One winter morning in 2008, a man called out “Hot Ching Chong!” to Suyin Looui in the street on her way to work. Shocked, infuriated and revolted, she decided to create the video game “Hey Baby!” in which women are the heros. Entering the program, you find yourself in the streets of a city like New York, armed with a gun. You are accosted by men, most of them young: “Hey baby, nice legs!”, “Do you have time for me, baby?”, “Wow, you’re so beautiful”, “I like the way you bounce”, “I would blow your mind”, etc. Here, you have to make a choice: either you say “Thanks!” and continue on your way (the harasser appears to leave, but then comes back again a few seconds later) OR you draw your firearm and shoot him dead. The man lies in a pool of blood, and then he is quickly replaced by a headstone inscribed with whatever final words he addressed to you. You win nothing (there is an infinite number of harassers) other than the chance to move freely in the street.
What is the cultural narrative of feminist violence? Is representing and expressing our rage the same thing as living and experimenting with (experiencing?) our violence? Could our violence take care of us? If “Hey Baby!” is a kind of “dirty ethics of care” and if this video game is an apology for our own desirably violent fantasy when faced with the nagging violence of sexual harassment, it constitutes an attempt to challenge the dominant political subject of feminism and queer movements and communities (and we will focus on several underground or “minor” praxis of self-defense, mainly in North America and Western Europe). How can one recognize herself as a “victim” and remain — or, more likely, become against all odds — a subject capable of her own defense and worthy of being defended? And what place does our own violence occupy in this process? Given the tragic historical and contemporary context of the self-defense issue, it would be difficult to brush aside the reference to the right of armed self-defense – especially in the US and especially now. Yet, our purpose is to think about violence within a genealogy of the concept of self-defense and to develop a phenomenology of our own violence.
This event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Elsa Dorlin is Professor of political and social philosophy at the department of political science and involved in the department of women’s studies and gender and sexuality studies at Vincennes/St. Denis Paris 8 University (France). Dorlin specializes in feminist philosophy and theory and historical epistemology of sexuality. Dorlin’s research also focuses on critical theory and postcolonial studies. She is the author of several books and articles in French, including La Matrice de la Race: Généalogie sexuelle et coloniale de la nation française (Paris, La Découverte, 2006), Sexe, genre et sexualité (Paris, PUF, 2008), and the editor of Black Feminism: Anthologie du féminisme africain américain 1975-2000 (Paris, L’Harmatta, 2007) and Sexe, race, classe: Pour une épistémologie de la domination (Paris, Puf, 2009). Her last book Defenseless: Violence, Body and Subjectivity will be available next September.