Musical anthem depicting the oppression of the white toxic-male vision and the resisting resilience within women that take on socially undervalued domestic labor.
"Come Unity" Lyrics:
How heavy is your house? When it’s made of stone.
What can you see? When you stare from your throne
What do you feel? When you’re all alone.
What do you hear? When you hunger and groan.
Come unity, Come unity, Community, Community,
White man strains to see
Underneath the woman tree
Eyes starved with greed
He does not hear her melody
White man cannot bleed
Empty of empathy
Alone is different than free,
Alone is different than free,
Come unity Come unity, Community Community,
White world cannot see,
Blind to complexity,
The west is not free,
It’s ivy tower does not breathe,
Women work without money,
Domestically for free,
Women get no dignity,
In this global hypocrisy,
Come unity, Come unity, Community, Community,
Let your emotions flow,
Resonance to heal and grow,
Listen and you will know
Listen to the woman tree
Respect the complexity,
Vibrations will make you feel freeee,
Come unity, Come unity, Community, Community
Intro protest recording in Hollywood against sexual assault for womens rights
Vocals: Sue-Ling Kaiser (She/Her) and Gabriel True (He/His)
Saxophone: Ben Elbaum (They/He)
Bass: Alexander Wolfert (He/His)
Chords: Patrick Madden (He/His)
Embedded within the institutions of academia is a white masculine vision that, by attempting to see the world objectively from above, makes invisible the essential and generative work that women do to support humanity. In this way, the western society that contains these institutions of academia, undervalues and oppresses women. These “eyes have been used to signify a perverse capacity--honed to perfection in the history of science tied to militarism, capitalism, colonialism, and toxic-male supremacy--to distance the knowing subject from everybody and everything in the interests of unfettered power” (Haraway 2018, pg. 581). This concept of white toxic-male vision relies on a model of constant growth and development, endlessly reaching to see more, extract more, enslave more, appropriate more, and simplify more of that which it plunders. This white toxic-male vision is a defining characteristic of western patriarchal culture and its aggressive expansion. White toxic-male vision attempts totalization and essentialism, using technology to blanket the world into a colonized hierarchy of objectivity. Just as institutions of academia were created by the higher class, the white toxic-male vision is a “view from above,” unable to focus on the intricate, partial perspectives that this vision oppresses (Haraway 2018). Western culture and the institutions that enforce a white toxic-male vision, which includes academia, are left blind and western culture remains ignorantly oppressive. This vision falls into Haraway’s concept of the ‘godtrick,’ attempting to see everything from nowhere, gluttonously neglecting situated knowledge outside of the standard western framework (Haraway 2018).
The arrogance of white toxic-male vision powers corporate industries, privileges science and discounts women along with the foundational wealth that they create for society. “Every woman in every house in every village of rural India works invisibly to provide the stuff of life to nature and people. It is this invisible work that is linked to nature and needs, which conserves nature through maintaining ecological cycles, and conserves human life through satisfying the basic needs of food, nutrition and water” (Shiva 2016, pg. 43). Women have been traditionally essentialized into the field of domestic labor but this crucial, day-to-day support to society is not acknowledged by capitalism, where women are left unpaid and unrepresented in society (Jaffe 2018). In terms of exploited factory work, Melissa Wright (2006) notes that companies will use third world women whenever it is possible because they are stereotyped to be cheap, diligent and precise workers. The paradox is that women are crucial in supporting the production processes of so many western corporations but they are treated as if they are disposable. Wright captures the train of thought of the toxic-male vision when she says “corporations use science to conquer the hazardous forces intrinsic to the disposable third world woman, such as a chaotic sexuality and a hysterical irrationality” (Wright 2006 pg. 6). The objectivity of science stigmatizes diverse identities and strong emotions grouping together all women in the developing world as if they are objects. Science alone may not be oppressive but it is the western academic obsession with science as the sole form of knowledge that ignores spiritual, emotional, non-western, and non-patriarchal ways of life.
Music requires a connection between multiple people, and has the potential to build kinship and community that acts as a revolutionary inroad to the oppressive, universal, objectivity that white, toxically-masculine vision institutionalizes. The musical piece I have co-produced centers the audience's attention on the percussion instruments and their rhythmic supporting roles. The sweeping brush and the tap of pots is meant to resemble the elegant strength within domestic labor, emphasizing the essential nature of household work to the foundation of the piece. This song tries to capture the oppression of the toxic-male vision with the distorted riffs from the saxophone that dominates the vocals, piano, percussion and bass. The crescendo from the saxophone overpowers the vocals, piano, percussion, and bass, depicting the technologically-driven, often violent, domination that ties into Haraway’s concept of western society's white toxic-male vision. Eventually the saxophone drops out of the song, representing the short-term unsustainability that comes with a white toxic-male ideology that creates industrially-induced environmental degradation, and severe inequality from such dualist domination (Plumwood 1993). This music is attempting to reveal the deeply rooted oppressive white toxic-male vision in western culture, depicting the power dynamics that our society lives through in a tonal medium. The piece then transforms into an anthem for community and a lesson for our western culture to listen and feel, growing a capacity for empathy and communal trust.
Some critics might say that I am re-enforcing the stereotypes of women working in the house by depicting the sounds of domestic work. Around the world, particularly in developing countries, the reality is that women are the ones who do essential domestic labor. This is crucial work that preserves the day to day health and stability within society. As a white presenting male who created these domestic sounds I hope to show that this domestic labor doesn’t have to be assigned to women. Domestic labor is crucial to the stability of society and western culture needs to recognize the way that it underfunds and underrepresents the people within this work.
I have grown up within a culture that follows Haraway’s white toxic-male vision. Throughout my middle school and high school education I have been taught to strive for objectivity, to remove the first person from my writing, to compete against my peers, and to submit to the teacher. Furthermore, my education has privileged a western lens where all students must fit into the mold of traditional academic writing and reading literacy. Students are forced, at a young age, into a western colonial style of learning that neglects other styles outside its framework. Students who struggle to be linguistically literate are more easily left behind by education institutions. I have been forced to prioritize writing and reading as exclusive forms within my academic education. I have been indoctrinated into a system of institutions that justifies and perpetuates domination and hierarchy as natural ways of the world. Within this class and this project I problematize this part of myself and society. In order to remove the dualism that encourages privilege, I intend to falsify the belief that housework is only for women. Instead, the song “Come Unity” emphasizes the importance of domestic labor, which is most often carried out by women, in society. Domestic labor is made invisible by western culture solely because it is carried out by women but this music offers resistance by amplifying domestic labor and the women who are exploited within this work. This piece aims to give volume to the perseverance and strength that women have by contesting power structures that seek to control them.
“Come Unity” was created using the privilege of an academic setting to amplify the voices of women who are treated as objects by a globalized western culture. I want to critique USF with this music and the academic writing and reading that it privileges to be successful. The process of writing can be incredibly beneficial to configure an argument and to situate oneself in a global discussion, but writing can be quite limiting when middle-upper class people are able to learn from it more than working class people in poverty. The point of my musical piece was to create a medium that could educate the wider public and that does not have inherent classism embedded in its presentation, and yet it is interesting that this piece is not considered complete without a form of writing behind it. Every medium of learning is going to cater disproportionately to certain people more than others, but when writing and reading are always privileged by USF it becomes a form of white toxic-male vision within the institution. USF ignores forms of education outside the standard reading and writing, with a significantly underfunded music program, as well as the cultural assumption that academic work requires linguistic literacy. Students are objectified as well with a grading system that individualizes students and labels them with a grade point average. Working for an objective grade in the classrooms of USF weakens the impact of a musical resistance piece that is thus supporting a system, which it opposes. The reality is that I am working selfishly to get an undergraduate degree that, in this process, is giving money to an institution that feeds into Haraway’s toxic-male vision. However, I believe change can occur within USF. I hope to use the attention and privilege that I have as a student at USF to encourage a diversification of the school’s modes of education. As a culture, western society needs to move away from the fixation on objectivity, where the white male perspective is superior and any other perspective is inferior, and instead towards social justice where equity is brought to voice.
Music can be a way to build empathy between differently situated people thereby encouraging collaboration. By providing a musical piece I am challenging the standard medium of education. I hope to connect with my peers, encouraging empathy between our privilege as university students and the people that we oppressively rely upon. The partial perspectives of every person must be heard by investing in community and kinship to amplify the voices of the exploited (Haraway 1993). It is by valuing the most essential work that supports society and the people that do this work that a collective and constantly changing harmonious space can be reached. We need to decolonize an institution that relies on undervalued labor by realizing the socioeconomic hierarchy that is embedded within western society, advocating for higher domestic wages, and creating more rights for working women by demanding global corporate accountability.
Harnessing the energy from this tonal installation, I hope that listeners are motivated to amplify the voices of underrepresented people. There are many grassroots organizations worthy of support such as the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, which works to give more value to domestic workers, who are primarily women. Another organization working to give women opportunities beyond their traditional roles is called the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF). The WGEF gives women loans and business education to create their own businesses as well as leadership training. These groups are actively changing the narratives that invisibilize women, planting seeds of resistance against the white toxic-male vision. We can collaborate and create to be part of this liberatory transformation.
“Equality, Opportunity & Entrepreneurship for Women in Africa and the World.” Women's Global Empowerment Fund, 2020.
Haraway, Donna Jeanne, and Adele E. Clarke. Making Kin Not Population. Prickly Paradigm Press, 2018.
Haraway, Donna. 1993. Situated Knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. In Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, (pp. 575-599).
Jaffe, Sarah. “The Women of Wages for Housework.” The Nation, 14 Mar. 2018.
“National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.” Home | National Domestic Workers Alliance, 2020.
Plumwood, Val. “Feminism and the Mastery of Nature.” 1993, doi:10.4324/9780203006757.
Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. North Atlantic Books, 2016.
Wright, Melissa W. Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism. Routledge, 2006.