Towards Fembot Poetics

I all but grew up on the internet, but blogging consistently has always escaped me. Every few months I would toy with the idea of blogging seriously, but it would always disappear in favour of endlessly scrolling Facebook and Tumblr. In the past few months, I’ve become seriously ill, and the blogging project reemerged with new urgency. I’ve always been a words person, a writer; but a sudden severe bout with a lifelong illness rendered my ability to words variable and inconsistent. My writing process, always an elusive and finicky thing, became much more laborious. Losing my words to medications, fatigue, and side effects made them that much more precious to me, and I wanted to find a way to explore my changing process. And so with incrementally slow progress and a great deal of agonizing, this blog was born.

Fembot Poetics. Poetics is the study of literary form; it is about the way in which meaning emerges in texts. In contrast to poetics we have hermeneutics, the study of meaning itself. Poetics is the how of meaning, the study of linguistic choices and textual elements and how they contribute to the effect on the reader.

If this sounds like a load of stifling theoretical bullshit, well, it is. I love theory as much as the next liberal arts M.A., and hate it as much as one too. But under all the Aristotle and the Theory and the Poststructuralism of poetics, there’s a kernel of something interesting: how we take the raw stuff of life and shape it into something meaningful. How we create.

The other half of this blog title is that least prestigious of creations, the fembot. The fembot lacks the high theoretical associations of the cyborg and the sci-fi cachet of the android. Created to be good for something, circumscribed by the misogyny inherent in her creation, the fembot is not a robot who matters. At her most complex, she’s murderous; at her least, merely fuckable.

The image of the fembot speaks to my experience as a disabled and chronically ill woman. I was born with a heart defect and I’ve undergone intensive medical intervention several times throughout childhood and into my adulthood. I’m familiar with feeling more like someone’s weird science experiment than an actual person. Reduced entirely to my body, to what it can and can’t do, to how other people think and feel about it. My agency and my sense of self have been systematically erased by lifelong, ongoing contact with a medical system that doesn’t quite understand that defective bodies are humans too.

The title of this blog is a tongue-in-cheek reference to feminist critical theory. It’s a search to understand the fembot not only as a creation but as a creator; a creator with process, depth, deliberation, and something important to say. As an editor, I’m interested in poetics, in the whys and wherefores of authorial choices and how that shapes narrative. As a disabled woman (a fembot), I’m interested in creating, not just being created.

The creative process itself is also a kind poetics–a critical practice or lense. Creativity is a way of making meaning by emphasizing some things, some perspectives or thoughts or feelings that live in us. When we create, we take back the narrative. For disabled people, who are so strictly circumscribed by narratives of eugenics, tragedy, and ‘inspiration’, taking back the narrative by creating our own is a political act. At the same time, so much of creative advice is laughably inapplicable to disabled people. Write every day no matter what! It’s hard to do that when you can’t get out of bed.

This space grew out of frustration with that way of speaking about creativity and process. It’s an attempt to tilt the ground a little, to focus on alternative versions of creativity and creative process that don’t demand an unflinching, relentless productivity. I want to think about a creative process that includes the low spoon days, the days we can’t get out of bed, the days where one sentence is a struggle and the days when words just won’t come. What if we learned to value our ebbs as much as our flows? To see rest, quiet, and illness as integral components of creativity, not its enemy. What if we embraced working from where we are? I want to nurture a discussion of process that centres disabled and ill experience, instead of merely allowing for it. Our bad days are not weaknesses to be overcome, not skips in the record, but living moments that inform our creative selves.

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