the rigorous m

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Archive for November, 2012

on the battlefield of self-definition

Posted by rigorousm on November 29, 2012

The woman thought a moment; her voice came up through her bandaged face afflicted with subterranean melodies:

“I’m sharing the fate of the women of my time who challenged men to battle.”

“To your vast surprise it was just like all battles,” he answered, adopting her formal diction.

“Just like all battles.” She thought this over. “You pick a set- up, or else win a Pyrrhic victory, or you’re wrecked and ruined — you’re a ghostly echo from a broken wall.”

“You are neither wrecked nor ruined,” he told her. “Are you quite sure you’ve been in a real battle?”

“Look at me!” she cried furiously.

“You’ve suffered, but many women suffered before they mistook themselves for men.” It was becoming an argument and he retreated. “In any case you mustn’t confuse a single failure with a final defeat.”

She sneered. “Beautiful words,” and the phrase transpiring up through the crust of pain humbled him.

“We would like to go into the true reasons that brought you here —” he began but she interrupted.

“I am here as a symbol of something. I thought perhaps you would know what it was.”

“You are sick,” he said mechanically.

“Then what was it I had almost found?”

“A greater sickness.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all.” With disgust he heard himself lying, but here and now the vastness of the subject could only be compressed into a lie. “Outside of that there’s only confusion and chaos. I won’t lecture to you — we have too acute a realization of your physical suffering. But it’s only by meeting the problems of every day, no matter how trifling and boring they seem, that you can make things drop back into place again. After that — perhaps you’ll be able again to examine —”

He had slowed up to avoid the inevitable end of his thought: “— the frontiers of consciousness.” The frontiers that artists must explore were not for her, ever. She was fine-spun, inbred — eventually she might find rest in some quiet mysticism. Exploration was for those with a measure of peasant blood, those with big thighs and thick ankles who could take punishment as they took bread and salt, on every inch of flesh and spirit.

— Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, ch 39

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Posted by rigorousm on November 25, 2012

DG: It’s true. I have fierce love for Aileen, I’ve always had—oh, call it solidarity—with female “deviants”, criminals and revolutionaries. …One of the reasons I think she’s so captivating is that she defies easy categorization—she is more than just victim, and more than predator. She doesn’t fit comfortably into either the “serial” or “spree” murder categories. She is and isn’t a lesbian. She is not the media’s monster, and is also a little too broken to be the feminist vigilante we need, a Joan of Arc for the Information Age. She is, absolutely, an outlaw….

LK: Aileen is more complicated than just the things that happened to her. That’s why I wanted to do the book. I wanted to show a more complete picture of who she was and how she became a “Monster”.

DG: Right. And it seems to me there are two ways she became a “Monster”—one is certainly through her life and her actions, but there’s also how she was constructed by every single media—everyone in the world, pretty much, has had a say in who Aileen Wuornos is and what she meant… except Aileen. There’s documentaries and Patti Jenkins’ “Monster”; there’s about four different books. There’s articles and TV. It’s signal to noise—I hope we manage to get a little of her voice out there. Maybe someone will hear it even through all the other yelling.

We build the monsters we need: police and politicians needed Aileen to embody evil; feminists used Aileen’s case to initiate a long-overdue conversation about both rape and sex work, the FBI probed Aileen for forensic data; her lawyer and the media needed her for a cash cow. The only thing that Dawn ever needed Aileen to be was herself. And the only thing that Aileen ever needed Dawn to be was there, writing back.

A Conversation Between Daphne Gottlieb and Lisa Kester, Editors of Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in Her Own Words (link)

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