Woaw. Just woaw. This week’s readings were pretty “triggering” to me in which I have been writing and deleting my comments continuously since last week. Many themes are flying around me, and I am not sure whether my English skills will be enough to catch these ideas and convert into an “understandable” blog post here. Let’s try and see how it goes..
In both articles (Han et al and Hooks), the authors reflect how the “human” side of both populations are constantly denied, by themselves and the dominant culture. In Han article, the gay men are talking like they are the trinkets on the showcase –waiting to be picked up by a “decent” dominant culture representatives, which will prove their decent-ness. In Hooks article, Tina Turner (I am still freezed by the quote) talks like she is an un-real figure who was not affected by the frustration of her very first time of sexual intercourse. Only by reading between the lines the reader can pick up her real feelings. It seems like for both populations, being (and feeling like) a human is prohibited.
First of all, it is so very interesting to see that, although two articles are written by 20 years apart, and on different populations (one is on gay Asian men experiencing racism in gay community, the other on Black women experiencing racism in American society), it seem like, nothing changed, and the mechanism is the same: immense fetishization.
On Lectures on the Philosophy of History, by referring to the religious rituals of the primitive societies, Hegel (–) argues that supernatural powers are attributed to the “fetish” objects, and gradually these fetishes become the “transitional” objects between material world and the other (heavenly, other-world, or non-world-y) one. In his well know article on Fetishism, Freud takes a similar stance, and argues that by the mechanism of “denial (actually, Freud defines it as “disavowal”)”, the fetish “remains a token of triumph over the threat of castration and a protection against it.” That is, the child denies the fact that the mother does not have a penis, and instead, replaces the penis with the fetish (in the case Freud presents, replaces penis with foot).
By both Hegel and Freud, fetish is considered as a “transitional object” between what is frightening (aka the other-world, in Hegel’s conceptualization of primitive societies’ religious rituals, and the mother’s castration in Freud’s conceptualization of foot fetishism) and what is acceptable (aka the [ordinary] world, in Hegel and the [ordinary] reality, in Freud). Both thinkers argue that “power” is attributed to the fetish. I would like to add one more layer to their conceptualization. I believe, by the means of fetishization, we can also say power is “distilled/ singularized/ objectified” to a single object, and thus the free-floating fear, the uncanniness, anxiety-without-a-reason is warded off. Thanks to the mechanism of fetishization in primitive societies, the world becomes more of a safe space.
For instance, if an earthquake or eclipse happens, the primitive society members can assume that earthquake or eclipse happened, “because” they did not do “enough” for the fetish object. Or, as in superstition, bad luck sticks to the person for 7 years “because” s/he broke a mirror. Or, as in astrology, the computers crash, “because” mercury is on retrograde. Or, the man with a women-foot fetish can successfully ejaculate “because” unconsciously he feels safe that the woman is not castrated. All these because’s help to make uncertainty less unbearable.
Similarly, in both articles, the authors clearly state how fetishization functions in the gay community and the society in general, by “turning” the Asian gay men into skinny, or feminine, or pale, or whatever the adjective is, and “turning” the Black women into wild, butt-y, or whatever the adjective is, fetishes. Perceiving “them” as fetishes helps to make the uncertainty less unbearable.
I believe, fetishization is an attempt of normalization of the (un)conscious attempt to normalize the anxiety, fear, or terror of the unknown. An attempt to accept, but a poor, problematic, and ultimately, failing attempt.
Fetishization of the body parts or the bodies of the non-white people is a common practice, and I do not necessarily agree with Hooks that the fetishization is bad-intended, as I am accepting and agreeing that there CERTAINLY IS bad-intended fetishization remarks. Let me explain. For instance, she argues that, the breast-like chocolates are referring to the Black-nanny tradition in slavery period. I certainly can see what she means, as I certainly agree that the perception of men of the (Black) women has a tendency to oscillate between two opposite images: mother and whore. According to Freud, this is the ultimate dilemma of the men’s mind. According to Lacan, the mother-whore mix is the ultimate desire of men’s mind (well, please bear with the heterosexist tone here, they have a point, really). Here is a representation of Lacanian woman:
According to Lacan, the m-other as a “whole” is the scariest thing ever. As she give birth to the baby, she can also end the baby’s life. She is omnipotent and omnipresent for the baby’ and the father, the language, the system, the order functions as a rescuer boat. Lacan describes mother as a mouth-open alligator and the father as a stick between her teeth. I will not go into detail of the annihilation anxiety of the child. Klein goes, as Lacan does.
In this regard, the “Real” woman image is a fatal one, characterized with Eros (life) and Thanatos (death). She is frightened because she is unknown, as the Other in the society is. All the forms of the Other (including Women, LGBTQ+ABCDEFG.., Racial/Ethnic/Cultural.. Minorities, People with disability, People with mental illness,,), that are unknown are tried to be accepted (and understood) by the means of desperate attempts of de-humanization.
It is easier to understand non-humans, especially the objects. It is easier to accept objects too. Especially when they are dispensable, exchangeable, or expandable. Yet, apparently, since the Other (asian gay, black man, turkish woman etc.) can not be “reduced” into an object form that could have all these sense of safety creating qualities, there is a long way to walk, through uncertainty: For the fear, by the fear, and despite the fear.