The “I’m Tired” Project

The “I’m Tired” Project utilizes photography, the human body and written words as a tools highlight the lasting impact of everyday micro-aggressions, assumptions & stereotypes and pull back the layers of discrimination to reveal thoughts and feelings that aren’t usually voiced through fear of backlash and lack of being relatable.

The “I’m Tired” Project

April/May life round-up

The top of a tree covered in pink cherry blossom against a bright blue sky

Obligatory spring blossom photograph

Life has continued to be hectic and stressful. I have a lot going on at work. The mice returned and we had to get pest control in to deal with them. I felt bad about it, but nothing else worked. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a terrible toothache. Apparently, the tooth is fractured and will need a crown. That’s gonna be expensive.  

It wasn’t all bad though. There has been some nice weather. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing Exhibition and it was pretty amazing to see the drawings close up. Then we saw Thea Gilmore live and that was excellent. 

Film 

We saw Captain Marvel and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m not really into the Marvel universe, but this was a good time. 

Reading 

I read a few crime thrillers. The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson is a proper literary thriller (post coming). I enjoyed The Dry by Jane Harper, but didn’t think it quite lived up to all the hype. The Old You by Louise Voss is a twisty thriller that’s probably best read on a plane, or the beach. 

The Ark by Patrick Tomlinson is quite a fun SF thriller and I really liked Una McCormack’s novella, The Undefeated. I’ve got a big pile of science fiction novels on the go at the moment. 

I’m chipping away at The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin. He’s a brilliant poet, but I am finding all the self-loathing and mid-century sexism a bit hard work. Still, he did write my absolute favourite poem set in the month of May, ‘The Trees.’

Television 

Of course we’re watching the superb Gentleman Jack. 

We started on The Orville, the premise of which is basically Star Trek: The Next Generation if the crew were ordinary people. I am a little surprised by the high quality of the storytelling on what appears (on the surface at least) to be quite a silly show.  It has me hooked. 

Delyth & Angharad (DnA)

We were lucky to see this mother and daughter duo play at a local folk festival recently. Delyth & Angharad write and play absolutely beautiful Welsh folk music.  There’s an excellent review of their latest album Llinyn Arian (Silver thread) here.

Here they are playing Viva Cariad and an old favourite from my West Wales childhood Sosban Fach

The artwork by Carys Evans is gorgeous too. Love the Gwen John influence.

5 Things

I liked Suzanne Heintz’s artistic response to the question Why aren’t you married yet? Fourteen years worth of pictures of herself posing with a mannequin family certainly draws attention to the mythology of white, middle-class family “happiness”. Even though Suzanne is posing with mannequins, these images and the meanings they are supposed to convey (and impose) are instantly recognisable. Perhaps she’s also suggesting that people don’t care who the members of her family are, or what her relationship with them might be, as long as “family” is performed in the correct way. There is even the suggestion that this mythology reduces people to the status of mannequins. Roland Barthes would be proud.

Ludovic Florent’s series of photographs Poussiere d’etoiles (stardust) inspired me after a difficult day. These images that capture dancers interacting with a cloud of flour are a gorgeous tribute to the art of dance and the power of the human body.

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Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favourite books and this must be at least the fourth time I’ve read it.  On its publication The Left Hand of Darkness was received as a groundbreaking piece of science fiction, winning the Nebula Award in 1969 and the Hugo Award in 1970.  Compelling, atmospheric, sometimes frightening, it offers the reader some exquisite world-building and a story with profound meaning.

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Happy Halloween

We are spending it quietly this year, just staying in and watching The Haunting of Hill House.  We haven’t even carved a Jack O’ Lantern (that’s one my sister did a couple of years ago), but Andy doesn’t think there’s much point unless you can display it on your porch, which is difficult to do when you live in a second floor flat.

Still, here are some Halloween links:

This week’s culture round-up

From The Lesbrary, Have you ever thought to yourself, “Is there any way I can be more lesbian?” This post showed me how the ownership of certain books could possibly make me feel even more lesbian than I do already.

From Flavorwire,  Robert Maplethorpe’s portraits of cultural icons . I particularly like his portraits of Patti Smith and Debbie Harry –  I think the naked woman holding the gigantic snake looks a little tense though.

From Tor.com, Don your tights, glitter and goblin horns, it’s Labyrinth day. I loved Labyrinth when I was a kid.  It’s actually playing at a local cinema next month and we are so going to see it.

Jess McCabe has started writing a series called Murder, She Blogged on the representation of detectives, police and crime in pop culture from a feminist perspective.  That sounds awesome to me.  The first post is on the ill-fated series Mrs Columbo, which I never watched but which stared Kate Mulgrew who I later came to love in her role as Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway.

From Womanist Musings, The Problem with Urban Fantasy Fandom (and why we need to critique Buffy the Vampire Slayer).   Much as I love Buffy, and have been watching it addictively recently, I do think this show can stand to be critiqued on many levels.

From Flavorwire, Great parties in literature we wish we could have attended.  I wouldn’t actually want to attend many of these parties (especially not the one in Brett Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero).  Just for the record, I like riotous parties which involve lots of food, music and, if at all possible, dancing.

From Den of Geek, Terminator 2 is 20 years old.  No way!  That dates me.  My best friend and I went to see this film at least twice when it came out.  Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was a hero of mine.

From A Piece of Monologue, one for the theory geeks, What is Hauntology? On a recent trend in Critical Theory.

Occasionally I see something that makes me feel sorry that I left academia.  This may be one of those things.

From 3am Magazine, Everybody is Writing a Novel.  I can assure you that I’m not writing a novel.  Ok, I might be lying about that, but this article about Roland Barthes is another one for the theory fans.

Frank O’ Hara, ‘Why I am not a Painter’ (1971)

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

Frank O’ Hara, ‘Why I am not a Painter

(1971)

A Talk by Del LaGrace Volcano

A couple of weeks ago I went to a talk by Del LaGrace Volcano and I thought I’d post my notes here.

Del  LaGrace identifies as a ‘gender variant visual artist’ and has published several books about lesbian sexual subcultures, especially female masculinity and drag kings. The latest book pays attention to queer femmes.

Del uses the term ‘queer’ in the sense that it implies a ‘questioning’ (inquiry) and as a resistance to any imposition of ‘obligatory gender.’   Del started by talking about the gender binary and intelligibility. The first thing someone does when they look at you is decide whether you are male or female.  If you’re not intelligible as either, your identity is illegitimate and you are pathologised.  Del wants to question the whole notion of fixed sexual identities and explore possibilities for deliberately choosing beyond the parameters of male and female.

Del raised interesting points about gender and desire, describing showing images of masculine female-bodied people to groups of gay men who were rather disturbed when they found out that the sexually attractive body belonged to a ‘woman.’  Likewise, lesbians would be disturbed to find themselves attracted to male-bodied feminine people.  It made me think that we tend to associate this kind of sexual panic and insecurity with homophobic people and violent male responses to the discovery that a female object of sexual interest used to live as a man.  But, to what extent are we all subject to the norms that create these insecurities?

Del argued that we need to think about the fact that we ‘cannot not believe that there is truth in gender,’ not least because who gets to produce knowledge/truth is very tightly regulated.  As we know, only certain types of female bodies are allowed to take up cultural space.

Queer strategies of subversion focus on some basic questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I belong?
  • Who is my community?

This interested me because I know I’ve been asking myself these questions since my teens and I suspect they resonate with most people who fall between binaries in various ways.  I don’t have any firm or final answers to these questions in my own life, but I keep on asking them.

Del was resistant to the idea that some kinds of bodies are more transgressive than others. It is rather the case that some kinds of bodies are more visibly transgressive. Queer femmes are less visible than butches and drag kings, and the latest book is an attempt to make them visible.  This is also important because mainstream representations of lesbians tend to depict us as quite conventionally feminine women who do not threaten the gender order.

The ‘queer feminist methodology’ in making the images was based on a desire to make the subject feel empowered in the process of constructing the image. Del wants to create images with ‘speaking subjects’ partly because it is important to remember that the history of photography is the history of the violent exploitation of those who are considered marginal and disposable.

Del said that queer feminists tend to try and distinguish their feminism from the feminisms that exclude them.  I would like to have heard more about what exactly this queer feminism involves and its implications for feminism, but the images got me thinking.

I felt that the images present an in-your-face femininity, edgy, sensual, and often composed through a juxtaposition of the materials and signifiers of conventional femininity with something unexpected that creates a defamiliarising effect.  This image of Kathy Acker for example. I can see that this defamiliarisation of conventional femininity could be considered a feminist act.

The queer femininity in the images seems to be linked to the use of materials and technologies – clothes, jewellery, makeup, hair products, tattoos and piercings.  As one questioner pointed out, this brings up some uncomfortable questions about the role of capitalism and consumerism in queer subcultures. To what extent is this kind of gender subversion possible without engaging with consumerism? Del said that the femmes tended to accessorise in an environmentally friendly way, but there’s still a problem here.  Before we unquestioningly celebrate this gender subversion, we need to remember that a lot of people would lose their jobs on the spot if they turned up with green hair, big tattoos and obvious piercings.  I am always anxious that we do not use queer theory to set up alternative gender hierarchies and expectations that become normalised or idealised.  If certain kinds of queer ‘looks’ become celebrated, wouldn’t that just reinstate the system we’ve been trying to deconstruct?

Still, it was interesting and it made me think about the importance of certain materials and technologies in my own gender presentation.  I have a strong liking for certain materials, especially cotton, denim, velvet, corduroy.  I think I own about 12 velvet and corduroy jackets.  These materials have become extensions of my sense of my own gender. This is why I never talk about gender being ‘natural’  because I don’t think any of us have a chance of a non-technologically constructed body in this world.