Feminism is my television commercials – but my friends don't watch the same channels I do.
Television commercials are a passive form of education. You sit in front of a screen (partly enamored and numbed into submission by the actual presence of a screen) and absorb. You are brought there under the guise that you will be entertaining yourself by watching a television show, and yet inherent to your enjoyment comes the advertisement. Twenty seven percent of your time watching the television will be spent watching someone try and sell you something. The commercials are repetitive to the point that you often find yourself in a daze, staring blindly, waiting for them to end. It must not be mistaken though – you are being acculturated to a way of life and a value system. It may be your own, but it is never of your own design. We do not watch television commercials with a barrier up. To do so would be to outwardly criticize every single one, but that is a tiring act. It becomes a headache to sit and watch things you loathe and hate. So to sit and not comment, is to absorb whatever it is that is on the television screen. You may not buy many (or even any) of the products, but that's not always what's being sold.
So what then is my form of television commercials if I don't own cable or watch tv? As a university student, I would argue that we read course readings in much the same way that we watch television commercials. There is some resistance, some comments, but if you are in a program you love – you largely absorb. I cannot tell you how many times I've argued with someone, only to realize every point I am using came from something I read four months ago. I suppose it is preferable to absorb academic literature rather than television commercials – but is there a downside?
To everything I read – I come with a set of assumptions. I carry an invisible world of literature with me. For example, when reading Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Harraway I loved it – but only because of the previous information I'd absorbed. I could understand the cyborg as a foray – much like the one presented by Cixous and Clément. A foray only makes sense when I understand male privilege and the monosex presented by sexual difference feminists. I am ready to see it as just a foray after accepting the dismantling of the Italian feminist collectives of the 1970s. Furthermore, foray makes sense in reference to the attempts of the hysteric and the sorceress. The hysteric only makes sense after reading Brown's case studies and then Bordo's linking of the hysteric to the anorexic to the agoraphobic. Finally, hysteric and sorceress are linked by Freud – but linked properly when criticized by Clément. If that made sense to you – we are watching the same television channel. If it didn't – your confusion is exactly my point. How can I reference or speak about anything to anyone, when to speak about one thing requires an hour long lecture about how I even got to thinking about it in the first place?
Then there comes the question – are there multiple readings of Harraway I can never comprehend? My understanding of her relies on work she does not reference, but work I bring to the table to myself and link to hers. So to understand feminism would mean to read everything – and I mean everything. What if the excerpts from books I'm reading are skewed and I should be reading the whole book? It is common practice in universities to just read an isolated chapter here and there. The more I read though – the more I feel detached from, and unable to speak to, people who don't read feminist literature. How can feminism move forward if our theories and understanding are inaccessible to people because they must be well read to understand them? This has nothing to do with intelligence, but instead is about how much someone reads and what they have learned. Or better yet, how can I even propose challenging that, because isn't feminism about freedom, and shouldn't we be able to theorize as much as possible so that we can get to the right definition and practice of freedom?
I am left baffled and exhausted. The people watching my television channel is so small – sometimes it even feels as if there is no one at all. It feels as if I'm watching three channels at once and merging them all together in my mind: vegan feminism, sexual difference feminism, and radical feminism. So when I speak I speak from all three places, and create the bind myself. When I move forward I speak from places that do not seem to connect, and connect them in my writing – but to understand why I connect them, you'd probably have had to read about all three before.
So that is the bind.