Thursday, 9 December 2010

Helene Cixous and white ink

I've found the theory readings have started a lot of creative work. The whole idea of the language we speak having been so shaped by men we women struggle to exactly explain our experience was really illustrated for me when I recalled an occasion on which I was surrounded by naked women. This hardly ever happens, not to me, anyway! I was one of those kids who looked away at school and dressed under a towel. But suddenly I was surrounded by arms and legs and breasts and...whats? I didn't have a word for you know and down there, not that I would choose to use in a creative writing piece. Of course I'm familiar with the vulgar and/or childish words, but these aren't the words I would choose. And many of them are very derogatory to women. So I looked up a fascinating article called:   "Snatch," "Hole," or "Honey-pot"? Semantic Categories and the Problem of Nonspecificity in Female Genital Slang by Virginia Braun and Celia Kitzinger in 2001. They looked at words that both genders use for genitals looking especially at the difference between male and female nomenclature. Women do not label their genitals. Nor do many of the words used by either gender relate specifically to anatomical features in a commonly agreed way. 'Pussy' means one thing to one person and another to someone else. I read somewhere else that gynaecologists don't name names either, and if they do the words may sound stilted and impersonal. So, I'm trying to write a poem about my becoming aware of the whole world of feminism and the most emotionally striking feature is all know, down theres. In class, we discussed the problem and I've been left thinking, here is the actual heart of the problem. As Cixous says, we need to write in white ink, rediscover/co-create a language specific to the female experience to describe and explore female issues. This theory stuff is amazing. It's really made me think. I've even had to look (reluctantly) back at Derrida, at least, books about Derrida, who says something along the lines of words don't really mean what you think they mean. Words come with baggage.   


  1. have you read erica jong's poetry? (she's mostly known for her feminist novels circa the 70s up to today), but this post reminded me of her book of poetry from way back when.

    in one of my previous careers, i used honeypot as my password for my laptop login. until i had to have the tech guy at the company troubleshoot problems with me over the phone. i immediately regretted being my usual goofy, inappropriate self when the first question he asked was, "can you give me your password?"

  2. I keep seeing Erica Jong's name in the stuff I am reading, so have treated myself to a couple of 'preloved' books from Amazon for a couple of quid each.
    I loved the password, it must have been hilarious! I am married to an IT guy, he's always amazed at the passwords people use, especially the unimaginative ones who call theirs 'password'. I might choose a new one from Braun and Kitzinger's list, maybe squirrel trap or fur purse... where do people come up with these names from?