Interview: 3 Questions for Sharon Loo

Sharon Loo’s immense learning and established skills in editing and writing serve her well in academia, as well as make her a genuinely public intellectual: someone accessible and thoughtful and perhaps just flat-out interesting. Her work in feminism can be introduced through this issue of the journal Panorama, where you will find an article not unrelated to the topic. The fan-fiction referenced below can be found many places, and one place to start is here. Finally, there is the issue of the scholars she engages that I am perhaps most interested in, and you can find reference to that in her newest blog.

1. Usually, people don’t associate “feminism” with “fanfic” or “reading Leo Strauss.” How might the three link in your mind, besides being your interests, and could people be more appreciative of each?

You know that fan fiction is something that I create purely for self-entertainment.

Feminism is really a mode of thought that embraces the gentler aspects of our soul. It is about having the good sense to know that the starling in the cage should be set free instead of passing the cage to the next person. In Sterne’s Sentimental Journey, there is a caged starling asking people to free it. The caged starling is passed from hand to hand throughout Europe and everyone who sees it is moved by its plight, yet no one thinks to set it free. Why? Because it brings out so much sensibility in those who see the starling. My fan fiction seeks to take that jump and free the metaphorical starling so to speak. My heroines are in love, yes. They sigh and hide behind pillars to stare at the chap they fancy, yes. But they know doing just that isn’t going make the man notice them let alone fall into their laps. If they want the fellow, they know they want the fellow and not the chap next to him. If that is the case, they jolly well take action, which is quite feminist really. I believe Strauss teaches the same thing where he seems to be saying, “So you feel what the ancients are telling you? Then try applying it to yourself and see what happens. It may just the best thing that you could do to yourself.”

Feminism isn’t all about bra-burning and torturing men, though I do confess, torturing the occasional male does give me a frisson. *gets slightly misty eyed* No, feminism is realising that one needs “sensibility” along with “sense” and these two have be in balance. It is about preserving society and civilisation and propriety, as well as having the balls to do what feels right even if you know it would not be regarded as right. In other words, it is about tempering pure rational thought with some feeling. Unite the propriety of going along with what is the right thing and doing what feels right even if you know it would not be regarded as right, you have feminism, which is really a form of philosophy. We are all made up of both male and female parts, so why tell us that we are all male or all female? We need both to be balanced so to speak and I think Strauss is all for that kind balance. That is putting it simplistically, so I will expand upon it a little.

The rational side of humanity says that everyone is watching everyone else and that unless we are alike, we are ‘abnormal’. Utter tosh, of course, but that is what is believed. There are some of us who still have to scars from this sort of treatment. So we have to seek to conform and fit in as bade by propriety and that appears to be the sensible thing to do. But how long can one quietly obey the dictates of propriety? At some point, one is going to snap and rebel. It’s all very human you see and what can be more human than philosophy. Philosophy is the feminine activity of observing and then deciding how to act. After all, both feminism and philosophy advocate moderation over aggressiveness. Philosophy as Strauss would say deals with the all too human things of impiety, nobility, justice, moderation, rule over human beings and so on. Think about it, Strauss’s theory of natural right in a nutshell is based on the idea that we all want to live and how we should live with or without some ground in theology. My notion of feminism is to unite knowing when to do that which feels right even in the face of propriety because it is just to do so. Strauss does not want us to indulge too much in either how we want to live or how we should live. Feminism seeks to address what it means to act when necessary. So it nicely coincides with philosophy – at least that’s the way I see it. I could very well be rambling nonsense.

2. What are the mistakes people make practicing or thinking about politics today? Would you use an idealism/realism distinction to address those mistakes?

The problem with politics today is kind of like a typical action film. In the action films I have seen, whenever there is a problem or a crisis, something gets blown up. A similar thing happens in present day politics. When there is a problem or crisis, something will explode (usually metaphorically) and whatever it is that has “exploded” will act as a smoke screen to the real issue at hand.

It is as if the smoke from the explosion diverts attention from the fact that active practitioners of politics (at whatever level) often lose sight of everything that makes us decent human beings. Have you ever noticed that practitioners of politics at whatever level often lose sight of the common good they claim to be promoting? That’s why they need the “explosions” to hide this.

Politicians can pretend that they will really deliver things they promised in their entireties, but they cannot hide from the reality that the very things being offered will likely not materialise. So what do they do? At some point, they throw in “smoke bombs” of so-called benefits for the people and what have you to hide the fact that they really cannot deliver.
It is really insufferable to make these sorts of conditional promises while promising the people to abide by their promises unconditionally when everything is just a smokescreen hiding the truth, viz., nothing’s really going to change. There’s something very vulgar about this that I find distasteful because it seems as though the practitioners of politics have no natural sincerity or political nobility.

That’s the actual practice of politics, tied to explosions occurring and just stupefying the spectators with the sheer force and colour of the bang. But there are idealists among us who know that there ought to be piety, justice, nobility and so on in the political life, yet we do not actively dabble in it. Because we know we cannot hope to go against the explosions. We are realistic in that sense. Yet despite knowing that we cannot meet the explosions head on, we itch to do something about it. Thus, we choose instead to talk and get just a few people acquainted with the good and noble things and send them out there, in the hope that they will eventually practice politics and temper the explosions.

3. Please talk about the work you’ve done that you think more people should read.

Work? Well, there is this flat that I cleaned that I am very proud of. Would you believe this household never bother scrubbing their stove? Now it is sparkling and properly… Oh, that’s not what you meant. *Ahem* My apologies.

To own the truth, I have not written as much I would have liked. I do have the odd poem here and there. At the moment, I have a brief tract on the dedicatory letter to The Prince, which I think is fairly analytic in an understated way. If you are interested in my semi-philosophical Harry-Potter-verse fan fiction, you may like Beyond Time and Space, which is about knowing yourself and what it means to be human and alive. If your tastes run more into poetic, you could try my fanfic in the style of a Shakespearean problem play Tanquam Ovis or you may fancy dissecting Joy, which responds to the idea of felicific calculus. I am particularly fond of my ongoing, deliberately anachronistic Victorian novel entitled A Succession of Busy Nothings and the pseudo-philosophical ramblings therein. But I should warn you, I guard the readership of the novel jealously.

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