Let me share the introduction to the concluding part of the book to celebrate its arrival. Closing the door can be a survival strategy. She closes the door to the institution by withdrawing herself, her commitments, from it. She still does her work; she still teaches her students. She uses the door to shut out what she can, who she can.
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Whether or not a complaint gets uptake can depend on the extent to which the environment of the institution in which the complaint is made is made part of the problem. When you make the environment part of the problem, your complaint becomes more of a problem. I have no doubt that the affective reality of our times is in the book, how could it not be? To write in some situations we need to let them in.
In my conclusion to the book, I suggest that “complaint offers a fresh lens, which is also an old and weathered lens, on collectivity itself.” I just want to say a little more about what I mean by that. I talk in the book about the queer temporality of complaint, we are going back over something because it is not over, we are trying to deal with something because it has not been dealt with. To complain is to be willing to look afresh at something with which we are already familiar, too familiar even, something we have had to endure. You might have to keep complaining because they keep booking inaccessible rooms. You have to keep saying it because they keep doing it. But if you keep saying it, you become an institutional killjoy, getting in the way, standing out, becoming the problem, all over again.
In this post, I want to go a little further along that line by considering the figure of the complainer as carceral feminist. In my conclusion, I will turn to the important new book Abolition. Vela Magazine publishes nonfiction by women writers. They accept reported stories with a literary component, and personal essays that reach a larger issue.
Earlier I shared a picture of what a complaint looks like. That sign would be non-performative, if the post-box was still in use because the birds would be dislodged by the letters, a nest destroyed before it could be created. All those questions, what are you, where are you from, instructions, tone it down, they function as letters in the box, piling up until there is no room left, no room to breathe, to nest, to be. If diversity is that sign, diversity obscures the hostility of an environment.
I was so touched to hear and read responses from participants in the research, for the tenderness of your testimonies. I am glad of how if we hand our stories to each other, they can come back to us. A project is thus to show the norm, make it appear. Man is operating as the norm when you say a woman bus driver but not a man bus-driver.
In reflecting back on her life-saving book Feminism is For Everybody, bell hooks tells us how her commitment to feminism grew over a lifetime. The preface to the second edition begins, “Engaged with feminist theory and practice for more than forty years, I am proud to testify that each year of my life my commitment to feminist movement, to challenging and changing patriarchy has become more intense” . I like how you didn’t write “the feminist movement,” but “feminist movement.” Without the “the,” we can hear the movement. I think of the encouragement you give us in sharing this testimony. You teach me that we can find a way through the violence of this world by sustaining our commitment to changing it.