Virginia Woolf in A Room of one’s own cleverly pointed out there is so much written about women by men. But not in a good way. Instead of writing about the feminist ear, I would rather write about the Marxist eye, or the postcolonial tongue or the psychoanalytical nose. The feminist ear however opens up very interesting topics where a male point of view might not be absolutely redundant.
Sarah Ahmed introduced the concept of the feminist ear on her book, Living a Feminist Life. It comes up again on Complaint!. It is a very structured concept with many interesting characteristics. The feminist ear hears those who are not heard, it is attuned to the sharpness of words, it is willing to receive complaints, it is a research method, it is an institutional tactic. The feminist ear is definitely powerful but to me is not clear who gets to wield it. As a man, my question would then be can I use it too? Or rather may I use it?
Is the feminist ear subject to the laws of physics? A complaint is definitely affected by the Doppler effect: a complaint sounds different when it’s coming your way. As a man, this is a real concern.
Before diving into the feminist ear, lets do something more simple. Lets just go inside the ear, any ear. The ear is cavernous, to venture inside would be the beginning of a journey of discovery, self discovery. The ear as a tool for introspection. Volunteers that dare to enter the world’s quietest room, another sort of cavern, report being able to listen to the inner workings of their digestive tract in full detail before asking to be removed from the room immediately for fear of losing their mind.
There’s two ears, not unlike the marxist eye(s). People are normally born with two ears and one mouth. My mother would often say one must try to listen at least double the amount one speaks. But the two ears follow a purpose, to be able to listen all around you. Surround sound. To be immersed in sound is to be able to create (or recreate) a sort of architecture of resonance.
(To be continued)