Monday, 22 March 2010

Crying Wolf

As usual, I am wasting my day off by wandering around on the internet. Sometimes that feels like the worst way to waste time because it is so unfocused, but in the moment, I am always interested by things I come across.

Here's an article I've read this morning. It's from the New York Magazine a couple of years ago, and it's written by Naomi Wolf about Harold Bloom, who was a lecturer at Yale while she was a student there. She uses an odd phrase, 'sexual encroachment', to describe an incident from over 20 years earlier in which he put his hand on her leg. Reading the article, there certainly were many cases of sexual harassment of others that she came across in her research, but her own situation entirely failed to elicit my sympathy. She described a meal at her house with him which ended with his hand reaching out to rest on her inner thigh. She got up and vomited and he left, with no other interaction between the two of them ever occurring.

I wanted to feel sympathy for her as a woman, but I just think that she's making matters worse. She details the ways in which she has, over a couple of years preceding the writing of the article, tried to somehow get Yale to acknowledge that they were accountable for the action.

I can't bear the way that she portrays herself as someone betrayed by the university that somehow should have protected her. She is making a passive victim of herself by blaming a grand educational entity for putting her in the proximity of Harold Bloom. She was the one who agreed the have him over for a candle-lit dinner at her house, and though it wasn't exactly gentlemanly for him to reach over to touch her leg, he didn't pursue anything when she made it clear that the romantic-looking dinner was not what he thought.

I certainly don't think that it's right for men to push themselves on women, but I don't believe that the university had anything to do with it when Bloom 'sexually encroached' upon Wolf.

I think that a number of the other people mentioned in the article are far more worthy of coverage than Wolf's fear of some big bad man touching her leg. Unfortunately, the actual tales of people being harassed and even raped by their professors were relegated to anecdotes that were somehow intended to bolster Wolf's claim that the university should have fired Bloom for touching her leg.

Women can be powerful and strong, but they cannot do that if they run to others all the time to blame them for not being controlling enough. I actually think that it's fine for students and professors to be close and have relationships if they should choose to do so. But a student would be a fool to not expect that to have an effect on their reputation in the academic circle they hope to run in. You make your own choices, that is all part of sexual empowerment. It does nobody any good if a woman runs to some daddy-figure as soon as a man shows interest in her.

Well, winter's gonna end, I'm gonna clean these veins again

I am almost, but not quite, ready to return to this.

I thought earlier that I was finally back in a place where I could come to the page brimming with ideas - it's that feeling of running to find a pen before you forget the thing in your head and it's replaced by something else that's wonderful. I had a fleeting glimpse of that sensation earlier, and it's coming on the heels of a few days of feeling sociable and alive, but it didn't stay. I can't get any good feelings to stick around these days. Everything gets quickly swallowed up by worrying about what I'm doing with my life.

I watched An Education after the feeling had gone away. I borrowed it from work, and hadn't known too much about it, just watched it on a recommendation. But it turned out to be the best of films and the worst of films for me. There's a section when she's talking about how everything in this country is so flat and lost in its own dull self, and it's just how I feel. It is all too easy to get lost within this society, and to start to believe that jobs and marriages and families and money are all that matter....I really thought that everybody was just going along with this model because it was for the best and after a while it would start to feel good - a little like learning anything, it's hard to begin with but in the end it's worth it. But suddenly I realised that I was the only one faking it, and I just wanted to cry because I realised that I've been the only person holding me down. I have just been too foolish until now to understand that everybody is doing all of those things because that's what they want to do, and if they don't make me happy I should just go off and do any other thing in the world.

In An Education, that whole idea is ruined a little because the girl seems to only have the choice between a man and an education. There's no other way for her to be happy it seems....Everything is so diametric in this society, everything is always portrayed as a matter of one path or another - forks in the road like babies, marriage, university etc are made out to be a one or the other thing, and it's been making me sick to wander around in the wilderness without even a path in sight.

Well, no more. I'm just going to choose to do the things that I want to do and not fret about whether they're the right steps along some imaginary path or not.

Linked to the idea of getting back into this blog is getting back into writing in general. I was on the train today, going along the beautiful Hope Valley line in the sun, and thinking about writing and how it makes things more real to me.....maybe not real, but significant. When you look at something, you're viewing the whole of it, and appreciating it based on how you feel at the time. I think that a closer examination maybe comes with taking a photograph. When I take a picture, I spend time thinking about the composition of a scene and how all the parts of it fit together. But writing is the closest of all - you make the thing again for yourself, and to do that you must know it through and through. There are these trees in that area which are rust coloured all along one side of their trunks, and it is only when I really try and describe that in words that I come to fully appreciate the beauty of it. I am inside each speck of colour and shaft of light that makes up the image of the rusted tree, and I notice all of the shades of the scene because I need to find the exact right words to describe them. The wrong words ruin a description, whereas looking at something lazily doesn't ruin anything because you don't even notice you're doing it.

I don't have this all clear in my head yet, but that is the essence of what I was thinking today about writing. And obviously, I've only described my thoughts from the point of physical descriptions, but that's only because my thoughts sprang from looking at these pretty, rusted trees.

I can only hope that things are clearer soon...though there seem to be so very many things to get clear and never enough time to think enough about them.