What is Beauty, Beautiful and Invention of Beauty
It is often thought and/or imagined that lesbian and/or bisexual women do not care about beauty and beautiful things. If you actually search through databases on number of well-known lesbian interior, fashion, jewellery and graphic designers or architects compared to for instance gay men you would be surprised how few there are. I can also confirm this from my younger (from high school to postgraduate study) experiences with fashion, jewellery and graphic female designers as well as dancers and architects. I met many gays and almost no lesbians. Actually to be honest I met only one bisexual dancer when I attended modern dance classes (who at one point became my lover for a brief time. My ex-long term girlfriend is an architect; my used to be best friend from childhood until she went to study and work abroad is a world-known jewellery designer; both of them are very beautiful women themselves).
And as I like design, photography, fashion and dance and I also like everything that is beautifully written my search to find my own style of writing and my aim for scientific and philosophically writing style actually came from learning about fashion and design style. I also wrote about the history of fashion and philosophy of fashion and design and gave a few lectures to high school and university students on the aforementioned topics. My favorite fashion designers are Jil Sander and Issey Miyake. Miyake for his inventiveness in the area of new textile materials in combination with dance and appreciation for the freedom of body. Unlike Western fashion designers Miyake has allowed the cloth and body to be and move according to their natural feature forms (neither body nor cloth are 'forced' on to each other, they move freely and adapt to each other softly and smoothly). Contrary to Miyake, Jil Sander has been everything that is Western: precise and clean cut, body and cloth should adapt to each other perfectly (almost 'forcing' one another to fit), where Miyake shows abundance and inventiveness, Sander shows moderation and modern classic. In design I like most Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Phillipe Starck and to add Jean-Louis Denoit and Marcel Wanders. Wright for his wonderful combination with the natural elements, Bruer for his Wassily chair and sofa, Denoit for his combination with applying history in design, Wanders for his abundance in creativity and inventiveness and Starck's design again for combination with sustainability. Of course, no one could pass Le Corbusier and although he was highly revolutionary in his designs and architecture, for instance everything in connection with cubus's, from chairs to rooms and buildings, he never was cup of my tee. While speaking of Le Corbusier, architects I like are Peter Zumthor, Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron, Luis Barragán and Toyo Ito. Zumthor for his conceptual thinking and sustainability, Herzog und de Meuron for aesthetics and social urban planning, Barragán for playing with colours, structure (plane surfuces), transparency and shadows and Ito for his grand design of transparency, conceptual thinking and honoring sensei, again like Miyake freely and smoothly allowing different aspects of (social) life to be intertwined. In dance I admire most Martha Graham and Merce Cunninghem, first for her inventiveness and flexibility in body movements and second for his precise and almost rigid movements.
However when I tried to find beautifully written philosophical or scientific work as role model(s) I was again astonished how few world famous contemporary scholars paid little attention to their writing style. I found for instance, Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, Georg Duby's The Knight, The Lady and The Priest and Women of the Twelfth Century, Jacques Le Goff's Medieval Civilization 400-1500, Todorov Tzvetan's Frail Happiness: An Essay of Rousseau as a very few academic work written with such passion, creativity, accessibility and rigorous precision that their work is read almost as 'poetry' yet with total credibility. You could also enlist Friedrich Nietzsche's works, however his highly pessimistic and misogynistic attitudes never appealed to me. Interestingly written are also Peter Gay's The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism and The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom. And when I got an email in September from an American professor about my article on philosophical concepts of love through history in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy saying that my article is VERY helpful (his upper caps) and the writing is clear and accessible and one of the better articles on the Internet I think it is partially because of those few scholars who showed me that it is okay to write a highly complex and sometimes 'mysterious' topics in a light, easy, helpful and almost poetic way. It took me almost 20 years to master a beautiful combination of contents (idea) and style (form) and I learned it on my own - nobody guided me, I thought it myself in the era before Internet and like I said according to several books and mostly art. The same as I learned many other things, for instance how to write screenplays for documentary and feature films, how to create website(s) or make gif's, logotypes and alike.
And how we can define what is beauty and beautiful? Classical beauty was defined with Egyptian notion of symmetry and golden ratio alongside with invention of make up to hide the imperfections that do not comply with the standards set. If we look at philosophers, for instance Plato would say that beautiful is everything that is truthful and good (ethical), with Immanuel Kant beautiful belongs to human taste and there is not a universal notion of beauty, however he calls something as sublime beauty which is awesomeness and power of the nature that produces an awe in human, in biology for instance Charles Darwin claims beauty serves for bonding and mating and it is shown in bodily features that advertise femininity and fertility and virility and masculinity (big hips, abundant body and symmetry of the face in women, beard and muscle body in men), however in fashion photography for instance for Irving Penn beauty serves going beyond Egypto-Greek model of symmetry while he was looking at real women in real circumstances (something that could resonate with Japanese concept of wabi-sabi that defined beauty in everything that is, from young to old forms, from symmetry to asymmetry, from perfection to flaws, everything is beautiful because this world is the reflection of the divine. For Richard Powell, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect") and for Helmut Newton beauty is re-imagining the classical and glamorous beauty and making women strong, bold and beautiful although someone could also claim some of his beauty perception borderlines to being misogynistic and pornographic; in fashion you have several notions of beautiful, from classical notion which was redefined in postmodern era when it changed from perfect supermodels impersonated for instance in Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer to non-classical real, imperfect beauty impersonated for instance in Erin O'Connor, Karen Olson, Ewa Witkowska and Natalia Semanova. To me beauty is that which fascinates us and we keep thinking about it be it the form of femme fatale, an excellent art, intellectual or tech work. Therefore beauty is not about only physical appearance but personality or contents above all, about someone or something that transcends the everyday average and goes beyond in many ways.
The meaning of Sexuality and Sexual Orientation In The Past And In The Future
In this article I present some interesting points about the meaning of sexuality and how it has changed since so called sexual revolution between 1960 to 1980 and what does it mean for the future according to the Ambrosion's article Are We Set For A New Sexual Revolution?
»When I was I child it was explained to me, that sexaulity is for making babies and that it happens between a man and wife«, Ambrosino states. However he also asks what is the meaning of sexuality when we get to the point when sexuality is not primary »used« as the main mean to procreate. Namely, the number of babies born with IVF is rapidly increasing. Soon it will be safer to procreate with IVF due to genetics risks. Ambrosino quotes Henry T. Greely: »In 20 to 40 years, most people all over the world with good health coverage will chose to conceive in a lab.« He says people will prefer to reproduce non-sexually.
What will sexuality mean and what is it for?
Western tradition says that sexaulity is ethical when it is practiced primary for procreation. American theorist Halperin explains Aristotle: The reason we have sex, according to Aristotle’s proof, it's not because we want to have sex, because we want to love and be loved. Sex is not about something, but about something else, something higher, something nobler. We know people use sex for a lot of things: because they love, try to force love, to feel loved, to take revenge, to get back at each other, … many different things.
Ambrosino explains if we thing about it, we don't need sex like we need food, we don't need it for survival. He says we have to admit that enjoyment is the main reason. When the contraception pill came out, people feared that it will mean the end of the civilization. But the so-called sexual revolution is to blame for more relaxed views on sexual practices. He also says that the difference between us and many non-human animals is that we enjoy doing useless things. We do them, because we take pleasure in them.
What affect will this have on homosexuals?
An American Evangelical preacher said that two men are not supposed to be together, that even animals know that. But if we do a bit of research we can find that many species do practice homosexuality, but they don't identify as homosexual neither as heterosexual. Only humans identify themselves based on the kind of sex they have. If we think that purpose of sexuality is not procreation but enjoyment, gay people are free to have sex just for the sole purpose of having sex. Ambrosino says that most non-procreative heterosexual sexuality which is not practiced for procreation and it does not result in pregnancy was not condemned as unnatural because of it. But on the other hand non-procreative sex in a homosexual relationship was and is often condemned.
A study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law looked at the changing attitudes of people about sexuality across 121 countries. Fifty-seven percent of those countries saw an increase in acceptance of LGBT people between the years of 1981 and 2014. But they found out that the accepting countries have become more tolerant over time and the less accepting countries have become even less tolerant.
There will be new ideas about procreation too. Since 1978, more than eight million babies have been born with IVF. Birth control and contraception have helped separate sex and procreation in our cultural imagination. Ambrosino quotes Grelly: »A couple who wants children will visit a clinic – he will leave a sperm sample, she will leave a skin sample. A week or two later, the prospective parents will receive information on 100 embryos created from their cells, telling them what the embryos genomes predict about their future ... then they will select which embryos to move into the womb for possible pregnancy and birth'«.
In the future there will be also new ideas about sexual orientation. If sexual orientation won't matter, if procreation happens in a lab, maybe words like heterosexual and homosexual will be heard only in the history classroom. Thanks to the LGBT people these ideas will continue to become more mainstream because they have been inviting the dominant culture to rethink its sexual ethics.
Can we really expect that this is going to bring a further liberation and inclusivness for LGBT people in general? And if we would not identify according to our sexual orientation and/or sexual identity which point of ourselves is going to serve as the central point of our identity? Maybe we can find some answers in Katarina Majerhold's article Are We, As Democratic Society, Truly Ready For Equality And Freedom? There she argues for example that Anthony Giddens in book The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) first explored the notion that unions of new, postmodern couples are not bound by traditional concepts of heterosexual marriage and love. »If orthodox marriage has not became one among life styles yet, although in fact it is, it is partly because of institutional delay«. To describe the changes and new circumstances among sexes (equality, reciprocity, reparation) and different sexual orientations (homo-bi-hetero) Giddens coined a term 'confulent love'. Giddens also claims that with confluent love is individuals’ sexuality only one of the factors which must be accepted when negotiating. The expansion of homosexuality and bisexuality occurred when people started to look on sexuality as a characteristic which we can discover and understand reflexively, question and develop. As Majerhold writes through citating Giddens insights based on some findings of Foucault’s History of Sexuality I, II, III: »Today we discovered and opened 'sex' so that it is easily accessible when different life styles develop. This is something we all have or raise and it is no longer natural circumstance which individuals accepts as in advance given condition. Sexuality works – we have to discover how - as some sort of I (individual) feature, can be shaped and is primary connecting point between body, personal identity and social norms«. I (ego) and personal identity are today for everyone reflexive projects and are more or less incessantly questioning past, today and tomorrow. This means that people's sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual identity won't matter as much in the future as it was in the past, especially when sexuality is not bound to procreation and economic means as Ambrosino also showed.
I have been a member of the editorial board of the academic Journal for the Critique of Science, Imagination and New Anthropology (JKC) for 21 years. Ever since I have been an editor for philosophy at JKC we have had a part of the Journal dedicated to ecology and sustainability, animal rights, feminism, racism and LGBT topics. Here are some of the issues addressing the aforementioned topics: Philosophy of the Nature, Filozofija narave, 2000, editor K. Majerhold), City of Women and Concealed (women's) history I, II (2005, 2015), Lesbian Guerrilla (2013), Green politics (2016), Attractions of Gender (2017, editor K. Majerhold), Violence Against LGBT Youth and Adults (2019, editor K. Majerhold) and many others (see link of the Journal). We re-established a new collection “OIKOS” at the JKC with an intention to fill knowledge gap in the field of Political ecology in Slovenia. We also used to have Oikos part at JKC since 1995 until 2009. I also attended a national conference on Higher Education and Sustainability in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2001 as part of my research. I was accepted at Blekinge Institute of Technology at Karlskrona for master programme in Strategic Leadrship towards Sustainability, however due to long decision making process of the University of Sweden I got their notification by the end of August and could not attend the master course on time (therefore I decided not to attend the course at all). There are some philosophers ecologists worth mentioning, such as Arne Næss who invented the term 'deep ecology' and Luc Ferry with his The New Ecological order who coined the term 'shallow ecology', to name a few with a philosophical view of so called 'deep and shallow ecology'.
I wrote several articles on sustainable transport for green PR website. I use public transport. I am vegan, occasionally vegetarian. If you believe in sustainability you certainly help the nature and animals by being at least vegetarian and use public transport.
I have been an ardent animal rights supporter. Personally knowing how is to being oppressed and exploited I can relate to what happens to animals every day, whether it is on factory farms, or in laboratories, circuses, and marine parks. (I have also donated to numerous animal organizations throught the world, from dogs', cats', orangutans', horses', sheep's, donkeys' organizations since 2009). I also adopted several animals. Here are some articles on links between animal rights and LGBT rights, queer and animal rights, nonhuman and human liberation (Direct action everywhere).
I have been a member of the Slovenian LGBT community since 1988, I was writing for the Slovenian LGBT magazine Narobe from 2008 until 2016 (for instance Lesbian Love in Ancient Greece , Lesbian Love in Mideaval Times etc.) and blog Narobe since 2016 (some of my articles). I also had a lecture at the only LGBT pub in Ljubljana: different concepts of love (May 2009).
I wrote this article today to share my experience with the Slovenian section of the Greta Thunberg's world-wide sustainable movement: I contacted its Slovene section on FB to congratulate and express my support in April. I let them know about my LL Passion website and since some of my previous endeavours in the area of sustainability, animal rights and LGBT rights suggested that we could connect and act together stronger. There was no answer.
Presentation of The Research Integrating LGBT – Topics In the Šmarje pri Jelšah Elementary School Classrooms by Anja LesjakRead Now
The Presentation of The Research Integrating LGBT – Topics in The Šmarje pri Jelšah Elementary School Classrooms.
In my graduation thesis titled Integrating LGBT – topics in the Šmarje pri Jelšah elementary school classrooms, a research about the inclusion of LGBT themes in schools. At the beginning, I wanted to do my research at a smaller school because I was interested in the answers of teachers who work in a small school in the countryside. I encountered a problem, since the smaller schools did not respond at my request to conduct a survey. Of the eight requests sent to primary schools in rural areas, only two answered. I assume that schools which did not respond avoided the research because of the sensitive topic. In the two schools that were willing to participate I didn't get the minimum number of required teachers to do my research. Later, I contacted one of the pedagogues at the Primary School Šmarje pri Jelšah, which communicated with the schools teachers who were willing to participate. However, since many of the selected teachers did not respond to the e-mails, I, with the permission of the pedagogue, sent a request to all the teachers at the school. The responsiveness was very poor, as from sixty-five sent emails, I received only eight replies. The last two interviews I arranged personally during interviews with the other teachers.
The respondants consist of teachers of the Primary School Šmarje pri Jelšah, who were regularly employed in the school year 2016/2017. I interviewed 10 teachers, of which were 8 female and 2 male. The average age of the teachers was between 30 and 55 years. The interviews were held from September 15, 2016 to January 10, 2017. The aim of the research was to determine whether teachers talk about homosexuality with children in school, acquaintance them with LGBT topics, such as familiarity with LGBT acronyms, rainbow family, prejudices and stereotypes towards LGBT people, peer physical and verbal violence of LGBT pupils, teachers education on LGBT topics and the ability to talk about them.
Based on their answers, I got the following results:
Knowledge of teachers about the abbreviation »LGBT«
The answers indicate that the teachers are quite unfamiliar with LGBT topics. Mostly they do not know the terms or they have not even heard of them. The poor knowledge of LGBT topics is not a good starting point for talking to children because the children expect answers. By not knowing and not talking about LGBT the children can receive a message that this is something hidden and bad.
The relationship of teachers to the LGBT and the importance of conversations
Although teachers believe that it is important to talk about LGBT themes, they prefer to avoid conversation because of their own beliefs or because of their own inadequacy for such a conversation. Here I think that the support of the curriculum would be welcome. If LGBT topics were included in the curriculum, teachers could prepare properly and make it easier for them to talk about it with children.
Talking to children about LGBT topics
Children are very interested in the opinions of the teachers. Some teachers do not share their opinion regarding LGBT topics with children. Children are usually interested if they support same-sex families, and they already create an opinion about a teacher if (s)he supports them or not. One of the teachers, however talks about children's books with LGBT contents. The teacher believes that children are very open to LGBT topics and that resistance comes usually from parents. Teachers on general also say that younger generations are more open-minded, as they do not see the topic through religion. They believe that younger generations will break up stereotypes in society. One teacher says she likes to rely on examples and personal experience. She notices that some children are very reserved during conversations and often judge LGBT people. She thinks their prejudices come from their families, however teachers teach objectivity and honesty at school.
Avoiding talking about LGBT topics
Two of the teachers replied that they sometimes avoid talking about LGBT topics, either because of their own incompetence regarding LGBT or they tell the children that they have already talked enough about this and change the topic of the conversation. Other teachers do not avoid conversation and feel that there should be more talk about it. Teachers believe that children are not talking about this at home. One of the teachers says that she advocates professional work, which means she presents the subject objectively and helps the children if they have any questions. One of the teachers says that older children find it harder to deal with differences because they want to prove themselves before the others. They feel the pressure of their peers and they stick to the majority. He also believes that LGBT topics are harder to explain to older children. He also says that those who are more pious are more opposed to homosexuality and more homophobia appears among them.
Qualified for conversation
Half of the teachers questioned their beliefs that they are trained enough to talk to children about LGBT topics. One of the teachers said she would welcome to have some didactic knowledge in this field in order to make it easier to find a way to talk to children. One of the teachers said that he would turn to help of a professional colleague regarding the LGBT topics. About half of the teachers said that they were trained enough to talk to children about it. Less than half of teachers think they are sufficiently informed about it, but that also depends on what children are asking
The ability of other teachers to talk
It is a worrying answer that less than half of teachers think that other teachers are trained enough in the LGBT area. So, not only that half of the teachers question their qualifications, more than half believe that others are not trained enough.
Use of homophobic germplasm
The fact that children use homophobic germplots and do not know what they mean shows that teachers and parents do not talk enough with the children about it. Children hear words at home, in movies, or elsewhere. Because they see that they are used as negative expressions, they begin to use them on to the others. When used, others may be (unconsciously) affected.
Suitable age of the children for conversation
Teachers have very different opinions about when is the appropriate age of children to talk about LGBT topics with them. Some think that children understand everything if we explain the topic in an appropriate way.
Teaching children about LGBT
Teachers have different ideas about how to include LGBT topics into school work. If they were included in the curriculum, this would be a support for them. The answers show that teachers need more support in their work regarding LGBT topics (Lesjak, 2017: 23 - 39).
On the basis of theory and my own research, I find or assume that the society and the school system are still very heteronormative, and that most teachers are not ready to introduce LGBT topics into their lessons which is due to ignorance regarding LGBT topics in society. This a consequence of non-support of the curriculum and institutions that determine the course of school work. I believe that the introduction of LGBT topics into the school system would contribute to the reduction of homophobia, prejudice and, consequently, peerless violence based on same-sex orientation. If we want to reduce peer violence based on sexual orientation, we need to start introducing these themes, educating teachers, parents and children. This will gradually eliminate prejudices and thus contribute to a better quality of life for LGBT pupils and LGBT people on general.
LESJAK, ANJA (2017): Vključevanje LGBT- teme pri pouku v osnovni šoli Šmarje pri Jelšah. Diplomsko delo. Fakulteta za socialno delo: 23-39.
Different Types of Partners – Who is Yours?
Who makes the best lover? The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once held a raucous drinking party at which he posed this question. Various Athenian notables were present and they all offered different answers, reflecting every colour of the rainbow.The intrepid reporter Plato recorded it all for posterity in a work called the Symposium.
Throughout history, many readers have found their answer to our question in one or another of the Symposium’s theories, but we have to ask whether even three of the best might be missing something.
Twin Flames/Soul mates
According to the playwright Aristophanes, human beings were originally created with two faces and four arms and legs. We lived very happily as these double creatures until our creator, Zeus, cut us in half due to our arrogance and disobedience. Since then, we have roamed the earth, lonely and forlorn without our missing halves. Only Eros, the God of love, can help us find them.
Aristophanes also contends that the original double-humans had three genders: male (with two male halves), female (with two female halves), and androgynous (with one male and one female half). Males descended from the sun, females from the earth, and those who were androgynous descended from the moon. Eros must unite two men in order to restore the male gender, two women in order to restore the female gender, and a man with a woman to restore the androgynous gender. Therefore Aristophanes presents also theory of the origin of sexual orientation which no other author in the ancient world has done before. However, making us complete again is not easy. When Zeus first started cutting the original human beings in half he cut them in such a way that all they could do when they reunited was kiss and hug. These poor creatures soon died from despair. So, in a rare display of mercy, Zeus began giving each half-human a set of sexual organs. They enable us to merge with our other halves, at least for a little while, releasing us from the unbearable tension of desire. This is why sex is such a powerful governing influence for human beings and rules our lives with absolute sovereignty. Although it paints a very beautiful picture, Aristophanes’ account of true love suffers from two significant issues:
- first, regardless of how lovers physically enter into each other, they remain two persons - the full merger is impossible. This suggests that not even true love can bring true happiness, which is wrong, we hope.
- Second, how do we explain such a high divorce rate, especially when divorce so often occurs after the couple has raised a family together? It seems that in such situations, erotic desire disappears because the initial movement to create a union was completed. The same goes for couples who split up after reaching other milestones, such as building a house, establishing a business, or creating a work of art. People do not stay in one place with one passion. The very notion of there being a single right other half for each of us is therefore too simple. It reduces the lover to a pure functionality, e.g., reproductivity, while disregarding other dimensions.
Love as a Ladder Towards Divine Wisdom
Opposing Aristophanes’ account, Socrates himself offers an interesting alternative. In his view, true love is ultimately the relationship between a philosopher (someone seeking wisdom) and the wisdom he seeks. The object of erotic desire is not actually another person at all but something immaterial that gives us an anchor within ourselves. In this way, our passion and happiness does not depend on our lover but on our ability to gain wisdom and thus become self-sufficient.
For Socrates, this implies that couples always consist of a teacher, who is older and wiser, and a student, who is younger and ignorant. Neither of the lovers desires the other; they both desire to achieve the greatest knowledge — with one another’s help. Their relationship is based on strict roles: the older instructs while the younger inspires the instruction.
The greatest knowledge, which all human beings long for, concerns something we do not possess, namely: beauty, goodness, and truth. Eros itself is neither beautiful nor ugly, neither good nor bad, neither wise nor fool, neither god nor mortal. Eros is something neutral in the middle. He is a great “daemon,” or intermediate power, who conveys to the gods the prayers of men, and to men the commands of the gods. As something in between, love is always a process, always unfolding–perpetual movement towards fulfilment.
The lover is a philosopher because his attainment of truth, beauty, and goodness constitutes his/her supreme happiness. Ultimately, true love is the desire for this happiness. And when something makes us happy we do not want to lose it, we want to keep it forever. In fact, it would be difficult to be happy while knowing our happiness was about to disappear. So, in our yearning for possession of the greatest knowledge, we desire immortality. We witness our desire for immortality most obviously in our urge to reproduce. But we also see it in other urges, such as in the quest for fame, making laws and in artistic creativity.
Socrates advises that he who would seek wisdom should begin by loving one fair form, and then many, and then proceed by learning the connection between them. From beautiful bodies he should advance to beautiful minds, and the beauty of laws and institutions, until he perceives that all beauty is of one kindred. From institutions he should move on to the sciences, until at last he beholds the vision of a single science of universal beauty. Then he will behold the everlasting nature which is the cause of all, and will be near his goal. In his contemplation of that supreme being of love he will behold beauty, goodness, and truth, not with his bodily eye, but with the “eye of the mind.” The vision will inspire virtue and wisdom. At this stage, the lover is dependent neither on the beloved nor on the outside world. No one will ever be able to exploit, betray, surprise or dump him. His love is now freed from pain, moodiness and instability because his beloved (immortal beauty, goodness, and truth) is always available, always stable and always with(in) him. He has become divine.
Socrates kept his promise to provide a theory of love in which the lovers are not dependent on one other, thereby avoiding Aristophanes’mistakes. He does not deliver a relationship between two people, however, but a relationship between a person and something purely immaterial. Nor can the beloved achieve the all-important vision until he himself assumes the teaching role or better said to recognize that he is as much a learner as much a teacher himself. Love is as we said, an everlasting process. Teacher tries to guide and show the student the path to discover his own potentials and his own fulfilment–his path to the highest knowledge, i.e. love, (truth, goodness, beauty) and yet there is also danger for teacher to fall into position of self-sufficiency and authority, assuming he knows the Truth while student is on his path of knowing it through the process of their encounter.
In practice, this arrangement can also make for an exploitative situation. One can’t help but think of the older, wealthy, and successful man choosing a (wo)man twenty years younger than him. (S)he depends on his knowledge, experiences, connections, and fortune to help her/him achieve what (s)he desires and he in exchange enjoys being in power and especially her/his youthful ambitions, enthusiasm, freshness, even naivety and even more he can enjoy being in power and at certain point even hinder her/his progress if seeing that (s)he became knowledgeable and empowered enough. Treating someone as a means to an end, even if that end is itself noble, can represent a rather selfish attitude that cannot be suitable for lovers (and for Kant such relation between lovers is certainly intolerable. For him no (wo)man should ever be treated as a mean to achieve his goals).
In order to prevent this pitfall teacher must be very self-awake and responsible not to use his student to fulfil his latent ambitions for power or leadership (not to misuse or abuse trust of the student) but to be always just aloving helping hand and passing on what is offered to him and what he has got to know through his own abilities and expertise.
Love as an Exchange
The politician Alcibiades, disagreeing with Socrates, presents yet another intriguing account of love in the Symposium. Alcibiades was a stunningly beautiful and desirable man. An acclaimed war hero, he had won many prestigious awards, and was universally admired in Athens. He could have just about any lover he chose. Astonishingly, he chose Socrates. He announces to the revellers at the dinner party that he fell in love with Socrates because Socrates is an enchanting speaker who ravishes the soul and changes the hearts of men. Alcibiades was surprised to find that beneath Socrates’ 'ugly' appearance lay the greatest treasure of all. This made him compare Socrates to Marsyas the great flute-player. For Socrates produced the same effect with his voice as Marsyas produced with his flute.He used the commonest words as the outward mask of the most divine truths. Alcibiades says that upon first meeting Socrates, he felt as though he had been bitten by something in the most sensitive spot where it hurts the most. Socrates awakened in him the uncomfortable awareness that he ought not to live as he was, neglecting the improvement of his own soul.
Alcibiades also compares Socrates to the busts of the great sculptor Silenus. They portray people with pipes and flutes in their mouths but they are made to open in the middle, and have images of gods inside them. To Alcibiades, the words of Socrates are divine. Alcibiades was irresistibly drawn to something very unique he saw only in Socrates. In so doing, he demonstrates a theory of love that explains why we fall in love with one person instead of another.
The twentieth-century French philosopher and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan calls this uniqueness “agalma.” According to Lacan, romantic desire points towards a peculiar feature which makes a certain person stand out of the crowd and makes him seem to exceed all others. This is why, of all the lovers Alcibiades had ever had, Socrates is the only one he considered to be worthy. Lacan adds, however, that the agalma is actually a subjective projection not reflecting something real in the person. And this explains Socrates mysterious reply to Alcibiades invitation to become his lover — he said, “Look again, and see if you are deceived in me.” So we see that Alcibides fell in love because he saw something unique in Socrates – treasures hidden from the eyes that can be found only if you go deeper into the person — treasures of words and thoughts that help you to get to know yourself. Discovering your true self gives you the greatest self-satisfaction and happiness. At the same time, it shows you how to become a better person and help others.
Of course, Socrates devoted his life to this mission. He called it “midwifery”— helping others bring to light the wisdom that was all along within themselves. It doesn’t matter how you look, successful you are, how popular, or how important. What matters is striving to be a good person who is happy and free, knowing yourself and helping others. The problem with Alcibiades’ account of love, as Socrates, who never fell for Alcibiades, points out, is that it is more imagined than real. The man who has everything hears of a new computer or jet airplane unlike any other that has existed before, and he decides that he must have it. He infuses it with the ability to solve all of his problems. And yet, somehow, when he finally has it, it becomes just another conquest. No doubt a great part of Alcibiades obsession with Socrates actually hinged on the fact that Socrates was the one person in Athens who had the nerve to say no to him. Alcibiades could have anyone — anyone except Socrates. Socrates was therefore the final conquest, so completely enticing precisely because he lay just beyond reach.
While I find each of the three accounts of love we have surveyed insightful, I think nonetheless that they are all missing something. They all presuppose that a romantic relationship should bring a person something they have been looking for. However in the first case, we should ask ourselves, how we can actually recognize our soul mate: is there any 'sign' that would notify us we just met our soul mate? Is there a list of personal traits and features that could and should be matched in order to recognize other person as our soul mate like Plato in Phaedrus describes people following different deites and therefore possesing their interests and passions? For instance those who have passion for wisdom are followers of the Zeus, those who have interest in combat are followers of Ares and alike… Or as Plato says: »Everyone chooses his love from the ranks of beauty according to his character, and this he makes his god, and fashions and adorns as a sort of image which he is to fall down and worship. The followers of Zeus desire that their beloved should have a soul like him; and therefore they seek out some one of a philosophical and imperial nature ... But those who are the followers of Hera seek a royal love, and when they have found him they do just the same with him; and in like manner the followers of Apollo, and of every other god walking in the ways of their god, seek a love who is to be made like him whom they serve, and when they have found him ...«. (Plato, 253b). The same thing is with choosing a suitable pupil in order to pursue the realm of ideas of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. However, as Hege Dypedokk Johansen writers in her book Erôs and Education: Socratic Seduction in Three Platonic Dialogues noone of the Socrates real life pupils proved that his teachings had any profund impact on their moral and intellectual character's development: Socrates engaged them in philosophical dialogues in which they themselves had to actively participate in order to learn to be self-disciplined, imposed self-rule and turn towards philosophy: »I have here argued that Socrates’ main agenda in the examined dialogues was to try to match these youths with knowledge; that Socrates was trying to turn them towards philosophy … Can Socrates’ seductions, including the techniques he applies, be justified if ascribed to a nobler goal? In short, even though we may find Socrates’ methods difficult to accept from a moral point of view, I believe that on Plato’s account, the goal legitimates Socrates’ methods ... And the goal, I have argued, is to turn Lysis, Charmides, and Alcibiades1 toward philosophy. However, what good this did to them is, as we have seen, unclear (at best): As far as we know, neither Lysis, Charmides, nor Alcibiades went on to pursue the philosophical life«. (Dypedokk Johnsen, 2016: 160).
And regarding Alcibiades: we all know the enchatments when we fell in love with the person but we actually don't love the person. There is a difference to love and to be in love, to project our desires and wishes on to the other without actual consideration for the other: to love person requires getting to know the beloved and that requires work, time, knowledge and will to be able to adopt. Through actual love and getting to know him/her things don't look so godly like anymore.
Therefore it seems that all three accounts tell us this story: when we go shopping, we have a list of the things that we want and need, we browse through the available products, and we buy the ones that we believe will meet our requirements. We make a predictable transaction, an exchange designed to be mutually satisfactory to the buyer and the seller.
I propose that such a pragmatic approach will always undermine the true nature of love. A lover cannot be regarded as some kind of acquisition. Although the three accounts of love we surveyed were very different, they each suffered from this misconception. For Aristophanes, we must acquire our missing half, for Socrates, we must acquire a student to inspire our intellectual assent, and for Alcibiades, we must acquire the one thing no one else has. In all of these perspectives, the lover becomes a kind of burden to be evaluated, rather than spontaneously experienced. While such a deliberate approach may result in a relationship of some kind, it will not result in true love. True love must be experience on its own, without any preconceived expectations.
A lover needs not be beautiful, knowledgeable, of a certain race, social status, or level of success to be worthy of love.
So the necessary mindset of the lover is to be oneself and to let the other be him - or herself. Love flows everywhere and between everyone. Only a state of mind that is kind, allembracing, accepting, understanding, and humble can be called love. Another person can only be truly valued and cherished when imperfections are disregarded. We are all imperfect. Imperfect beings are needy, dependent, fragile, vulnerable, and mortal. We all need love to feel complete and worthy of existing. In the end, love is as essential as breathing. As adults we have certain obligations, responsibilities, and tasks to perform and it is difficult not to see everything in pragmatic terms. But true love can exist only for its own sake. It does not exclude, bargain, exploit, or possess. If you can achieve this kind of state, then you can love anybody and can be loved by anybody. But, of course, no one can fully achieve it. The thrill of romantic passion is being able to achieve it to some degree. The “magic” or “mystery” occurs exactly at that moment when our preoccupation with our selves and our own agenda shifts and we dare to embark on a completely new adventure.
Seeing, hearing, embracing the other for what (s)he is. When finally someone responds to your wishes without 'judging' them on her/his own terms but just fulfilling them (s)he is the answer to your prayers, she heals and fills that empty hole, missing part that needed to materialize. And this is exactly the point that enables us to truly see, hear, smell the other for the first time and also to truly meet. This is also a liberation and upliftment point–because by giving what your lover needs and wishes mean that you truly see your lover as the most beautiful and precious gift regardless of how (s)he is and this awakens and liberates him/her from the old ways and we can now proceed to discovering new ways of being together.
What makes the Symposium accounts so valuable is that they give us diverse images of what love can be. It can be finding your other half, it can be finding an inspiration for intellectual ascent, it can be finding the one thing no one else has.It can be any of these things and more. But it cannot be sought out as any one of those things. Rather, it must be received and appreciated for whatever it turns out to be. By presenting various partial accounts of what love can be, the Symposium tells us that love is a gift. And when you receive a precious gift you treat it with respect. A gift makes you feel grateful and with gratitude comes happiness, gratitude of meeting the other and knowing that happiness is also what happens together with the other. This gift includes spiritual, intellectual, emotional and sexual dimension.
1) »They are all described as remarkably good-looking youths from noble families. Lysis is the youngest (around twelve or thirteen), Charmides is approximately seventeen years old, and Alcibiades – even though it is said that he has lost his youthful bloom ... – is estimated to be no more than eighteen« (Dypedokk Johnsen, 2016: 18).
Plato (2003). Phaedrus. Trans. by S. Scully. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing.
Plato (1952). Symposium. Trans. by W. Hamilton. London: Penguin Books.
Dypedokk Johnsen, Hege (2016). Erôs and Education: Socratic Seduction in Three Platonic Dialogues. Holmbergs, Malmö.
Five Lessons From Clexacon 2019
Clexacon is a unique event: a fan convention in which fans get to encounter and hear from actresses in queer roles, a meet-up for thousands of queer women, a space to discuss queer female and transgender representation on screen and real life social issues, and an opportunity for content creators to network and develop their projects. Although Clexacon focuses almost exclusively on American (and to a lesser extent Canadian) representation—an unfortunate Anglo bias reflecting the disparity in representation globally—there is no other event in the world like it, and it is an event that the queer community desperately needs, both for our own sakes and to show the global entertainment industry the size and potential of LGBT viewers. Put another way, the event is intended directly to celebrate the queer community, but indirectly to influence heterosexual producers and executives to provide more queer content.
As would one expect from a convention dedicated to queer representation on the big and small screen, many of the discussions at Clexacon involve interesting and thought-provoking ideas about what is needed for more representation. Here are five big take-aways from Clexacon this year:
1. We have to continue to create our own queer content and not rely on the entertainment industry to give it to us because the entertainment industry remains largely closed to minority stories and characters.
Per former “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actress Amber Benson, Hollywood is still actively rejecting and resisting minority stories (whether race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). In her experience pitching and writing content for channels such as Hallmark and Lifetime, she has seen Hollywood either operate on an implicit quota system, in which minorities are allotted only a tiny amount of screen time, or outright excluded. LL Passion notes this is likely to be even more true of the entertainment industries of other countries, where there are additional social and religious prohibitions on depictions of homosexuality. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The Walking Dead” actress Briana Venskus suggested that one reason Hollywood continues to ignore minority stories is that it doesn’t view the queer community as a financially lucrative market. Why develop content for a demographic base that will not return a profit?
Although Benson expressed frustration that the pace of change toward more representation in Hollywood has been glacial, Clexacon’s panelists almost universally agreed that there has been tangible, significant improvement in minority representation in the last few years. Although there may not be as many characters and storylines as the queer community would like, there has been a great change in Hollywood in the last decade. This likely has been in part driven by the inclusion of more women and minorities in the writer’s room and in executive positions. Per “Wynonna Earp” showrunner Emily Andras, in her experience, networks are beginning to see diverse stories as a way to tell new and untold stories. Despite greater inclusivity on American TV, to achieve the amount of content that the queer community wants both on TV and in movies, we have to create it ourselves and not wait for Hollywood to slowly catch up. Moreover, Hollywood will never produce as much as we want, so we must supplement it ourselves. This need for internally-produced content is even more true outside the US and England, where queer content is almost nonexistent. If we want it, no one will produce it but us.
2. The queer community needs to be more financially supportive of queer content.
Many of the panelists brought up the same point: it takes money to make queer content, so if viewers want that content, they have to pay for it. Although it’s fair to demand that major networks, whose content is free, include queer content, in the absence of that content, we have to monetize the content producers who do include it. In their panel on “Vida,” actors Ser Anzoategui and Mishal Prada noted that the best thing fans could do to support their show is subscribe to Starz, the premium network on which “Vida” airs. Even subscribing to a single month (at the cost of $8) contributes to the viewer count and demonstrates to the network the presence of a (paying) viewership for the show. Although “Vida” has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is critically acclaimed, it is not guaranteed a third season. Starz will only renew a profitable show, so queer viewers have to help make it profitable.
Producer and actress Crystal Chappell related during her panel that season six of her webseries “Venice: The Series,” which was funded by an indiegogo fundraising campaign, cost approximately $185,000, and that she personally paid $20,000 out of pocket to fill the gap between the fundraised amount and the total production cost. Similarly, tello Films used its presence at Clexacon to publicize its indiegogo campaign to finance a Hallmark-style holiday queer romantic comedy movie. Prior to the convention, its fundraising goal was only halfway met, with only days remaining until the campaign expired. For every fundraising success story, there are tens of other stories of failure. Even small amounts, when given by a large number of individuals, can go a long way toward the creation of more queer content.
3. Queer fans have a deeply personal stake in representation, unlike straight fans who are not minorities. Their emotional connection to queer characters and representation fosters a sense of found family and community that is less pronounced in straight fandoms, and creates an inclusive environment that rewards actresses in queer roles on an emotional and professional level.
For some queer viewers, a LGBT character on screen might be the first other queer person they’ve ever seen, particularly if they live in socially repressive areas. For others, a queer character’s story arc speaks to their own life experiences and struggles in a way that straight characters’ never will. The queer experience is often isolating and emotionally fraught, but its representation on screen is reassuring, normalizing, and uplifting. As many panelists, from actresses to writers, noted, queer content has the ability to literally save lives, as individuals who were otherwise contemplating suicide find hope for the future.
Fandoms in general—both queer and straight—are characterized by their sense of community. Viewership, to fandoms, is a shared experience that begets conversation and friendship. Queer viewers, however, have the additional layer of a shared life experience, which tends to bind them emotionally on a deeper level and create a “found family.” Connecting with other members of a queer fandom often means finding new friends who have faced similar instances of rejection, prejudice, and repression, leading to emotionally supportive relationships. The “Earpers” (fans of Syfy’s “Wynonna Earp”), for example, are renowned for their boisterous engagement with the show’s cast and crew, but also for their high degree of community and supportiveness.
This difference between how straight and queer fans engage with storylines and characters is tangible. Per “Legends of Tomorrow” actress Jes Macallan, queer fans are much more likely to share personal stories with her about how her character changed their lives than straight fans. The interaction she has with queer fans is therefore more interpersonal: an exchange of stories and a sharing of experiences that leaves both parties emotionally affected. Benson, too, reflected on how the queer community had become her found family, to which she feels very emotionally connected.
4. Queer viewers need to mobilize, en masse, to support ALL forms of representation, not just femme, white, queer characters played by straight actresses.
Per Anzoategui, the queer community needs to marshal its support for queer content the way some communities mobilize for a voting campaign: plan, organize, coordinate, and carry out fan campaigns. Because the queer viewer demographic has traditionally been ignored, the queer community must act en masse in order to have its voice heard. Anything less risks further marginalization. More than that, the queer community needs to demand more diversity in queer representation. Whereas traditional queer representation on TV has focused on femme white women, the queer community must demand representation in the form of more queer people of color, masculine-of-center characters, disabled characters, transgender characters, etc. We are not a monolithic community, and our representation shouldn’t be one-dimensional either. This requires that individuals support representation everyone, including people who may be different from themselves. In short, we must be a rising tide that raises all boats, not just some of them.
Additionally, we need to do better at supporting queer actors. Venskus rightly pointed out that the queer actors panel was very under-attended compared to panels featuring straight actresses in queer roles. The community has generally lagged in its support of queer actors, a trend that needs to change. It is unfair to support queer fictional characters, but not queer people in real life.
5. Self-care is important for everyone.
Anzoategui works with a therapist to handle the stress of filming emotionally taxing scenes. Macallan takes planned time away from social media to recharge and re-focus on the important things in her life. “Legends of Tomorrow” actress Caity Lotz knits to keep off social media. In multiple panels, panelists discussed the need for individuals to find ways to take care of themselves mentally and not be consumed by either the addictive pull of social media or the toxicity present in society. As the world becomes faster and the feedback from social media creates instantaneous effects, both positive and negative, it’s important to maintain mental equilibrium, in whatever way works. This is especially true for people who are already feeling stressed by other factors in their lives. From yoga to meditation, reading to dancing, we must all find the things in life that bring us joy and serenity and create a designated time and space in our lives to do those things.
Are We, As Democratic Society, Truly Ready For Equality And Freedom?
Mary Shanley, in her article “Just Marriage – On the Public Importance of Private Union,” (2004) talks about private, intimate relationships and the public sphere as viewed through the law on martial union. Analyzing laws at that time, she exposed problems regarding the isolation and unequal treatment of women, gays, and the poor, and she contemplated modern alternatives that would foster principles of equality and liberty more consistent with democratic society, based on equality, individualism, reciprocity and the liberty of citizens.
I agree with her that the reformation of “martial union” has been necessary, since the changed definition of martial union would benefit more people and their lifestyles. However, I argue that this change would not fully satisfy demands for legal equality and freedom if it does not include modern changes in intimate areas (which law must satisfy). These changes would show more freedom and equality in intimate relationships and more flexibility in recognizing relationships (open relationships, homo-bisexual relationships, etc.). For example, Shanley, in contrast to Marta Nussbaum, only briefly mentions emotions – love and compassion – which are very important for modeling and activating a just democratic society (and at the same time forming and contributing to institutions and laws). Nussbaum claims that there is a two-way street between institutions and laws on one hand, and beliefs, values and personal judgments on the other. Since judgments are represented in laws and institutions and vice versa, institutions and laws stimulate certain emotions, values, beliefs and judgments in citizens.
1) Shanley opens her research on the formerly unjust marriage laws in the USA, which were based on a conservative notion of marriage. Conservatives believe that marriage is union of one man and one woman and it should be a union for life. The basis for the marital relationship is reproduction, as children are society’s future. In this union, men and women have specific roles: man is the provider, and his wife is a “homemaker.” This union is the family’s foundation and enables a “healthy” foundation for society because it prevents “degeneration” and other “weaknesses” such as crime and poverty, and it raises overall economic welfare. The basis of marriage is therefore “natural,” because it is based on historical tradition and the Bible.
The above mentioned notion of marriage law is problematic, however, because it is unfair to citizens and unions that do not meet specific conditions (homosexuals, the poor, polygamists and alike as Shanley mentions). Equality in front of law, however, is a requirement for the lawmaker, who defines the border between social life, which is legally set, and life outside the public sphere. The lawmaker must follow the constitutional principles that frame the country as a legal entity, and only legislate those areas of social life which are encompassed by that legal definition. But at the same time, the lawmaker cannot legislate contrary to legal principles. This is what Shanley tried to argue when she pointed out the necessity of reforming US marriage laws at the time she wrote the article.
Shanley presents two critiques, or alternatives, to the conservative notion of marriage law at that time:
– First, contractualism tends to abolish marriage law on a national level. In other words, it rejects its special public-legal status and tries to substitute it with individual contracts. Contractualists say that when the right to get married is denied to some or given unequally, it is contrary to the constitutionally given rights of modern democratic society and it is ignoring the humans rights of equality, free personal decision, and pluralism. Thus contractualism would, using individual contracts based on the clients’ needs and desires, satisfy the notion of universal equality and freedom because it would make marriage possible for hetero-, homo-, bisexual and polygamous partners, men and women alike: “abolishing marriage as a legal category is a step necessary for gender equality. Marriage by contracts replaces gender stereotyping and protectionism of traditional marriage law with the recognition of individuality and equal agency of the partners. Marriage partners should be treated as rational actors capable of knowing and articulating their interests” (Shanley quotes Fineman; 19-20: 2004).
However, Shanley does not agree with the contractualists’ solution because contractualists take individuals to be rational and autonomous decision makers, who form community based on personal preferences, benefits and sources of personal pleasure, written and confirmed with contracts. This union is, to her, a union based on the principle of “give-get” and could be called an intimate version of consumer society. It does not give enough attention to individualists’ social and emotional needs (such as the need for love, reciprocity and co-dependence). It does not consider individuals’ variableness and moodiness; it does not address circumstances in which an individual can find himself (death, accident); it does not consider that marriage is higher-entity which exceeds individuals and ties them into a union with a “shared destiny.” A mere contract between married people does not express ethical, moral, loving and unconditional commitment to the other person(s) or to the relationship for a longer or even life-time period.
In my opinion, Shanley`s critique is imperfect because we know that heterosexual marriage served through Western history as a certain rational-economical-procreative contract: marriage was a tool which families used to increase their power, financial status, and reputation and assured a future for the family’s legitimism of authority through descendants (for some, this is still true). This type of marriage was not about love, morality, security, dependence or establishing a higher identity in which two became one and shared a common destiny. Shanley speaks about marriage as a romantic and enlightened project in which being in love (co-dependency and reciprocity) was a personal free factor for getting married that came into exsistence only in 19th century. Nonetheless, nowadays contractualists, beside a basic (heterosexual, procreative, economical) contract marriage matrix, try to enable legitimacy for all other intimate connections with different types of contracts.
We can also dispute Shanley’s critique of ethics and morals and commitment over time and say that contractualists are right. William Godwin already was in favor of the utilitarian theory of morals in his work “Research on Political Correctness” in 1793. He claims that we do not need to stick to moral regulations. Instead, we have to reach our moral decisions by comparing good and bad consequences of our eventual acts in each chosen situation. This was the foundation for the radical critique of conventional rules and institutions, together with the institution of marriage. “In his opinion marriage was morally unjustified and unreasonable (it distracted independent thinking) because marriage makes impossible to judge each exact situation, each personal and possible relationship based on their distinctions. It is based on absurd /expectation/ that inclinations of two human beings will coincide in longer time period. When we force them to work and live together we submit them to inescapable measure of distraction, arguing and misfortune” (Primorac quotes Godwin; 2002: 97).
- But Shanley is correct when she criticises that contractualists do not emphasize enough the state’s positive acts to promote and increase equality. Contracts, after all, can still maintain inequality (for example, inequality between a man and a woman in a marriage based on a contract). Although I have some second thoughts on Shanley`s objections to contractualism, I agree with her desire to see marriage’s reformation toward equal status and public good. As Sullivan says: “Marriage is not only a private contract it is a social and public recognition of personal commitment. As such it is in the highest public recognition of personal integrity” (Sullivan; 1995: 179). Thus Shanley`s purpose is to “preserve the idea that marriage is a special bond deserving of public status while rejecting-as incompatible with liberty and equality-important elements of the traditional view of the purpose and proper ordering of marriage” (Shanley; 2004: 6)7. She believes that marriage should be changed in order to serve as public institution which promotes public good - liberty and equality (man’s, woman’s and citizens’) - and presents successful combination of justice, intimacy and love.
Shanley claims that the social meaning of a life-long union (marriage) consisting of two adults is the fulfillment of emotional, sexual, moral, ethical (reciprocal respect, understanding, trust, help) and economical needs, wishes and partners’ interests. All these enumerated things must also be allowed to same sex partners, partners who live in polygamy, or a poor community, because these individuals satisfy mutual needs which could be a burden to society. Having the law changed in this way is important because it accelerates psychosocial and emotional stability and financial and legal security. It gives also the feeling of citizens’ social acceptance and support, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, class and race. I also agree with Shanley that we need to do more on other fields of public life and activity for effective change, especially in the area of work, and in this way change the laws on work relationships, the pay system, social care, child subsidies, and child care.
2) But what I find lacking in Shanley's reasoning about the reform of marital law is that she never broaches the discussion of the intimate relationship itself, for in a sense this is what is the real content of marital law. She never even tries to present the argument that we need freedom and equality in this area of our life, too (regardless of intimate relationship being part of our private sphere). Nussbaum rightly warns that facilities and legal systems are not embodiments themselves of eternal, perfect rules and structuralised relationships. “They are living systems which on one side embody people’s right emotions, values, beliefs and judgments and on the other side they raise appropriate feelings, values and judgments in them. This two-way relationship runs simply because we do not have a perfect system or perfect (compassionate and loving) individuals, this two things interchange and supplement” (Nussbaum; 2001: 185). So Nussbaum, in fact, claims that in order to have pluralistic, equal, and free democratic society, we need not only set, just institutions and laws, which will embody feelings, beliefs and judgments, but we also have to educate citizens and raise them to be loving, tolerant, free, equal and compassionate individuals – through a modern concept of (confluent) love which embodies the aforementioned values, beliefs and emotions. Sullivan’s thinking is similar when he says that “the law can indirectly influence culture if it persists on equality for all citizens and vice versa” (Sullivan; 1996: 170). Before Nussbaum and Sullivan, Rousseau and Tocqueville also showed that institutions and laws teach citizens how to define concepts of primary goods, responsibilities, convenient care for others, etc. They showed how institutions can, in different ways, encourage or slow down and form emotions which retard compassion; for example, feelings of shame, envy and disgust.
That is why we feel this is the time to present the idea of a modern confluent relationship: it is based on an equal relationship that embodies the principles of equality, freedom, and reciprocity; a relationship not restricted by sexual preferences and monogamy, as sociologist Anthony Giddens defines it. Giddens differentiates confluent love from passionate and romantic love. First, he divides passionate love (amour passion) from romantic love (romance) and romantic love from confluent love. It is typical that passionate love overtakes a man (charms him and can lead to religious enthusiasm) so that individuals in love can neglect everyday duties and surrender themselves to an ecstasy which belongs to the other (transcendent) world. This love has never been about the individual; it always serves to achieve other goals – temporary idealisation of the other joins a durable relationship with the loved object. Consequently, passionate love, from the standpoint of social order and duty, is dangerous and therefore never admitted either as necessary nor as satisfying the foundation for marriage. It has been seen as adulterous, even. Passionate love was mostly typical for aristocrats. Romantic love developed from these ideals (or idealisation of the other) and included elements of amour passion but still differed from amour passion and from Christian ideals. The influence of romantic love has been seen from the 18th century onward and it introduced the image of a story to an individual’s life. It is no accident that the verb “to romance” also means to tell a story. The story has now become individualised and places “I” (the ego) and the other into a personal story which does not have a special connection with broader social process (Giddens). Love was for the first time connected with freedom.
Amour passion was always liberating, but only because it altered the everyday routine (and this characteristic separated amour passion from other existent institutions). Romantic love meant that freedom is connected with reflection and consequently with self-execution. Therefore, romantic love claims a certain degree of self-questioning: why do I fall for the other? What does (s)he feel for me? Are our feelings deep enough to last? Romantic love separates both individuals from broader social circumstances in a different way then amour passion. “It ensures long-lasting life, directed in advanced expected future which both partners will shape in their own way. At the same it time creates 'shared story' which helps to divide marriage from other views of organised family and society and gives it special privilege” (Giddens; 2000: 52). Romantic love has remained until today, at least for women, the prevailing ideal, but it no longer means that the love will last a lifetime. Today’s romantic love “focus sexuality in expected future where girls see sexual contacts as detours on the way to final love relationship” (Giddens quotes Thompson; 2000: 56) which does not directly lead to marriage. The reasons for this are hypocrisy and inequality offered by the law to women: as much it was sometimes, on one side, the only tool of autonomy and adulthood, on the other side it was also a phenomenon of new kind of captivity and dependence of a man, which Shanely also discusses.
Today, we are working intensively to abolish this contradiction. Marriage was all this time connected with love, and when men and women began to separate it from the external factors on which it was traditionally based, the love relationship did not need equalisation with marriage but only with love. This relationship, named by Giddens the relationships of confluent love, is part of the general modification of intimacy at the end of 20th century and is characterized merely by a tight and lasting emotional bound with another human and which can or must lead to marriage. “Confluent love lasts only if the two sides think that it is mutually satisfactory and refers to situation where two people step into social contact because of the contact itself and because of what each person can gain when socialising with another person” (Giddens; 2000: 64).
This way, romantic love takes us to confluent love, which presumes equality by emotional and sexual giving and taking. “Love can in this position develop only as much as much develops intimacy and to what extend are partners willing to reveal worries, needs and vulnerability” (Giddens; 2000: 68). Sexual exclusiveness is in this relationship is defined by the partners’ agreement, however that do not mean that an equal relationship promotes a promiscuous and permissive relationship where partners can do what they want. These relationships are usually still binary. The main change is that in an equal relationship, confluent love does not have support from outside but must develop merely on the basis of intimacy, reciprocity, trust, equality and freedom. The question is how to establish a balance between autonomy and dependence: partners must try to preserve mutual trust and allow themselves certain freedom. To trust someone means to refuse opportunities where one can supervise, dominate or tries to suppress partner’s activities.
Unique for confluent love is also idea that it is not specially bound to heterosexuality. “If orthodox marriage has not became one among life styles yet, although in fact it is, it is partly because of institutional delay” (Giddens; 2000: 158). Giddens continues: “Confluent love which is not necessarily androgynous, is perhaps still structuralised around differences, and presumes a model of 'equal' relationships where it is important to know the characteristics of another. With confluent love is individuals’ sexuality only one of the factors which must be accepted when negotiating.” Giddens believes that gays and lesbians started to develop “equal” relationships before heterosexuals because they had to live with each other without traditional frames of marriage, in circumstances where partners were nearly equal. The expansion of homosexuality and bisexuality occurred when people started to look on sexuality as a characteristic which we can discover and understand reflexively, question and develop. Or as Giddens explains based on some findings of Foucault’s “History of Sexuality”: “Today we discovered and opened 'sex' so that it is easily accessible when different life styles develop. This is something we all have or raise and it is no longer natural circumstance which individuals accepts as in advance given condition. Sexuality works – we have to discover how - as some sort of I (ego’s) feature, can be shaped and is primary connecting point between body, personal identity and social norms” (ibid: 22). I (ego) and personal identity are today for everyone reflexive projects and are more or less incessantly questioning past, today and tomorrow.
GIDDENS A. (2000): Preobraza intimosti; Spolnost, ljubezen in erotika v sodobnih družbah – Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticsm in Modern Societies. Ljubljana, *cf.
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LOVE IS EVERYWHERE
First, something totally off the topic but you will soon see the point. Just bear with me, ok? Albert O. Hirschman (1966) in his book The Passions and The Interests argues that the rise of capitalism is a function of the activity of merchants and bankers, whose labour was originally considered sinful. So, what changed? How could a morally shameful enterprise become ethically acceptable? The answer lies in the moralizing role of the interest as opposed to the passions. At first Seventeenth century philosophers used the principle of countervailing passions – they defined which passions were to be tamed and which could be used as tamers. So passions such as ambition, lust for power and lust for sex needed to be tamed by other set of passions, hitherto variously known as greed, avarice, or love of lucre (1966, 56).
Another step in this process came with the discovery of “interest” and “interests” as tamers of the passions while trying to pit passions one against the other. While the passions made unpredictable and irrational, for instance greed now defined as interest could be cultivated by work and commerce, both intrinsically innocent and mild activities – at least vis-à-vis the wilderness of other passions, as Smith argued. So Smith dismissed the whole debate on how to tame one set of harmful passions (i.e. ambition) against the other (i.e. greed) simply by equalizing passions (to be more accurate one passion) and interests. So one passion, greed, self-interest at one point just became an interest. In Smith’s writing, the pursue of personal interest came to be recognised as the key to personal and social prosperity, happiness and even peace.
So what is my point: that as long we will be caught into the debate about trying to tame one bad outlook on lesbians with other less bad outlook we won't get very far in a positive (self)presentation. Instead I will show that homosexual love is equal with heterosexual one and that there is nothing shameful about it. On what grounds? On a simple one: it is love and it is friendship as the same big passionate or romantic love and friendship in a heterosexual relationship.
But let us go step by step. It is said by conservatives that the mission of straight relationship is union of men and woman with the aim of reproduction. If we are beings just to reproduce, i.e. spread our genes then lesbians certainly fulfill this mission. We can get pregnant without a big deal and bear a child if that is what it takes to. And we can do that in old fashioned way as it was presented in film Viola di Mare (ITA, 2009) based on a true story where the main character slept with a man or we can do it in a modern way by using a sperm donor as it was presented in film If These Walls Could Talk 2, part 3 (USA, 2000).
And if someone might say of a lesbian relationship as a wasteful relationship may we point to the fact that nature itself is wasteful – if you look at woman's period we have only 2 days of ovulation per month which is 24 days per year comparing with the rest of 340 infertile days per year - an awfully small amount. If that is what counts for the equality of lesbian couple with heterosexual couple – spreading our genes - we are certainly equal.
But that is not enough, conservatives say. We need to raise our children by giving them a model in the role of a mother and father. However, studies have shown that it is enough if you keep a presence of a male figure in child's life as if in the role of grandfather, brother, uncle and as it was done in the film Tous Les Papas Ne Font Pas Pipi Debout (FRA, 1998). On the other hand there are numerous studies showing that fathers in straight families are more and more absent (because of work) and the number of one parent families is also growing and both occurences having a much stronger impact on child's development then having two mothers who are loving and present. Children in lesbian relationships are ordinary kids having the same questions as other kids, as shown in feature/documentary film Gayby Baby (AUS, 2015).
But not that is not enough again. Conservatives also say their relationships are not so crude being based only on biological base but that there is (must be) love between partners. So do we claim – our aim of being together is certainly not only to produce and raise children but loving each other (and our children). What is the base of this love? The same as in heterosexual relationship – as being said it is not only a physical communication but also a psychological and emotional communication between the two personalities (partners), as in the case of romantic love.
Giddens points out its characteristics: “Romantic love became distinct from amour passion, although at the same time had residues of it. Amour passion was never a generic social force in the way in which romantic love has been from somewhere in the late eighteenth century up to relatively recent times. Together with other social changes, the spread of notions of romantic love was deeply involved with momentous transitions affecting marriage as well as other contexts of personal life” (Giddens, 1994, 44) as shown in film Desert Hearts (USA, 1985).
Romantic love presumes some degree of self-interrogation. How do I feel about the other? How does the other feel about me? Are our feelings 'profound' enough to support a long-term involvement? “Unlike amour passion, which uproots erratically, romantic love detaches individuals from wider social circumstances in a different way. It provides for a long term life trajectory, oriented to an anticipated yet malleable future; and it creates a 'shared history' that helps separate out the marital relationship from other aspects of family organisation and give it a special primacy” (ibid). Although Giddens argues that relationships have changed and proposes a new definition of (post)modern love as a confluent love as And Then Came Lola (USA, 2009).
And our relationships are indeed the same as heterosexual ones: (romantic) love is all about trust, individualism, compassion, reciprocity and intimacy. And intimacy is above all a matter of emotional communication with oneself and others in the context of equality. In this context women are emotional revolutionaries. And it is because understanding women's emotionality is the key to understanding intimacy that Giddens also considers accounts of lesbian relationships a key source of understanding a 'pure relationship' as a general type!
And the base of our love is also friendship. As Aristotle said you are friend with someone for the sake of doing good to each other. This type of friendship is based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility or pleasure. Aristotle calls it a “...complete sort of friendship between people who are good and alike in virtue...” (Aristotle, 1966, 120) and in aspirations, wishes and interests (we add). This type of friendship is long lasting and tough to obtain because these types of people are hard to come by and it takes a lot of work to have such a virtuous friendship. He also argued that this type of friendship is very close to love.
That is why a true loving long-lasting lesbian relationship includes also being a (best) friend with the partner. Aristotle also argues that there are similarities between friendship of virtue and that of utility and pleasure, however; it is only the good that can endure in such a friendship. As Aristotle puts it, “it is clear that only the good can be friends for themselves, since the bad do not enjoy their own kind unless some benefit comes from them” (ibid.), as presented in film Julia (USA, 1977), based on true story and Fried Green Tomato (USA, 1991) although the latter is not an explicit lesbian film (however, it's considered being full of lesbian subtext which book according it was made doesn't hide it).
So the pursue of personal love's preference can be again recognised as the key to individual and social prosperity and happiness. Indeed we can say that partnership and/or marriage is only one form of love, although the most common one. Yet it is true that love also has other – and as we will show many – forms and even degrees (some are more intensive then the others). Different forms mean that we can find love between friends as we showed with Aristotle and Montaigne in one of our previous texts on this site, but also between acquaintances, co-workers or even strangers.
Future of Lesbian Films
As a screenwriter of documentaries on love, emotions and sexuality and screenwriter of films besides that I am a philosopher of love and sexuality I am thrilled to see new wave of lesbian films, such as Carol, Summertime, Women's Lake and others but what I still miss is that we haven't seen films that present a truly happy long term lesbian love, love between elder lesbians and spiritual dimensions of lesbian love yet.
I have watched many lesbian films over the period of 20 years and I can not remember a single film that has presented, described or talked about lesbian love in a form of spiritual and human evolvement and evolution. I can not remember a film about a happy peaceful long term lesbian love either or a decent portrayal of love between elder lesbians.
I saw however a great deal of lousy lesbian films on the part of writing (It is in the Water, Bar Girls, Claire of the Moon ...), imitating heterosexual stereotypes or using lesbians to add a sort of juicy spice to film, i.e. to leading straight/bisexual female role (Femme Fatale, Laurel Canyon, Awol ...), weird films on the part of presentation (Mango kiss, April's Shower ...), low cost production films that resulted in bad acting and screening (Goodbye Emma Jo, Thin Ice ...), lesbians preying for their victims and sucking life out of them or using and domineering them for their pleasure (Hunger, The Vampire Lovers, Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant) and very sad and depressing on the part of how society has perceived the value of a lesbian love as something worthless, expendable, abominable and horrible due to societal perception of homosexuality which influenced lesbians themselves (The Children's Hour, Lost and Delirious, Boys don't Cry ...).
We are fed up with lesbian love stories that are overly tragic, overly sad and violent. It can be argued it is also because all great love stories, even heterosexual ones, like Rome and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Juliet and Saint Preux, are tragic and sad love stories. Well, if that was true for lesbians they would not die in such a high rate in such a violent manner for no noble, higher, spiritual cause. Lesbians in films usually do not die for moral, philosophical or sacred reasons but mostly for reasons showing how their existence is worthless, forbidden, immoral, sinful and most of all expendable.
Namely, how can be a lesbian love used (and what) for in patriarchal society (in a male and combative competitive ego world where female is usually seen merely as a resourceful means of producing more male combative, competitive egos)? None. Ergo, she is useless thus worth only killing her off as something redundant yet usable for a very short of time for the sake of the story which is clearly seen in the long history of lesbian film character(s).
For this reason I as philosopher of love and sexuality and screenwriter of films and documentaries of the same topics I wish to see a new concept of love presented on a big screen: I truly wish and desire for love stories that present a happy peaceful love; love that has a potential to be a long-term and at the same time successful, fulfilling and happy and also stories of love between adults or elder lesbians not only teenagers and adolescents and very importantly also something with a deep, lasting love in the level of sacred and divine.
As we can see throughout history, male homosexual love has been endowed with spiritual, holy and noble perceptions of love between two men since the beginnings of times, such as in epic story of Gilgamesh or even more famous Plato's Symposium and Pheado, Pindar's Theoxenus ode or Vergil's book 5 of the Aeneid and even immortalized in opera's like Handels opera L'Oreste. Yet lesbian love has never been described in such elevating spiritual or soulful words as for instance Aristotle wrote of love between Alexander the Great and general Hephaestion as“one soul abiding in two bodies.“
And where are lesbian films such as Wang Kar Wai's love films In the Mood for Love and 2046; films that deeply question and explore the notion of human desire and importance of memories, such as Tarkovsky's Stalker, Solaris and Nostalghia, films of a big unrequited love such as Ophulus's Letter from Unknown Woman, films about human mind and its big, incredible achievements like Apted's Enigma or Howard's Beautiful Mind, films that depict and unreveal the landscapes and dynamics of human psyche such as Bergman's Cries and Whispers, Persona and Silence, Ozu's films, such as Floating Weeds, Late Spring and Good Morning and Kurosava's Dreams and Rashamon to name a few?
As I started this essay by stating that I long for brilliant lesbian films that will portray big, long lasting and sacred lesbian love between two adult women I am adding to this also films that will portray a landscape of woman's desire not only desire for another woman but also as a human desire, for films that would explore the vastness of woman's memories, the complexity of woman's psyche, her dreams and her brilliant mind, the search for the truth and justice and the importance of woman's vocation and affording life she (and the way she) wishes and to love whom she desires, especially if that includes another woman!
It seems that we have a long way to the greatness and entirety of lesbian film making in all areas of woman's and/or lesbian's life but we can achieve that first by depicting what we wish, desire, want and need and then carrying out that in great film art works.