Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My limited view

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Send Email to Author   Koon Woon
4 Mar 09    6:36 AM MST
What is my definition of feminism? Coming from a patriarchal society like I do from China, with women having their feet bound and walking several paces behind their men, the idea that men and woman should be equal is shocking. Or should be shocking to me. But I am not shocked by this, because the Communists that came to power the year I was born in 1949, tried to "overthrow" the archaic thinking about the sexes as they did the foreign powers and the corrupt Nationalist Chinese government. As I get glimpses of Chinese society through contacts from friends and relatives who have arrived recently from China, I know that they have not succeeded or that progress is slow, because things like infanticide of female babies is still practiced in some rural families and Chinese women in rural areas have the highest suicide rate in the world.

Because of the fact that I was raised by my grandmother and an older adopted sister in the village in China, my attitude towards women is best summed up by the Nobel Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert who said, "Women do us the least harm."

And having been a life-long student of the Tao Te Ching, I would say that yin and yang are complementary, and that the soft yields to overcome the hard. The Tao also says that the named is not the eternal name. Therefore, the notion of "feminism" is merely a name given to a phenomenon that is forever changing and eludes description. Women have been the object of worship as well as been treated as cattle in the history of the world in its various locations. I am not trying to wiggle out of taking a stance here. I am saying that giving something a name does not finish describing or understanding it.

I could say I am "a liberated male" because of my past treatments as some Other in the American scheme of things and so I feel solidarity with any and all oppressed people anywhere. But what have I done about it? Isn't the proof in the pudding?

There are women doctors in the US and women crane operators in China. The struggle is everywhere. I believe in the saying that injury to one is injury to all.

I can envision all kinds of ways in a science fiction manner where men may be unnecessary in the future. Women can clone themselves using their own eggs and a somatic cell of their own. So, I believe that this "complicity" that de Beauvoir talks about that the relationship of men to women is different from other exploitive relationships such as the Master/Slave relationship can be superfluous in the scientific future. And so the question is: should we choose it?

Now equality, what is that? Can an orange and an apple be equal? They are not equal in the sense that they are identical but perhaps they are equal in the sense they are in the same category as fruits. This way of looking at a more general category I realize that the family system probably have more to do with property relationships that arose out of agriculture more than anything else. In any case, I would try to look beyond the artificial differences, regardless of complicity or whatever to perpetuate this phenomenon, and try to come to an underlying common cause, fully realizing that what has been and what is now need not be the case in the future.

I have the sense of being evasive here. So, I will just give my own experiences as justification. I have evolved a sense of esthetics in my poetry using a woman as a model and how a particular woman of flesh and blood and breath gave rise to a theory of beauty of the world. It was different from the classical art forms of the ancient Greeks or the Renaissance Italy. It did not idealize. It was probably my Chinese practicality mixed with a certain Western notion of adulation of women. It was as though I was naming the world for myself and at the same time admonishing myself not to love the names I had given to the things in the world. I tried to love the things in themselves. However, this does not justify inequality or injustice (for these two ideas go hand in hand).

I know the world has a long ways to go before it satisfies my own ideas of equality, justice, and beauty. Yet, I try not to take myself seriously, as the Tao Te Ching advises, “A vessel must empty of itself to be of use."
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