Posts Tagged ‘identity

02
Jun
08

Identifying with, avatars, pets, lovers

“The partners do not precede their relating; all that is, is the fruit of becoming with: those are the mantras of companion species.”

“I am not posthumanist; I am who I become with companion species, who and which make a mess out of categories in the making of kin and kind. Queer messmates in mortal play, indeed.”

– Donna Haraway, When Species Meet

There seems to be something similar in the experience of avatars, pets and lovers. I see people with beautiful dogs, with beautiful flowing hair, standing with grace, and I would not necessarily give those characteristics to their owners. It makes me think of the many sets of companion photos of people and their avatars. Surely, with avatars, there’s a clear idea of what people want to look like. But in creating my avatar, I find that the constraints are such that it is too hard to model what I would ideally want to look like, or actually, I don’t even think about what I would want to look like, so much as I think of creating an interesting looking avatar. Still, when people see my avatar, I cringe a bit, because I know there’s some assumption that what Azdel Slade looks like “reflects” on the me in RL.

In thinking about this, I think similarly about couples I’ve seen where I think that one person is very beautiful and the other person isn’t. I guess that these aren’t very nice things to say, but I’m being honest here and trying to think about this phenomena of “identifying with”. I guess what I mean to say is that I often see couples where one person is beautiful according to popular western beauty standards, but really, there’s always a difference in how attractive I think one person is to any other person, and rarely with any two people is that attractiveness exactly the same. Ok. Do people base some of their self worth on their lovers? Surely, as someone who considers themselves radically queer and polyamorous and independent, I would on the surface reject such a claim, but I think that in reality, having someone close to you who loves you has some positive effect on your conception of yourself. For queer people there is an added layer of complexity here, because relationships are not based in difference, necessarily. For trans people, like Kate Bornstein, she talks about becoming the person you are attracted to. Not becoming your lover necessarily, but becoming the thing you are attracted to, shaping yourself into what you love. Barbara Hammer says, in her film Tender Fictions, “I is a lesbian couple,” and that’s not a grammar error. [1]

So what does it mean to “identify with” someone or something? What about being “proud dog owner”? Is that being proud of the work you’ve put into taking care of your dog, in a way, “creating” it? Is identifying with your dog related to being proud of it? Do people identify with their pets? I know that when someone says my dog is overweight, I immediately feel a bit defensive.

This seems like a really complicated concept, to identify with. I know that queer people and people who think about gender talk a lot about how they “identify” or how they “self-identify”, describing the notion of a conscious act of choice in their identity construction and presentation. With transgender people, this becomes very important because how they “identify” is often at odds with how they are perceived. But it seems that the act of saying “I identify as…” implies a kind of separation, a reification or an active forming of a self that can be conceptualized as a solid entity. To say “I identify as a woman” creates a relationship, an identity relationship between the I and the category of woman. And isn’t Aristotle’s law of identity that A = A, so that one is saying I = woman. If we are always already multiple, as Deleuze and Guattari claim, then is this multiplicity embodied in the act in which we imagine who we are in order to define ourselves? Thus stepping outside of ourselves for that act of thought, only to solidify who we are?

But to say one identifies with, instead of as, seems to assume a distinct, objective separation that is maintained, not just imagined. As I began, there seems to be something similar in our feelings towards avatars, pets and lovers, because we choose them and they say something about who we are. Of course there is a lot which is different in our relationship to these people and things, they are radically different, but there is some element which seems to be similar.

Donna Haraway argues in When Species Meet that our becomings are inseparable, that we “become with” each other, always, and that to realize this should change our conceptions of ethics and morality in how we deal with the world.

Is “identifying with” a constitutive part of being? Do we ever not “identify with”? If so, are we always “becoming with” someone or something else? Jean-Luc Nancy says in the early pages of Being Singular Plural, “Being cannot be anything else but being-with-one-another, circulating in the with and as the with of this singularly plural coexistence”. [2] Haraway’s challenge to that seems to be to open up this field of who we are being with to interspecies companionship, and possibly, since she authored the Cyborg Manifesto, even to entirely articifial or virtual entities, such as cyborgs, as in the television show Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, or virtual beings such as avatars.

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=TIj12IGUmkYC&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=barbara+hammer+lesbian+couple&source=web&ots=9tfgPmBBJg&sig=P4hbwULfN6AqY2s3S_cy5DYiU9k&hl=en

[2] Nancy, Jean-Luc, Bing Singular Plural, p. 3

http://books.google.com/books?id=1ZzpePFQ_AEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=nancy+being+singular+plural#PPA3,M1




links

Visit the performance space in SL

Blog Stats

  • 34,495 hits