What I dig about Critical Theory

February 13th, 2009

There’s a reason I’ve always felt an affinity for critical theory. Early on, it was more of an intuition, like right, these folks are really on to something.  Max Horkheimer, of course, is more articulate in his 1937 definition of critical theory as:

1. “a theory dominated at every turn by a concern for reasonable conditions of life;

2. a theory which Condemns exisitng social institutions and practicies as ‘inhuman’;

3. a theory which contemplates the need for ‘an alteration of society as a whole.”

Is it any wonder this is my theoretcial framework, my intellectual orientation and foundation? It just seems so simple, so obvious and so sensible.

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Dear Dan from your virtual fag hag

February 2nd, 2009

I have always been an advice column reader. Not an advice seeker, mind, and rarely an advice giver. But when I was 12 – 11 maybe – I began reading Ann Landers. Her column was the first thing I’d turn to in the newspaper (the second, pets classifieds and third – if it was a weekend – comics). I would pick up papers in the subway, doctor’s office, or wherever I happened to be, eagerly searching out her words of advice. I would read Dear Abby only in desperation, and in my young and humble opinion, her counsel was inferior to that of her sis. Anyhoo. Ann died, and as it turned out, I agreed with her less and less, despite being a faithful reader until her death. Though she was pro-choice and supported the legalization of prostitution, I found her attitude toward sex to be fairly conservative.

There have only been two advice columnists in my life since: Rob Brezny and Dan Savage. Rob Brezny is a bitter disappointment, as I have mentioned before. Basically, he writes a kick ass horoscope column, Free Will Astrology, with assignments rather than predictions for his readers. My friends have these amazing connections with column, and can’t believe how insightful and prescient it is, how Rob just seems to *see* into their innermost selves blahbitty blahbitty blah. But he must have a karmic block when it comes to Leo or something. Whatever it is, his advice to Leo is uninspired new age crap that falls flat almost every time.

Dan Savage is a different story. I came across Dan as I began to part ideological ways with Ann Landers, in my early 20s. He was touring the college circuit promoting his new book, The Kid. I remember reading an ad for his talk in one of the alternative weeklies. I thought: 2 gay guys adopting a kid. Cool.

Shortly after I discovered his advice column, written for The Stranger, Seattle’s alt weekly that he helped found, and syndicated in The Metro Times (Detroit). I have been a devotee ever since. Really. Sad to say, I feel a bit like a virtual fag hag. I think he’s the bees knees and I wish I had been reading him from pre-pubescence and not Ann Landers. Things might have been different.

But not only am I down with most if not all of the advice Dan doles out, I really dig his political approach to sex. And not just sex for homos – which of course is a hot button topic pretty much everywhere. Dan puts out for the hets as well, reminding them that their sexual freedoms are not etched in stone tablets handed down from the gee oh dee but highly contingent, historical and fading before our very eyes. I like how Dan uses his column to educate readers and disseminate important perspectives that are woefully absent from the mainstream and the even the alt-mainstream press. I love even more that he is unapologetic about it. That he swears in his column. That he doesn’t mind to call you a piece of shit if you are one. And that he writes his column in a bar. But for all his brashness and swagger and gay snarkiness Dan is a loyal, loving and all round decent human being. You can just tell. See? Virtual fag hag.

But this isn’t why I’m writing. I’m writing to give a little love to Dan’s new “word”, “saddlebacking.” In fact, it’s not Dan’s word at all. Periodically, Dan has contests where readers are asked to do something. The contest this time sought to redefine the word “saddleback” – the name of the evangelical christian megachurch founded by anti-homo pastor Rick Warren. It all started with Stephen Colbert suggesting “saddleback” was a sex act. Way back in December, a Savage Love reader asked Dan if it was indeed. And thus the contest was born. Thousands of suggested definitions clogged Dan’s inbox, and finally, the long awaited results last week:

Saddlebacking: the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.” After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she’s saving herself for marriage.

Way to call it, Savage Love folk. Saddlebacking is the second word Savage Love readers have defined, or redefined. The first was Santorum, as in Rick Santorum, member of the American Taliban, whose family name will forever after be known as “that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”

As usual, I can’t wait for this week’s column.


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