Politics with a small 'p' as in 'personal'

arvan's picture

(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.


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I'll repost my MotleyMoose response...

hubiestubert's picture

"Bisexuals get a bad deal, no matter where they're at.

Yes, they get a seat at the table, and a whole letter in an acronym, but some of the most heated bashing I've seen of bisexuals hasn't been from the mouths of hetro homophobes, but from gays and lesbians who simply don't trust their fellow travelers. And what's odd, is that the argument is made "They should just admit that they're gay or straight and get off the fucking fence and choose a side."

Which, I always find somewhat "entertaining"--if by entertaining I am using more of a transubstantiation of the term with the Chinese definition of "interesting" times--that folks who fight so long and hard for recognition from bigotry and prejudice fall so quickly into themselves. And often with same arguments that are used against themselves and apply it to their bisexual brethren and sistren.

While gender and sexual politics are a bit different than economic and domestic housing issues, I am of the opinion that it plays such an integral part of our daily existence, and so much so that trying to slice it off from day to day concerns is a disservice. Gender identity and acceptance of sexuality are inextricably linked to issues of religious and personal freedom, that I would be cautious to differentiate the them.

And it comes from some of the same arguments where my opposition of hate crime legislation comes from. If we want to build communities, and be accepting of all our disparate folks, then we can't slice them off as being 'different' in the sense that they aren't equal and deserving. Hate crime legislation, I think, only increases the gaps between folks, and is a sort of cop out for the real work to build communities. It is often seen as "enough" to extend protection to portions of our community, but it only exacerbates their otherness--and that is exactly the opposite of what we need. We need to protect everyone in our communities and treasure them because they're people just like us. They are us. And to try to differentiate Politics and politics in this sense, I think is a mistake--because gender and body politics are very much about identity issues and that's not just a gay or straight issue.

There are straight men who cross dress. Do it in private, and are awful quiet. They don't want to be seen as freaks. Some of them even vote Republican and are damn quieter about it because they fear their own neighbors finding out. Their cross dressing is "another life" for them, and the LGBT community has had more than enough life in the closet. And this sort of idea of differentiation concerns me, because it is another sort of closetization of political action and thought.

While I can understand the idea of wanting to have a different site to deal exclusively with gender identity issues, the drive itself to not "distract" folks from other issues is very much at the heart of the matter. These aren't separate issues from politics in general. Acceptance and civil liberties aren't something you can deal with as discrete issues without context--especially in the framework of Constitutional protections.

We all deserve to be able to love who we love. Gay, straight, bi. That's not a separate issue. It's a core issue that cuts to the heart of religious freedom and that crazy "pursuit of happiness" AND equal protection under the law. I fear that in your desire to deal with these issues under a separate banner, you underestimate folks' ability to parse these issues in context, and that is already part of the problem--too many folks who want to slice off parts of our communities and call them so different that we can't talk about them in "polite" company."

With the caveats that I recognize from your response there to why you were creating a separate site. It is understandable in that context, but in another way, sad that we have to slice away an integral part of the human experience as being something that has to be walled away. 


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