Change Your World-NOT your Body

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ingeborg Bachmann, Femme Invisibility and nonnumquam

I sit here at my desk, minding my own business more less, reading an awesome book about the writer Ingeborg Bachmann which is examining her work through a radical feminist lens. Bachmann was a well known poet and writer from Austria, very well known in Europe, sadly not as well known here in the US. So while I'm reading, I get an email notification from a community I am on at Facebook regarding Femme Invisibility. Somewhere between the seconds of clicking the link and logging into Facebook my mind traveled back to how I came to know Bachmann. Dont ask, like god, my mind works in mysterious ways.

Would have been late 1999, when I got my first PC and the internet and discovered gay.com (oh joy) and chat rooms. Was a bit baffled and shy at first, but found a little room there in the lesbian section called "books and art". When I first started hanging there, there was practically no members save a couple. But the more I hung, the more the place picked up and the more discussions took place as well as our small group getting to know each other.

There was this one woman who never said a word though, she was just there, silent, watching, observing, taking it all in I had supposed. Her chat name was nonnumquam. I had a habit of saying hello to everyone who entered the room. Non (as I called her) would say "hi" and that's pretty much all I got out of her. Very late one night with just her and I alone in the room, she spoke to me. She asked what does "whats up" mean. Along with a hello I would ask women "whats up". I explained it was merely another greeting like hello. She loled and said she had thought it had something to do with "erections", then I loled too.

She told me she was turkish, born and raised but was living/working in Manila. She was some sort of physicist. She wrote in broken english (feel like I'm channeling marianne faithfull) but said she understood most. I had a feeling before she spoke, she was in some sorta emotional pain. I would learn over the months why. She was a Butch lesbian, had been gang raped by turkish soldiers twice as a young Butch woman. This had devastated her as a woman and nearly killed her as a Butch. But there was more I thought, or felt, but didnt ask. From her silent observations of me, she came to know what Sylvia Plath meant to me and the course of my life. Her Sylvia Plath was Ingeborg Bachmann she told me. When she spoke of her I could literally feel how desperately she wanted to yank Bachmann from the fires that ultimately consumed her. She told me about Bachmann and told me to read Malina. I had never heard of Bachmann or any of her works then. But I would learn and I did read.

Our literary back and forth soon transpired to email. It was there that she finally shared her real pain, pain that far surpassed her rapes. She was living in Turkey when the earthquake of Jan. 1999 happened. Her family was having a birthday party, she said one minute she was happy, enjoying her family, life, the party atmosphere and the next she was under the house. She managed to extricate herself, she was alive. She scrambled to find the rest of her family. A few cousins were dead, her mother alive. She couldn't find her sister. Her and her mother began moving brick and stone, yelling, frantically searching what was left of the house. They found her sister, also dead and worse, pinned partially under a massive piece of this stone house, her leg anyways.

By the next day, after taking in what had happened. After horrific loss and grief and chaos. The dead were being removed for immediate burial. Her sister was still dead and still pinned. Her mother wanted to bury her daughter. Someone handed non a knife. It was her duty to her mother and her sister to see to it that she was properly buried before her body decayed. She didnt know where the strength came from, love perhaps, but for her sister and her mother she got down on her knees and began trying to cut her sister's pinned leg off. She threw up many times. She stopped many times more. Her sister was buried properly.

Between the continued aftermath of the quake, her sister's leg was never recovered. She dreamed often of that missing leg. Other than paraphrasing her story here I only remember verbatim one thing from those months of emails. She said once to me "I am like a tear, falling from my own life".

So thats how I came to know Ingeborg Bachmann. How I came here today finding myself reading feminist essays regarding her work. Work dealing with the terrible silencing of our woman's voice. A unique voice that is there precisely because it isn't. We may not know exactly what has been erased by patriarchal language but we see that something clearly is missing, kinda like in school when we erased a mistake, one could always tell where the eraser was used even it one didnt know what was wiped off.

It is here bearing all this in mind in those few seconds that I reach the end of the link sent from the Femme invisibility group. A link promoting Femme visibility through the promotion of a "femme porno" show at some bar in Philly! Disgust doesnt even begin to cover it! Shocked, saddened, horrified, disappointed, pissed off. This is exactly how and why Bachmann's female "I" disappears at the end of Malina. Women are invisible under patriarchy, Femme lesbians completely invisible! Patriarchy only allows women visibility through performing for the male gaze rendering woman as object rather than subject. This visibility is no source of power, it is merely for the sole purpose of male masturbatory fantasy.

This being the hetero-patriarchal case, how in the fuck are Femme's going to become visible by utilizing the same hetero-patriarchal tactics straight women are conditioned to use in order to be seen that really only visiblizes them as objects? And who are the Femme gazers? Butch women? If that is the case how fucking dare these Femme's attempt to put Butch women in the place of possessor of the male gaze! Its totally hetero-mimicry! I have zero visibility and zero power as a Butch woman under all patriarchal structures. I also have no desire as a Butch woman who has worked to love myself as a woman and as a Butch who can better love a Femme because of my own Butch woman love, to mimic the male fucking gaze at another woman!

Femme's are fucking lesbians, and as lesbians do not have to function according to hetero rules. So why then are Femme lesbians turning themselves from lesbian subject to hetero objects??

I leave you that readers, to answer for yourselves if you fucking dare!

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