Say It Like You Mean it

I caught myself this morning, when discussing women’s oppression in the sex-industry with a friend who I already expected was unconvinced, wanting to slip in little phrases that sort of de-neutralize the conversation, that make it safe. The phrase that I think fell the most under my back-space was “for me,” as if to say that this wasn’t really something anyone else should risk but me. Oddly enough, I think that phrase actually shows as much if not more solidarity in their not having to take it seriously as much as I make it safe for them. In effect, I make it safe for me to say, because I don’t really mean it, because it’s “just me” saying it.

I don’t know how many educators employ this kind of reasoning when guiding their students’ writing styles, but I’d like to know. I have had one professor who was a real hard-ass about that kind of stuff, and he would give his explanations somewhat along the same lines of confusing what you mean or if you mean anything at all. It only just recently struck me as having some more important implications for the way we approach matters of philosophy and politics.

In a way this ties back into the blog post I am meaning to write re-visiting Zizek, Lenin, and the Political Act (in response, somewhat, to Foucault is Dead’s conversation at Thinking Girl I mention in the previous entry). This is precisely the subtle, unnnoticable daily act, a Foucauldian micro-practice if you will, that engenders the kind of social conditions that I think Zizek is very paranoid about– and for good reason. For example, Zizek has made the off-hand critique of post-structuralist theorists, like Judith Butler, who make avid use of quotation marks.

So, try this at home, or on the bus, or anywhere you engage people in issues that make you lurch a little inside: when in a disucssion, omit from your rhetoric–“for me,” “as I see it,” etc– anything that diffuses what you’re saying. In other words, say it like you mean it!


2 thoughts on “Say It Like You Mean it

  1. It’s funny you mention this – one of my standard introductory rants for my students, a rant which I was delivering in my classes this week, relates indirectly to this. This may just be a local thing, not sure, but I tend to have to shake students here out of the tendency to think of everyone as possessing opinions that seem to have the properties of billiard balls: they bounce off one another, but never make substantive contact with the “insides” of the views of anyone else.

    So I have students write or speak as though they sort of declare their stance, but don’t expect their stance to interpenetrate, or be able to be interpenetrated by, the stances held by others. In my early stage setting discussions of course mechanics, I tell them that I’m not interested in their opinions 😉 Instead, I want to know their arguments. I don’t want declarations to be about views they “possess”, as if we’re engaging in argumentative show-and-tell – I want to know their best case for why someone else should be compelled to change (or stay the same) in some specific way.

    Sorry for the drive-by comment – which is not directly on target to your point – rushing this morning…

  2. I agree and identify with how you frame the situation. It just struck me this morning as I caught myself the difference in how I felt when I tried to slip in one of those phrases, which would reduce if not eliminate the risk I make in possibly offending my friend, though didn’t. It felt, to put it frankly, great.

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