April 2010 Archives

A few weeks ago, I decided to (again) change my final project. The impetus, though, began with a question I was asked last semester in a core course for my program. As I was beginning a presentation on my research proposal, a fellow student asked me what I taught. In a program in which most students are or have been PK-12 teachers, that question is about what grades and/or subjects one is licensed to teach--or what classrooms one is currently in. I answered that I am not now nor have I been a licensed PK-12 teacher. Her response was, "What are you then?"


What am I? An existential question, although she did not mean it that way. I answered that I would address her question in the course of my presentation, as it has everything to do with both why I am pursuing a Ph.D. in education as well as how I am reconceptualizing what I have been spending most of my time and passion on in the last decade. I am now coming to realize that I am a teacher and have been acting in pedagogical ways and spaces for a long time. And yet these spaces and methods of pedagogy trouble traditional notions of what it means to be a teacher.


Therefore, for my final project, I am troubling what it means to be a teacher. I would like to do this for multiple reasons:

  • to help me articulate to colleagues (and myself) what I do and why I am in education

  • to push the boundaries of what a degree in education means, which my particular department and track make room for

  • to try to figure out what makes for successful teaching in a variety of spaces

  • to ask questions about why the university often neglects pedagogy and why those in the university are not encouraged to spend time thinking about their own pedagogy

  • to trouble what it is that I--and my department--am doing

  • to find ways of weaving in my own story and experiences that may disrupt the common narrative of teaching

In other words, I want to explore "being a teacher" along the lines of what Tavia N'yongo was doing in attempting "to express creative discontent with settled categories" (2005, p. 20)


What I have done so far is a lot of free-writing on what I think it means to be a teacher, what spaces of teaching look like, what most important ways I learn from teachers are. I have talked with a number of colleagues, mostly in my department, about what they feel is successful teaching or what they feel makes for a good teacher. I have also found a number of writers who address questions of what teaching means. None of these has anything to do with teaching content, classroom management, best practices, or other common strategies and buzzwords around education.


I am not sure yet how I will organize the final project. It may take the form of short essays on different aspects of what I believe teaching is, e.g., asking good questions, creating a space that empowers others to self-appropriate knowledge, sharing of yourself, fostering humanness. (I simultaneously like this because it troubles "traditional" academic writing.) A final goal may be to produce a succinct statement of what I do and what I hope to do, to be able to answer the question "what are you?"


And, if anyone wants/needs a break from their big project and paper writing and grading and end-of-semester craziness, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on troubling what it means to be a teacher.

Trans Images

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Just thought you might all be interested in this photo project, linked to on Sociological Images - the photographer asks trans people to pose with signs, and on each sign reads a different question that people have asked them about their gender/sexuality/identity/etc. In light of our week about staring, I thought the project was really interesting as a demonstration of some (I think) productive staring back and troubling the viewer.

A Series of Questions on JPGmag
The Sociological Images post about the project

Assemblage Discussion

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so jessie asked me to post part of our class discussion about assemblage on the blog, since the discussion was intense and kind of confusion for most of us. i spent the morning trying to transcribe our conversation from my tape recording and let me tell you! we all talk to fast, on top of each other, and in not real sentences and half thoughts. i did my best, hope it helps!

Our Conversation on Assemblage April 7th

Inspired by Puar

 

Elizabeth: and I ALSO think that the assemblage intersectionality thing is just another way of saying intersectionality/identity politics. I see no difference at all...

 

Raechel: This article has stuck with me, only most significantly because it helped me know who Deleuze was when I came here because no one talked about Deleuze in my Master's program. And I was like "oh the assemblage I totally understand what that is" because this example made it completely clear to me what that is ... But I'm also curious, though, were you saying Elizabeth, that identity politics equals intersectionality. Could you clarify that?

 

Elizabeth: Yeah, I'm saying that, identity politics is... all these characteristics that she has listed under intersectionality, to me define identity politics. Like you might be black and a woman and gay but when you join feminism the fact that you are a woman is the piece of that that we are going to separate from the rest and its discreet enough that we can separate that and take them apart and then intersectionality is saying no they are not separable, they operate in networks. Overlapping networks of oppression. And that we can't take them apart and the fact that you are woman informs how you are black which informs how you are gay which in forms you know, that's, that's... intersectionality.

 

Raechel: But that is intersectionality still, because it's still stating a position or location as a category. For her it wouldn't be the merging of a woman, and the merging of your race, and the merging of that. Because those categories...

 

Angela: ... aren't stable themselves ...

 

Raechel: Right. You would have to have other things merge to create your performance of gender before you could have your gender merge with something else.

 

Elizabeth: like your own life history?            

 

Angela: partially, like...

 

Raechel: Kinda, the best way, can I just, right super quick...

 

Angela: Year, no, I'm sorry ...

 

Raechel: The best way someone explained assemblage to me was to think about like umm a scary movie pond where things like bubble up and like pop, like bubbles. Does that make? Do you know what I mean? Where like things blubber. Does that? or Like boiling water even.

Sara: Like weeds? Or Weeds?

 

Multiple Voice: Uh, umm, but wha...yeah, no...

 

Raechel: Right well the root system, I've heard too, but that still feels kinda like linear to me.

 

Sara: Oh, see I have weeds like this in the back, this like Japanese knot weed that doesn't have like some central root like the tree, cause isn't that...

 

Raechel: right that's the main thing... right, right, right,

 

Sara: but that's... assemblage is different... right, yeah, sorry...

 

Elizabeth: Is it the idea that like different parts of the self are going to bubble up and inform you at any given moment...

 

Angela/Raechel: yeah! yeah !

 

Elizabeth: but I feel like that's still intersectionality...

 

Raechel: but, but, but you couldn't say. One of those bubbles couldn't be named a woman; you couldn't have that named a woman, because one of those bubbles is already complicated because it came from some other random bubble. Its just a very post-structuralist view of intersectionality I think.

 

Elizabeth: I kinda get where you are going but I feel like intersectionality makes room for that.

 

Multiple Voices: Umm, wha...I

 

Sophie: I mean its kinda weird right, I mean its like intersectionality and then you just like barf in the intersection

 

Sara: (drawing on the board) well... the way I think about it, to get at what you were saying was, so the intersection, if we take the Crenshaw piece, you wanna take that notion of intersectionality she's talking about, there's a person that can be hit in the intersection and they can be hit by cars coming from all different places and maybe we can't separate out and we can't determine because there might be skid marks, I think she talks about you cant, you know, you cant blame anyone for the accident, its still like you were saying hitting one person in the intersection. Where as the ballistic body is its... there is no one person, its exploding, and the body parts are all over, I don't, so, does that....

 

Multiple Voices: lol no.

 

Angela: Can I try?

 

Sara: Does that makes sense? To anyone? No it doesn't? It doesn't makes sense?

 

Multiple Voice: no, no, lol.

 

Jessie: She also talks a lot about temporality, but I don't really see how that relates to assemblage. Like what's the temporal piece to it?

 

Angela: Can I try?

 

Multiple Voices: hehehe

 

Angela: Okay, so I think how the temporal piece has to do with the assemblage is that, like I understand it sort of like...I think of it with the intersectionality as like roads right.  So this is the I'm a woman road, this is the I'm a queer road, this is the I'm a white person road. And the whole assemblage idea is that those roads don't actually exist because they are always already informed by each other, and only exist though each other, and at the same time as each other, so we cant even name them as separate things and think of them as separate roads that intersect and meet at a point, because that point is never, there is never a point, the point is always changing and that's where the temporality comes in. because the way that my identity operates when I am in this classroom as a scholar is very different then when I am at home picking peas with my grandmother as a scholar in that point. Or the way that my queerness looks to you is different than they way it looks at home. So not only do we through our intentions move our identities, shift our identities, back and forth and all over the place depending on the context and the time in which we are sitting. But the ways the context and the time in which society understands and reads us is constantly shifting the way we are understood. So there is never a fixed point. Intersection creates the idea of a fixed point at, like, even if its complicated. And there might be room in which assemblage is already in intersectionality, I agree with you that the theory of intersectionality might allow for this and we don't really need another theory about it, but I think the thought about assemblage is that its never, you can't even talk about them at all. There is no way to say like sexuality, comma, race, comma, whatever, because they are always already the together. Kind of like Italian dressing right...when you shake it and all the shit is all mixed up...

 

Multiple Voices: LOL

 

Angela: like that is what we really are! And it never can separate and become like the oil and the particles at the bottom. Does that make sense?

 

Elizabeth: Yes, yes actually it does.

 

Sara: I should have just drawn a bottle of Italian dressing.


Back in December I wrote a blog entry on my blog about Ahmed's "Happiness and Queer Politics." I opened the entry with this image:

killjoy.png
Does troublemaking (in the forms that we have discussed throughout the semester or as articulated by Ahmed) really take the fun--and the joy--out of everything?

HAPPINESS: In "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness," Ahmed asks: "Can we rewrite the history of happiness from the point of view of the wretch" (573)? And then, in describing the purpose of her essay, writes:

I thus offer a different reading of happiness, not simply by offering different readings of its intellectual history but by considering those who are banished from it or who enter this history only as troublemakers, wretches, strangers, dissenters, killers of joy (573).
What should/does the history of happiness from the perspective of troublemaking look like? What is happiness? How can we think about happiness and Ahemd's idea of unhappiness in relation to Snediker's optimism or Munoz's utopias or Laclau's/Mouffe's horizon of hope?

UNHAPPY ARCHIVES: Where does Ahmed's call for an unhappy archives (573) fit into all of this? At the end of my blog entry on last week's readings, I offered Halberstam's passage about expanding the archive of bad feelings:


halberstam.pngIs this part of the unhappy archives? Is Halberstam talking about unhappy queers and feminist killjoys here? Are there other ways to think about what the unhappy archives could be (and what could be included in them)?

GIDGET: In discussing conditional happiness, Ahmed cites the novel Émile, "A good girl finds her own happiness in the happiness of a good man" (579), which reminds me of Gidget and her "grandmother's saying" that hangs on her wall:

gidget.png
What is conditional happiness and how do feminist killjoys and unhappy queers challenge/subvert/resist it?

DINNER: Now, I am not sure that we would consider Debbie Downer a feminist killjoy, but Ahmed's discussion (in both "Killing Joy" and "Happiness and Queer Politics") about the polite politics at the dinner table reminded me of the SNL skit (with Rachel Dratch) in which Debbie Downer "ruins" Thanksgiving dinner for her family:

Here is what Ahmed writes on page 582:

 dddinner.png

What do we make of this clip? How does humor function in this skit? What kind of killjoy is Debbie Downer? Is she a feminist one--or some other type? Can we envision her killing of joy as ever being productive or leading to transformation? Or is it easy to dismiss? (I keep thinking of Angela's earlier distinction between the troublemaker and the asshole--could we fit in the "Debbie Downer" as another category? Should we?) In case you're interested, I have written briefly about Debbie Downer on my blog, here.

Okay, I also can't resist adding in this humorous clip that envisions the woman (is she a feminist killjoy?) killing the joy at a dinner party by speaking her mind and thinking too much:

 

Is she a feminist killjoy? Starting on page 584, Ahmed discusses "consciousness and unhappiness." Referring back to Rousseau, she writes, "it is interesting that the danger of unhappiness is associated with women having too much curiosity" (584). Consider this passage in relation to the video clip:

We might explore how imagination [being curious and thinking critically] is what allows women to be liberated from happiness and the narrowness of its horizons (585).
THE HAP: Ahmed wants to disentangle happiness from the future (futures promises/events, like a wedding) or from any end goal (Aristotle's teleology). She wants us to envision happiness as possibility (the hap/happens). For her, happiness is not a promise or an inevitable outcome of certain, very constrained and often heteronormative, activities. It is a sense of possibility that is kept open by the refusal to be happy or a willingness to stay not (or un) happy. Ahmed suggests that this type of not/un-happiness is not all wretched, miserable or joyless. Instead, she writes:

There can be joy in killing joy. And kill joy we must, and we do.
What does/could this joy look like? Is this queer optimism?

Don't Worry, Be Happy

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On page 572, Ahmed mentions Betty Friedan and the happy housewife. In case you are interested, I have added Friedan's chapter on it (in the Feminine Mystique) to WebCT for this week. Also, I can't help but hear this song in my head when I think about happiness and worry (I couldn't post the video because the embed function was disabled). Bobby McFerrin tells us, "Don't worry, be happy!". Check out this lyric:

In every life you have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Wait..isn't doubling our trouble a good thing?

Happiness (Is a Warm Gun)

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Hey,

I'm midway through the Admed "Killing Joy" article, and I just wanted to pose a question before I forget it.  Can we relate her argument back to Valarie Solonas, or rather, to the interpretations of her actions?  I'm thinking particularly about Ahmed's argument that positioning feminists as inherently angry, as sore losers who are pissed that they can't be happy in domestic bliss like everyone else, is a way of ignoring the causes of that anger.  Did the focus on Solonas's anger, her mental illness, her clear dislike of men, become a way of avoiding dialogues about what pissed her off in the first place?

Also I just really liked the title I came up with for this question.
Before we got into our readings, Sara brought up Flash Mobs, a phenomenon that seems to be all the rage these days. We discussed how this is or is not a form of trouble making, and what it means when an ostensibly "spontaneous" event is actually planned in advance (and advertised publicly in advance).  Then we watched Jamie Oliver&friends do choreographed stirfry.  

Sara provided us with an overview of Lee Edelman's No Future, explaining it as a critique of "reproductive futurism." The basis of our conversation started from the question: "What does it mean to talk about utopia and antirelationality in relation to troublemaking?" To answer this, we drew from Snediker's response to Edelman's critique of Annie. We watched Little Orphan Annie sing "Tomorrow," (and established that she says "I love ya, tomorrow," not "I'll love ya tomorrow").  After the clip, Elizabeth suggested that instead of seeing this as optimism, perhaps it could be better read as a "survival strategy." That is, those in impoverished or other marginalized conditions have no choice but to live as though it might get better. We wondered together if "hope" and "optimism" is the same, and, Sophie asked, which of them is more likely to drive radical action? Sophie pushed this, "Can you be pessimistic but still engage." I answered, "Isn't every Leftist?" We brought it back to Annie, and wondered what it meant for a positionality that had no space for desire in the present, only the future; thus, the negativity or positivity can exist only symbolically.

We stayed with Annie a bit longer. Elizabeth wanted to remind us, in regard to Edelman's thesis, that "queers are reproductive.," and we noted that Annie provides examples of radical reconfigurations of relationships with the other children in the orphanage (which are all white kids in the movie, but we have Jay-Z to edit that narrative with his "Hardknock Life" remix).  We continued to ebb and flow between the positive and negative take-aways from the film, and came next with a negative: Couldn't Annie be read as pseudo-propaganda that promotes the myth of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps?" And can we see how optimism can act as purposeful blinders of reality? Certainly, we agreed, this is a risk, but this is exactly what Snediker tries to challenge. He says Edelman's reading of optimism, using Annie as an exemplar, is not critical, and that there are other ways to frame on posit utopian projects.

We then watched the "Free to Be You and Me" clip, a song performed by a young Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack for the Marlo Thomas children's book special. We interrogated whether or not we could get anything positive out of this video. Becky wondered, Is "hope" to "not change", and if so, doesn't this mean there's no room for growth? Angela stated that autonomy does not exist in terms of change, that change is inevitable, so for MJ and RF to be desiring a certain stagnancy or static-ness is not only not progressive, but also impossible. But perhaps there is some queer-play at work in this video, as it does challenge the heteronormative linear progress script. We talked about the author who noted that "Queers throw the best parties," and the way that queer world-making promotes 'fun' over normative notions of success, not dissimilar to the way children do (and the way that MJ and RF are singing about).  So, we wondered, could we actually see this clip as a site of resistance?

We also briefly mentioned the way that the Right and the Left have seemed to switch places in terms of rhetorical identity on the political spectrum. Although we had Obama campaigning with "hope," we also had McCain as the "Maverick" and Palin as the "Rogue."  How do these rhetorics play out against the rhetoric of fear? Here, Sara brought up Cornell West's notion of "tragic hope," or "tragic comic hope" and related that to our discussion of "cautious optimism."

Our next clip was from the film "Gidget." We watched a scene in which Gidget is lamenting that she could "just parish from shame for coming home pure as the driven snow." [Note: We determined that, due to the year the film was released, that being "not pure" would have meant being pinned or kissed, not "going all the way"].  We also pointed out the picture on her wall that read "To Be a Real Woman is to Bring Out the Best in a Man." We drew from Snediker to talk about Gidget's "shame," and what this meant in terms of shattering visions of the optimistic.

Our fourth clip was from the film "The Examined Life," where we watched an interview with Avital Ronell.  She talked about how it is "easier to live life with directions of what is right and wrong," but that "anxiety allows for experimentation."  Ronell observed that Bush shows no anxiety for sending prisoners to the death penalty, and so we are being told that a good conscious is worthless. Ronell states that "a responsible person thinks they never did anything [worth while for social change]" and that there is "an anxiety about unachieved democracy."

(We then took a break and enjoyed Sophie's delicious vegan cookies!)

When we returned we jumped into Munoz. We read him as saying that collectivity is necessary for utopia, and that the death-drive camp of the queer theory circle fail to look at intersectionality (and is indeed a thesis that privileges the gay, white male). At this point we unpacked why it is that Snediker uses "person" over "subject," and assess that this is a strategic move that challenges the way that "subject" becomes nothing more than theoretical jargon that does not allow for persons to be, or for concrete daily modalities to be intelligible. Furthermore, Snediker agrees with Munoz that the death-drive is not a good model, and polemicizes, "one does not shatter when one is fucked." Sara also brought us back to the point Munoz makes about the way a singer does something to a song that allows them to inhabit words differently. Sara asked, "Is the shared impulse a feeling/example of optimism?" Angela stated, quite simply: "Yes."

At this point Florence gave her presentation on the film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." We watched the song "Wig In a Box," in which Hedwig sings about wearing her wigs to transform "until [she] wakes up and turns back to [her]self."  Florence gave really insightful analsysis on themes of containment (wig in a box as queer appropriation), and how the film should be read as more of a comedy than a tragedy. There is a transformative moment for Hedwig only when she perform in front of an audiences. Florence poses, "If she cannot be herself for real, she is going to exaggerate playing with her identity." Again, we see optimism as a survival stragey. We also bring in the idea of Queer Affect: use of angery and melancholy, and Hedwigs dancing trance to express anger when words are not available. We also read Hedwigs identity as a performed identity (and also a disidentification). The wig is transformative, but is also "not natural." We wonder aloud about the meaning o fthe backup singer who is either FTM or MTF, maybe? (Maybe the not-knowing is the whole point!).  To conclude, we discuss the implications of Plato's Symposium, upon which Hedwig is partly based, and the idea that everyone has a partner to whom they used to be attached, and that, although some combos were man/man and woman/woman, there were still always just two ("Why two?!"-JB).  

As usual, we didn't exactly have many answers, but there seemed to be a consensus that there is potentiality in optimism and the belief in utopia, but, yes, a *critical * utopia and optimism.

...and, since it's finals time, I think that hope and optimism is starting to manifest as a survival strategy for all of us too. : )

No sex ed for you, kiddo!

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It was with some dismay that I read this article yesterday about sex ed in Ontario, Canada. The premier (read: equivalent of governor) of Ontario has decided not to approve a new sex education curriculum for public schools in that province (Canada's largest, population-wise). Although he had previously supported the curriculum, Premier McGuinty has changed his tune, probably because there has been a lot of protesting against this new curriculum.

Why?

The proposed curriculum would include, quote:

Grade 1 children were to be taught to identify genitalia using the correct words, such as penis, vagina and testicle.

In Grade 5, children were to be taught to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe how the body changes during puberty.

In Grade 7, the plan was to teach kids how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Various groups are protesting that this is "unconscionable" to teach children these things at such a tender age, that this would corrupt innocent young people, that this would give them ideas, etc. Admittedly, I haven't read the proposed changes, but apparently the language is a big stumbling block for a lot of people -- it's supposed to be very frank and open. 

Anyway, after thinking about Stockton's idea of socially-enforced "delay" in children, I read this and pondered the responsibility of government and the school system in this situation. Should sex education be left up to parents? How much should the schools be teaching children, and at what age? Who decides this? Should parents be allowed to pull their kids out of sex ed, maybe? That's what happened in my school -- enough parents protested, so we didn't get any sex ed at all. (Note: I'm not supporting this course of action...) Anyway, it caught my eye.

What are the words you do not yet have?

What do you need to say?

What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own,

until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? (p. 41)


You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other.

I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same.

What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other

and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities.

And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences

at the same time as we recognize our sameness (p. 142).
Sister Outsider.jpg

"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood" (p. 40). These opening words of the essay "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" are both an invitation and a warning about this attempt to review Sister Outsider, a collection of fifteen speeches and essays by Black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde. I can read myself into many of her critiques, especially those of white women. And I shy away from appropriating or undervaluing the work of someone whose social location differs so greatly from mine: I have seen instances in which her words have become iconic (e.g., "Your silence will not protect you. [p. 41] and "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house [p. 112]) and decontextualized. Yet her book also powerfully offers invitations to cross what divides us.


Highly personal, this collection reflects Lorde's struggles with and attacks against racism, heterosexism/homophobia, poverty/classism/capitalism, ageism, and other oppressions ("the deaths we are expected to live" p. 38). Although primarily focused on the United States, the book begins with an essay entitled "Notes from a Trip to Russia" and ends with "Grenada Revisited," a reflection on the U.S. invasion in 1983. These essays frame Lorde's conceptualization of the interlocking systems of oppression in the United States, a country that "pretends to be honest and therefore has so little room to move toward hope" (p. 28). In this collection, through essays that include an open letter to a white feminist about her dismissal of (the work of) women of color and an essay on teaching her Black son to be himself through being fully herself, she offers ways to move toward hope in a system that dehumanizes people.


Lorde does this by working through her own daily attempts to face these issues, as well as how she has used writing--breaking silences--as a mechanism for opposing oppression, healing herself, and passing on lessons that too often are not spoken. At the same time, Lorde never denies how complex these struggles are. In addition to laying out structures and mechanisms of how oppression works (straight against gay, men against women, white women against women of color, black women against black women), Lorde describes how creativity, love, and expression are intimately connected with survival. This book is perhaps a concrete example of what Lorde means when she writes, "Eventually, if we speak the truth to each other, it will become unavoidable to ourselves" (p. 174).


Lorde lets no one, including herself, off the hook. She is very clear about the ways the lives of those she encounters as well as those who read or listen to her words differ based on life experiences and social locations. And while she can be at times harsh and castigating toward those who would attempt to disavow, deny, cover, or hide from these differences or pretend that they are insurmountable, she is simultaneously gentle and inviting, clear that there is room--there must be room--for all in these struggles. She posits that difference is not what actually divides us, but silence (especially about those differences), whether internal (e.g., suppressing one's emotions and knowings even to oneself) or external.


Lorde writes that we must not shy away from these differences, emphasizing the importance of self-definition and self-actualization. She is clear that we cannot cross what divides us--gender, sexuality, race--unless and until we can both define ourselves and allow others to do the same for themselves. Too often, however, we draw lines around various parts of identity, forcing people to choose between parts of themselves through "threats of labelling, vilification and/or emotional isolation" (p. 47). In this process, Lorde writes, energy is spent fighting over crumbs of the system, rather than dismantling a divisive, oppressive system that offers very few people real chances for flourishing. Lorde is clear that "one oppression does not justify another" (p. 63) and that "in order to come together we must recognize each other" (p. 70).


In these essays, Lorde's powerful critiques also challenge many conceptions the white, Western academy tends to have toward what is "worthy" reading, writing, or scholarship, in other words, what is worth knowing and learning, reading and studying. For instance, her essay "Poetry is Not a Luxury" states that poetry "give[s] name to those ideas which are--until the poem--nameless and formless, about to be be birthed but already felt" and that in this process "those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us" (p. 36). Repeatedly, Lorde emphasizes the importance of affect, especially as a "hidden source of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes" (p. 37). In the academy, poetry and emotion may be subjects of study, but they are generally not sources of knowledge, or as Lorde writes, "sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas" (p. 37). In another essay, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," Lorde writes about the dangerous false conception that women must repress the erotic ("that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge" [p. 53]). In "Uses of Anger," she outlines transforming anger into action, liberation, information, and empowerment, not suppressing it or allowing it to be labeled as useless, disruptive, or guilt-inducing. Much of her writing, because it is about herself, about affect, about oppression and difference, done without footnoting or citations, troubles what the academy values by succinctly laying out knowledge that has the possibility of creating transformation.


In the 1983 "Introduction" to the book, Nancy K. Bereano wrote that "Audre Lorde's writing is an impulse toward wholeness" (p. 9). Indeed, Lorde's speeches and essays in this book outline an example of what it means to struggle to live more humanly. At the same time, she continually reminds her readers that "the war against dehumanization is ceaseless" (p. 119) and that "any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve" (p. 136). Lorde's writing is powerful; it dares me--and I doubt I am alone here--to be brave.


Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007 edition. (originally published 1984)

In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman has some harsh words for Annie , both her optimistic vision of the future and her figuring as the (only) Future. Snediker discusses Edelman and Annie in his essay on queer optimism, writing:

If Edelman opines that all forms of optimism eventually lead to Little Orphan Annie singing "Tomorrow," and therefore that all forms of optimism must be met with queer death-driven irony's "always explosive force" (31), I oppositely insist that optimism's limited cultural and theoretical intelligibility might not call for optimism to be rethought along non-futural lines (26).



How does optimism function in this song? Can we imagine an idea of optimism that does not rely on a futural promise in the ways that Annie does? Must a belief in (the possibility of) better futures always look like this?

Here's another vision of optimism, from the Micheal Jackson/Roberta Flack song in Free to be...You and Me. [For more on this song and its connections to hope and troublemaking, check out my blog entry, Michael Jackson, the 1970s version (pre-MTV, pre-surgery, pre-loss of hope, pre-spectacle)]

 

What vision of hope and/or optimism is present in this video? What similarities/differences do you see between this vision and Annie's vision? How does the future work? Do you see any troublemaking and/or queer possibilities here? How do we read this song in relation to/against Snediker's vision of queer optimism and its non-futural production of positive affects?

After discussing how Butler and Bersani seem to rely uncritically on melancholy and self-shattering as unquestioned foundations (and figurations) of the subject, Snediker discusses queer optimism in relation to Sedgwick and shame. He contrasts hope-as-horizon with shame as occurring in "a lavish present tense" (18) and wonders, "What if the field of queer optimism could be situated as firmly in the present tense as shame" (18)?  Then, he briefly mentions the link between shame and embarrassment, the "I could just die" moment, which he suggests is exemplified by Sandra Dee. Having just watched the last part of Gidget on AMC, I couldn't resist adding a clip of her uttering a slightly different version of this phrase (fast forward to 9 minutes in):

 

Just for fun, check out how Gidget's mom responds to Gidget's declaration that she "could just perish" (beginning of clip) and Gidget's turn toward hyper-optimism (?)/joy/elation at the end of the clip (7:30 in).

 

Why does Snediker spend so much time discussing shame? What is he trying to do with his discussion of the coherence/continuity-as-queer optimism that shame disrupts (24)?

To round out my examples here, I want to throw in a clip from a documentary I watched this past week, Examined Life. This clip is from Avital Ronnel and is about the "ethics of anxiety."

 

How can we add Ronell's vision of an ethical of anxiety into our conversation? Where would we fit it in our different visions/versions of hope, optimism, utopias? How might it fit/not fit with Mouffe/Laclau and their discussion of a hope predicated on the unrealizability of democracy, passion and a plurality of antagonisms?

One final set of questions: What is queer optimism and how does it work? What sort of concrete practices/affects/moods/emotions are involved here? How can we put Sneidker's ideas into conversation with Munoz and disidentification and risking utopianism? What about Halberstam and their claim for an expansion of the "gay male archive" of feelings? Halberstam writes:
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Question #2 - Hedwig and the... Happy Inch?

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I am awfully sorry about posting this as late. It seems that my thinking about this class's issues always take much longer to "mature" than I expect. Before I start attempting to create the semblance of a line of thought, here are a few words on my academic situation: I am not completely sure as to what my field of study really is, being some sort of a misplaced piece in the French department - the only thing I do there is teaching... and being French (if that means anything). I am currently working on a big big project - my Masters thesis - for my university in Paris. I'm attached to the department of English over there, officially specializing in American literature and supervized by one of the very rare French professors who know more about queer theory than I do (and I'm not saying that I know much!). I left Grenoble, my hometown, just for him. Just for Jean-Paul Rocchi. I wouldn't say that I'm an American literature specialist: I'm now sitting somewhere across film studies, philosophy, linguistics, English, French, gender/sexuality studies and... shall future tell me what it is that I'm doing?

For now, on a more specific note, my focus is on Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I mentioned a few things about it in an older post (my class reflection). I have been very lucky with all these past few weeks' readings, since most somehow matched with my reflections of the moment.For instance, Munoz's Disidentifications inspired me a lot as I was struggling to find a way to express in which sense the scenic and non-scenic performances of Hedwig, the main character, are a sort of permanent disidentifications (or "disidentificatory performances", using Munoz's term), and that it is through a theatrical narrative that Hedwig - the character - and Hedwig (the movie) create "something that wasn't there before" (quoting Hedwig, who actually refers to love here - would this week's readings allow us to make a link between love and disentifications... or is it pushing things too far?).

Before becoming Hedwig, our main character was Hansel, a young fan of American pop singers, who lived with his mum in communist East-Berlin. He used to sing along American Forces Radio, his head in the kitchen oven, where his mum forced him to play. As Hedwig herself says, "[David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop] left as deep an impression on me as that oven rack did on my face". Munoz's reading of the star made me think of Hedwig/Hansel as this character made out of her/his childhood's role models, who is also our (spectator's) own star (or maybe anti-star?).

Tomorrow, I'll be showing two clips taken from the movie, which I think are particularly representative of what I understand as disentifications. I guess I haven't mentioned yet that the movie is what one would call a musical, however atypical (and way greater than most musicals). So I'll be showing two "music clips", namely "Wig in a Box" and "Midnight Radio". Both of them, in my opinion, touch on these issues of optimism, futurism and utopia. What I'd like to discuss, in relation to these clips, is whether Hedwig and the Angry Inch can be considered as a successful representation of queer optimism. So far (i.e. before this week's readings) I'd been seeing Hedwig's identy(ies) as melancholic, but Snediker's text made me ponder over my over-extensive use of the term... is melancholy's negative connotation a problem? Couldn't we broaden its meaning? And anyway, do I really want to buy into queer optimism? I know this is only a movie, so whatever intertwists between past, present and future make up for Hedwig's identity(ies) and relations with the world, they are much easier to interpret and work out than "real" life's (outter narrative's) social relations. By the way, (I know this is a difficult question), what can be the political strength of a movie (or any artistic work in fact)?

I have to say that I have yet to be convinced by the political efficacy of queer optimism - I have the feeling that one can only constructively write on queer negativity. Isn't optimism, as Snediker somewhere puts it (sorry I've lost the page), what simply is? How can theoretical work, being by nature so attached to the signifier - to what things really mean - reach beyond the negativity by which the signifier can only exist? Isn't it "counter-nature" for theory to inscribe itself outside of negativity? I am tempted to see political action and art (art often being, I would say, some sort of political action) as what has the potential to speak for itself (better than any endless theoretical speech), performing their inherent hope, utopia... however we want to name this "not yet queer" (Munoz, "Feeling Utopia").

Nine years after the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, the issues of racial profiling, prisoner abuse, and anti-Muslim (and presumed Muslim) sentiment still abound. Thus, Puar's book Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times is both pertinent and compelling. Pairing together two unlikely positionalities--that of the terrorist and the queer-- Puar constructs a cogent argument about the way in which what she calls "homonationalism" is deployed in order to separate U.S. national gays and lesbians from queer and racial others, betraying a "collusion between homosexuality and American nationalism that is generated both by national rhetorics of patriotic inclusion and by gay queer subjects" (39). In other words, the white, heteronormative American nation relies upon non-heternormative sexualities to differentiate barbarism from civilization, to differentiate "us"-- good, liberal Americans from "them"--the Muslims, the Arabs, the Sihks, the queers, the terrorists. In this way, gays and lesbians actually become complicit in the very heteronormative configurations that work to subordinate them. Expanding on the work of Ray Chow, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben, Puar traces her argument through theories of sexual exceptionalism, the ascendancy of whiteness, affect and assemblage.

In Chapter 2: Abu Ghraib and U.S. Sexual Exceptionalism, Puar argues that the torture of prisoners committed at Abu Ghraib has been constructed by the U.S. media and political leaders as "exceptional" or contrary to American culture, morals and politics. Analyzing President Brush's statement that the prison guards' "treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people," Puar argues that US exceptionalism discourse has been used to dissociate the acts of violence and sexual torture performed from the prison guards who performed them. In her analysis, Puar draws on several photographs taken at Abu Ghraib and released during 2005, including the now infamous picture of a pyramid of nude men and Lynndie England dragging a prisoner by a dog collar. By claiming that these acts of torture do not "reflect the nature of the American people," they are instead re-configured as reflective of the "nature" of the Iraqi prisoners themselves. Setting up a dichotomy between the conservative and homophobic Muslim East and the liberal and tolerant West, the U.S. "capitalizes on the cultural difference discourse, nearly claiming that the repressive culture of Mulsim extremism is responsible for the potency of the torture, in effect blaming the victims" (91). Thus, the sexual torture perpetrated against the Iraqi prisoners is re-constituted as a necessary strategy of war-- a method of punishment designed specifically to attack the prisoners' cultural mores. As such, this form of torture is positioned as offensive only to the homophobic and sexually repressed prisoners, and not the liberal minded American guards or American public. In so doing, the possibility for and existence of homosexual and queer Muslims is erased. Problematizing this rhetoric, Puar asks us to consider "whether these acts of torture really reveal anything intrinsic or particular to American culture" (109-10) [emphasis mine].

 

Chapter 3: Infinite Control, Infinite Attention takes up the U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence and Garner v Texas (2003) which decriminalized consensual adult sodomy at the federal level.  Rather than seeing this as a gay rights victory, Puar draws our attention to the language of the majority decision, authored by Justice Anthony M. Kenneedy. By favoring a broader privacy argument over a narrower, equal protection argument, the Supreme Court privatizes queer sex, "rendering it hidden and submissive to the terrain of the domestic (subjected to insidious forms of surveillance), an affront to queer public sex cultures that sought to bring the private into the public" (118). Echoing Katherine Franke, Puar argues that by sanctioning sodomy solely by virtue of it's placement in the private realm, Lawrence-Garner tacitly re-criminalizes it outside of the bedroom, in the public sphere. Decided only two years after 9/11 and at the height of the U.S. 'war on terror,' Lawrence-Garner's inclusion of gay and lesbian subjects as protected citizens is perpetrated largely at the expense of racialized subjects. In particular, the private is constructed as a racialized (white) and nationalized (American) space which is granted only to citizens and withheld from non-citizens (non-white, non-American). Thus, Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs and other "terrorists" are excluded both from heterosexuality and upright homosexuality. This "reracialization of sodomy elsewhere...allows for the sanitation of [the white citizen's] intimiate sexual being," further legitimizing gays and lesbians and the expense of racialized others (120). This notion of intimacy is a significant part of the affective economy Puar details throughout her book.

 

Chapter 4: The Turban is Not a Hat examines the pervasive confusion between the turbaned Sihk man and the so called Muslim "terrorist" in post-9/11 America. Puar argues that "the widespread campaigns undertaken by liberal Sikh advocacy groups to educate 'ignorant Americans' about Sikhs, focusing on who Sikhs are (not terrorists but peace-loving good Americans, model minority immigrants, our turbans look like this) and who they are not (Muslims, terrorists, our turbans do not look like that), while important do not address the affective economies that conflate resemblance and misrecognition" (188). As Puar explains, these campaigns focus on the visual and assume that these differences really matter, rather than getting at the core issue which she sees as the "affective" response that many Americans feel towards "terrorist" bodies.  She argues that the anxiety surrounding the impossibility of containment-- and the fear of contagion-- have lead to the fiction of a feared object: the turban and its attendant "terrorist" body.  Examining the frequent request (particularly at airports) for Sikh men to remove their turbans, Puar asserts that the turban has appropriated the status of a weapon. The turban, fused with the body of its wearer, becomes like the bomb strapped to the body of a suicide bomber. As such, the turban--or weapon--ceases to be merely a tool used by the body and, instead, becomes an assemblage--an unmistakable and potentially deadly part of the terrorist body.

 

This concept of the Deleuzian assemblage is elaborated in Puar's conclusion Queer Times, Terrorist Assemblages and put into conversation with the intersectional model of identity discussed by theorists such as Kimberly Crenshaw and Cathy Cohen. Unlike intersectionality, which presumes that the components of gender, sexuality, class and race intersect with one another yet can be separated and disassembled, an assemblage takes into consideration the "interwoven forces that merge and dissipate time, space, and body against linearity, coherency, and permanency" (212). Instead of privileging naming, meaning, and visuality, assemblage emphasizes ontology, feeling and affect which allows us understand the workings of power beyond disciplinary models. Furthermore, queerness as assemblage troubles the queer/non-queer binary while underscoring its complicity with dominant forces.

 

Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times is both unique and thought-provoking in its careful examination of the often overlooked associations among race, queer sexualities, and U.S. nationalism which depends upon the exclusion of the terrorist body and its nebulous sexual and racial positionalities. Perhaps Puar's most salient point is that her project, and ours as critical readers and scholars, is not excavate the queer terrorist, or queer the terrorist.  Rather, queerness is always already present in the act of naming the terrorist.

Book Review: Teaching to Transgress

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Hey y'all,

So I've been working on my book review of bell hooks's Teaching to Transgress since before spring break, and I couldn't figure out what was taking so long.  Then as I was doing the final formatting of the document I realized it is twenty pages long.  Um . . . oops. 

I figured it would make more sense to upload a file attachment than to just cut and paste a ginormous blog entry.  Sara, if this is just too long to be useful and you'd like me to do something else, let me know. 

I'm sure you all are shocked to find that I tend to be a rather verbose writer, since I am so pithy and to the point in all my classroom discussions. :)

-Elizabeth



Book Review.doc

Check out this great event on Monday afternoon

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Big Project Update

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Hello! I am about to go to a Vegas-themed bday party, and, now that I'm all decked out in glitter and feather-boa, I thought it would be a good time to write. : ) As some of you may remember, I, like Sophie, decided to start a blog for the big project. So in January I began "rebel grrl academy: revolution in the shoproom, the classroom, the streets & the hips." One of the aims was simply to start and maintain a blog "to process and reflect on issues relevant to my research and activist interests, [and] also be a space to share reflections on the more ostensibly banal elements of everyday life." More specifically, I wanted to feature "Queering Labor Showcase"'s to help me explore my research interest of the intersection of queer and sexualized bodies in organized labor. So far my entries have included:

1. "Troublemaking at the U: AFSCME Local 3800 "Chop from the Top" Rally"-a report back on the protest

2. "twenty-five (&the trouble with futurity)-a reflection on turning a quarter-century and pondering the scripts we are given or not given, and how to queer-world-make inspite of it all.....Draws on Butler.

3. ".a people's history of [my relationship with] Howard Zinn."-a reflection on the late, great HZ, on the day he died.

4. "saturday night at the supermarket."-reflecting on grocery shopping at 1am on a saturday

5. "to putting more energy into dreaming/building the future, than being pissed off at the present."-an analysis and response to a Robin DG Kelley article that really, really spoke to me. discusses tension between activism and academia

6. "a post about naked lady bodies in honor of V-day."-response to a new law in Australia that bans A-cup breasts and female ejaculation from being seen in porn.

7. "troubling personal space: the bus ride home."-reflection on personal space on the bus and be-longing. 

8. "High Priestess of Trouble, Judith Butler, on "Critique""-reflection on the Butler piece we read about critique.

9. "Education is under attack! What do we do? Stand up, Fight back!"-reflection on March 4th National Day in Defense of Public Education rally

10. "Girl Interrupted? Let's Hope So."-the Shiloh Jolie Pitt is turning into a boy moral panic response. Draws from Clare and Butler.

11. "Queering Labor Showcase #1: Sleep With the Right People UNITE HERE campaign"-my first foray into analyzing the queer/labor stuff. in-depth look at rhetoric and media.

12. "SEWSA Conference Report-Back."-just as the title says! : )

13. "Queering Labor Showcase #2: Sex Workers Outreach Project and Erotic Service Providers Union."-analyzed rhetoric, media, contrasted to sex-negative sex work research, etc. Draws from Butler. 

14. "FEMME-SUBVERSION!: Smashing the State in Stilletos and the Political Potential of Femme Desire."-an entry i'm particularly pleased with. also submitted to a zine called Femme Means Attack. discusses femme identity, brings in Lugones, Munoz and Butler.

So what have I learned/processed/realized through all this? Blogging takes a lot of energy and, Sara, I have even more admiration for the thoroughness of your blog after embarking on this project!  Sometimes it's so much easier to post a clip on facebook and write nothing more than "OMG!", but the blog forced me to articulate responses to things. It's time-consuming, but, ultiamtely, so fulfilling.

It has also made me feel incredibly vulnerable. I decided to post the link on my facebook page, and every once in a while I will post specific entires on my page. On days I post, I get upwards of 100 hits (wordpress tracks how many people look at your site); days I don't advertise on FB, I get between 10-40. But to know my friends and family are reading what are reading my thoughts, and then responding to them (I often get more comments on my fb posts of the links than the actual page) is scary! Especially because at least two of my posts are pretty explicit about my sex-positive politics (and sexuality and desire).  I have also gotten comments from folks I don't know; one that stuck out was someone who found my blog because he was a labor/UNITE HERE guy. He called my analysis "silly." It's crazy how making yourself public just totally opens you up for criticism--both constructive and otherwise! But it's been good, and the feedback I got (again mostly on FB) about my Shiloh Jolie Pitt and my latest Femme-Subversion post has been productive and enlightening (and very exciting to be promoting dialogue!). 

The only disappointing thing about this is that I've had more fun with the non-Queering Labor posts than I have with those that are focused on that. It's discouraging me from turning this into a larger project, only because I'm not sure how much I can do with it, nor how productive it is to the sorts of issues I'm interesting in negotiating (tensions around identity politics, exclusive rhetoric and organizing tactics from unions, etc). I dont' know. I still have at least two more showcases to do before the end of the year (Lusty Ladies Union and Queers for Economic Justice).

This has also reiterated for me taht I need to be doing more community-based work. I did field work and community-based/participatory-action-research for my whole master's program, and since coming to the U of M, I've been locked in the ivory tower. : ( Blogging about my activism makes me feel more exhilerated than non-community research (which I do love, but not without a community element). Anyway, this has been a good thing to realize.

So, I guess that's it for now. I do plan to keep the blog up. It's fun. I used to have a livejournal that way fewer people knew about, but it was definitely filled with more personal reflections than academic interventions...I prefer this new format, but I do miss the creative-writing the former enabled me, so this summer I hope to do some more creative non-fiction-y reflections on this blog (which there are some of now, but not as much).

Okay, off to my vegas party! 

"Trigger Warnings and Being an Asshole"

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I found a link to this post on feministing and it instantly caught my eye.  Every time I read/hear the words "being an asshole" now, I think of Angela's manifesto: are you making trouble, or are you just being an asshole?  In short, the post is asking about the use of trigger warnings in a blog.  Are they a considerate way to let readers decide whether and when they want to read emotionally taxing material, or are they a condescending way to talk down to your readers?  Read the post, and chime in!

Class Reflection-- April 14, 2010

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Please put your hands together and welcome the class summary "The Troublemaker as Disciplinary Problem: The Child."  We got class off to a romping good start with a discussion of my personal hero, Paula Dean, who has a show on QVC. We briefly discussed the possibility of queering QVC, at which point I kind of got sad that I didn't do that for my paper.

We then turned to my new favorite viral video (brought to us by Sophie) about a young boy whose desire to be a single lady transcends gender norms.  Although we noted that the boy forced his dad (and the viewers of the video) to question his assumptions about gender roles, not all of us were convinced that he was a real troublemaker, since he probably didn't intend to be subversive.  More likely, he just felt left out of the group-- Raechel suggested that he was more interested in community than gender.  Jumping briefly back to Althusser, Jessie proposed that the little boy's gender, his position as queer or as an outsider, is hailed into existence when he is told that he can't be a single lady.  Then we found out that Becky really likes to listen to misogynistic pop music (seconded), suggesting that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a really epic pop song is just a really epic pop song.  Raechel referred back to Willett, suggesting that humor creates a liminal space of potentiality, which can be a pedagogical moment (eg., when the dad tells us that he is "a horrible father").  We concluded our reveries with the sober recollection of the Star Wars youtube kid, who apparently had to switch schools because he was made fun of so much. 

Next, we asked what the link between childhood and troublemaking might be.  Because children's troublemaking might be dismissed as just playfulness, they may have the opportunity to be more subversive; on the other hand, their efforts are less likely to be taken seriously.  What do we think of children as political and moral agents in their own right?  To answer these questions, we turned to the troublemaker's children's book.  First, we noticed the connection between troublemaking and punishment in the stories.  Problematically, the book showed all troublemakers-- from Columbus to Rosa Parks-- as performing the same kind of trouble.  In particularly, we were bothered by the last line of the story, which suggested that there will always be troublemakers getting punished, but let's not let it be you or me.  Angela wanted to know why we shouldn't want to be troublemakers, and again wondered what the distinction between troublemaking and being an asshole might be.  Liz pointed out that the book suggests that as long as you get away with your trouble, it's okay. 

Florence wondered whether the book was hoping to inculcate readers with a fear of punishment.  We took some time to consider the implications of a "time-out" as opposed to other forms of punishment.  Jessie suggests that the time-out, which separates you from everyone else because of your non-normative behavior, provides pressure to normalize.  In this context isolation is presented as a bad thing, and something to be avoided.  Angela wondered if we should make a distinction between punishment that follows directly from a decision (ie., I don't brush my teeth, so I get a toothache) and punishment that's imposed from outside (ie., I don't brush my teeth and I get whipped).  Jessie also pointed out that the book suggests that we might make trouble when we are "feeling full of ourselves"; does this mean that the suffragettes wanted the vote because they were egotistical?  We turned to Florence for a European perspective-- she suggested that kids in France are more likely to be spanked than those in the US.  We also talked about other methods of discipline, like writing lines (which prompted a brief digression into Harry Potter's encounter with Dolores Umbridge and her magic quill which carved words into the writer's skin), or public shame.  We learned that the CA public school system is not as enlightened as we all thought, when Jessie informed us that they used Dunce caps in her elementary school.  Shannon trumped this with her story about a teacher who threatened to put adult diapers on his students.

SUPERNANNY!!!  She is all about the time out.  Angela then gave us a pretty excellent story of her own time-out history, which generally resulted in a lot of tears and overturned furniture.  What if kids just refuse to be controlled?  We decided that we should write our own kids books.

Angela shared a conversation she had with her 7 year old nephew about trans folk.  We wondered whether there are appropriate levels of information for each age group/maturity group.  Sophie's mom suggested (via Sophie) that people always grow up AND sideways, not just children.  We agreed with this statement wholeheartedly.  Jessie wondered if this desire to control "levels" of information about sex ed might reflect concerns that if kids know too much about sex, they might do it.  Angela brought our attention to page 3 of the Queer Child reading, where the author proposed that the right wing has relied on homosexuality to construct the way they relate to children (as potential victims, as pliable moral creatures).  The fear seems to be that if children learn about something, they will become it.  This takes about the child's agency and her ability to make her own sexual decisions, as Shannon pointed out.  We turned to that oft-repeated yet fairly meaningless phrase "sexually active," wondering what that conveys in a practical sense.  A lot of sex ed seems to rely on a politics of shame, a politics that Becky points out does not work on senile old people, who have no qualms masturbating or peeing in public.  Florence was really interested in the idea of asexuality; does this mean that someone is never interested in any sexual contact, not interested in sex with anyone but themselves, only interested in certain sexual activities?  We discussed how discourses about homosexuality (and sexuality in general?) suggest that there is a single moment of knowing, and that this is a permanent transition; what about persons who come to a gradual decision about their sexuality, or whose sexuality changes and changes back overtime? 

My personal favorite class moments came during the break, when we started discussing the animated characters we had the hots for as children.  Jessie vehemently advocated for the Little Mermaid, a suggestion that was generally approved of and which might even represent a trans narrative; other suggestions included Fifel from Fifel Goes West and the evil bad guy from Sailor Moon.  We talked about the ways in which children learn about sex through Barbie; at least three representatives of the class rainbow team recalled playing lesbian Barbie as youths (holla!).  Jessie raised a question about the tenses in which childhood sexuality was discussed in our articles; children either look forward to the day when they will have a sexual partner, or they look back on their childhood as adults and try to determine how they were; children are either not yet straight, or their queerness is assigned in memory by their adult self.  Is there ever a space for children to experience their sexuality in the present?  Perhaps this is complicated by children's inability to express their thoughts completely; is this an even greater problem for queer kids?  Sophie suggests that every child has sexual/romantic urges and object choices that they don't have the language to express; she recalls being crazy for Swayze and not having the language to express that feeling.  But Angela argued that a straight child still has a greater ability to express desire than a queer child, since a straight object-choice fits into the dominant heteronormative discourses. 

We wondered why adults don't talk to their kids about these sexual desires; is it because we think of children as innocent?  Because we think of talking with a child about sex is voyeuristic or pedophilic?  Or just because many people don't want to discuss their sex lives with their families?  We wondered if sexual desire is the same as attraction; we answered with a resounding no, but admitted that the distinction was blurry. 

Reflecting on the days of our youth, we came to the conclusion that public representations of childhood sexuality have drastically changed with our generation.  Examples included: the pre-KFed Britney Spears of the virgin/whore persuasion; Hannah Montana and her stripper poll; Twilight and the yearning, pulsating hearts of abstinent mythical creatures; and the promise ring that Disney purportedly insists its stars wear.  The promise ring seemed especially creepy because it represented a contract between father and daughter; is this an Oedipal situation, or a throwback to the idea of women as chattel?  A discussion of the Mystical Realm of the Rhododendron ensued. 

Becky brought up the Bristol Palin PSA, which encourages girls to not pregnant unless you are really rich and your parents will bail you out (the "pause" in the commercial resonated nicely with the idea of a time-out).  The time-out also seemed to represent the sexual "delay" that discourses about childhood sexuality rely on; there is a delay between liking Julia Roberts, for example, and knowing that this was a lesbian crush.  Is this an enforced delay? Shannon pointed out that adults are not allowed to play (she brought up the example of swinging on swings) unless they are playing competitive sports, or role-playing in the bedroom. 

At the end of class, we considered cultural anxieties about pedophilia.  Becky was a bit troubled that the readings seemed to dismiss the possibility that pedophilia can be traumatic for children.  Angela argued that maturity and age are not necessarily correlated.  I wondered about the ways in which our cultural emphasis on the trauma and horror of rape, pedophilia, etc. might actually make the experience worse for victims.  And Sara brought up the point that discourses about sex predators actually rely on a fantasy of the child as a victim for their rhetorical power.

All in all, it was a very lively discussion, and I might add that the snacks were particularly well done this week.  Good luck to all of us as the semester hurtles dramatically towards it's end!

kids troubling gender: sad parrot

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A friend of a friend made this video (sorry I don't know how to embed it) of her son, who is about four and is troubled by the pressure he feels to choose/create a gender identity. With his mom (who supports his troubling), he made this video. It is really powerful.

And ironic that my friend showed me this tonight, after our discussion on "single ladies" (which I showed her right after she showed me this video).

It also makes me wonder how many parents would be this supportive, rather than putting their son in "time out" for wearing a skirt or barrettes.

combatting rape

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I ran across this article today: Rape aXe: Putting Teeth Into the Fight Against Rape. It is a new condom-like vaginal device that has barbs on it. If a man rapes a woman, it attaches to his penis and has to be surgically removed, thus enabling identification of the rapist.

It is intended for situations in which rape is endemic. The author troubles this by stating that in conflict situations where gang rape is used as a weapon of war, this is likely to cause more violence for the woman.

It also made me wonder if it is problematic to put the onus on women to prevent rape, rather than working to create cultural conditions in which this violence is not acceptable or thinkable.

Thoughts?

More on the "single lady" troublemaker

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The single lady troublemaker was on CBS--check this clip out. Notice what they don't talk about...at all.
 
A few weeks ago we discussed having class at my house on the last week (more details on that soon). We also talked about moving the S Ahmed (for that week) to another time. After looking over the schedule, I have decided to mix up the readings a little for the next two weeks. Here is the new reading schedule:

Wednesday, April 21:
  • Munoz. "Cruising Optimism" (note: I have included the table of contents as a separate document in Web Vista)
  • Munoz. Review the intro to "Disidentifications"
  • Snediker. "Queer Optimism"
  • MLA Forum. "The Anti-Social Thesis in Queer Theory" (note: you only need to read 819- top 828 of the pdf)
  • Laclau/Mouffe. "Hope, passion, politics"
  • Spivak. "The Rest of the World"
Wednesday, April 28:
  • Ahmed, Sara. "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness"
  • Ahmed, Sara. "Happiness and Queer Politics"
  • Aristotle. Excerpt from Nicomachean Ethics

And Speaking of Troublemakers...

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I think this one just taught his dad something about gender identity.


Liz and I decided it would be a good idea to try and finish our book review in time for class, in the hopes that - since the book we're reviewing is The Queer Child, or, Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century by Kathryn Bond Stockton - our review will help round out everyone's reading of the introduction and provoke some interesting discussions in class on Wednesday. So, without further ado, our review!

Children as disciplinary problems

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The readings for this week were inspired by my interest in the (often troubling) link between children and troublemaking. Why is troublemaking so frequently read and dismissed as a childish activity? What does this move suggest about children as moral and political agents/critical thinkers? How is this move used to discredit troublemakers? How is troublemaking understood as something that one grows out of as they grow up? When they are more mature (more serious)? How is this disdain for the troublemaker reflected in kids' books (like The Book of Time Outs)? I have written about this a lot on my blog. Here are just a few examples:

A Disciplinary Problem? the unruly child as troublemaker
Teaching kids to value troublemaking
The book of time outs, part ii
The time-out as a liminal space of possibility?

And here is what I wrote about J Butler, troublemaking and ethics in this entry:

But, even as scholars have begun to think about ethics and Butler, their attention has frequently been on Butler's Giving an Account of Oneself. What about Gender Trouble? Does it have anything to offer to ethics, feminist, queer or otherwise? Or is it part of a different stage in Butler's thinking? On one hand, I can appreciate the need to turn to other texts. It is true, as Samuel Chambers and Terrell Carver suggest in their introduction to Judith Butler and Political Theory: Troubling Politics, that an overemphasis on Gender Trouble (which is often the only book that some people think Butler wrote) can obscure our understandings of Butler's contributions to political [and ethical] thought beyond gender and gender performativity (5). However, failing to consider the ethical import of Gender Trouble could be sending the worrisome (well, at least to me) message that troublemaking/troublestaying, which is first and most directly articulated in Gender Trouble, has no ethical value. And often implied in that message is the idea that engaging in the troubling of gender is something that Butler used to promote--that is before she grew up and turned to more serious matters, like ethics and morality.

This idea that Gender Trouble and troublemaking is immature and therefore unethical raises several questions for me: 1. As Butler (and her work) has grown older, has she matured beyond Gender Trouble and troublemaking? Has she replaced her "childishness" and lack of seriousness (playfulness?) with more weighty matters--like being undone, normative violence, grief?; 2. Does one have to be "serious" and mature (that is, not young and immature) in order to engage in ethics? Can we imagine ethical visions that are not predicated on this equation of maturity + seriousness = responsible/accountable and ethical?; and 3. Is troublemaking too playful, too immature, and therefore not ethical?

Question #1: The Queer Child

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In "Curioser: On the Queerness of Children," Bruhm and Hurley discuss the use of the future anterior (Felipa's sexual desires for Christine "will pass") to assert childhood innocence while simultaneously preparing the child for entry into the heterosexual paradigm. Meanwhile, in her Introduction to "The Queer Child," Stockton discusses the "gay child" as one who can only exist retrospectively in the past-- through a "future act of looking back" (9). How do these two different strategies-- the use of the future tense and the use of a retrospective "gay child" work together? Do you see the two theorists' approaches as complimentary or at odds with one another? What is the effect of locating the queer or gay child in the future or past (never the present)? If the gay or queer child never exists in the present, then does such a child exist at all?

 

What do you make of works (like Owens' book mentioned in "Curioser") that paraphrase the words of their subjects? Is this ever a useful strategy, or does overlaying a narrative on the disparate voices of one's subjects necessarily obscure their message(s)? Does your opinion depend at all upon whether the subjects who were interviewed are pleased with how their stories were retold? 

 

What violence does the fiction of childhood innocence do to children? And to adults? How does this kind of "violence" relate to our discussion of violence earlier in the semester, when we were talking about ACT-UP and choreographies of protest?

 

What purpose does the fiction of childhood innocence serve for adults in society? While Stockton focuses on the violence that this narrative does to children, does it also have benefits?

 

How do you understand Stockton's notion of "growing sideways"? Do you find this terminology helpful to explain children's development? Why or why not?

 

After reading all of the children's short stories, it seems that a common theme is that if you are a troublemaker you are punished with a "time out." What is the significance of this particular punishment? What does a "time out" really mean? What is the logic behind having a "troublesome" child "cool down a bit" and reflect on their actions?

 

In the stories from the children's book, I noticed that not all of the stories revolved around children misbehaving. Rather, the stories were about children and women (The Not So Clean Queen and Grandma the Pirate). What message is the book sending to both our kids (and us as adults) by indicating that not only children, but also women, need to be tought to behave or risk punishment? Why is it that "women and children" are always grouped together-- as troublemakers, victims, or those in need of protection?  In the "Curioser" article it was mentioned that the movements to ban pornography were aimed at the safeguarding of "women and children." What is the double-logic of locating children and women simultaneously as the sources of trouble and those who need to be protected from trouble?

 

 

 

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Here is the missing excerpt from Curiouser that Liz pointed out in her comments. It is the last page of the essay + the first page of notes. I have also added a scan of a kids' book on troublemaking to Web Vista that I would like us to discuss next week. The copy might require a lot of ink to print out, so I encourage you to just read it online. I will bring in the actual book next Wednesday.

Queer Project Update

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Being Irrationally Troubled (big project update #2)

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My turn to chime in with a big project update. I've been working on this blog, Troubling Rationality, for most of the semester, and it's raising a bunch of questions for me, both intellectual and methodological. The initial aim, I should explain, was to get at the intellectual tradition of rationalism, stemming from the Enlightenment. Traditionally (in many spheres, including philosophy, certain strains of evolutionary theory, psychology, etc) rational thought has been placed in the domain of men, and women are said to be "irrational" or "emotional" or "intuitive" or what have you. For my blog, I'm looking at feminist ways of thinking non-rationally - not as a way of playing into the stereotype of the Irrational Woman, but as a way of resisting a male-constructed/male-valorized system of thought. 

This, by the way, is probably the most coherent way I have managed to sum up this project this whole time!

So far, I've looked at works by Gertrude Stein, Julia Kristeva, María Lugones, and Gloria Anzaldúa. I've also thought about psychoanalytic and surrealist theories of the unconscious (and why they both may fall short of being feminist). I'm planning to post soon about two more books, "Women's Ways of Knowing" and "Eight Women Philosophers." But here are some problems I'm running into, and I'd really appreciate thoughts (as well as comments on the blog itself, which I'd love you all to check out if you've got a chance!):

Intellectual problem: I'm having trouble defining "rationality" across my blog posts, since it can variously include ideas like the scientific method, strains of logical argumentation, and (in Freud, for example) ideas about the conscious (vs. conscious) mind. Does it matter that there's this variation? In a blog about non-rationality, do I need a rigorous definition of terms? I feel like I'm skating a thin line of "you know it when you see it"... but the problem is, especially when you're venturing into the nonrational, you kind of do know it when you see it!

Methodological problem: I had originally planned to write five posts, each one putting two works in dialogue with each other (10 works in total). But I am having trouble keeping each post short enough, while still feeling like I'm exploring the text enough, so I've ended up writing separate posts for each of the books that I'm reading. This is more along the lines of Liz's question - but sometimes it's hard to convince myself that I'm saying something useful, when I'm restricting myself to blog-length posts! But, it's useful to me, anyway, so hopefully that counts for something. :)

Other question for the class: I'm having trouble finding books that speak directly to this issue (of rationality vs. not), and I'm wondering if, for the last few posts, you all had ideas of ways I could venture into non-written forms of expression. Can you think of visual or musical explorations of something we could call "non-rational argumentation"? I would love some class input!!

Big Project Update 2

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Hello all,

So here's what's going on with my safe-space project.  I am beginning to receive a trickle of responses to an email I sent out a while ago asking several questions about safe space and the Ryan Sorba debacle.  To refresh your memory, Sorba is the asshole/conservative pundit who came to Smith my senior year to give a talk on "The Born Gay Hoax."  His thesis is that gay people choose to be gay, and therefore do not deserve civil rights.  Much chaos ensued.

I'm going to harass people some more to respond, but so far a lot of the responses have been written in a really compelling manner.  Plus, they are almost all friends of mine, so they have a conversational tone that I think will be really fun to play with in the paper.  I've also been reading some lit on the subject, the most helpful ones so far being Queers in Space and Bernice Reagan Johnson.

I guess I am having two quandaries at this point.  First, I feel really out of my element making this a thought-based project rather than a research based project.  I'm really excited about having the opportunity to just ponder at length, but I'm having trouble convincing myself that this is a legit scholarly effort.

Second, I've been thinking about interspersing some personal recollections of my coming out experience into the paper.  These have been really easy and fun to write so far, and I think that it might be a good way of putting my own positionality into the paper.  I'm also taking a personal narrative class (with Angela- woot!) and I'm intrigued by the challenge of working myself into an argument.  However, Sara, if you don't want to read about my awkward early adolescence, etc., I will not have my feelings hurt. 

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated. 
This afternoon, I found myself engaging in the time-honored tradition of students everywhere, namely, puttering aimlessly around the interwebs in order to avoid doing work, when I stumbled upon a post at Racialicious about Erykah Badu's new video for her song "Window Seat."  Turns out it has churned up quite a bit of controversy.

In brief, the video shows Badu walking down the street, gradually removing her clothes until she's wearing only a hair covering.  Suddenly, there's the pop of a gun and Badu falls to the ground.  If you are me, and you have not been paying attention, this doesn't make any sense until you realize that Badu has filmed this video in Dallas, Texas, at the site of President Kennedy's assassination.  Suddenly, the voiceover at the beginning of the video (a recording of the news anchor's narration right before Kennedy was shot) makes a lot more sense.

If you are still me, you have spent most of the video watching the dude in red about 40 yards behind her who is running around picking up her clothes, and you are wondering if anyone else noticed this, and if so, why they left it in the video.  But, apparently, if you are anyone else, you are having moral and ethical quandaries about her public nudity.

Personally, I concur with guest blogger Renina Jarmon at Racialicious, who summarized her response with the following tweet: ""When was the last time you saw a Black womans body and sensuality centered FROM her perspective in Pop Culture?  . . . Window Seat is THE embodiment of Vulnerable y Fearless. Given the historical treatment of Black womens bodies in pop culture. +And American history. Window Seat feels like a lightweight Corrective for "Venus Hottentott" and thousands of nameless video vixens."  Plus, I found it really empowering to see a healthy, normal-sized woman's body, instead of the emaciated airbrushed women that are standard visual fair in the US.

But apparently Badu may actually be facing obscenity charges for her public disrobing.  As we have come to expect, Fox news reported on this subject with dispassionate, objective, unbiased, fact-based journalistic integrity.  Or not.

Please turn your attention to the following Fox clip, where you can see a bevy of white ladies discuss Badu's "tasteless" video.  The white ladies express some concern about Badu's decision to film this at the site of Kennedy's assassination, which they seem to feel is disrespectful.  But what really ruffles their feathers is that INNOCENT CHILDREN were exposed to Badu's naked form. (!!!)  To illustrate their point, they feature the tragic story of young Cailey (sp?) Espinosa, who's ninth birthday was ruined when she found herself face-to-boob with Badu's nude body.  Cailey's mother remarked (roughly) "if she wants to make a statement, let her make a statement, but do it tastefully, don't do it when my child's standing there watching you get butt naked . . . that just totally tainted my daughter's ninth birthday" and suggested that Badu should apologize to Cailey.

I just don't see what is so harmful about your child seeing a healthy woman who is comfortable with her body make an artistic statement by taking off her clothes, and oh, by the way, she happens to be a huge, politically active star who has never been afraid to speak her mind and who has obtained considerably power by doing so.  I would be TOTALLY PSYCHED if my kid was in an Erykah Badu video!

Fox news, and apparently a great many Americans, seem to think that a naked body is intrinsically sexual, and intrinsically pornographic.  I would argue that it is specifically the female body, and especially the black female body, that seems so threatening.  The idea that a black woman's body is always, inescapably sexual, in ANY context, dredges up centuries of the racist sexualization and objectification of the Other. 

I feel that it is fairly obvious that Badu wasn't hoping to arouse anyone with this video.  Why can't Badu use her own body in an artistic, political way?  Why won't the American public give her the authority to decide how to use her body?  Why does the black female body ALWAYS have to be an object of sexual voyeurism?  I know we've been having a lot of conversations about intent and reception, and the degree to which artists can/should control the interpretation of there work, but isn't there a point at which this kind of voyeurism threatens our ownership of our own bodies? 

ARG. 

I had a whole post planned in my head about nation traitors and the film Soldier's Girl, but then I read Muñoz's introduction to "Performing Identities" and became absolutely enthralled. I will discuss nation traitors at the end of my post, but I want to first talk about the Muñoz piece, and my personal reaction to it. Perhaps this a bit overly personal, but I think it's fairly humorous as well, so I hope that makes up for over-sharing:

 

Muñoz's discussion of Marga Gomez, mesmerized, watching the "lady homosexuals" on the David Susskind show really hit home for me. Growing up, my first introduction to "real life" lesbians was watching the Maury show. I was probably 10 or 11 and I was flipping through channels and, suddenly, the caption on the bottom of the screen read something like "Surprise! I'm a lesbian!" I had an idea of what the word meant, and I knew it kind of, maybe, somehow applied to me.  So, I stayed on the channel, turned the volume down so only I could hear it, and locked my bedroom door so no one else could catch me watching the show and put the pieces together. Much like the "pre-Stonewall stereotypes of lesbians" on the David Susskind show, the women on Maury had short hair, were dressed in masculine attire, and were overweight (Muñoz 3). But, they had leather jackets. And those jackets somehow made them exotic and glamorous in my eyes, and "not as the pathetic and abject spectacle that [they would] appear to be in the dominant eyes of heteronormative culture" (Muñoz 3). Thus, just as Marga Gomez's fascination and desire for the lady homosexual's wigs allowed her to disidentify with "these damaged stereotypes and recycle them as powerful and seductive sites of self-creation," so the leather jackets of the lesbians on Maury allowed me to do the same (Muñoz 4). I thought they were fascinating and I wanted to get one of those leather jackets and become one of them--as long as I didn't have to cut my hair--and as long as no one in my "real" life would find out.

 

Over the years as I grew into a teenager, I continued to invest the leather jacket with the mythical, the erotic, and the forbidden--all of the things lesbian identity meant to me. At 17, I bought a fake ID and a leather jacket and convinced one of my friends to drive into San Francisco with me (we lived 45 min. out in the suburbs) and go to the Lexington. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, wearing the leather jacket, and thinking it didn't look good on me, but that I wasn't wearing it for myself. I thought that, somehow, simply by wearing the jacket, it would let all the lesbians I passed know "hey, I'm one of you" and it would it would make me seem "mythical, erotic and forbidden"-- just like the lesbians on the Maury show had seemed to me. When we finally got to the Lexington, and made it in with our fake IDs, I was shocked to discover that I was the only one wearing a leather jacket!  Without those jackets, how was I supposed to know whether they were "really" lesbians or not?  What if they were really straight, and they were just there to out me?  After about 15 minutes of failing to find a fellow jacket wearer and "known" lesbian, I got scared, and told my friend I wanted to leave. In my eyes, the jacket had become disinvested of its mystical lesbian power, so I took it off and I never wore it again.

 

Now on to nation traitors and the film "Soldier's Girl," which I will be showing a clip of in class on Wednesday.

 

First, here is a plot summary of the film:

 

Barry is a private with the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army, stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Calpernia, a former Navy medic, now works as a showgirl at a transgender revue in Nashville, Tennessee when the two meet in 1999. When Barry and Calpernia begin seeing each other, Fisher begins spreading rumors on base about their relationship, which appeared to be a violation of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy about discussing the sexual orientation of military personnel. Barry faces increasing harassment and pressure, which explodes into violence over Fourth of July weekend. While Calpernia performs in a pageant in Nashville, Barry is beaten to death in his sleep with a baseball bat by Calvin Glover, who had been goaded by Fisher into committing the crime. The film ends with a discussion of the aftermath. The film depicts Fisher as a sexually confused manipulator jealous of Barry or Calpernia or both.

 

My interest in the film, and its relation to our class, centers around the way in which Barry and Calpernia serve simultaneously as US soldiers/patriots and, by virtue of their gender and sexual positions, as nation traitors. After all, to be patriotic is often conflated with upholding hegemonic American values, including heternormativity. How, therefore, does Calpernia inhabit the seemingly contradictory identity of former soldier and transperson?  And, for Barry, of solder and partner of a transperson?  How does the film formally complement these two divided and/or contrasting selves? 

 

One possible response to this question is that Barry maintains these identities through a linguistic fracturing of the self. While on the base or with his military friends, he goes by his surname, Winchell. And, while he introduces himself to Calpernia as "Winchell"--and she is comfortable calling soldiers by their last names given her own military background--she soon asks for his first name and, from then on, he is "Barry" in his scenes with her. This division of identity--between Winchell the soldier & Barry the partner of a transwoman-- is further complimented by the film's employment of color and mise en scene. In Calpernia's home and dressing room, Barry is surrounded by soft pinks and pastels & rainbow flags, and he is permitted to cry. On the base, however, the shots are overwhelmed by dark greens and browns, the American flag is ever-present, and Winchell acts sternly and agressively, adhering to what seems to be a code of brotherhood respect.  This leads me to wonder, can the two selves ever merge, unifying his identity as "Barry Winchell?"

 

Another point of interest for me, in the film, is how Calpernia and Barry's bodies become sites of trouble or are troubling/troublesome. In what ways does offering up his (Barry's) queer body as a vehicle of military service revise notions of the American body, as well as the attendant categories of identity, sexuality and patriotism? Do he and Calpernia have agency over their bodies, or are their bodies being written or acted on by others?  How do the film's formal elements contribute to the way in which their bodies are perceived?  

 

In the scene I will show in class on Wednesday, Calpernia is performing as a showgirl at the nightclub Visions (it's the night they meet), and Barry's army buddies are shoving $1 bills down her underwear. Clearly, their hands are all over her--her body is figured as spectacle and it is publicly accessible. Yet, she is on her home turf and she is the one who has constructed herself as spectacle--she has chosen to perform and, when a fight breaks out, she intervenes with her body, literally standing between Barry and his fellow soldier to break it up. She then takes Barry by the hand and leads him into her dressing room, where she cleans up the spill on his shirt (his body). Also, while Calpernia's body is often on display, it is Barry's body that is beaten (ultimately to death) later in the film. Therefore, while his body is never depicted as available or vulnerable, in the end, it becomes so, and it becomes so not in the soft hues of Calpernia's private bedroom, but in the cool green/brown world of the military barracks--with a baseball bat (a symbol of the traditional American pastime) and only feet from an American flag.

 

Another interesting thing about the characters' bodies is that the film does not include a "genital reveal" sequence, or a moment when the trans character's genitals are revealed.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post (about my big project, which is on this topic), genital reveal sequences are a canonical feature of 90s and 00s trans cinema, and often play out as moments of "truth" about the character's body while serving as a moment of sensationalism for the audience.  Therefore, by refusing to give us that moment, what is the film saying about Calpernia's body?  Does this deflect attention away from her body, or increase our desire to know and see?  What does it mean that we also are prevented from seeing Barry's genitals?  Instead, during their sex scenes, we see close-ups of the character's faces as they moan with pleasure. In fact, the scenes of Barry going down on Calpernia and Calpernia going down on Barry are virtually identical. Furthermore, these scenes are interspersed with Fish (Barry's roommate) catching a male & female soldier in bed together (it is forbidden for soldiers to date and/or have sex).  These scenes, therefore, be interpreted as both normalizing--their sex is just like straight sex--and as a way of reinforcing it's anti-patriotism--Barry having sex with Calpernia is against the military's rules just as the male & female soldier having sex is against the military's rules.

 

Another point I want to discuss (regarding the clip I'll show on Wednesday) is the "mission" that Fisher gives Barry. After watching Calpernia perform, Fisher tells Barry that it is his "mission" to find out if she has a penis or a "gash." By using the military word "mission" and using it to find out about Calpernia's body, Soldier's Girl merges the world of the military with the queer world of Vision's nightclub. And, as Barry thwarts his mission, telling Calpernia when they are alone that his mission was to "find out how she learned to dance like that," he de-values both the seriousness of a military "mission" and the importance of anatomy. Reporting back to Fisher after his time with Calpernia, he states "she is a lady," answering with a reference to her gender identity & expression, rather than her genitals. While these are my initial thoughts on the scene, I can't help but feeling there is more to it.

 

 

QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE CLIP FROM "A SOLDIER'S GIRL" FOR WEDNESDAY

 

1. What do you make of the "mission" Barry gives to Fisher?

 

2. How do you see Calpernia's body working as a site of spectacle or performance, a tool, a locus of patriotism, and/or nation traitor in this scene?  What about Barry's body?

 

3. How do you see the straight world of the military and the queer world of the nightclub merging together in this scene?

 

4. Do you see Barry's identity (Barry

Question #1 - Can apocalypse be queer?

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Has any one seen the movie I Shot Andy Warhol? I don't know how famous it is in the US (it is a US movie), but in case you haven't heard of it, you might be able to guess what it is about. Yes, it is based on Valerie Solanas's story; but no, this isn't much of a great movie (in my opinion). At least I learned a few things about this enraged woman who would have liked to turn this world into total chaos but, too bad for her, hardly left a trace. I have to say the movie, at the time, made me want to slap Solanas hard in the face. Oh, how naïve is that, believing in the absolute superiority of women, believing that destroying the "male race" would benefit the rest of humanity, believing that enough woman-identified individuals were ready to stick their sharp 6-inch blades into men's guts (or other)? Her anger made me angry. Her feminism wasn't mine and more than that, it spoiled its meaning. Obviously, a lot of affect is involved in all of this, both on the part of Solanas and on the part of less radical feminists. One could say she had good reasons to be outraged: she was sexually abused by her father and was unlucky enough to come across a huge number of... male scum. So here are my questions on Third:

  • While strongly "counteridentifying" with the male sex, she seemed, however, to want to resort to a strategy which deployed means strangely similar to what she resented the male sex for. Are we really dealing with counteridentification here? What about counterdetermination? In her manifesto, she bases herself on theories previously elaborated by men: how can we understand this in relation to (counter)/(dis)identification?
  • Can we call feminist's (and maybe our own) refusal to consider Solanas as one of them (one of us) a counteridentification? Or shall we call it misrecognition? Didn't Solanas's extremism somehow work in favour (and not only at the expense) of the development of "legitimate" feminism? How could we (feminists who don't adhere to her means and aims) work out a disentification from her work?  
  • Finally, it would be interesting to discuss the fact that the madness of Solanas is often evoked in Third, as opposed to the mental health of the suicide bomber, which isn't referred to at all by Puar.
Of course, we need to refer to Muñoz's text to handle these notions of counter- and (dis)identification. These are very useful to understanding all of our Wednesday readings.
 
  • Muñoz gives several definitions of disentification; how would we define it now we've read his text?
  • How do narratives and discourses play into that (cf. his reading of Hidalgo's video or his discussion of the role of a song in Baldwin's Just above my Head)?
  • Can we speak of degrees of disidentification (with varying proportions of identification and counteridentification)? Does it have to be a conscious process to exist at all?
  • Are Muñoz's feelings of exhilaration and terror (p. 4) (in other words, his excitement and fear), when watching Capote's show, what triggers (what initiates) disidentification?
Linking Third, Muñoz and Puar, I also came up with the following:

  • Do we agree with Puar's (quoting Massumi) understanding of the affective, i.e.: "The primacy of the affective is marked by a gap between content and effect" (p.132)?
  • What makes someone opt for a certain political action instead of another? How does affect work in making such a decision? Can we call this a "decision"?
  • How do Puar's suicide bombers' target differ from Solanas's? What is their relation to the past, present and future? Can we tie this in with counterterrorist discourses (cf. use of the future tense)?
  • How to go beyond the American sexual exception of queerness? Is it possible to see any sort of phenomenon involving an assemblage (a Deleuzian assemblage, described by Puar) as "queer"? Does seeing queerness as an "assemblage" actually allows, as Puar suggests, to focus both on ontology and epistemology? Isn't Puar's definition of queerness a little too far-fetched?
  • Can the relationship between feminists and Solanas be, to a certain extent, compared to the relationship between people of colour living in America and terrorists? Can we speak about these in terms of counter-/(dis)identification?
  • How queer is Solanas's endeavour? Do you think she would have understood herself as "queer"?
Shall I also add this other (very general) question, namely: what are the differences and similarities between Puar's terrorists, Valerie Solanas and queer artists of colour in terms of  troublemaking?







Hi All,

Since I told you all about going to see Judith Halberstam at the conference I attended a few weeks back, I thought I'd share the link to the report-back I just posted on my blog. I give a pretty thorough run-down of Halberstam's keynote:

Sewsa2010 Poster Large.jpg

BLOG POST: http://rebelgrrlacademy.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/conference-report-back-south-east-womens-studies-association-conference-2010-columbia-south-carolina/



Reading for next week (4/7)

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For next week, we will be discussing nation traitors. In addition to the readings in our Web Vista folder (2 Puar, 1 Third, 2 parts--Munoz), you can access Valerie Solanas' Scum Manifesto here. Here are a few questions to think about:

  • What differences do you see between traitorous identities and disidentification?
  • What tensions/conflicts (if any) do you see between Puar's articulation of terrorist and radical feminists like Solanas' (via Third)?
  • How do these conflicts speak to some tensions between feminist and queer projects of troublemaking?

follow up on "Politics of Feeling Bad"

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I just ran across the short commentary I said I'd post related to national apologies, following Sara Ahmed's "The Politics of Feeling Bad." This article, "Too damn little, too damn late: Senators can take their half-assed lynching apology and shove it," by Debra J. Dickerson, lists the "top 10 reactions to America's latest patronizing attempt to repent its racism," a U.S. Senate resolution in 2005 apologizing for lynching. As she writes, "Had America ever truly repented its racism no apology would be needed now." She writes that the article is more about how whites feel: "Shamed? Guilty? Bored? Patronizing? Victimized? Shriven?" Like Ahmed, she argues that apologies are a way of removing guilt from the self and another means of more responsible parties trying to set the timeline/decisions over when to "move past" an injustice that don't actually attempt to redress the consequences, aftereffects, and continuing events today.

Big Project Update #1

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So if you recall, for my big project I've decided to take the films I'm watching for a film class in the French department and compile a kind of portfolio.  I've been watching the films and basically writing a reaction to many of them.  I think that what makes this particularly fun and interesting for me is that I don't have a specific format for my reactions.  For some films, I focus on one scene, for others I'll focus on a series of scenes, or I'll think about a broader theme or themes.  So each one looks different, and they each deal with what spoke to me in that particular film. 

I start out with writing a bit of an introduction about what I want to get out of this experience and some background.  I'll have a half-point update in there as well, and a conclusion once I'm done.  Film is a genre that is terribly new to me, and so I'm quite uncomfortable with it, and so my aim for this project was to find a way to read and understand film that is comfortable for me.  And at this point, I'm happy to report that I do feel that processing the films in this way has been useful for me, and I hope that what I produce for this big project will be of use later on, if I ever chose to use film in my further research or teaching. 

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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