Final Wrap-Up: Gender

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1. Gender. As cliché as it may sound, gender means so many things to me (I might get a little misty-eyed talking about this). I feel like I have a much clearer understanding of how I'll never be able to hold a comprehensive understanding of gender (and how to problematize myself if I ever think I do). However, I do know a few things about what gender does (or who does gender and who gender does) as well as how gender works. The latter connects me to all three sources I'm bearing in mind [Valentine's genitals (and through Valentine, Riki Anne Wilchins), Butler's performativity and/or citationality, and Puar's assemblage] and helps to clarify the implications of everyone in the former. Gender is a system of meanings read onto many combinations of bodies and symbols. Gender has in many contexts been tied to genitals, those relatively small and unheard of parts of bodies that bear the physical mark of conflated sex/gender/(heterosexual)desire. The citational functions of gender in fact always refer back to the mythical "right genitals" engaging in the "right behaviors/desires." In the ways that gender is continuously being constructed in relation to fading copies of copies (of the Law of the Father or any other), what emerges as the most intriguing place for further investigation is the gendering and queering that inherent in assemblage. And I think there's a very strong correlation here if we dig into how gender, like a film, like fucking, like assemblage (and the becoming/death moment of the terrorist), is an event that folds in the distinction between subject and reader (or my body and other body). Everyone does gender. Everyone is done and undone by gender. And these are not individual, but interconnected and always disciplined acts.

2. Queering, to me, does welcome all the definitions which you folks have generated both in class and in response to Sara's Queering Query. Queering is (or Queer Acts are) radically embodied in the activism and subversion of many queer-identified individuals and groups we've discussed as a class. These are "conscious" acts, for lack of better terms. I find myself pressed, though, by the arguments laid out by Jasbir Puar in particular and how they lead me to pull apart queer identity and queering, to look for the queer already in the terrorist, as she says. The best way I can talk about queering mostly aside from discussions of gender and sexuality (though not completely aside) is to look at queer as inextricably tied to processes of naming. That Butler shows us how so many performative speech acts create sexed and gendered subjects is relevant, but it is also true that in many more ways than these we are all struggling with naming (being read in order to be named) and reconciling being named with claiming a name for one's self. In the same ways that, as we've discussed, we all tend to fail gender and gender tends to fails us all, we're also failing to match the copied copies of so many ideals of whiteness, nationalism, success, and progress--sometimes we're hiding these failures in whatever "closet," or under the bed, or so many other metaphors for the places where queer shame goes--and it's in looking for that queer, talking about those fissures, and building coalitions based on shared needs, that there's a whole lot of queering always happening.

3. As I've said in many ways, gender and I have a long history together. We've been fighting and celebrating in many different ways and spaces, on and off, pretty hardcore and turbulent, for almost five years now. Throughout this semester I've learned to better articulate the ways I talk about gender. Notes of clarification and deeper readings have been a big help to the blended mess of gender which I think and embody. This may seem slightly off-topic, but I've also learned a bit more about what I'm going to continue calling my style: queering the businessman aesthetic (with props to RT Rodriguez and his project of Queering the Homeboy Aesthetic). Now, while I can at least be sure that gender and queer are not mutually exclusive areas of inquiry, I also need to explore how queer functions "aside from" gender and sexuality. I need to look at the queering of all sorts of troubling and subversion, and all sorts of passings and failures.

Blogging has been helpful as a means to get thoughts out in shorter form and to simultaneously feel less restricted by the formalities of essays and response papers. However, I would hesitate to say that it is helpful in creating a lighter workload because blogging actually requires quite a bit of contemplation. Since starting our blog, I've discovered many other academics using a blog as part of the process of writing a dissertation, and I think I'm inspired by using such small writings as building blocks to such a lengthy project--I'll definitely consider a dissertation (or maybe even senior project) blog for myself. I would tell future students to give the blog a little attention each day whenever possible as I found the weeks when I was well-versed in both our readings and the blog to provide the most stimulating class time for me. Aside from other vlog recommendations and the suggestion of blog time-consumption above, I'd also say that building connections through comment conversation threads is a great way to stick with the material outside of class and is actually sort of fun.

I believe that our blog/blogging is pretty queer, in at least in one aspect: We really got our shit out there! Seriously though, I think our blog did provide a space for queering--"uncensored" and through whatever means of expression we were feeling (that's subverting the Ivory Tower to me). The ways that it encouraged our engagement on our own queer time (12:00 am - 7:00 am), in our own queer ways (poetry, post-its, paintings, etc.), definitely allowed queer practices to come through and develop (Queer This! is but one example I'll carry with me and probably say out loud at least once in a while).

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I am struck by your emphasis on the community and collective aspects of gender and queering. You mention how being done/undone by gender are not individual but interconnected acts. I just read Keagan's interesting definition of queer as raw and fundamentally selfish. I find myself wondering how to put your definition into conversation with his? Is Keagan's emphasis on the individual (or the self…is this the same self Foucault discusses in History of Sexuality, Volume 3: Care of the Self??) at odds with your emphasis on community/coalitions/queer groups? I don't necessarily think so. In fact, I think negotiating the ways they fit/don't fit has the makings of a great (series of?) conversations.

You mention that you found other academics using blogs for their writing process. Which ones--could you post some links? I would love to learn more about it and connect with other academic/writer/bloggers.