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Privilege_of_unknowing[1] - 4 Introduction Axiomatic best...

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4 Introduction: Axiomatic best friends, who for years canvassed freely the emotional complications of each other's erotic lives - the man's eroticism happening to focus ex- clusively on men. But it was only after one particular conversational moment, fully a decade into this relationship, that it seemed to either of these friends that permission had been given to the woman to refer to the man, in their conversation together, as a gay man. Discussing it much later, both agreed they had felt at the time that this one moment had constituted a clear-cut act of coming out, even in the context of years and years beforehand of exchange predicated on the man's being gay. What was said to make this difference? Not a version of "I am gay," which could only have been bathetic between them. What constituted coming out for this man, in this situation, was to use about himself the phrase "coming out" -to mention, as if casually, having come out to someone else. (Similarly, a T-shirt that ACT UP sells in New York bearing the text, "I am out, therefore I am," is meant to do for the wearer, not the constative work of reporting that s/he is out, but the performative work of coming out in the first place.) And as Chapter 1 will discuss, the fact that silence is rendered as pointed and performative as speech, in relations around the closet, depends on and highlights more broadly the fact that ignorance is as potent and as multiple a thing there as is knowledge. Knowledge, after all, is not itself power, although it is the magnetic field of power. Ignorance and opacity collude or compete with knowledge in mobilizing the flows of energy, desire, goods, meanings, persons. If M. Mitterrand knows English but Mr. Reagan lacks-as he did lack- French, it is the urbane M. Mitterrand who must negotiate in an acquired tongue, the ignorant Mr. Reagan who may dilate in his native one. Or in the interactive speech model by which, as Sally McConnell-Ginet puts it, "the standard ... meaning can be thought of as what is recognizable solely on the basis of interlocutors' mutual knowledge of established prac- tices of interpretation," it is the interlocutor who has or pretends to have the less broadly knowledgeable understanding of interpretive practice 'who will define the terms of the exchange. So, for instance, because "men, with superior extralinguistic resources and privileged discourse positions, are often less likely to treat perspectives different from their own as mutu- ally available for communication," their attitudes are "thus more likely to leave a lasting imprint on the common semantic stock than women's."4 4. Sally McConnell-Ginet, "The Sexual (Re)production of Meaning: A Discourse- Based Theory," manuscript, pp. 387-88, quoted in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Tr.:ichler, A Feminist Dictionary (Boston: Pandora Press, 1985), p. 264; emphasis added.
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