberts, 1954

And since victory is pleasant, competitive and disputatious amusements must be so too, for victories are often gained in them; among these we may include games with knuckle-bones, ball-games, dicing, and draughts.” – John H. Freese, 1926

But since to overcome is pleasant, it must follow of course, as those of music and disputations, are pleasant; for it frequently occurs, in the course of these, that we overcome; also chess, ball, dice, and droughts.” – Theodore Buckley (redoing Thomas Hobbes’ translation), 1890

Thence the delight taken in all kinds of competitions, whether serious or playful; in those of music, science, and philosophy, not less than in such light pastimes as cockals, foot-ball, draughts, and dice.” – John Gillies, 1823

Since, however, it is pleasant to conquer, those sports, also, must be delightful which relate to war, to playing on the pipe, and to verbal contests; for in these victory is frequently obtained. This is likewise the case with the games of dice, tennice, tables &c.” – Thomas Taylor, 1818

Seeing then it is a pleafing thing to vanquifh, therefore of neceffity, all fports and exercifes relating to War, Mufic or Difputation, of neceffity muft be delightful, in regard it was a frequent thing to be viєtorious in thofe things: as alfo all manner of Games, as Cards, Dice, Tennice, Tables, &c.” – “Translators”, 1686

Language: felicity and feminisms

Richard Rhodes is blogging a foundation for a language theory that will further prop up an understanding of the Bible as God-inspired. He’s working through the low-level first-order concept of felicity, which he sees as “the null assumption for any communication and particularly for historical texts.” Such a baby step (for "inerrancy [being] the 800 pound gorilla in the room") is critical for the in-vogue translation methods Bible translators these days have grabbed onto: relevance theory.

(By the way, not many days ago, a friend of mine arranged for me to meet at SIL with one of the leading instructors of relevance theory, who tells me it’s a misnomer of sorts. The theory focus is not so much on what’s “relevant” as on “how things make sense,” on how the gap is closed between what is said and what is meant, on what goes on in the mind, as with cognitive linguistics, and what the listener or reader gets right or right enough. Speech act theory and pragmatic theory are useful prereqs.)

Felicity is as necessary to relevance theory as grammar is, for ESL teachers, to helping their English language students improve their abilities in writing or speaking or as mathematics is, for engineering professors, to communicating advanced concepts in their structural discipline. “Felicity” is a prerequisite, just as “logic” is for Aristotle in all of his other advanced observations.

Felicity, like truth, like logic, like Chomskyan linguistics, like most science, like phallologocentricism, is based on the binary. Either there’s felicity or there’s NOT felicity. “Not felicity” is bad; “felicity” is good.

Now quite different from the mere binary are feminisms and feminist rhetorical theory. In such, person stays “above” the mere binary, above logic, above formalism, above mathematics, above grammar, and even above binary felicity. I’m using “above” metaphorically here just to say the person is always more important than any of these things. How does that work? Allison Randal would agree with Larry Wall and declare There is more than one way to do it. (And both Randal and Wall work with the language of computers, which so it seems today always and only must operate on the system of binaries.)

Well, I told myself I’d only take 15 minutes to write this post, so let me hit the high points. The binary insists on boundaries. It’s a particle view. And feminisms include that view too. But rather than the mere “dimorphic” view, a feminist rhetorical view of language is “polymorphic.” feminisms also allow for and even insist on these: a wave view (as in dynamism, or powerful change, as in a conception, pregnancy, and birth where the boundaries of life but the very development of life is crucial); a field view (as in relationships, where it also matters tremendously whether I’m an outsider or an insider, whether sexed female or sexed male, whether you are somebody's grandaughter daughter niece sister mother or grandmother when we talk); a subjectivity that allows for the “fact” that whenever anyone observes any subject (whether another person or a thing) then both the observer and the observed person or thing change in the discovery.

Huh? I’ve got just a few more minutes. So here’s a little illustration. Judy Redman makes these great statements about grammar over at Mike Aubrey’s blog. Oops. Time’s up. I really must stop blogging.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Fat Force of Gender

We must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom, comes individual responsibility.
--Camille Paglia

Neverthless I think that for women leaders, perhaps particularly in the church, the metaphors around exclusion, blame and speaking out are very powerful. A narrative that can still carry us forwards with some force and some big questions still to answer. It is of course individual women leaders who answer those questions in the way they lead. Somewhere along the line societies and organisations also need to be challenged about the blaming naratives they often write for women.
--Jane Stranz

Camille Paglia, a woman, says at Harvard to them that "they" must stop seeing. And she complains about that "narrow lens of gender" (which, if we've heard her long enough through her academic career has been what's propelled it towards androgyny.) What lens, yesterday, does Paglia use to tell "women" in America why they "should not vote for Hillary Clinton" although she writes with eloquence in a British newspaper?

But what if my gender, if your gender Sir, if your gender Ma'am, is more than a lens? What if it a mark, a marking, a brand, a cause for accusation and for blame? What if gender is more a fat force of the society in which you try to live, to lead, or to elect your leaders?

Now if we had no mothers, no fathers, no grandmothers, no grandfathers, no sisters, no brothers, no daughters, no sons, then we could live in Paglia's ideal world of androgynous atheistic progressive liberal feminism. If you take some time, through whatever lens you choose, you might see how Pagilia herself (would she be "itself"?) cannot live in her ("its") world, if now she can presume to be the one who tells women not to look with gender and not to vote for the woman candidate who is not woman enough because Hillary Clinton is, for Pagilia, still too much of a woman.

Jane Stranz sounds a more sensible alarm. Look at yourself in your society and look at your community. Are you sympathetic to the exclusions of some leaders because of their gender, because they are women?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What the ?

Q: What's a self professing "very chauvinist" man (called out by another man for his neglect of women, and calling award-winning the grievous smackdown between this feminist and a linguist) doing blogging as a guest here during the silence of my dissertation writing?

A: flapdoodle, snickerdoodle, and domination

Q: The difference between my evangelical missionary dad and my feminist teachers?

A: The weeks before my first Ph.D. classes started, I began reading one of the textbooks for the Composition Theory course. I'd picked up early the late Robert J. Connor's Composition--Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy. Without knowing of Roxanne Mountford or her review of Connor's book or of the grievous smackdown between him and her that resulted, I was as shocked as she is at his "dichotomy" between "two medieval rhetorical arts: ars dictaminis (the art of letter writing) and ars praedicandi (the art of preaching)" of which "Connors argues, women are absolutely excluded from the art of preaching."

Even though I was shocked that the academy, according to Connors, had been excluding women from oral rhetoric just as the Christians had, I was in for more shock. In addition to the Comp Theory class, I'd enrolled in a Rhetoric seminar. On the books it was called Women's Rhetoric, but on the first night the professor explained that that was a Registrar's error and that the title of the class was really the Rhetoric of Women Writers. "Yup," I thought to myself remembering quiet authoresses like Edith Schaeffer, "women write and men debate." And yet within minutes the seminar was a "ovinar" (the professor's joke, which I embarrassed myself with by laughing aloud). I was one of four males, the minority among a vast majority of women, eighteen of them as I remember, and we were debating already. "Feminism, what (good) is it?" After the break, the prof had us write to ourselves which writers we read. (Mine? And lots and lots of them. All men. I'd glanced at Edith Schaeffer's book in my mom's room once. But even the academic books I'd read for the M.A. in linguistics and for a two-decade career in ESL program teaching and administration were male authored. Linguistic theories? all male. Theories about how adults either learn or acquire language. all written by men. The practice of language program administration? mostly us men, who hired women most of whom were dependent, as least in the early days of the profession, on their husband's jobs for fringe benefits. Research articles on minorities in ESL learning and teaching? yeah, there's been much of that; but by the time I was in this Rhetoric of Women Writers course, there had not been a single article published in TESOL Quarterly on the ways women speak or write, despite the professionally marginal niche-research by some women such as Deborah Tannen and Robin Lakoff, who casts no shadow as huge as George's.)

After the last class that semester, the prof commented on my research for her course. She said, "So you'd suggested someone needs to do a dissertation on the profound sexist inequities in your academic field. Are you going to do it?" I looked down, and quickly replied: "No."

But earlier in the course, I had been quietly blown away by how different Cheryl Glenn's history of women in oral rhetoric is than Connor's. Her thesis is that women are not in the history of oral rhetoric because men have silenced women in history and in the writing of history. Glenn then retells, rewrites, rhetoric in Rhetoric Retold to show that, in fact, women like Aspasia are as vocal as men like Socrates. And there's very good reason to believe that the dialectic method Plato attributes to his male teacher was actually learned from the female teacher of rhetoric, whom Plato does acknowledge as the speech writer and coach of the male Pericles. More loudly I'd been blown away by Nancy Mairs, who writes like I want to write. "You weren't ready for Mairs, were you?" a female classmate asked one evening when I was complaining to the professor that she should have started the course with Mairs.

Learning happens when I'm ready.

I'm fascinated with adult human conversion. Which is one reason I'm drawn to adult learners of English as an additional language. And to people like Evelyn Pike and Kenneth Pike who humble themselves and learn by listening as outsiders to people who use languages and categories that are not the ones the Pikes have known in their mother tongue.

Which is why I have a new appreciation for parables:
as Anne-Claire Rivollet talks about them, using them "perhaps not to be understood but to encourage people to search further to go deeper into their lives";
and as Luise Schottroff writes about them, finding in them "good justification for taking the part of the oppressed, the marginalised or the outsider; of letting the text speak for those people and of using as much social-historical research as possible into their situation to do this." Schottroff, Jane Stranz tells us, is also involved with a "translation project" of the Bible" that is "seeking to find 'more just' or more inclusive translations. . . to deal with some of the inherent anti-semitism in Christian translations and also to tackle the way some translations make people (women, slaves, children) and their realities invisible."

Which brings me back to the "difference" in my second Q above. My feminist teachers believe that silence of women and secrets of men are not entirely healthy. It's true in religion and in higher education. And yet the preaching is not to convert the other first; rather it's profoundly personal and self transforming. (Alexander the Great dominator did not get that from his teacher Aristotle either in principle or in practice. And so I get back to my translating, to feminism. Thanks to David, translator consultant still learning, for being our guest and for saying a few things to us, and to his mom.)

Hi Mom!

It's me, David. Your very chauvinist son publishing on a feminist blog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008



[still whispering here:

no this is not David Ker the feminist—he’s only become a Better Bible Blogger on blogspot, so there’s still hope for more profound conversion.

yes, it’s J. K. Gayle (back for just a moment from translating that sexist racist logicist Aristotle to show his unwitting feminist discourse in his rhetoric).

A bunch of Bible blogger men are in the translation / commentary ring battling over words and metaphors and life and death. I myself have jumped in with comments to try to show some of what other men--and men only mind you--have done with these words in living color across centuries.

The Rev. Ker himself has just said that’s “a lot of helpful evidence.”

And the Rev. John Hobbins has made two specific requests of me;

to provide

(1) citation and translation of the Aristophanes occurrences, which I think prove that the metaphor is not always fully loaded (David Ker goes too far, however, if he thinks that it is therefore dead)

(2) your own translation of the relevant passages in Luke and 1 Cor.”]



First quick commentary on Aristophanes: He’s one of the most misogynistic of all the men to use πώπια (hypOpia). For all who don’t believe me, I encourage wider reading of the two works I excerpt from here and of his other plays. Thankfully, the excepts don’t show his ugliness toward women. The first is from the “The Wasps” with Philocleon talking (lines 1381 to 1386). The second is from “Peace” (lines 538 to 544); Hermes speaks with Trygeas in reply in the last two lines given. My English follows Aristophanes’s Greek, and I also provide translation by two other men per excerpt.

κουσόν νυν μο. (1381)
νίκ’ θεώρουν γώ,
μαχέσατ’ σκώνδ καλς
δη γέρων
ν· ετα τ πυγμ θενν
πρεσβύτερος κατέβαλε τ
ν νεώτερον.
ς τατα τηρο μ λάβς πώπια.

Now listen to me.
When I went to view the Olympics,
Ephudion fought Ascondas well
Though the former was already an old man. Then with a hit of his fist,
The elder man knocked out the younger.
Guard yourself this way then, so you don’t get a black eye.

Now listen you! You want to talk about old men? Listen! When I was on an embassy to Olympia, there was Ephudion, an old man, and he put up quite a show, fighting Ascondas, a young man. Ephudion smashed his fist on Ascondas and knocked him down, so you be careful you don’t end up with a couple of black “shiners,” my boy!
George Theodoridis)

Oh, indeed? Well, let me tell you something. Once when I was on a State mission to the Olympic Games, I saw Ephudion fight Ascondas, and the old man fought very well, let me tell you. I shall never forget the way he drew back his arm, like this—and then, with a smashing blow, he knocked the young man down.
And the moral is: watch out, or you’ll get a black eye.
(David Barrett)

θι νυν, θρει (538)
ον πρς λλήλας λαλοσιν α πόλεις
σαι κα γελσιν σμεναι—
τατα δαιμονίως πωπιασμέναι
παξάπασαι κα
κυάθους προσκείμεναι.

Κα τνδε τοίνυν τν θεωμένων σκόπει
πρόσωφ’, να γνς τς τέχνας.

Now look here
At the citizens chitchating with one another
How pleasant and how they laugh—
And how indeed the deities give them a black eye
How wounded and how they lay their hand on to cup it.
And let’s view what can be seen
In their faces, so as to know their skills.
(JK Gayle)

Hermes: (Points at the audience) Hahaha! Look at that down there, will you? See with what delight all the citizens of Greece are chatting with each other? See how happily they laugh and chuckle together? Even though they’re adorned with cupping cups attached to their dreadful, black eyes! Look! Hahahaha! A black eye, every single one of them, has a black eye and a cupping cup on it!

Trygeas: Hahaha! Let’s see if we can work out what these people do for a living, just by examining their faces.
(George Theodoridis)

Then look how the reconciled towns chat pleasantly together, how
they laugh; and yet they are all cruelly mishandled; their wounds
are bleeding still.

But let us also scan the mien of the spectators; we shall thus
find out the trade of each.
(Translator uncredited at



passages in Luke and 1 Cor.

δι γε τ παρχειν μοι κπον τν χραν τατην
κδικσω ατν
να μ ες τλος ρχομνη πωπιζ με

because of my bearing such labor by this widow
I’ll give out justice to her
So she won’t in the final round give me a black eye.

λλ πωπιζω
μου τ σμα κα δουλαγωγ
μ πως λλοις κηρξας ατς
δκιμος γνωμαι

in other words I get a black eye
my body, even, gets enslaved
so that I won’t myself preach to others in a way
that’s born out of no [proven] reputation


[now hopefully no one will notice I’ve been back nibbling on cheese and sipping something more aged. The blogging binge ends, for now again.]