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April 30, 2009

Blog #11

In this final blog, I would like you to reflect on the class and what you learned this semester. You could write about one of your favorite readings or how your understanding of feminism has been influenced by our discussions/readings/papers or whatever else you want to write about in relation to the class.

Also, I will be teaching this class again next spring. What advice would you give students who will be taking it then?

April 28, 2009


6:20-6:30 Announcements + preparation
6:30-7:10 Destruction of Family Values Group
7:10-7:15 Break + set-up for next group
7:15-7:55 Mommy Wars Group
7:55-8:00 Break + set-up for next group
8:00-8:40 Sex Wars and Pornography
8:40-end Student evaluations of class

If you are presenting next week, plan ahead to make sure that you have everything that you need for your presentation and that you can set up within 5 minutes. Also, make sure that I receive copies of your handouts/bibliography. To ensure that I receive all of your handouts, you should email me in advance (puot0002@umn.edu) with copies of everything (the four handouts + bibliography)—please attach them as word documents.

Hollibaough/Moraga discussion

1. The definition of sex is inclusive of all different types of sexual behaviors including some that might be implicated as sexual violence by anti-pornography feminists.
2. Sex is an issue for feminists because of the earlier attempt to neuter the discussion of transgressive forms of sex. This is a problem for women because they do not have an opportunity to fully realize or expand their sexuality.
3. There is no straight forward definition of pornography or the erotic. It is inferred to be very personal. It is the result of actions that are inherent to people very specifically. They make the claim that violence that defines the line of pornography does not need to imply harm (p.287). However, the argument they claim that it is necessary to question the types of sexual appetite that incorporate harm to ensure that it does not manifest in your life in other ways.
4.The author feels that is is necessary to ensure that nothing is being hidden in terms of sexual appetite or exploration. The need to go through fantasies regardless of their content in order to accept them and have them become part of your sexuality. The authors stress the idea of how personal this subject is and that there is the need to know yourself and be able to deal with all desires, both conscious and subconscious in a responsible way. Conscious raising groups are necessary for us to understand sexual behavior and appetite, not to simply draw a line somewhere and see where our feelings fall.
5. One question that was very obviously left out was how these rules and terms apply to heterosexual couples.


Wendy Chapkis’ article discussed the emotional labor of sex work, a subject that is easily overlooked. When most people think of careers in this industry, rarely does the emotional strain of the worker come to mind. Chapkis focuses on this element throughout her work by citing various sources, ranging from sheriffs to researchers to sex workers themselves. I found it interesting to see the various views of different people, particularly the sheriff and the researcher. The sheriff that Chapkis uses in her article condemns the work of those in the sex industry, comparing it to a “professional breakfast eater”. The researcher had a completely different view, stating that ones sexuality must be an object that a sex worker can manipulate and transfer. These impressions alone imply the demanding emotional labor that sex work entails. For one, sex workers have to accept that some people view them as inadequate to the rest of society by not even recognizing their profession as a legit job. Secondly, sex workers need to learn how to split themselves into an object, which is a task that many in the professional world might be incapable of doing. As a sex worker, this demanding stipulation could easily take its toll on the mentality of the employee. While some people criticize sex work, you have to wonder if these same people would be capable to successfully tolerate this line of work. After reading Chapkis’ article, I know that I have a different view of sex workers due to the emotional labor that sex work entails.

Blog 10

Chapkis argues that sex work is both empowering and exploitative depending on a workers own experience and how long they have worked in this industry. I feel that this is a very round way of thinking of the issue, because it acknowledges the obvious negative effects that sex work can have on women’s bodies and psychological issues that can arise for sex work, but it also gives important emphasis to the fact that women can be very empowered by the attention that they get from men, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. It is important to look at the issue of these women needing attention from men to feel like they are worth something, because it really has the capability to take the power away from women. Suddenly these women need attention from men to feel like they are worth something and we should reinforce the idea that women are more than just beautiful objects and bodies. Chapkis view on sex work will help feminists with different opinions find a middle ground where we do not discredit women’s sexuality as a negative part of patriarchy, but instead an expression of an aspect of women’s lives and their passions.

Response to Kelly

I like the question of containing feeling and thoughts and if this is empowering or destructive. I personally think this is definitely a way of repressing women, therefore, ultimately destructive. By forcing women to be submissive by not allowing her the freedom to express herself is oppressive and by no means empowering. Chapkis also writes how consent to sex, in the sense of prostitution, can never be and that even if consent is supposedly given, that it is meaningless and just another example of containing thoughts and feelings. In this context, Chapkis defines prostitution not as work, but as slavery…and further oppression and destruction. I also particularly liked how Chapkis defined the distinction between erotic and pornographic; with erotic relative to “internal knowledge and needs” and tapping into our “deepest feelings”, while portographic was the “abuse of feelings” by using another as we would a Kleenex, and that sex is destroyed in the process of prostitution and “one’s entire emotional life is attacked.” Another question, does creating feelings also accompany containing feelings? Would there be some adverse psychological effects of lying to yourself and others regularly on a day to day basis?

As Chapkis states, people have learned to mold feelings into “objects” to be controlled and governed, instead of the natural and spontaneous aspects they were previously. Choosing to create a division between your personal life and professional life by changing who you are through altering feelings and thoughts is by no means empowering, it is emotionally taxing and exploitative. It is one thing to modify who you are for a relatively short period of time, but to make this a practice of your career, I would only fear the disadvantages of doing so would perfuse throughout your whole life and onto the ones around you in addition to becoming an irreversible change.

Blog 10: Chapkis

One of the main questions Chapkis discussed was the relationship between emotion and self and the separation of emotion and self when performing sex work, and if this separation is healthy. Pateman, as quoted in Chapkis, explains that a boundary needs to be maintained and necessary for any job that is both physically and emotionally taxing, such as prostitution. If possibly, after successfully separating emotion from self, what is the process of uniting the two aspects and having healthy relationships and emotions when you have been taught and conditioned through your work to be attached? As Chapkis states “a worker can become ‘estranged and alienated from an aspect of self’” and how is this beneficial, as the flight attendants described their detachment as being a positive one due to gaining self control.

The question of a woman ultimately selling herself when she sells something as innate as her sexuality was also questioned. Can sexuality be detached from oneself to be considered an object able to be sold and used; or as “an object that can be relinquished and made use of as the possession of a stranger?” Does anyone have the power to truly possess something as inherent as sexuality, can a women ever possibly give up herself? As Chapkis states, “sex is often understood to be the ‘most intimate’ of emotional connections and, therefore, a market for the authentic self,” and that sexuality is natural and unalienable, justifying that as much as a woman might feel she is detaching herself from her job, it is impossible and only creates internal stress and anxiety from going against her intuition and needs.

Chapkins and Sexual Morality

Chapkins view on sex as a form of work rather than an emotional experience definitely caused me to re-consider the sex work industry. Prostitution and sex work has always held a societal scrutiny as being incorrect. Though our government aligns itself with no one religion, the overall moral consensus of right and wrong has typically placed sex work in the “wrong” category. Interestingly, for sex to be generally viewed as acceptable it has to be tied with the emotional and intimate side of the action. Chapkins brings to the table an entirely new aspect, however. She distinguishes the difference between the sexuality of a person and the physical act of sex. If prostitutes are able to control the output of their emotion, as according to sex worker Annie Sprinkle, “[she] confirms that in managing her emotions through the commercial sexual exchange, she is able to create real compassion for a client for whom she otherwise would have no interest”. In this event the compassion and the emotion of sex can be controlled in order to perform for a customer. Chapkins depicts this separation as bounds for prostitution as being reasonable, “Once sex and emotion have been stripped of their presumed unique relationship to nature and the self, it no longer automatically follows that their alienation or commodification is simply and necessarily destructive.” This argument raises the question that if prostitution is sex as work as opposed to emotional attachment, does that make prostitution moral?

Response 5

I agree that sex work can be both exploitative and empowering because of the disrespecting and abusive language clients used as compliment to them. Rachel quoted, They’ll say, “Turn around bitch, I want to see your ass. I’m paying.” Just to talk to someone in away you’d never in a million years think of talking to someone in any other business or social interaction. That’s just not allowed; they get thrown out, but still to have to deal with that at all is a real drawback. That’s not something you have to contend with systematically in other jobs.” (Barton: 593) The language these women heard are not the language they would hear from everyday jobs like government jobs. Every women share the same timeline in their career as a sex worker because they are happy when they received positive experience and depress when they received disrespecting experience. It is not these sex worker that is the bad symbol or image, but the language. This is what feminism has to fight for. Fight for the elimination of disrespecting and abusive language so that sex worker can have a positive environment where the bad experiences do not outweigh the good experience. Sex work is a place where women can make money, but it is not a place to disrespect women. There is nothing wrong with making money. The language men used upon them is making them look bad and destroying their day.

Response to Coffee Drinker

I also particularly liked Barton’s discussion and appreciated her approach to her work; focusing on first person testimonies from the dancers and making observations from direct evidence instead of assumptions (like the women coffee drinker mentioned that had probably never witnessed firsthand). Barton described her goal of the article “to gain as full a picture as possible of both the benefits and challenges of working as an erotic dancer…” and I feel Barton accurately portrayed the life of a dancer and how emotional and raw it really is and the distinction and relationship between a dancers inner thoughts and outward performance.

I agree with coffee drinker in that the satisfaction felt by sex work is only temporary, as also substantiated by Barton when dividing her study into early and late careers due to the change from positive to negative positions felt after approximately 3 years in the industry. There were the initial positive feelings from the income and power of being on stage, to the stress and low self-esteem from rejection and this is where the term Möbius strip is so appropriate. I agree that it is horrible how dancers are treated and emotionally degraded by the comments and I understand how these comments wear on self esteem instead of making the dancer stronger and more resilient to similar comments in the future; as Barton substantiates, “the longer a woman danced, the more fragile her self-perception grew.” I feel one of the causes for this wearing is a psychological phenomenon where an individual is more likely to remember traumatic and unhappy experiences more so than neutral ones and thus skew the proportion of bad to good experiences creating dread and a feeling of their job only being negative.

Barton, B. 'Mobius Strip'

As well as many others in the class, I found Barton’s discussion to be the most refreshing perspective on this issue of sex work. In fact, until reading Barton’s article, I still didn’t know how I felt about the whole issue, or which side I would take. Bernadette Barton’s article helped me understand, from an honest, un-romanticized insider’s perspective, how exotic dancing affects dancer’s self-esteem and, therefore, quality of life. The correlation of dancers years of experience and attitude towards their work is no coincidence. As much as some feminists want to believe that sex work can be a great thing for women (this coming from some women who have never stepped foot into a strip club,) the conditions of sex work are unsafe and unfulfilling. And even is a dancer can feel good about themselves for receiving a positive response, comment, or tip from a client, that same dancer can certainly feel horrible about themselves after receiving horrible and demeaning responses, etc. The dancers make a living by exploiting their most intimate and vulnerable aspect of themselves; no wonder they take clients’ responses personally. Hearing those awful stories made me so angry toward the male clientele that treat the women disrespectfully. And the fact that the dancers have to accept that treatment and go on the dance is a tragedy. Unless the girls want to leave the club with no money to pay for food or rent, the show (and the mistreatment, to say the least) must go on. Barton’s discussion just confirmed to me that the satisfaction or “empowerment” female sex workers receive from their work is only temporary and will not sustain a fulfilling career.

Chapkis and labor

Wendy Chapkis had some interesting takes on sex work, specifically as in the world of labor. I think her perspectives, while only one view of the issue, are definitely important to consider while perceiving the issue in its entirety. She cited several examples of different women and their experiences, in contrast and agreement with different arguments made. The chapter discussed the emotional labor of sex work, and made many definitions that ultimately wrought the effects of sex work on all women - the commodity of female emotion. At the same time, she cited Arlie Hochschild extensively, in her work of the concept of self. She denotes feeling as a commodified object. Hochschilds argument is not black and white, that sex work is detrimental to self and emotion. The explanation, as it should be, is far more complex. Emotion and feeling have been deconstructed within this chapter, and so is the effect that sex work has on identity. The containment of feeling, though, is that necessarily empowering or destructive? I think it definitely important to make the connection, first of all, that there are incredibly diverse experiences. But even more importantly, there is a broader issue of work at hand. The most interesting point of discussion within the chapter, I thought, was the relation of alienation to all work. Chapkis noted Marx's argument that all workers are alienated under a capitalist system. I don't think this belittles the sex work industry, but that it actually captures the entire system that women face in controlling their own bodies both as human vessels and as working vessels.

Barton and Sex Work

Barton proposes the idea that sex work can be both exploitative and empowering at different times in a dancer’s career. In Barton’s study, she examines the perspectives of feminists involved in “sex work” and other radical feminists. She uses these different perspectives to show that both can be right depending on the time in the dancer’s career. In her interviews she describes detailed characteristics such as age, sexual orientation, educational background, and length of time working in the “sex” industry. By doing this, Barton was able to prove that, regardless of these factors, the pattern of their timelines were basically the same. Although many women reported that they were happy with their work, as time went on, many found the work to be emotionally draining. A common theme that Barton found was that most women reported that no matter the number, the bad experiences held much stronger weight on their satisfaction than did the positive experiences. As time passed, the job began to weigh down on the dancers’ self-esteem and self worth. Women began to no longer find it empowering and it was solely satisfying them financially. This proposal was a helpful way to go about thinking about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it. By including multiple perspectives, Barton effectively explored this issue and truly made me reexamine it. In my opinion, dancing falls on a spectrum. Some may report satisfaction. However, in the end, it takes a huge toll on the dancer’s self-image and self-worth.

April 27, 2009

Barton Rocks

When reading the articles the one I believed had the best proposal was the Barton article. I liked the way that she took the good parts of both the articles to come up with a good way to view the sex wars debates. Barton’s proposal was extremely helpful in the ways that anyone can view sex work no matter what one’s personal feelings are about sex work. I think that article has a lot of worth simply because she went out and talked to dancers who ranged in education levels, ages and economic situations. The articles really gives you a chance to see why varies kinds of people decide to partake in the sex industry. I think that feminists can be so busy with their own feelings and agendas with the sex industry they forget about the actual women who have to do the work and how they think and feel about the industry. The articles brings up a good way of how feminists should address the sex industry simply as something that one can be happy with then have a slow decline of the enjoyment out of the work that they are doing. Then women feel kind of trapped into the lifestyle that does not make them feel the empowerment or the happiness as it once did. I do not know if there is one effective plan of action when it comes to sex work. In a perfect world women would be able to do it just for their own happiness something that continuously empowers them. Sex work would not be a way to afford college or to support your family because you do not have the education level to make the same amount of money. I think that if feminists began to see sex workers more as individuals with various reasons for joining the sex industry rather than a side of the debate it would lead to more effective discussions about sex work.


I liked Barton’s article, on the complexity of sex work/dancing. Barton did a good job of explaining the different stances radical feminists have compared to those of sex radical feminists on the issue of sex work/dancing. Sex work is a very complicated arena to discuss because it is a private issue that has become political. There are no clear standards or rules for sex work which further complicates the issue. Barton sums the sex war battle up best when she says, “With the sexual and the sexiest as “closely intertwined” as they are in our culture, it is difficult to assess what is truly freeing and what is subtly undermining of women’s long-term health and happiness” (pp 600). I believe that sex work should be a private choice that does not enter the political realm of feminism; unless minors are involved or a woman’s choice to partake in sex work is no longer her own choice because she is enslaved by a pimp. Barton’s article did not make me think any differently about sex work/dancers except for she depicted dances as drunks and alcoholics. She mentioned more than once that dancers were “heady with alcohol and drugs” (pp 595 & 598). Which I know is not true for many dancers.

Barton Analysis

I really enjoyed Barton’s study on sex workers. Almost calling for a middle ground, Barton compared the opinions of sex radical feminists and radical feminists, arguing that both were right in different periods of time during a dancer’s career. She categorized the dancers by age, sexual orientation, level of education, and length of time spent dancing. Her finding that women usually enjoyed working under the three-year mark, and then after a substantial time period in the industry, became less satisfied with their work. During the first three years, she found that many women found it empowering as well as monetarily satisfying to dance. After about three years, the job began to weigh down on them emotionally. Instead of developing a thick skin, many dancers self-esteem became tied to how much money they were able to pull in. This study changed my opinion on sex workers, in this case, exotic dancers. Dancing in my opinion is a matter of extremes. There are stark highs and lows in the job, from making $500 for a simple conversation to being called a dirty slut. In examining the role that dancing played in determining the women’s self image over a period of time, Barton showed a more effective way to examine sex workers against different feminists ways of thought.

April 26, 2009

BARTON proposal

I am going to discuss Barton's proposal on the sex wars. Barton looked at sex work on a timeline view which was very interesting to read about. I think that it was a very helpful way to think about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it because her work mostly showed a decline in happiness with one's work as time went on in a sex worker's life. I think it's worth noting too that she defines very explicitly who she interviewed and their ages, sexual orientation, and length of time working in their area. It didn't matter how old/young the women were, their patterns stayed the same besides maybe one woman: the longer they continued working in the sexual 'field' the more unhappy they became. The main fact that stood out to me the most is that in all of the stories that the various woment told, the one bad comment could outweigh all of the good comments. Barton says, "In the first month, the novice dancer is still aglow with the compliments and the money. Maybe she’s had only two or three negative experiences. After six months, she may still enjoy the attention and the income, but now she may recall more than a dozen unpleasant events" (pg. 596). So these dozen unpleasant experiences drastically outweight the assumedly many pleasant experiences of a dancer. Also, as one of the dancers says, "To dance the least and make the most, I think that's the goal" (pg. 596). If this is the case, if all of these negative experiences lead to dissatisfaction despite other positive ones, and if less dancing is desirable to the workers, then I feel that this says something about sex work. Obviously it's not beneficial for women, it causes them to critique themselves all the time; it is a quick fix both ways around, for men it's obviously just something temporary, they don't develop a relationship with these women outside of the places they work. For the women, too, in the beginning it's a power trip until they realize that they are being used. This article definitely made me see this issue differently; it made me realize that this sort of thing happens to women even when we cannot hear it. When a woman dances inside of glass box where she is oblivious to the comments and thoughts of the men watching her, this sort of degrading thinking is still going on. The same with magazines; it's fine to be an empowering, sexual woman in your life, but there you have CONTROL over who gets to view your body in such a way, not just any paying customer.

April 24, 2009

Feminism Peer Review Groups + Group Presentation Meetings

Here are 2 other things I mentioned in class on Tuesday:

1. You will have about 20 minutes at the end of class to meet with your groups (presentation groups) to discuss your feminist reflection papers. In preparation for this meeting, type up one of the key examples that you plan to use to explain your definition of feminism. Make sure to list what reading/s you will use to explain this and how you will use the reading/s.

2. If you are presenting next week (5.5), you and your group must meet with me and/or Rebecca to discuss what you plan to do for your presentation. At that time, I will give you a specific schedule with your presentation time.

Change in next week's readings (as announced in class)

As I mentioned in class on Tuesday night, the readings for next week have changed slightly. I added a reading (to WebCT) by Astrid Henry and took out the reading (course packet) by Jenness.

So, for next Tuesday (4.28), read:
1. Chapkis (course packet)
2. Barton (WebCT)
3. Henry (WebCT)

We will begin class next week by watching an extended clip from Live Nude Girls Unite. If you do not wish to watch the film (due to its explicit content), you can do an alternative assignment. For this assignment, read the Jenness (from Making it Work) article in the course packet and write a 1 page discussion of COYOTE. If you choose this option, you can come to class at 7:20.

Blog 10: April 27

By framing their debate over sex and sex work in terms of sex as good or bad, as exploitative or empowering, or as a matter of choice, feminists have found it difficult to develop meaningful analyses of how sex/sex work functions within the patriarchy. Their theories on sex have frequently pitted feminists against each other and failed to give any attention to the concrete experiences of actual sex workers. The readings for this week address these concerns and all argue, in different ways, for the reframing of debates over and analyses of sex work. Chapkis argues for thinking about sex work as a form of work and focusing on the working conditions/experiences of actual sex workers. Henry suggests that we develop a feminism that brings the different perspectives on sex and the different generations of feminists together to forge more vital and productive coalitions. Barton offers up the idea of the mobius strip transformations as a way to think about how sex work can be both exploitative and empowering at different times in a dancer’s career.

Questions: Discuss one of the author’s proposals. Is the proposal a helpful way for thinking about the question of sex work and how feminists should address it? Did it make you think about the issue differently? Could it lead to more effective strategies/plans of action for feminists as they engage in contentious discussions about sex work?

April 23, 2009

Panel & Discussion: How to Prevent Sexual Assault on Campus?

The Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: Wiley Hall, Room 20

Panel and discussion about what this community can do to support survivors while engaging in ways to change the climate on campus that supports sexual assault.

Panel will consist of representatives from The Aurora Center, Women's Center, MINCAVA, GLBTA office, Transgender Commission, and the Men's Leadership Group

April 22, 2009

Speaker Tomorrow


Ntozake Shange, the author of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is not Enuf" is speaking tomorrow (Thursday) at the U. More details in the link.

Group One's Rubin Discussion

1. Sex, to Rubin, is a historical construction and "social product," fashioned based on societal norms of good and bad, pervert and normal. It's always political.
2. Sex is an issue for women because oppressor/oppressee relationships exist, and women are often victimized by them. It's an issue for feminists, though, because this relationship is often juxtaposed onto non-hegemonic sexual relationships where they don't exist, marginalizing those who do not conform to the dominant notions of "normal" sexual agents and impeding sexual choice.
3. Rubin seems to place pornography on a spectrum, with only the "most disgusting" being used as examples in anti-porn rhetoric. She does not differentiate the pornographic from the erotic; both can be good or bad.
4. Feminism should be careful not to be staunchly anti-porn. It's not helpful. Instead, we should learn to discern oppression from non-mainstream sex acts.
5. What does non-oppressive pornography look like? Who consumes it? Is there such a thing as feminist pornography?

Case Study of Minneapolis anti-porn ordinance

Check out this link for more background on the Dworkin's/MacKinnon's anti porn ordinance in Minneapolis. You can download the case file and an appendix that breaks down how the different council members voted.

Radical Feminism in Political Action: The Minneapolis Pornography Ordinance"
Emily Warren, MPP Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs:

In the city of Minneapolis, in the early 1980s, a series of events occurred that would throw this progressive city into the national spotlight. The mayor of Minneapolis, Don Fraser, had to decide whether or not to veto a proposed ordinance that contained a novel approach to the problem of pornography. Frustrated by the increasing number of adult entertainment businesses in Minneapolis, local feminists and community activists decided to fight back. Members of the community felt that the increased visibility of pornography in Minneapolis was a threat to women and caused neighborhood devaluation and decay. They enlisted the help of radical feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who were living in Minneapolis while teaching at the University of Minnesota. MacKinnon and Dworkin wrote a controversial ordinance for the city that defined pornography as sex discrimination in violation of a woman's civil rights. The ordinance included a broad new definition of pornography that some thought impinged upon the constitutional right to free expression. This case study looks at the contents of the ordinance, and the events in Minneapolis that led to the ordinance's creation. It also examines the relationship between First Amendment rights and the rights of women to be safe from sexual violence.

Group 2's answers

We felt that Andrea Dworkin defined sex only in terms of power, and because of this pornography is the sexualization of the inequalities between men and women. Dworkin sees porn as the sale of women and for her women are perpetually sold and sold out within our society. She sees totally liberation as possible only through lesbian seperatism -- a complete break from the patriarchal and regulated oppressions of the state and the family. Questions our group raised when discussing this reading were:
What was the sex industry like in the 1970s?
Wat happened to Dworkin to make her feel the way she does? Does it matter?

Small Group Discussion from 4/21/09

Breanne Durenberger, Jenna Belden, Rachel Margulis, Jessica Lynch

According to Lorde:

What is sex? Sex is mostly divided between the erotic and the pornographic. The erotic is considered sex involving feeling, emotion, connection, exploration, and a psychological aspect. The pornographic is considered sex lacking feeling (sensation without feeling), involving power and information, and missing the search and involving instant gratification.

Why is sex an issue for women? Sex is an issue for women because within Western history, sex is used to devalue, problematize, and vilify women.

How does Lorde think we should address this issue? Women need to explore and experience the eroticness of life. Women are only allowed to have pornographic sex, but we need to encourage women to have and be fulfilled by erotic sex.

What questions does this raise for you? Should porn be completely banned? What about feminist/queer friendly porn?

April 21, 2009

blog 9

Where to even begin with this heavy material? I find myself split. As I read people's responses and my own response that I was planning on submitting, I feel unable to commit to a stance. While I agree with some that pornography is harmful to women, I also see how in the feminist view it is all about a woman's choice to do with her body as she chooses. My central definition of feminism has worked until this week that feminism is about the freedom for a woman to make her own choices. If this is to be my definition, then it would be evident that a feminism would back up pornographic situations because it is a choice. However, it is degrading women. So how can I back up a choice that in effect harms women. I'm not talking about directly the one woman that chooses to subject herself to the pornographic situation, I'm talking about the women that are asked to be like them. The ones that their husbands plead and beg for them to dress as a naughty nurse or dirty devil. These women are subjugated to a man's fantasy because they don't want to not live up to expectations. I've been reading through everyone's responses and the weekly readings and every new idea just adds confusion. I'd like to be able to quote different phrases, yet there are so many that I simply say to read below. I'd say that the major quotes people discussed are the same quotes that I found to be intriguing that continuously changed my ideas. Clearly this is why it is a highly debated topic if in simply one head it is being debated soo heavily. :)

Response to Jessica F. and shak0024

I particularly like Jessica F’s statement regarding erotic ideas not necessarily being pornographic and vice versa. I’ll admit that I was a member of society that couldn’t find the distinction between pornographic and erotic and therefore lumped everything together. I felt Dworkin/MacKinnon definition on page 279 adequately separated pornographic from erotic and articulated that there are explicit distinctions.
Although Dworkin clearly makes a distinction between pornography and sex, the distinctions aren’t clear enough to politically ban pornography, in my opinion. In response to shak0024, I can see how pornography could be argued for, due to personal opinion and classification, despite subordination of women. Pornographers would always be testing the limits in defining exactly how much subordination is still legal. Likewise, with many illegal activities, people still take part in despite the unlawfulness; banning pornography might not solve the subordination of women as much as find loop holes and underground methods to continue an industry.
I also loved how shak0024 reminded us of the feminist ideal of choice and not limiting other’s sexual desires and tastes. I am conflicted in this respect but I still believe any activity infringing on another’s freedom or causing any type of pain should not be allowed (this also extends to groups of people and representatives). Therefore I do feel pornography, apart from eroticism, does harm to women and should be illegal, regardless if this is another individual’s idea of eroticism and therefore some choices should be limited.


I appreciate Dworkin’s outrage about pornography and believe her arguments are powerful and well founded—that said, I think her assessment of, and subsequent solution to the ‘oppression’ of pornography is too narrow. She does not adequately differentiate between porn and the erotic, nor does she acknowledge their connection.
In an emotional passage, Dworkin states: “As words alone, or words and pictures, moving or still, it [pornography] creates systematic harm to women…It creates harm inevitably by its nature because of what it is and what it does” (27).
Pornography, as 'entertainment' if you will, is bound up in multiple social issues; it is one representation of the very very complicated social and psychological relationship humans have with sexuality. If we accept Dworkin’s assumption, that porn has no positive utility, what message is that sending? Would it be received as an assertion of women’s empowerment? or yet another stifling attack on our erotic nature? Will an all-out condemnation of porn add another layer of disgrace to our battered and beleaguered sexuality—a continuation of centuries of shame?
Pornography is not exclusively an issue of gender, or of women’s rights, though both are fundamental components—it truly is a manifestation of elements of human sexuality; granted, some of those elements are cause for SERIOUS outrage, but analyzing this issue from only one lens will not enlighten us to the complexity of the problem, and thus will not bring us to the most comprehensive and progressive course of action.

Blog 9

After reading through the articles, I do believe that there is a difference between pornographic and erotic. As Andrea Dworkin points out in her writing, “pornography is a discrete, identifiable system of sexual exploitation that hurts women as a class by creating inequality and abuse” (CP 278). I find this statement to accurately portray the majority of pornographic media, including videos and magazines. Erotic, on the other hand, should be viewed as the opposite of pornography despite the confusion that the two terms have a tendency to create. As Audre Lorde explains, the source of power and information from erotic has become a type of confused, psychotic sensation that is used against women (CP 294). Regardless of this misunderstanding, erotic should not be used in place of the term pornographic. Pornography is seen as “the power men have over women turned into sexual acts men do to women” whereas erotic should be depicted as the “physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us” (CP 278, 294).
Feminists need to understand the differences between two terms that have so badly overlapped, resulting in a world of confusion. Pornographic is opposing the views of feminism by allowing men and women to stay on unequal ground. Although it is difficult to acknowledge such a power, particularly in our society, erotic has the potential to “give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world” (CP 296).

Blog 9

Society has a tendency to place the pornographic and erotic ideas and materials into the same category. While we often combine the two, I feel that there is a difference. The production of pornography doesn’t always align with that which is considered erotic to someone and an erotic idea might not be transferable to porn. As Andrea Dworkin discusses, pornography is a commodity that continually places women in a subordinate role and leads to the mindset that, “there is no longer any right to self-determination, because there is no basis in equality for any such rights to exist,” (31). If using Dworkin’s discussion of pornography and its implications of females, porn isn’t acceptable and feminists need to change the dynamic and production to remove women from this perpetual cycle of objectification and violence. When bringing in erotic, Audre Lorde defines its presence as one that is, “deeply female and […] firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling,” (569). The comparison of the two ideas results in a huge gap from erotic to pornographic. Erotic is placed firmly in the female spectrum and is firmly entrenched in our feelings and reactions where pornography is negatively impacting women and leads us to a painful silence. Feminists need to look closer at the distinctions between the two and see how the definitions can relate and overlap and at the places where the two terms don’t connect at all. By doing this analysis of the terms a further understanding of society’s views of the terms arises. By evaluating why society places the terms together we can better understand how to get our message across and deal with the politics of sex. The politics of sex influence our lives greatly and by using a comparison of how our definitions are different from general society’s, the debate and change of the politics of sex can be influenced in our favor.

Blog 9

Andrea Dworkin defines pornography in "Against the Male Flood" as "a broader, more comprehensive act, because it crushes a whole class of people through violence and subjugation." Before defining it as thus, she explained the history of obscenity in law. Obscenity has historically been determined by male arousal; male judges and law makers decided that if something caused erection, it had to be obscene. Pornography is more than just arousal, it is a source of sexual exploitation of women, the "male dominance that sexualizes hierarchy, objectification, submission, and violance." Pornography, as defined by Dworkin, undermines the principles of feminism. Dworkin implies that the erotic is the sexual aspect of pornography without the dominance. So the difference is that pornography belittles women, while the erotic is expression of sharing sexual pleasure. For feminists to link a politics of sex with pornography is good for the movement because it upholds the rights of women, however it is difficult to educate the general public on the difference between the erotic and pornography. Definitely, the erotic does not pose a threat, but pornography does. While it is a good move to make the politics of sex part of their agenda, it would be difficult to make a distinction of what it appropriate and what is not appropriate.

April 20, 2009

Differences? Maybe, maybe not

First I think that people do not usually separate the erotic and pornography they tend to see it as one thing. I think that when you do separate the two, erotica become the more sensual, feminism positive pornography that gives women the chance to explore their sexuality. But when people think about pornography it is hush, hush, dirty, harmful more negative aspects the obscenity of pornography. If you actually think about it and have information then there is a difference between the two, but without the knowledge people do not separate the two things. In the Thinking Sex article Rubin does an excellent job of making sex about the individual person, what they want and need from their own sexuality. Not some huge political issue where there are sides but sex is about the person and how they want to express themselves. I think that feminists trying to link politics of sex with pornography brings up a lot of controversy between the feminists who or for pornography and the ones that are against it. Trying to make pornography political does in some ways make sense. In Dworkin’s article overall she discusses the negative aspects of pornography and how woman get used and treated badly just for men to profit in the end not necessarily the women who are involved with pornography. By making it a more political issues Dworkin’s article makes you understand and emotionally feel for people that do pornography and want to do something about it. But on the other hand if pornography is used for more artistic expression using erotica then you don’t fall into the negative category of pornography and do not want to get into the politics of it all. But then which “side” do people go for? How do you know the differences and when can people get involved or stay out of it? It turns into a very complicated issue.

pornographic and erotic, defined?

After going through the readings, I understood erotic and pornographic to be very different, but influenced by one another. As Audre Lorde pointed out, erotic is rooted in passion, that it functions "in the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person." (572) Her explanation as to why this is empowering, in that it creates a standard for your own lived experiences, definitely connects with the politics of sex as discussed in feminist issues. Being conscious of human erotic connection is not on the same plane as pornography, however.
I thought Andrea Dworkin's piece was particularly powerful. While i set out reading it pretty critically, her section specific to pornography was really, really moving. By reading this section, i felt, rather than just understood as i previously have, that the pornography industry institutionalizes and normalizes sadistic treatment of women. She explained, of pornography, "It sexualizes inequality and in doing so creates discrimination as a sex-based practice." (26) Whereas erotic interaction might be a pivot of empowerment, pornography actually creates a realm of deterioration around human passion. And its clearly not this sect of media that is only consumed by those few people that make the choice. There are more X-rated bookstores in the United States than there are McDonalds. Furthermore, the influence of pornography is saturated in popular media, not secluded to specific moments in people's lives. Through our readings, I could believe that there is indeed a line between conscious-raising of erotic connection and the violent influence porn industry. Although, where does that line occur?

Response #4

"Women are harmed by pornography. Does that mean we should ban it all?" I agree that women are harm by pornography because Andra Dworkin emphasize speech as a separate subtopic to show us that women does not have control of what it is said and written about them in the graphics. This is why society misinterpreted women's "scream" vs. men's scream. She pointed out that "Screaming is a man's way of leaving a trace" which is never misunderstood as a scream of pleasure vs. women defined as "the sound of her female will and her female pleasure." Such term she used to describe the men's scream is "resistance" which show that "screaming" is not a tool that benefit women, but law such as the civil rights law that she talked about at the end of the chapter. Women's resistance is in the law. This is why when women are in situation like rape or violent they are usually silence after that phenomena where they struggle to speak as being open mind again, "The pornographers actually use our bodies as their language. Our bodies are the building blocks of their sentences." (Pg.33)

Parallels of Content

While looking over the blog, trying to think about different avenues that I could go to discuss this reading a highlight from a dateline story came across the television. This dateline article was focusing upon media influences on adolescents and adults. As the story progressed about some horrible circumstances of people imitating media influences like Jackass and Grand Theft Auto, I was thinking "well, what is the difference between this media relationship of violence and destruction and the pornography debate?"

I am not justifying by any means what, predominately, men do and treat women like (i.e. rape and sexual abuse), however I would like to make some parallels to a political argument that gets a bit more air-time. Adolescent's and adults are undeniably affected by violence whether they are desensitized to it, or try to imitate it, and this is no difference from the pornography debate. Violent video games have a mature rating just like pornography does, but does that stop adolescents from viewing it, hell no! The same problems that cause politics to get involved with the violent media scandal should be enough for them it get involved with the pornography issues. Adolescents and adults may see pornography as being "real", just like seeing Grand Theft Auto as "real", this desensitizes them to it and might cause them to imitate it just as much as pornography does to the way men treat women.

So the question is should adolescents be the only ones not able to play the violent video games or watch the pornography, or is it affecting society enough so that it should be banned totally. I don't care how much it might make someone money if it is degrading our society, it is wrong. To me these parallels make complete sense. What do you think?

Response to Shak0024

I think that Andrea Dworkin makes it quite clear what she defines as pornography. I think she sees the erotic as a wide range of possible sexual expression but she takes issue with the portion of this expression that fits the examples she gives on page 26 of "Against the Male Flood." On page 29 she gives the definition she used when writing the Minneapolis ordinance "graphic, sexually explicit subordination of women..." I think pornography can be banned under the guidelines of choice for the same reason that child pornography or hate speech is banned. The argument about choice has always pivoted on the harm of another individual -- choice groups arguing that the woman is harmed, pro-life groups that the embryo/fetus is harmed. In the case of pornography vs. erotic, who benefits from pornography. It is not the woman. Therefore, doesn't the woman's harm have to be regulated over the free choice of the pornographer or pornography viewer? She says "One reason that stopping pornographers and pornography is not censorship is that pornographers are more like the police in police states than they are like the writers in police states. They are the instruments of terror, not its victims [...] What pornographers do to women is more like what police do to political prisoners than it is like anything else: except for the fact that it is watched with so much pleasure by so many." (28-29). This is a radical argument and there are certain stances that can be taken against it, but as with much of radical feminist theory there is a great deal of truth in it, just truth that the world doesn't really want to admit. Women are harmed by pornography. Does that we should ban it all? Dworkin believes so. I don't know. But we should at least admit that it is not innocent in its treatment and its effect on women. Just because something brings a person errotic pleasure does not mean that it is inherently good.

Pronography vs. Erotic - Is there a line?

Andrea Dworkin states that pornography can be distinguished by the “insult it offers, invariable to sex and the human spirit” (CP pg. 277). She never specifically uses the term erotic to describe what society should allow and accept. Rather, she goes into a discussion of obscenity -- her take on a far more positive end of the scale, in light of pornography. She talks of the subordination that is seen in pornography as the main difference between the two. Also, it is her fervent belief that the removal of such images of subordination of women in a sexual nature that will help pave the way for women to be respected in all aspects of life.

Gayle Rubin, on the other hand, takes a vastly different view of pornography and the erotic. Again, no where does she specifically state her view or definition of either one, rather she simply states that sexual tastes are different among all people and no one person can be asked not to follow his/her sexual desires as long as it is consensual.

As an outside viewer looking in, it is interesting to see the view that Dworkin has in comparison to the view of Rubin. It seems as though Dworkin’s definition is far more close-minded and traditionalist. Rubin really steps out of the box in her discussion by including topics like adult-incest, but this shows the wide range of acceptance of all sexuality, ones that put all different dynamics of power in relationships and aspects of sexual appetite. But should there be a line. Feminists disagree on this topic, but can it be asked that people curb their sexual appetite in order to keep the delicate balance of power between men and women that women are fighting to achieve? Will the continual objectification and subordination of women in pornography set back all that has been fought for and achieved? Can feminists let that happen? Lastly, given the ever popular feminist idea of choice can feminists really attempt to control the sexual desires of others?

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Events

Monday & Tuesday April 20 & 21: The Clothesline Project will be open to be viewed in the Great Hall of Coffman Union, Monday 10-2:00 and 4:30 through the time of the interACTS performance outlined below and on Tuesday April 21, from 10-4:00 PM.
The project bears witness to the prevalence of violence with a collection of t-shirts, made by survivors and other concerned people, expressing their thoughts and emotions about the violence they have endured or encountered. Visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper, moved by the power of the AIDS quilt created the project which encourages a woman to tell her story by creating a shirt that once finished she would then hang on the clothesline. This very action is an educational tool for those who come to view the Clothesline and becomes a healing tool for anyone who makes a shirt. Many of the shirts have been created by survivors who are or were students at this University.

Monday April 20, 7:00 PM, Great Hall of Coffman Union: interACTS Performance
A student performance group from the University of California, Long Beach will present an interactive presentation based on real life experiences with audience involvement in solutions and intervention. They come from 8 years of experience doing this work with rave reviews. During interACT performances, audience members literally join the actors on stage and attempt to prevent sexual assault and comfort survivors of domestic abuse. Hence, this program allows audience members to have a safe space to rehearse assertive communication strategies

April 17, 2009

Week 9: April 20

Several of the readings for this week aim to distinguish between the erotic and the pornographic. Using specific passages/ideas from the readings, answer some of the following questions: Are there differences between the pornographic and the erotic? If so, what are they? What is at stake for feminists in attempting to link a politics of sex with the erotic or the pornographic?

April 14, 2009

Response #8

I agree Duggan’s primary thesis that the “marriage debate” needs to be reframed. For example, marriage is the symbolic and legal anchor for households and kinship networks. Duggan noted that there are a lot of divorce and many people tended to be single nowadays. (Duggan, 234) Many marriage are unstable. Society has specialize in recognition of heterosexual marriage, which it should be possilbe that society should extend its lense to recognize same sex marriage. Over and over again what we heard in the reading is discrimation towards same sex marriage such as Proposition 2 "prohibits state and local governmental entities from conferring benefits on their employees on the basis of a 'domestic partnership." There are some who people who is in support for same sex marriage, but there are homophobia. That is a lack of educating the community. How can the community and same sex marriage people live together? I think marriage is a simple ritual of change, but it has been made to a business of differences.

Blog 8:

I previously had overlooked and unintentionally excluded the idea of kinship when thinking about same-sex marriage. I didn’t consider domestic partnership, cohabitation, or other unmarried relationships when considering same sex marriage either, when in all reality…as Duggan writes, “household diversity is a fact of American life…” the diversity and different household relationships are numerous, and all of equal value and legitimacy. Duggan attributes this diversity to “not [only] ‘cultural’ revolutions of feminism and gay liberation but in long-term changes in aging, housing, childcare, and labor.” (p.229) People and their thoughts/beliefs are changing constantly with society, so why shouldn’t our laws be as well? Sticking to past ideologies solely because that was accepted decades ago is crippling.

Butler also talks about how kinship creates family diversity by producing families that “do not conform to the nuclear family model and draw on biological and nonbiological relations.” I was unfamiliar with the argument that marriage should be strictly limited to “reproductive relations” (p.233) and in my opinion, this argument is very illogical. Although in many non-human animals, the innate need to reproduce guides most behaviors and relationships, I feel human relationships are not made and governed around the sole need to reproduce and therefore, marriage (personally defined as the commitment of two people to each other) should not be based and defended as only viable if able to reproduce.

I feel the definition of marriage, and those who qualify, are questions all people should be asking of themselves and this issue is also feminist because of the fundamental purpose of equal rights and opportunities to everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. In regards to religion, I found the notion of the debate over same-sex marriage being “the way the church and state vie for authority over our intimate lives,” contradictory in the sense that I believe no outside force should be involved, or have an opinion/authority, over private and personal matters such as kinship, marriage, and the relationship between people.

Blog 8

The stark differences between the ideas on marriage, both hetero and homosexual are astonishing in wide range of arguments and in their overall feelings of the society that exists today. For example, the article written by Catharine Stimpson from The Nation points out a very interesting perspective that had never really occurred to me. Her overall argument is the idea that gaining the right for homosexuals to marry is simply attempting to conform to societies feelings of right and wrong. What she points out though, is that not all homosexuals feel that way. Ellen Willis also brings up this idea when she states that the allowance of same sex marriage “redresses an inequality between gays and straights, it reinforces inequality between married and unmarried people” This leads me to realize that there is so much in the way of relationships that marriage excludes. In order for conditions that allow “Brave new families” to prosper, there needs to be a breakdown of what society feels about marriage and relationships in general. Other authors disagree with Stimpson and Willis, saying that through marriage, a couple is granted far more in the way of rights than those who are domestic partners alone. Alisa Solomon states that the gay rights movement focused on only one facet of the requested rights, and from there can it be expanded to cover other agendas. It seems as though the overall goal for all three of these authors is the same, it is that regardless of sexual orientation, or the dynamics of the sexual family that is desired, there needs to be a breakdown of the view of the nuclear family in society. Homosexuals should not have to look for acceptance or legitimization on the government’s terms argues Judith Butler, no one should. The nuclear family is so engrained in patriarchy, as well as, if not stemming from, religion, that it will take a lot to break it down, although all of these discussed authors agree that it needs to be dismantled.

Blog #8

I really liked Duggan’s primary thesis that the “marriage debate” needs to be reframed. While I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a surprising idea, I found her way of phrasing the issue to be new and coherent. As Duggan notes, the campaign against gay marriage has touted the idea of marriage as “sacred”, as something that is under attack, that needs to be preserved, etc… This position is one that unites many Americans, because marriage is being presented as a longstanding institution that is “under threat”. In other words, support for the campaign against same-sex marriage may not necessarily be because of homophobic fears, as might be presumed, but due to insecurity and fears of an unstable future. It seems that it might be better to reframe the other side of the debate as a proponent for “household diversity (231)”, a broad vision that includes but is not limited to same-sex marriage. And I don’t think this idea is necessarily to weaken or “water down” the issue, but to include other pertinent issues as well. For instance, Duggan names a few in her article, including Social Security preservation and reform and universal healthcare that would benefit all non-conventional families. The cohabitation of elderly women, single parents and young adults all fall into this category.

I think Judith Butler’s main point is rather more esoteric and abstract, in that she argues a fierce critical analysis of how the state legitimizes and illegitimatizes certain forms of sexuality. As Butler notes “The state becomes the means by which a fantasy becomes realized” (241), i.e. the way in which our sexuality and desire become justified to the public. Butler makes more of an effort to challenge marriage as the only means to receive this recognition, especially for same-sex couples; in fact, she goes on to say that “marriage …[as] the only way to sanction or legitimize sexuality is unacceptably conservative” (240). One of the best points that she makes, I believe, is when she talks about how marriage is the means by which the state sanctifies certain types of sexuality and relieves it of its guilt and shame. And this guilt and shame is then projected upon those who “have not or will not enter this hallowed domain” (242).

I most definitely believe this a feminist issue, but more importantly I believe it to be a personal issue. Whether same-sex couples wish to be recognized by the state within our current marriage arrangement is certainly their own decision, but the option should exist. Whether or not our current marriage framework should be reworked is more of a debate for feminism, especially as a norm in which health care and other entitlements are organized.

Yes it is!

An argument that surprised me what in the Duggan article “We believe that by engaging the marriage debate only in terms of "gay rights," both the gay movement and the Democratic Party have put themselves in a compromised and losing position.” I always thought that the fights for gay rights were about changing the minds of people kind of about making them see the error of their ways. It surprises me that she is basically saying that unless people change their argument they have lost because every day, bit by bit homosexuals are getting the rights to marry in different states. I don’t think that changing the argument from anything else to gay rights make things easier. I feel that this is 100% a feminist issue. Not just because some feminists are homosexual either. To me feminism encompasses equal rights for everyone even when it comes to marriage. I do not believe that feminists think that marriage should just be allowed for one group that in the “norms” in society. In a perfect world marriage is not something the people should make a personal issue in eyes of the law. Just because a person does not believe in what you are doing with your life does mean you have the right to stop them from getting marriage and benefiting for what marriage means not only to people but in eyes of the law.

Blog 8

When reading Butler’s article, I noticed that there was much discussion over legitimate and illegitimate. I understood prior to the reading the issue of publicly acknowledging the commitment of a couple to each other with regards of the state through the means of a marriage certificate. I guess on one hand I had never looked closer into the implications of denying someone this right based on the idea that a marriage is what society uses to determine if a relationship is “legitimate”. Butler outlines our society’s thought process with, “the sexual field is circumscribed in such a way that sexuality is already through in terms of marriage and marriage is already thought as the purchase on legitimacy,” (237). The discussion continues on by delving into the state’s role on marriage and determining what relationship is genuine. By looking into the state’s desires, why it desires that, and who has the same or different desires, more questions are raised about our society and whose voice should be put forth as the right one to follow. Basically, this issue is a feminist issue because one group of people’s viewpoint is the accepted, state followed form and all other perspectives are thrown out. The process of allowing everyone excluded from this norm to realize their desires goes along strongly with what feminism is trying to achieve.

April 13, 2009

Why debate is necessary for this issue.

For how much i think and talk about the issues surrounding gay marriage in my personal life, I did discover some interesting and surprising arguments in today's readings. Ellen Willis surprised me with her vision of gay marriage rights continuing a tradition of discrimination against those who chose not to marry at all. Also Martha Fineman says that “Publicly and symbolicly, it is reconfigured into the mantle of morality.(18)” Together these two statements point out that apart from the discriminatory civil rights issue at stake over the issue of gay marriage is the idea that marriage itself is a discriminatory practice no matter who is included or excluded because the choice not to marry indicateds to society the fact that one does not live a life that is moral. If gay couples do not marry when it is legal they are chosing a lifestyle that is lacking some morality.Sharon Learner discussed Bush’s program to encourage marriages to last and encouraged unmarried heterosexuals to marry. What does it mean when the government enforces these opinions?

Judith Stacey uses the term “de facto” families which I thought was an interesting contrast to the couple. I think this is an example of many of the feminist debates we have engaged in this semester where the media and popular culture define it as a binary two-sided debate, but really there are so many factors, issues, and repercussions, that the whole issue is far more complex than can be adequately summed up in any one-sided statement.

As always, Judith Butler has something provokotive to say on the subject of gay marriage. She elevates the discussion to a new plane far above my reach, but she did have an interesting quote I want to discuss. On p. 244 of our course packet she says “If you’re not real, it can be hard to sustain yourselves over time; the sense of delegitimation can make it harder to sustain a bond, a bond that is not real anyway, a bond that does not “exist,” that never had a chance to exist, that was never meant to exist. Here is where the absence of state legitimation can emerge within the psyche as a pervasive, if not fatal, sense of self doubt.” Other authors we read for this week wondered what it was about the opportunity to marry their same sex partner that had masses flocking to the courthouse the minute the marriage liscences were made available. According to Butler, the opportunity to exist more than the fantasy of the romantic ideal of wedding is what the right to a marriage liscense means.

So among the perspectives of the authors we can come to understand that the debate over gay marriage reaches far into pranches of psychology, religion, sociology, politics, economics, and law. No one speaker can really grasp the intracacies of this issue, so it make a great case for why we need to have debate and not single-sided opinions. Just one person representing either a pro or con stance could not address all the issues at stake here.

Assisted Reproduction Conference

On Friday, April 10th, I had the opportunity to sit in on one of the panels at the 2009 Symposium of Contested Contours in Assisted Reproduction

I sat in on Kimberly Mutcherson's panel: Making Mommies: Law, Preimplantation Diagnosis and the Complication of Pre-Motherhood. The main topic of her panel was the discussion of how the law should dictate who makes babies and what types of babies people make. In other words, should the law control the way people utilize artificial reproduction methods and to what extent should the public be able to “design” their offspring? When artificial first became available, it was widely used for detecting various types of genetic disorders to avoid issues associated with normal birthing. Today, however, genetic testing has become so advanced that people are using this form of reproduction in order to create their own specialized versions of offspring. People are designing their babies to exhibit particular traits, including hair, eye, and skin color. When it was first invented, the purpose behind artificial reproduction was to allow couples to have children when they were unable of producing a normal conception/birth. Today, over a third of those who use artificial reproduction techniques are actually fertile, which suggests that some people are taking advantage of this fairly new method. Due to this trend, Ms. Mutcherson stated that she believes that it is both politically and constitutionally feasible for the government to regulate these practices, similar to the regulations of abortion. If this does indeed happen, I agree with the possibility of this type of regulation to follow in the footsteps of abortion regulation. Controversy will undoubtedly surround such a topic, especially if there is a partial or full ban on these practices. A complete ban would take it too far, especially when it is being used to prevent genetic diseases. If there is a partial ban put into place to allow parents to prevent genetic diseases, what diseases would be acceptable and to what extent would these people be “designing” their babies? All in all, this is clearly a hot topic and will remain so for quite some time.

April 9, 2009

Blog Question

The multiple authors that we read this week discuss many configurations of familial and marital relationships and many advantages and disadvantages of state recognition of these relationships. Many of the arguments for or against state recognition of relationships other than heterosexual marriage are likely familiar, but what aspect of the debates about marriage did you find new or surprising? What had not occurred to you before in thinking about whether states should recognize and confer benefits upon relationships other than heterosexual marriage? Be specific- say which author presents this new or surprising idea. Do other authors agree or disagree with this idea? Is this aspect of the debate a feminist issue? Why (or why not)?


I was thinking about our discussion on family last night.

I was thinking about our discussion on family last night. I was also kicking myself during class for not taking better notes on Cornell’s piece because I really liked the alternatives to the normative nuclear family she presented.

As we were talking about the normal family it seemed pretty clear that the idea that a community or a group of unrelated people raising a child was far fetched at best. Focusing on the way families are structured right now makes it difficult to imagine that children could thrive and grow outside of the heterosexual model. But in reality there are all sorts of family systems that exist; single parents raising children is perfectly normal, grandparents or other family members playing a major or solitary role in raising children, and older siblings taking over for parents unable to play that role in a child’s life are all common place in our society as it functions right now.

A huge part of our inability to think outside of the nuclear family is our reliance on patriarchal familial lineage and kinship ties. Relying on the father in a heterosexual relationship as the ultimate voice of authority, head of the household and sole breadwinner makes him responsible for the social world. Hence the middle class working man and the capitalist society we live in, where men (white men) have sole access to the cash commodity in exchange for their labor. Naturalizing this system within society makes it very difficult to think outside of what it means to be a family and the family values associated with them; heterosexual white middle class couples working under a capitalist system. The forces upholding them are so incredibly interconnected it seems impossible to break them apart and create space for what could be a very diverse set of family values and relationships.

Questioning cornerstone institutions like marriage and breaking down notions of kinship, as well as de-naturalizing whiteness, heterosexuality, and patriarchy are necessary in order to contemplate a new family system.

I was also thinking about children during our discussion. I don’t believe that kids should live in dangerous or unstable environments. I really don’t believe that. But I also think that children are incredibly resilient and, without touching on the nature/nurture debate, do not question or resist the environments or way in which parents and caretakers raise them. It isn’t until a child is able to realize that she is different (in a culturally stigmatized way) in comparison to other children, that she questions or resents the environment that she lives in. Though I have experienced kids behaving cruelly towards one another, with and without malicious intent, if there were more people raising children in a manner that truly mirrored their lives and needs there would be less stigma attached to alternative family systems and childhood cruelty could feasibly be eliminated.

April 7, 2009

Upcoming Events

Hey friends,

I wanted to invite anyone who’s interested and anyone who needs to fulfill
a ‘cultural event’ requirement for their classes to join me tomorrow night
at the Jewish Student Center’s Passover Seder. The Seder (which is a fancy
word for dinner and story about the plagues and the holiday) starts at 7.30
at Hillel, which is on University Ave, and should be over by 9.30.
Everybody (Jewish, not Jewish, Buddist, Catholic, Atheist…) is welcome.

Also, (not related but that’s ok) April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This is a huge deal and I would encourage you to try to stop by one of the
events going on and learn a little about it. Currently, 1 in 4 women
experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault and over 80% of these
assaults are committed by someone the woman knows. This is way too many.

This week, please consider attending:

Invisible Children Film Screening
Tonight, 7:30-9:30, Willey Hall

The Sexual Assault Awareness Open House
April 8, 11:00-2:00, 2nd floor of Coffman

Women in Hip Hop
April 8, 7:00-9:00, 324 Coffman

Breaking Free, a lecture on human trafficking
April 10, 11:00-12:00, 345 Nicholson

Thank you,

Complicating adoption

I'm sure that many of you have heard/read about Madonna's efforts to adopt a second child from Malawi.
This NYT columnist succinctly addresses some of the reasons that her adoption(s) engender such controversy. I wonder what you all think about the writer's perspective: can we call this column a feminist perspective on adoption? Or is it something else?

The Sanctity of Motherhood

Is motherhood 'sacred'?

I kept thinking about this...

At first, when Cornell criticized the sanctity of motherhood I felt affronted; I understood her stance academically, but I could not find it in me divorce motherhood from its venerated place in my mind and in my heart. I could not secularize motherhood.
And that’s when it clicked.
Look at the language we use to describe motherhood—it’s religious. (This was an exciting realization for me—Religious Studies is my jam.) Okay, so stay with me…
Religion is super complex and has all kinds of very complicated components—but, for this argument about motherhood let’s think about it this way: there are two distinct avenues through which religion affects our lives, 1) religion as an institution—as a law-giving, political body and 2) religion as a philosophical realm of consciousness. Some people like to phrase this distinction as religion vs spirituality.
Alright, so with this in mind let’s think about the word “Sacred”. When something is sacred in the institution of religion (the political body), it is a tool of law. By labeling something sacred, a religious organization can legislate it—which generally takes the form of punishment for any violations of this sanctity.
Now apply this to motherhood. Even though the body legislating the sanctity of motherhood is not an expressly religious institution, its use of religious language adds a powerful element of authority to its positions. By labeling motherhood ‘sacred’ we are enabling the powers-that-be to determine and legislate what constitutes sacrilegious acts. And it is in this process that we see the incredible discrimination and political exclusion of those who are disadvantageous to those powers.
Yikes, right?

But what about the other realm? What about spirituality? This is where I began to understand my grief at Cornell’s words. I found myself thinking, “can’t motherhood be sacred without being politically damaging to women?” Is there some way that we can honor the incredible commitment to care for and nurture a life, without this honor being accompanied by oppressive mandates?
I believe that familial love (and this can be vertical or horizontal) is a profoundly powerful force in this world. Familial love is sacred— but not in the context of religion. The sanctity is in the depth of the bond between two lives, in all their humanity, for all their darkness and their lightness. I think, in a spiritual and a physical sense, familial love has a unique power to honor the inter-connectivity of life—and that IS human nature. Motherhood has the capacity to be, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful examples of familial love manifested.
(though surely not the only example)

I am acutely aware that in my own life I will experience the full breadth of both of these definitions of ‘sacred’. I will be considered a blasphemous, sacrilegious mother, simply by virtue of who I am and who I love—but I will also feel the weight and the honor of my motherhood as deeply sacred. And that is something that no amount of legislation can take from me.

Blog 7

There have been different pressures throughout the decades keeping the traditional “family values” in society. As Fessler writes in “The Girls Who Went Away” about the great need to conform in the 1950’s after WWII and about how families and individuals were scared into conforming and were always wary and fearful of losing their status and moving down to a lower class. All of the brief stories from other women throughout Fressler’s writing talk about how they were disowned by their parents for having a child out of wedlock. Women were scared by what others would think; and I feel this was a great influence on many women’s choices and the idea of what a “good” mother is and the ideal “family values.” Fessler writes the women in her writing “felt that they have no other option.”

I feel the expense these family values have been protected at the expense of the women these strict “family values” limited. These “family values” were promoted by the mothers and fathers that worried about other’s opinions. When I picture “traditional families” though, I feel young unmarried women who get pregnant would be pressured by their parents and society to get married to form the “traditional ideal family” instead of giving the child up to adoption or being ostracized by society.


The concept of women's citizenship being dependent on their motherhood, and the ways in which this citizenship is mandated and enforced both politically and legally is complex and fascinating; that being said, I found myself thinking not about the external infliction of this patriarchal structure, but about the internal fortification of these values by mothers as individuals.
We have been taught to judge the quality of a mother by any number of criteria, two of which I believe are especially deeply ingrained because the state doesn't necessarily need to reinforce them: first, the notion that a mother should approach her ‘duties’ from a place of selflessness. I think this is particularly harmful because mothers are taught not only that they should be selfless when it comes to their families, but that this selflessness should come completely naturally—which, by negative definition, means that if a mother does not feel entirely selfless towards her family that she is being selfISH. Second, the image and expectation of a mother as an inexhaustible well of unconditional love really bothers me—as Alex M eloquently and succinctly put it: mothers are human. They are dark and twisty and yin and yang and complex in all the ways that we are all complex by virtue of our humanity. But despite this reality selflessness and bottomless unconditional love are two prevailing ‘requisites’ of a ‘good’ mother. And what really strikes me when I think about the belief in these two conditions is that even though they are rationally unattainable, there is still so much shame that accompanies their inevitable failure. I need look no further than many of the brilliant, strong, accomplished women who surrounded me growing up, and the incredible difficulty they had in motherhood trying to reconcile their personal wants and needs with this ideal of the mother they thought they should be. Shame is so powerful. So so powerful.

Response #2

Carol Austin was the woman who had to hide her own relationship to her lesbian lover in order for them to successfully complete an international adoption. This show us how difficult it is for us to live in a lifestyle like this. (Cornell: 105) I agree that society favor a heterosexual single mother or ideal family this is why there are so few group, tribe, or people out there under matriarchy. Patricarchy is common among culture and in the world. This is why a lesbian or gay lifestyle are at difficult in the process. These adoption children comes from countries just like ours of patriarchy.
Although now, women have the rights to vote and do so much if they or men involved in such a relationship of lesbain and gay then they are seen outlawed, which could we question that those that are in a relationship of lesbian and gay a second class citizen since heterosexual relationship are valued among society? Lesbain and gay are just one person just as defining what women is alone such as a mother vs. a human. (Cornell: 112)

Blog #7

In today’s society, gender identities are strictly structured around a female caretaker and a male breadwinner. The woman is the “mother” and is responsible for raising the children, taking care of the house, cooking, and having a job (as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other tasks). The woman should also possess feminine characteristics, such as tenderness and subordination. The male is the “father” and is responsible for financially supporting the family. He should possess qualities such as staidness and dominance. Society dictates that these two stereotypes should combine and produce offspring, thereby creating the “ideal” family. While this model is what society tells us to strive for, it allows several variances, to an extent. For example, society is slowly beginning to accept single-mother adoptions, yet it is still “unacceptable” for gay and lesbian couples to adopt. Cornell describes a woman who “had to hide her own relationship to her lesbian lover in order for them to successfully complete an international adoption” (105). In this example, society favors a single, ideally heterosexual parent over two homosexual parents. Overall, the typical setup of the nuclear family is protected at the expense of nontraditional families, specifically gay and lesbian couples, and, to a lesser extent, single-parent families.

Blog #7

In Patton's "Producing 'IL/Legitimate' Citizens," the topic of transracial adoption was addressed. The traditional family value that this subject deals with is that white families with both mother and father present are the best homes for children to grow up in. This family value is protected at the expense of racial adopted children. The racial children that are adopted by white families do not have all of their interests met all the time. Though the legislature that allows transracial adoption is meant to make the whole procedure "color blind," it is actually very hard to do that. At first, the young children do not feel out of place in the home because they are too young to see race as adults do. However, once they are old enough to understand that they do not belong, their racial identities become confused. So, while the legislature is meant to do a good thing by eliminating rascism, in reality it only confuses the children. The underlying theme of this legislature is that black mothers are not as good as white mothers. It has to be allowed to place children in white homes because not enough black homes are available, or not enough white children are available to adopt.

Blog 7

I think that gender identities and gender roles within families stem from the idea of this “perfect heterosexual family.” In this “ideal” family, there is a mother who is the caretaker and does the housework, the father who is the primary breadwinner, the children, and a dog. This family is often portrayed in popular media. However, what happens when you run into a family with two moms or two dads, how do these roles change? These gender roles are prescribed to the individuals based on past and outdated beliefs of what it means to be a “good” mother and a “good” father. A “good” mother makes a nice meal every night, does the laundry, cleans the house, carpools, etc. However, in a homosexual household or a single parent household, what happens when there is no mother at all? As a society, we have to accept the idea that these rigid gender identities and corresponding familial roles are no longer relevant and are completely outdated. Yes, there can be a person who primarily does the housework. However, nowadays, this person does not necessarily have to be the mother. Originally, these roles were prescribed to promote some sort of ideal of “family values.” Today, however, “family” is not such a strongly defined word and values differ within each household. If we keep promoting these values and ideals of mothers and fathers, people are going to begin to feel inadequate because they are not living up to society’s standards of a “good” mother. The whole idea of particular “family values” needs to be thrown out the door and restructured. If we keep promoting these values and ideals of mothers and fathers, people are going to begin to feel inadequate because they are not living up to society’s standards of a “good” mother.

Blog #7

I was really struck by Cornell’s assertion that in our society women are recognized only as a member of society in relation to their duties as mothers and wives, and more importantly only as the normative definitions of “mother” and “wife” that society restricts them to be. If women do not situate themselves in these defined roles, then they are not proved worthy enough to be protected by the state. What was more interesting was how this idea of motherhood played out in terms of the legalities surrounding adoptions. Because there was so much shame attached to a women wanting an adoption ( the underlying message being that the women adopting had failed as a mother), it became necessary to erase any existence and influence by the original birth mother. There became a need to “pick and choose” the real mother, as Cornell so aptly describes. And this mindset has made it very difficult, for lesbian couples in particular, to adopt because both “birth mother” and “adoptive mother” wish to be a co-caregiver in their child’s life. I would have thought it was just a question of “family values” and the need for a heterosexual upbringing, but it seems, at least according to Cornell, that there is a distinct historical influence on adoptions and the way they are conducted.

I agree with Cornell’s rebuttal of Fineman, that a “state-imposed baseline norm”, even one attempting to protect single mothers and unconventional caregivers such as the mother/child dyad, is still privileging certain caregiving over other kinds. It becomes the state’s domain to regulate what determines care. How much care do men have to give to become “Mothers”? While I believe the idea of the dyad to be a much better system than our patriarchal one, it seems that arguing a different baseline norm of caregiving is just perpetuating a standard that isn’t the right fit for everyone.

April 6, 2009

Blog 7 about Adoption and Its Progeny

All of our readings this week focus on family norms. These norms are hurtful to me, not on a theoretical level but on a personal level. Biological family is valued above any other form of bond. Think of the stories you hear of women leaving their husbands. Where do they go? They go home to their mothers. Maternal love is seen as transcendant and given all sorts of religious significance, seen as unquestioning, unconditional, and natural. Fineman's quote on p. 197 of our Coursepacket was really interesting for me because it encapsulated what we expect mothers to be. Can fathers be that? Can men who are not fathers or women who are not mothers ever stand in place of that exalted position of biological motherhood. I have come to hate the idea of motherhood. It is such a loaded term and forces women into so many unnatural and disadvantageous positions. We are taught from childhood that mothers have their children's best interests in mind. But mothers are human. Even the best of them hurt their children in countless ways. Motherhood is not sacred and is as fallible as fatherhood or any other expression of love. Until we can undo the cult of motherhood there can be no rearrangement of family values. There is a slang term among GLBT people where we ask if someone is "family" meaning are they one of us not-straight people. This corruption of the term family identifies that families can sometimes be a person's worst enemy. All the heteronormative structures in the world are designed to make us feel like if our family rejects us then we are not worthy people. I have a really hard time writing and thinking about these subjects because they are very personal to me. Family and the idea of family are used as weapons in the social battles against those who do not follow the norms. The distance between biology and love is sometimes immense. If you share love with you biological family you should feel very lucky.

Works Cited Policy

Here is the official Works cited policy. This policy applies to the Family Values/Sex Wars position papers and your revised Feminism Paper. I am also placing a link to it under the assignment section of this blog.

Blog 7

Heterosexuality is implicitly and explicitly enforced in our culture because anything outside of this norm is a threat to the patriarchal definition of womenhood: someone who exists to bear children. Throughout history, Western culture (and subsequently the legal code) has reinforced the idea that women have no identity outside of their position as a wife and a mother within a traditional heterosexual family. According to Cornell, a woman's legal identity binds her to duties within the family, more specifically child-rearing. If a women steps outside this role as a heterosexual mother committed to family, be they lesbian, unwed, or unable to provide, Cornell argues that they lose basic rights as citizens, such as the right to communicate with their child. As it is now, the law requires that mothers giving up their children for adoption surrender all access to their children. Feminists can find no state interest in forcing the birth mother to give up all rights to have contact with their child, and conclude that this particular law exists to contain women within the rigid role of a "good" mother; that is, one who is heterosexual, middle or upper class, and married.

Society particularly reinforced these strict gender identities and familial roles during the 1950s and 60s, as Fessler discusses in her essay. During this time period, the nuclear family model was especially prevalent. Many white families were rising to the middle-class and were concerned with maintaining their increased social status. Because of this, the "good" mother archetype was especially enforced among white families: ten times as many White babies were surrendered to adoption than Black babies. This implies that when unexpected pregnancies arose, especially among unwed mothers, white families opted to surrender the baby to adoption rather than raise it in their home. Fessler writes that during the Cold War, women who didn't fit into the straight, married, or middle to upper class model of mother were a threat to their family and their community, so there was much incentive to get rid of the babies that resulted from unwanted pregnancies.

This idea that only "good" mothers deserve to have children obviously disadvantages any mothers who fall outside of this mold. Homosexuals, be they gay men or lesbians, are by and large not permitted to adopt children. Lesbians have a hard time securing parenting rights for both of the women who parent the child, even if one of them is the birth mother. Women who are economically disadvantaged often have no other option than to give away their child. Women who are single, even if they are not destitute, usually do not have the means to both work and to care for a child. Because the law dictates that they cannot have contact with their child, these mothers and the children they surrendered often experience psychological trauma. Cornell's proposal of a voluntary register in which birth mothers and their surrendered children can register to maintain contact with her seems like the most logical step to remedying this injustice.

S. Bear Bergman

Most speeches about being trans are about how it is difficult and the stories accompanied by the difficulties of being trans in America. S. Bear Bergman will not give a speech about that. Rather, he talks about how and why it is great to be trans. He speaks very highly of his experience and although he knows sometimes it can be difficult, overall, trans people are the best. S. Bear Bergman continues on to discuss how all trans people know themselves. They've question themselves hundreds of times over and been asked by family and friends to question their decision over and over again. S. Bear Bergman discusses the need for society to accept and not just tolerate the differences between trans and non-trans people. It is merely a decision that shouldn't affect friendships, work, or any thing else. Furthermore, S. Bear Bergman dictates to the crowd to not want to be "just like you" or just like anyone. We are all individuals that are capable of doing whatever we want - and that includes being trans. S. Bear Bergman's speech was closely related to our readings and was a real eye opener and great experience. I would highly recommend going to a speech by him to many people.

blog 07

Our readings had plenty of concrete explanations of the societal system entrapping people into traditional families, rather than loving ones. The fundamental structure of the traditional family is of male/female roles, the division of labor and then the confining lifestyles people must lead. This then leads into the way that the traditional lifestyle outlaws homosexual families, among other divergences in family life. These families are specifically discriminated against within adoption system. The attention to the role of motherhood throughout our readings was particularly terrifying. The structure of society and law form the role of women to be mothers as citizens. Mothers are defiled when it comes to their ability to give birth. A women suffers and is shamed in adoptions, but also the child suffers. They are deprived of their own histories or understanding, because adoption is systematic. The adoption industry is just one example of how women are created as mothers in society, rather than citizens with rights. Cornell pointed out that even the small advances in women's rights do not warrant success; there is an entire system suffocating them. She pointed out that “But these changes have been piecemeal because they have not adequately challenged the basis of the legal problem sweepingly called patriarchy.” (101) This is really a statement of mass dilemma.

Blog #7

As I read through other entries, I realize that I, myself, am beginning to have a debate going on in my head about this issue. I'm coming at it from not a homosexual standpoint, rather as a woman that wants to be working. Do I love and care for my future kids? Yes. However, the traditional standards of females playing the motherly role and staying at home and not working bothers me. How am I supposed to accomplish my dreams and have kids at the same time? Am I to tell my future husband that he has to be Mr. Mom? In the times of today, I see myself being the working mother and asking my husband to stay at home with the kids - I know I want someone there for them all the time. As I think about the readings and S. Bear Bergman's speech, I realize how hard it must be for homosexual families to overcome the difficulties of a hetersexual America. How does one decide who stays at home and who goes to work? Its a difficult enough decision for me... I feel like America has a ways to go before this answer can truly be understood by everyone.

Blog 7

Within heterosexual ideologies, women are expected to carry feminine qualities such as sensitivity, emotional support and understanding, domestic knowledge and skill, etc. This corresponds to women’s expected familial role as the caretaker, the one to raise the children, cook the meals, clean the house, etc. In this same way, men are expected to be strong, rational (vs. emotional), and savvy in the outside world of work and business. This corresponds to the family in the way that men are expected to work outside the home and be the sole provider and breadwinner. These expected motherly roles shape our understanding of what a “good mother” is because any mother who strays from these duties would then be considered a bad mother. Therefore, a full-time working mother would not be considered a good mother because she is spending her energy in the wrong place: on work and not on her kids and the home. Furthermore, these duties protect traditional familial values because having two working parents, for example, would leave no time for a sufficient homemaker/caretaker, which throws off the traditional balance of the family. These values come at the expense of any same-sex couple who wants a family, any women who wants to work outside the home, and/or any man who wants to stay at home and raise his family.


This is a response to Abby W's post. When you started talking homosexual families and the gender roles of homosexual parents, a discussion came to mind from another class I’m taking called Gay Men and Homophobia in American Culture out of the Cultural Studies department.

We had an interesting discussion about how within many gay couples, there exists a resemblance of hetero-normative gender roles. Such as, within a couple of gay men, it seems that there is one man who plays the more feminine role while one plays the more masculine role. This can take the simplest form of, say, one man being more feminine in dress, speak, mannerisms, etc. while the other man is more masculine in these ways. This can also take a more substantial role in their relationship in ways such as roles as parents (one is mother, caretaker, etc. and the other is father, provider, etc.) Of course this is not always the case, but it is a common assumption within our culture to ask about a gay couple, “so who is the guy and who is the girl?” because we are so embedded in heterosexual ideology that is seems inescapable and leads us to ask these questions. I just thought this was an interesting point to bring up when taking about homosexual families; despite both parents being the same sex, in some cases, both genders are being performed, perpetuating traditional nuclear, or heterosexual, family structure.

Response to Abby W. Blog #7

As the majority of our family value readings have illustrated, our society has become accustomed to the gender roles and duties that are assigned by the typical heterosexual commanded families.

As the majority of our family value readings have illustrated, our society has become accustomed to the gender roles and duties that are assigned by the typical heterosexual commanded families. As Abby points out, “female roles are enforced as caretakers and men are seen as providers in the patriarchal heterosexual family.” I agree completely, and due to these strict gender roles, our society has developed an invisible cloud that hovers over every woman in pursuit of becoming a “good mother.” These women are expected to fulfill this role by becoming the caretaker and letting their husbands take care of the wage earning position. These values may be true when applied to some forms of families, typically the traditional heterosexual families. Due to this connection, these types of families are seen as normal and acceptable by our society. As one would predict, it is the homosexual families that are not benefitting by these “ideal” family practices because they do not contain either a male for the father role or a female for the mother role. This stereotyping of gender roles is also at a disadvantage for single parent families who find themselves in the same “lacking” position as homosexual families. I think that as time goes on and our society finds itself with more and more same sex and single parents, (due to the changing times, advancements in technology, etc.) it will find that these parents, regardless of their sex, are capable of caring for their children on the same level as the “ideal” heterosexual coupled parents who are associated with these rigid gender identities that are being applied to family roles as well.

A family is people and a family is love, that's a family.....

...We come in all different shapes and different sizes, and mine's just right for me.-Barney, The Purple Dinosaur.

As opposed to how Barney feels, mainstream society, religion and government agree that the nuclear family is seen as the most desirable form of familial structure. From this, we find rigid gender identities as in the female mother and male father roles. The mother is the home maker, instiller of morals and values to the child while the father is the breadwinner and disciplinarian. It was seen as emasculating to allow a woman to work outside the home while the husband was around. (Fesseler) This made it almost impossible for women to be seen as able to care for children alone, or even with the help of family, Cornell argues. It is the rigid view on motherhood and what is needed in order to be a successful mother that restricts the abilities and the desires of society. The homosexual and heterosexual African American relationships that are both undermined in this view; 1) there is an inherent disregard for women as people that allows this view of their inability to raise a child alone stems and 2) the inability, or lack of desire to see a man, or someone other than a women as harboring the nurturing capabilities necessary in a mother (who of course, needs a husband in order to define her worth as a person). Fesseler, in her discussion on the difference between African American and white families to accept a girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, states that the child that results from illegitimate acts was “often absorbed into the extended family or adopted informally.” Patton states the inability for social policy to see family in the way that different cultures and races see family undermine the view of those races and their resulting progeny in the eyes of the government. A mother who does not have or want a husband is an unfit mother, regardless of whether or not there is a support network that is there to help.

blog 7 - motherhood

Majority of heterosexual families and their traditional roles are based on the patriarcial system. Many people have the men work the 40+ hour work week, while the women stay at home and take care of the family and the home. Majority of some women in households are stay-at-home and will do most of the cleaning, shopping, up-keep, and taking care of the children. These different gender identities have been in place for many years and the more the families become single parent households, or two mom's and two dad's, society is starting to rethink how the family is raised.

Many of these roles then place this pedestal on the man making the money and then the mom's are staying at home. The role of a 'good' mother is one that takes care of her children, physically, emotionally and mentally. The role of a good mom is someone who can balance it all. I don't agree with how society places these limits and expectations at the same time on many women. People expect them to do everything, cook, clean, take care of the children, and in some cases contribute to the family income. I believe that role of a good mom is someone who is loving, nurturing, compassionate, and very flexible. My mom stayed at home while my sisters and I grew up and then once we were all in school, she went back to work. Partly becuse she wanted to, but also to bring in some more money. There were even times when she had two jobs. Yet, she still found time to cook, clean, and be at all of our sporting events.

Many of these family visions are then inscribed into what heterosexual family units are suppose to be like. However, with the changing of the times and family units becoming the target of society, people are starting to rethink what their family values are. I liked towards the end of the chapter when Cornell said that "families are special because they offer a space for eroticism in which love and life can flourish" (130).

Blog #7

There are many factors that influence the social roles of women and men, and many of them stem from heterosexual family structure. The traditional heterosexual family promotes the idea that each gender has things that they are more capable of than the other gender. Female roles are enforced as caretakers and men are seen as providers in the patriarchal heterosexual family. The times are changing and many women are being seen now as worse mothers than those before them because women are becoming more independent from the home, and many kids want the mom who has a life that is devoted to her children, from fresh baked cookies to always picking up after her children, the traditional role of mother is a full time job. With women working their own careers today, as more women than before are, all the little extras that full time mothers can do are so much harder. Men in contrast are being seen as better fathers because the traditional role of a father is not as emotional as it is physical, and now since women are taking more of the physical providing onto their shoulders men have more time to connect emotionally with their children and obtain a close connected relationship with their children, which is a positive thing. It is important when talking about gender roles, and "good" mothers and "good" fathers that we take into account homosexual families. The traditional roles of mothers and fathers are now being filled by same sex couples who do not fit into the traditional male-female gender roles. Some may say that something is missing from these families, but i think that same sex couples and single parents show that they can provide just as well, and be just as nurturing without being locked into one half of what it takes to run a family.

April 3, 2009

Blog #7

On page 98, Cornell writes:

The issue of adoption demands that we examine our entire family law system from the ground up. In spite of attempts at feminist reform, our family law remains grounded in enforced heterosexuality with its inscription of rigid gender identities and corresponding familial roles and duties.

Drawing upon Cornell, Fessler and/or Patton, critically reflect on the following questions:

• What are some of the rigid gender identities and corresponding familial roles and duties that are inscribed by enforced heterosexuality?
• How do these identities/roles/duties shape our understandings of what a “good” mother is?
• How are these identities/roles/duties used to protect a particular vision of “family values”?
• At whose expense are these family values promoted/protected?

April 2, 2009

S. Bear Bergman

On Tuesday night, S. Bear Bergman gave a speech about what it’s like being trans. I felt that a lot of the things ze brought up in hir speech were relevant to the readings for class. First of all, ze started out by talking about having pride in being trans, and being counted as a movement. I think this relates to a lot of what we’ve been discussing this semester – being counted and recognized. Bear stressed being “fully present, but not the same.” I think this is especially relevant to our class, since it relates to the goal of recognizing that women are not the same as men, and regardless of that fact, women should be given every right that men are given in all aspects of life.
In hir speech, Bear Bergman said, “we are not going to go through the door of womanhood or manhood that somebody is holding open for us. Because we realize that those doors are optional.” I think this relates most strongly to the issue of family values and gender roles that we have been discussing recently. It speaks to the fact that gender roles really are optional, and that individuals should be empowered to decide what role they wish to take in society, rather than what society imposes based on the sex on a birth certificate.

Islam Awareness Week (4/2 and 4/3)

Events on Thursday and Friday:
Women in Islam
Shariah (Islamic Law)
Poetry Night

Come with questions, to meet people and FREE FOOD of course!

Women in Islam: Second Class Citizens?

Return to the events schedule page

Date: Thursday, April 2, 2009

*Women in Islam*
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Location: 324 Coffman Memorial Union

Sponsored Charity: Tubman Family Alliance


The presentation by Imani Jaafar-Mohammad gives an overview of the role of women in society according to Islamic teachings. The speaker will talk about common misconceptions regarding Muslim women and explain gender equity in the spiritual, social, and economic aspects of life. Muslim women and culture/diversity will also be discussed. The presentation is concluded with examples of Muslim women and their role in history and today.
Lunch will be served!

Imani Jaafar-Mohammad is an attorney with the law firm of Mohammad & Jaafar-Mohammad. She is also an adjunct legal writing professor at William Mitchell College of Law.

*Shariah (Islamic Law)*
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2009

Time: 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Location: 1-115 Carlson School of Management Room

Sponsored Charity: Tubman Family Alliance


Today, the mere utterance of the word "Shariah" arouses strong emotions. Islamic Shariah has come to be synonymous with stoned adulterers and oppressed women. One might ask, why would anyone adopt such a barbaric system?
In her talk, professor Asifa Quraishi will give a concise overview of Islamic Shariah and critically assess, if in fact, Shariah should be synonymous with the Rule of Law instead. Professor Quraishi will also discuss the urgent need for U.S. citizens to understand Islamic Shariah in order to protect our national interests and make informed foreign policy decisions.
A light dinner catered by Holy Land Bakeries will be served.

Professor Quraishi is an assitant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she specializes in Islamic law and legal theory. Professor Quraishi received her B.A. in Legal Studies from the University of California-Berkeley in 1988. In 1992, she received her law degree from the University of California-Davis, where she served as Senior Research Editor for the UC- Davis Law Review. She also earned an LL.M. degree from Columbia Law School, and an S.J.D. from Harvard Law School.

*Poetry Night*
Date: Friday, April 3, 2009

Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Location: 2-650 Moos Tower

Sponsored Charity: Brian Coyle Center Food Shelf


Join us to celebrate the end of Islam Awareness Week 2009 with a spoken word poetry jam featuring Def Jam Poet Amir Suleiman and local Twin Cities artists.
The hour-long opening act will feature:
Lolla Mohamed Nur
Samia Hussein
Ayah Hilmy
Strictly Poets
and Voices Merging
We will be hosting a food drive for the Brian Coyle Food Shelf. Recommended donation: one can of food per guest.
Refreshments will be served.

S. Bear Bergman

The lecture by S. Bear Bergman was on the topic why it is great to be trans. This topic fits into two of the family values that we have been discussing in class: freedom of choice and gender roles. Bergman talked about how transgender people are raped, killed, and ridiculed for the choice that they made, but how it is important that they do not keep quiet. They do not need other people to pity them and treat them like they are crazy, nor do they want people to pretend that they are "just like you." They want you to be able to celebrate their commonalities and differences; they want the freedom to choose and not be persecuted for that choice. Bergman also talked on gender roles and how transgender people do not succumb to those roles. The main question that Bergman asked was "who do you think you are?" He explained how transgender people have no problem with this question because they have thought about it long and hard. They have been through a cost-benefit analysis and asked themselves what it is worth, and have answered that question by completely redefining who they are. Bergman talked about freedom of choice and gender roles with a feminist perspective; having total freedom to choose what is right for you, and rising above gender roles to become who you truly are.

April 1, 2009

S Bear Bergman

S Bear Bergman began his speech by admitting he was nervous. He felt that the speech he was about to present might upset people with opposing views. Despite this conscious nervousness, Bergman persevered and delivered a speech that celebrated transsexual people and the pride they should take in their differences. He emphasized the unnecessary existence of the term “just like you” because there is no need for one to adapt in order to feel the acceptance they deserve. He stressed reveling in one’s unique qualities and focus on the pride for queer and trans people.
I definitely think that Bear’s speech correlates with our readings on family values. One of the main family values for a feminist is the lack of gender roles. A woman should not be restricted to a sole maternal role in a household, nor should a man be limited to a paternal role. Along these same lines, our society’s sons and daughters opportunities should not be regulated either. Bear made it clear that if this were in fact the way our society operated (with the absence of gender roles) trans people would experience a wider degree of acceptance. Males would not be associated with certain roles and neither would females. This is the society that feminists have been fighting for, and Bear pointed out that this is a change our society needs.

Speech Event

I found this event and thought it might be of interest to some...

On April 3, 7:30 PM, McNamara Alumni Center: Christina Hoff Sommers, author of "Who Stole Feminism" and "The War against Boys," will speak
controversial topic: "Why Aren't There More Women in Science and Engineering?" General Admission is $10, Students $1

Sommer's book "Who Stole Feminism" presents a controversial viewpoint when she basically accuses feminists of using unsubstantiated information in portraying women as victims. I think it would be interesting to hear her points of view and compare hers to the ones in our readings.

S. Bear Bergman

One of the main things S. Bear Bergman always came back to was that ze and other transsexuals “know who we think we are.” Bear didn’t need to define ze as an individual along the hard lines of gender; ze just knows who ze is. I feel this point relates to our readings on family values because, in my opinion, a feminist family values is abolishing gender roles, as I believe feminism is in general. Bear clearly stated that ze didn’t believe anyone should have to choose between genders. The analogy Bear used of maturing, of having to choose between two doors, one being a women, and another a man, shouldn’t be the case; if there weren’t any explicit gender roles there would be a greater acceptance and equality among people, in the home as well as in the community.

Limitations come with gender roles as well as stereotypes, being judged, and feeling unaccepted. In a world free of gender roles, as feminist family values advocates, people could take pride in being who they are enjoy their uniqueness, instead of being labeled and defined by the particular gender they were born as. People wouldn’t need to adjust their lives around what society sees and believes to be right, nor should be pressured to conform, as Bear said, “just like you is not what we need.” Society needs to adjust and learn to not only tolerate people who are different, but appreciate their differences.