Janice Raymond on “Two-Sights Seeing”

There are many ways to speak about vision. Every meaning, however, is possessed of a certain tension. This tension can be ‘felt’ in the word’s dual dictionary definition and in any attempt to live out a vision. At one and the same time, vision means ‘the exercise of the ordinary faculty of sight’ and ‘something which is apparently seen by other than ordinary sight.’ Another way of phrasing this tension is to ask how, indeed, it is possible to see with the ordinary faculty of sight, that is, to maintain a necessary realism about the conditions of existence, and to see beyond these conditions, that is, to ‘overleap reality.’ Or, how do women live in the world as men have defined it while creating the world as women imagine it could be?

~Janice Raymond, A Passion for Friends: Toward a Philosophy of Female Affection

Raymond calls the ability to do this “two-sights seeing.” There’s a lot to two-sights seeing, but I think it’s absolutely necessary for feminists to develop it. Without a vision of how the world could be, we don’t know what our values are and so we don’t know what to work for. But without an awareness of the reality of women’s lives under male supremacy, we can easily fall into unrealistic expectations of ourselves and each other. Two-sights seeing requires–as does any attempt to dismantle systems of privilege, perhaps especially those which we benefit from–a willingness to be honest, even if only with ourselves. A willingness to understand where we fall short of living our values, to be kind to ourselves for those shortcomings, to continue to work towards the justice we want, all without going to senseless lengths to justify what we do when the pain of looking at our contradictions is just too great. I’d say “tension” is a really excellent description of that tightrope walk, myself.


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