Here are a few important philosophical/linguistic/statistical issues raised by my last post – ones I did not directly address but which are present nonetheless, and since I did not address them directly, and since you do not know me personally, assumptions or questions are likely to be made. As a writer, I like to communicate in a way that is as specific and understandable as possible. Which could take some time, perhaps more than either of us has, but let’s make a dent in it 🙂
viewpoints/beliefs/issues I implied but did not directly addressed include: language as a paradigm and word as generalization; understanding generalizations as such and as fundamentally untrue but accepting them in this light so that we can get on with the point; using hyperbole for effect; statistics do not actually exist as such, but in aggregate terms they do exist, i.e. every household does not have two and four-tenths of a child living there, for one, because there is no such thing as four-tenths of a person; my partner supports me and supports my writing in many ways; I mentioned the desire “to print it [the article by Lynda Williams] out and tack it to the front door” because of society’s judgment – it’s this external world that I wish to educate.
Firstly, I identify as a humanist. I believe in possibility. Also, when I use language, written or spoken, I understand that I am using a paradigm and that I am using generalizations left and right and center. Especially when I’m using terms like “women” and “writers.” To use the language of NVC (non-violent communication): I can only speak for myself. I certainly cannot speak for a whole group, much less one formed by people of diverse cultures, epochs, socioeconomic backgrounds, personalities and so forth.
Language as paradigm and words as generalizations: There is no such thing as “men” or “women” or “writers.” Not as complete and definitive entity anyway, not in a way that we can point to the entirety of said group and be able to predict any behavior. There are individual people that identify and are identified by others as belonging to one or more of these groups, which is a very different thing. There is no “men” roaming the fields, there is no “women” strolling by a river.
So for me to say I am clean, or I was raised with the cultural expectations of a certain level of cleanliness is all very relative. To say that a male raised in the U.S. in the early 21st century is less clean household-wise than myself is an overstatement, a generalization, and used as I did, it is hyperbole. There are many men tidier than myself and many women less tidy than myself. I do not live with any of them, so what I wrote about would not be true in all situations, only the one I am currently in.
This brings me to statistics and how they’re not real: In my understanding, reality is what happens to individuals, whereas a statistic is a paradigm of what happens to a subset of an aggregate, the limit of that subset chosen either deliberately or arbitrarily or by the limits of our human tools and resources. Like blueprints: the blueprint of a house doesn’t reflect a reality that any individual can experience. Why? Because blueprints lack “perspective” – that term we learned in art class when we learned to draw railroad tracks that seemed to converge at the vanishing point. Each part of the house on a blueprint is drawn on an equal level of existence as if we, the viewer, could be at all places at once. But we can’t because we don’t exist that way. (Okay, maybe blueprints aren’t the best analogy, but they are something most anybody will understand as existing and they represent something else we agree exists, but they themselves do not show us what we see/experience.)
So here, too, when I use a term like “reality,” that is an anthropocentric generalization. Maybe there are entities that exist on multiple levels of reality at once. But we don’t, so we use the term “reality” to mean our reality as is generally accepted and go on with the story.
Statistics state that the average single-family home consists of two adults and two and four-tenths children. But that is not real in that every single-family household does not have two whole children and one four-tenths of a child running around in the yard. In my reality only whole people exist. I have never had the experience of meeting four-tenths of a person. Similarly, there are statistics about what “women” experience in the work place, for example, but that doesn’t mean that all women experience these things. Some women may experience none of them, may be treated as equals and supported and respected and paid like non-women – that is to say, men. Some experience much worse than the average scenario expressed by statistics.
But generalities have substance, they are in some way true. As far as cleaning and other divisions of labor along gender lines is concerned, there is a whole historical and cultural foundation for this practice; otherwise, the task of cleaning wouldn’t fall to women more than half the time, or women wouldn’t be on average doing more than half the cleaning. What I was trying to point out in my writing of the post “Women with clean houses…” is that though we live in an age of technological advancement, an age of relative well-being (again for whom and in relation to when and who and so forth…) and education, little has changed in the realm of who is expected to and who does the cleaning. Will culture and society ever view people as individuals and not as male or female and thereby make assumptions based on a history of division to facilitate power mongering? Will social life ever be “fair” and not divided along gender lines? I don’t know. Maybe not. So, could we maybe have greater awareness and recognition? A little gratitude goes a long way.
As for my partner: chores such as cleaning are only one aspect of my daily life. My partner may not clean as much as I do, but he also does not expect me to clean as much as I do, either. He does not hold me to a different standard than he holds himself. And he supports me and my writing in so many other ways; in very tangible ways, such as his recording my poem “Woman of Wood” with me. Not only did he read the third-person male voice of the poem, but he also cleaned up the recordings, and cut and pasted them so that they sound really cool, if you ask me. When a co-worker approached him to ask me to run for the Board of Directors at our place of employment, he said he would support me if I wanted to do so, but he thought I would be better served if I focused my energies on my writing this year. You see, he remembered my hopes and dreams for myself as a writer and he put them first. He helped me feel less pressured to take up another responsibility at work by reminding me and letting someone else know that I have a responsibility as a writer – that I need to write. His holding and sharing that belief, that I am a writer, that my responsibility is to write, is worth more than I can express.
I hope you have someone close to you that supports you in your writing, your creativity. If you need to hear it from an external source, but haven’t yet today, here it is: your writing is important, it is valuable. Take the time to write the stories only you can write. The world will not be able to read them if you don’t.