I hope you enjoyed watching/discussing Halloween yesterday. In case you lost it or weren't in class, here is the handout about the movie and the article.So, how can we look at this film (and maybe this poster too) queerly? What issues does it raise for queering theory: the abject, gender performativity, heterosexual matrix of intelligibility, heteronormativity?
October 2009 Archives
I don't know why I didn't think to share this earlier, but in any event, I think that besides providing a great deal of amusement for myself and any like-minded individual, the following link has some good parallels to some of the things we've discussed in class as well as a good example (I think) of what really good blogging can do.
Now, before I go on...if you really enjoy reading the Twilight books and watching the movies, more power to you. I am not at all trying to rain on your parade or criticize you anything of the sort.
In fact, I've never even touched one of the books or seen a minute of one of the movies. But what I have come to know about them indirectly over the past year or so raised some red flags for me, so I stayed as far away as possible.
Until a friend of mine started reading the Twilight series for his job (which is, basically, the internet) and posting his reactions as a blog. I mean, I still haven't come physically closer to reading or watching any of the original sources, but I have read some passages and become a little more familiar with what exactly is going on through Mark's commentaries.
A lot of these are just plain fun, but I think, since we've been relating what we're talking about to current trends and popular culture a good deal, and we've been striving to post about these things in this blog, this is something good to share. He's gone through the first two books and is currently reading the third (?) one, so the entries go back quite a way, and range from discussions as good as:
In the third chapter of Eclipse, Meyer spends a great deal of time demeaning every woman who tries to be honest, stand up for herself, and or exhibit any sense of independence. Consequently, this means she makes sure that every male that graces the pages of chapter three is EXTRA MANLY and POWERFUL and full of WELL-MEANING PSYCHOSIS.
Despite Bella being the most annoying, dependent blob of personality-less mediocrity, she is still a human being and an individual. In no circumstance are you ever allowed to posit control over her in order to keep her "safe." ...THE CHARACTER WE'RE MEANT TO LOVE AND WORSHIP IS A STALKER, AN ABUSIVE ASSHOLE, AND A CONTROL FREAK.
to entries as amusing as Mark writing his own autopsy report from being indirectly killed by reading the awfulness of these books, or creating homoerotic Blingee/transvestic images of Edward Cullen.
I found another video on youtube.com that's ripe for queering. You can watch it at the address below:
In this video, which is from a Belgian comedy, shii is a wii for women. They can play games about ironing, cooking, cleaning, and (get this) sucking cock!
This video begs investigation. First of all, this is a case in which inanimate objects are gendered in order to inspire the correct gender expression in the correctly sexed body, according to the heterosexual matrix (boys can't play with pink castles and girls can't play with guns). But more than that (I was struck again by this lens of analysis after reading the Carol Clover) it presents remains of the one-sex model (are they really remains, or is the one-sex model more alive and well than we think?). Yes, the shii is pink, but that, in the end, is not really what sets it apart from the wii. What sets it apart and makes men unable to play it is its content. What women are supposedly occupied with (cooking cleaning, and performing fellatio) dictates their gender in this video more than their genitalia does. So to does their desire to be sexually active with men (presumed in this video by the oral sex game) and their non-desire to play the games that men play on the wii.
Many of the insights I've gleaned from Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands were expressed in the drawing I presented yesterday, but I want to expand on her discussion of choice and self-abjection. This is primarily discussed in the second chapter -- up to this point, she's explained the exile of her culture from mainstream, American, White culture -- and here she speaks of her exile from not only her own culture but from her family, her home. In the section titled "Cultural Tyranny," Anzaldua argues that we know what is normal from the culture; culture teaches us the "dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchallengeable" (16), such as female subservience, the importance of being chaste, and the inescapable fate of motherhood. She argues that culture would like us to believe that we, humans, are limited -- our identities, our nature -- and have no room to evolve, to create ourselves, or, in essence, to breathe freely. Everywhere we look we are constrained. The so-called half-and-half Anzaldua mentions confronts normative cultures with possibilities -- and this ties in quite nicely with the chapter we read this week in Undoing Gender -- and culture is terrified of these possibilities. They want to keep the "deviants" buried, out of view; they want us to believe that there is a defect with the "half-and-half" -- as if all of us are not all half and half ourselves:
half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even from a confusion of gender. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within. (19)
That's kind of what I was asking when I asked: how can the abject and the "normal" co-exist without borders? How I read this is -- we, all of us, are "they"s -- we are two, not one -- or one with two parts. Not even one part male, one part female -- we're just not an either/or. We're composed of various ands and buts -- we hold contrasts and contradictions inside... and outside.
Anzaldua's discussion of the double-meaning of homophobia really resonated with me as well. Not just the fear of homosexuality, but the homosexual's fear -- or any abject's fear -- of going home, of being rejected, spat on, excreted, exiled, or killed (metaphorically as well as literally). Returning to the question I posed, once again, I guess I was thinking of power -- because in my explanation and discussion of abjection, I constantly find myself dichotomizing -- them vs. us. And I've aligned myself with the abject. The language I've used, the way I've used it also suggests that they are wrong, and it's we who are right. I've only reversed the opposition -- making us better than them. Is that productive? I don't know that it is -- and that's why I'm wondering if these oppositions can ever cease being oppositions. Does the one necessarily have to top the other? In my mind the abject is better. More real. More existent. More legitimate. And that's the problem I'm facing now -- will there always be borders wherein both sides must always compete for the higher position, and only one can have it? Must people always relate to one another sadomasochistic-ly? Can we ever return home (or be ourselves when we get there)?
I thought I would just type "queer" into the search bar on youtube.com and see what popped up. I found this video on youtube.com. It's from Queer Youth TV. These people shoot short documentaries showing different "aspects of queer life." This is part 1. You can watch this video at the address below:
There are a few things that caught me about this video. One, queer is not specifically defined. The only places where it comes up is when the host at the beginning is comparing cultural material that "queer kids" want to mainstream gay magazines or icons, and again when the musician being interviewed talks about writing for a "queer" audience. There's also a part at the beginning where the host is showering with his clothes on while proceeding to make breakfast. What does it all mean?!
For me, this video is presents some problems. These people profess to represent and give lip-service to the vague audience of "queer youth," whom they say don't want their cultural consumption varnished with any "false pretenses." Hmmm. It seems to me that what is at issue here is the ambiguous usage of labels (not in itself a bad thing) and the non-examination of those labels. This is important especially as there seems to be a claim to authenticity these people are making. Also interesting about this video is the way "queer" seems to be a term sequestered on its own. Perhaps it's used in combination with other words or identities, but after this is done there is always a question as to whether someone is a queer something, a something that just happens to be queer, or..... what else?
I am still in the process of grading your blog assignments. For the most part, I have really enjoyed reading what you have to say. Here are some of my thoughts so far...
Remember to demonstrate a serious engagement with your chosen reading/s.
Here is what I wrote in the blog assignment: Your entry can be as long (within reason) or as short as you think necessary in order to demonstrate a critical engagement with your chosen reading/readings. By critical engagement I mean that your entry clearly demonstrates: a. that you have closely read (that means for than once) the reading and b. that you have thought through it in terms of appreciation, critique and construction.
I want to add to this statement: For me, a serious engagement means that you really engage with the reading. You read it many times and you really think about what the author is trying to argue and how that argument does/doesn't make sense to you. Here are some questions to consider as you work on your direct engagements:
a. What is your reaction to the argument? Do you like it? If so, why? If not, what is it about the argument that bothers you? It may be that you are turned off (or on?) by the argument, but you can't quite figure out why. Make that part of your blog entry. I have found in my own writing on my trouble blog, that the process of typing up my ideas can help me to clarify what I am really feeling about a reading. Or, it can at least help me to articulate why I am bothered/unsettled/moved by that reading. Check out this example from my blog.
b. Are there any particular passages that just don't make sense--either because of the author's language or because of the claims they are trying to make? For me, one great thing about the blog is that can be a space where you work through ideas. It is not necessarily (or even usually) a place where you write about ideas/arguments that you have completely figured out. One good starting point for a direct engagement entry could be a passage/idea from that reading that you just don't get. Start writing about why you don't get it and then how you think it might fit with the larger argument. Check out this example from by blog.
c. Is there an idea from the reading that really makes you mad or that moves you? Did you have an a-ha moment when you were reading the article? Write about this experience and why/how it happened.
d. Did you talk about this reading with one of your friends or a family member? What was that experience like? When you read certain essays do you find yourself wanting to tell your roommate about them? Write about that experience. How do you explain the reading? What do you tell them?
e. Do you ever find yourself reading an article and wanting to ask the author about what they wrote? You could construct your entry as a conversation between you and the author. Ask your questions and then imagine how they might reply. Or, you could construct your entry as a letter/email to that author (as in: Dear Judy, I was just reading your essay in Undoing Gender about the value of grief. What happened to the sense of humor that you had in Gender Trouble? Why does laughter not seem to be important to you anymore?...).
f. Explain the title. Frequently you can get to the key argument that an author is trying to make by explaining the title. Make your own explanation of the author's title a central part of your entry--but not the only part. See this example from my blog.
Be creative in your engagement with the reading. Don't worry about making these entries overly formal. Find a way to infuse your own personality into your entries. Show us your quirky sense of humor or "how your brain works". See this example from my blog.
Three important things to remember:
1. Serious engagement takes time. Serious engagement means that you spend a serious amount of time on your entries. Read the articles again...and again...and again. Do not wait until the last minute to write and post these.
2. Serious engagement does not mean that you have to take yourself (or the readings) too seriously. Have fun with these entries. This is your chance to play with these ideas and to experiment with many different ways in which to engage with the material and the topics of the class. Your experiments can fail, but that's okay. Plenty of mine have. See this example. But, as Butler reminds us, failure can be productive. If you experiment with your blog entry and it fails, write about the failure--why you think you failed and what important questions your failure produced.
3. The more I think about this assignment (and the more you all do it for the class), the more I come to understand its primary purpose. While I do hope that these entries enable us to build community outside of the classroom, that is not my primary purpose. For me, the primary purpose of your various blog assignments is to give you a different sort of space in which to work through the ideas of the class and to demonstrate that working through (to me, to yourself, to other class members). These blog entries are meant to encourage (maybe even to push) you to really engage with some central ideas of queering theory. Keep this mind as you are working on the entries.
I passed out another revised schedule (as of 10.22) in class yesterday. I will also make a link for it, under the Handouts section.
Remember: We are discussing Butler's chapter, "Beside Oneself" from Undoing Gender on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, we will watch and discuss "Halloween." I was thinking that we could begin class with a discussion of the Carol Clover reading (found on WebCT in the folder for 10.29) and then start watching the film around 3:15. The movie is about 90 minutes long. You are not required to stay, but I will screen the entire movie (ending around 4:45 or so). I will bring some snacks (feel free to bring some too).
Sorry about the last minute notice, but I am presenting this Monday on Butler and troublemaking. I would love to see you all there!
"Kate Moennig My Address-A Look at Gay Youth Homelessness Ep1." Kate Moennig. source: YouTube
Katherine Moennig (of "The L Word" fame) takes an invitation to learn more about the plight of homeless and highly mobile queer youth through a series called "My Address: A Look at Gay Youth Homelessness." In this first episode, we get an introduction to her project through her own preface at the beginning, and an essential primer to all of the subjects she plans to cover in the series, as well as the avenues she plans to use to explore her project. Starting at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York, we see staff guiding us through the institute, where the "triage" process starts in assessing what services (i.e. medical, mental health, financial, legal, food, etc.) the youth are in need of, then leading us into what seems to be a stock room, describing that even the most essential items in life (brushes, underwear, etc.) that you and I would take for granted are things that the youth we're speaking of simply don't have.
This then transitions nicely into discussions by the Executive and Assistant directors of the institute as to why these youth are so at risk for homelessness--ranging from letting them slip through the cracks because we assume the ever-elusive "someone else," or society, will take care of them, to the blatant denial of resources because of their minority status(es).
Finally, we are presented with complimentary (but necessary) thoughts given by youth staying in the institute on their experiences in the situation they are in. We see an acute understanding of the differentiation between putting oneself at risk and being put at risk by the "powers that be," as well as the overly significant risk of violence, disease, oppression, and homelessness simply because "[people] don't like who you are."
Some further research that may be elicited by this video would be (of course) to watch more of the series, as well as seeking out information as to what concrete forms of oppression there are in society for both queer AND youthful individuals, if it's available. If not, it would become a matter of sifting through legislation or similar sources to see what sort of institutions are not singular or clear in their oppression, but clandestine and reinforced by multiple "backbones."
Cincotta, Katie. "Queer Eye for the Pink Buy." B&T Weekly 16 Nov. 2007: 16-20.
This article starts by discussing the somewhat random outrage/mass misunderstanding communicated by audiences of the Harry Potter series when JK Rowling "outed" her character Dumbledore, and uses that as a segue into how marketing stereotyped gay characters, at the end of the day, just doesn't work as well as one might think it would because as gay and lesbian acceptance into general society has been rising, the presence of those bodies on corporate "gaydars" has also been rising.
Additionally, it discusses the more salient presence queer bodies on the internet, in comparison to print. While print and other "hard-copy" sources are more sluggish on the trail to inclusion of queer bodies in their output, online sources have "always" been more frequented by queer bodies than the aforementioned sources, and so they are quicker to jump on opportunities to cater to those queer customers. Ultimately, if you're queer, you'll find much more material experiences that you can relate to online at this point in time.
Finally, the article discusses the increasing importance of material looks to queer bodies (more in relation to lesbian-identified individuals). The image of stereotypically drab dykes rejecting makeup and "looking nice" is becoming more and more dim on its way to disappearing, and whether you're a femme lesbian or a butch dyke, these days, you're more likely to wanting, seeking, and acquiring the perfect material items (clothing, hairstyles, etc.) to communicate your queer style.
A main point for further research based on this article would be finding research that discerns between materialized ideals in queer culture based purely on the desire to be materialistic, or the desire to conform to a heteronormative ideal of being materially-concerned.
Kimmel, Michael. "Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity." The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality Ed. Tracy E. Ore. Boston: McGraw-Hill (2009): 132-149.
This article is rare in that it discusses the social, psychological, and other experiences of male-gendered individuals in a capitalist society where men are socially at the top of the power hierarchy through many lenses without projecting itself as an anti-feminist/-queer/-anything viewpoint. It simply aims to state "This is how it actually is for males; take it or leave it."
The article uses discussions of masculinity, feminism, power, capitalism, sexuality, gender, as expansion points to discuss how what the majority of "others" (i.e. non-males) assert about the experience of a male-gendered individual isn't necessarily congruent with the psychological (or individual) experience of those individuals, and, subsequently, how the power dynamics, especially in a material economy, affect those who are universally believed to be in power ("the feelings of men who were raised to believe themselves entitled to feel that power, but do not feel it.").
By using these discussions (and the questions raised by them), there is a valid and comprehensive discussion of how those power dynamics and individual, internal experiences translate easily into homophobia and other forms of oppression. All of this is then easily translated into the experiences of those "bodies" as lived in a material culture such as ours.
A huge discussion point raised by this article for further research is one that asks whether men are actually silent about their actual individual experience because they are afraid of being de-masculinized or because they simply enjoy the fruits of the labor. Is there statistical evidence for either side?
In Judith Butler's discussion of ambivalent drag in Bodies that Matter, a key concept she attempts to outline is the need for differentiation between drag that actually, genuinely subverts gender normativity (and all that goes along with it--which is a loaded task) and drag that, in an attempt to subvert gender norms, actually reinforces and recreates them. As she states, "I want to underscore that there is no necessary relation between drag and subversion, and that drag may well be used in the service of both the denaturalization and reidealization of hyperbolic heterosexual gender norms" (Butler 125).
I definitely appreciate this section of Bodies that Matter because Butler articulates much of what I have felt and tried to articulate over time about the practice of drag (but, in my own eyes, failed, due to one thing or another). She successfully manages to recognize the legitimacy of the practice of drag both in relation to its audience and those who perform it while actively discussing its pros and cons. This is often a line that is impossible to walk, whether it is due to an audience that's unfamiliar with the gender ambiguity often aiding in the production of drag and subsequently not accepting of the "alternative-ness" of the practice, or an audience that has such deep emotional, social, psychological, and identity-related roots in drag that they explode at the though of deconstructing it as a practice.
The primary axis of my argument (and both the point at which I whole-heartedly agree with Butler and officially begin to depart from her recognizing of its legitimacy) can be found in Butler's stating, "drag is subversive to the extent that it reflects on the imitative structure by which hegemonic gender is itself produced and disputes heterosexuality's claim on naturalness and originality" (Butler 125) and "the drag we see... is one which both appropriates and subverts racist, misogynist, and homophobic norms of oppression" (Butler 128).
Drag is absolutely a practice that further appropriates gender norms and gender-minority-based oppression, but it is not a practice that successfully subverts them. It has a large capacity to do so, and often engages in the practice of subversion exactly in the way in which successful subversion would need to happen, but does not reach the trigger point. Subsequently, if anyone notices the effort, it gets tossed into the "appropriation" bin, rather than the subversion bin it was aching to be in all along.
This is most likely due to the disconnect in logic and understanding that takes place between individuals that are ready to look at, process and understand (not necessarily accept) gender subversion and the individuals in our society that are so unconsciously tied to the constant recognition of their own gender performance as a measure of their own social (and individual) worth that, almost like a defense mechanism, they either completely ignore misled efforts at drag (those that don't reach that "trigger point") or they write off the efforts as pathological, pathetic, and/or problematic. Unfortunately, the latter individuals are those that are in possession of the power necessary to successfully jump that hurdle separating "re-appropriation" and "subversion," and they aren't letting anyone jump just because they want to jump. I would say you'd have to be a part of their "club," but even then it's more likely that you would be kicked back to the "other" side if you displayed any sort of lack of congruence with their ideals, especially about a facet of life so integral to their integrity as dichotomized gender performances.
Butler, Judith. "Ambivalent Drag." In Bodies that Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993. 123-137.
One of the things that really changed my viewpoint on the film Paris is Burning was the realization, due to reading bell hooks's article "Is Paris Burning?" that the filmmaker was an odd presence in the process of making the film in comparison to the subjects being filmed. While I had seen the film before we watched it in class, I had never done much outside research on the who/what/when/where/how of the film itself.
I thought hooks was being a little ornery, at first, while I was reading her article. However, the moment that it was brought to my attention that this film was a white, middle (?) class lesbian filming (mostly) black/latino (presumably) gay men or transwomen (or other gender/sexuality minorities) I completely understood the anger I felt seething through hooks's article.
While it is certainly unfair to judge Livingston simply because she was different than the majority of the film (and if we were to legitimately judge her it would be a huge amount of hypocrisy) and assert that she is a privileged white girl using the black gay guys as props for her own academic (other) progression, I don't think it's at all unfair to assert that it was irresponsible of Livingston to make this film from such a position and not at least publicly recognize the discontinuity that arises between her social location and those of the individuals she's filming. Whenever there are such stark differences between groups and we are being subjected to the view of a singular filmmaker, we need to understand the dynamics of the relationships created by the film in order to be responsible viewers, and take away a responsible message from the film.
While I don't want to comment on the race position simply because I am in a position of racial privilege, I can sympathize with the notion put forward by hooks that, no, I don't want someone of a different gender or sexuality commenting on my own gender or sexuality without recognizing how we relate to each other as individuals using those lenses. As a transguy, I experience this frustration a lot--the assumption that I must be able to relate to all gender/sexuality minorities simply because I am one. No, not necessarily (and, in fact, a large minority of the time), and I don't want to have those discussions without a valid recognition of the vast differences between [you] and me.
"Bollywood Challenge." America's Best Dance Crew. Per. Vogue Evolution. MTV. Season 4, Episode 4. 30 Aug. 2009.
This season on Americas Best Dance Crew on MTV there is a crew from the underground New York "vogue" house/ballroom scene and one of their members of this group is a transgender female, Leiomy Maldonado. In this particular episode they took time to reflect on some backstage "drama" between the group members. Leiomy was feeling what seemed to be homesick and it was affecting the rest of the group. After their dance performance the judges had an opportunity to comment and when judge Lil' Mama got her opportunity this is what she chose to say, "Your behavior...come on...its unacceptable...you need to remember your truth...you were born a man, you are becoming a woman...don't be a bird, like, 'oh my god I'm not doing this'...if you're gonna become a woman, act like a lady...you're doing this for America...even though you're the face of transgender, you're the face for America right now." The minute this came out of Lil' Mama's mouth Leiomy rolled her eyes and then proceeded to look pretty hurt and defeated throughout the rest of the judging. In connecting this to my term it speaks again to this concept of public spectacle like in Paris Is Burning, or with Caster Semenya or Sara Baartman. The fact that Lil'Mama felt it was OK to comment on Leiomy's gender performativity and say she was somehow doing it wrong and commenting on remembering your truth indicating"un-realness." She was basically saying "you're an example for others so you better do it "right!" and she was doing it in the most public way possible.
Thompson, Mark. "Anti-gay Rights Flyer Circulates K'zoo." Wood TV8 20 Oct. 2009. 21 Oct. 2009
In Kalamazoo, Michigan citizens are trying to pass an ordinance that prohibits "discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people for hiring, housing and other accommodations." However, the group that opposes the ordinance, the Kalamazoo Citizens Voting NO to Special Rights Discrimination, has created a flyer that is being distributed depicting several "cross-dressing and transgendered individuals" and addresses the part of the ordinance that deals with public accommodations. The flyer is an attempt to drum up irrational fears of "men" using women's restroom and violating their privacy among other things. It's a tactic to deter people from the real issues. However, the executive director of the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center comments on this fact and further stresses that a man choosing to dress up like a woman to enter a women's restroom with the intent to rape someone, "ordinance or no ordinance, you're not going to stop some sicko (from) doing that. That's not a trans-issue. That's a criminal issue." This article and issue, and aspect of my term, that speaks to the way individuals are un-fairly and ridiculously criminalized as some kind of sexual degenerate that prey on "the innocence of femininity."
Spade, Dean. "Fighting to Win." That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for resisting assimilation. Ed. Matilda and Sycamore. Brooklyn: Soft Show Press, 2004
This essay by Dean Spade highlights some of the issues for low-income queer and trans folks within the GLBT movements and how these issues are being put on the back burner by the movement. In recent years New York state has adopted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) which excludes gender identity discrimination protection and instead focuses only on sexual orientation. Spade finds this a horrible injustice considering it was the "low-income people, people of color, trans people...and other sex/gender outsiders" that were key in sparking the Stonewall Rebellion in the late sixties which is arguably credited as setting the platform for the GLBT Rights movement. Now we have this seperation between the interests of the "wealthy gay and lesbian people" and the "low income, trans people and queers of color." Spade asks, "What happened to the alliance?" He further reinforces how necessary it is to have a "trans activism and trans analysis" that addresses the most urgent issues facing this community of people. He says, "I'm dead set on seeking an analysis and praxis for trans activism that starts with those facing the most severe consequences of the gender binary: the people who are struggling against white supremacy, xenophobia, ageism, and the criminalization of poverty." (Spade, 32) Spade goes on to describe many of the ways the gender binary of this culture seeks to discriminate against trans people in "education, employment, health care, and public benefits." He also highlights the ways gender binaries are enforced in "gender-segregated facilities and institutions" by way of "humiliation, assault, and rape." (spade, 34) This source ties nicely in with my term as Spade speaks directly about the consequences inflicted on a community of people based on their sex/gender identity. It also points out how their is little being done by the umbrella of GLBT rights to stop these injustices. In another source regarding the use of public restrooms in Kalamazoo this piece compliments it by fleshing out some more details regarding that issue.
"Making it Perfectly Queer"
Queer as Noun and Queer as Verb Through the Lens of Performance
In the article "Making it Perfectly Queer", author Duggan explores the problems of liberal and nationalistic strategies of "outing" used in lesbian and gay politics of the 1980's and 90's. The liberal strategies of "outing", or the practice of coming out of the closet and revealing a true but hidden sexual identity. This practice is meant to disrupt the mainstream ideals of heteronormativity, and the idea was the more people to 'out' themselves (and the more people they could publicly 'out'), the more of a unified, politically active minority culture gays and lesbians could build upon to claim equal liberal rights. In theory, when successful, this political movement "opens up avenues of political and legal recourse forged by the civil rights and feminist movements to lesbian and gay action" (Duggan, 151). In reality though, as Duggan explores, this move toward a unitary gay and lesbian national identity is problematic because the identities that end up being represented are those of white, gay, males; and does not leave space for the complexity of different identities. "Any gay politics based on the primacy of sexual identity defined as unitary and "essential", residing clearly, intelligibly and unalterably in the body or psyche, and fixing desire in a gendered direction, ultimately represents the view from the subject position "twentieth-century, Western, white, gay male." (Duggan, 155). Duggan then goes on to explore the term 'queer' as a "new community [which] is unified only by a shared dissent from the dominant organization of sex and gender...For others, the "queer" nation is a newly defined political entity, better able to cross boundaries and construct more fluid identities" (Duggan, 157). Duggan ends their article with the notion that "Lesbian and gay liberal politics offer us the best opportunities we have to make gains in courtrooms, legislatures, and TV sitcoms. Queer politics, with its critique of the categories and strategies of liberal gay politics, keeps the possibility of radical change alive at the margins" (Duggan, 162). Duggan asserts that both liberal strategies and queer politics are important and necessary for the "foreseeable future" (Duggan, 163).
I agree with Duggan's argument, in that it is problematic to strive for a unitary alternative identity that lesbian, gay liberal politics, and some radical queer politics strive for. Although, my critique of Duggan's arguments is that they do not full explore the notion of queer as a noun or an identity in relation to the process that many radical queer activists engage in of queering (queer as a verb). There is a tension evident amongst people who take up the term Queer as an identity in the form of understanding queer as an abstract, more fluid identity category, versus queer as actions.
I feel that we should also take into account the, for lack of a better term, radicalness of both liberal identity politics and radical queer politics. We should not dismiss the radical alternative potential of persons taking up static identities, more along the lines liberal politics, out of necessity for survival. In that I am speaking of intersectionality, and positionality, and as a survival tactic because of the intersectionality of ones identity, taking up liberal gay identity is the most radical thing that one can afford to do. I feel this move by many "RADical" queer activists whom strive for a completely fluid identity, and strive to queer everything. I feel that many people with this viewpoint have the space to be fluid because of their positionality within some category of privilege. This radical, utopian queer political view is problematic, and should continue to understand intersectionality in relation to political autonomy.
The lines between liberal politics and queer politics are messy.
The three research articles below all deal with research done on gender norms. They constitute three basic areas which are frequently brought up when gender norms are discussed such as economic opportunities, the sexual double standard between men and women, as well as at what age children are able to recognize gender norms and the consequences behind that.
"Assessing Care: Gender Norms and Economic Outcomes" - Badgett M.V.L.; Folbre N. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ilo/ilr/1999/00000138/00000003/art00006
This research article focuses on how gender norms can and do affect how much money individual men and women make and also the fields of jobs that they go into. It was found in this article that, "in societies that link femaleness to familial altruism, women tend to be disproportionately represented in caring occupations. This reinforces occupational segregation, sex-based pay differentials and the very norms that dictate appropriate behavior for women and men." An example of this that they found in their study is that, "a daughter who neglects her parents, a wife who leaves a husband, a mother who abandons a child -- all are considered more culpable than a son, husband or father who does the same." In their research they found that, as can be expected, gender norms do in fact affect the economic status of men and women. Because men and women are viewed in certain ways and there are specific characteristics that are linked to them (i.e. women are caregivers whereas men are providers), this affects the types of jobs men and women are encouraged to seek out as well as whether or not they will be hired and how seriously they will be taken in that profession. After conducting their research, "their analysis of the relationship between caring labor, social norms and economic outcomes leads them to advocate not only reassigning responsibilities for care, but specific measures to protect caring work, including strict quality standards on the provision of marketed care." It is their belief that in doing this things, there will be more equality in the job market that can help to fix some of the problems they found.
"Children's Beliefs About Violating Gender Norms: Boys Shouldn't Look Like Girls, and Girls Shouldn't Act Like Boys" - Judith E. Owen Blakemore http://www.springerlink.com/content/x5018342457u7303/
The purpose of this research article was to figure out at what age the knowledge of gender norms and their consequences become prevalent to children. "This research examined 3 - to 11 - year- old children's knowledge of and beliefs about violating several gender norms (e.g., toys, play styles, occupations, parental roles, hairstyles, and clothing) as compared to social and moral norms. They have found that children can identify males and females shortly after 2 years of age and acquire a great deal of basic knowledge about gender norms in the years between ages 2 and 5." The young age at which children become aware of gender norms is very important in the study of gender norms because it demonstrates how pervasive these ideas that are embedded in us truly are and that it begins right away. In their study they also found that, "knowledge of the norms and understanding that norm violations were possible increased with age." This is significant to the study because it shows how the longer one is socialized with these gendered beliefs of what men and women should be and do, the stronger these beliefs become. This is particularly important to feminism because if one is to fight gender norms one must understand when and where they come from.
"Sex and Punishment: An Examination of Sexual Consequences and the Sexual Double Standard in Teen Programming" - Jennifer Stevens Aubrey http://www.springerlink.com/content/n22014523524133j/
This research article sought out to, "examine sexual consequences on teen programming." More specifically, they set out to learn if the double standard does exist in teen programming and to what extent. There were two clear goals of this research. "First, the types of sexual consequences in teen programming were investigates. Results showed that emotional and social consequences far outnumbered physical consequences. Second, the portrayal of the sexual double standard was investigated. Negative consequences were more common in scenes in which female characters initiated sexual activities than in scenes in which male characters initiated sexual activities. As was expected by the researchers, there is a sexual double standard in teen programming between men and women. They found that, "sexual activity among young men is tolerated and encouraged, whereas for young women, sexuality is controlled, restricted, and subjected to censure if norms are violated." These findings were expected because of the gender norms places upon sex. While this research was important in factually proving that gender sex norms are still pervasive in teen programing, I believe the research could have been more effective if it had engaged in more research surrounding on how this can and be fixed and why it should be fixed.
In the essay, "Whats Queer About Queer Studies Now?", the authors, "insist that considerations of empire, race, migration, geography, subaltern communities, activism, and class are central to the continuing critique of queerness, sexuality, sexual subcultures, desire, and recognition." In this reading they focus on several essays that confirm their belief that the demands for a "renewed queer studies is ever vigilant to the fact that sexuality is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes of difference, and calibrated to a firm understanding of queer as a political metaphor without a fixed referent." They state that "while queer studies in the past has rarely addressed such broad social concerns, queer studies in the present offers important insights." Furthermore, they state that a renewed queer studies should, "broadened consideration of the late-twentieth-century global crises that have configured historical relations among political economies, the geopolitics of war and terror, and national manifestations of sexual, racial, and gendered hierarchies." It is the belief of the authors that what queer studies in the past has focused on needs to be opened up to a broader context or umbrella which can fit more ideologies within it, which will make queer studies that much more rich and diverse in depth. This idea presented in the essay fits well with the term of norms because it deals with the dissection of a word whose very purpose is to "challenge the normalizing mechanisms of state power to name its sexual subjects: male or female, married or single, heterosexual or homosexual, natural or perverse." Therefore, as a result of the authors attempting to open up the term "queer" even more, they are attacking the normalizing mechanisms of state power even further. I agree with the authors that the term "queer", in the past, has been used in a limited fashion and that by opening it up further, some of the limits that go along with the term will disappear.
In her essay subtitled: the radical potential of queer politics, Cathy Cohen argues that organizing for political change based on identity politics is problematic because it can reify the hetero/ homo binary. This type of organizing often engages assimilationist based liberal strategies, which legitimize the power of heteronormativity too. Cohen queers the static categories of collective identities in order to imagine more broad coalitional work. She criticizes the fact that, "much of the politics of queer activists has been structured around the dichotomy of straight versus everything else, assuming a monolithic experience of heterosexual privilege" (37). She makes the case for a more nuanced understanding of operations of power and the intersectionality of modes of oppression. Specifically the radical potential of persons with nonnormative heterosexual identities to be engaged in queer political organizing. She proposes coalitions built of a common identity but a shared positionality and restricted access to power. The heteronormative hegemony is supported by capitalist exploitation, and institutional racism, their operations are not independent. As the structures of oppression interact and conspire to marginalize us as oppressed subjects, so should we coalesce to fight back.
Errea, Lauren. "Queercore: A Musical Declaration of Queer Pride." Daily Californian February 8, 2002, Print.
Author Lauren Errea, of the Daily Californian, begins this article by asking this question: "Queer. Insult, compliment, or declaration of pride?" She thinks if you were to ask Jon Ginoli, of the band Pansy Division, his answer would be the latter. Pansy Division is an all-gay rock band from San Francisco and one of the many numerous bands that could be considered "queercore." Queercore is the crossbreeding of the gay and punk scenes of the early nineties. Both queer culture and punk rock culture are subversive to mainstream culture and challenge norms in society. Errea continues to detail the career of Pansy Division in this article, explaining how the band got started, and how they are trying to spread the message about gay issues through their shows. One fan described a Pansy Division show he attended, "It was crazy. They used blow up dolls and all sorts of crazy gimmicks you don't normally see on stage. They're definitely not hiding anything." The article also mentions a few other queercore bands such as Tribe 8, Panty Raid, and Erase Errata. Tribe 8 is noted to have written a song about gay adolescents who kill themselves after being ridiculed by their parents. Errea concludes the article by explaining that not all gay people embrace the anti-assimilationist tactics that these queercore bands use, and that they are still quite confrontational.
This article is relevant to my term, anti-assimilation, because this is the sort of strategy that these queercore bands employ. They use confrontational, in your face lyrics, and a shocking stage presence to educate and inform people about queer issues. As the article plainly states "queer punk is about anti-assimilation. It's about using music as a medium to show people a way of life they never new before."
du Plessis, Michael, and Kathleen Chapman. "Queercore: The Distinct Identities of Subculture." Queer Utilities: Textual Studies, Theory, Pedagogy, Praxis. 24.1 (1997): 45-58.
This article begins by introducing the 1995 post-grunge band, Garbage, who had a song titled "Queer" although none of the members of the band identified as queer. The message that the song seems to proclaim is that the term queer is no longer anything special. The authors are not sure if this is true or not, but decide to focus on the queer subcultures before the 1995 song was released, especially between 1989 and 1993. The queercore culture consisted of a variety of media such as fanzines, records, clubs, music, videos, and some novels. This culture was in opposition to middle class gay and lesbian organizations like GLAAD and established an "us versus them" mentality. Queercore was created through an allegiance with the post-punk subculture and queer. The authors compare queercore to avant gardes as they are both used to subvert norms. The functions of queercore are to "deny legitimacy to the public sphere, to stress internal coherence around its own proper differences, and to turn to the networks created by queerzines, clubs, music and other subcultural practices so that a counter-public sphere can be created." The queercore culture highly values secret codes and signs through their lyrics and band names, to help build coherence within their subculture. The authors then detail several bricolages that members of the queercore culture have created through things like autobiographies. One example of such a bricolage is that of Vaginal Davis, black drag queen whose lyrics and zines include controversial lyrics and in your face declarations such as "When they see a woman like me, they can't deal, so they dismiss me, but I'm way too big to be dismissed!" du Plessis and Chapman say that "Davis will not let anyone rest comfortably with an assimiable presence." Queercore has allowed many disenfranchised groups, such as people of color, transsexuals, transgender people, and bisexuals, a space to stake their claim more than just "gay and lesbian" culture could.
This article relates to my term, anti-assimilation, because queercore is an anti-assimilationist culture. The whole point of it is to have a separate space for people who identify as queer and can express themselves through music, zines, and other forms of media. Queercore is distinctly separating themselves from mainstream culture and using their "in your face" lyrics and performances to challenge societal norms. One example of this is Fertile La Toyah's appearance in Vaginal Davis's video zine where she insists that all life in the U.S. is defined by racism and says "We ain't all one big happy family like the little birdies! Fuck that shit!" and is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words "I'VE HAD 21 ABORTIONS" on it.
Youtube video of queercore band, Tribe 8:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn56w4EObwo "Femme Bitch Top." Tribe 8. Youtube. 1995.
This video is a music video for the queercore band, Tribe 8. This "dyke punk" band is known for their controversial lyrics and stage presence. Lead singer, Lynn Breedlove is known to have performed shirtless, wearing a rubber dildo. This video depicts images of lesbian sex and S & M and includes a topless Lynn Breedlove. I think this video epitomizes the anti-assimlationist strategies used by queercore bands of the nineties; it uses direct in your face lyrics and images to subvert norms.
Lisa Duggan beings her essay "Making it Perfectly Queer" by advocating for the potential of Queer Nation and Queer Theory. Duggan says the best way she can discuss the new meaning of queer is through a process of storytelling, so the essay includes three stories demonstrating queer politics.
The first scene is focused on Mayor David Dinkins, who walked in an Irish parade with a gay and lesbian group, and was the target of violence and hostility by the spectators. Several days after the parade, Dinkins compared the "intolerance" he saw at the parade to the civil rights movement he had experienced in the past. Duggan argues that while the civil rights movement analogy is deeply moving, liberal tolerance has been met with very limited success and many political organizations still ignore lesbian and gay issues.
The second scene features posters of celebrities like Jodie Foster with captions that say "Absolutely Queer" or "Actress, Yalie, Dyke." These posters have been put up by groups like Outrage, engaged in the practice known as "outing," which is basically forcing someone to come out of the closet. Duggan says that many of these anti-assimilationist activists "reject the liberal value of privacy and the appeal to tolerance which dominate the agendas of more mainstream gay organizations." They instead favor direct action and public activism. Duggan cautions that practices such as outing and other nationalist strategies are still "fixing desire in a gendered direction" and still represent solely the "twentieth-century, Western, white, gay male."
The final scene that Duggan describes is at a lesbian and gay writer's conference in San Francisco which is actually comprised of all sorts of different kinds of people. Sloan, author of the article Duggan is quoting, says that the thing all these people seem to have in common with each other is that they are all different and she hopes that perhaps these gatherings can be used to "lay the groundwork for peaceful and productive futures."
Duggan concludes her essay by contrasting constructionist and essentialist theories and discussing the struggle to actually put queer theory to use. The only issue I have with these queer politics is the practice of outing. I can understand how it would be beneficial to publicly out prominent members of society, so that others can see the large number of queer people that are actually out there and important to society. However, I do still think people have a right to privacy and a right to decide to come out when they feel they are ready. Coming out may have serious consequences for people, such as Asian people who would be disowned and kicked out of their house if they came out. They could potentially be putting themselves in danger. So, I think people have the right to decide if it is worth it to them to come out or not.
Hir: slam poetry
"Hir"- Poem @ transgendered. Perf. Harris, Alysia, Shamayleh, Aysha. youtube: 2009, Film.
This spoken word was written and performed by two young women: Alysia Harris and Aysha El Shamayleh. It is a poem that tells a personal narrative of a transgendered boy named James and how he is trapped in Melissa's body. i have listened to it and watched it many times now and each time I am left speechless, in chills and teary eyed. Spoken word seems to have that way with me. There is something powerful about the voice or the way in which we communicate--whether that is with our hands, voice or body. I think this a great way that resistance occurs. It is done by telling a story in a public space. It is not simply bringing awareness to an issue or letting a voice be heard but it is resisting the oppression of isolation and silence. It can be all to comfortable and easy to sit silently, whether it is out of choice or force. To resist that oppression takes courage, strength, hope, endurance and guts.
Youtube a site of resistance: freshlycharles
"TheTGuys Collaboration Channel." Youtube. 15 Oct 2009. Web. 22 Oct 2009.
Youtube has in my mind been a great source of resistance for various groups of people that are on the margins of society. Like the spoken word video voices are being heard and stories are being told. Youtube specifically I am looking at how some people in the trans community have used it as a resources, education forum, counseling session, diary and place to find other people with similar stories. Youtube as a place of resistance is a unique form and can be and is useful. I think many times when there is resistance it stays within its certain location and people are joined together through that but it is in a form of solidarity. I believe what youtube is doing is no matter where your location is a person can be networked to a larger movement of resistance.
Language, Violence, and Queer People:
Social and Cultural Change Strategies by Dean Pierce
Pierce, Dean. Language, Violence, and Queer People: Social and Cultural Change Strategies. The Haworth Press, 2001. Print.
This article I wanted to reference because it is showing how resistance happens in other ways against or upon queer communities and specifically how language is used to do so. I thought this offered and got juxtaposition to the first two sources. The thing that ties them all together is the language and the power of expressing--be it negative or positive. Pierce goes through how society has changed meaning around certain queer words and how they have been used against the communities. He also ask how certain groups of people can change the negativity of language into something positive. All together it was a great article to understand how language and power works within society and the history of it.
'Where there is power there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power...' (Foucault in Sullivan 42)
Michel Foucault and Nikki Sullivan argue that resistance does not operate purely against power but they are inherently linked. It is this link that had been the catalyst to queer theory. So, can queer theory be a site of resistance? The short answer is yes which, by the way, will be my answer to most question of 'is this a form of resistance?'. In Sullivan's article there is much discussion about queer theory and how it resist. One part that I found the most compelling is where she explains the position of Michael Warner. The reader is asked to look at queer as a verb and not as a noun. It is not an identity--it is an action, a conscious action to resist the norm (50).
My question is: if a person decides to label or identify with the term queer does that mean they are then subjects of resistance? And if they are could it be one of no choice or agency? Is that problematic? For me I think it is. We, as a class, have talked about the reality of social, mental, emotional and physical harm that can occur when one labels themselves as something different from the norm. I do think we can force someone to resist something they do not want to, for whatever reason it is, we cannot. If we did we would be reinscribing systems of power. On the other hand, I think people can participate in something without knowing they are doing so and while doing so subvert/resisting the norms.
As for queer theory itself, I do find it to be a place of power and resistance. It is a field of study and knowledge that consciously subverts and critiques structural forms of oppression.
First things first--defining the term resistance:
1. The act, on the part of persons, of resisting, opposing, or withstanding
2. Organized covert opposition to an occupying or ruling power;
It was interesting for me to find out that when we were picking terms everyone stayed away from resistance. See, I didn't have much of a choice in picking this term to track because I was gone that day. I have to say I am pretty happy it is my term. I listed two definitions from Oxford English Dictionary of the word 'resistance'. They do a great job of defining resistance in its common idea. I would push to complicate it more. Does resistance have to be of conscious decision? How does resistance look different from various geopolitical locations? Meaning, resistance might mean something completely different for a queer identified individual as it is for a rural woman, gay father or black drag queen and what happens if all these identities exist in a single body? I say all of this to say: my reading of resistance and its meaning comes from my specific positionality. By no means do I wish to define it in its entirety or make sweeping claims of it.
We have read, watched and talk about how drag might be one form of resistance. Judith Butler states that, 'Imitations which effectively displace the meaning of the original they imitate the myth of originality itself' (188). What I gather from this sentence is, can a person resist something that does not actually exist in the first place? Or is that by resisting something that has no origin exposes the myth itself and in doing so liberates those oppressed by it.
I wanted to offer up these two videos next to each other. Do they both resist the gender binary or are they adding to the myth of gender (performance)? How are they similar and how are they different?
The more I learn about Judith Butler the more I find myself admiring her strength and perseverance in her quest for gender and sexuality equality. She battles stereotyping, discrimination, and misunderstanding in her role of the queer and feminist movements. Her philosophical discussions refuse to believe that the present social structure will be perpetuated to preserve conservative and traditionalist beliefs about gender and sexuality. She challenges individuals to push themselves with philosophy and logic to be able to critic information, its value, its meaning, and its rationality.
Her challenge is often ignored because people maintain their values and moral beliefs because they never questioned what was taught; they simply maintain arguments not on fact, but an emotional defensiveness frustrated by an inability to debate due to a lack of communication. "...Butler remains committed to challenging the frames of reference within which people speak, think and live subject-categories" (46).
It is important to doubt that which one hears and to explore a topic indepthly to acquire and effective argument. Is the argument fully developed and supported by a logical progression of thought and fact? How does one react to information they learn, emotionally or logically? What information is relevant and irrelevant to the current situation? Butler would most likely agree with Edward Said when "...he claims that criticism matters as a necessarily incomplete and preparatory movement towards judgment and evaluation..." (49). Through critical critique can one fully understand and support an argument in a debate and work to refute the rejection and refusal faced in culture by a heteronormative initiative to maintain polar existence between the genders and sexual practice.
Rejection and refusal works in two directions when it comes to queer living: queers reject what is heteronormative to express their identified sexuality and gender, this often mean that they must reject social norms, mores, expectations, and etiquette and refuse to practice traditional hetero-society practices to enable self-expression. From the heterosexual community queers face rejection of their self-identification and face refusal for admission to that ever sacred heteronormative society where a perfect world is defined in black and white terms and everyone is happy with the gender and sexuality bestowed upon them by a society with roots in Puritan morality and Victorian behavior. The continuous cycle of rejection and refusal has push a heated, emotional, and illogical wedge between queers and heteronormatives so that a tug of war evolved concerning the validity of queer existence in a predominantly heteronormative world.
I realize that the previous paragraph was highly American-centric, but looking upon articles from the beginning of class such as "Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas" I began to think of the privilege Americans have in openly expressing dissatisfaction with their position in society, while many people in the world are oppressed by strict government regulations concerning the expression of queerness in private and public. Many people experience turmoil at the juxtaposition of personal and public identities, for example, a gay man in the Middle East is required to present himself as a traditional, conservative, and straight man to pass in society and avoid violent reactions against his homosexuality. People around the world are living lives similarly cloaked in falsehood to maintain peace in their lives.
Some find small ways to rebuff their culture and reveal their cloaked identities. Online forums have become a place where people around the world can converge to tell stories of the rejection they face in culture, to discuss the difficulties they may face because of their sexuality or gender presentation, to confess the inner turmoil the face split between identities, and to find a community consisting of "others" like themselves. Here they acquire a bit a freedom and take a first step into refusing the abuse a culture imposes upon those it rejects.
FtF: Female to Femme. Dir. Kami Chisholm, Dir. Elizabeth Stark. Frameline Distribution. 2006. Film.
This is a documentary about lesbian and bisexual women who do not identify themselves with the typified image of lesbian, which they would describe with words such as butch, plaid, dyke, short haircut, make-up less, non-materialistic, anti-patriarchy, and rejects femininity. In contrast, these women prefer to be very feminine with extreme concentration on the feminine ideal; they prefer to wear dresses, frills, and laces; dress sexy; wear make-up; conduct themselves in a confident feminine manner, and identify themselves as a "femme" lesbian in contrast to the typical image of a "butch" lesbian.
These women reject the masculine lesbian identity that developed in the uprising of gay rights in the 1980s and 1990s at which time lesbians and feminist developed an image that rejected all that was feminine, not necessarily in favor of the masculine, but in an effort to remove the implications of feminine beauty, conduct, and ritual that supported patriarchy and the inferiority of women. In contrast, the women in FtF do not feel that their sexuality and gender should determine their presence nor do they feels that being feminine automatically makes them and inferior to society. They identify a power in the confidence of femininity that they could not experience as butch lesbians.
The main point the movie makes is that femmes are the counter-reaction to butch lesbians, which were a reaction to the image of the heterosexual and oppressed female. This documentary is useful to the topic of rejection and refusal because it demonstrates how queer identity is not strictly in opposition to heteronormativity, but also experiences conflicting ideas within the queer community resulting in the rejection of particular queer practices and the refusal to conform to these ideas and practices.
Halperin, David M. "Is There a History of Sexuality?" History and Theory, vol. 28, no. 3. 257-274. Blackwell Publishing: Wesleyan University, 1989. Print.
"Is There a History of Sexuality?" is an article that discusses the newness of the idea of sexuality. Halperin describes sexuality as "...a cultural production; it represents the appropriation of the human body and of its physiological capacities by an ideological discourse." Sexuality is a modern idea that one's sexual behavior reflexes one's sexual desire and drive. This was not always the case; the example Halperin gives is of the ancient Greeks who viewed sexual behavior not as an essential part of one's identity, but as a venue through which power is played in the roles of superior and inferior or as the penetrator and the penetrated. The hierarchy that existed was of men as the dominant and superior being while young men (boys), all women, foreigners, and slaves beneath him ranked in the order they were listed. Anyone in Greek society who digressed from these practices equating sex with a display of hierarchic power was considered a deviant.
Since ancient antiquity, the idea of sex has changed dramatically from a power structure, to a religious morality, to a concern of purity and propriety, and again to a form of identification and gender expression. Throughout every one of these phases, sexuality has faced rejection and refusal of ideas concerning sex in morality, medicine, society, power, and private practice. Deviants challenged the standard practices from that time to revolutionize sex and sexuality it one way or another, whether more or less in favor of free sexual practice and gender expression.
That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Ed. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Brooklyn: Softskull Press, CA. 2008. Print.
That's Revolting! is a collection of essays from various queer activists; it includes anecdotes about their experiences, summaries of their transformation into a fully realized queer person, and their theories about how to combat heteronormativity to create awareness of the diversity of sexuality and gender. The book covers many topics that concern queers: gay marriage, adoption, AIDS, unisex bathrooms, racism within sexuality and gender, conservative resistance, rights, citizenship, etc.
Mattilda describes the controversies, perspectives, and appearances of queers outside of queer culture and the resistance effort queers must make to combat assimilation into mainstream, often heteronormative culture. She also addresses the controversies within the boundaries of queer especially of queers of color and people who do not fall neatly into gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual identities. She writes about her anthology saying:
"Don't be surprised if you don't agree with everything - hello, that's what creating an oppositional culture is about!..That's Revolting! explores and critiques specific struggles to challenge the monster of assimilation and proposes new ways to oppose homogenization, globalization, and all the other evils of this ravaging world."
This anthology provides insight and encouragement to the efforts of queers to revolutionize society through rejection of standard practices and refusing to allow themselves to be melted back into normativity. Rejection and refusal become tools through which sexuality and gender are expressed and instated; the more persistent resistance is made in face of heteronormativity and assimilation, the stronger the establishment of queers in society will be as an essential element of it.
I think that love is central to queer anti-capitalism because it is often the only thing that compels us act "foolishly" enough to reject our subjectivity that has been produced through cultured norms. It is often the first space in which we allow ourselves to act willfully, making decisions unbiased by conventional morality and reject the rigidity of ritualized sexual and gendered norms. Queer loving relationships don't simply reinforce the power of the heterosexual hegemony, or help to maintain the manufactured sense of alienation and apathy of the masses. Because the act of loving itself can be radically transformative, to love others can build community. To love yourself, builds self esteem and the ability to reject the material culture which preys on insecurity and group think. Like how beauty products are literally toxic and standardized, where as pheromones are sensual and unique. Allowing love to guide you, weather that be loving a person, a smell, a song, or yourself can compel changes in consumption habits. I recommend we start by refusing to buy deodorant, and then move on from there to reject the things marketed to us that costs money but lacks value.
Bornstein, Kate. My Gender Workbook. New York: Routledge, 2001.
This interactive book is one source I brought along to class when presenting on gender on 10/15. In it, Kate provides space and plenty of exercises for you to sit down, alone or with company, and deconstruct your gender and gendered perceptions a bit. I've been through the book twice and each time found it a fun resource for self-discovery and pushing my own edges in safe and entertaining ways. Kate also shares her personal stories and archived chats to thread along the feeling of the person behind the text (so, for what it's worth, Kate's a lot easier to get to know than Butler).
"Gender?" A Short Film. Dir. Sam Berliner. Subjects Rhodes, a 45 year old transman just beginning transition, Vincent, a young trans guy searching for community on youtube, the trans/genderqueer Vagina Monologues The Naked I, and Jack, a trans boy exploring his gender through drag. youtube: 2009.
Diclaimer: I may be a bit biased, because I'm in this short video. This is the beginning of a full-length project by my friend, Sam Berliner, a San Francisco based documentary filmmaker and member of various queer/trans/genderqueer youtube communities. This video represents a compact attempt to do some unpacking of gender in more "on the ground" terms.
"Old Greg" from the Canadian television show The Mighty Boosh. Actors unknown. youtube: 2009.
Two people in my life, who shall remain unnamed, really like "Old Greg" right now (they quote it all the time, and one of the kittens I live with is temporarily named after "Old Greg"). Apparently this clip has been a youtube phenomenon for at least a couple of years, and I somehow missed it until recently. I've watched it three times and I'm still not sure where I sit with this process of laughing while still feeling slightly annoyed. Should I be offended by "Old Greg?" I mean, I'm trans, and beyond that I'm concerned with positive images of trans people. Is "Old Greg" a positive image? A negative one? Better than that, does "Old Greg" have agency? Here's what I think: maybe "Old Greg" is a positive image of self-identification. I empower "Old Greg" to identify with his vagina and go by masculine pronouns.The cult following of the video LOVES "Old Greg," and in fact I've seen very few instances (in comments) of "making fun" and way more cases of folks saying "OLD GREG IS AWESOME I LOVE OLD GREG" or making tribute videos. That sounds like a celebration. How queer!
i. Origin/Etymology: Latin - to throw back ii. Dictionary Definitions:
1. To refuse to accept 2. To refuse to grant 3. Discard as useless/unsatisfactory 4. To cast out/to eject 5. To vomit 6. The act/process of rejection 7. State of being rejected; something that is rejected
iii. Synonyms: refusal, dismissal, spurning, elimination iv. Antonyms: accept, allow, admit,b. Refusal
i. Origin/etymology: Latin - to pour back, outcast, trash ii. Dictionary definitions
1. To deny 2. To decline to accept 3. To express a determination not to do something 4. To decline acceptance, consent, or compliance 5. To decline to submit to
iii. Synonyms: decline, reject, spurn, rebuff iv. Antonyms: accept, welcomec. Reaction
i. Pro-heteronormative/often anti-queer
1. Choice to reinforce normative; insistent reinforcement of existing practices 2. Conservative, preservation 3. Traditional 4. Actions
a. Ignore existence b. Humiliate, publically express rejection c. Violence d. Separate them from "normal" society
ii. Anti-heteronormative/often pro-queer
1. Liberal 2. Redefine, reconstruct, new 3. Actions
a. Hide b. Be outspoken/flamboyant c. Refuse submission to the normative d. Contradict current mores, practices e. Voluntary separate from the typical
For everyone interested I just saw the details on this Monday, November 16th screening, so here's the link to the event site.
Class until 7:25 pm will likely keep me from attending, but I hope someone can make it and maybe share a little with the rest of the group!
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
6:30pm VIP Reception
with Director Debra Chasnoff & Screening ($50)
General Admission ($15)
Q & A with Academy Award Winning Director, Debra Chasnoff
Here, Sara Salih discusses the criticism directed against Butler's difficulty and the ethical justification for Butler's difficulty. I wanted to look at the issues of criticism against difficulty (anti-intellectualism, if you will) in relation to "othering", rejection or abjection. Difficulty is recognized by what is not difficult, what is, perhaps, somewhat populist. In other words, difficulty defines the borders for reasonably coherent texts -- just as the abject defines the borders of acceptability. Butler's defense of her difficulty is that difficult writing allows readers to experience new understandings -- transcending their own ignorance in order, not only to gain new knowledge, but develop previously unexplored avenues of understanding and experiencing the world. The abject represent those unexplored avenues, modes of understanding too abstract or "difficult" for matrix conformers, which makes it easy for matrix outliers to be dismissed as incomprehensible shit.
v. Identity, sex, and the metaphysics of substance
Judith Butler begins the fifth section of her first chapter in Gender Trouble with questions relating to "identity". Her discussion becomes particularly relevant to the abject when she poses the questions, "To what extent is 'identity' a normative ideal rather than a descriptive feature of experience? And how do the regulatory practices that govern gender also govern culturally intelligible notions of identity? (23). If identity is prescriptive, rather than descriptive, it has to cite, as points of reference, recognized "identities" -- such as male or female. Since the recognized modes by which persons are identified trace gender to biological sex, and desire to biological sex, the possible combinations of gender "identities" are limited to those of the heterosexual matrix. Here is where the abject begins to find relevance. Butler writes,
Inasmuch as 'identity' is assured through the stabilizing concepts of sex, gender, and sexuality, the very notion of "the person" is called into question by the cultural emergence of those 'incoherent' or 'discontinuous' gendered beings who appear to be persons but who fail to conform to the gendered norms of cultural intelligibility by which persons are defined (23)
So these "incoherent" or "discontinuous" gendered beings -- those whose genders do not conform to the (biological) sex = gender/performativity = (heterosexual) desire are unintelligible genders and thus abject persons. It may appear in my discussion of prescriptive identity that the abject are defined by being outside the borders of this formula of recognized gender identity; on the contrary, Butler's stance is that the abject serve to define the borders of acceptability by demonstrating the unacceptable.
There also exists an interesting correlation between the abject and Butler's discussion of Herculine Barbin: "Herculine is not an 'identity,' but the impossibility of an identity" (32). Here is the logic as I follow it: This body is not found on the matrix, therefore it cannot exist. Although, Foucault does not deny the existence of Herculine's gender, per se, he acknowledges that this gender identity exists somewhere down the rabbit hole, in "a world of pleasures in which grins hang about without the cat" (qutd. in Butler, 32). There too, perhaps, is where the abject are found, can exist and be recognized. (Much later on in Gender Trouble, Butler speaks of the abject in terms of Inner and Outer worlds and, citing Kristeva, speaks of the abject, the outer, as the inner's shit -- so in relation to the "rabbit hole" ... never mind.)
Woah, Miley Cyrus, it looks as though you are getting yourself into all sorts of trouble with feminists these days!
I found this short blog entry while searching for a photo of Margaret Cho performing a stand-up comedy routine to use in my Performativity blog.
The blog is based around a photo of Miley Cyrus (Hanna Montana) and six of her teenage friends, one of them being an Asian male and the rest white (or, what we can readily read as white).
As you can see in the photo, the Asian male is looking straight at the camera, but Miley and the rest of the teens are pulling at their eyes or overtly squinting. WHY?! We don't know, there is no context about the photo given, but Margaret Cho has written a witty poem for Miley in response, called "Chinky Eyes":
I wasn't necessarily a fan of
Her, her dad, or Hannah Montana
I tend to prefer the songs of Rihanna
Racism against Asians is simply bananas!
Chinky eyes make you look wily
prejudice isn't thought of so highly
it doesn't make us all smiley
Why is there nothing that Asians can do?
To make fun of other races as easily as you
Why isn't racism against Asians taboo?
Why are we always so racially screwed!
All you have to do is pull at your face
To make your eyelids resemble our race
This kind of joke has no proper place
Miley Cyrus is a disgrace!
Cho's ballad highlights the ways that whiteness is so invisible and unmarked by the fact that a group of white people can easily perform Asian-ness, can 'become' Asian by pulling at their eyes. This is an overt performance of Miley's (and her friends') covert investment in white privilege.
The article 'Where's My Parade?': On Asian American Diva-Nation by Rachel C. Lee, is an exploration of Margaret Cho's identity as an Asian American stand up comic.
Lee explores the notion that stand-up comedy has the potential to "make political knowledge evident in everyday life amusing to ponder, and also render political aggression - expressions of desire for power - both palpable and palatable" (Lee, 3). In this way, stand-up comedy has the potential to queer the notion of rational public knowledge, and calls into question the notion of a rational public sphere. Lee also investigates the ways in which stand-up comedian Margaret Cho "stages her own ambiguous body and comments on the political compulsion to disavow the erotics and slippage of the body to speak publically, rationally, and abstractly" (Lee, 2). In this way, Margaret Cho as an entertainer on a literal stage, through literal performance makes evident the performance of static and naturalized racial, sexual, citizenship identities. Through her literal performance on a stage of the leakiness of these categories, Cho is able to ultimately break down the separateness between overt staged performances and covert and unquestioned performed realities.
My critique of this article is first and foremost, that it is unclear what overall point the author is trying to make, therefore makes the reading 'thick'. Lee makes interesting points about stand-up comedy, and Cho's role as a performer, but I feel that in this article Lee fails to flush out their points well enough to make an engaging argument.
In relation to Butler's ideas of performance and performativity, I feel that Lee attempts to highlight the ways in which Cho overtly performs on a stage the falseness of static identity categories. This can be seen to bring to a public sphere the notion that we constantly cite norms in a performance of our identity with and without knowing. Cho's overt performance also highlights the ways in which our identities are performed upon us by others, by the audience's response to Cho's performance.
I hesitated to file this little rant under "Queer This!" and then came to the conclusion that I needed to share with all you smarties anyway. So, my roommate just told me about this costume made by Target (a Minneapolis-based company) that she heard about from a friend. "It's an alien mask, wearing an orange jumpsuit and holding a green card." I thought she was talking about something out of The Onion (and it would be a pretty offensive move even by their standards, which notably require more wit about their subject matter). So what the hell is happening here? In a quick search, my first result was a little more revealing. Not only one, but multiple product developers and their companies, in their search for what's cutting edge bordered by how soon is too soon, assessed whether or not they could make a profit with a play on the words "illegal alien" and came out saying "Yes." Maybe Anti-Capitalism or Nation/Citizen folks would like to chime in on this? I'm also interested in what people think of the general critique which has removed at least the first costume in question from stores-- I'm not entirely convinced that its overall message is "Immigrants are dangerous."
Cherry Smith's essay, "What is This Thing Called Queer?" opens with several definitions of queer from various sources. She then begins to discuss the group Queer Nation, an organization formed in 1990 that was concerned about the frequent bashings of gays and lesbians in New York. Outrage was formed around the same time as Queer Nation in London; they used similar confrontational tactics, such as KISS-INs and queer weddings. Several other groups sprouted up in the early nineties, such as SISSY, PUSSY, LABIA, and Whores of Babylon. These organizations all called for direct action, opposed to simply trying to assimilate and, according to Smith, are "not interested in seeking acceptance within an unchanged social system, but are setting out to 'fuck up the mainstream' as visibly as possible."
Smith explains how for many people queer marks a "growing lack of faith in the institutions of the state, in political procedures, in the press, the education system, policing and the law." Queer is used to question assumed norms surrounding culture, society, history, sexuality, and everything. Smith has several excerpts in her essay from various people about what "queer" means to them, and there are many different kinds of answers. Some people embrace the term, reclaim it, or feel that it describes them more than "gay" or "lesbian" ever could, and some see queer politics as more fitting for them than feminist movement, while others are still hurt by the homophobic ways "queer" has been used against them in the past. Smith continues to describe how queer organizations use their particular brand of activism to challenge systems of power, such as taking up the case of Jennifer Saunders who was sentenced to six years in prison for dressing as a man and seducing two seventeen year old women. One of the most controversial strategies that queer activists use is "outing," which is to publicly out someone as queer.
I see the queer tactics as being effective, not only that but they seem to make more people feel included than terms like "gay" or "lesbian" can. Smith says that for her "the taking back of words has been a survival strategy." There were no words to describe how she felt, gay, for instance was never an option because it was seen as a male word, but queer was a more all encompassing term that made her feel like she could reclaim who she was. If that is what queer activism does for people than I think it is useful.
In Bell Hooks "Black Looks: Race and Representation" she analyzes the inherit idealization of the "white woman" in the documentary Paris is Burning. However, when considering this piece through the lens of her description of the treatment of this subculture as spectacle and not part of any larger community to be applicable to my term.
Hooks states: "Moments of pain and sadness were quickly covered up by dramatic scenes from drag balls...much of the individual testimony makes it appear that the characters are estranged from any community beyond themselves. Families, friends, etc., are not shown, which adds to the representation of these black gay men as cut off, living on the edge." (Hooks, 154)
The lack of emphasis on these individual's personal lives and stories further marginalizes them and lacks in providing the viewer with a whole person behind these characters. It portrays them as not fully developed people; the balls are what define them.
Hooks goes on to state how this heightened portrayal of "black men in this gay subculture are portrayed as cut off from a "real" world...when we are told that the fair skinned Venus has been murdered, and yet there is no mourning of him/her in the film, no intense focus on the sadness of this murder. Having served the purpose of "spectacle" the film abandons him/her...her dying is upstaged by spectacle." (Hooks, 155)
I have to say that Venus was one of my favorite people in this documentary and I too felt disappointed when there was no further depiction of what happened to her. I wanted know why she was murdered and how it affected her friends and family, did they find who killed her? But the subject was dropped as though the director was saying that her murder was a consequence of her "lifestyle choice" and she wasn't worth mourning. Like Hooks says, she served her purpose for the film and then was dropped further reinforcing the portrayal of this life as lived on the "outskirts" of society where it's dangerous with both monetary and life-threatening consequences.
The purpose of this article, written by Patrick Johnson is, as he puts it, to "offer an extended mediation on and an intervention in queer theory and practice." While he does this, Johnson discusses the background of queer theory as well as the lack of discussion in queer theory on race and class. In addition, the author discusses the term "quare," coined by his grandmother and the meanings that lie under this term.
Overall, I would have to say that I agree with the arguments made by Johnson in the article dealing with the meaning and use of "queer". I like how he started the article out by stating that, "queer is a catch-all not bound to any particular 'identity,' a notion that moves us away from binaries such as 'homosexual/heterosexual' and 'gay/lesbian'". I found this to be an interesting argument for the term queer that I had not thought of before. I used to think that "queer" was, or at least how I had only ever really heard it used, was a borderline offensive word that was tossed around. While it of course can still be used in a negative way, as most words in this subject matter can be, the concept that it challenged binaries had never crossed my mind and after giving it some consideration, I can now see how using a word such as "queer" that removes said binaries can be rather beneficial. This thought is furthered in the article by stating,
"The preference for 'queer' represents, among other things, an aggressive impulse of generalization; it rejects a minoritizing logic of toleration or simple political interest-representation in favor of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal."
This goes along well with my term of "norms" because in using a term which reject binaries, one is also rejecting the norms that both create and are created from the use of such binaries.
I would like to engage here with Cherry Smith's essay: What Is This Thing Called Queer?
In this essay, Cherry Smith examines the meaning, identity, and application of the term "queer," mostly as it surrounds legal and activist issues in Britain. She discusses various activist groups in Britain, including OutRage, Stonewall, and PUSSY, and different arguments concerning the directions mainstream (assimilationist) activist groups vs those of queer (read antiassimilationist, in this case) activists and vs those gravitating around a more specific identity (like black lesbians). She also discusses the many uses of the word "queer" as it relates to people's identity. Interviewing a broad range of people on what word they used to identify themselves and what they thought of "queer," she received a broad range of responses from people who identified it with white, gay men to people who said that, as a "queer Power Now" pamphlet put it: "queer means to fuck with gender. There are straight queers, bi queers, tranny queers, fag queers, SM queers, fisting queers in every single street in this apathetic country of ours." Smith herself tends to use it as a survival strategy, helping to give her the freedom to, "call my cunt my cunt, to celebrate the pleasure of objectifying another body, to fucking women and admitting that I also love men and need their support. That is what queer is," (285).
After I read the article, I have been wondering about the existence of literature that discusses not the reclaiming of words, but the destruction or, specifically, creation of them. It is a question I would like feedback on from whoever reads this blog who knows if there is much to be read about it. My point is, though, that it may sometimes be easier or useful to create new categories and discourses than to reclaim existing ones. Certainly people in the article have created their own self-descriptions, mainly by different combinations but I do not believe that people are necessarily bound by anything to use only words that currently exist. I myself have never felt comfortable with any words referring to sexual identity, be they queer, bisexual, dyke, gay, or lesbian. But I am constantly being asked by people to explain myself - queers are no better than straights. On occasions when I refuse, I have been labeled by some as asexual, which I've found offensive. Why are people uncomfortable with simply not naming themselves? I understand why people do want to possess a certain identity, but I think that not having one should also be an option.
In Butler 's 1999 preface of Gender Trouble she claims that part of her analysis is seeing how certain sexual practice calls into question the "dominant heterosexual framework" which in turn can cause one "to lose something of one's sense of place in gender," and in doing so can cause "terror and anxiety. " Butler states, "I sought to understand some of the terror and anxiety that some people suffer in "becoming gay," the fear of losing one's place in gender or of not knowing who one will be if one sleeps with someone of the ostensibly "same" gender." (Butler, xi) In trying to look at my term from as many different angles as possible I see this part of Butler's analysis as speaking to the consequences of the hetero-normative matrix of sex/gender/sexuality that we've discussed in class. Although I feel there are many consequences of this matrix I think this part speaks directly to a psychological one that calls one's vision of oneself into question and how it is so restrictive and excluding that it can cause some individuals to "fear losing one's place in gender or of not knowing who one will be."
Granted the clips played on the daily show were selected and there may be other valid and more serious points raised by the republicans who voted against this bill that we just did not see, I have my doubts. I did not find a transcript of those who spoke against it but I find it to be appauling none the less
Irigaray, Luce. "Approaching the Other as Other." Luce Irigaray: Key Writings. London: Continuum, 2004. 21-27.
French Feminist/Cultural theorist, Luce Irigaray discusses the acceptance of difference as an important initiation for a new culture in many of the essays contained in this book. In this essay, she specifically focuses on the issue of the mystery of the "other" and impulsive "othering". From her standpoint, mystery and fascination lead to a transcendence of boundaries separating you from I -- or seeing differences between people as inherently "foreign". Her suggestion is that certain societal structures and pedagogies have conditioned people to view the world through a separatist lens: you versus I; them versus us; object versus Subject. She discusses notions of equality in relation to otherness; the other's acceptance by the dominant and the problems that lie therein. One of her main arguments in the section within which this essay is contained is that dialogue is the crucial element in dichotomous relations. She takes a theological approach to these discussions and posits in this essay that the attribution of 'you' to God-the-Father prevents women from engendering the divine, positioning them as other.
Irigaray's discussion is interesting in relation to Abjection in that it draws from religious configurations of divinity and the unprecedented, yet accepted "maleness" of the Christian God, leading to not only the othering of women/"femaleness" but also their degradation. I thought religion created an interesting border between normative/acceptable societies and the abject. In relation to the heterosexual matrix, presupposed "natural" relations between sex, gender, and desire are reinforced throughout the Christian bible (as well as other religious texts) - which produces one possible point of origin for an intelligibility of normal versus abnormal, or acceptable versus unacceptable.
Bersani, Leo and Ulysse Dutoit. "Merde Alors." Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poetics of Heresy. Ed. Beverly Allen. Saratoga, CA: ANMA Libri & Co., 1982. 82-95.
This essay is primarily a discussion of Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom and Pasolini's Salo. Much of the discussion centers around the subject of shit - as a substance, but also people as shit, people's relation to shit, shit as a substance of enjoyment, of shame. (Oh, yeah, and then there's coprophagia.) All of this is centered around the subject of the libertine in Sade and what is termed "a-symmetrical" sexuality (heterosexuality) and the libertine's view of it as a defect in nature owing to the undesirability of the female sex. Thus the basis of sadomasochism - discussed at length - and the nature of a desire to violate or be violated, where the fantasy is death. One of Pasolini's characters is also used as an avenue through which to posit the possibility of transgressing the sadomasochistic law of order.
Reading this essay from the perspective of Abjection, I find the examination of shit and enjoyment quite invigorating. Thinking about the relationship between normativity and abjection, there is an interesting connection (albeit far-fetched) to sadomasochistic desire. Looking at this essay in relation to Judith Butler's use of Kristeva's theory of the abject --boundaries that exist between "inner" and "outer" worlds that make Others shit (GT, 182) - Others become shit because it is enjoyable for the Inner world to dominate the Outer. However, in converging Kristeva's theory of abjection with Sade's libertine fantasy, the Outer would, in turn, have to enjoy becoming shit, which is problematic. But Pasolini's Salo does provide much more useful fodder from which to draw a logical connection.
"Salo": Yesterday and Today. Dir. Amaury Voslion. Perfs. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Claude Biette, Ninetto Davoli. 2002. DVD. Criterion Collection, 2008.
This documentary recounts the impact of Salo upon its release in 1975, the public's reaction, as well as the filmmaker's intentions in making the film. The rare interview footage of Pasolini is particularly informative, as his explanations help dissect the enigma that is Salo. Pasolini explains the central metaphor of the film - the relationship between power and its subjects - and its function in human relations in contrast or comparison to the power relations of Fascism. He also discusses how power reduces the human body to a commodity, power's anarchaic characteristics, and the arbitrary standards power demands.
Pasolini offers some fascinating insights on the relation of sadomasochism and social structures - which interested me in its connection with the preceding essay, but also independently. Pasolini talks about power's "annulment of the personality of 'the other'" and the cultural genocide of nonconformists, which ties in with the discussion of abjection. Rather than viewing the abject as societal shit, Pasolini suggests that the abject represent death to the Fascist power-heads/libertines. Salo can be viewed almost as a potential visualization of Kristeva's metaphor as well.
First, here is the reading assignment for tomorrow:
b. Sedgwick excerpt on Divinity. If you weren't in class on Tuesday, you will find the article on our WebCT site, under the folder for 10.22.
Note: You do not have to read the Butler excerpt from Gender Trouble for tomorrow. We will be discussing it next Tuesday.
Second, here is what I said about your presentations:
In addition to offering a brief summary of the additional reading and a question, you should talk a little (and you can do this informally) about why you chose the topic that you did and how your "tracking" of it is going.
Note: Remember that your direct engagement with your additional reading is due the day after you give your presentation. This deadline is listed in the blog worksheet that I distributed last week.
I stumbled upon this article earlier, and this article that it seemed to stem from, on the apparent blasphemy some people felt toward the end of the summer of 2007 when they found out that Shakira took a class over the summer at UCLA without being recognized.
I think this fits in somewhat well with our current discussions of gender performance (correct me if I'm wrong) and just thought it was really simply interesting. Some of my favorite parts are:
--From the Yahoo! article:
"I used to wear a cap and a big backpack," Shakira explained. "I looked like a boy. I didn't get recognized."
This is interesting--it takes just these two tiny, tiny (albeit extremely ambiguous and hardly tipping to the "masculine" side) gender cues for an entire class (at UCLA, mind you, where I know from living near the area that people are experts at spotting celebrities) to (1) not recognize Shakira at all and (2) apparently mistake her for a boy?! Somebody should have told me that wearing a cap and backpack were the keys to masculinity a long time ago!
Anyway, on serious notes, I wonder what this suggests about the interchangeability of female sex-symbol celebrities? Do we really pay so little attention to the details of how they look that it takes just a cap and backpack to fool us? Would the same have happened if Johnny Depp took that class with just a cap and backpack (or a skirt and purse, for that matter)? There are so many more questions I could ask about just this part, but I'll let your minds do the work.
--"I was really impressed with how intelligent she was," [Cleve] said.
What else does this suggest--do we have lower standards of intelligence for female entertainers known to use their body as a draw to their performance? This is probably a rhetorical question, but with how easily this blatant statement made it into the article, it's worth discussing. Again, would we expect to hear the same sentiment if it was Brad Pitt taking the class? (You all saw his body in Fight Club. I know you did.)
--The title of the Huffington Post article is great, as well: "Shakira Rests Hips to Study at UCLA."
You can't practice being smart and sexy at the same time. They are mutually exclusive, right?
A favorite comment posted on the Yahoo! article:
--"Yeah she really accomplished alot, "Shakira did not attend the last few classes," What a crock of BS, she must have been real enthralled."
Higher standards, much? I hear fellow college students laughing about skipping classes all the time--but SHAME ON HER, she's a pop star. And a woman--she should be thankful she has the opportunity to learn stuff!
Finally, read through some of the comments on the Yahoo! article--how many just say "she hot" or "shakira is soooooooo cute!!!!!! im in love!!!!" or "round and jiggly"? What does this say both about this whole "fiasco" and gender expectations in general?
I realize a lot of these are probably rhetorical questions for most of us, but I also think it's deserving of a good analysis.
Johnson, B. Jr.. (2009, October 19). Shakira changed name and wore disguise for UCLA class. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from Yahoo! website: http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/stopthepresses/91703/shakira-changed-name-and-wore-disguise-for-ucla-class/
Huffington Post. (2007, September 14). Shakira rests hips to study at UCLA. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from Huffington Post website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20070914/people-shakira/
At the end of class we discussed Caster Semenya and I posed this set of questions for you to think about:
1. What sort of performance is the photo shoot for You magazine and by what sort of Subject? That is, what sort of agency/ability to act does Semenya have in her performance as "a glamour girl"?
2. What norms are being cited in this performance? And how is she produced as a subject through them? How does this performance (at the photo shoot) draw upon a history of norms/signifiers that shape how we understand Semenya and also shape why her case has been made into such a spectacle?
Here is handout #4 from class today.
Today we will wrapping up our performativity section (although the topic, which is central to much of Butler's queering work, will come up throughout the semester). After discussing the revolutionary possibilities for gender failure, Realness vs. Fantasy, and performance versus performativity, we will discuss global performativity (and how it works in relation to gender, race, class, sexuality). We will focus our attention on revisiting the case of Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose gender was (very) publicly questioned last month at the Track and Field World Championships in Berlin.
How can we think about this case in relation to Butler's notion of performativity? In addition to looking at these images, we will be skimming a few articles on the subject, including: How not to solve a gender dispute, The Curious Case of Caster Semenya, Caster Semenya faces sex test and Family Speaks Out.
I originally posted this entry this summer on my trouble blog here. It seems very fitting for our current discussion of gender performativity.
What, you say, could Hannah Montana possibly have to do with Judith Butler and gender performativity? If you are asking, this must be your first visit to my blog. This kind of crazy, seemingly impossible connection is what I do and is, for lack of a better phrase, how I roll.
Anyway, my daughter RJP and son FWA have recently taken an interest in Hannah Montana. Perhaps they are a little too young for it, but they just want to be like their older cousin IIE (who incidentally now thinks Hannah Montana is "treated." Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato are much cooler). This week we were watching one of the two Hannah Montana DVDs they possess (at least, so far) when an episode entitled "Good Golly, Miss Dolly" came on.
Before launching into an analysis of how gender is performed and enforced in this episode, let me offer this disclaimer: I have watched less than a handful of HM episodes (and by a handful, I mean about 4. Okay, I just saw the Hannah Montana movie with my kids two night ago, but I don't think that counts. The tv formula is much different than the movie one). Because of my somewhat shallow knowledge of the show, I can't speak to how gender is discussed/performed/reinforced/joked about in the whole series. Instead, I can only speak to how it functions in this one, (gender) troubling, episode from the first season.
So, I'm sitting on the couch between RJP and FWA watching the episode. A couple of minutes in, Dolly Parton shows up as Miley Stewart's (aka Hannah Montana's) Aunt Dolly. What can I say--someone could write a book about Dolly Parton and her parodic (intentional or not) performance of gender. And I am sure someone has--link anyone? Anyway, the appearance of Parton didn't initially register as particularly gender troubling. Neither did the first mention by Miley's Dad (Robbie Ray) or her brother (Jackson) of how Aunt Dolly was "girling" up the house with frufru pillows. It wasn't until about 10 minutes in that I got really suspicious and started to think about and question how gender was working in this episode.
The troubling inspiration for this blog: (starts at 2:06) Hannah's friend Oliver is over at her house. He tells her that he has to go because his Mom is dropping him off at school early. Suddenly there is a very deep, very masculine voice in the background yelling to Oliver to hurry up. Then, the following exchange between Oliver and Miley's best friend, Lilly, occurs:
Lilly: I thought you said that was your mom.
Oliver: It is. [audience laughs] When she's mad, she uses her man voice (said in a deep voice). [ha ha ha ha ha]
So, what's so funny here? Is it just that we find it funny to hear a woman sound like a man? Wait, why is that funny? My immediate reaction was that it was just another example of how it is okay to make fun of trans folk (ha ha--his mom isn't really a woman, but a man!) or women-who-are-really-lesbians (ha ha--his mom is soooo butch). While I think there is definitely some anti-trans/anti-gay sentiment lurking in this joke about the mannish Mom, I think there is something deeper (albeit connected) going on here. This joke, when placed in the larger context of this entire episode--with its persistent jokes about how Miley's Dad and brother are being femininized by Dolly the uber femme Barbie--is about enforcing and regulating certain gender (more specifically heterosexual masculinity) roles. The threat of men acting like and then, gasp, possibly turning into women is the punchline of countless jokes throughout the episode.
New German Sex Dolls Go SciFi, Scary
I almost hesitated posting this but I think it might be OK and interesting to see what people think. This is an article from Jezebel discussing a company called "First Androids" and their newest doll created as a sex toy.
Quote: "A German company called First Androids [NSFW] has created a sex doll that breathes and has a pulse. It's just like a real woman, only with no brain or corresponding ability to reject douchebags."
The article is really interesting and slightly humorous (especially the last two paragraph's) and makes some good points, so check it out, see what you think.
I would love to try to say more about it but I'm not sure I could articulate my thoughts as well as I would want to. There are many different angles from which to look at this article, however, based on our recent readings and class discussions: Where does this fit in? As Sara would say 'How do we Queer This?'
You don't talk about The G Word on the front page of the blog-- you put it behind the cut.
I know I already brought this up in class already, but I want to to share this article about Bash back's most recent public protest of the HRCs assimilationist tactics for gay rights. The vandalized the Human Rights Campaign's office in D.C. before the big National Equality March which focused on issues like gay marriage with glitter bombs. The only decent writing in the piece is part of Bash Backs statement quoted within:
Just like society today, the HRC is run by a few wealthy elites who are in bed with corporate sponsors who proliferate militarism, heteronormativity, and capitalist exploitation. The sweatshops (Nike), war crimes (Lockheed Martin), assaults on working class people (Bank of America, Deloitte, Chase Bank, Citi Group, Wachovia Bank) and patriarchy (American Apparel) caused by their sponsors is a hypocrisy for an organization with "human rights" in their name.
I couldn't really articulate it better myself. Who ever said that class war isn't pretty?I am so inspired by the idea of glamdalism, and the radical potential for glitter to queer public space. The article itself is problematic and a bit patronizing, as the author refers to the bash bakers as "kids." Check it out, what do you think?
Today in class we will be looking at an advertisement for a Kohler sink:
The ad copy says: "Chill, ladies. Take a cue from our entertainment sink that chills champaigne."
How is gender working in this advertisement from Bon Appetit? What sorts of ideologies (in terms of sex/gender/desire, race, class, capitalism) are being represented in it? How is gender performed here--practices, gestures, acts, signifiers? From the perspective of Butler (and the passages above), queer this image.
Here is Handout #2 from class yesterday.
Here are some corrections:
a. Your first set of blog entries are due October 22 and not October 24.
b. Class next week is on October 20 and 22 not October 24.
One more thing: If you want, you may use your Paris is Burning blog entry as one of your queries.
If "identity" is an effect of discursive practices, to what extent is gender identity, construed as a relationship among sex, gender, sexual practice, and desire, the effect of a regulatory practice that can be identified as compulsory heterosexuality (24)?
What does she mean here? Can you think of a few examples? How does this function in Paris is Burning? How do the ideals of whiteness and being upper class also serve to shape the regulatory practices that dictate proper gender performances?
This is the second time that I have seen the film "Paris Is Burning". The first time I saw it, I remember enjoying it for its ethnographic value; I have never lived in New York, nor am I a black, gay, male, so the film provided a view into the black, gay, male drag ball subculture. After seeing it a second time, it was not unenjoyable, but it was less of a spectacle to me because I am more aware of my position of privilege as a white, female-bodied viewer, and filmmaker Livingston's position as a white, female-bodied spectator. This understanding of my privilege position gave me a more critical lens which to understand my reactions to the film.
I do not quite understand what Judith Butler is trying to convey in her response article, "Ambivalent Drag". I understand that she unpacks the notion of a neutral gaze as being unmarked white gaze. I also understand the ways that the film being made by an "innocent" white woman produce an unintentional colonizing gesture, using her privilege as a white woman filmmaker to be benefactor to underground black, gay, male drag ball culture are problematic. Though, I think that Butler borrows their central arguments from bell hooks text, "Is Paris Burning?", and does not convey a clear direction from those borrowed ideas. I also do not understand what Butler means by the term "phantasmatic", which is used often in the article.
I feel that bell hooks' article, "Is Paris Burning?" offers a better understanding of the problematic ways in which the film produces a colonizing view of black, gay, male drag balls, through the scene choices by white filmmaker Livingston, and her avoidance of her role as spectator. hooks writes, the "reality that a young white filmmaker, offering a progressive vision of "blackness" from the standpoint of "whiteness"..." clarified my uneasiness with the film. Also, the ways in which hooks explores the testimony of Dorian Carey allows the viewer of the film/reader of their article to understand the realities of the persons who participate in the drag balls. hooks' exploration of Carey's testimony also leaves the reader with a spring board from which to confront and challenge the realities presented in the film, in other films, texts, and in our own realities.
Butler mentions nothing of Carey.
How does "realness" function in the film? How does understanding "realness" as a standard (or goal to acheive) reinforce and/or subvert notions of what it means to be normal/acceptable/intelligible/proper?
Think about these questions in relation to this quotation from Butler:
The rules that regulate and legitimate realness constitute the mechanism by which certain sanctioned fantasies, sanctioned imaginaries, are insidiously elevated as the parameters of realness (130).
What is realness?
In order to think about how to describe the mess of what exactly realness is, I'm trying a little exercise of unraveling *ahem* real gender, relatively citation free. Here goes.
Doing this real gender is a process infatuated with what it means to be "normal/acceptable/intelligible/proper." And the irreducible fact seems to be that in order to perform, to pass as a real gender, everything (or every appearance, at least) must align (one must do strictly feminine or strictly masculine, though there may become multiple ways of doing so). In effect, this means an erasure of all disruptions, all things contrary; if some aspect will not be "erased" or pushed to the background (ie. a woman who wears pants), then this fissure must be sealed by its reinforced relation to the more important reality (she is still a woman), that birthright of a marker of sex/gender.
In the balls of Paris Is Burning, realness seems to be judged and prized in precisely this way: by the neat balance of signals sent by the sum of all (predominantly white, predominantly middle to upper class) gendered cues, down to the very last detail (note: one's coat must button on the "proper" side). Though there may be multiple ways of doing so, there is also only one way. How can there be only one, you ask? The way must radiate white middle to upper class heterosexuality and heterosexual desire. The way doesn't have room for mixing signals.
Let's take for example the adoption of military dress/uniforms, pre-appropriation already a site of restriction and its own one way system, and in the context of the ball just as serious. The folks dressed, walking, performing as military (army, navy, they all run together for me) officers must follow all the rules to pass as real, to not be read. Already we have a problem: how does one go about passing as the reality of one's being? Or, if not how, why? Why does this reality concern itself with audience perception? For it is somewhat clear that the genders performed in the ball setting most certainly carry through to other situations for at least some performers. Further, the film presents no images of folks in military regalia mixing in symbols of liberation or gay/queer/trans identities: no pink, no piercings, no rainbows, no flagging hankies. Those would throw their realness into question.
What seems to emerge is a process in which what is real (gender) is in fact the suppression, the denial, the fear of anything that throws off the alignment with a real heteronormative femininity or masculinity. A point for more prodding here is perhaps that this process necessitates a reiterated performance, a covering up, an act sometimes viewed as a deception.The very hierarchical, white, heteronormative realness so awarded in the balls of Paris is Burning produces very different scenarios on the streets.
I'll close with this open-ended bit on perceived deception (which is also in the spoken/unspoken history of Venus Xtravaganza in Paris is Burning). Some of you probably know that in the early history of Leslie Feinberg's health struggles, ze was refused medical treatment in a very transphobic way. What I learned only recently is that this series of events occurred during hir speaking engagement at the U of M in 1995 (VHS recording on hand in the GLBTA Programs Office in Appleby Hall). According to my secondhand source, when Leslie sought treatment at a local hospital ze initially passed as male. When the reportedly masculine -identified and -presenting doctor learned the real reality of Leslie's body, however, Leslie was asked to leave and refused any diagnosis or treatment on the basis of hir "deception" of the doctor. Is there a price that comes with doing a real gender which runs the risk of being undone by perception?
For Venus there was.
Rather than what realness is, I want to know what it does.
It seems to me that hooks's assessment of the film would be along the lines of positing that it's a film with hypothetical promise, realized as a film that actually re-asserts white/heterosexual power in race/sexual orientation dynamics in an irresponsible display of "cultural arrogance" (hooks, 152), riddled with legitimately recognizable commentaries by Dorian Carey. I agree with hooks, but only on certain levels, and on most other levels I am still unsure about how I align with her assessment.
I definitely agree that Livingston was extremely irresponsible in creating a film about a black (presumably primarily) gay subculture by inserting her white, lesbian identity into the scene without making sure the viewer is aware of how her insertion affects and compares to the dynamics she wishes to document. The idea that Livingston views the balls/lifestyle, and subsequently portrays them as a spectacle and pure entertainment (and therefore any aspect of the participants' lives that is not entertaining is not worthwhile) is an irrefutable argument--even if she didn't mean it that way, that's how it comes across; I recall watching the film and thinking to myself "This doesn't even seem like it's real or like I'm supposed to take away something real from it--where are the relations to the participants' outside lives? Why do all of these stories seem to fantastically perfect for the story? Why did they stop talking about Venus? Where is the reality?"
Additionally, I agree with the notion that the balls are not radical or challenging to the status quo, and, in fact, they are more acts of worshiping the privileged majority (thereby oppressing the very participants further) than anything else, providing race-stereotype-reinforcing entertainment for straight white individuals, or at least that's how Livingston portrays them. As seen purely in the film, there is no subversion of gender, sexuality, race or class--only reinforcement and subsequent self-oppression.
I also agree with Butler's position that the blatantly ambivalent drag going on in Paris is Burning (and similar drag elsewhere) both serves to subvert and further appropriate gender norms, whether it's exclusively or together. However, I would further posit that anytime there is appropriation of norms, that's the side that wins. I have a hard time thinking of an example where there is both appropriation and subversion and subversion wins--when you give the majority room to move or create any kind of momentum, I feel like the very power of that side will win a vast majority of the time. And because I have a hard time viewing any sort of drag as anything other than ambivalent (using Butler's aforementioned definition), this is precisely why I disagree with the practice of it the large, large majority of the time.
(I'm loathe to comment in capitalism's influence on gender performance at this time because my thoughts are largely scattered and hardly at a point where I could verbalize them, but if it's required, I will try.)
It's hard for me to give an super critical analysis of the film "Paris is Burning" right out of the gate having just seen it for the first time. I definitely think it is one of those movies you need to watch over again to really piece out some of the underlying happenings that are going on. That is not to say that I didn't pick up on some things the first time through but after readings Hooks and Butler's analysis it's like a "oh yeah, I can see that" kind of thing and makes me want to watch it again. Hooks analysis definitely pulled out some critiques that I would have never been able to put into words, but through her eyes I see them. She discusses how the overall "vision of femininity" portrayed in this documentary is a white vision, which I definitely saw. And this is how capitalism and everything that supports it shapes/influences the performances of gender. It's an overwhelming saturation throughout the media, culture, and politics of examples of "white femininity" that shape it. She continued to strategically piece out the things she saw wrong with the film, especially it's tendency to focus on the "spectacle" of the Balls themselves and maybe not enough on the how and why. She especially notes her distaste for the lack of full character development and that Livingston allowed these individuals to be viewed as outside the "real World" and not include what "their connections to a world of family and community beyond the drag ball" were. I imagine it would have been different for each of the men interviewed. I have to agree with Hooks here, on the one hand I cannot presume to know what Livingston's vision was while editing this documentary, but on the other hand I would have selfishly loved to know more about the characters lives outside the balls, especially the feelings surrounding Venus's death. As my other interests lie in Anthropology I love to observe peoples stories, so the personal commentary was my favorite part. As for Butler, I followed her critique and at times really liked what she was saying but I fell short and didn't fully grasp her theory of ambivalent drag. So I look forward to what others have to say and see if it helps.
Pick A, B, C, or D and answer (at least some) of the questions.
Note: These questions are part of the "query" series. That means you don't have to answer any of them. You are required to post comments on any 3 queries over the course of the semester
In "Is Paris Burning?" bell hooks writes:
The whiteness celebrated in Paris is Burning is not just any old brand of whiteness but rather than brutal imperial ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness that presents itself--its way of life--as the only meaningful life there is (149).
What does she mean here? How is "ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness" represented in the film? In what ways does the film reinforce it? In what ways does/could it challenge/subvert/resist it?
Consider this passage from Butler in connection with these above questions:
it seems clear to me that there is both a sense of defeat and a sense of insurrection to be had from the drag pagaentry in Paris is Burning, that the drag we see, the drag which is after all framed for us, filmed for us, is one which both appropriates and subverts racist, misogynist, and homophobic norms of oppression. How are we to account for this ambivalence? This is not first an appropriation and then a subversion. Sometimes it is both at once; sometimes it remains caught in an irresolvable tension, and sometimes a fatally unsubversive appropriation takes place (128).
What does Butler mean by this ambivalence? Does the film represent/point to ways in which drag (through participation in the balls and everyday practices) can reinforce and undercut "ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness"? If so, how--what are some examples?
How does "realness" function in the film? How does understanding "realness" as a standard (or goal to acheive) reinforce and/or subvert notions of what it means to be normal/acceptable/intelligible/proper?
Think about these questions in relation to this quotation from Butler:
The rules that regulate and legitimate realness constitute the mechanism by which certain sanctioned fantasies, sanctioned imaginaries, are insidiously elevated as the paramters of realness (130).
What is realness?
At no point in Livingston's film are the men asked to speak about their connections to a world of family and community beyond the drag ball. The cinematic narrative makes the ball the center of their lives (154).
What becomes clear in the enumeration of the kinship system that surrounds the ball is not only that the 'houses' and the 'mothers' and the 'children' sustain the ball, but that the ball is itself an occasion for the building of a set of kinship relations that manage and sustain those who belong in the houses in the face of dislocation, poverty, homelessness (137).
What do you think? How is kinship working (Butler) or not working (hooks) in the film? How "real" is the reality that is created by those who participate in the ball?
In this blog I would mainly like to address the criticisms made by bell hooks about misogynist drag.
Certainly Paris is Burning is a film full of tremendous conflicts, crossroads, and contradictions of power and identity. The socioeconomic status of all film participants was in constant flux, depending on whether they were on the street, at the ball, or at a mall or fashion show. Within the ball it is especially complicated, as it is the one place where many of those interviewed expressed that they felt accepted, beautiful, worthwhile, or safe but it was a place acknowledged also to be sometime violent and hierarchical. Within the ball area, power operates in complicated ways, simultaneously normative and subversive. I feel that neither hooks nor Butler engaged with what it means to occupy a space in which "negative" forces like poverty, racism, misogyny, self-hatred, hierarchy, and disillusionment coexist with and are often co-dependent on "positive" forces such as getting what one wants, feeling loved and accepted, and feeling free and beautiful on the level I was hoping they would. To what extent can we pin drag to just being an expression of misogyny born out of a twisted manifestation of white supremacist patriarchy or of feeling uncomfortable in one's own embodiment? Why can drag not simply be a way for someone to express their preferred state of being, or in some way getting a chance to live as another for a time, as many of those interviewed stated? I also think, as Butler points out in her article, that hooks tends to simplify all male to female gendered expressions as "drag," ignoring differences between drag, cross-dressing, passing, and transsexualism. Hooks quotes Frye when she says that male drag is nothing but the power of men to play with and control the feminine in their own selfish attempt to be sexually and relationally nearer other non-gay men. In any 'appropriative' identification I feel that there is always at least a small question of the privileged position of those who appropriate from others, however, the idealization of white femininity present in the film, while also having to do with a colonized and colonizer consciousness, is also, I think, about the idealization of simply not having to occupy a marginalized space. The desire to wear $500 dresses and not have to struggle or work for a living that is part of the idealization of ruling class white femininity is also a simple desire to not have to worry about food, money, and violence. To be valued and secure is something anyone wants and because we live in, as hooks says, a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal world, that desire is bound up in the supremacy of some of the only people who are institutionally valued and secure: white, rich, heteronormative women.
I just put together a blog worksheet which includes a few more details about blog grading and upcoming deadlines. Check it out here. You can also find it in the Handout links. Please read the worksheet and post any questions about it as comments on this entry. We can also talk about it next week.
While watching the movie "Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of a Third Kind" I was thinking "Hmm, this is interesting to learn about this author before we start reading her theory." However, do I think it is necessary to know who she is as a person to understand her theories? No, I do not think so. I think the theories themselves are more important than who is writing them. While the movie may have told interesting stories about Judith Butler's childhood and her history as a troublemaker I don't think those stories make her theories any more authentic. Butler said herself that she enjoys writing about drag queens and transsexuals even though she is not one. So, she could have been a perfectly well behaved child and still been able to be a brilliant writer on gender trouble when she grew up.
I see this film as more of a way for fans of Judith Butler to try to connect with her personally. While it may not be necessary some fans of her work may find it highly interesting to see what she is like as a person. Just like with any celebrity, people seem to think they need to find out as much as they can about the person they obsess over. Perhaps it is similar with Judith Butler; people who really respect and admire her work would probably enjoy watching this film as it gives them a glimpse into what she is "really like" as a person. Other than that, I do not think knowing what she is like as a person is important.
Epstein, Rachel. "Lesbian Parenting: Cracking the Shell of the Nuclear Family."
Resist: essays Against a Homophobic Culture. Ed. Decter, Ann, Falconer, Dionne,
Oikawa, Mona. Toronto, Ontario. The Women's Press. 1994. 70-93.
Rachel Epstein is a freelance writer and a lesbian parent. In her essay, "Lesbian Parenting," she looks specifically at co-parenting lesbian couples, discussing the challenges they face and the innovative family structures and parenting models they are creating. She underlines the importance of the visibility of non-heterosexual families to challenge the dysfunctional heteronormative nuclear family. With personal reflections from other lesbian parents, she examines the complex interplay of these "not-so-normal" families with schools, doctors, reproductive institutions, the law, familial language, division of labor, friends and family, calling for new definitions of parents and family.
A major theme throughout the book is the difficulty of raising children in a heterosexist world. The lesbian parents interviewed pointed to the limited availability of non-heterosexist cultural images for their children. While they often complained about the images mass media had to offer they sometimes commented on the queering possibilities of the media their children consumed. This came mostly in the form of regularly watching TV, reading books, etc. with the child and talking about it afterward.
This source is important to my term because it addresses queer and lesbian issues experienced by youth and their families. I will explore the suggestion of queer and queering media consumption by lesbian families in the further segments of my annotated bibliography by examining a popular childrens' show: Spongebob SquarePants. I will examine an episode and comment on how it reinforces heterosexist hegemony and resists it. I will also address comments by the American Family Association that Spongebob "indoctrinates" children into accepting homosexuality.
You can watch the first and second parts of the Spongebob episode, My Pretty Little Seahorse, on youtube. The links are posted blow.
"My Pretty Seahorse." Spongebob Squarepants. Writ. Kent Osborne and Paul Tibbitt.
Dir. TomYasumi and Derek Drymon. Nickelodeon, 2005. DVD.
One day Spongebob befriends a wild seahorse while trying to plant a flower. This episode is a poke at the usual obsessive marketing of ponies and horses to little girls. While in traditional discourse this story tells of a girl who tames a wild stallion and later gives it up for a heterosexual relationship with a man, here the queer character of Spongebob tames a mare and must later give it up to keep his job at the Krusty Krab. While this version disrupts some dominant discourse it also enforces dualistic displays of culture or man vs. nature and fear anxiety about suggested support for gay relationships is soothed by making the seahorse female.
Is Spongebob Gay? WorldNetDaily.com, 6th Jan, 2005.
In this internet article the American Family Association accused a collaberative video in which Spongebob appears as "homosexual propaganda." Distributed by the We Are Family Foundation, AFA "researcher" Ed Vitagliano accuses the video of having an underlying "tolerance pledge," and of using "children's television...... in an effort to indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality." You can watch the Spongebob tolerance video on youtube.com here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnD8BYjZiW0
As I did not think there was anything explicitly queer about this video, I was surprised at the level of anxiety about sexuality it managed to tap into.
After watching the documentary and reading the associated readings, most of my thoughts surrounded questions brought up by Sara about the introduction to both the film and the article on Butler in the Chronicle for Higher Education about the label of "troublemaker" during childhood. I think the connection to trouble-making as a child and during adulthood could have many different interpretations. My interpretation was that, mainly, the vague references to Butler's childhood don't seem to me to have any applicable connections to her writing and work now. It seemed that the trouble Butler caused as a child had less to do with a purposeful reaction to the institution of education (and if that was the case, it should be stated because then the introduction would have more validity in both cases, or maybe we are meant to infer that) and more just a youth that didn't want to be in school. Whatever the reason, I think the connection served to diminish the message of her important work in the film and the article.
Maybe the purpose of the introduction in both cases was to show an objection to/ alternative perspective on the institution of education and hierarchical institutions in general, and all of the oppressive implications they carry. I suppose if the creators of both film and article aimed the productions specifically at Butler fans and people familiar with her work, then they would have the tools to infer these meanings from the connection from childhood to adulthood trouble-making. To me, though, it seemed like neither the documentary nor the article really gave us a very personal or intimate portrait of Butler, and she has spoken on her desire to keep it that way. If that's the case, then I think the reminiscing on childhood memories just seems out of place, and out of proportion to the level of trouble-making she has achieved through her writing!