One thing I find myself mulling over whenever I read feminist (or other social justice) blogs is that there is a fine line between metaphor as enlightening and metaphor as useless. But lately, I’ve also been thinking about the critique of metaphor.
And I don’t know how to get at this distinction exactly, but it seems to me that there are two negative responses to metaphors: either the metaphor is not quite right and therefore really doesn’t illuminate some part of the issue (a very useful critique, I think) or the metaphor is not quite right and we all must figure out what the right metaphor would be, with this bizarre urgency.
I’m starting to suspect that the bizarre urgency is because we still believe that, if only we could figure out exactly the right way to state our case, we’d get what we want. And yet, surely, by this point, we must suspect that it’s not that the people holding out on us don’t know what we want, it’s that they don’t want to give it.
Are you referring, perchance, to the metaphor on Feministe?
Yep. Well, that’s what got me thinking about it. But I’ve noticed it before. I thin you can critique a metaphor for not working, but sometimes I really feel like we’re trying to find just the right frame that will solve all our problems.
Resort to metaphor allows you to kid yourself that everyone experiences/interprets other events similarly and they just aren’t getting this one particular bit…it’s the grasping for a common frame of reference, an analogy that will be the bridge, the rope, the note that can be heard. The larger problem (that there are structures of power and culture that urge us apart in incompatible interpretative directions) that we’re trying to solve is the very thing that insures metaphor’s incompleteness as a communicative strategy. Metaphor tasks the brain to think and measure the critical distance between the metaphor and the other topic on the table; what we really want, usually, is empathy and identification (to cause the other person to treat us as themselves).