Merri Lisa,Congratulations on your great new book! I finished it a few days ago, and I wanted to write and say how much it moved me. The huge life changes that you’ve gone through were obviously shattering, yet they gave you such amazing insights. The suffering you describe was tough to experience vicariously, but your strength and bravery that were ultimately conveyed were inspiring.
You have no idea how many people I convinced to read JSIU after I discovered it in 2003. It sparked many intense and fruitful dialogues with my feminist- and non-feminist-identifying girlfriends, and even my boyfriend.
As I just said, I absolutely loved Girl, but it seemed like it was written by a totally different person. My friends and I responded deeply to Jane (all the essays, but especially the ones you wrote) because its ambivalence about men, gender roles, and feminism reflected our inner tensions and doubts. We identified completely with your searching for a different kind of heterosexuality. Your book embraced both the dangerous, unruly rawness of desire and the essential truths of feminism.
[Then I wrote to ask for more details on the comparison . . . ]So I guess I’m left with the question of what you see when you look back at your earlier work. Is there something other than pathology to be salvaged in Jane? When you think back on how you captured contemporary girls’ dissatisfaction so poignantly, do you see anything more than just symptoms of borderline personality disorder and/or repressed lesbianism?
The differences I see in the two books have everything to do (I assume) with the changes that have happened in your life in the past five or so years. Three big ones: the BPD diagnosis, coming to terms with lesbianism/coming out, and getting married. Girl is about these circumstances, the revelations they brought, and how you still struggle with those revelations. To me, it reads like a chronicle of your 30s, while JSIU was a chronicle of your 20s.
I'm wondering about how you connect these two chronicles. Is the sole connection a therapeutic narrative that finds in Jane a repository of symptoms of BPD? Should young women who see themselves in your Jane essays get therapy, stat? :)
Again, thank you for ALL of your beautiful books. Thank you for struggling through the trauma to reach healing expression.
- How to write about female psychosocial disorders without reinforcing sexist stereotypes of women as inherently crazy, irrational, excessive, and generally off our rockers.
- How to make nuanced distinctions between the feminist protest of asymmetrical and otherwise unsatisfying hetero-relationships and borderline styles of reaction to distress, which are markedly disproportionate and self-defeating.
The decision to write Girl in Need of a Tourniquet was prompted, in a way, by my realization that the bad feelings described in "Fuck You and Your Untouchable Face: Third Wave Feminism and the Problem of Romance" (chapter 1 in Jane Sexes It Up) were coming up in similar ways in my lesbian affair, a realization that definitely made me question my insights in JSIU for a while. (Maybe the problem wasn't the guy. Maybe it was me. Why did I always take the faucet end of the tub after all? My capacity for self-subordination outstretched the influence of male-dominant couplehood dynamics.) Gender roles were no longer the obvious culprit, so I dove into the wreck of my personal psychology, family history, and ungrieved losses, leaving feminism behind for the time being.
- Can I have a personality disorder and be a feminist too?
- Can I admit to psychosocial disability and interrogate misogyny, able-ism, and medical authority at the same time?
- Can I claim the label of borderline without signing away my rights to a feminist perspective on relationships that drive a girl crazy?
Tentatively. Critically. Self-reflexively.
The path is unclear, but I think I can get there from here.