Fuck Binaries: Triologues and Multilogues

February 27, 2008

During a housewarming this past Saturday night (23 Febuary 2008), amidst great music and a flowing bar of drinks, I had a fabulous political conversation with three of the most brilliant people I have ever met. And Joaquin, Angelica, Jamila and I were definitely not talking about the upcoming presidential election–at the nexus of our conversation was simply how fucked up binaries can be. During the conversation I concluded that even the discourse we employ when speaking about politics can completely reinforce an mutually oppressive binary apparatus.

Example: Dialogue. We often think this term can lead toward progressive ends, but even within (di)alogue we can see the construction of a binary developing. Di is a greek numerical prefix meaning two or double. We hear of monologues and dialogues, but what about triologues or multilogues. Are our progressive (queer, feminist, womanist) politics flawed from its foundations?

In order to move beyond binaries, we should begin with considering the condition of binaries. Within an oppositional binary system, two items are juxtaposed with each other in a hegemonic cold war. One item aims to surmount the other…and in turn gains social value while the other is subjected to demonization. In this process, other items are (purposely) alienated from this system. This is best exemplified our hegemonic gender binary.

I cannot help but consider at this point, what is the purpose of gender. As it now stands, we are socially programmed to recognize two genders: male and female. Like every other binary structure, it is discursive and hegemonic in nature. Derrida (I love Derrida!) explores this discursive relationship that exists within our construction of social definitions. At the foundation of the definition of an object, we consider its meaning through juxtaposition with the object’s polar opposite. This process is exclusive and does not consider the conditions of other objects that live within this system. This is why I cannot identify as male. In the gender binary, male is valued over female. I cannot agree with this system. In this gender binary, male/female is the only acceptable structure. This rejects the existence of trans, gender-queer, two-spirited, and intersexed people. I cannot agree with this alienation. Binaries produce borderlands.

The borderlands are filled with knowledge and histories…but when will we finally open our minds to open the borderlands into conversation?

Ottinger

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One Response to “Fuck Binaries: Triologues and Multilogues”

  1. polywog said

    thanks for writing an awesome post! lately i’ve been exploring the spiritual repercussions of binary alienations in my own life. alienation is so important to acknowledge, because it reveals that these binaries and other forms of hegemonic thinking are not just intellectually problematic: they literally become infused in our lives, bodies, desires, etc. My favorite writings on dualism come from ecofeminist philosophers, val plumwood and karen warren. but more recently womanist thought has really shown me a textured way of translating an intellectual critique into an embodied reality. my biggest question: how do i relate to academia, wade through these poor tools (dialogue, dialectic, dialogic, ontology, epistemology: words that keep coming up for me as i try to break out of their very constructs), and find other, non-alienating ways of thinking? This question has taken over my life so much that it is becoming a driving force of my thesis. I found a partial answer in an essay i read recently called “be longing” which looked at the history of adrienne rich’s “politics of location.” her argument was that, for a better anti-racist framework, we need to shift a politics of location to a politics of relation. a politics of relation is based on accountability to those who you long to be with, or with whom you belong. “reverse-interpellation.”
    Here’s a quote from the essay:
    Adrienne Rich’s “attachment to her own sense of self as individual arises in absence, or lack of passionate engagement with others, to reinscribe her ‘location’ in the very terms she seeks to overturn. As Sandoval notes, this is no personal or idiosyncratic failure on her part, but rather a function of the ‘material apparatus of theory production’ inscribed within the politics of seeing, knowing, being derived from Western thought. It is a loss also inscribed within the politics of (non) belonging. This reinscription, then, signals the failure to theorize coalitional consciousness as a profound sense of loss–sensuous loss–faced by the first world theorists who seeks to disembark from the colonial constrains of her belonging, but who remains stranded on shores of her limited imagination.”
    Aimee Carrillo Rowe: Be Longing: Toward a Feminist Politics of Relation

    Do you think this kind of relational politics leads to a reworking of binary constructs?

    Another question, after reading my forest paper, what do you think about non-gendered pronouns, for all people, “queer” or not? Does this seem problematic to you, and/or do you see its usefulness in breaking down larger problems of dualistic organization of gender in society?

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