Politics with a small 'p' as in 'personal'
(I have been neglecting my first blog, The National Gadfly for the last month. The effort to launch and configure sexgenderbody had consumed my pea-brain. Tonight, I posted my thoughts on why and how I distinguish the politics of the individual and those of society. Cross posted here, by me with love for you.)
(Image courtesy of digado)
As many of you may already know, I have recently launched a community, collaborative blog: sexgenderbody.com. In the last couple months, my content here had become a bit too higgledy-piggledy even for myself. I found that I had a great deal to say on personal politics, the politics of self-definition. This is not a conflict with the conversations I have been having here in the realm of Politics with a capital P, the politics of institutions and society at large or simply - groups.
Politics with a P are the more commonplace discussions that we all know and 'love': conservative vs. liberal, right-wing vs. left-wing, labor vs. management, class vs. class, race vs. race and so on. Inside the myriad of daily Politic-speak are notions of the rights of the individual. The terms of these conversations are subtly couched in a model where governments and institutions are defining the individual. Rights, protections, entitlements, values, uses, and many other terms that all serve to reinforce the model that the individual exists in terms given by the society, or Political party affiliation. A person's rights as given by the Constitution, a Political affiliation or membership in a religious sect.
Yet, we exist in a world where we are constantly being sold on the idea of our having the freedom to define ourselves. We are barraged with advertising that urges us to express our individuality...by purchasing a car or .mp3 player or jacket that is made in lots of 100,000. We are told the stories and shown the images of people expressing themselves in one way or another for the last 50 years of Pop Culture. Hippies, Beatniks, Protesters, Generation X'ers, Xtreme Sports Enthusiats and Green Advocates...images all of who we can be, to be individuals. Maybe they are genuine expressions for some. Maybe they once were. But, when they are blasted on billboards, advertising, movie sets, TV shows and Internet ads - they are industrial images of definition: mass produced to define the individual in terms that society desires.
So, for years I have asked myself how do I define myself as an individual - in my own terms? Is that even possible? I don't invent any words, in fact I need to use words that were invented by someone else so that I can be understood. But, the choice of words is mine. That, I should own. I should be able to choose when and where I choose the words and images to define myself. So, should you.
In some societies, this is forbidden outright. In others, this could happen. In this society, the USA, it's supposed to be not only possible but paramount. Since the Reagan Ass-olution gave the (Im)Moral Majority access to government funding, we have been beat down with disapproval and judgment, 'correct' living codes, religious intolerance and vilification, class warfare and dehumanization. We have been defined by talking heads on news channels, pundits, think tanks, ad agencies and anyone else wishing to side with the human harvest.
We are told what to eat, what to wear, where to work, what to drive, where to vacation, what to buy, what to drink, what to desire in a mate, how to succeed in bed and what to do before we die.
Politics with a p: the expression of one's self in one's own terms, is a difficult thing to find. It is. This is not something measured by choosing a blue pickup truck over a red mini-van. It's measured when someone chooses to change gender. It's measured when someone chooses to marry someone of the same gender. It is measured when someone agrees with a spouse to love many partners and have sex with whomever they choose, because they wish to for themselves. It is measured when a child born with a small penis is not subjected to male genital mutilation because the parents or doctor judge that a man can never be a man with a small penis. It is measured when a person is free to identify as bisexual today and straight tomorrow.
Society does not need to allow people the right to define themselves. Society needs to stop trying to take that right away.
There seems to be an assumption that all the labeling of individuals, the suggestions of what is 'good' or 'right' or 'acceptable' for self-definition is done for the common good. That we'll all be better if people just play by these rules and pull in the same direction. But, we are not the same. We are all individuals already. All that we accomplish by silencing people's genuine individuality is a society of dishonesty. We don't end up any happier if we are hiding our true desires or self-definitions. Society deprives itself of the very best of people's true talents and expressions when individuality is repressed. Repression is not an efficient form of government or a lasting model for success and health in a society.
Repressive regimes fail. The all fail - for the same reason: individuals abandon them one at a time, until no one is left.
So, I set up sexgenderbody for these conversations to exist, to multiply, to thrive and to take root. It is a site for the individual to discuss one's self, one's body, one's gender and one's sex - in one's own terms. A place from which to dictate to society, the terms of who you are. I invite you to visit a place that can be defined with a simple phrase:
I define my sex, gender, body. You define yours.
The National Gadfly will still be a place for disrespect of hypocrisy, challenges to abuse of power and Politics with a P.