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Mashin' Up the Queer

WHAT IS QUEERING?

To me queering/queerness/and queer represents a way to look at things through a non-normative lens. A lens that challenges dominant ideologies and forms of heteronormativity. It troubles and calls into question the notion of "comfortable". My all time favorite quote so far of the semester is Haraway's, "queer functions variously as an interpellating gesture that calls on them to resist, reclaim, invent oppose, defy, make trouble for, open up, enrich, facilitate, disturb, produce, undermine, expose, make visible, critique, reveal, more eyond, transgress, subvert, unsettle, challenge, celebrate, interrogate, counter, provoke and rebel." In my opinion, this is ultimately what Queer/Queerness/Queering mean. To be a troublemaker!

When engaging with The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity by Julie Rak, she discusses how online media can be used as a space to think about "queer identity, electronic identity, and liberal discourses of identity based on individual agency, unity, and the primacy of individual experiences important to many in the Western world". Here, blogging can be used as a method of creating queer communities and ways of showing the world that Queer is also Normal. I think since online media is inherently unstable, it can be called Queer in itself. Blogs are used to "write oneself into existance for others to read and comment on". Online media, to me, is Queer in itself, so Queerness online can be further complicated and almost pushed to the limits of normative. Pullen also points out that "we are living in a world where the discursive potential of an "imagined gay community" seems vividly real through online interactivity and identity affirmations". The web can be used as a queer space to share stories and lifestyles that are REAL and normal to the people that live them and blog about them.

Although online access comes with certain privileges, it is one way in which people can use Queerness to find a sense of community, or a online space, that verifies their lived experiences and existance.

Another space where Queerness can be examined is pedegogy. Queerness within classrooms. This class in itself is a type of Queer pedegogy in that it's not a normal structure (tests, class structure, papers, and a strict teacher to student relationship). Luhmann suggests that, "a Queer pedagogy exceeds the incorporation of queer content into curricula and the worry over finding teaching strategies that make this content more palatable to students". So what does a Queer classroom look like? OUR CLASSROOM! This class is definitely the most queer form of curriculum I've ever taken part in, regardless of it being a GWSS/GLBT course. It's interactive, we can comment on our peers work, we are forced to be assertive and engaging, and taught to think outside the normative lens of curriculum.

So, what is queer then?

A few Luhmann quotes:

Queer, as a term, signals not only the disruption of the binary of heterosexual normalcy on the one hand and homosexual defiance on the other, but desires "to bring the hetero/homo opposition to the point of collapse".

Queer aims to spoil and transgress coherent (and essential) gender configurations and the desire for a neat arrangement of dichotomous sexual and gendered difference, central to both heterosexual and homosexual identities... queer theory insists on the complications of the two: without gender, sexuality is nothing".


I think Queering's main job is to undo the "normal" to undo normal categories, or categories we would consider normal. Haraway, in Queering the Non/Human states, "queer comes to signify the continual unhinging of certainties and the systematic disturbing of the familiar". I like the word "disturbing" here. I think Queer engages with the in between spaces to unpack binaries and give a voice to the silences that we build these things around.

Thinking to Sara's interest in troubling and complicating things, I think about Queer in terms of troubling the familiar, take for granted, categories that we understand as intelligible and static. Queer's project is to trouble what makes us comfortable, and to ask the questions about why these things are taught to be uncomfortable in the first place.

Queer This! I wanted to analyze honeybumps1505 Queer This! "No Homo" YouTube video. This video has really stuck in my head a lot. I always think about how people throw around the term gay by saying things like "that's so Gay" as if Gay is something that's lame or ridiculous? Because gay is something "uncomfortable" for some and most popular culture, we have a stake in Queering the Queer. Does that cancel it out? Then maybe it's normative? Nah, popular culture teaches us to be uncomfortable with the ideas of Queer. Thus, Queer projects seek to answer questions about why we are made uncomfortable by things.

moviesofmyself's direct engagement: movies of myself asks: "I'm reminded that "For every 'livable life' and 'grievable death,' there are a litany of unmentionable, unassimilable Others melting into the pace of the nonhuman" (Giffney and Hird, 3). In what different ways is death functioning here? How does death work differently for subjects who embody, even celebrate, non-normativity, transgression, unintelligibility? How does this factor into our vision of a queer future-- who will live and die, and how will their histories be recorded? Is a queer future still concerned with our queer pasts?"

I saw some really interesting questions and parallels here. What does a Queer future mean? What about Queer time? Is that like "hippy time" as my friends call it, meaning you show up whenever because time really doesn't have a meaning? In thinking about Queerness and the future of queerness, what do we have to gain from the project of Queering? In my opinion a queer future is dependant on a queer past. I think the project itself has changed and will continue to change (that's what makes it queer- it's unstableness) and in order to ensure a queer future the project of Queering and troubling the current dominant ideologies (at whatever point in time) is necessary to insure a queer future.

I am pretty sure, thanks to this class, that queering is now my favorite project!

armyofsluggirls.jpg

"an army of slug girls," by Renee French -- obtained from the best blog on the internet
(think Halberstam's "bondage" and Edelman's "cult of the child")


My title for this mash-up is supposed to be an adorably witty combination of James Kincaid's "Producing Erotic Children," and two of Halberstam's essays, "Oh Bondage Up Yours!," and "What's that Smell?" (Is this an example of online cuteness?) The first two essays may already share an apparent connection: that being the subject of the child -- the subject-in-the-making, the "blank page." I allude to the latter essay because of Halberstam's discussion of queer subcultures, and how these subcultures are viewed by society at large as liminal spaces that the mature adult eventually grows (up) out of -- towards reproductive futurity. The queer adult, then, fails to fully form as a developed subject -- caught in arrested development, we see how queer life is a life delayed, a result of growing sideways rather than up.

In our discussion of Kincaid, we focused a lot on the idea of the child as a "blank page," that which is written upon, that which does not do the writing, or the storytelling:

I mention Willy Nesler because at this point he becomes invisible, silent and empty, a vacancy at the center of the story -- filled up and written on by his mother, and the process, and the nation's outrage, our own included. Willy Nesler becomes our principle citizen, the empty and violated child, whose story we need so badly we take it into ourselves. No one wants Willy Nesler testifying, taking on substance: the erotic child is mute, under our control. Once the accused is out of the way, and the child is rendered speechless and helpless, we can proceed to our usual business: the righteous, guilt-free constructions of violent pornographic fantasies about child sexuality [all emphasis mine]. (4) (please forgive the self-promotion, but anybody want to mash Willy Nesler as "principle citizen" and Todd Baxter's Owl Scouts?)

jaropenerkate provided us with a more than adequate engagement with Kincaid's piece, in which she juxtaposes these quotations in reverse order -- an interesting queering of time and space on top of it all:

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What I like about the reverse ordering of Kincaid's points is that here we read our dilemma first -- is this our not having, our forbidden desire to fill the child's vacancy? Kincaid points to our "empty point of ignorance" (our = full adults), which jaropenerkate juxtaposes very nicely with Kincaid's interpretation of the production of the erotic child as empty, as "that which does not have."

Kincaid's above quoted (and here re-quoted for further emphasis) provocation, "Child molesting becomes the virus that nourishes us, that empty point of ignorance about which we are most knowing," may complement Kathryn Bond Stockton's discussion of William Blake's "The Little Black Boy," which jaropenerkate picks up in another of her engagements:

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In this light, then, we see why the production of erotic children actually depends on a presumed whiteness. For whiteness speaks of innocence, of blankness; while blackness speaks of experience, of that which is already tainted. Stockton's child "queered by color" provides an interesting frame through which to approach jaropenerkate's questioning of Rolling Stone's decision to exclude queers and people of color in their promotion of Glee (--Oh my god, is Mary talking about Glee? -- NO! I am talking about race and sexuality in popular culture):

As jaropenerkate observes about the cover of this issue, "This cover for Rolling Stone doesn't show the whole glee club, only the lightest, straightest ones."Thumbnail image for theprettyshot.jpg

The spread pictured here features a few additional lovely white people, one -- the prissy boy scout on the far right -- who causes the presumably straight masculine dude from the cover to appear ambiguous in his sexual desires, and another one -- the masculine dude standing in the back -- who may or may not be racially ambiguous.

thefreadshot.jpg The picture on the right, adjacently, showcases the freaks: the androgynous lesbian (who is also on the cover, actually -- and, assuming from Kate's comment, is not a lesbian on the show -- but for the sake of my argument, I'm referring only to Lynch's public persona), the (dominatrix?) Asian girl, the nerdy cripple (who's apparently into kinky Asian chicks), and the loud, curvy Black girl. Critiquing the show or even this photo shoot is not my intention at all, I actually think that we might be able to queer this juxtaposition, which not only provides an interesting commentary on race, ability and sexuality in mass-produced pop-culture aesthetics, but does so (we can only assume by its blatancy) intentionally. All of the female "outcasts" in this image are suggestively posed in positions of power: pointing/whistleblowing, shouting, whipping.

In conversation with Kincaid and Stockton, then, we can see the significance of the cover's whiteness: the sprightly white adolescents being that vacant object of forbidden desire -- that blank page on which to write. The adults on the cover, likewise, maintain a certain youthful glow. What of the glowing white adults on the cover in relation to the glowing white, and coy, not-fully-adults -- unqueered by innocence, unqueered by color?

There was another question in jaropenerkate's Stockton engagement that I find useful to this discussion as well,

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I like jaropenerkate's connection of death by queerness (death of reproductive futurity) with death by mental, physical, or any other perceived defect. Queer bodies represent a "death in the family" through their failure to cohere to reproductive mores. Likewise, persons with various disabilities may also cause a proverbial kink in the reproductive machine. How does Stockton's discussion of being "queered by innocence" or "queered by color" operate in relation to the Rolling Stone images? Can we see these images -- especially the one with all the freaky kids (queers?) -- as queering reproductive futurity?

Just briefly now, I wanted to add some Halberstam to the mix, for which Nosecage provides some helpful jumping off points:

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To the question of growing out of tomboyism (growing up?), let's look at "the power of definition":

Frankie thinks that naming represents the power of definition, and name changing confers the power to reimagine identity, place, relation, and even gender. "I wonder if it is against the law to change your name," says Frankie. "or add to it . . . Well I don't care . . . (195)

And denial of desire:

Psychoanalysis posits a crucial relationship between language and desire, such that language structures desire and expresses therefore both the fullness and the futility of human desire -- full because we always desire, futile because we are never satisfied.


Because she does not desire in conventional [reproductive] ways, Frankie seeks to avoid desire altogether. Her struggle with language, her attempts to remake herself through naming and to remake the world with a new order of being are ultimately heroic but unsuccessful. (195)

In other words, Frankie is a failure.

For more on masculine femininities, visit this blog. Also, be sure to enjoy these videos:


Oh Bondage Up Yours!


What's desire got to do with it, anyways? (interviews conducted by Del LaGrace Volcano)


Oh my genitals!


Mash. It. Up.

For this mash up assignment, I am most interested in defining what it means to queer. The dictionary widget on my dashboard proposes this definition of the verb: "spoil or ruin (an agreement, event, or situation)." I think this begins to describe the working definition that I have been using in my work thus far. I have come to understand queering as the act of deconstructing/troubling/problematizing previously agreed-upon meanings/categories/constructs. The work of queering, as I understand it, seeks to determine the legitimacy and value of these socially-constructed and perpetuated ideologies used in academia and in every day life. (It's all about asking questions.)

During our "Queering the Non/Human" module, we read Robert Azzarello's "Unnatural Predators: Queer Theory Meets Environmental Studies in Bram Stoker's Dracula." While the piece was generally pretty confusing, I found the very last sentence to be very useful in furthering my understanding of the act of queering:

"Queer nature, by refusing the opposition between the natural and the unnatural, dramatizes its own ontological impossibility and asks us to consider alternative modes of representation, new constructions of humans, natures and sexualities, and unconventional ethical systems grounded in the indeterminate subjects of queer theory and environmental studies" (154).
So, what does this sentence really offer us? It pushes us to understand the tendency of categories (such as natural/unnatural) to be shifting and unfixed. It also suggest that queering would work to delegitimize binaristic models of constructing and understanding categories.

This theme of challenging the normal is exemplified in @cookiekidd's direct engagement with Richard Thompson Ford's article, "What's Queer About Race?" Her reading of the article speaks to how Ford was attempting to draw from queer theory in order to deconstruct race categories:

"He praises the significance of being queer and how it can also relate to race, because he is also in a interracial relationship with this partner. Being queer is not about one's identity but rather how one chooses to live their lives by challenging mainstream society's social and ideological construction of race and gender."
We see @cookiekidd examining the relationship (or lack thereof) between one's sexual desire and the act of queering. She suggests, through Ford, that queering is more about maintaing a philosophical standpoint that challenges normative understandings of race and gender (and sexuality, class, able body-ness, etc.).

This understanding of the concept of queering is applicable in daily/personal life, as exemplified above, but also in academia. During our discussing of queer pedagogy we read Nelson M. Rodriguez's chapter, "Queer Theory and the Discourse on Queer(ing) Heterosexuality: Pedagogical Considerations". Even in the title of the chapter, Rodriguez begins to define the act of queering, as a verb. He goes on to describe the roots of queer theory in this passage:

"...sitiuating queer theory within a broader constellation of intellectual movements--most notably poststructuralism and postmodernism--that significantly shaped its theoretical and political trajectories and made possible its emergence" (280).
Rodriguez points out here that queer theory has its roots in postmodernism and poststructuralism, both of which pushed intellectual thought away from understandings of the 'rational' and pre-determined, agreed-upon categories. He also hints at the multiple applications of queering, both in theoretical and political fields.

Now, let's put this definition of queering into practice with @Briana's Queer This! post, "'When you care enough to send the very best'.........?" @Briana, while perusing the greeting card section in a store, states that, "With my newly focused queer lens I realized how hetero the card selection is." This is queering in action. She goes on in her post to challenge Hallmark's slogan and deconstruct who it is aimed at and how it perpetuates heteronormativity. Only by viewing the section with her "queer lens" is she able to understand how the typical unassuming greeting card can be very harmful in upholding norms and, ultimately, can be a form of discrimination and oppression.

I'd like to end with my own list of words/phrases that I have come to associate with queering. I know that this is not an original approach to understanding queering, but I cannot for the life of me remember which article/author most prominently did this. I'm also sure that some of my words are on their list as well. I hope you will all be forgiving. Queering =

deconstructing, problematizing, questioning, disidentifying, challenging, troubling, critiquing, evaluating, closely reading, editing, delegitimizing, asking, researching, shaking-up, unsettling, breaking-down, examining...

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