Monday, May 25, 2009

Being understood/being believed

There are many interesting statements of feminist poetics at Delirious Hem.

It is not enough that you understand me. I would rather be believed. Imagine a kind of love that has no Greek word for it and then imagine that we could make a system in which all connections are made of this. Imagine a human system like culture that could make the public private and the private okay. I do not know what to do with the powerful except try to offer them some things to look at that they were trained not to see. Bernadette Mayer wrote “I hate power, except the power I have to show you something.” On this and many other things I require your attention, also your advice.
    -- Anne Boyer
I like Boyer's distinction between being understood and being believed. There's such a long history of "woman" being an object of investigation, as Woolf describes in A Room of One's Own:
One went to the counter; one took a slip of paper; one opened a volume of the catalogue, and the five dots here indicate five separate minutes of stupefaction, wonder and bewilderment. Have you any notion of how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?
To say "I understand her" places the speaker in the position of knowing; whether the woman knows anything is left very much in doubt; perhaps it is only the woman herself, as object, that is being understood. To say "I believe her," on the other hand, places the woman in the position of knowing. It is a position of power, i.e. "to show you something." To be a poet is first of all to be capable of knowledge.

(Via Silliman and his amazing technicolor Google alerts.)

1 comment:

sarah said...

I want to be believed. For years I couldn't speak, couldn't tell. Now I am in need to tell and need to believed. Sarah