saint uncle judith… jude… i mean judy

I’m not sure of the trail that led me to spending some of an afternoon reading interviews with Judith Butler, I mean I could go through the history in my www browsing and describe a literal path, but mmm… that was just the links I clicked or searched for, not what I was thinking. It was though a journey though, or maybe an inadvertent summarising of queer and feminism as it found itself in the early ’90s. Or really, the ’80s.

Most of this stuff I read after the fact, Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin possibly representing collectively the autocratic policing on desire, and the sexless, bitter dead-end of radical feminism, Mary Daly and Janice Raymond (among others) and a similarly hostile biologically-founded essentialism all-together signifying more than a decade wherein gender and desire were impossibly politicised. It reminds me of Cultural Revolution ‘speak bitterness’ campaigns, self-criticisms and being sent down to reform through labour for not being, in this case lesbian feminist or womyn-identified enough.

And so after the fact again, alway late I am, maybe off somewhere thinking too much and so I miss everything, I was handed Judith Butler, and fell into the giddy world of ’90s queer theory, identity politics, cultural theory mmm… fun reading. Diana Fuss, Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick, also writers I’ve yet to read, but whom I seem to have been influenced by via some osmosis, Kate Bornstein, Judith Halberstam, Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Leslie Feinberg, oh so much to read and soon. I feel I’m about to be seduced away from Central Asia by a bunch of queers.

I was reading some articles I’ve read about or absorbed quoted paragraphs from for years but never got around to, and mostly to do with the feminist-trans issue that is as hostile as it is boring. You can read about it elsewhere, other than to say the kind of feminist and queer and lesbian I like to hang out with thinks, in the words of Leslie Feinberg, “Who cares what anybody’s got between their legs?…”)

And Judith. “The Body You Want: Liz Kotz interviews Judith Butler,” Artforum 31, no. 3 (November 1992). I had a moment where I gasped in pleasure, after reading Undoing Gender and thinking so much of that was such a progression of ideas from Gender Trouble, and then here not two years after that was published, she talks about Hegel and desire and I thought, oh all that time you were thinking this… “And what I wrote on in Hegel was desire, and the relationship between desire and recognition, and whether desire was in some sense always a desire for recognition. And I think I’m still writing about that.” (Then I thought, “Oh… I have to re-read Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter again.”

All though reading these papers today I was thinking how far we’ve come, though I suppose it has been nearly twenty years since Gender Trouble was published, and maybe 14 since I first read it. But something’s changed, in the last year or so, returning to all this writing that for a time seemed hopelessly contrived, over-simplistic, or just co-opted by a sanitised mainstream gay attitude or equally proscriptive queer politic, and it’s as if, oh being late again because I was off staring at clouds or day-dreaming of ponies in Afghanistan… it no longer feels so unrealistic or utopian.