6.3 Becoming Woman

6.3_Becoming_woman_Angela Clarke

In this project, I have attempted to hold issues of gender at bay so that I could consider the most general and abstract conditions of corporeality and creativity. However, as Grosz points out, there is not a neutral body, “there are only bodies – male or female, black, brown, white, large, small and the gradations between them” (1994, p. 19). That said, Grosz in her later work suggests that it might be useful for some researchers to reflect on the most general and abstract conditions of corporeality and the “forces that weigh on our bodies and their products” so that we might reformulate “questions of subjectivity, inter-subjectivity and identity” (2005, p.114). On the whole, I have been able to take up this challenge and hold gender at bay. However, I was not able to completely distance myself from the fact that I am gendered female. In spite of my attempts to distance gender, there were some creative works that emerged that specifically referenced gender.

For example, the song This Bloody Woman Body emerged in response to the resonances I felt with the feminist work of Elizabeth Grosz and Luce Irigaray. Whilst this song is about the experience of difference that manifests through gender, it also explores general conditions of corporeality by taking account of the one thing that unites all humans: we all come from the body of another. As Irigaray says:

As we move farther away from our condition as living beings, we tend to forget the most indispensable element in life: air … To forget being is to forget the air, this first fluid given us gratis and free of interest in the mother’s blood, given us again when we are born, like a natural profusion that raises a cry of pain: the pain of a being who comes into the world and is abandoned, forced henceforth to live without the immediate assistance of another body. (1984, p. 127)

The lyrics acknowledge that, although we all come from the body of another, the body from which we are born is only ever female. The language used in this song focuses on the visceral nature of the female lived experience of birthing and child rearing. The lyrics draw directly from metaphors used by feminist writers. For example, the line “four fertile lips” references Irigaray’s reflection on how the female body morphologically has two mouths and two pairs of lips:

The mouth lips and the genital lips do not point in the same direction. In some way they point in the direction opposite from expectations with “lower” forming the vertical…two sets of lips that, moreover, cross over each other like the arms of the cross, the prototype of the crossroads between. (1977, p. 18)

In her early work, Grosz aims to find a way for women to “develop autonomous modes of self-understanding and positions from which to challenge male knowledges and paradigms” (1994, p. 19). She recognises that “knowledges, like all other forms of social production, are at least partially effects of the sexualised positioning of their producers and users; knowledges must themselves be acknowledged as sexually determinate, limited, finite (p. 20).

For Irigaray, the feminist project is to provide an autonomous notion of female subjectivity, sexuality, and corporeality, but in a way that it is not “expected to speak the same language as man’s” (1977, p. 25). However, for Irigarary, this autonomous voice is not expected to enact a complete reversal of the current paradigms; supplant the autonomous voice of men. The task according to Irigaray is to “go on living and creating worlds” but recognising that this can only be accomplished “through the combined efforts of the two halves of the world: the masculine and the feminine” (1984, 127).

In my performance, life, manifested in feminine form, becomes autonomous through song. This song is about life embodied female. As one audience member notes:

Audience Reflection, April 16, 2016

The birth and growth of the singer and song was a suitable framing of the exploration. The culmination of the journey in “This Bloody Woman Body” was an appropriate ending of the time we spent with you. The time of adulthood and what still lies ahead. ‘Where do we go from here? How will I/we create?’

The lyrics are as follows:


This Bloody Woman Body


This, this bloody woman body

Arise, arises from the earth

This, this bloody woman body

Incubates our mirth


This, this bloody woman body

Is not neutral is not one

This, this bloody woman body

Gives birth to not just sons


Four fertile lips, Consume and bear fruit

Two working hands, refuse the soldier salute


This, this bloody woman body

Subterranean and fecund

This, this bloody woman body

Knows there’s more of her to come


Up to elbows in shit, vomit, blood, tears, snot,

In every fold of skin, she has not forgot


No more she cries, the stakes are so high

No more, no more, this bloody woman cries


This, this bloody woman body

Heaves a sorrowful sigh

For this, this bloody woman body

No longer stands by


No more she cries, the stakes are so high

No more, no more, this bloody woman sighs


Recognising the sexual difference of bodies at this point in human history, according to Irigaray, helps give voice to what she calls the “right to the ‘for itself’ of the spirit” (1984, p. 117). According to Irigaray, “the female imaginary” has been repressed and woman “accedes to generality through her husband and her child but only at the price of her singularity” (p. 28, p. 117). But what is this female imaginary, this singularity, and how might it be uncovered?

According to Grosz, corporeality can no long be associated with one sex (or race) and the bifurcation of sexed bodies is “an irreducible cultural universal” (1994, p. 160). Social conditions that create an unequal division between the sexes are able to do so because women are often connected more closely to the body than men. This connection is justified because the reproductive, physiological, and endocrinological transformations of women somehow make them “more corporeal and more natural than men” (p. 14); hence this coding of femininity with corporeality frees men to occupy the conceptual order of society. Grosz refuses the divisions between the function of one group freeing another group to create values, morality, and knowledges, for example, women for men, or blacks/slaves/immigrants/indigenous peoples for white people. I hold that the sexed body is of particular relevance for this project because first-person methodologies are being used, and my status as woman therefore has a direct impact upon my research findings.

Despite this assertion, I have attempted to eschew the binary divisions of gender not because they do not exist but because I am seeking a more fundamental framework to account for the lived experience of artistic creativity. I have attempted to enact the torsion between the corporeal and the conceptual in the most general and abstract terms. I have discovered that, at the interface of this torsion, there are indeed general and abstract conditions that act upon human artistic creativity. Artistic creativity, however, manifests in the singular creative outputs of individual artists who, without exception, are gendered. In my case, this singularity is expressed through a song that calls for an end to the subjugation of women and the violence that is enacted upon their children.

The performance (Moving Image 9) is a process of empowerment that, as one audience member affirmed, was a “journey of self-actualisation (that) was not self-indulgent. It ended at a place of humility and quiet empowerment rather than one of self-congratulation” (Audience Reflection, April 16, 2016).


Moving Image 9: Performance Vignette – This Bloody Woman Body


I close this chapter by affirming that engaging with the concept of becoming through my practice has helped me to immerse in the domain of becoming. I have learnt how to prepare and approach performance in a more consciously whole-bodied way. It has also made me more aware of what Grosz calls our “animal preconditions” (2011, p. 132) and how this provides the raw materials for the development of artistic works. It has resulted in creative works that enact the most general and abstract relations between corporeity and artistic endeavour, as well as allowing works that enact the gendered singularity of becoming woman. My research affirms that life, in the domain of becoming, is a fundamentally creative dynamic, and my experience of this dynamic reveals how the fundamental structures of life operate in service of artistic creativity.


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