Tuesday, March 05, 2013

perfectly normal

Without meaning to, I've ended up thinking through some of my questions about normal and abnormal lately. Because I read Beauvoir's The Second Sex on a bit of a whim, and then plunged into Baudrillard's Seduction, the question has been refracted by the concept of "the feminine." Strangely, Beauvoir and Baudrillard use it similarly.

I say "strangely," because Seduction is the Baudrillard book a lot of feminist philosophers love to hate. He seems to adhere to as essentialist notion of the feminine, and that involves feminine guile and weakness, both of which are characteristics Beauvoir criticizes in the patriarchal concept of the feminine. For what it's worth, I think Baudrillard's position is not an unreconstructed patriarchal concept at all, since the feminine is for him the origin of seduction, and seduction is a game outside of the regulatory law of desire and sex. Baudrillard's feminine isn't Freud's, and in that regard isn't the "second sex" (after all, it's outside of any relation that can be reduced to sex).

That aside, for Baudrillard as for Beauvoir, the feminine is not the normal, because normal is defined in terms of the masculine from which the feminine is said to depart, in discourses pertaining to sexuality. Whether the feminine is a socially constructed abnormal that appears as part of the situation of woman, or is outside of the normal because it is beyond the economy of sexuality and desire, there is still a presumed normal against which the feminine is being contrasted.

Which leads me to the terrific old essay by Iris Marion Young, "Throwing Like a Girl." Notable in Young's critical phenomenology of motility and transcendence (and of [male] phenomenologists' accounts of motility and transcendence) is the repeated negations. For Young, girlish motility is not fully transcendent, does not achieve a complete unity with the world, is not fully melodic, does not exhibit full range of motion, etc. Again, this is in relation to the presumptive/masculine (here boyish) norm. That's her point, of course, and the essay ends with a call for phenomenological accounts starting from the standpoint  of female embodiment, presumably without so many "nots."

This has me wondering about an essay titled "____-ing Like a Boy." What would fill in the blank, such that, as in Young's title, it indicated an objectifying or objectified embodiment, especially a privatively transcendent embodiment? What do boys do in ways that mark them as boys in the way that "____-ing like a girl" marks certain people as girls?

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