The Confessional and Hello Kitty

Many have been writing about this, but in disparate areas and under different keywords.  Some call it ‘blogging’, some ‘reality TV’, some ‘social networking’ but in the end I see them as all mainfest of the same movement: confessional culture.  We are dumping ourselves into the larger discussions where a few years ago the technology, and arguably the desire to do so, did not exist.  Most criticize this move and yet they embrace it at the very same time.  Yours truly, for example, has always derided Facebook and yet I cannot help but check it for updates and at times to even update my own status.  My derision only grows as I feel more and more naturalized with it.  Hell, this paragraph can stands as a testament to the confessional’s power.

Wendy Brown does a better job of explaining the danger surrounding this movement:

But if the silences in discourses are a site for insurrectionary noise, if they are the corridors we must fill with explosive counter-tales, it also possible to make a fetish of breaking silence.  Even more than a fetish, it is possible that this ostensible tool of emancipation carries its own techniques of subjugation – that it converges with non-emancipatory tendencies in contem-porary culture (for example, the ubiquity of confessional discourse and rampant personalization of political life), that it establishes regulatory norms, coincides with the disciplinary power of confession, in short, feeds the powers we meant to starve. While attempting to avoid a simple reversal of feminist valorizations of breaking silence, it is this dimension of silence and its putative opposite with which this Article is concerned.

In the course of this work, I want to make the case for silence not simply as an aesthetic but a political value, a means of preserving certain practices and dimensions of existence from regulatory power, from normative violence, as well as from the scorching rays of public exposure. I also want to suggest a link between, on the one hand, a certain contemporary tendency concerning the lives of public figures – the confession or extraction of every detail of private and personal life (sexual, familial, therapeutic, financial) and, on the other hand, a certain practice in feminist culture: the compulsive putting into public discourse of heretofore hidden or private experiences – from catalogues of sexual pleasures to litanies of sexual abuses, from chronicles of eating disorders to diaries of homebirths, lesbian mothering, and Gloria Steinam’s inner revolution.  In linking these two phenomena – the privatization of public life via the mechanism of public exposure of private life on the one hand, and the compulsive/compulsory cataloguing of the details of women’s lives on the other – I want to highlight a modality of regulation and depoliticization specific to our age that is not simply confessional but empties private life into the public domain, and thereby also usurps public space with the relatively trivial, rendering the political personal in a fashion that leaves injurious social, political and economic powers unremarked and untouched.  In short, while intended as a practice of freedom (premised on the modernist conceit that the truth shall make us free), these productions of truth not only bear the capacity to chain us to our injurious histories as well as the stations of our small lives but also to instigate the further regulation of those lives, all the while depoliti-cizing their conditions. (1996, 185)

These are not new ideas, however, combatting them will require a new move.  As discussed above with my own accounting, even though I feel this way I still desire to update my Facebook page. Google will be announcing a new social media tool later this week and I am enthralled for the announcement.  This movement cannot be combatted by simple criticism.  Something more affective is needed.  What is needed is something like the Hello Kitty logo.

I have not done the research necessary to validate the following reading of the logo, but it is consistent with what I know of Japanese culture hence more than plausible.  Japanese women/girls are not silenced as their western counterparts are.  Instead they are often called upon to speak and not empowered to hold their tongues.  The logo, then, is a piece de resistance of that impulse.

Hello Kitty is still caught up some translation problems, most notably the western confession does not seem to be specific to gender norms, see Brown above for reference to its once gendered liberatory potential.  What we should find is an image that can serve as a stand-in for silence.

Brown, Wendy.  (1996).  Constitutions and ‘survivor stories’: In the ‘folds of our own discourse.’  University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, 3

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