Monday, February 23, 2009

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy is, by far, my favorite book we've read yet. Connie is a woman who is at the absolute bottom of the social caste in this system's hierarchical structure -- brown, overweight, female, poor, and mentally unstable to boot. However, Connie is considered to be extraordinarily developed by Luciente, the man from 2137 who recruits her to help save the world. In this new, future world, Connie who is ordinarily on the low end of the power scale, finds herself positioned in such a way that she communicates with cops effectively and powerfully. Of course, this would never happen in the New York City of the 70s from whence she comes. In fact, she finds the skills she learned as a welfare recipient and mental patient to be advantageous as she pursues her time traveling mission.

In Mattapoisett Connie comes to appreciate the things about being a woman of color that she has been taught to despise in the "real" world. For instance, she is shocked to learn the role of breastfeeding has been usurped from women and finds a sexless way of accomplishing the same work. Here we can see the workings of womanist epistemology (I don't think the term "feminism" suits what I'm talking about here) when Connie describes the feeling of ancient empowerment that goes along with lactating. It is in this section of the book that Marge Piercy makes a brief, critical observation about Disney characters on plastic diapers, which I think is more interesting proof to consider regarding how largely the brand looms in our imagination when we think of utopic futures.

As noted by Frances Bartowski, whenever the issue of utopia is broached, the author must necessarily consider the family (65). For Connie, this is more than a notion. Her own here and now family is horribly dysfunctional and she can only function negatively and violently in return. In the there and then world of Mattapoisett of 2137, she sees how family issues have largely been resolved, but not without its trade-offs.

Right now there are some interesting bits of datum in the popular field concerning poor women of color or like questionably pure white lineage. As I post this updated blog and explore the issues presented by Piercy -- Barbara Walters is talking about the "Octomom" and Sherry can't stop raving about the "Weave Headed Bullet-Stopping black woman." I'm tempted to capitalize the "b" and the "w" -- like on my drivers license where I am classified as BF. Nevermind the fact that this woman is obviously the victim of an incredible case of domestic violence, which just so happens to be the factor that has been shamefully elided from this entire conversation.

In other words, the media coverage of poor women of color frequently cast them (us?) as the alien other. Even when a women of color seems somewhat normal or relateable, she is viewed as the anomoly -- think Michelle Obama who is pretty and chocolate. Her daughters? More cafe au laite. Thinking futures? How will the Obama girls be cast in the future. I hear rumors of a Hannah Montana appearance. Maybe they can record a new version of "Best of Both Worlds."

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