Wednesday, June 4, 2008

That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation

All pissed off with no place to go? Care to intensify this predicament? Well, pick up That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation and you'll be handcuffing yourself to state buildings in no time. I've been experiencing a sadly impotent rage since I started this book, which is more radical than most of us will ever be. The forces against assimilation pictured therein are heroic, but how can they possibly defeat the juggernaut of conformity? And what can I do to help?

Although it's a book about queers, it doesn't discuss orientation or identity per se. It's all about racism, poverty, police brutality, inaccessible bathrooms, the prison system, and so on. The main point is that no one is free while others are oppressed. If you can't provide for your basic needs, equal marriage rights really aren't going to matter much to you. When people say "asexuals don't need rights, you already have rights", that's missing the point. What about asexuals who can't afford health care or those who are targets of racism? (According to one study, aces are more likely to be nonwhite, less educated, and poorer.) That's Revolting really makes it clear that every struggle is connected in some way. You won't agree with everything in the book, but you should read it anyway. It's important stuff. (And I love the cover art.)

One of the most powerful quotes was from Sarah Schulman, one of the founders of an experimental gay film festival. She said:

...In the old days, if there was a lesbian that worked somewhere, I could call her. And she would call me back and tell me how we could use her organization, or how we could use where she lived to help gay people...We were the conspiracy. That was the relationship between us. It didn't matter if we knew each other. Now gay people identify with the power structure that they're working for. And that identification is a lot stronger than their relationship to each other. So therefore, there's no community. (73)

Can we change that? In our emerging community, can I call you? You can call me-- (or e-mail, or even comment here) no matter where you are, no matter how far. Listen, baby. Can we bring the conspiracy back?


pretzelboy said...

I have rather ambivalent feelings toward conformity. I often think it gets an undeservedly bad reputation. People are social beings, living in societies with other people with whom we interact and upon whom we depend. (Just think of the people we rely on--people involved in the process of food production, power production and everything else we use on a daily basis.) Without conformity to social norms, I don't think we could survive or get along with people.

The problem is that because everyone is different, social norms can often be harmful to a lot of people who just don't fit what they are expected to be, but aren't hurting anyone in the process. I think that when we think of conformity, we tend to think of these things and not the fact that we have taboos against being rude or things like that. There are lots of time that I do things because I want the people around me to think that I'm a nice guy and not some selfish jerk (and because I want to think that I'm a nice guy and not a selfish jerk.) All of these things--indluding basic things like greetings and stuff like "have a nice day" or things that that are all ways of conforming to social norms. But our norms about saying "how's it going?" instead of "blehhh" when we meet people are often overlooked.

So the thing is is that we need conformity, but we also need to recognize that many parts of the system are corrupt and that they need to be challenged.

What's truly ironic is that I feel like I'm being radical in my support of conformity--as though we are supposed to not like it.

Heidi said...

Good point about communication - generally after I comment I never reread posts to see if you've replied or not, but I like knowing that you're out there, blogging for the As. Communication is a beautiful thing and I'd like to think that we're enough of a community to talk openly. Thanks for your musings =)

Bri said...

I think pretzelboy makes a good point. There are a lot things out there that we only dislike an aspect of but address as if they were the whole. Sometimes we know we're doing it, and sometimes we don't, but it's certainly something to keep aware of.

Also, I totally want to be part of the asexual conspiracy :-)

Mary said...

You know, I was pondering the concept of radical inequalities a little on my trip. My boyfriend and I attempted to go through customs together, but as we aren't married, I had to go back and stand behind the line on the floor due to privacy laws. A minor inconvenience and a small embarrassment for us, but it got me to thinking about how irritating it would be for a gay couple (or anyone in a non-state-sanctioned partnership). Everything is a struggle when you don't fit neatly in a box.

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments, y''ve got me thinking!

Carsonspire said...

I'm glad you mentioned this book. I read it last year and quite enjoyed it, not necessarily for the issues of non/conformity it brings up, but rather for the community networks it describes. Each of the contributors are either directly or indirectly linked through their involvement in social justice issues. By the time I finished reading, I could have drawn a spatial map of the organizations and the people associated with them.

I also highly identify with the level of radicality depicted in each of the stories. Bring on the asexual conspiracy!