Man in Box

Man in Box

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dorothy Allison and the illusion of control

About a year ago I wrote this about other & beyond males:
They would work to accept the existential vulnerability of their corporal life in a world of uncertainty. By accepting vulnerability they would give up the illusion of control which drives so much of the will to dominate.

If I should get any credit for contributing a useful idea to the feminist project it may be contained in those two sentences.

It feels to me that there is something very powerful in that construct... ironically its power is in the very letting go of control that dissolves the anxious need to dominate. The power of conventional masculinity to keep us reproducing hurtful patterns and institutions of social relations depends on this illusion of control.

I had the good fortune of hearing Dorothy Allison speak about seven hours ago at the annual fund raising dinner of On the Rise, a truly outstanding organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts that
...supports the initiative and strength of women who are living in crisis or homelessness. In a physically and psychologically safe environment, we build the relationships and provide the tools that each woman needs to rise to her potential.

Dorothy Allison has said this about her writing:
I want my stories to make it possible for people to look again at people they have hated or feared or held in contempt and see vulnerable human individuals much like themselves.

Ms. Allison's speech was amazing; one of the very best I've ever heard, reminiscent in its effect of the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr; delivered in a distinctly different manner, but similar in the way shivers emerge from the gut as one listens transfixed in the act of transformation.

I wish I could transcribe that speech here. It was not recorded and my memory is more of the consistency of pudding than of a steel trap.

In short (way too short; this subject needs a hundred writers to contribute their best!) Ms. Allison loosened my control and led me to a place of relaxed, attentive and shared vulnerability with the women she cared about and for.

And, in the course of the thing, I knew that I wanted (needed!) more than anything to be for those women ... even if that being was only a passing thing like a summer evening or, indeed, our lives.