Slacker Stalker (slackerstalker) wrote,
Slacker Stalker

Judith Butler at Counterpulse

Just got back from my first time hearing Judith Butler speak. It was at Counterpulse in the context of their "Dance Discourse Project." There was a Counterpulse staff member asking questions of JB, then a performance by Xandra Ibarra and Hentyle Yapp! (she's a burlesque performer, he's a contemporary dancer, both people of color, doing a dance commenting on white womanhood), then a performance by DavEnd (singing w/accordion and then a short film depicting her mastery of  costume with various performers), then more questions by the staff member with the three performers and JB, then WAY TOO MANY questions from the audience. The whole thing went 2 1/2 hours with no intermission.

My notes:

"spectatorial distance"
"agentive use"

Does the body have agency - central question
We are born entangled in norms
but we have agency within the tangle
we don't have agency over unintended impressions on others
we are racialized/ regarded as trans, non-gender-conforming/ regarded as disabled/ etc.
but the person perceiving has their categories messed up sometimes
the point is to fail at meeting the norms

On the q. about whether JB considers herself to be queer:
"something is very definitely queer about me" but she wouldn't say she is queer

She made reference four times that I counted to "gay lesbian trans intersex" or "gay lesbian trans queer" or "gay lesbian and trans" --
either these or "gay and lesbian." She never once said the word "bisexual." One of the friends I was sitting with thought she might be eschewing it because she's in the camp that holds that "bisexual" reinforces the gender binary. I think she was just doing what a lot of people do and disappearingbisexuals and bisexuality because it's not salient to their particular experience.

More notes:

The labor of the norm- gender, whiteness
it's exhausting, it wears you down

One of the dancers, who was running around in a jock strap and sparkly pasties during his performance, but was looking/talking like a grad student in the discussion after, was embarrassed by JB mentioning that she was feeling the loss in that transformation, and he covered his face in shyness. One of the friends sitting with me: "Exposing your ass is one thing, listening to Judith Butler talk about your ass is another."

-- What is required of us
-- What it does to us

People kept asking really f'n overcomplicated questions. JB responded to one by first saying:
"It's hard performing Judith Butler, I want you to know."

Someone asked about truly innovative art. JB talked about and praised/problemitized Slutwalk and Femen and Pussy Riot. News to me: Femen is apparently Islamophobic!?

Regarding the burlesque-y performance by Xandra-- how she danced on stage in platforms-- on platforms on a platform-- JB said admiringly:
"It's very far from my lived experience."

Someone asked DavEnd a question that I didn't follow that included - I think - asking for advice about how to dress up as Doctor Who. Something about exploring one's "alien" side while inviting people into your performative space. She replied:
"Bludgeoning the old options with enthusiasm and panache is a way to create new options for later on."

There were two very clueless moments on the part of white women academic-types in the audience. The moderator/discussant was clearly trying to impress JB and was kind of pissing me off with her smugness, and JB was very delicately challenging her in ways I appreciated. At one point she asked JB:
"Does being queer make you less white?"

To which the audience erupted in derisive laughter. As though she must have been joking.

JB: (Among other things she said in response) "Queerness doesn't absolve you of racism."

The last question of the night came from a woman in the front row who wanted - it turned out after JB made her clarify her question - advice about talking about gender performativity with women in Morocco, framing it -- "how can we talk about these things with Muslim women who wear the veil?" (She asked nearly literally that question, maybe literally that question.)

JB was VERY careful to look at her hard and ask her to think about the "we." She said that just by saying "we" she should "start stuttering." She invited the woman to look into the field of Muslim feminism and all the interesting discussion going on there with regard to the use of the veil.

Other than the off-putting moderator person, and JB's WEIRD inability to talk about bisexuals or bisexuality, I found her radicalism and careful, clear way of characterizing things very satisfying. I'm glad I went.

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