Epistemysics

Some theatre each day keeps the doctor away…

Pre-Turner

with 4 comments

“Men love to distinguish themselves,” says one of the characters in Mansfield Park.  (Miss Crawford, I believe.)  (What am I saying?  I know it’s Miss Crawford; I looked the quote up to check the exact wording.  Why would I not speak with certainty when certainty is what I have?  There are times, yes, when certainty should be moderated, so as to leave open – in conversations, for instance – avenues through which a person proven wrong in something, say, may not be embarrassed as their fault has not been definitively proven, but this is not one of those cases.)

Anyway.  The question that remains is, do women, on the whole, love to distinguish themselves as much as men?  I cannot answer.  If gender discrimination did not exist then, by a relatively easy observation, I may be able to see the general trend for each sex, but that not being the case, I am left to imagine specifics and to extrapolate, in ratios entirely my own, such specifics to the entire gender.  And, as my ratios are my own, and have the same base error caused by gender discrimination no doubt, I have not progressed any further in coming to a decision.  I can say that I feel – my intellect having nothing to do with it – that I see more men trying to distinguish themselves than women, but whether it is just that I do not notice as many women, even though there are as many, or perhaps I do not notice the perhaps different distinctions that women strive for with equal ferocity, or…  (That sentence died in my mind, and I cannot think of a way, in the next few seconds as I type this, to save it.)

I think on all of this, I realise, not to try and understand the female mind (although that, of course, does interest me), but to understand myself.  Is not the urge to distinguish oneself in us all, as I might lazily think, or is it much more complex than that?

The proper answer is that everyone is different, and so one shouldn’t generalise or stereotype.  But this doesn’t satisfy me in the least.  I want the principle of it, if I can.  Give me the keys to the universe, and maybe then I will relax.

Bah.  What is this but the kid in the sandbox wondering why the girl next to him would be so crazy as to not want to play with Transformers toys?

I write this in Canberra.  I had read, what, 12 pages of Mansfield Park before we left Sydney at 11.30am.  It is now 12.30am the next day, and here I am, sitting in a motel watching a Belvoir Sunday Forum that’s on ABC News 24 (who knew that they put those on TV?), instead of watching, as I’d probably much prefer, the Ashes which is at the moment rained out (the Forum’s all very intellectually interesting and all that, but ‘intellectual interest’ is a form of entertainment, and like all forms of entertainment, there is a place and time for it, and after midnight when one is tired is probably not the best), and in all that time, which has involved much sitting in a car being driven, especially in a one hour traffic jam that was infuriating, and being in a motel room for quite a bit with the TV on in the background, I have read 88 pages.

God!  My paltry powers of concentration infuriate me at times.  The world conspires against me forever, and I have dealt with it my entire life, but sometimes, sometimes…

And I want to hear what director Eamon Flack has to say – him being the only one on the panel, I think, who is directly involved with theatre – and it’s been half an hour and still he hasn’t spoken, as the questioner has not got to him yet.

Hey!  36 minutes in, and he’s being introduced.

Asked whether he thinks there needs to be more queer theatre, Flack responded that, watching two men kiss on stage was “encouraging”, among other things.  (I think that’s what he said.)  Poignant, then, perhaps?  (Vis a vis my remarks on gay versus straight love stories a few days ago.)

So, suddenly thinking of Angels in America after not thinking of it for a few months (that is what the panel was about), it occurs that Austen is describing a world that no longer exists, and yet I have no trouble finding it ‘relevant’.  Or is it relevant, or merely entertaining to imagine something different?  So a gay world (for what is Angels in America depicting if not a melange of different societies that I know very little about?) should be no different, in a way.  A Jewish one, too.  Although, to argue against myself, I think it’s much harder to pretend you’re Jewish than it is to pretend you’re gay.  (Jewishness involves a lot more terminology, for instance.)  Although I throw in the word “pretend” there as if that is what happens in fiction, when no, no it’s not, I don’t think.  It is empathy, not ‘pretending to be someone’.  To empathise can sometimes be to put yourself in someone else’s situation – to transfer your soul into their body, as it were – but often it’s to implant the feeling of that someone into your own body.  I think there’s a subtle difference.  Hence, to use Austen as an example (and there are perfect parallels with Kushner), I feel Fanny’s pain not as a woman in love but as a person in love.  I don’t necessarily think, “oh, to be spurned by the man that I love!”, but rather, “oh, to be spurned by a person (ie, woman, though the female remains hazy, in a way) that I love!”

So there’s a thought.  Perhaps it’s not the gay part or the American part of the play that will doom it to the loss of time, but the religious part.  (Mormonism included, too.)  I try to think, sitting here, the Ashes all but lost for the day, of any plays – that dealt with religious themes – that have survived, and are regularly put on.  I can’t think of any.  Which, almost, I’m guessing, brings me to what one of the panellists mentioned that Harold Bloom said about the play – that it will be seen by the next generation as a Jewish heterodox play as opposed to a political one.  (I don’t know what “Jewish heterodox” is, or if that was the actual term that was used, mind you.)

But I need to stop here, I think, as I’m giving far too much thought to a play I don’t consider to be as great as others that I’ve seen.  Thoughts should dwell on the great alone!  (That’s a statement easily proven false, but let me have my dramatic finish.)

100/whatever.

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Written by epistemysics

August 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Oh, this gender thing…

    Why is it such a vexed question? How can someone be in the world, know women, know their mother, and still entertain the idea of a ‘women’s mind’? Even for a moment?

    I’ve been floored recently by men I admire much – Bob Ellis, Martin Amis – casually asking ‘what women are for?’ Even while they are brilliant, humanist – the fact that women are for fucking, first and foremost, shines through.

    Women are people first. It sounds so obvious, but it needs to be screamed.

    Shakespeare managed to render women as people first. People negotiating a given set of circumstances.
    How does someone see the world and behave when their power is reduced? When creatures of equal inherent value (men) have the upper hand? How would you behave?

    And so it remains – in many ways almost unchanged, even though women work and get around rejecting men in high heels.

    Women are people, trapped by their circumstances. Just like men.

    Queen Mab

    August 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm

  2. Why is it such a vexed question? Surely most men want to know what women want, yes? 😀

    My reply would be, how can someone be in the world, know women, know their mother, and NOT entertain the idea of a “woman’s mind”? But to say “a woman’s mind” is so charged with past meanings. (One needs only think of a phrase like, “oh, my dear, you shouldn’t get yourself worked up, you know politics isn’t suited for a woman’s mind, so why don’t you leave us men to talk and go and calm yourself in the kitchen by cooking us some dessert”, to not be amazed at why it has such negative connotations to it.)

    And, while I may or may not believe in a “woman’s mind”, I don’t even care about it in general life. I’m perfectly happy to agree with you that “women are people first” there. The only time I do care is when I’m writing. I think the women being “people first” – just like men being “people first” – is useless for a writer.

    Let’s talk about dogs. Imagine that I want to write about a poodle and a sheepdog. Let’s say that poodles like catching mice, and sheepdogs like herding. Now, while it is highly commendable that I see the poodle and sheepdog as equals, and think they deserve equal rights (not to be harmed, etc), if I were to begin writing a story about them with the attitude that “poodles are dogs first” and “sheepdogs are dogs first” and not caring about anything more specific, I think I’ll be in a bit of trouble, character-wise. Because to write about a sheepdog that likes to catch mice instead of herding is to perhaps buck a trend that I wasn’t even aware of, and even though it’s perfectly valid that a sheepdog may like to hunt mice, if a farmer, say, was to read the story and knows just what a sheepdog is like, they may very well toss the book aside, thinking I’ve no idea what I’m talking about.

    So I think the same problem would crop up if every single female character I write was to, for instance – me working from them being a “person first” – spend ten hours a day playing strategy games on the computer. I know that some probably do, but most probably don’t; but if I was only working on the basis of women being a “person first”, and, myself being a person, and myself being the base for all my characters, in the end (although it’s a very complicated process) I might think, “well, I play strategy games ten hours a day, so do a lot of my friends, so surely the same number of women do too”. And now I’m bucking the trend without even realising it. Sure, the character won’t be unrealistic necessarily, but that might not be the woman I’m aiming to create, and if I don’t realise I’m bucking the trend, I won’t realise I’m warping the idea of the particular woman I have in my head.

    Now, “video games” is a bit of an exaggerated example, but it has the same thinking as “drive to distinguish oneself” (If a write an ambitious woman, is my audience going to think, “she’s just like me or my friend” or “wow, she’s really ambitious”. If I don’t think about these things, then I lose some control over what I write.) It’s a blind spot, and I want to eliminate as many blind spots of mine as possible. Now, society may determine a lot of these things, rather than it being innate to a woman, too, but it’s still something I have to think about.

    Does that make any sense, or do I just sound crazy? (Crazier than usual, anyway.)

    epistemysics

    August 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

  3. But this is very dodgy territory –

    A guy might be more likely to play video games all day – but surely the primary trait that’s sign-posting is idleness, not maleness.

    What is a woman’s typical activity then – shopping all day? Poor women don’t shop all day, do they?

    Queen Mab

    August 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm

  4. So you admit that males may be more likely to play video games, but then make it sound ridiculous that women might be more likely to shop? How sexist of you! On behalf of all malekind, I’m thoroughly offended. 😀

    epistemysics

    August 27, 2013 at 12:12 am


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