Right before I fell asleep I spoke out loud “would you accept the idea of gender as an identification rather than an identity?” I’m not sure why. I’m going to think out loud working through that thought as a question with no known answer.
What is the difference between identification and identity? How does gender complicate that question? People seem to complain about identity politics a lot. I’m not sure why that is other than white men get uptight when you make them pay attention to individuals who aren’t white men. I think there is a difference between saying identity politics is bad and identity is a bad concept. Identity politics is what every single person on the planet should aspire to—a politics based on the idea that everyone has a different identity, that everyone is different. That’s what I think identity politics might mean. But I loathe identity as a concept. Too often identity feels like another way of saying subjectivity and both those concepts are bound up in a really whack history rife with phallologocentric assumptions and like, fuck that. Moreover, if you care about difference, about the possibility for a just relationship with others based on an ethic of difference, then the idea of IDENTITY or SUBJECTIVITY being an essence, a stable representation, an image, or any other normalizing and totalizing concept as the centrality of one’s being means that difference is already erased, effaced, and eliminated. Put another way, the moment when I say this is what I think the world is and what is right and wrong and what is normal and abnormal is the moment where difference is erased. No matter what your Intro to Philosophy professor told you when you were a freshman, no matter what your loved ones told you when you were growing up, no one person is the center of the universe. You are not the norm. You are not ideal. You are not the origin.
So I always flinch when people think or behave in ways that reinforce identity or subjectivity as anything other than “what I do next” as Grosz might say. Subjectivity is what I do next. Identity is what I perform next? Then identification becomes really unique and important because what I choose to perform next emerges out of a moment of identification and affinity rather than certainty and alienation. Excess versus lack. How does this relate to gender and performance? I don’t know but it feels like Butler is misread, like, a lot. Performances are not discrete or maybe isolated is a better word. Performances are framed. Frames are a way of marking difference. Frames emerge and recede, performances happen and then don’t, but the movement driving those processes keeps going. Performativity is not a characteristic, things don’t have performativity. Performativity is a force. It is movement. Performativity is iterabilit—the ability to emerge and re-emerge over and over. Doesn’t the idea that Butler says gender is performative confirm that identity is unstable? A performance is not a one to one replication of what is performed. A performance is a representation and an incomplete one at that. Performativity is what allows one to perform an action one day and get up the next day and perform it again, differently. Performativity is the river and performance is the rings coming off my foot when I wade into the water. Difference is the force directing the river. Gravity maybe? Not sure if I like that. Downstream with no destination is better.
So like, there is no authentic you. You are not your parts. You are not your ideas. You have parts and you have ideas but those things never coalesce into any kind of essence. The more I think about it the more I like Irigaray and Grosz’s stuff on sexual difference and the “at least two sexes” which is really really hard to not freak out about. I like it because it doesn’t deny the fact that everyone has a body that has stuff on and in it. And that when they say AT LEAST TWO that means that in any relation there is at least two sexes making up that relation. And that those two sexes are necessarily and wholly different from one another. They exceed one another. Our job is not to assume anything about an other’s body because it will absolutely be different than our own. Those two sexes are not necessarily MALE and FEMALE. That’s like, our ideas about what two sexes means. That’s on us. That’s a habit of thought. Life is the process of establishing habits, experiencing different shit, and learning new habits. Over and over again. Difference is the force that powers that process. So what about identification and identity? Man I don’t know, I think that’s what I’ve been riffing on. Identification as another way of describing the emergence of the actual from the virtual? Identification as another way of describing the moment that water shifts from a liquid to a gas? Identification as the feeling of the river rush over your toes? I just know that I like it better than identity because of everything that gets assumed when that word is spoken out loud, right before bed.