Archive for October, 2008

s(he): wo(man), fe(male)

Some humourous excerpts from the Burke Lecture titled “Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire” by Dr. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza of Harvard Divinity School who has done pioneering work in biblical interpretation and feminist theology.

(self-transcribed. I can find no transcription on the Net.)


Since the expression, “feminist”, still evokes in many audiences a complex array of emotions, negative reactions and prejudice as well as a host of different understandings, and since the f-word is still in most of the world a dirty word, I hasten to explain how I understand the f-word, or feminist.

But before I do, I want you to turn to your neighbour (and don’t ask who your neighbour is) and explain what you think of the word feminist and whether you are a feminist or not.

(noise of discussion from crowd)

Sorry to interrupt you. I guess I owe you my definition of feminism now. I have a definition of feminism which is a bumper sticker definition. A friend of mine gave it to me and it’s in the back of my car, and every time I get guests, people are discussing what it means.

Tongue it cheek, it asserts: feminism is the radical notion that women <pause> are people.

This definition accentuates that feminism is a radical concept and at the same time ironically underscores that at the beginning of the 21st century, feminism should be a common sense notion.

Women are not ladies, wives, handmaids, seductresses, or beasts of burden. But women are full decision making citizens…


In order to lift into consciousness the linguistic bias of so-called generic male-centered language, I use the term women, and not men, in an inclusive way.

“Women” includes “men”, “she” includes “he”, and “female” includes “male”.

English is a wonderful language! You can’t do it in German.

I suggest therefore that whenever you hear me say “woman”, you understand it in the generic sense…


Women always must think twice, if not more, and adjudicate whether we are meant or not by so-called generic terms such as “brothers”, “men”, “Americans” or “Catholics”.

To use “Women” as a inclusive generic term invites men in the audience to learn, like women, how to think twice and to experience what it means not to be addressed explicitly.

Since women must arbitrate whether or not we are meant, I consider it good spiritual exercise for men to acquire the same sophistication and to learn how to engage in the same hermeneutic process of thinking twice and of asking whether they are meant when I speak of women.

Since, according to Wittgenstein, the limits of our language are the limits of our world, such change of language pattern is a very important step toward the realization of a new feminist consciousness.

The rest of the lecture is quite technical, but can be watched here.

The very singular nature of that last suggestion (using “woman” as the generic term to people instead of “man”), an the fact that it evoked such laughter from the audience, is evidence of how deeply ingrained the male-centeredness is in our psyche.

As far as I know, this practice has yet to catch on, but I eagerly await the amusement of hearing it in other talks and lectures.


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cummings and goings

Death.  Something wrong, brother?

Santa Claus.  Yes.

Death. Sick?

Santa Claus. Sick at heart.

Death. What seems to be the trouble? Come – speak out.

Santa Claus. I have so much to give; and nobody will take.

Death. My problem is also one of distribution,

only it happens to be the other way round.

from nonlecture six: i & am & santa claus, the last of e e cummings’ i-six nonlectures.

Was browsing in the library when the title caught my eye.

Hadn’t read cummings before, and was pleasantly surprised by his unconventional wit and wisdom, and was really surprised at the message of meaning and hope that he conveyed through his rather chaotic writings.

(Dare I liken him to Eliot? But I know too little of either to warrant comment.)

He ends of the series on six nonlectures (describe on the blurb as “an aesthetic self-portrait and a definition of Mr. Cummings’ ‘stance’ as a writer”) with an answer to the question, “who, as a writer, am I?”:

I am someone who proudly and humbly affirms that love is the mystery-of-myteries, and that nothing measurable matters “a very good God damn”:

that “an artist, a man, a failure” is no mere whenfully accreting mechanism, but a givingly eternal complexity

– neither some soulless and hearltess ultrapredatory infra-animal nor any un-understandingly knowing and believing and thinking automation, but a naturally and miraculously whole human being –

a feelingly illimitable individual; whose only happiness is to transcend himself, whose every agony is to grow.

Looking forward to nonreading the other 5 nonlectures.

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what? you too?

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).

The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” . . . . (more…)

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who reads it?

So this is your blog?


Doesn’t look like a lot of people read it. Who reads it?

Family, a few friends.

But my future self, mainly.

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thief of time

The Thief of Time

Byme (this word is a contraction of “By Me” and is not to be read as a word that rhymes with … well, you’ll find out)

Here’s a rhyme, it’s not sublime,
I had it made with lime and thyme.
It don’t make sense, it makes a dime,
And reading it’s a waste of time. (more…)

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Ideas are dangerous things. (more…)

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Ray, a drop of golden sun

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