This piece is a continuation of gender and brilliance and others pieces I’ve written on gender. (See untitled 1 and untitled 2).
The tone here is definitely different from the tone of my other piece, and frankly I prefer the tone of my other piece, which is the doing of femaleness in an argument, a pretty anti-hegemonic move. But this piece reflects the way my thoughts played out, just as gender and brilliance reflects the way my thoughts played out at that time. You might suggest that I rework this piece to better fit my idea of an appropriate tone, and I would say “Good suggestion.” However, the issue here is one I’ve belabored–once the thoughts are out it can be hard for me to reconnect with the “truth” I initially felt-saw. So reworking might in some ways be diluting or confusing the original ideas. Treat this piece, if you would, as a koan, though it sounds perhaps more didactic than gender and brilliance. It is still meant to be felt rather than taken strictly as “theory.”
And one clarification: When I talk about “female thinking,” I am not talking about something inherent to or possessed by women, but the phenomenon of a certain brand of femininity, “femaleness,” something any body can experience in a sustained way or minutely.
Like gender and brilliance, this pieces discusses the loss of “female genius” as it is depicted in the wonderful fucking diagram from Steven Pinker’s class. As you can see, women are clustered around “mediocrity.”
Why discuss this subject? For me it’s about helping myself and others find self-esteem and a sense of appreciation for the beauty of their own minds in a world that would have them feel pathetic, weak, dull.
I define “brilliance” here as the ability to make a highly skilled decision in a particular situation given the entire incomprehensibly complicated context surrounding. When people are compared to each other there can be such a thing as “absolute brilliance”…something that competitions aim to get at. But competitions cannot get at absolute brilliance per se because they are based on the visible.
The invisible has to do partially with heart. This is what I mean in gender and brilliance when I say that “the heart of female thinking is existing for another.”
A genius who tends to think in a “female” way possesses not only a skilled mind, but a skilled heart, by definition. To me, “heart” is the desire to do good for others, and a “heart” is the means by which one attempts to do good. Wanting in this case is intellectual, so desire and the acting out of that desire both take up mental processing power.
“Heart” is mandated by society for women. It is not a desire that is necessarily natural for or wanted by a particular person.
When one has internalized that it is imperative to do good for others, that imperative will always take precedence over another task at hand. All tasks are subservient to it. So art and happiness of the self are good insofar as they contribute to or do not interfere with the happiness of others.
In an artistic endeavor, a “female”-thinking genius cannot help but engage the project with their full knowledge–which includes the knowledge of the heart. While this may not be happening consciously, it is a mechanism that is rather hard to turn off. The knowledge of the heart is the mass of perspectives that person has collected in their search to do good. The more oppressed by society the person is, the more perspectives they are like to take into consideration. (Anyone can come to the conclusion that all perspectives must be taken into consideration. It is just probably more immediate to the more oppressed person.) When engaging the project, the thinker will somewhere be aware of the fact that the project is either actively promoting or not inhibiting happiness for others. If this changes, the project either changes or terminates. As the thinker is familiar with so many perspectives, the project has to be compelling to them in the realms of each perspective–not just the hegemonic. This takes up more processing space and can also yield projects that are unwieldy. On all levels, the thinker is in no way allowed to simply “focus” on the task at hand. The task at hand is all tasks, albeit perhaps semi-consciously.
How does this relate to invisibility?
In part, as I explore in gender and brilliance, the unwieldiness of the piece itself may expose the piece to, as I say elsewhere, “stupidly easy yet fatal critique.”
Yet there is something else at work.
There exists a conception of the artistic process in which beginning a work is considered the hardest part. One has to overcome inertia in the beginning, “writer’s block,” etc.
From one perspective, this paradigm isn’t entirely illusory. The beginning is “hardest” because it is the stage that can try one’s memory and thus one’s physical capacity to create. Mental cloudiness can become overwhelming. “Frustration” comes in when a great deal of struggle has taken place…fighting with memory…and there has been what seems like disproportionately little output.
Inertia, the thing that prevents one from wanting to start creating (or creating again), comes from a desire to avoid frustration.
Frustration can be amplified in the kind of thinker I discuss because it is not skill that is failing in the beginning but memory. And much of the brilliance of their thought process in the beginning becomes lost because memory cannot contain all of the moves made by that mind.
The project either ends or moves forward with information lost.
It can be profoundly saddening when all one’s endeavors are literally invisible (to others and/or oneself). And I mean the word “invisible” in a sense that covers varying degrees of invisibility…ideas can be invisible such that one cannot even reconnect with what has been lost, like waking up depressed after a dream in which a loved one has died and being unable to recall the dream itself. Or one creates work that is unworthy when compared to the brilliance of one’s thoughts.
The perpetual failing of memory is probably not often recognized as such. It may be recognized as mental dullness, slowness, simplicity, cloudiness…which can lead one to feel a sense of disparity or lack of self-esteem.
Furthermore, some people might be especially discouraged from entering again into a state of exertion. And exertion can be a source of happiness. It is where selves come from…all visible trappings of brilliance (like rich conversations, paychecks, good sex, sustainable relationships, environments made comfortable etc.) all come from.
Happiness itself comes in part from these externalizations of brilliance.
The construction called “the world as we know it” rests on the reign of the paradigm of “maleness”…which I discuss at length in gender and brilliance. I hypothesize that patriarchy, aka the mental and physical oppression of women, is in place not only because this phenomenon I call “female genius” can often be invisible to those thinkers whom I’ve described and to others, but because many of those thinkers encounter the cycle of frustration I’ve described, one that applies not only to the so-called “artistic process,” but to the process of self-creation. (These processes are not distinct). Wrestling with memory and wrestling with the artistic process itself both have a hand, I would say, in the loss of female genius.
Maleness is important because maleness *is* the artistic process. It is the way, I think at least, by which any analysis (or analysis as we understand the word) is arrived at.
I think that in a more egalitarian society, there would be more of a focus on respecting others’ unique and invisible brilliance. It would, in fact, be taken for granted.
While I have referred to “absolute brilliance” above, anyone who puts forth effort is “brilliant” in a way. A person’s “most skilled decision in a moment” can be based on their skill level. Learning cannot happen all at once by definition. So even seemingly inelegant thoughts can be “brilliant.” A choice is only brilliant within a context.
So in this world I’m imagining, life would be like my painting class, wherein we are all putting forth effort, and wherein the instructor talks about others’ work with a sense of deep respect for the minds behind the work, minds that he cannot necessarily see. He says to me, “If this were my painting I would…” instead of assuming that I’ve made unskilled choices. He offers advice, but not from a place of superiority. He shows us great works, but does so as an offering of information to peers. He does not replicate the lust for greatness extant in our society, but encourages us in our processes, which are not necessarily visible.