Capitalist chases: Affect and the emotional femme in the academy | By Brent Saccucci

I’m not like most students,

That, I can hear.

I’m not a fighter of many sorts my

Melancholia dear.

I have desires

But don’t worry, I’ve woven them in through more critical wires.

 

What? What is he saying?

Doesn’t he know

Not to show

Feelings, his body, his inner most tears

His anger, his madness, and his deep-rooted fears?

 

Well, guess what

I’m the one up here on the stage

And I’m the only one who can gauge

What’s academic enough for my femme body to speak

I’m perfect enough, for years you’ve called me too weak!

 

Intersectional feminism – now that’s the right word

I’m trying to speak but I shouldn’t be heard

Because my body is haunted with history, that I do know

I am my own patient; it’s peace and patience that’ll allow me to grow.

 

Trying this hard is a bit of a joke

Every time I get up to speak, I stop, and I choke.

Am I saying the right thing? Am I standing the right way? How does a man speak? I don’t know what to say…

I’ll change my identity to something that can be cited – maybe that way I’ll finally be seen.

 

And maybe with more references I can cover our screams

We think we’re stitching up oppressive seams

When really we’re tearing them skillfully

Behind the scenes.

 

Up in the tower, in a lie of a safer space, I lay here belonging, feeling erased.

But maybe for now I can lay here,

In a sense of grey – write and erase.

Hoping for answers to my capitalist chase.

To chase the capitalist is to chase myself. I am an activist, an artist and a wannabe academic. Parts of me are chasing other parts, and to this end, it makes my existence paradoxical and quite tiring. The thing is, by stating that I am a wannabe academic, I have stated that I am chasing capitalism. The academy (a snobby-synonym for university) is continually becoming more privatized by corporations. Our research centers are sponsored by banks, our lecture halls and wellness initiatives are corporatized, and our student services are bombarded by company logos.

It’s as though the public university is no longer public, but rather, private. Why do I start with an account of the privatization of the academy? Think about corporate life. Think about who exists in corporations of power. It is often men and masculinity that run these corporations. Now, with these corporations running the academy, it’s almost as if masculinity is running the academy, or more newly, corporate masculinity is running the academy. You may think that this has little to no effect, but it does. See, for years now, my goal has been to get my hands on a PhD. I thought that in my area – education and gender studies – I would be able to show my true self, and wouldn’t have to compromise my Personal* for my academic, since my interests were so interrelated.

*Note, that I distinguish capital “P” personal from lower case “p” to argue that Personal is the ‘true self’, and personal is the state of self that is deemed acceptable to express.

A large part of the privatization of the academy included certain disciplines being favoured over others. Sciences, technology, business – all sectors that make a lot of money, in order to donate back a lot of money – started dominating the public university. Notice what these STEM disciplines have in common? They are largely dominated by men. What effect would this have on the university – possibly greater influence of patriarchal values? As we know, ever-present masculinity can often equate to the secrecy of femininity. But for a femme like myself, it meant going back under the desk (and for some back into the closet). I was starting to hide my emotions, as emotions are deemed feminine and I wasn’t sure if this was the place for femininity. I want creative work to be published – too feminine? I want to show my Personal – too close to home? I believe my body is a scholar like my mind, but – too inappropriate?

As emotions are the central force of the Personal, and to my belief I could not show emotion (as it was too feminine), the academy became a space for me to only express the lower case “p” personal – the kind that is nice, somewhat in solitude, easily citable, and only lightly/politely engaged in critical reflection, without messing up the system too much. Humanities and fine arts pride themselves in allowing the personal into their scholastic spaces. I couldn’t wear lipstick, heels, cry, kiss, or laugh too loud in the academy for fear of not looking professional enough. But what did professionalism mean in the academy? I think we both know – professional meant masculine. The more masculine I looked, the easier it would be to survive. Wake-up, academic survival.

Some days, overwhelmed with research, writing, work and grant applications, I would start to cry. But it was time to wipe my tears. I was scared to speak my mind – even now I’m afraid to say all that I want to in fear of looking unprofessional. What if an academic sees me being emotional? I could lose the academic currency I’ve taken so long performing for.

Is there space in the academy for the emotional femme? I don’t know. I’m looking hard, even in closets. There must be a place that has alleviated the social codes of professionalism enough for tears to drip down onto the Works Cited pages. For fear of being sent away for being crazy, the emotional femme hides in solitude with their feelings, hoping an infrequent friendly colleague might ask “how are you” from the heart.

I’m chasing myself. I have allowed the masculinity from corporations to not only infect the social and political arenas I escaped from originally, but the academy itself. I’m sorry. That’s why parts of myself are at battle. That is why I cry on the way home from the university. Not at the university, because once I leave the academy I can become Personal again. The divide of my selfhood is difficult though, because my scholarship is so deeply rooted in my Personal, but the two are not allowed to touch for fear of public indecency. This is difficult, because the scholar loves, dances, cries, and dies just like everyone else.

Am I destined never to have a dialogue with somebody that’s not about practicum placements, syllabi, and departmental drama?

~Kate Klein, “On Learning How NOT to Be An Asshole Academic Feminist” in [the glorious] “Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism”

Like Kate, I wonder each day if I hold the capacity to put my heart in front of my mind ever again, or if my capitalist chases have left my heart too far behind and academic goals too far in the future to reach. I wonder if my femininity will find a home in the place I thought was my only home, or if my emotions will ever find solace between citations, or if they will just be discarded in the landfill of things-too-feminine (conveniently located right off-campus).

Then again, I might just be too emotional about the whole thing.

 

Illustration courtesy of Wanderer Online Design Editor Janelle Holod

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