Posts Tagged ‘gender’

She the ghost; He the author

October 7, 2012

A little act of deconstruction seems urged by the previous post, by especially the following sentences: ‘we must detail the ghost herself … the author commits himself’. My ghost is feminine and my author is masculine. What, I wonder, prompted this?

Have I determined – and arbitrarily bestowed – these respective gender roles because they somehow must be complementary parts of a two-piece puzzle – sadly, I think not. Have I tried to use the standard genderisms of such objects – where the human (man, if you will) is, in the abstract, generally masculine – and where the immaterial object or inanimate object is gendered feminine, in the tradition of ships, animals, and so on, in cases where the gender is unknown or, more importantly, of no concern. Perhaps. And perhaps if this is the case am I simply perpetuating a crime of the patriarchy?

Why would the author, on a base level, be male, or masculine; would it be because of the greater proportion of canonical male authors in our perception of the history of literature – indeed, because the majority of history is written in masculine script – and, indeed, by forcing the feminine into the written word of history, d we not force them into a liminal space – for the written page is surely liminal – and so make them ghostly, thus working the present situation in reverse? Or is the act sufficiently phallic – I leave that to the more avant garde critical theorists – but we all know about the act of pricking at the pliant white page with our pens. But, of course, what is composition if not an inherently creative at, and that surely is not the primary domain of the male. And do we mean truly to assert that the author is male, or do we simply desire the noun itself to be a masculine one? Perhaps making a case for the continental preference for the sexual classification of their languages.

And what about the ghost? What makes her so feminine – and is it unfortunate that the attributes we give most commonly to the ghost – the things that make a ghost ghostly – will paint a rather unpleasant picture when applied to any actual human female? The ghost is a liminal figure, skirting the space between two world and not quite at home in either one of them. We never really see the ghost, it is vague, indistinct and hovers always just out of reach, out of accurate perception, and so we think a ghost is present but can never be really certain. It haunts us, and we fear it, and if we ignore it, it will force itself upon us. Perhaps this has some truth in the history of femininity, but cannot be something that should be perpetuated. I wonder how this exercise holds up when you look at the archetypal character of a ship (remember, Campbell, and Jung before him, tell us of the Belly of the Whale, of the Ark that the whale is just another manifestation of, and that these are all womb images – but one that must be destroyed for the hero – the HEro – to become a functioning member of society once more).

But to refer blandly to it the ghost and it the author seems to contravene the rules of engaging writing – seems totally devoid of character. It is perhaps the remnants of a poetic consciousness, that sees the rude vehicle of the author as the male poetic form engaging with the beautiful and imaginative physical, feminine world. And, if gender is nothing but a social construct, then the feminine gender of the ghost is not the same thing as equating the ghost with the female sex. But we have not, of course, quite done away with  gender yet – and does not Jung teach us that we work in binaries, that the male has his anima, the female her animus – that we engage with the world in a way that operates within the limits of a binary we can comprehend – where we render things that do not fit in (ghosts) in a way that we can understand.

I suspect, however, that even this investigation of my unconscious is not free from the crimes I claim to have previously committed.