How much is left unknown at the end of a relationship? How much do the happiest spouses really know about one another. A lover dies, a spouse is put in her tomb and who was she? No one was; the one who is not who she will be when she becomes who she was. But traditionally woman has remained a modified man in the collective unconscious of men. In this, women are parts, not wholes, except of course in the homophonic, holes–the grotesque metonymy with which men have described women for centuries. Yes, in many societies a woman is a hole, not whole, but part, metonymy used against her. The word ‘wife’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon for female, not woman, ‘woman’ an evolution of wif man, or female person. A woman goes from modified personhood before marriage to strictly female after . . . and you think marriage is not about animal husbandry, the latter being the science of breeding domesticated animals. Cows,pigs and sheep have more to do with what marriage is than love. Female as breeder, the antipode of male, plugs and sockets, what are any of you talking about when you talk about traditional marriage? Husband and wife; breeder and breeder. Confusing isn’t it?
Women are, is easy enough to say, but what are they? What is she? A woman, a socially modified creature, being, existence? Once more I demand from us that women are not what, but who–big words from me a woman pretending to be a man–it looks like squirrel is out of the shopping bag. Who am I to speak for women? Who is anyone to speak for me? Who are you to speak for yourself might be yet another line of inquiry.
We are persistently over-concerned for what someone is, as if what instead of who were the more important information. What a person does . . . ? But then to be human or not to be human is what in our language–yes, human is what I am. But not without being humane? The French have one word for the two in English. In French it is impossible to consider human what is not humane. Pretenses made; pretenses undone; Rosalind, Rosalind, wherefore art thou in breeches. Breeches of silence, breeches of trust, breeches of custom, breeches of form, in form, new information provided to you. I was John herein among these pages, now Joanne, as I have been before this who I am; who to be or who not to be.
Connotations are specific meaning? Connotations of human and denotations of human . . . can be handled by answering the question, Who are you?, with I am human. Am I sure of this? I know we say, What are you? I am an American. What are you? I am a man. What are you? I am Catholic. What are you? I am Italian, French, Swiss and Irish. But we still have to address the psychology of what and the psychology of who if we are to discern the boundaries between personhood and thingness. I do ask that me I see in the morning in the mirror Who are you? Do you know? Tell me.
We do reserve who for our names. My name I have suggested as I have told you other gestures of name. Who are you? I am Joanne Bettler. It is interesting that this unfolds for us because our name is more thing than our being a man or a woman, a human-being. My name–what’s in my name–if I were called anything else would I not still be who I am–my being not determined by the name. Brands on the things we buy should be so lucky or unlucky.
I have no opposition to labeling things, to enumerating them, to defining them, to understanding their place in my life, in my actions, in my choices, in my being and in my existence. We do use ‘it’ for love, for freedom, for democracy, for respect, for humanity, for being humane. What then must we do? How then should we speak? With a knowledge and an understanding of just what we are saying when and where and to whom for what for whom at what . . . a Gucci bag by the name Shit really does stink to high heaven. But then shoddy bags by the name Gucci . . . designers have gotten wise to our debility.
Am I articulating sufficiently what has been the position of woman in our culture? our society? our civilization? in history as continuum–the objectification of woman, making woman an object, making her subject to one chattel situation after another, one form of property arrangement or contractual agreement whereby her personhood becomes modified, managed, controlled, her sexuality manipulated, represented, packaged by men and media and marriage, the latter as in most traditional marriage, particularly in the ceremonies that have taken place over time in whatever society you examine, especially the marriage laws, even how they have been revisited and revised through our history here in America. Defy anyone in five hundred a thousand or tweny-five hundred words (and the latter might be the easiest of the three to write) to tell me, to tell anyone–choose any audience; know your audience–what is marriage? But more so, Who is she? Yes, who is woman? Who are they? Women? Female persons; modified, all. Totalitarian capitalist America . . . Bourgeois Protestant Capitalism was a reactionary response to Renaissance licentiousness best exemplified by Rabelais. What does that have to do with woman, with me, myself, any other by another and another and a another name until the last syllable in the last list of monikers to be had or to be made.
‘They’ is too broad to manage? I am they as I am we. Maybe it has already been managed by each of us. As I am we, woman is also they; this woman here, now, in front of me, with a world of inquiry and response between us, potentially, She is. Yes, woman is; women are. This ‘they’ is encompassed by the she that we use for her; this one and only woman who is herself, and every woman as well–both, yet sometimes neither, sometimes someone else, who else is she? She is one and she is many; everyone is a Self of many selves; every man knows this. I wonder if every woman does . . . to do or not to do . . .
All the time, everywhere, she is who she is whenever she is anyone she is–the truth of her is tautological? As long as it does not become solely tautological. All the masks we wear, she wears; she wears many masks as I know I wear many masks, all the selves in the Self, again, the stages I strut and fret upon. All the parts we play, I play, she plays–the players we are, she is–as Shakespeare asserts through the mouth of Jacques in As You Like It: all her world is a stage. Paraphrases are permitted, I presume. I am; you in the mirror are? She is. So then, they are, these women who are; she is–what is she? Women and woman. They, them, those people, those women, these women, this one, woman, she. What do we know about her? What do you know about me? We know no one; I know no one. We really do not. Go ahead, tell me who you know; I know no one. I struggle to know myself and I have potentially unimpeded access to me. You disagree? I am I.
Do we know the people whose minds we cannot know completely, the people whose words and actions we barely understand because who wants to bear the weight of another–another whose life has been lived independently of ours, of mine–I do not always try to understand. Again, all understanding is just that, to stand under. Do you want to carry me, to bear my weight–women do bear the future, literally. How many of them have been allowed to harness their inner Atlas? We all have been called upon to do this–mythology still provides exemplary models–even if our time is no longer cyclic. To be born is to have been carried. Get at your Anglo-Saxon; it’s why we study the history of the English Language. I cannot know her mind, this woman, she, who she is, what she is, when she is whatever it is she chooses to be? Choice is choice.
Whose eyes are these I look through in my head? How is it we imagine that we have grown independent of everyone we have known. We do not see the world through this other’s eyes, other another? Yet every other and another who has affected us, taught us, loved us, hated us, hurt us and helped us in one or another of many, many possible ways have shaped our eyes, have they not? Yes, we, not I; and it is not I not because I am more comfortable speaking in we, but because I do not want to get into pointing my finger,my tongue, my pen at others; we instead of they, us instead of them. You, you and you; singularly and in plurality.
What then are the differences between other and another–they should be clear from our diction. Whose shoes I do not wear, whose ears I do not hear with, listen with–another or other what–other who, another person, another woman; woman is person, person is mask, what then does this tell us about the meaning of personality? Who do we know except ourselves–who do I except me? Other people reading the masks I wear without the acumen of the average theater goer who knows something of the medium he or she is immersed in, am I pointing to the average intelligent literate theater goer? Another merry-go-round with me.
How much of our selves in the Self remains hidden? How much of herself remains hidden from us because it remains hidden from her? How can we know anyone? Maybe I should restrict this question to myself–how can I know anyone? I am the only certainty possible? How then could we know any woman? I have tried and failed I cannot tell you how many times. I imagine you might now want to know where this is heading–again, harnessing; again, shackling; again imposing an exterior rule on someone or something not of your own. And you wonder how it is we have fucked up a woman’s life for as long as we have. What is, is; as it is, when it is, where it is, for whom it is set, pointed, aimed at, placed . . . and so on.
Intentions are not all, though.
Is it true that [litany of questions from women writers across time . . . Sappho to Present]
Every woman is macrocosm to all women, I know I ave said and said again, as I remember paraphrasing this and all the arguments that stemmed from it or culminated in it . . . but I have grown sensitive? have grown self conscious, have imagined any number of people, of women objecting–no, not objecting, but questioning my sincerity and I see me not being able to defend myself–is that it?
Each herself larger than the part she plays in women? There is more to say–so much other to examine, search for, look at, watch, learn, know, stand under–woman has been post to how many lintels? This investigation is on-going. Look for it going on.
Women are . . . what? I hear you ask. I hear the murmuring, the mumbling, the under the breath attempt at being courteously discourteous. What then should I say? What then must we say?
Woman is, is about all there is to say. I remember Aquinas–yes, women read medieval scholastic philosophy and theology . . . philology is what I would have majored in if it had still been a discipline to concentrate in. I ask I sayI answer I do not answer but respond and write and speak and the other day had a dream of her . . .
To give attribute to God is an attempt to subtract from God, at least rhetorically, thus psychologically, in our minds and hearts, and I am not going to try to locate one or pin-point the other.
A woman is and in her is she is everything, everyone, herself and no one else; what to say about this is? Everyone; no one is everyone; there is nothing closer to everything than nothing. To be or not to be are infinitives.