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Final Blog - Youth

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1) Youth is an extremely difficult term to define. Every source I read on youth this semester implied a different definition. Therefore, to define youth, I think it is more prudent to begin with what it means to queering theory. Of course, this is an extremely broad question as well, as it seems EVERYTHING is relevant to queering theory. What I can definitively say, though, and what almost all the sources I have consulted imply, is that children themselves are extremely queer, benefit from direct discussions about and realizations from the adults around them that they are queer, and would benefit from being directly involved in queer theorizing and politics. Curiouser, of course, lays out a very convincing argument for the queerness of children, saying that children only become heteronormative when an adult narrative is imposed upon their own. Dean Spade, in Fighting to Win, discusses the importance of legislation and public policy and activism in the lives of poor, trans youth of color. And The Lesbian Parenting Book discusses the need for queer ways of family life to be accepted and the need for children to be exposed to queer cultural artifacts. None of these sources, however, define concretely what a child is, leaving more questions than answers: is childhood under age 18? under age of consent? the property of parents or wards of the state? This has left me with the impression that childhood is an age of legal vulnerability, in which the 'child' much too queer to be a valuable part of heteronormative society, must be molded and held in check by all possible apparatuses of discipline. "Child" is almost derogatory, implying that children are incapacitated by age and thus do not have concerns on the level of importance of adults. Dean Spade comes the closest of any of the sources I read to actually making what I would consider a useful argument for children. For all theorizing about children or the figure of the child, very few people consider doing the human work of entering children's own stories into queering theory, or working with children to help them have a true part in the creation of society. It has been extremely frusturating as a child care worker who has spent tremendous physical, emotional, and intellectual labor working with children to hear the ivory tower preach about them, clearly having precious little knowledge of children themselves, and certainly not accepting any responsibility or involvement with children. After all, children are people, too.

2) I keep coming back to the same problem with the word queering, and much of it is about my own grappelings with the word. I would like it to be a space of new possibilities for political existence, but the word is controlled by whoever uses it in a certain context with certain people. I would like it to mean Nyong'o's Punk'd Theory, which was my favorite reading of the semester, and not Micheal Warner's oversimplified binary between straight and queer. Rather, it is this 'between' that I want queer to be, the place of the abject, for that is where I find truth in my life. I have always disidentified with the word because it seems the emblem of the white gay man, and I am really not interested in this definition. I would disagree with others in class who say that queer is simply what the norm rejects, for I don't think this goes far enough into interrogating the norm as abject itself. It seems this definition depends upon the norm for its existence, and indeed is often more "normal" than people think it is, and I find that frightening. After all, Warner's mobility as a queer subject in the way that he is is dependent upon the violence our country is founded upon and operates on. In the end, every social circle, regardless of who they are, creates boundaries around themselves that are often more meaningless and contrived than meaningful and political. In class, Remy said that they wanted it to be the space of possibility as well, and a place of brutal honesty about the nature of our own existences, if I'm getting their comment right. But, of course, they also admitted that we are constrained at any one moment for how queer is being deployed by certain groups or individuals, no matter what we want it to be.

3) I deeply enjoyed tracking my term! I got to read a variety of sources and bring them into conversation with my own work, which has been most interesting. Mainly, I found support for my own prior convictions about youth being queer and I also found new ideas about the definition of youth, the production of youth, and developed useful ideas for engaging children directly in queer theorizing and possibly queer politics. My engagement with the abject was a vital part of my theorizing about youth and queering as well, and helped me sort out my own definitions and political ideas about what youth and queering are and about useful political action.
As for the blogging experience, I would definitely tell future students to start right away and keep a regular schedule for working on it. It is a lot more time consuming than other class blogs they may have had and it should be treated much like writing a paper than a purely informal blog. I must say, I didn't like blogging at first, but I really warmed up to it through the semester. It really is a great queer space for engagement, especially as Sara has encouraged us to stretch the definition of what a legitimate source is and how to engage on the blog and format our entries. The blog also provided a valuable way for students and professors to engage with each other on a variety of topics outside of class. Introducing a blogging activity and atmosphere helps us break down and transform the 'institution's' expectations about what is a worthwhile academic engagement.

Direct Engagement #7 The Future Is Kid Stuff

Even though I already touched on the Edelman article in the discussion of my additional reading of Curiouser, I wanted to engage a little more with it, to pull out a few specific quotes. I take a lot of issue with this article and the way Edelman does his theorizing. While I was reading it and disagreeing with it I grumbled over his grandiose and what I reactively interpreted as his pretentious writing style (ya ain't that special, Lee). I think his drive to make a "cutting edge" argument stunted the possibilities for where he could have gone with the examination of the figure of the child, which is much broader than what he actually engages with, and he ends up making an over-simplified argument. Of course, Edelman never actually engages with children themselves or queers with children or queer children. He complains that "the cult of the child permits no shrines to the queerness of boys and girls," but doesn't seem interested in providing one himself. More it seems, that he is simply sick of the false cry of liberal politics to "fight for children" (and they are most certainly NOT fighting for children themselves). However, I believe Edelman falls victim to the equally false accusation that queer politics cannot be about children. There are three quotes in particular just at the beginning of his essay that sum up Edelman's argument rather well that I will post and respond to here.

"What. . . would it signify not to be 'fighting for children'? How, then, to take the other 'side' when to take a side at all necessarily constrains one to take the side of, by virtue of taking side within, a political framework that compulsively returns to the child as the privileged ensign of the future it intends?" (pg. 19).

"In what follows I want to interrogate the politics that informs the pervasive trope of the child as figure for the universal value attributed to political futurity and to pose against it the impossible project of a queer oppositionality that would oppose itself to the structural determinants of politics as such, which is also to say, that would oppose itself to the logic of opposition," (pg. 19).

"Queer theory, as a particular story of where storytelling fails, one that takes the value and burden of that failure upon itself, occupies, I want to suggest, the impossible 'other' side where narrative realization and derealization overlap," (pg. 19).

Here are my rather snidely posited questions:

1) The figure of the child as representing political futurity is far broader than the constrained political image Edelman 'engages' with. How would his analysis be different if he were to discuss, say, the importance of the figure of the child not only as political futurity but as a symbol of the survival of an identity, as in some nationalist, anti-colonialist movements?

2) How does the figure of the child and family values in conservative politics change when Dick Chainey's daughter is discovered to be a lesbian?

3) What about Curiouser's focus on storytelling about and by children? Can storytelling's failure to make heteronormative children be read as a queer success?

4) Does Edelman's political project depend on ignoring actual children, queers with children, queer children, and actual legislation, public services, and policies surrounding children?

5) Is there anything inherently bad about political futurity in and of itself? If Edelman really seems to fear his lack of a future as a queer, even as he politically embraces his fears, what does this mean for the real material threats to the future of queers and children, and especially queer children? Might sustainability and longevity be taken up in other anti-capitalistic ways that would serve queer political struggles?

7) How would Edelman's argument be different if he actually engaged with real children or policies around children that are often explicitly designed to destroy the future of children?

Oh, yeah, and I was just thinking about this randomly: when thinking about how the norm is merely a denial of its own abjection, what does it mean when people dress their dogs up in those frilly, ugly dog clothes?

Direct Engagement #5 Punk'd Theory

Here I would like to engage with Tavia Nyong'o's Punk'd Theory. I LOVED this article because it has so much to do with what I've really been getting into this semester: a method for understanding the abject in relation and as the norm and the queer, and the forming of an abject-identified, street theorizing and political project. Here I would like to lay out some quotes that sparked some questions in my brain.

". . . UrbanDictionary.com inserts between two meanings of punked that indicate a dread of getting fucked a third meaning - a sort of etymological Lucky Pierre - signaling the dread of not getting fucked: 'When you hook up with a guy and he doesn't call you ever again.' One is punked in this case because, by not calling you afterward, the 'guy' is retroactively minimizing your enjoyment of the mutual sex by making it clear that he was just 'using' you. But this meaning of punked makes no sense unless you wanted the hookup in the first place and, indeed, were sort of looking forward to further hookups. That is, it makes not sense unless, in some sense, you wanted to get flipped," (pg. 22)

"That is to say, and this is the major argument of my essay, I think Cohen and Hebdige are discussing a single, complex phenomena - frozen dialectically between black and white - and not two distinct topics. I think the linkage is deeper than just the reappearance of the word, but rather the reappearance of an experiential field that the word indexes," (pg. 24)

"The articulation between this lawless behavior and the lawful future live of heterosexual domesticity the documentary is intended to produce cries out for further exploration," (pg. 26).

"What would it mean to identify the authentic language of the street, its theorizing, not as some autonomous space that the law must at all costs come to dominate but rather as the active site of the law's production, through the street's supplemental provision of terror?" (pg. 28)

"How could the story of the US racial formation, beginning in the forced labor and rape of black people, continuing apparently through the cultural menage a trois of hip jazz in the 1950's, somehow produce miscegenation as a future terror? How does a discourse ostensibly about 'the 'real' world and the prosaic language in which that world was habitually described, experienced, and reproduced' manage to conjure up its own fantasy future in which, apparently, apocalyptically, the 'races' mix?" (pg. 29-30).

(My favorite quote!) "It is not enough, in other words, to to take up the simultaneity of race, class, gender, and sexuality, which it is my argument that the vernacular does constantly in keywords like punk and punked. Rather, we must investigate the subject transformed by law that nevertheless exists nowhere within it, the figure of absolute abjection that is, paradoxically, part of our everyday existence," (pg. 30).

Now the questions:

1) In the "frozen dialect" between black and white, how might other racial categories get frozen out of this equation, such as the "Asians" mentioned on page 25? How might Nyong'o's analysis be differently nuanced by seeking out other possible racial connections and meaning of the word punk?

2) If one were to draw a picture of the abject subject from Nyong'o's Punk City, what would it look like? How might it be different from the abject circle Mary presented?

3) How can misegenation as a future terror complicate the idea of a narrowing or non-extant future for queer/abject subjects? Is this a part of reprosexual time?

4) Is this 3rd space between queer/straight, street/straight, the absolute abject, the creation of straight and queer or has it, in a sense, always existed? How might the flow of production of these terms look?

Direct Engagement #5 - Additional Reading

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For my supplemental reading as a part of tracking my term, youth, I read the introduction to Curiouser: On The Queerness Of Children. I also read The Future Is Kid Stuff, by Lee Edelman. Here, I would like to ask some questions about these texts I hope to address and discuss during my presentation.

The authors of the introduction, Bruhm and Hurley, say that the dominant narrative about children, that they are bereft of any real sexuality but that their childish ventures are mishaps on the way to mature heterosexuality. makes them into the bearers of heteronormativity. Here are three quotes from the text I find particularly interesting:

"If writing is an act of world making, writing about children is doubly so: not only do writers control the terms of the words they present, they also invent, over and over again, the very idea of inventing humanity, of training it and watching it evolve. This inscription makes the child into a metaphor, a kind of ground zero for the edifice that is adult life and around which narrative of sexuality get organized. . . Utopianism follows the child around like a family pet. The child exists as the site of almost limitless potential (its future not yet written and therefore unblemished). But because the utopian fantasy is the property of adults, not necessarily of children, it is accompanied by its doppelganger, nostalgia. . . Caught between these two worlds, one dead, the other helpless to be born, the child becomes the bearer of heteronormativity, appearing to render ideology invisible by cloaking it in simple stories, euphemisms, and platitudes," (pg. xiii).

"What is the effect of projecting the child into a heternormative future? One effect is that we accept the teleology of the child (and narrative itself) as heterosexually determined. . . The very effort to flatten the narrative of the child into a story of innocence has some queer effects. Childhood itself is afforded a modicum of queerness when the people worry more about how the child turns out than how the child exists as child," (pg. xiv).

"The modern-day queer is unthinkable without the modern child," (pg. xiv).

While Edelman says that the child is the anti-queer, and symbolizes, as it is invoked in the name of family values, that there is no future for queers, Bruhm and Hurley tell us that childhood queerness is oppressed by children's care takers as something that will only have been, but has no future in that child's adulthood. Again, I find Edelman's arguments dependent upon a magical boundary between straight and queer, since he neglects to make good account of queers with children and queer children. Here are some questions I would like to ask about these arguments:

1) What is the child? Does this term represent children themselves, or is it, as something we might take away from Edelman's writing, a symbol of adult heterosexuality, not really having anything to do with real children? If Edelman disavows the child, what shrines does he present for the queerness of boys and girls?

2) Since Bruhm and Hurley assert that childhood queerness is oppressed by their caretakers as something that will only have been and does not have a place in the child's adult future, can we also say that the child has no future? That the purpose of child care is to expunge that child of their childhood forthwith?

3) If the modern-day queer is unthinkable without the modern-day child, how might these terms be used to deconstruct each other, and what alliances may be formed between them?

I look forward to discussing these questions in greater detail in my presentation.

Direct Engagement #4

In Public Sex, Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner discuss what heteronormativity is, the privatization of intimacy, and the construction of a counterintimacy through publicly visible queer culture.

In this entry I will engage primarily with the first part of the essay in which they establish heteronormativity, as there are questions I would like to ask about its perceived definition in the article. Berlant and Warner say that heteronormativity is far broader in scope than what most people think of as the heterosexual institution: the family. Though the family is a crucial center in which heteronormativity is deployed and which deploys heteronormativity, what is really at stake in this structure, the authors tell us, is a national heterosexuality. This places the sacredness of heterosexuality in the realm of law and politics, and not merely in the personal, although if one is to construct something as ordinary, one must push its political significance within the realm of the private. The authors use the example of "The New Face of America" from the cover of Time Magazine to illustrate their point. "... this crisis image of immigrants is also a racial mirage generated by white-dominated society, supplying a specific phobia to organize its public so that a more substantial discussion of exploitation in the United States can be avoided and then remaindered to the part of collective memory sanctified not by nostalgia but by mass aversion.... Central to the transfiguration of the immigrant into a nostalgic image to shore up core national culture and allay white fears of minoritization is something that cannot speak its name, though its signature is everywhere: national heterosexuality," (pg. 549). They proceed to recount the ways in which society is organized around sex and the family, citing ways in which heterosexual privilege is implicit in such things as joint banking, paying taxes, buying insurance, etc. giving an account of the processes by which heteronormativity operates by publicly mediating all that is deemed, in the minds of most Americans, private: intimacy and sex. "Intimate life is the endlessly cite elsewhere of political public discourse, a promised haven that distracts citizens from the unequal conditions of their political and economic lives, consoles them for the damaged humanity of mass society, and shames them for any divergence between their lives and the intimate sphere that is alleged to be simple personhood," (pg. 553). Of this phenomena, the authors say, "Indeed, one of the unforeseen paradoxes of national-capitalist privatization has been that citizens have been led through heterosexual culture to identify both themselves and their politics with privacy," (pg. 553-554).

Although that was a short summary of the first part of the article, I believe it is rife with material from which to derive questions. As I was reading this article, I was struck by what I took to be a rather euro-centric analysis of heteronormativity. I do not believe that non-whites enter into this picture of national heterosexuality quite the way the authors construct it. Certainly, all cultural, political, and legal texts mentioned by the authors (joint checking, mortgages, insurence, etc.) that are so ordinary to the "heterosexual [white] couple" are not so ordinary and unproblematic to non-white heterosexual couples. The cost of living for non-whites is much higher, and heterosexual nuclear non-white families are not necessarily supported by the state. Stereotypes associated with how non-white families function (the strong black mother, the absent black father, or an entire extended Hispanic family living together under one roof) certainly place them outside of the "usual" heteronormative model. When dealing with legal and state services that provide aid to families and work to normalize the family, non-whites are disproportionately expected to be more responsible for themselves and are often denied aid because of punitive judgments made by social workers. This would certainly seem to force heterosexual intimacy under the scrutiny and scorn of the public sphere (a bit like homosexuality), afterwards thrusting it harshly back into the private realm of personal responsibility, where it is subject to the putative whims of police and other public officials to keep in check. For all of the authors talk about the proliferation of public discourse that mediates the constant failures of heteronormativity to deliver its promised bliss, there seems to be a different dynamic in play when a black couple show up on Maury's stage that doesn't exist with even what could be designated as a white-trash couple. I believe the state has a lot of interest in seeing non-white heterosexuals fail to live up to the example of their white counterparts. Looking at "The New Face of America," and thinking about the forced sterilization of non-white women and so forth, I cannot imagine that the message is really for whites to reproduce with non-whites, or that the image of national heterosexuality is all there is going on here. Perhaps it is only specifically a white national heterosexuality, because I see a genocidal image, in which the white has conquered the non-white, where white heterosexuality beat out the rest. I also do not think that symbolic femininity has nothing to do with this image as symbolic [white] femininity has long been used as a racist battle cry.

As far as youth are concerned, I am still thinking of Michael Warner's introduction, Fear of a Queer Planet, in which his seemingly sincere but only sentence long allusion to youth was quickly thrown aside. I am quite surprised that youth didn't really come up at all in an article about heteronormativity and with so much discussion of reprosexuality. After all, sex isn't an "adults only" subject. I can only say here that heteronormativity's concern with bringing up children to reach prescribed ends of "maturation" can be done taking something that is obviously queer and simply saying that it is not. If the sense of "rightness" is what heteronormativity is, childhood and childrearing certainly present excellent opportunities for dislodging that feeling and replacing it with a mixture of nausea and uncertainty (the bemoaning of parents and child care workers, "Did I do the right thing?"). Of course, they never do the right thing, because, try as we might to make our little girls play with pink castles, they may grow up to be a butch lesbian or a tranny. In a certain way, even though children are laden with tremendous heteronormative stress they inherit from the adult world, heteronormativity, remains for childhood, unintelligible.

Direct Engagement #3

In his introduction to Social Text, Fear of a Queer Planet, Michael Warner reviews the current state of the recognition of queer and gay politics in social theory. Not only does Warner point out instances of outright homophobia, but he asserts that social theory is hopelessly heterosexist. He outlines two goals for his introduction which are, "... first is to suggest that much social theory could be usefully revised by taking gay politics as a starting point. The second is to urge that lesbian and gay intellectuals find a new engagement with various traditions of social theory in order to articulate their aims. Both interventions have been made necessary by a new style of "queer" politics that, no longer content to carve out a buffer zone for a minoritized and protected subculture, has begun to challenge the pervasive and often invisible heteronormativity of modern societies," (pg. 3). Warner reviews the literature of social theory touching (if only barely) on sexuality as an issue in modern society. He maintains that the bitter language of "breeder" in its usage by queers, reflects a feeling of exclusion and denial of legitimacy queers feel from what Warner claims is a body of social theory centered on a heteronormative understanding of the proper functioning of society as reproductive. This obsession with reprosexuality is a part of how society functions on a growth based capitalistic economy. Because social literature is blanketed by a focus on the family and the reproductive couple, and simply because of authors and theorist's own homophobic tendencies, social theory's analysis of society is fundamentally lacking because of a negelect to examine the cultural climate of the homo/hetersexual divide. Warner discusses the problems that arise for queers attempting to grapple with sexual politics and the social order in the every day: "It means being able, more or less articulately, to challenge the common understanding of what gender difference means, or what the state is for, or what "health" entails, or what would define fairness, or what a good relation to the planet's environment would be... Social reflection carried out in such a manner tends to be reactive, fragmentary, and defensive, and leaves us perpetually at a disadvantage," (pg. 6). Political struggle can be especially difficult for people who identify as queer in the traditional sense, because "... queer struggles aim not just at toleration or equal status but at challenging those [heterosexist] institutions and accounts," (pg. 6). Warner also posits that the very language of gender itself has theoretical problems for queers because the logic of gender language places people and bodies on a heterosexist gender binary. Warner proposes some political strategies to help articulate queer political struggle. He asserts that "self-clarification" is important because queers as a group cannot be articulated as a class or social status or theorized in the ways identity politics has theorized other groups of people. He critisizes what he calls "Rainbow Theory," which he sees as guised in liberal civil rights rhetoric. "... it will be necessary to break this frame if we are to see the potential alliances with movements that do not thematize identity in the same way," (pg. 12), and highlights the need for comparative thinking, even within identity politics.

It is interesting to hear Warner talk about queers as a group. It is mainly this aspect of his essay that our class is concerned with and it is here that I draw my questions about his article from. What and who is queer? Here are some particularly interesting quotes:
"But because queer politics do not obey the member/nonmember logics of race and gender, alternative canons and traditions cannot be opposed to the dominant ones in the same way," (pg. 13),
"Queerness therefore bears a different relation to liberal logics of choice and will, in ways that continually pose problems both in everyday life and in contexts of civil rights," (pg. 14),
"Queer people are a kind of social group fundamentally unlike others, a status group only insofar as they are not a class," (pg. 15),
"The problem of finding an adequate description is a far from idle question, since the way a group is defined has consequences for how it will be mobilized, represented, legislated for, and addressed," (pg. 15),
"... and because dispersal rather than localization continues to be definitive of queer self-understanding... ," (pg. 15),
"The universalizing utopianism of queer theory does not entirely replace more minority-based versions of lesbian and gay theory - nor could it, since normal sexuality and the machinery of enforcing it do not bear down equally on everyone, as we are constantly reminded by pervasive forms of terror, coercion, violence, and devastation," (pg. 16),
"'Queer' therefore also suggests the difficulty in defining the population whose interests are at stake in queer politics," (pg. 16).

I feel there are many valuable questions to ask about this set of quotes. I will now pose them in a list:
1) What do you make of the tension in Warner's introduction between the process of weeding out who and who does not belong in the categories some queers have created and claimed such as gay and lesbian and his comment that queer is not governed by the same member/nonmember logics as are race and gender? How does this reflect on the idea that queer politics must be distinguished from identity politics? Are groups that are exclusively gay or lesbian but call themselves queer, not queer, and if so, what is queer's real proximity to gay and lesbian politics?
2) Is the "universalizing utopia" of queer necessarily euro/phallo-centric? What does it mean that queer theory is "universalizing"?
3) Are there issues of queer ecopolitics that Warner could have discussed in addition to his commentary of reprosexuality and a growth based capitalism?
4) If many other groups have also found that they have been lead astray by liberal civil rights based politics, is this something that necessarily sets queers apart from other identity based political struggles?
5) If Warner says that queers are not content to be labled a minority and instead are bent on dismantleing the very fabric of society as heterosexist, thus bringing queers out of minority status, what might be problematic about his use of the word minority to refer to other unnamed groups?
6) Is it necesarrily a realistic or useful goal to engage in the creation of any kind of unified queer identity, especially internationally? Why are people uncomfortable with a political movement that is characterized by local action? Even when political movements, such as the Women's Movement of the 70's, are characterized by anything but uniformity, why is there a push to articulate them as single mass movements, even as they make enormous political strides?
7) How do we think about the dispersion of queers as apposed to the dispersion of children, women, people of color, or people of diaspora?

As I did not explicitly discuss youth in this entry, I will now briefly relate what this article has to do with my term. Warner says that, "Heterosexual ideology, in combination with a potent ideology about gender and identity in maturation, therefore bears down in the heaviest and often deadliest way on those with the least resources to combat it: queer children and teens. In a culture dominated by talk of "family values," the outlook is grim for any hope that childrearing institutions of home and state can become less oppressive," (pg. 9). I was disappointed with how quickly he brushed this sort of damning and unsetteling comment aside. If Warner is having trouble identifying who is implicated in the concerns of a queer politics, he might start with the population he deems most at risk, but does not mention children again for the rest of the introduction. I would also say that if Warner wants to bring queers out of the shadows of minority status, he may begin with a reflection on how all children, especially very young ones, and not just some of them, are queer. Here is where I find that Warner sometimes uses the term queer when what he is really talking about are gay identified youth. I also wonder how he would respond to assertions that so-called "family values" liberal, neo-con politics in the US have not been at all beneficial for what are considered traditional, heteronormative families. Given that heteronormativity is not simply about providing straights the good life and making sure queers are living in the gutter, what could be said about the dynamics of "family values" politics and heteronormative families?

Direct Engagement #2

Here, I would like to engage with Judith Butler's discussion of the abject in her book, Undoing Gender.

Butler focuses a lot on instances in which the "someness" of the human assemblage, or when the fact that our existence is contingent on other's existence is revealed. She says that through the process of grieving our interdependence on each other is revealed. She says that, "I might try to tell a story about what 'I' am feeling, but it would have to be a story in which the very 'I' who seeks to tell the story is stopped in the midst of the telling. The very 'I' is called into question by its relation to the one to whom I address myself... We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something," (pg. 19). Of course, this all comes back to the body as a construction which "does" and also has things "done to" it. The way in which the "I" in any sentence is always contingent upon another "I" in another body is what leads Butler to ponder the state of bodies in proximity to other bodies, DNA exchange with bodies, the idea of one's sexuality being dependent upon other's bodies, and, of course, what bodies are human and what bodies are non-human or unreal. She claims grief as a tool for political projects, saying that it's our grief over what happens to bodies and thus what happens to ourselves that highlight the need for non-violent discussions and behavior that consider the needs and sustenance of bodies across the globe. Of course, this is complicated by the question Butler poses at the beginning of the chapter, "I would like to start, and to end, with the question of human, of who counts as the human, and the related question of whose lives count as lives, and with a question that has occupied many of us for years: what makes for a grievable life?" (pg. 18). She discusses what it means when the unreal claims the real (or non-human claims the human), introducing possibilities for resignification of dominant norms and inviting fantasy to participate in opening up myriad possibilities of being and being bodied (among other things), specifically in the context of various groups of adult humans. Discussing the human, humanization and dehumanization, the process of becoming "real," and the state of dependence we are born into and remain in, Butler is ultimately theorizing on what is human, what the process of becoming or being human is, and what a "grievable" life is. She says, "When we ask what makes a life livable, we are asking about certain normative conditions that must be fulfilled for life to become life. And so there are at least two senses of life, the one that refers to the minimum biological form of living, and another that intervenes at the start, which establishes minimum conditions for a livable life with regard to human life. And this does not imply that we can disregard the merely living in favor of the livable life, but that we ask, as we asked about gender violence, what humans require in order to maintain and reproduce the conditions of our own livability," (pg. 39).

There is much that isn't said in this chapter, and that I can truly only guess that Butler implies by the language she uses. I like where Butler was going at first with her cyborgian, posthuman commentary on the "someness" and dependency of any subject, "I," or assemblage. But after that, I'm disappointed by the direction she chose to move in, a direction that is decidedly devoid of anything that Butler herself would designate as "non-human." I would have liked her to discuss the heritage of her terms. Perhaps this revolving around the "human" is our problem in the first place. The word "human" is of euro/phallo-centric origin, as are ideas Butler cites of what is not "human." Though it's hard to point fingers at Butler for something she did not explicitly say, I also have the sneaking suspicion that Butler's sense of "livability" is probably more tied to bourgeoisie lifestyle cloaked in the liberal rhetoric of "standard of living," than she would care to admit. Butler is awfully prescriptive in stressing a politics that focuses on bringing the non-human into the human and one that focuses on what humans need to have a livable life. She says that the realization that life is precarious because of violence has the potential to unite humans in non-violent political action that provides for human social goods. But so much is left out in this formula. Butler says that she is not ready to stop with an argument that says that understandings of what is livable and human are based upon local ideas and histories but does not specify what she considers a livable standard of life. I know that the standard of living Butler enjoys, simply by virtue of living in the Western world, is dependent upon violence not just against other people, whether they are considered grievable or not, but on non-humans in the sense of plants and animals. If Butler makes much of the fact that our lives are contingent upon the lives of other people, she certainly does not make much of the fact that the existence of the human species is dependent upon non-humans, or that humans themselves are mostly non-human. The human genome can only be found in about 10% of the cells that make up my body, for example. The rest is "non-human" bacterium and other things, many of which allow me my survival and the "consciousness" that I believe to be so "human." Butler asks of people who would suggest a concrete definition of the fundamentals of human life, "But what if the very categories of the human have excluded those who should be described and sheltered within its terms?" (pg. 36). It seems to me Butler dangerously excludes the well being of the non-human in order to preserve the human, which would spell disaster for both groups. I love Donna Haraway's talk of companion species and how humans are not human, but are in a process of multi-species becoming. Awareness and response to pain, grief, and violence are not essentially human characteristics. I judge from her behavior that my guinea pig knows as well as I do that she is sick and dying, and that her other companion pig is dead and no more. I believe she also knows that her survival is dependent upon my making the conscious decisions to feed and care for her, and that she is well aware that she has no power to return to her cozy and solitary Pigloo until I am done poking and kissing her fat, fluffy thighs. How is my friend's cat demand for recognition and attention is less human than my friend's desire? Any presumptuous statement that animals do not experience outside of themselves and are therefore not human will be dashed by an utter ignorance of what, say cat consciousness is like in the lived experience of the cat. There is much research that shows that plants and even bacterium possess a consciousness. Should these be included in the category human, too? Or should we just be real with ourselves and admit that we were never 'human' in the sense of there being any definable whole, either as individuals or a species, that future human survival will be about a politics that rejects the central importance of the human in place of the non-human. If we go in this direction, we may have to deal with a definition of a livable life that is unrecognizable to Butler, one in which we will not be able to depend on our stores being full of food on command, or anyone being "sufficiantly" protected from non-human violence or catastrophe. Butlers comment that some are born into the world without adequate resources for survival has not always been a history of oppression, but a history of sustainable, human subsistence. If we consider what is good for non-humans and the earth and thus what is good for humans, "human" desires, whatever they may be, may not (and, I think will seldom) come out at the top of what is important for the future existence of the species as a whole and other life forms. Ultimately I think that we will have to adjust our definition of what is livable to bring it far closer to what we think of as "bare" biological survival. This is not to say that people will be subjected to human-inflicted violence, but Butler's definition of a livable, non-violent life has far broader implications than just ending human violence against each other. I would like Butler to talk about how people's livable lives are not just dependent upon other people, but other people's violence, and how this complicates simply making the "non-human," "human." And what about the blatant animalisation that takes place in racist, sexist, and other wise nasty discourses? What does it mean that we desire to reclaim these groups from the animal, only to leave the animal itself to suffer under the yoke of human definitions of what is and isn't worthwhile, even as we depend upon the animal for subsistence, becoming with it in the process? When we place animals in the abject, we necessarily place ourselves in the abject anyway, for humans are, in the end, just another animal. I would even be quite prepared to say that there is nothing special about people whatsoever, and that the interests of everything on earth rely on us getting over ourselves. I agree with Butler that this will mean accepting a broad range of possibilities for being and becoming, but hopefully this will not be solely centered around the "human" subject. If we are to truly bring our fellows out of the abject, we must abolish both sides of that philosophical coin.

Since I ended up talking more about non-humans than children, I will briefly relate what all of this has to do with my term. Butler herself, while humanly bringing the non-human into the human, inherently places "infancy" (dependency) as a condition of humanity. She says, "Given over from the start to the world of others, bearing their imprint, formed within the crucible of social life, the body is only later, and with some uncertainty, that to which I lay claim as my own," (pg. 21). If "... the very sense of personhood is linked to the desire for recognition...," (pg. 33), how is it that children, who, according to Butler, as yet possess no "I," demand recognition? Of course, Butler does not say at what age she claimed her body as her own, but her labored uncertainties as to whether she can correctly claim this body as her own suggests that she was at an age where he was able to think rather abstractly about her situation. Of course, I will not hold Butler to this ridiculous standard, but many of her statements may lean towards excluding rather than including children into the human. What if someone's sense of personhood is linked not to recognition, but to a wish to be alone, or to claim the identity that they are, in fact, non-human? Is Butler, by laying out these conditions for "personhood" recreating the abjected human she sought to deconstruct? And what of the hegemonic narrative that exists of childhood being a time of "becoming," "growing," and "coming of age?" Does this mean that children are "becoming human?" What of the common assertion that young children do not understand this, are not interested in that, or have no personality? Are there not many adults to which these statements could be applied? Are we not marking, animalising, and relegating children to the abject and the not real, or, the more legitimate, not yet real? What does it mean that Butler specifically characterizes dependency, a constant human condition, as infancy?


Annotated Bib. #2

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My first source is:

Spade, Dean. "Fighting to Win." That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting
Assimilation. Ed. Alia, Matilda, and Bernstein, Matt. Soft Shires Press. 2004. 31-37.

Here, Dean Spade discusses the current state of what he terms the GLBfakeT movement. He talks about the vast differences between high-wage earning queers and low-income, disabled, young, old, and otherwise disenfranchised trans-identified folks. He asserts that the queer movement has been put into a "white liberal civil rights" framework that has, in many cases, had devastating effects on trans folks, if it hasn't simply ignored them altogether. He proposes a strategy for political action that focuses on the needs of those who face the most dire consequences from the gender binary: trans-identified people of color, youth, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled.

This source is relevant to my term as Spade spends a significant portion of his essay discussing trans youth of color. He describes the effects of recent legislation pushed through by mainstream LGBfakeT activists in the neighborhood of the Stonewall Inn, where local gays are trying to rid their streets of these youth, who, for decades, have come together and found each other in this area. This has led to increased incarceration of youth and police brutality. Spade also mentions that the public nets and services off of which he survived his own youth are all but extinct, and that trans people have virtually no other services available to them because they do not fit gendered prerequisites established by the state and other locally run shelters and services. He then discusses the development of trans people and the way in which they become in this world: "Many trans people start out their lives with the obstacle of abuse or harassment at home, or are kicked out of their homes by their parents on the basis of their gender identity or expression. Some turn to foster care, but often end up homeless when they experience harassment and violence at the hands of staff and other residents in foster care facilities... Similarly, harassment and violence against trans and gender-different students is rampant in schools, and many drop out before finishing or are kicked out. Many trans people also do not pursue higher education due to fears of applying to schools and being required to reveal their birth name and birth sex, having not been able to change these on their documents," (pg. 33).

I have been thinking about our conversation in class the other day about discipline and punishment, and I think that is the very question to ask here, in regards to the treatment of poor, trans youth of color. In what ways do we (me, you, the state, etc.) discipline and punish people who are culturally illegible? The way Spade says, "Most trans people start out their lives...," (pg. 33), for me, brings all of these issues back to children and those who are infantilized by disenfranchisement. For that is, in many ways, what Spade is talking about here. The legitimized discipline and punishment of children for perfectly legal infractions on social codes provides a foundation for how we treat those who are perceived as of in need of control, aid, or punishment. The big difference of these apparatuses of biopower in people's lives is based on who we are perceived to be when we are born or by the circumstances into which we are born, and this will decide whether these institutions are geared towards producing us as those who profit from capitalism and serve as the face of the "public" and those who are designated to the under crust upon which society is dependent but which depends on them being damaged humans. So the abuses of the foster care system never end, even in adulthood. They are sublimated by the prison and, more explicity, what is termed "adult housing alternatives." People who are in need of social services and nets are infantilized by the state (though aided), and people who complain of the "Nanny State," are closer to expressing the nature of biopower than they suspect. The big reasons I think the needs of poor trans youth of color (and youth in general) are so important as a central focus of political action are 1) in many ways, they have been rejected by the mainstream LGBfakeT movement, many of whom locate themselves outside of the reproductive world and thus designate reproduction and its result as "straight," (although the mainstream movement pushes for access to many normative reproductive institutions like marriage), 2) the way we begin our lives as children and the establishment of the hegemonic that this entails lays a foundation and is inextricably intertwined with everything else and the way we perceive others and infantilize them, and 3) because the apparatuses that surround the domestic and its desired products are a rich source from which to examine the tangled mishmash of discipline and punishment which dictate all of our lives.

Moving on to my next source, I will take the offer made by Sara to push at what is considered a legitimate academic source by using an incident that happened with my mother and myself. Here, I will examine the apparatuses of discipline and punishment that operated in this event. One night a few years ago, my mother and I walked into Value Thrift in the Sun Ray chain mall off of the McKnight exit on 94. This is a large consignment store run mostly by Latino employees. We took our items to the fitting rooms. There, my mother had a heated encounter with the youth running the rooms. Rather, I should say, the heat was all my mother's. She was angry that you were only allowed to bring four items into the fitting room at a time and she thought the youth was lying about it. While the Latino, gender-ambiguous teen stood patiently before my mother, eyes downcast, she went on a rip about how this was a ridiculous policy, that she would not comply until the manager was consulted, and, that sentence that made me cringe when it passed her lips," I would never receive this kind of treatment from Herberger's!" Sorry, mom, this isn't Herberger's. I know my mother, and believe I know from the way she riled at this downcast youth (from the way she riles at me, when I cause trouble) that this person made her deeply uncomfortable, and that she was put off by the power dynamic she found herself in, that this youth had jurisdiction over the area in a way she did not and that she was not used to. As I gently conveyed to my mother that I disapproved of her actions in the store as we walked to her car, she was ready to tell me that that "gender-confused" youth at the fitting rooms was lying to us about the policy, and that "people like that" will do anything to assert power over "people like me." Afterwards, she asked me if she really had been "a little too hard" on this person, and that she felt she should have been more lenient with someone whom she considered to be mentally and culturally ill, not to mention economically undesirable. I think this is an excellent example of the extent to which discipline and punishment is a perfectly acceptable part of our everyday lives, not just by the state but by singular individuals. My mother felt threatened, and found herself in a position to retaliate. Of course, she never asked herself questions about her own empowerment to chastise this person who had done her no harm whatsoever, or how her middle class lifestyle is made possible by their oppression and expropriated labor. I feel I know she would not have behaved the same way to an adult, and certainly not with someone of her own socioeconomic standing. This youth got a reaming because they were out of line with gendered, racial, and socioeconomic norms, not because they posed a real threat to her.

My last source is a video from youtube.com. You can watch the video at the address below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMrohHHdXd4

The video is called "Fenced Out" and is about the harassment and abuse of GLBT youth of color on the piers and city efforts to run them out of their stomping grounds, making it into a public park for "everyone" to enjoy. This video wraps up my blog entry nicely, but it also points to where this discussion has just begun. This is exactly the kind of political activity Dean Spade is talking about: alternative media that brings poor trans youth of color into the dialogue. The fact that this is an initiative by poor trans youth of color for themselves highlights Spade's assertion that the Stonewall Rebellion and all of its subsequent gains were made possible and owe a tremendous debt to the very people who have been excluded from their own movement to make room for the rich, white, gay man's concerns and people like him. We also see here poor trans youth of color speaking directly about discipline and punishment as it manifests itself in their own lives at home, at school, in their neighborhoods, and on the pier. Clearly, issues of discipline and punishment are central to political action put forth by these youth.

All of these sources address issues of discipline and punishment in society and how a focus on youth should be placed as a top priority to any political endeavor. To Lee Edelman, author of The Future Is Kid Stuff, I would assert that the fact that children are the future is not a bad thing in and of itself, and that it is not inherently "not queer," either. Anyone concerned with any political movement, especially a queer political movement, would do well to reexamine their attitudes towards children and include them as the worthwhile human beings that they are.


Carol Clover and Children

Carol Clover's essay on horror and the female victim-hero was so fun I found myself reading it over and over! In this essay, Clover is obsessed with examining the relationship between adolescent males (the primary audience of horror) and female victim-heroes of horror films. What is the draw of the female victim-hero for these audience members and what process of identification is at play here? Can this relationship be summed up by dismissing it as the marketing of female suffering to men, or is something larger and more complicated at work here also? These are some of the questions Clover addresses in this piece. She meticulously traces the pattern of what characters the audience is made to identify with through several films. Simply by utilization of "I-filming" we are made to identify with the killer at the start of the film. We view what (presumably) "he" views, we breath with "him" and our hearts beat with "his." Gradually, however, as the main character (the last girl) is developed throughout the film and we are made to "register her terror," we change our alliance to be in line with the winning side (inevitably the "good" side). Yes, in the end what is glorified seems to be the violent act itself, whoever does it, and by virtue of one-sex model thinking (which Clover claims horror as the main depository of today), whoever commits that act is read as the male hero who defeats that which is weak and feminine. Clover does not dispute the reality of violent sexual fantasies supplied by horror, but stresses the existence of cross gender identification governed by the actions, not the genitals, of characters. While this essay did a thorough job of covering its topic of female victim-heroes and the male gaze, it left me with questions about relationships between the male gaze and other sorts of horror characters: namely, children. It seems to me that there is at least an equal preponderance of horror movies centered around children as there are centered around women. In recent memory, all three of The Ring movies, all three of the Omen movies, and of course The Children of the Corn. The children in these movies are usually the vessel or literal incarnation of Satan or ghosts, and are often placed in contrast to other "real' children, demonstrating their "removedness" from normalcy but at the same time oddly creating all children as the vessels of evil. In the Omen movies, Damien is not stopped by his parents but grows up to become president of the US. Does this demonstrate the inherent goal of children to push the old off the edge of the earth as they grow to inherit it? Is this anxiety about "children as blank slates" who can be indoctrinated into any depraved practice they are not shielded from? As mellow-dramatic as the question is, what does this idea about children mean for adults who are raising and becoming with children? In the Ring, a child is eventually at least partly responsible for the defeat of the little girl's ghost, but it is unclear whether or not this child really is a "child" after this is done. Does he make like a female victim-hero and become a man through his actions? Clover starts out her essay with an examination of the movie Carrie and the Boys, focusing on Carrie as the female victim-hero, but never as a child. While I don't disagree with her analysis of Carrie as a female victim-hero, it seems that her essay lacks in some ways from a failure to examine the "child variable." We could ask much the same questions about the relationship of horror audiences to these children. What is the draw of child centered horror for the male gaze and what sorts of identification are going on? What does it mean to place children as the abject? What would it mean for Clover's analysis if she had talked about Carrie's positioning as a child, as well? Since, like the transition from one-sex to two-sex model thinking which created women, childhood and adolescence can be said to have been created in relatively recent history, what would it mean to examine cross age identification with film and audience and the slippages between distinguished age groups? What does this mean in terms of how Clover defines the primary audience of horror films (adolescent males)? What is at stake in talking about children as non-citizens in horror films? Why are children (and childlike things - evil dolls and puppets) convenient containers and actors of evil and the abject? What does it mean for horror that women and children are often conflated in the same group (what social processes are at work when we see Lauri and the children ending up stuck together in Halloween)? What would it mean to talk about how women and hence children have been characterized by vice, sin, and Satan in euro-Christian lore? What does horror tell us about children's sexuality and how children are sexualized by people other than themselves? Does children's sexuality necessarily occupy the space of the abject? Why?

Of course, this direct engagement fits into my term very nicely. I have been pleasantly surprised by the myriad ways in which children are deeply implicated in material deemed inappropriate for children. Through tracking this term, I have been pushed to look at ways that people like children are connoted through discussions about other people, like women, whom they are inextricably attached to. Though I do not have any answers to the river of questions I've asked in this blog, tracking this term has lead me to look for more creative ways to find "youth" everywhere.

Annotated Bib. #1

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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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_KqnhyVQ5c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLAflboI3W8

"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.
http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Sodom/spongebob_and_homosexuality.htm

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.