World-making: When art tries to make life follow suit…

A discussion of Morris and Sloop’s article, ” What Lips These Lips Have Kissed: Refiguring the politics of queer public kissing” (2006).

Good philosophers define their terms. I’m annoyed by Morris and Sloop in their article about queer public kissing because they don’t do much of that. I don’t mean words that we could look up in the dictionary to understand, of course. I mean terms used in a specific way within a discipline. Defining their terms would only take a few sentences in most cases. Then we wouldn’t have to speculate about what exactly they mean to say. We could move on to the real heart of the discussion.

One example is “queer world-making.” What do we mean by world-making, and what would a queer world look like? The concept of world-making is used in fiction, religion, ethics, and other disciplines. I think the authors owe it to themselves to explain a bit about how they are using the terms, how they understand the concepts. That is, unless they don’t care what their readers get out of the piece. I assume they mean “changing the world to become more accepting of queerness,” but I don’t like assuming. I want to know exactly what they mean to say.

In the notes, they do discuss their use of kairos, so they get credit for that. It’s odd that they used kairos early on, but left us to wonder how they intend to use it in the article until note #47. Sigh.

Also, they spend at least a paragraph at the beginning of each section telling us what they are about to tell us, what they are going to argue or prove. That’s great, but then they don’t always accomplish what they so confidently said they would. I don’t discount their experience, or even disagree with their positions, I just wish they would do a better job of presenting their arguments. This is a difficult topic, though, it would be hard to present well because of all the emotion it carries with it.

A word about the kissing… because that’s the subject, right? Everything we do can be interpreted within our cultural framework, agreed. To follow their logic all the way to it’s conclusion, though, seems to suggest that hetero-kissing serves to shore up the status quo and further oppress LGBTQ couples. I don’t want to do that, so should I refrain from kissing my boyfriend in public? I don’t think this is what the authors intended. I wish Morris and Sloop had included a few words about the limits of their argument. If we don’t discuss the limitations of our argument against heteronormativity, someone on Fox News will pick it up and announce that we want to oppress opposite sex couples.

Once I processed my annoyance and tried to read the article without being sidetracked by the annoyances, it did get better. I’ll try to be more positive in my next post.

I’ve been having a discussion on facebook for a few days about the idea that public kissing is a performance; and more specifically that hetero-kissing is a heteronormative act. It starts like this:

Fucking rhetoric…every time my boyfriend kisses me now, I say, “stop that, you’re being heteronormative!” One commenter thought that could be reverse discrimination. To alleviate that situation, he volunteered for some subversive hetero-kissing. I responded that from my point of view, there is no reverse discrimination going on now, so that would be a false premise leading to the false conclusion that hetero-kissing is subversive and therefore he is part of “the loyal opposition.” Nice try, though. Love that guy!

Since we’re all about gay in this reading, I thought I’d include a Dolce and Gabbana ad. There are quite a few D&G ads using gay imagery. Go D&G! I was surprised to find some Doritos ads which use gay innuendo. Apparently they have stirred up a little controversy, too. You’d think more companies would use LGBT imagery since it seems guaranteed to get attention in one way or another. I hope Cheerios follows up their multi-racial family ads with multi-orientation family ads, not for the attention so much as for the progress toward a more accepting media environment for all orientations. There I go, world-making and all. Sometimes, it would be nice if life would imitate art. Or follow suit, when art tries to be inclusive. Or follow suits like these…

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3 responses to “World-making: When art tries to make life follow suit…”

  1. jamesericsentell says :

    You bring up some good critiques of the writing style. The authors assume a certain familiarity with their theoretical approach, which may hinder their clarity a little bit.

  2. filixfemina says :

    I think they’re creating a world of their own by attempting a smoke screen. I caught, in one particular instance and most strongly, what you say about “telling us what they’re gonna tell us” then telling us only what they feel is relevant to their own point. I dislike this in science abstracting and journalism and dislike it even more when it’s used as a tool to sway social theory and opinion. It feels like god-making instead of world-making – so where is Frank Herbert when you need him?

    ***The sight of a similarly aged heterosexual couple kissing publicly might not be noticed at all or, if registered, would merely signify a largely sanctioned expression of mutual pleasure, affection, love. A gesture at once banal and iconic, the public kiss by members of the opposite sex represents metonymically the shared cultural embrace of heteronormative values and behavior. That same kiss between two men, however, constitutes a ‘‘marked’’ and threatening act, a performance instantly understood as contrary to hegemonic assumptions about public behavior, and the public good,
    because it invites certain judgments about the men’s deviant sexual behavior and its imagined encroachments, violations and contagions, judgments that inevitably exceed the mere fact of their having a mutually affirming encounter.[5]***

    ***[5] We recognize that the meaning of a public kiss is far more complex than hetero or homosexual. Change the age, race, physical attractiveness, type of kissing, or number of people involved, and of course the meaning of the kiss changes. Regardless of the combinations of people involved in ‘‘public kissing,’’ however, it functions as a nodal point that illustrates the parameters of heteronormativity.***

    A bit aggressive on their part to acknowledge that complexity exists and outright tell us that a human part of this particular picture simply isn’t worthy of consideration in formualtion of THEIR theory.

    In a country where five-year-olds can get booted from school for hand holding on the playground, I tend to think that the issue of PDA being appropriate or normal at all- regardless of orientation – in terms of open sexuality and declaration of ownership (only two problematic scenarios of several) still trumps or even confuses this one.

    • Mary C. says :

      “In a country where five-year-olds can get booted from school for hand holding on the playground, I tend to think that the issue of PDA being appropriate or normal at all- regardless of orientation – in terms of open sexuality and declaration of ownership (only two problematic scenarios of several) still trumps or even confuses this one.”

      I hadn’t even thought of that angle, Lorri. Thanks! There are so many ways to interpret public kissing, like you said, open sexuality and declaration of ownership are only two.

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