Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beating about Splitting Hairs

Two of my distinguished colleagues - one also a husband, the other also a friend - have managed to beat me by seconds in the run for posting thoughts on the Atlantic Community. This is the second time today that men, tall men, have topped me. Now I must respond, and I can just as well announce that this post will be feministic in tone. Before I go on, however, I'm beginning to suspect that Stuart, the website editor, may be getting more than he bargained for when he asked the former (me) and current (Steen and Bent) musketeers at Aalborg U to contribute to the blog. Before I go on - here comes the second however - it should be mentioned that both Steen, the friend, and Bent, the husband, are feminists. This means that I'll use their examples of beating women instrumentally. Steen, we've almost lost to Tromso (I leave out the diacritics), but he has changed his mind in the last minute and accepted a position at Aalborg U. I hereby congratulate him for coming up in the world. This means that he will get to beat about in Bent's company, and as Bent has just announced, there'll be a chance to revisit the whole concept of 'beat' breathlessly and beatifically. While they won’t miss a beat where their teaching and researching is concerned, I am bound, for now, to feel off beat, as academic life at Roskilde U runs its course as it always has, with men at the wheel and women tagging along, if they ever get noticed. Which they do, drum-wise. Today I’ve been told that upon someone’s objection to the lack of women working in the international basic studies programs, the response was this: yes, but the two working there are very feminine. Being one of them, something struck me: what does that mean?

I’m preparing for my first session of my own course: ‘I’ is another: autobiography across genres, and as I look through video material on the internet for my introductory lecture, I come across the new Bob Dylan film I’m not There. I’ve missed its running in Denmark, so I have to settle with watching some trailers.

I find myself humming to the lines ‘how does it feel’ from Dylan’s well-known tune Like a Rolling Stone. What attracts me to Dylan is that he knows how to die: rolling in the uber cosmopolitan haystack. The hair says it all; whether it’s Cate Blanchet’s hair as Dylan’s, Richard Gere’s as Dylan’s, or the up-and-coming, yet now gone already, Heath Ledger’s hair as Dylan’s, it’s all the same to me. The reason why Dylan became an icon is because he always managed to be another, and these ‘others’ that play him now, are thus the others of others. I suspect that this is what the title of the movie hints at. I try to take notice as a woman, and I ponder a line that another feminist and academic man has served me today, toppling me over: “it is only mediocrity that saves one from celebrity”. It occurs to me that I’m surrounded by feminist males who see me not only because I dye my hair for them, but also because I make an effort not to be there where the feminine, in other men’s schemes, only serves to celebrate the arrogance of presence. On the other hand, it also occurs to me that my dylanesque/rimbaudian/other absence was felt in the remarks of the students I try to teach something about the importance of the visual in American studies. Last semester some female students said that my looks are smashing. Some males said that my sense of style beats everything. Beats me why. In my own off-beatness, I must be beat.