Musings on Heels 2: Ambiguity, transgression and representation

I use the term feminist to describe my comics with caution. Not because I am concerned about the negative stereotypes associated with feminism. It is because I am more concerned with representing reality than with supporting any given ideology.

Claiming to represent reality is of course, a bit of a contentious project, so allow me to be clear: I’m not here to open up a debate about defining reality and I don’t privilege the reality of the material world over the non-material world. In representing reality, my intention is to capture its ambiguity. I use that term precisely, and not to mean vague or nebulous. When I say reality is ambiguous, I mean that it is multidirectional. It wanders. It’s fluid. It can move in opposite directions simultaneously. It eludes your grasp…

hermesFeminists who like to look down on stiletto wearing women as brainwashed daughters of the patriarchy and feminists who unthinkingly don their heels and claim “well, it’s sexually empowering for ME” like a knee jerk response both disappoint me. The same goes for all other women’s issues that seem to get feminists at each other’s throats. It is often unnecessarily divisive in the process, tends to reinforce patriarchal categories and further contributes to the patriarchal project of scrutinizing and policing women.

Not that all feminists are so partisan. But it’s a human tendency to ignore contradictions and nuances and fluidity when it comes to representing and discussing complex issues. To draw a line in the sand instead and then try to shove everyone to one side or the other. But this is rarely a wise way to deal. Because that’s not dealing with reality. That’s dealing with a pretend world in your mind in which you’re reducing reality to fit your simplified, inaccurate representations of reality.

The space I have always tried to occupy is the real world. All my life, I’ve instinctively sought my freedom in the ambiguity of reality rather than choose to break myself against the ever-shifting stone walls of power structures. To be a transgressive agent who slips in and out of the boundaries of privilege undetected, who is confident in navigating wherever she happens to find herself, who sees all the loopholes and exits and hiding places and structural weaknesses in power systems because she’s covered the most ground.

I want to go everywhere I’m not supposed to go and I’ve often gotten away with it because no one ever suspects the harmless little Asian chick. The transgressive agent knows how to use her weaknesses as weapons and how to turn others’ privileges into liabilities. The transgressive agent views boundaries in the topography of power as challenges rather than constraints. She is homeless, yes, but she is also at home wherever she so happens to land. Oh, and maybe she’s been wearing stilettos the whole time…

So this where I want all my stories to exist, be it stories I read or stories I create. I prefer transgressive, contradictory, hard to pin down characters. Narratives that are neither here nor there, but are real and always one step ahead of you… One can never be perfectly transgressive. There are so many things that create friction in one’s transgressive mobility, least of all the frictions one creates in one’s own mind. But one day, I hope that I can look at what I’ve written and drawn and see that it’s eluded everyone, including myself…

You can read part one here. It’s only vaguely related to this post but is also about power.