--David Foster Wallce
Margaret mentioned the Star Trek episode "Spectre of the Gun," and then Krista posted a Dean Martin/Ricky Nelson duet, and this all put me in mind of one my favorite mashups:
Note: This is funny & campy, not scary & sexual.
(For the latter, Rick reminds me to recommend Closer. It's about sex, not gender.)
The song "Cowboys Are Secretly Frequently Fond of Each Other" was written by Ned Sublette, covered here by Pansy Division,
but I love it that country-western superstar Willie Nelson recorded it too, saying,
"I thought it was the funniest goddamn song I'd ever heard. I had it on the bus for 20 years, and people would come in and I'd play it. When Brokeback Mountain come out, it just seemed like a good time to kick it out of the closet."_______________
Gender, like the other toys that come along with our Being Human kit,
can be really fun to play around with.
But I was recently reminded how hard it is to rewrite our gender-language programming, even if we want to.
I've been becoming friends with a transgendered person who uses the gender-neutral pronoun "zie" (like s/he), but likes zir friends to refer to zir as "he" in speech.
I find that incredibly hard to do, not because I don't want to
--I do, because I like zir and I believe in the right to self-determination, and besides, it makes no never-mind to me what biological sex this person is--
but because my language settings insist on assigning the pronoun "she" to him.
This reminds me of the sci-fi novel I read recently, Venus Plus X (1960), in which Theodore Sturgeon tries to imagine a post-gender world.
It's not great as a novel, but like a lot of sci-fi, its value is in calling attention to our default settings.
Funnily enough, however, Sturgeon chose to use the pronoun "he" for all the gender neutral characters, which blocks a reader's full entry into his imaginative world.
I notice I've been using the term "default settings" to describe our unconscious, automatic reactions and interpretations of what we experience.
Trying to catch myself in unthinking thinking is an old favorite of mine--but the phrase "default setting" comes from an little book I read the other day:
This Is Water, the text of a commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave in 2005.
(It's really short--if you can't afford it, you can read the whole thing standing up in a bookstore, like I did.)
It's all about how thinking about thinking can save your life.
Alas, thinking alone isn't enough in the face of raging depression, and Wallace took his own life, three years after delivering this speech.
Here's a brief audio clip of Wallace addressing the graduating class: