Full Name:  Deborah Sosower
Username:  dsosower@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Photographic Homosexuality: Robert Mapplethorpe's Photography in a Political Landscape
Date:  2004-12-14 22:30:09
Message Id:  11973
Paper Text:

"[Mapplethorpe] assaulted the New York avant-garde with his camera, and won.' Edward Lucie-Smith smiled. 'Robert Mapplethorpe was a cultural terrorist.'"
- Jack Fritscher

No medium or arena is free from political assimilation. Perhaps this is why the term "the personal is political" is so reverberant in such a multitude of communities. In the fine arts community, every art piece reflects a personal decision or touch; what medium to best describe a subject or idea in, or the physical shape and making of art by an artist, for example, are ways in which each artist has ownership over his or her own work. When art is displayed for an audience, the very act of placing a personal piece into the public sphere creates a forum for interactive and political dialogue and judgment. To present artwork in a public arena authorizes the audience to construe interpretation and assess that art. The policies and politics that dictate the arrival of art for the public purview are not immune to the authority and judgment making that occurs once the art is on display. In order for galleries, museums, or universities to display artwork, their high level officials must approve the works. Furthermore, when the work is on display it reflects back on the institution it is in, the leaders of that institution who approve it, and ultimately the artist who made the work herself. There are foundations and organizations that are funded by the government for the promotion and distribution of fine arts, which of necessity are bound by the legal dictates of the governing bodies and the public it represents for these reasons. When artwork or an artist is controversial, it becomes a political issue due to governmental involvement in funding of --and thus universally approving-- the contentious art or art-maker. For artists who work in the photographic medium, controversies arise more readily due to the realism of the images. Homoerotic photographic art in particular is the site of political and social stigmatization, as exemplified by Robert Mapplethorpe's life and work. Mapplethorpe's photography was the catalyst from which conservative senator Jesse Helms was able to symbolize the misinterpretations of visual representation for "real" or authentic action and criticize his work as "obscene" due to its homoerotic content.

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was a gay male artist who died at the age of 43 of AIDS. His technically brilliant and stylistically disreputable images sparked both controversy and contemplation. He was equally praised and derogated by his stark and honest appraisal of the erotic male nude, his depiction of sadomasochistic culture and practices, and his own and others' homoerotic and multiracial portraits. "Mapplethorpe's work has a 'shocking' quality both for his choice of subject matter and the fact that the photograph is intrinsically more realistic than painting because the images are 'real'" (Cooper, 285). He is an iconic artist for gay culture because his photography beautifully and publicly portrayed what had previously only been represented in underground depictions of homoeroticism. Mapplethorpe is a celebrated artist in the realm of photography and freedom of expression due to his posthumous involvement in one of the most important censorship debates in America. "Although the Stonewall riots which marked the beginnings of gay liberation occurred in 1969, photographs addressing gay culture became internationally important only in 1980. These photographs were made by Robert Mapplethorpe" (Hulick & Marshall, 248). Mapplethorpe's photographs shaped not only his own life and career but also the face of photography as a medium itself. "Photographers have been the pioneers of the new homosexual eroticism...Mapplethorpe has...taken photographs of the world in which he himself is involved...his is not the objective view of the camera, but the active and subjective mood of the participant" (Cooper, 285). This participation inspired this crisis of censorship in 1989.
North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms advocated an amendment to terminate the funding of the National Endowment of the Arts in response to their indirect sponsorship of a posthumous retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe's work. "[Mapplethorpe] was an artist certified by galleries, museums, critics, celebrities, and indirectly by the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded galleries showing Mapplethorpe, who himself never received an NEA grant" (Fritscher, 66). Helms cited Mapplethorpe's work as "homoerotic" and "sick" due to the homosexual nature of the artist and his subject matter. "'Homoeroticism' is, I take it, a term that concedes the indeterminate status of this sexuality, for it is not simply the acts that qualify as homosexual under the law, but the ethos, the spreading power of this sexuality, which must also be rooted out" (Butler, 195). Helms was incensed that Mapplethorpe –and by extension, those galleries who displayed him and the foundations who funded the displays—had the audacity to claim that work of such an explicit homoerotic flavor deserved the same recognition and acclaim as any other piece of "high art".

In displaying and supporting Mapplethorpe's work, the art world was arguing that "form carries us to the [sexually explicit] content of [Mapplethorpe's] work, and all subjects are morally alike" (Hulick & Marshall, 248). It was the sponsorship of the homoerotic and unapologetic content of Mapplethorpe's work that inspired the censorship debate. "This dialogue also was about censorship and the public's reaction toward a newly visible sexuality that had never until now appeared with such entitlement in such a public arena" (Hulick & Marshall, 248). The homosexually explicit work challenged and problematized the face of American values and morals in the eyes of many politicians and people. Three months after Mapplethorpe's death, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. dropped his show due to conservative pressures in Congress. Judith Tannenbaum justified canceling Mapplethorpe's show in her role as the chief spokesperson for the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in saying "[her] priorities were to uphold the institution's integrity and identity in the face of serious scrutiny and possible financial losses and to evaluate how [the ICA's] situation related to the most basic values and tenets of American democracy" (Hulick & Marshall, 288). The following year the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center was prosecuted with obscenity charges for displaying Mapplethorpe's works, the first time that an art gallery has been brought to court for any work it has shown. The charges against the gallery and the director were eventually dropped, but the questions of censorship, homophobia and federal funding still echo in the present moment from the contentious affair.

Helms' criticism raises the question of what can be considered obscene or unworthy of public acclaim, and who has the authority to determine it. "The Helms amendment reinforces the category of identity as a site of political crisis; who and what wields the power to define the homosexual real?" (Butler, 199). Helms inflicts his own narrow interpretation on Mapplethorpe's work to shape what he sees into what he recognizes as true or actual. Instead of allowing the work to speak for itself and its author, Helms sought to control its accessibility from his own stance as a government official to serve his own needs as a conservative individual. He usurped the authority given to him to legislate better laws in order to propagate his own conservative agenda. To carry out this agenda, Helms needed a scapegoat. Helms spoke out against Mapplethorpe in order to present a binary opposite and enemy that, through its very existence, promotes and esteems Helms' own values as normative and therefore more worthy then the alternative.

"Prohibitions work both to generate and to restrict the thematics of fantasy. In its production, fantasy is as much conditioned as constrained by the prohibitions that appear to arrive only after fantasy has started to play itself out in the field of "representations." In this sense, Mapplethorpe's production anticipates the prohibition that will be visited upon it; and that anticipation of disapprobation is in part what generates the representations themselves. If it will become clear that Helms requires Mapplethorpe, it seems only right to admit in advance that Mapplethorpe requires Helms as well...Helms operates on the precondition of Mapplethorpe's enterprise, and Mapplethorpe attempts to subvert that generative prohibition by...becoming exemplary fulfillment of its constitutive sexual wish" (Butler, 194).

By insisting that Mapplethorpe's work upset and insulted his sense of decency, Helms allows the photographs to insult his sense of self and beliefs. He is, in effect, concerting his efforts to convince society at large and the art world in specific that Mapplethorpe's work has the power and agency to injure its viewers. What he does not realize is that in allowing the work to affect his psyche he is illustrating the power he has over the images in his ability to rationalize and analyze Mapplethorpe's body of work.

"The other way to argue that representation is discriminatory action is to claim that to see a given representation constitutes an injury, that representations injure, and that viewers are the passive recipients of that visual assault.... and yet, if this were true, there could be no analysis of pornography...no interpretive distance could be taken from its ostensibly injurious effects; and the muted, passive, and injured stance of the...viewer would effectively preclude a critical analysis of its structure and place within the field of social power" (Butler, 192).

Butler's argument supercedes Helms' assertion that the sight of photographic representations can hurt its viewers involuntarily. Art exhibits are maintained in public spaces yet have distinct and discriminate entrances. Audiences who are likely to see Mapplethorpe's shows are those patrons who seek out the opportunity. Although the NEA helps create opportunities for shows such as Mapplethorpe's to be more widely accessible, the agency of the viewer is still necessary in constructing interaction between him- or herself and the work of art. An advisory label warning potential viewers that Mapplethorpe's show held adult content was in fact added to the galleries on the tour, yet this was unable to quell Helms' insistence on censorship.
Helms didn't distinguish between the images he purveyed and the artist who created them. His portrayal of the art he found offensive collided with his insistence on the indecency of the artist himself, "...the figure of Mapplethorpe is already a stand-in for the figure of the homosexual male, so that the target is a representation of homosexuality which, according to the representational theory Helms presumes, is in some sense the homosexual himself" (Butler, 195). Helms turns Mapplethorpe into an archetype of Homosexuality. This serves to illustrate that attacking the art as obscene translates into an attack on homosexuals, which many members of society give authority and credence to due to their disapproval and ignorance of homosexuality.

Judith Butler links Helms with Mapplethorpe through the fantastic level of representation to real, construed especially through his use of photography. She writes that it is the homosexual identity that Helms is policing and categorizing. It is the photographic and seemingly documentary quality of the medium that allows Helms this interpretive access.

"Helms not only extends those legal precedents that categorize homosexuality as obscenity, but, rather, authorizes and orchestrates through those legal statutes a restriction of the very terms by which homosexuality is culturally defined. One interpretation could claim that this tactic is simply an occasion for Helms to assault the gay male artistic community, or gay men generally, as well as the sexual practices phantasmatically imposed upon them. The political response is then to develop a political resistance to this move by simply reversing the argument, claiming that gay men are not as he says; that Mapplethorpe is more significant and more properly artistic. It is not merely that Helms characterizes homosexuality unfairly, but that he constructs homosexuality itself through a set of exclusions that call to be politically interrogated" (Butler, 197).

How does Senator Helms achieve the authority to question and interrogate Mapplethorpe or his work? "Political groups that mediate between queers and normals find that power lies almost exclusively on the normal side" (Warner, 44). By attacking Mapplethorpe as being abnormal and defiantly deviant, Helms is asserting his own status as an opposite of Mapplethorpe, and thus, normal. This also allows him to appeal to others in society who want to view themselves as normal and are easily swayed to pit themselves against the idea of deviancy to achieve this aim. It is through Helms' assertion of his own normalcy and championship of the ideals of a normal and moral society that Helms proliferated his opinions and legislation.

However, in his call for the censorship of what he deemed "depictions of sadomasochism, homoeroticism, and the exploitation of children" (Butler, 195), he gave political and media importance to Mapplethorpe's work and vision. "What Helms performs...is a kind of representational violence...if prohibitions invariably produce and proliferate the representations that they seek to control, then the political task is to promote a proliferation of representations, sites of discursive production, which might then contest the authoritative production produced by the prohibitive law" (Butler, 197). Helms must continue to promote the exposure of Mapplethorpe's work in order to disparage it, yet this practice only serves to perpetuate the accessibility of Mapplethorpe's work to the public. However, though more people and institutions could be punished and policed for reproducing Mapplethorpe's work in response to Helms' attack, negative exposure is still exposure, which is particularly apt in talking about a famed photographer. Through Helms' vigorous attacks of Mapplethorpe, the artists' photography became even more accessible not only to the mainstream but to all possible audiences and thus had an increased potential for public education and elucidation, and ultimately little was done to most of the sites Mapplethorpe's work was displayed. Most gallery and museum directors respected Mapplethorpe as an artist enough to override Helms' censorship insistence. In their minds, "Altering the show would have seemed like an admission of guilt—that there was something wrong with exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photographs. [They] did not want to play into the hands of the conservative groups who believe they must protect the American people from material they deem unwholesome" (Hulick & Marshall, 291). Arguing for the value of Mapplethorpe's controversial work has yet to be employed by museum directors or curators, but they are credible in their appreciation and integrity towards Mapplethorpe's art. That the nature of his work is photographic is all the more reason for approbation due to its recency as a medium of "high art".

Photography is the key that perpetuates this discourse. Homoeroticism has existed in many mediums, whether recognized officially or not; yet it is in the realm of photography that the stakes are higher and artistic integrity is questioned. Sexually explicit materials can take the form of graphic "nakedness" when subjected to photography, as opposed to a more painterly form of the classical "nude" enacted in an older medium.

It was not necessarily the nature of Mapplethorpe's sexuality or appraisal of images that enabled him to be so easily villianized by Helms, but rather his use of the photographic medium to capture masculine eroticism. No other issue was nearly as compelling to Helms as the realistic erotic interaction between men in Mapplethorpe's photographs. "By focusing on homoeroticism of the photographs, the anxiety over interracial homo- and heterosexual exchange is contained and permanently deferred...[although this is] perhaps the most offensive dimension of Mapplethorpe's work, it is never that which is explicitly named as the offense by Helms..."(Butler, 197). For a North Carolina senator, race relations should be a lightning rod for criticism and controversy; yet Helms does not use this at all in his critique of Mapplethorpe. He hones in on the photographic sex and sexuality inherent in the subject matter of Mapplethorpe's work because they convey a sense of realism and interaction that is in truth simply fantasy.

"I would suggest that the legal equivalence between representation and action could not be established were it not for an implicit and shared conception of fantasy as the causal link between representation and action, or between a psychic act that remains within the orbit of a visual economy, and an enacted fantasy in which the body literally enters what was previously a purely visualized or fantasized scene... 'Fantasy' and 'real' are always already linked..." (Butler, 191).

Helms holds the belief that the act of photography enables action or authorization on behalf of the viewers due to the life-like qualities attainable through photography. In Helms' view, "it is photographers who have mapped out this terrain [of the growth and extension of machismo] most precisely. Their point of view has become one of involvement and participation rather than observation" (Cooper, 284). In its nature, photography reflects a more realistic interpretation of what the artist views in such a way as to allow easy identification for an audience. Due to the clarity of photographs, the separation of real from the representational is easier to collapse. "The anti-pornography effort to impute a causal or temporal relation between the phantasmatic and the real raises a set of problems...by establishing causal lines among representation, fantasy, and action, one can effectively argue that the representation is discriminatory action" (Butler, 192). Therefore, if one interprets a photograph, which is a visual representation, as something that is real and consequently agent, it is logical to assume that there will be real consequences from viewing the photograph. However, this logic is refutable in that no matter the realism of the image, a photograph is not a window into current reality. "The reason why representations do not jump off the page to club us over the head...is that even pornographic representations as textualized fantasy do not supply a single point of identification for their viewers, whether presumed to be stabilized in subject-positions of male or female" (Butler, 193). Mapplethorpe's photography specifically used elaborately staged lighting and posing of models, which belie any immediacy of sexual action in the first place. This is not to say that the effects of Mapplethorpe's depictions are unauthentic or disingenuous. "His particular aesthetic involves crystal clarity which has nothing to do with the snap-shot and flash gun technique of commercial pornography. Thus the most extreme S&M scenes...soon take on a 'natural' quality which can be objectively studied even if some people find the subject matter overwhelming" (Cooper, 286). What is appreciable in this critique is the acceptance of the artistry despite the potentially offensive images. Mapplethorpe's personal preferences or professional interests are explored due to their impact on his art and not for the sake of categorizing him as normal, real, or even gay. The understanding of the art form and the process supercede concerns over representation or realism. To oppose homosexuality in art is to undermine the purity or artistic expression and merit of the artist or subject. Critical examination of works that are exciting due to their explicit and challenging content is the standard for true appreciation of art. Observing that Mapplethorpe's photography is able to touch and affect so many different lives, it becomes apparent how important his genuine content is for the perpetuation of fine arts and public discourse in general.

Mapplethorpe's work is also contentious as a basis of "high art" in the lack of development in his complete body of work. His images are consistent in their appraisal of symmetry and classical composition style, yet his work is conservative in its frank but monotonous portrayal of simple portraits or still lives. The selling point of Mapplethorpe's work was his own ambitious self-promotion and the shocking and honest nature of his subjects.

"Lucie-Smith's view from abroad offers insightful perspective on the young photographer... 'Robert Mapplethorpe was an extremely interesting American phenomenon,' he said. 'Robert was not a great artist, he was a great salesman.'...The courts judged not at all if he were a great artist. Somehow, the media and the public presumed posthumously that Mapplethorpe's work must be great art because the great furor it caused made it famous for being infamous" (Fritscher, 66).

The importance of Mapplethorpe's work should not necessarily be judged based on the genius comparable to masters of sculpture such as Rodin, painting such as Raphael or printing such as Mapplethorpe's icon, Andy Warhol; but rather on the social ramifications and influences that informed Mapplethorpe's work. Like the famous French photographer Robert Doisneau striving to capture the perfect moment on film, Mapplethorpe captured the perfect time in the American politics that enabled gay culture and activists to have a public voice against discrimination backed by the art community. "Art is...the first and ideal weapon of those groups who seek to establish new cosmologies that will legitimize that group's particular values" (Saslow, 262). Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photographic art served as a weapon to combat the oppression and homophobia present in Helms' public outcry against his work. Ultimately, Helms' arguments failed due to the nature of society's innate inquisitiveness about what comprises the actual censored material. "The effort to enforce a limit on fantasy can only and always fail, in part because limits are, in a sense, what fantasy loves most, what it incessantly thematizes and subordinates to its own aims. They fail because the very rhetoric by which certain erotic acts or relations are prohibited invariably eroticizes that prohibition in the service of a fantasy" (Butler, 190). Helms' fantasy is of a post-homosexual society that places value on discrimination and censorship of individuals and sites of difference. My fantasy is a post-heterosexist society that embraces all aspects of art and life and values integrity and character above stereotypes.
Mapplethorpe's body of work encompasses a vast amount of personal and political power that insists on being viewed as beautiful and worthy of esteem in spite of or because of its homo- and autoerotic content. An intervention is necessary in order for the art world, the government, or any social movement to fight back in the face of censorship or discrimination in art. A call for education is needed, to better understand the medium of photography and the articulation of queer culture and sexuality therein.

"When you begin interacting with people in queer culture...you unlearn [the] perspective [that the gay and lesbian people have become part of a gay trend.] You learn that everyone deviates from the norm in some context or other, and that the statistical norm has no moral value...you begin to recognize that there are other worlds of interaction that the mass media cannot comprehend, worlds that they can only deform when they project images of...deviant scenes. To seek out queer culture, to interact with it and learn from it, is a kind of public activity. It is a way of transforming oneself, and at the same time helping to elaborate a commonly accessible world." (Warner, 70-71).

Mapplethorpe's personal story stands as a testimony of the power that photographic art has on government policies and political expressions. In order to promote the continuing federal support of artists independent of discrimination more queer community outreach and arts education is indispensable. To continue to discriminate against a homosexual artist, homoerotic art or the photographic medium is a disservice to the necessary art and artists who contribute to our cultural growth.

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. "The Force of Fantasy: Mapplethorpe, Feminism, and Discursive Excess." Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. 2:2 (1990), pp. 105-25.

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the last 100 Years in the West. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

Fritscher, Jack. Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera. New York: Hastings House Book Publishers. 1994.

Hulick, Diana. Photography 1900 to the Present. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 1998.

Saslow, James. "Closets in the Museums: Homophobia and Art History." The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, & Politics. Ed. Larry Gross and James Woods. New York: Columbia University Press. 1999.

Warner, Michael. Chapter Two: "What's Wrong with Normal?" The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: Free Press, (1999), pp. 41-80.

Full Name:  Sierra Jorgensen
Username:  sjorgens@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Systematic Destruction of Women's Agency in Juárez, Mexico
Date:  2004-12-15 17:08:42
Message Id:  11975
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Knowing the Body
2004 Final Web Report
On Serendip

As citizens, people rely on the state as an agent that acts on their behalf, by providing them with benefits such as basic protection. However, the state itself derives its power (or agency) from the fact that its citizens give up some of their individual agency in exchange for the benefits that belonging to a state provides. People are, thus, both the creators and the subjects of the state. In Juárez, Mexico the state has been shaped by a patriarchy that is very oppressive to women. The women are then subjects to this very oppressive state. Virginia Woolf claims that these women can gain agency and freedom by obtaining economic independence. But, in the case of Juárez, Mexico this economic freedom has deadly effects. Woolf's argument is very limiting and applied to a much more ideal situation. In this essay I will explore the climate in Juárez that seems to prove Woolf's theory wrong. I will also look at how her claims can offer hope to the women of Juárez so that they can alter the climate so that everyone has agency not just the men and the state.

Mexican culture has always placed the women in the home. Placement in the private sphere without the opportunity to earn money has always limited women's agency and freedom. Men have typically held the position of power because of their economic independence. As the holders of power in the public sphere, men have created a patriarchy in which the opinions have governed the laws that are passed within Mexico. Before the murders in Juárez began, and even still, women were offered very little protection by the government especially when it came to violence and rape. The machismo culture in Mexico sets up a climate in which young women can be beaten raped and murdered with little to no consequences. Domestic abuse laws in Mexico, state that a woman may not file domestic abuse charges if her wounds heal before the end of 15 days. Women are constricted to the private sphere according to Mexican culture. The women give up their rights to be in the public sphere with the hope and understanding that they will be protected in the private sphere. They, however, do not receive this protection. Men can essentially beat their wives with no consequence. Additionally, rape laws are very lax. In 2002 a new state law in Chihuahua, Mexico, where Juárez is located, proposed that the sentence for rape would be reduced from four years to one year if a man could prove that a woman had provoked him. This proposed law "Chávez and her allies argue, shows the root problem behind the Ciudad Juárez murders -- that, in a society where men cannot be charged with raping their wives and domestic abuse is rarely prosecuted, authorities simply do not take violence against women seriously enough." Laws similar to these set up a very restricting climate for women and a very comfortable climate for men. Men are assured that the law is on their side and that they are guaranteed a huge amount of agency.

It is within a climate where women have no agency that in American companies began placing their factories in the small border town of Juárez, Mexico. Juárez is a popular site for US Fortune500 companies to place factories that have very low cost and optional taxes. The sheer poverty of Juárez substantially lowers the amount the companies have to pay workers in comparison to in the United States. This financial motivation is also the leading reason that maquiladoras employ mostly young women. Women are preferred to men as workers in the maquiladoras because they can be paid substantially lower wages. The average wage is from four to seven dollars for a nine-hour work day and there are no benefits offered to workers. Years of sexist attitudes in the United States have created an environment where this pay gap still exists. The wage gap is therefore expected to appear in Mexico as well. While these companies still discriminate against women it is an American stereotype of women from which they are working. American women have been financially independent for decades and therefore have achieved the agency that Woolf refers to. Women have reached such a state of agency that they are past the struggle of making their way into the workplace and are now in a position to fight for equal wages. This position is similar to the situation that Woolf describes in Three Guineas. The women of Juárez on the other hand are still at a point where they need to fight their way into the workplace. It is an anomaly that the women are beginning to find positions in these factories in the first place. I believe that before the introduction of foreign factories into Juárez women rarely would have considered leaving the home to work. But, because the factories are motivated solely by money a man's work is not valued because it is too expensive.

It is this financial motivation that causes a system of giving up agency and receiving protection to fail within the factories. Women enter the factories looking for financial stability and a slight amount of protection. Many women are offered benefits when they come to work in the factories, but generally those benefits are not provided. They also work in very tough working conditions that instead of protecting them and their bodies, exploits them. Women are put under terrible conditions in the factories in which they work. They have to do "relentless, concentrated work" that is very "hard on the eye" which may cause their eyesight to become bad and unacceptable for the job (Vulliamy, 2003). These women are chosen for these jobs based on a stereotype that women have better manual dexterity and are therefore more suited for the job. This capitalization on a stereotype also benefits these companies financially. The production rates are higher because their workers are able to do their job well. The women are then made to do these tasks that are hard on their body for very long shifts and with as little as fifteen minutes break for lunch. It seems that many of the women believed that because they were giving up a right to a long lunch, they could use their agency to lobby for protection by asking for lunch facilities on factory property. These women were immediately fired. To the factories these women are entirely disposable. There are so many women who have traveled to Juárez in hopes that they can get work that more than enough women show up to the factories each shift hoping to receive a position. Therefore, the financial motivation that these factories have causes them to be happy to get rid of workers who cause them trouble because there are many more women who will not ask for things, like lunch facilities, that could cost the factories extra money.

The violation and systematic removal of a woman's agency begins in the factories with the violence toward women that is seen continued with the murders. Women are often raped and beaten within the factories. This is perfectly acceptable to both the factories and the men and women involved in the activities. It is frequently considered the woman's fault that she was subjected to these actions. Many of the men who rape the women believe that it is there place to do so because they have stepped out of their roles as women. The men are sending a message that women within the factory have no agency, no protection and no rights.

The conditions in which the factories allow their women to travel also indicate that they have no agency or protection. Companies do not provide transportation to and from the maquiladoras. Women frequently walk alone to and from busses and even to and from work. It is usually in this transit that women disappear. Employers also have a practice of sending home women for being the slightest bit late. For example, Claudia Gonzalez was sent home for being only three minutes late for work and she attempted to walk home. She went missing and her body was found a month later. Factories also make shift changes that take women off of shifts with friends and family members and place them on shifts that require them to travel alone. Women are also motivated to take later shifts because they pay a few cents more but the difference is significant enough. These women with late shifts leave after dark with no security present making them susceptible to kidnapping, even making abduction easy. Factories, though, are not motivated to take action and feel no responsibility to provide security for their workers because the murders do not occur on factory property. In fact the "North America Free Trade Agreement exempts the sweatshops from any laws requiring them to provide better security—because such laws might interfere with 'the ability to make profit,'" which is more important to these companies than the women they employ (Dellit, 2003). I believe that the factories are facilitating the abduction and murders of these women, possibly even knowingly.

The Juárez murders are a backlash by the men of Juárez because women are beginning to gain agency and freedom and men are becoming less dominant in the culture. Chávez explains: "'Men found themselves no longer the breadwinner. Women exchanged subordination at home for subordination to the factory boss, but this offered a certain independence. They could buy clothes, leave their abusive boyfriends, go out alone. And, with middle-aged men unemployable in Juárez, this created frustration, a backlash against women exhibiting independence for the first time. Being financially independent and wearing a mini skirt, however, is not an invitation to one's death.'" (Vulliamy). Woolf's period experienced similar, but far less severe backlash. Woolf describes a "natural expression of fear and jealousy" when women take on the roles of men and begin to gain agency (54). The men of Juárez feel threatened because not only are their jobs being taken away but so is their agency. Woolf claims that the one who makes the money decides how to spend it. In Woolf's time soon after women began moving into the workplace men spoke of taking the women back out of the workplace and making sure that the workplace consisted entirely of men again. Rather than just speaking about removing women from the workplace in Juárez, the men have actually done it. They have begun to systematically murder the maquiladoras workers with what I see as two goals. The ideal goal would be to scare the women enough that they will no longer seek places in the maquiladoras and therefore would no longer seek agency. The alternative goal would be to remove enough women from the factories that there are no longer enough women to fill the factories.

The violence toward and violation of women's bodies that begins in the factories continues for the women just before their murder. Many women are raped and mutilated before they are murdered. Their bodies are often cut, beaten or scared with acid among other things. By acting violently toward the women before murdering them the men are indicating that it is not enough to just kill the women silence their voices and take away their agency. They need to make it clear to both the women that they are murdering and to all of the rest of the women that they have committed a huge wrong. They need to deface and defile the bodies that carry a cultural meaning that goes against one that they like and accept. They need to disrupt the continuity of that meaning and not leave it intact to be found after their deaths. The men are taking the women's bodies and using them to express their agency. They inscribe messages on the women's bodies removing their agency and taking it for their own.

The government and authorities in Juárez have explicitly said that the women's little bit of agency is the reason that they are disappearing and being murdered. Women often express themselves by the clothing they wear and the way that they look. This is being cited as the reason that they are being killed. According to many of the men of Juárez, the women of Juárez have provoked the terror that is being brought upon their bodies. As recently as 1999, then-Chihuahua Attorney General Arturo Gonzalez Rascón blamed murder victims for dressing provocatively and thus encouraging men's baser instincts (Nieves). For a girl to go out alone is 'like a little treat' said former prosecutor Auturo Gonzalez Rascón, 'Like putting candy at the entrance to a school.'(Vulliamy) Many of the authority figures in Juárez use gender stereotypes of both men and women to their advantage. Women are seen to be promiscuous and men are expected to react to that. The men in Juárez have a problem with women expressing their sexuality, but at the same time women are expected to present their bodies attractively. Women are fed images of women dressed in very little clothing and told that that is what will make them attractive. Women in Juárez are stuck between two contradictory views of how women should appear. They are given messages that they are to adorn their bodies in order to please men, but if these women do follow these messages then they are blamed for their own rape, mutilation and murder. The blaming of these young women for their own murders is an important political move on the part of the men in Juárez. Although, 74 percent of the murdered women were wearing trousers investigators claim that they were or had at one point dressed provocatively in order to encourage their murderers. This sends a message not only to the women of Juárez, but also to the men that women are completely the object of men's gaze and desires. If a man's desire is to rape and murder a woman he is infallible in this decision. This gives the men of Juárez a tremendous power. It also turns the small amount of choice and agency around so that it is a problem and a cause for a war to be waged.

The authorities' handling of the situation displays even further the desire to stop women's agency and regain men's monopolization of agency and power. Over the past decade dozens of arrests have been made and most of these suspects--particularly in the most well-known suspects—have gone free. In 1995 Egyptian citizen Abdel Latif Sharif and an alleged band of "assassins" known as Los Rebeldes, were arrested but over half of them were freed due to a lack of evidence. Another well publicized arrest was that of two of the drivers of maquiladora busses. But, the suspects accused the police of beating them in order to obtain a confession and the two men were released. It seems that the police torture of the suspects was a clever tactic to ensure that the suspects would go free and the murders would continue. Even while Sharif and other suspects were in custody women continued to go missing. This leads Chávez to believe that many of the murders are the work of copycats who rape, torture, and murder women simply because they have discovered that they can do so with impunity. Men are receiving the message from the authorities that these crimes should continue.

There is also a gross mishandling of the evidence. Patricio Martinez, the Governor of Chihuahua described the situation well when he said, "I ask the people of Chihuahua how it is they can today demand we solve some crimes when all we got from the previous administration is 21 bags with bones" (Fragoso). There is so little effort and motivation to solve these crimes that the evidence is clumped together and passed on from person to person with no expectation that they will ever be able to—or want to—do anything to solve these crimes. Bodies are often presented to the victims' families that are not their daughters. In many cases skeletons are presented to families whose daughters have only been missing for a few months. Much of the evidence was simply glossed over or concealed from the public. This uncaring attitude shows the authorities lack of value for the women and displays their desire also to silence the women's agency.

The authorities often come in conflict with the families efforts to find their daughters and the people responsible for the crimes. "The authorities made the majority of the victims' families believe that the best way of solving each case was 'to remain silent', not to talk to reporters, not to allow the problem to grow and become 'scandalous' or 'public'" (Perez). The authorities often encourage families not to report their daughter's disappearances because they believe that in many cases the girl has run off with a boyfriend or left town. More often than not though, the woman's body is found a few months later, another victim of the robbing of women's agency. When the families do report their daughters missing the authorities do little to find the girl. Families are not even allowed to report a missing person until 72 hours after her disappearance, during which time the girls are tortured and raped. On one occasion a group had gathered to search for bodies of relatives and they came across a mass gravesite. Someone called the authorities to report the find. "As mothers of the murdered women wept, he scolded the volunteers for contaminating possible evidence" (Nieves). Several groups have also been founded to help stop the murders. In 1998 Voces Sin Eco (Voices Without Echo) was founded by Guillerma Gonzalez Torres, a former maquila worker. Her younger sister, Sagrario, was killed in April 1998. The authorities believe that these groups bring too much attention to the cases and hinder the progress of their investigations. The police pressured Voces Sin Eco and the group members received many threats and because of this the group dissolved in 2000. Another such group called Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Our Daughters Return Home) has received similar threats, but despite the risk the members continue to fight for justice. Even when people are making an effort to ensure the rights of women who have recently gained a small amount of agency, the patriarchal powers stop the efforts.

It appears that the murders have been affective in causing fear. Rather than attempting to change the views in Mexico, the focus has been on changing the activity of the women so that it more closely fits the current role that is expected of them. Fear is the general state of most of the women of Juárez and there are constant reminders around them that they are in danger. "'...All we can do is awaken the citizenry,'" claims Paula Gonzalez, the mother of one of the murdered women (Vulliamy). Black crosses on a pink background are painted on telephone poles commemorating the women who have been murdered. These crosses also act as a constant reminder that women are continually being murdered. There are also signs and billboards all over Juárez that warn "Be careful—watch for your life" (Nieves). Women are also always conscious of their friends, family and coworkers disappearing. The fear that these women may disappear just like their coworkers is always prevalent. Nieves relates the situation well: "Women are on edge. On a visit after the bodies were found in November, women factory workers who were waiting, alone, for busses at 5 a.m. all recoiled when I approached them for interviews with a male photographer and a male guide. Two ran away, and one shouted that her boyfriend would be along shortly." Authorities in Mexico thought that a curfew would be the best way to protect the women. The region's assistant attorney-general claimed "All the good people should stay at home with their families" (Dellit). The women are constantly being reminded that they need to keep safe. "Warnings were sent out about attending parties, staying out late till the morning hours, walking alone, and more importantly, if she was a laborer, about dressing provocatively and consuming alcoholic beverages" (Fragoso). "The official response was to advise women not to dress provocatively, avoid walking the streets and 'If you are sexually attacked, pretend to vomit. That will be repulsive to the attacker, and he will probably flee'" (Vulliamy). Not only are these warnings to keep the women safe they are also a way to control the activities that women can engage in activities which are classified as "an inadequate care and abandonment of the family unit in which they have lived" (Fragoso). These warnings force women to go back into the household and abandon the public sphere. The most troubling thing is that even the families of the women who are murdered feel hopeless when it comes to the possibility of the murders stopping because the gender views in Juárez have changed. The focus is just on stopping the activity that is putting the women in danger right now. I find that this is a dangerous track to take because it opens the possibility that the views will never change.

It seems that the presence of international interest in the Juárez murders will prove to be the most helpful. Many of the nations that are interested in the Juárez murders, the US for example, have an entirely different political, social and economic climate. This different climate can act as an example and an educator to the people of Juárez to the possibilities for their country should their gender culture change. There is a small population in Juárez that also believes that international help is the most useful. A good deal of the international attention and the pressure that came from international organizations to solve the Juárez murders came from the group Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa. "In the face of this pressure, state and federal authorities are now attempting to free themselves of adverse international opinions, which in reality have turned against them and discredited them worldwide for not having solved the problem" (Perez). The international presence causes Mexico to want to save face in the international community. The "phenomenon of Juárez" has also become popular among US celebrities (Castillo). Castillo says that no one shines in the spotlight quite like US Hollywood celebrities—including Jane Fonda, Sally Fields, Christine Lahti and Eve Ensler. The authority that celebrities have worldwide can bring Juárez into the minds of most people. This outside perspective can help convince the women of Juárez that instead of being afraid they should fight for their rights. The international interest can also provide a different manner of approaching investigations and may possibly be able to take some of the action into their own hands.

Woolf claims though that no progress can be made without some sort of battle. Women are beginning to work their ways into the workplace. This is a stage that occurred before Woolf wrote Three Guineas so there had already been mothers to the daughters of educated men who had fought for their equality. In the case of Juárez, the daughters that are being murdered could become the mothers that Woolf refers to. They are the first in the ongoing battle for gender equality. Modern day England is testament to the possibility for advancement. We see many women in the workplace, though they still receive 19 percent less pay than their male counterparts there is significantly more equality in their pay than during Woolf's time. Through the example England I see the possibility for Juárez. There is hope that there will be progression much like from Woolf's time to present day. Evidence of this is seen in the little progress that they have already made. The first rape and domestic abuse crisis center in Juárez was opened by Chávez in the area. Although women are tentative to come to the clinic they are coming and the people who run the clinic can begin to teach the women about the possibilities that are out there for them.

The murdered women of Juárez have been inadvertently placed into a battle for gender equality. American companies that are financially motivated have begun placing their factories in Juárez. By employing mostly women these companies have unknowingly started a war about gender roles in Mexico. But, with the help of international organizations and the realization of the Mexican government that these gender divides must be re-evaluated, I see huge possibilities for Juárez, but it may come at continued loss of life and great cost. The women of Juárez have been given the chance, with the help of international organizations, to gain the agency that should have been provided to them with their economic independence. It is very important for the people of Juárez, especially the families of the murdered women, to ensure that these women have not died in vain. The crosses commemorating their deaths should not just be a tactic to inspire fear but also one to remind the people of Juárez that there is an unacceptable gender dynamic that is causing these women to be killed. It is not only the women of Juárez that need to cause this change, but also the men. Fathers, brothers, and husbands are also losing loved ones and they need to take the steps to stop it as well.

Castillo, Ana. Conditioned for murder: Juarez killings show cost of misogyny, 2004 Catholics for a Free Choice

Dellit, Alison. A Woman's Place is in the Struggle: Death in Juarez, from Green Left, weekly online edition, at http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2003/546/546p10b.htm

Fragoso, Julia Monárrez. "Serial Sexual Femicide in Ciudad Juárez: 1993-2001". Debate Feminista, 13th edition, Vol. 25, April 2002.

Jones, Adam Ph.D. The Murdered Men of Ciudad Juárez, published in Letras Libres (Mexico), April 2004, http://adamjones.freeservers.com/juarez.htm

Perez, Rosa Isela Ciudad Juárez, The Silence of Death from Cuartoscuro, at http://www.cuartoscuro.com/64/arteng1.html

Nieves, Evelyn To Work and Die in Juarez, from Mother Jones, at http://www.motherjones.com

Stackhouse, John. "Men Killing Women in Juarez, Mexico, With Impunity". www.flipside.org

Vulliamy, Ed Murder in Mexico (part one), from The Observer, March 2003 at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4621201-110490,00.html

Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas. New York: Harcourt Inc. 1938.

Full Name:  Sara Ansell, Bree Beery, Maris
Username:  sansell@haverford.edu
Title:  A Thwarted Patriarchy: Haverford College, the Justice System, Governmental Policy, and Feminism
Date:  2004-12-16 01:47:35
Message Id:  11976
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Feminism and gender politics affect institutionalized systems such as Haverford College, the Justice System, governmental family policy or working family policy, and even feminism itself. All four systems are based on one perspective on gender. All were changed or are changing due to feminism and gender politics. The landscape of our book is patriarchal systems from the past and present and reflections on the past. We are addressing a more enlightened present. Our argument explores past patriarchal systems that have been thwarted or challenged by gender politics and new waves of feminism. We will also explore why patriarchy as represented in our four systems is resistant to change. We will begin with a case study of Haverford College in the 70's, them more on to broader examples such as the Justice System, and Governmental Policy, ending with the analysis of the challenges facing the concept of feminism itself.
Haverford College was a very different place than it is today. From its founding days in 1833 the school was constructed on the premise that it would provide a fine education for young men. Despite the faculty and students having voted to go coed in 1870, the Board of Managers did not concede and Haverford remained single sex until 1980. The decade prior to 1980 was a time of much reevaluation and consideration on the part of the students, administration, and faculty. The essence of the debate fell between two camps. One said that continued cooperation with Bryn Mawr was the best choice for both schools. The other said that it was time for Haverford to prevent its identity from become half of a couple with Bryn Mawr and step out on its own as a coed institution. The battle lines were drawn the debate continued with passion for most of the decade. Haverford's President Coleman saw that Haverford's financial state was in jeopardy if it did not expand. He also saw that by prohibiting 50% of the population in this expansion would decrease the caliber of students at Haverford. Bryn Mawr's president Wofford felt passionately that the fate of Bryn Mawr rested on the decision of Haverford. His concerns were exacerbated by the seemingly coercive patterns Haverford's Board set by claiming to let the issue of coeducation rest but then by having it become a possibility again each year. More was going on than financial struggle in these years of debate. Students were questioning the merits of a single sex institution meaning both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, while others expressed opinions of the necessity for single sex institutions based on gender differences and the necessity for men and women to have their own separate spheres. The 70's were a time when the Haverford community grappled with the questions of institutional discrimination and gender differences.
Much like the institutionalized systems of Haverford College, governmental family policy and even feminism itself, the United States criminal justice system has always been and still is greatly affected by changing gender politics as well as the different waves of feminism. Similar to the other institutions listed above, the criminal justice system is a patriarchal system and is thus based on one perspective of gender, the male perspective. In looking at the history of females in the criminal justice system, the social manipulation of these females and the influence that the changing waves feminism has had on the system, I plan to argue that the criminal justice system is another form of patriarchal control, which creates conflict between the private sphere of a woman's life and the public. This control extends far beyond the just incarcerated women, it affects all women and despite the fact that there have been changes to certain policies and prison regulations, though made with resistance, none of the changes have been for the better. By looking at past and present situations as well as the differing feminist perspectives on the justice system, I hope to offer ways and opinions on how to improve this system and allow women to equally balance their life in the public sphere as well as their life in the private sphere.
The United States Justice System reflects the same narrow view of gender as policies on work and family. In the matter of current work policy, the government reinforces traditional gender norms. Feminists and conservatives alike are voicing their opposition to the limited arrangements the workplace supplies modern families and calling on the government to make the necessary changes, but for different reasons. However, one has to question how did the workplace evolve to what it is today and do people really want to see it change? Why is it that the government must step in and not individuals? Will new policies have any impact on gender norms in the workplace? Should we really leave such private issues up to the government in the first place? The fact that it will take government regulation to tame the workplace says a lot about what some Americans really value-and if time at work is valued for some, is it right for it to be restricted in the name of others? These policies are meeting resistance not just from the government, but also from individuals. Who are these individuals and why are they against receiving these "benefits"? All of these questions address our society's model of gender both in the workplace and in the home, and how this model is reacting to change.
Finally, moving in to the broader category of feminism itself, history may promise to repeat itself in the form of 'difference feminism'. Lisa Belkin, a woman who gave up a high-power career to spend more time with her children, wrote 'The Opt-Out Revolution' which appeared in the New York Times Magazine. The article analyzes the phenomenon of highly educated women leaving the work force in order to pursue more traditional maternal and female roles. Belkin leaves the reader with the distinct sense that having the ability to choose to be seemingly antithetical to the feminist cause is actually a rite (and a right) of feminism itself. Indeed, moving towards a different idea of feminism that can embraces the unique aspects of womanhood may be the next big movement, but what are the implications for women? If women achieve an enlightened view of traditionalism, does this mean men will follow suit? Not necessarily. In the current political climate, with the country moving in an arguably more conservative direction, "enlightened women" may be all the more ineffective at preventing male-centric policies from affecting the nation. Cynthia Enlowe arguably might fear that these 'difference feminists' are likely to become militarized without their direct knowledge or participation, merely by their acquiescence. However, Virginia Woolf might say that the difference feminist will help destroy the harshness of wartime policy and action and replace it with a more feminine, peaceful method.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1) Coeducation at Haverford: A Forced Revolution by Sara Ansell

Chapter 2) The United States Justice System by Bree Beery

Chapter 3) Governmental Family Policy by Marissa Chickara

Chapter 4) A Changing Feminism by Nancy Evans

Full Name:  Sara Ansell
Username:  sansell@haverford.edu
Title:  Coeducation at Haverford: A Forced Revolution
Date:  2004-12-16 01:51:42
Message Id:  11977
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Haverford College did not begin as the institution that it is today. A group of concerned Quakers constructed the secondary school on the premise that it would provide a fine education for Quaker young men. On its founding day in 1833, the Haverford School's notion of a "liberal and guarded education for Quaker boys" became a reality. Jumping forward in time to 1870, a decisive change was on the horizon: the faculty and students had voted to go coed. However, the Board of Managers did not concede and Haverford remained single sex for over a century after the students and faculty had spoken. It wasn't until 1980 that a freshmen class comprised of both men and women entered Haverford. Yet it is the decade prior to 1980 that is the topic of this paper. The series of about 10 years before a Haverford female student would unpack her belongings in her room to settle down for four years of an intense and demanding education, both in and out of the classroom, was a time of much reevaluation and consideration on the part of the students, administration, and faculty.

The 70's were vibrant and passionate years in the context of the debate over coeducation as students, faculty, and administrators voiced their opinions often in
Haverford and Bryn Mawr's weekly newspaper, The News, forums, interviews, formal discussions, reports, and Collections (school wide meetings) on both Bryn Mawr's and Haverford's campus. The essence of the coeducational debate fell between two camps. One side argued that continued cooperation with Bryn Mawr was the best choice for both schools. The other said that it was time for Haverford to prevent its identity from merging with Bryn Mawr's and to step out on its own as a coed institution. The battle lines were drawn and the debate continued with zeal for most of the decade.

Economics played an important role in the debate. Haverford's President John Coleman saw that Haverford's financial state was in jeopardy if it did not expand in size. He also saw that by prohibiting 50% of the population in an expansion would decrease the caliber of students at Haverford. Bryn Mawr's president Wofford felt passionately that the fate of Bryn Mawr rested on the decision of Haverford. His concerns were exacerbated by the seemingly coercive patterns Haverford's Board of Managers set by claiming to let the issue of coeducation rest but then by addressing the possibility again each year. Yet, something deeper was going on than a financial struggle in these years of debate.

Students questioned the merits of a single sex institution meaning both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, while others expressed opinions of the necessity for single sex institutions based on gender differences and essential separate spheres for men and women. The 70's were a time when the Haverford community grappled with the questions of institutional discrimination and gender differences. When the Board finally came to an agreement on May 11th 1979 to accept women into the incoming freshmen class, did a revolution truly occur or did Haverford's decision take place because of forces other than a reconceptualization of the institution? And finally, how did coeducation effect Bryn Mawr, Haverford's sister school for so many years? Did Haverford force a revolution upon Bryn Mawr through its own self serving actions? This analysis will attempt to answer these questions as well as provide insight into the gender politics of Haverford 30 years ago.

At the beginning of the school year in 1972 Haverford President John Coleman addressed a crowd of mostly freshmen saying that "he had severely misjudged the reaction received when he made his 1971 opening Collection speech supporting coeducation." Haverford students and Bryn Mawr students alike had met Coleman's opening speech in '71 with extreme wariness stemming from concerns about the future of their respective institutions and the Administration's plans for them. The general reaction had been one of non-support for the coeducational movement. Coeducation had been a topic of interest on Haverford's campus during the 1960's but larger concerns over international political affairs as well as domestic political movements had overshadowed the more localized topic. Coleman addressed this surprise reaction in his address of '72 on September 18th according to The News article which ran the following week.

"[Coleman stated that] he had specifically misjudged student and Bryn Mawr attitudes on the subject. He reflected that had the coeducation proposal been made a year earlier, student response would probably have been overwhelmingly in support. He attributed the change in student attitudes to the importance of the women's liberation movement and questions that it had raised. He added that many people on both campuses felt that the coeducation would come to Haverford at the expense of the cooperation with Bryn Mawr. The President repeated his earlier comment that he will not raise the issue again, but added that should the College ever decide to increase the size of the student body, it would be impossible 'without opening the doors to the other 50% of the population.' Director of Admissions William Ambler agreed."

If President Coleman had been taken back, as implied in the article, by student reaction to his proposal, what were the reactions that required such a statement and reassurance from the College's president? One student made clear his reaction as well as others on campus after a discussion on College policy and Bi-College relations later that semester. The News reported, "Students attending the meeting were for the most part hostile towards both expansion and coeducation. Matt Smith '74 in the opening question slammed the administration for wanting to increase the student body and said 'no institution has the right to threaten the academic excellence of any institution.'" It is clear that some students felt that increasing the number of students stood no purpose except to allow a greater flow of revenue for the institution meanwhile the admissions standards would decrease and Haverford's academic caliber would be jeopardized. The question of coeducation was something so out of the question for most students at the time, that such a fundamental change for Haverford would mean a loss of Haverford identity which included Haverford's academic excellence.

Other students expressed their opinions in the fall of '72 after John Coleman's speech to the student body upon their arrival to campus. One student against coeducation stated, "Although some expansion may be necessary to the College's survival, admitting women to Haverford is not only unnecessary but harmful. End of dorm exchange and death to the cross majoring proposal, a 3-1 student female-male ratio and a Bryn Mawr administration that felt (and quite rightly) that it had been betrayed by Haverford. It is time that both Haverford and Bryn Mawr realize that the fates of the two institutions are dependent upon one another." Despite these strong words at Haverford and Bryn Mawr campuses, the students against coeducation were not the only ones expressing opinions. Another students writes in The News that, "Cooperation doesn't seem to be working as well as we'd like. There is no reason why cooperation need end with coeducation. We can move forward together."

Another impassioned voice during the birth of the coeducational debate in the early 70's was that of Bryn Mawr's Administration. President Wofford's position on the question of women at Haverford was clear. He was strongly opposed to the possibility of a coed Haverford. His reasons were numerous but all were based in one deeply rooted concern: that of Bryn Mawr's survival. His first qualm with a coed Haverford had to do with the present state of cooperation between both campuses. During the academic year of 1972, 230 or 25% of Bryn Mawr undergraduates lived in coeducational halls while a growing number of departments were joining academic collaborations. If Haverford became a coed institution, dorm exchange could cease as well as the academic relations. Wofford also worried over the inevitability of Haverford and Bryn Mawr competing for the same candidates if Haverford opened its doors to women. Suddenly, a brother and sister relationship would evolve into a competitive peer school relationship. Lastly, Wofford expressed concern over the loss of the newly conceptualized cross-majoring at either school, something that had just reacently gotten off the ground.

Wofford concluded his detailed explanation for Bryn Mawr's position by stating to The News, "We much prefer the vision of the two-college community in which men at Haverford enjoy the rare experience of living and studying in a predominately women's institution and Bryn Mawr women have the experience of similar participation in a men's college. We believe that continuing the course we have followed so far would be a much greater contribution to American education. Though we would disagree with Haverford's decision to follow the customary path now being taken by most men's colleges, we would respect its right to do so."

Haverford's Board of Managers concern seemingly lied with economic factors and academic prowess, not the moral question of gender equality or even the question of Haverford's identity as a coed institution. In a report released during the first semester of '72, the Board, Admissions, and John Coleman presented the facts of Haverford's "crisis." The News reported on this analysis. "Citing 'undeniable' budget deficits and a shrinking application pool, the Haverford Administration presented its case for expansion and coeducation. Running over 20 pages, the report is a compilation of facts and judgments, examining option available for the College to solve a fiscal problem, which President John Coleman said could result in a "real crisis" within the next five years. A May deadline for a decision by the Board of Managers was proposed. If the recommendation is accepted, women could enter Haverford in September 1974. [William Ambler, Dean of Admissions added] Perhaps the most starting disclosure maintained in the document is that "...few among the rejected 1972-73 applicants were admissible!"

Wofford's response to such a report was passionate and direct. He writes to John Coleman in a formal memorandum. The following are the most compelling sections of his memorandum: "We too are having problems with our applicant pool. Welcome to the club! I believe that Haverford's admission of its won women students would have tragic consequences for bi-college cooperations. As the current pattern of coeducation is adopted in most predominately male institutions, I predict that the alternative Bryn Mawr represents will become more appealing to many women and men too. 'Having our own women,' as most of these male institutions think of it, will come to be seen for what it usually is, a new form of male chauvinism. And the options Bryn Mawr will offer in cooperation with Haverford ...will be appreciated as rare, rich, and rewarding."

In the winter of '74 the Board made yet another decision on the issue of coeducation. It concluded that expansion was the answer but coeducation was not. In its decision, the Board stated that, "[We] spoke to those who favored coeducation. [We] admitted that the "moral argument" which maintains that Haverford has no right to deny full education to women – was left unanswered. [We] argued, however, that other issues were more compelling: A lack of any firm commitment to coeducation on Haverford's part, the potential damage to Bryn Mawr, and the possibility for greater cooperation." Once again, the Board side stepped the issue of gender and relied on the arguments of economical pragmatism and relations with Bryn Mawr.

Students, on the other hand, were not avoiding the controversial topic of gender. In fact the topic was popping up more and more on both campuses. This is most probably due to the fact that Amherst's struggle to come to a decision on going coed had finally ended: in '74, Amherst decided to open its doors to women. "'Webash, Haverford, West Point – it's nice to say goodbye,' exclaimed the special Nov. 2nd issues of the Amherst Student. The recent decision of the Board of Trustees to make Amherst College coeducational culminate many years of debate within the school, and leave Haverford as one of the few remaining private, eastern liberal arts colleges to retain an all-male student body. "

Students on both campuses were beginning to become more reflective of their own communities as it became apparent that the Bryn Mawr and Haverford relationship was increasingly rare with each formerly men's college becoming a coed institution. Students continued to express views all over the spectrum ranging from extremely modern and progressive to more traditional and reliant upon the past decades of Haverford and Bryn Mawr's well formed identities. One student writes to The News expressing concern over the aftermath of going coed. He writes, "It appears virtually certain that through one plan or another, Haverford will soon be admitting women. But is the Haverford community really ready to welcome women into it as students? Those concerned with the college's finances are also eager to have women to increase enrollment and college revenues. But it is not so obvious that women admitted to Haverford would feel comfortable and be treated as intellectual equals vis a vis Haverford men."

Another telling article illustrates concern from students but from a different perspective. The article states, "Bryn Mawr students believe by a margin of better than two to one that coeducation at Haverford would have a 'strong detrimental effect on Bryn Mawr admissions,' according to results of a poll released Wednesday by the anthropology department. The survey also indicated that a majority of those living in coed dorms might not have come to Bryn Mawr if Haverford admitted women." It is clear that students from both communities were recognizing the interdependence they have on one another in more than strictly a social sense. In the 70's Haverford and Bryn Mawr were truly united in a very important means: attracting applicants not only because of their respective identity, but also because of each-other. This admissions reliance translated into a financial dependence and academic dependence as well. Any decision Haverford made about the future of its school, it would deeply and irreparably affect Bryn Mawr's personal identity as well as its public identity.

By 1977 the Board could no longer deny the economic sense made by accepting some women into Haverford, yet it was still not ready to move Haverford into the coed realm. The Board agreed that by expanding the college but limiting the candidates to only men, the question of Haverford's academic caliber would come into play. Thus the Board compromised and took the last step it could take before allowing Haverford to become fully coeducational. The Board implemented the decision to admit women as transfers starting in the following fall of '77.

The students had a decision to share as well. In a well attending Plenary in early February of 1978, the students of Haverford voted 387-90 with 59 students abstaining to go fully coed. The resolution asked the Board of Managers to "affirm its commitment to coeducation by stating that Haverford is prepared to offer admission to women not only at the transfer level, but at the freshman level as well." The faculty was behind the students in their request. In their written letter of affirmation for a coed Haverford, a representative of the faculty writes of Haverford's past.

"...beyond this lies the reason for the desire for coeducational atmosphere. Haverford's mission, as its students see it, is to maintain a community based on the principles of the Society of Friends. Such a community, to remain constant with the Quaker principles of open access, needs an equal admissions policy: women there through matriculation, and there, if they so choose, for four years."

As the Board announced its decision and the students expressed theirs at Plenary, John Coleman announced one as well. He would step down as President of Haverford claiming his ten years had been sufficient. He stated that he did not have the energy to continue the push for coeducation and that he would make room for someone with perseverance to step in his place. After a year of an acting President of Steve Carry, President Robert Stevens became Haverford's new President in 1978. His inauguration was shared with Bryn Mawr's new President Mary Patterson McPherson. Stevens assured a packed house in Marshall Auditorium soon after his inauguration that the question of coeducation will be answered. "My sense of the situation," said Stevens, "is that this time the question will be settled once and for all." He was not misleading in his statement as on May 11the the following year the Board of Managers decided to admit women to the College on the same basis as men. The Board assured Haverford and Bryn Mawr students that this move would no way effect cooperation with Bryn Mawr. In 1980, 400 women applied for the first Haverford coed class, comprising 29% of the total applicants. Dean of Admissions, William Ambler stated, "I can tell you it's going to be a dynamite class of freshmen next year."

Once the Board had finally answered the question of coeducation, what were the effects? What had truly happened during the years of debate and what was in store for Haverford and Bryn Mawr once women entered the Haverford community as full fledged four year students? Despite the Board's final decision to go coed, they had failed to address something crucial. This is the analysis of gender at Haverford. Neither the Board nor John Coleman had ever singled out the question of what it meant to have women at Haverford. In an expert from an interview in 1972 to The News, John Coleman makes clear what his priorities were.

"The major issue to which we are speaking is not coeducation; it is the survival of the College in distinction. The economics are pushing this College to a far greater extent that I had realized even a few months ago."

The Board side stepped the issue as well. They even admitted to their lack of response in the area of gender issues.
The Board also spoke to those who favored coeducation. It admitted that the "moral argument" which maintains that Haverford has no right to deny full education to women – was left unanswered. It argued, however, that "other issues were more compelling"

Joan Wallach Scott speaks to this phenomenon in her article entitled, "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis." She states, "...the concept of gender has long been treated as the by-product of changing economic structures; gender has had no independent analytic status of its own." The reason for this lack of interest of gender politics has to do with the nature of Haverford and Bryn Mawr as educational institutions. Bryn Mawr's relationship with the question of gender was similar to that of Haverford's prior to 1970: both schools filled a need as expressed by society. Haverford began as a school for the education of Quaker young men and Bryn Mawr began as a counterpart to such as school, but for the opposite sex.

Denise Riley speaks to the polarity of sexes as she writes, "The historically constructed nature of the opposition [between male and female] produces as one of its effects just that air of an invariant and monotonous men/women opposition." Haverford and Bryn Mawr lived in a community of polarized sexes. Though coeducation existed, the identities of the colleges never wavered as a men's school and a female school respectively. The separation between the sexes is evident in the student's widely accepted stereotypes of each other. Expressed in an opinion column in The News, a Haverford male listed four common stereotypes of Bryn Mawr women. He writes, "BMC women are too intellectual, Bryn Mawr girls study twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, BMC girls hate guys, Bryn Mawr girls really aren't girls."

It seems that the debate over cooperation or coeducation was a struggle for something deeper than the continued relationship between both schools or the predicted dissolution of such a relationship. The debate rested on the deeply rooted question of either continuing Haverford and Bryn Mawr's separate but equal status as single sex institutions, or, for various economic reasons, allowing the identity of Haverford and inevitably Bryn Mawr's to drastically change. If this change had been presented by Haverford's Administration in gender terms such as "Institutional Discrimination" Haverford would most probably remain all male to this day. It was the commonly accepted terms of academic quality and economic crisis that pushed the Haverford community to become the catalyst for a major gender revolution in the bi-co community.

This revolution began when Haverford began to raise the possibility of altering their position in society by becoming a coed institution. This in turn shaped Bryn Mawr's relationship with the question of gender: gender became even more intertwined with Bryn Mawr's idenity. This identity intertwined with gender became obvious during the debates of 1970 when it was only Bryn Mawr that was obligated to maintain gender as its focal point in their position on coeducation. Bryn Mawr's existence as a College would become further based on gender once Haverford went coed. Here Wofford's concern over the question of gender is clear.

"...The problems of cooperation will be exacerbated by the problems would indeed face with the many different problems of integrating its proposed women students into a largely male institution, and with the problems of substantially expanded classes. We much prefer the vision of the two-college community in which men at Haverford enjoy the rare experience of living and studying in a predominately women's institution and Bryn Mawr women have the experience of similar participation in a men's college. We believe that continuing the course we have followed so far would be a much greater contribution to American education."

Haverford's relationship with gender did not extend outside the college gates as an all male institution until schools such as Amherst, Yale, and Princeton began accepting women. Once Haverford took the step of becoming coed, Bryn Mawr's relationship with gender was forced to extend well beyond the college gates as well, as it would take on the identity of an all female college in the world of coed schools. Post 1980, Haverford is considered an "American" college and Bryn Mawr has become a College for women. Prior to Haverford's coeducation decision, Bryn Mawr was able to remain respected as a College without the definition as a "women's school." This is due to a commonly accepted definition of women's schools: women's schools were where women went to think like men. Suddenly, Bryn Mawr in 1980 was forced, despite pleading to avoid it, into a reevaluation of identity because women now had the opportunity to go elsewhere to think like men. Bryn Mawr found itself involuntarily taking on the definition of a school where women could be free to think like women.

This forced revolution is the end result of Haverford's decision to go coed. Yet, Bryn Mawr is not alone in such a drastic identity crisis. The effect on Haverford may have been more economic than political primarily, but it did not escape the necessity to look closely at itself in the context of gender. It is the chronological order of these two separate but intertwined revolutions on Haverford and Bryn Mawr's campuses that is intriguing. Haverford's debate and decision to go coed affected Bryn Mawr's relationship with gender before Haverford's own relationship with the issue. As stated before, it was Bryn Mawr that argued on the grounds of gender during the debates in addition to economics and academics. Bryn Mawr recognized that their purpose in society and in the bi-co community would be drastically altered the moment Haverford announced it would be going coed. Haverford forced a revolution on Bryn Mawr which demanded the school take on the political identity of an all women's college as its primary identity. Even though some women on campus had seen their education as political earlier than 1980 , it was the final decision by Haverford that in turn, forced such an all-encompassing decision on Bryn Mawr.

Haverford and Bryn Mawr's struggle to come to a decision on coeducation illuminates numerous political, personal, gendered, and economic topics present during the '70's. The question of Haverford's stance on gender equality is nearly impossible to answer as Haverford's public concern focused on the economics and academic repercussions of becoming a coed institution. Yet, the non-responsive nature of the Board in numerous occasions such as the call from students after the Plenary decision of '78 and the stepping down of John Coleman that same year, hint to the reluctance of the Board despite clear financial reasons to accept women into the incoming freshmen class. This reluctance could be based on respect for Bryn Mawr's disapproval of Haverford's coeducation plan, or a deeply rooted fear of stepping away from Haverford's traditional past of separate but equal mentality when addressing the topic of single sex education. What is clear though, is the affect Haverford's decision had on Bryn Mawr. Although, Bryn Mawr already was home to many political voices in the late 70's, Haverford's move to go coed, forced a new identity on Bryn Mawr. Bryn Mawr would now have to answer even more quickly to a public questioning the value of an all female education. Haverford's decision to turn coed created a revolution in this bi-co community, a forced revolution first on Bryn Mawr's campus, and finally here on Haverford's campus.


- The News, Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College campus news source. The articles cited in my paper are between the years of 1971-1979

- Haverford College Board of Manager Minutes, 1827-1833

- Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter, 1993

- Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis

- Rubin, Gayle S. Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality

Full Name:  Rebecca Mao
Username:  RMao@haverford.edu
Date:  2004-12-16 12:50:43
Message Id:  11979
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Knowing the Body
2004 Final Web Report
On Serendip

The human body is an object in which one lives and the medium through which one experiences oneself and the world. The human body vests claims on ideology and space; and thus participates as the site on which conflicts about belief systems and territory contest violently. Gay bodies become entangled in violence when they enter into arenas that combat certain ideas. Gay bashing illustrates incidences all in which bodies experience physical injury. In modern U.S. communities various militant conservatives individually target homosexuals in "gay bashing." Though few conservative political groups explicitly avow targeting gays for physical violence, their members individually carry out anti-gay brutality. Mathew Shepard's brutal murder in 1998 illustrates a relatively recent incident in which the human body becomes politicized. What is the process by which the pain and death of Shepard's body transform the personal into the political? What does "gay bashing" mean to attackers, victims and the state? The attackers' deliberate decision to raise Shepard's body stemmed from their intensions to make public what was private. To narrow the scope of analysis, I argue that by writing into law a "gay panic defense" statute the state establishes an anti-gay social atmosphere in which private citizens act as agents of the state to protect patriarchy by carrying out implicitly legalized physical violence against gays.

The Gay Panic Defense uses the word panic to convey a sense of abruptness in the perpetrators' thought process during the moment they carry out the criminal behavior. The Oxford English Dictionary defines panic as "a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety." The word panic projects the illusion that the criminal actions taken by gay-bashers do not accurately represent their usual behavior, therefore creating a space for arguing that gay-bashers are good people, like most other heterosexuals who occasionally experience a bout of misjudgment. Ironically, the word panic originates from the Greek god Pan, who was noted for causing terror. Gay panic implies that causing terror in violence is due to forgivable bouts of misjudgment. The defense's language suggests a lack of both premeditation and cognitive participation brought about by the unexpected fright. Sociologists use panic to refer to irrational group behaviors, such as those arising from riot mentality. This statute barrows language from social science for the purpose of linking gay-bashing to an academically accepted explanation for seemingly illogical group behavior. Defense attornies often argue that the victim's sexual advancement on the defendants who are already extrememly insecure about their own heterosexual orientation gave their precarious sanity just enough of a nudge to tip over and hence produce irrational violent behavior. The defense also assumes that homosexuality is such a terror as to uproot even something so supposedly stable as heterosexuality. If gay-bashing is a symptom of a mental "disease" then the defendents must be suffering patients instead of knowing criminals. By pathologizing gay-bashing, the medical and social jargon legitimizes it through institutional recognition.

To facilitate exploring a specific anti-gay defense, I locate this statute within its homophobic political background. Peter Nardi criticizes the state's anti-gay politics in speech.
"Highly visible attacks on gays are made with regularity by influential politicians and political commentators. These attacks by Senators and Congressmen much as Jesse Helms . . . continue a long tradition in which gays and lesbians have served as scapegoats and targets of opportunity" (Nardi, 424).
Despite the differences between sexual orientation and race, gay bashing in the political arena takes shape in a way that's comparable to race baiting. The political system is setup such that traditionally in order for a southern candidate to win an election, he must "out-nigger" his opponent. In contemporary conservative areas, in order to win, a candidate must "out-faggot" his opponent. For instance, Senator Jesse Helms made a career out of verbally bashing gays. Rewarded by votes, elected officials bash the collective gay body. Public servants' homophobic language nurtures an anti-gay social atmosphere in the political arena that seeps into non-political landscapes. An anti-gay social atmosphere created space for private citizens to see Shepard as a piece opportunity and encouraged McKinney and Henderson to become agents of the state. In this anti-gay environment McKinney and Henderson lynched Shepard.

According to Richard Friend homophobia is an extension of heterosexism, which is grounded in sexism. Friend defines homophobia as "the fear and hatred of homosexuality in oneself and in others and emerges as a result of heterosexism" (Friend, 211) and heterosexism as "prejudice against homosexuality that is maintained by a pervasive set of societal institutions that sanction and promote this ideology" (Friend, 211) The author links prejudice against gays to prejudice against women. Within contemporary American patriarchy, heterosexual white men stand at the top of the hierarchy. The relationship between patriarchy and homophobia exists within contextual fabrics unique to each society. In contemporary America, homophobia enhances patriarchy. Apparent heterosexual, young white men participate as the typical gay-bashers in order to maintain a privileged masculinity in patriarchy. (Sedgwick 1985).

On October 6, 1998 Aaron McKinney and Russel Henderson crossed paths in life with Mathew Shepard. McKinney and Henderson came from poor rural backgrounds, earned criminal records, lived in trailer parks and fixed roofs for a living. Shepard came from a more privileged family background, studying as a student at the University of Wyoming. Shepard frequented Fireside, a college bar where McKinney and Henderson also happened be drinking that particular night. In a casual chat, Shepard told McKinney and Henderson that he was gay. The three left the bar together because Shepard believed that McKinney and Henderson were driving him home (Kaufman 2001).

In the truck McKinney began hitting Shepard, approximately three times with his fist and six times with his pistol. Later in court, McKinney would testify that he assaulted Shepard who according to him, placed his hand on his leg, seemed to be reaching for his balls, and thus triggered his "Gay Panic Defense" which the law stipulates as a mechanism in response to the sexual advancement made by gays. This statute reveals homophobia's lawful place in institutionalized patriarchy. After severely beating Shepard in the moving truck Henderson tied him onto a fence on the lonely mountains of Laramie. McKinney pistol whipped Shepard several more times in an attempt to later prevent police involvement when Shepard managed to read the truck's license plate at McKinney's orders. McKinney and Henderson left Shepard to die midair in the freezing night of the wilderness (Kaufman 2001).

Eighteen hours later a biker discovered a deathly Shepard after initially mistaking his five foot one inch, fatally injured body for a scarecrow. The biker reported the crime to police and the first officer who arrived at the scene later described Shepard's face completely covered in dried blood except for the bloodless streaks where his flowing tears ran. EMT rushed a barely breathing Shepard to the Ivinson Hospital emergency room where doctors decided that the patient needed to be transferred to Poudre Valley Hospital for neurosurgery. Ironically Dr. Cantway, the physician who treated Shepard also treated McKinney twenty minutes prior to Shepard's arrival two rooms down the hall (Kaufman 2001).

In an interview for The Laramie Project, McKinney's girlfriend Kristin Price told writers that the two men went into the bathroom where they planned to put on a gay pretense in order to lead Shepard into the truck and rob him as punishment for "coming on to straight people." Price described the punishment as a lesson that the two men intended to teach Shepard. Yet is the audience to the violence limited to the body on which it takes place, in this case Shepard's? (Kaufman 2001)

Meeting in the men's bathroom, McKinney and Henderson discussed Shepard's offense against patriarchy, decided he deserved punishment, and agreed to the method of delivering the penalty. McKinney and Henderson became the penal system. I stress not only the meeting's premeditated nature but also its clandestine quality. I compare the secrecy of the attackers' plans to Foucault's description of Europe's legal system in 1670. Foucault writes:
". . . the entire criminal procedure, right up to the sentence, remained secret: that is to say, opaque, not only to the public but also to the accused himself. It took place without him, or at lest without his having any knowledge either of the charges or of the evidence. In the order of criminal justice, knowledge was the absolute privilege of the prosecution. The preliminary investigation was carried out 'as diligently and secretly as may be'. . ." (Foucault 35)
Foucault sheds light on knowledge's secrecy and privacy during the preparation for and execution of the condemned man's trial. In a similar vein, McKinney and Henderson met in the covert chamber of the men's room in preparation for Shepard's trial. From observing and talking to Shepard in the bar, they gathered evidence against him about his sexual culpability. Similar to an accused party in Foucault's work, Shepard was kept ignorant of the charges brought against him. He did not know he was being surveilled, analyzed and monitored. McKinney and Henderson acted also as prosecutors who first investigated him and then deliberated behind closed door on the privileged information in Shepard's trail. In secrecy the agents decided on a ruling from which Shepard was deliberately kept ignorant. Without Shepard's knowledge, McKinney and Henderson used the evidence to judge him guilty of the crime of endangerment to patriarchy through homosexuality. Shepard has been unknowingly sentenced to die. No jury partook in the verdict's deliberation since McKinney and Henderson acted as the entire criminal justice system. As agents of the state, Mckinney and Henderson played the roles of prosecutors, juries and judges. Shepard did not know that from this point onward, he would be treated as a convicted subject on death role. Hence, we can understand the secret meeting in the men's room as a preliminary investigation, a preliminary hearing and a trial, all in one.

In order to make the punishment possible, McKinney and Henderson must first capture the convict. The agents planned and subsequently carried out a gay performance to convince Shepard that, like him, they were gay. The performance's successful outcome depended upon the undercover agents' knowledge about Shepard's understanding of safety and danger. They knew what it took to make an openly gay man feel safe and staged their front convincingly. The agents had access to this knowledge of which Shepard was not aware during the arresting process. Shepard did not know the agents would soon imprison him in the truck. The undercover agents took him into custody with torture in mind. The agents separated the act of torturing Shepard from the act of displaying the tortured body. Although many gay-bashing incidents take place in public spaces because the attackers intend to carry out physical punishment with participating or witnessing crowds, Shepard's incident occurred in private because his attackers planned a private punishment. Considering that the two men could have instead attempted to start a bar fight with Shepard or engaged him in other types of physical violence in public space but did not, I point out that they intended to move the victim from a public space into a private space. The agents lured the condemned man out of the bar and into a truck with the aim of enclosing him in a private space where the punishment initiated. It was not the agents' intention to perform a militantly exaggerated version of masculinity in front of a crowd for their own identities' sake.

The attackers planned to inflict pain on the condemned man's body without a crowd's judging gaze and interference. Whenever one attacker hit Shepard in the car, a mere audience of one witnessed the punishment. Even if we conceptualize the private punishment as a performance, it could be only a kind of personal theater entertaining the idea of an ever-stable masculine patriarchy to a maximum audience of two. The co-conspirator remained the only audience member who had access to take any kind of intervention on Shepard's body during the punishment in the truck. Granted the co-conspirator's participation in the preparation of condemning Shepard, a co-conspirator posed the least threat to an attacker's freedom to punish. Enclosed within the moving vehicle's metal interior, the agents enjoyed the opportunity to punishing Shepard in a clandestine torture chamber.

In private McKinney and Henderson tortured Shepard. Carefully premeditated, their torture was far from an uncontrolled beating. Foucault describes the act of torturing in Discipline and Punish:
"Torture rests on a whole qualitative art of pain. But there is more to it: this production of pain is regulated. Torture correlates the type of corporal effect, the quality, intensity, duration of pain, with the gravity of the crime, the person of the criminal, the rank of his victims. There is a legal code of pain; when it involves torture, punishment does not fall upon the body indiscriminately or equally; it is calculated . . ." (Foucault 34).
Foucault stresses that torture does not manifest from people's mindless, unrestrained urge to inflict spontaneous violence; rather people carry out torture through thoughtful, deliberate procedures. McKinney and Henderson delayed their punishment until Shepard sat between them in the truck, which proved that the violence's precise timing could not have been coincidental. Despite carrying a gun, McKinney avoided shooting Shepard one time, point blank to immediately kill him, and instead used his gun for repeated pistol whipping to inflict continuous pain. In the act of torturing Shepard, the agents expressed their delicate discrimination between causing death and pain. The agents had not in mind an abrupt death, since quickness would spoil torture's whole purpose. A fatal bullet would have caused only a moment's gesture in pain whereas repeated pistol whipping produced prolonged pain. Fired in milliseconds, a fatal bullet would have spared Shepard the gradation of pain that the pistol whipping made available. The bullet concentrated all its intensity into a split second, whereas the butt spread out its intensity by delivering powerful blow separately. By preferring one end of the pistol over another, McKinney executed torture with full Foucaultian weight.

Once the three arrived at the mountains, the judicially decided location, the agents tied Shepard above ground, onto a fence and continued to pistol whip him before abandoning their victim raised midair. The gradation of pain induced first by being pistol whipped to then by being tied midair reflects the attackers' judgment of the severity of Shepard's crime against patriarchy. In the torture, the agents took into careful consideration the criminal and the crime. Fully cognizant that Shepard was still alive at the fence, the agents intended to extend the pain initially inflicted on his body for the ensuing hours. Any time during the next eighteen hours, the agents had the opportunity of reporting Shepard's location through an anonymous tip to local hospitals; however, they choose to maintain the seemingly indefinite agony on a gay man's body. The agents kept Shepard's body alive for the purpose of suffering. The agents carefully formulated the graduated intensity in pain into anti-gay punishment. In private the agents tortured Shepard for the sake of punishing his body in a way they deemed representative of his crime against patriarchy.

The act of injuring a gay body was private whereas the subsequent exhibition of that injured body was public. Once the agents had completed the torture, they didn't need to be in closed proximity to the condemned. The physical distance represented the agents allowing the injuries to independently make full impact. The injuries spoke for themselves. The act of leaving Shepard's injured body on the fence constituted a public act since McKinney and Henderson raised it for the sake of spectacle. Expressing display's function in producing a show of injury, Foucault writes:
". . . torture, forms part of a ritual. It is an element in the liturgy of punishment and meets two demands: it must mark the victim: it is intended, either by the scar it leave on the body, or by the spectacle that accompanies it, to brand the victim with infamy. . . men will remember public exhibition, the pillory, torture and pain duly observed. From the point of view of the law that imposes it, public torture and execution must be spectacular, it must be seen by almost as its triumph (Foucault 34).
Foucault stresses that the punished body must be marked and identified to a larger audience than to the injured audience himself. Unlike secret murderers, the agents did not burry Shepard in a makeshift grave, a body of water or an abandoned building. Nor did they cut up, incinerate, trash or induce the disappearance of Shepard's injured body. Through raising the body, the agents used Shepard's injuries to mark for display the painful experience that they produced in private. During the punishment McKinney and Henderson violently made clear to Shepard a gay body's invaluable status; during the subsequent spectacle, they announced boldly to the world the same message.

The pain amplified and multiplied through a spectacle as death's image played and replayed in audiences' minds. The injured body's raised height suggested arrogance in the attackers' presumptions about a gay man's worthlessness. The display not only elongated Shepard's punishment, but also transformed a finite episode of suffering into an infinite resonance of disturbance. Gay bashing entails not only the damage or destruction of homosexual bodies but more importantly the injury's public display. The "lesson" that McKinney's girlfriend described was taught not only to Shepard but also to the public, including the body's discoverer, transporter, caretaker, Laramie residents and news consumers about the crime. Knowledge of the violence inflicted on a gay man's body resonated outwards from its site of occurrence as learners mushroomed in numbers. Using Shepard's body to demonstrate to his mind that certain heterosexuals did not welcome a homosexual's sexual advances was the private act of punishing one individual. Using Shepard's body to demonstrate to the minds of local and distant communities that certain heterosexuals did not welcome a homosexual's sexual advances was the public act of intimidating gays and people who care about them in general. Shepard's private punishment ended the moment his body died whereupon the gay community's punishment began as knowledge of one of its member's torture continued to produce disruptions in people's lives. The objectified injured body subsequently generated social injury in bodies of people outside of the initial punishment.

McKinney and Henderson utilized one body's injury in order to teach entire bodies of people to conform to heterosexism. Through injuring a gay man's body and exhibiting that injury, McKinney and Henderson struggled to maintain the heterosexual privilege of communicating sexual advances with only other heterosexuals and not with homosexuals. In conservative spaces sexual initiation remained men's preoccupations. Since in these spaces contemporary American men initiated sexual interest to women, the turf that McKinney and Henderson were defending was the territory reserved for heterosexual men to "hit on" women.

Hitting on a woman does not necessarily equal to expressing sexual interest for further sexual contact. Rather than being a means to an end, that of showing sexual interest for the purpose of obtaining more sexual activity, "hitting on" constituted an end in and of itself. "Hitting on" a woman could simply entail visually enjoying her body. To "hit on" a woman means to visually penetrate her, "checking her out" in a way that serves the observer's interests above all else. The right to look is a pleasure traditionally reserved for men. The collective right to look makes the male gaze powerful and socially intimidating, without a comparable female gaze that could match in degree. There is no female equivalent of the male gaze. The right to look translates to the ability to objectify female human bodies. The male gaze successfully intimidates because it can make object what was subject. Shepard's attackers saw or believed they'd seen that they are being hit on as if they were women. Thus the turf that McKinney and Henderson wanted to protect was masculine as well as heterosexual. To Shepard's attackers, patriarchy was the right of men to "hit on" women while remaining safe from not being "hit on" by anyone else, especially another man.

Feeling like feminized objects, the attackers objectified Shepard's body the way warriors would collect and exhibit the fallen enemy's skull. The agents forced the condemned's body to play a passive role in conquest. In extension to this analogy the state produced its own domestic warriors who enjoyed showing off injured gay bodies as souvenirs. The commonality between Shepard's attackers and warriors lied in the practice of physical bodies' dehumanization, a process that began during punishment and proceeded through objectification. The agents asserted the difference between human and non-human. The once willful, self-contained human body submitted to the will of the conquerors who traumatically broke its skin-barrier. Having lost its most basic biological functions to sustain itself, the injured body ceased to live for its own sake since it now lived as the conquerors' article.

As agents of the state the attackers triumphed the condemned man because there was no contest as to who'd won. Foucault argues that rituals involving excess violence inflicted on the body produce a splendor.
"The very excess of the violence employed is one of the elements of its glory. . . it is the very ceremonial of justice being expressed in all its force. . . Justice pursues the body beyond all possible pain" (Foucault 34).
The excess violence made impossible for spectators to understand the event as a duel rather than a death sentence because it erased any signs of a noteworthy struggle between the agents and the condemned. The violence's excess, Shepard's blood covered face and neurologically destroyed head, inextricably embedded in people's memories the attackers' zealous hostility towards gays. The excess violence marked Shepard's utter failure to launch a crucial defense as much as it reminded the gay community of its own vulnerability to attacks by hostile homophobes protected by the state. Marking the body with infamy, the injuries told a story of injustice, loss, and defeat. The scars on Shepard's body transferred onto the collective gay body after his biological body had died. According to the McKinney, Shepard's sexual advancement in the truck triggered his gay panic; however, the agents had tricked the victim into the truck prior to the supposed trigger. Hence whether or not the attackers felt more offended by Shepard's behavior in the truck, they had already resolved on torture. The agents intended to punish Shepard through orchestrated, explosive physical violence, which the state legitimates using medical and academic institutions. Within this context, the injured body produced truth about the relative power between the agents and the condemned, and about state-sanctioned murders against gays.

Within a homophobic political arena, lawmakers write a "gay panic" statute that sets up the social atmosphere for private citizens to act as agents of the state in gay-bashing in order to maintain patriarchy. The government supports an anti-gay atmosphere by permitting the medical and legal institutions to use the "homosexual panic" defense in the criminal justice system. As practiced in contemporary America, patriarchy uses homophobia as structural support. Patriarchy, imbued with hierarchical meanings, employs torture as a form a punishment. Shepard's private punishment and subsequent public display demonstrate the patriarch's ritualistic exercise of power. The struggles within many societies begin and end within the terrain of the human body, which though has no referential meaning becomes embodied by meaning within context that ultimately has a stake in the body. Participating in the transformation of the private into the public, the human body is both an object in which one lives and a site of political articulation.

Works Cited

1. Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish. New York: Random house.

2. Friend, Richard A. 1993. "Choices, not closets: heterosexism and homophobia in schools." Beyond Silenced voices. Albany: State University of New York Press. 209-235.

3. Kaufman, Moises. 2001. The Laramie Project. New York: First Vintage Books.

4. Nardi, Peter, Bolton, Ralph. 1991. "Gay bashing: violence and aggression against gay men and lesbians." Social perspective in lesbian and gay studies. New York: Routledge. 412-433.

5. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 1985. Between Men. New York: Columbia University Press.

Full Name:  Jessica Payson
Username:  jpayson@bmc
Title:  The Fetal Rights Movement: The Pro-Life Administration¡¯s Conception of American Citizenship
Date:  2004-12-16 19:39:58
Message Id:  11983
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Pro-life rhetoric is reshaping history to make room for a new class of citizens. The members of this new identity group are called ¡°fetuses,¡± and their legal protection is crucial to the heritage of and future of America. Lauren Berlant, in her essay, ¡°America, ¡®Fat,¡¯ the Fetus,¡± describes the pro-life motivation to present fetuses as a class of citizens, and thereby add ¡°a new group of ¡®persons¡¯ to ¡®the people¡¯¡± (Berlant, 98). To do so, pro-lifers exploit the current convergence of public and private spheres. In the ¡°intimate public sphere,¡± citizens are defined not by a common civic duty, but instead, by a shared morality. In this ¡°crisis of citizenship,¡± with no one quite sure of where s/he stands in relation to the norm, and everyone forced into an identity politics, the fetus represents the ideal citizen ¨C utterly vulnerable and in need of government protection. Pro-life arguments describing fetuses as the ultimately silenced, victimized minority capitalize on the shifting meanings of citizenship to find a place for the fetus within it.

By mixing the language of minority politics (asserting distinct identities of classes of people who are victimized by society) and Reaganite ideology (affirming the politicization of the private sphere overseen by the government (Berlant, 3)), the pro-lifers constructed the fetus as an image of perfect vulnerability: ¡°the unprotected person, the citizen without a country or a future, the fetus unjustly imprisoned in its mother¡¯s hostile gulag¡± (Berlant, 97). The fetus¡¯s vulnerability and minority status speaks to the plight of the newly distinguished class of normative citizens (usually white, straight, middle-class men). ¡°The culture of national fetality also newly touches the previously privileged ¨C because unmarked ¨C unexceptional citizen¡­ His new exposure to mass-mediated identity politics makes him experience himself as suddenly embodied and therefore vulnerable. An entire culture can come to identify with, and as, a fetus¡± (Berlant, 86). Feeling suddenly embodied and vulnerable, only recently exposed to identity politics, the formerly unmarked, nondescript citizens can now, too, relate to the minority-identity that the fetus has come to represent.

At the same that the fetus is achieving minority status, the pro-life ideology is also placing its fate into the tale of our nation, making protection of the fetus crucial to the country¡¯s future. ¡°Since we ¡®are¡¯ what we have always ¡®done,¡¯ we violate our true selves if we act in ways that are different¡± (Condit, 44). Establishing a place for the fetus as citizen in past, present, and future, pro-life language permeates throughout our culture and the highest levels of government. Such recent legislations as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (2004) and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (2003) reflect the citizenship of fetality and its supposedly rightful place in American culture.

The fetus¡¯s place in the American heritage, and in American law, dates all the way back to the founding documents, according to pro-life thought. George W. Bush seems to concur, as his statement before signing the Partial-Birth Abortion Act into law illustrates. ¡°America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness and for the unalienable right of life. And the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). Supporting the idea that America is historically obligated to protect the rights of a fetus (¡°life¡±), Bush also claims that the ban is in accordance with the ¡°spirit of our country,¡± and that by endorsing the legislation we are living ¡°out our calling as Americans¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). With such an interpretation of the country¡¯s original legal purpose, it is the government¡¯s resulting duty ¡°to defend the life of the innocent¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth), that is, the potential life of the fetus. Since the government was intended to do so and has always done so, it must continue its purpose by banning supposedly un-Constitutional and un-American partial-birth abortions.

Of course, the primary text that Bush is alluding to is the opening of the Declaration of Independence: ¡°We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.¡± Nowhere does the Declaration say, however, that fetuses count as these endowed ¡°men.¡± Neither does the Constitution or Bill of Rights, for that matter. As Roe v. Wade determined, ¡°The Constitution does not define ¡®person¡¯ in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to ¡®person¡¯¡­ But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only post-natally¡± (Roe v. Wade IX A). Bush¡¯s version of the country¡¯s founding documents is based on pro-life ideology and is not historically or technically accurate.

However, if Bush¡¯s assertion of Constitutional rights to fetuses is not correct legal terminology, it is a persuasive story. Celeste Michelle Condit, author of ¡°Decoding Abortion Rhetoric, identifies such a quasi-historical, pro-life expression as a ¡°heritage tale.¡± This is a ¡°social myth constructed about a shared past, which gives that past a unified set of meanings, endorses the social formations represented as existing in that past, and thereby constructs a description of what the future should be¡± (Condit, 226-227). The heritage tale is a tactic used by pro-lifers to place a strand of anti-abortion sentiment throughout the cultural lineage. It creates a ¡°social myth¡± in that it appeals to most Americans by capturing important social truths and describing them with emotional intensity (Condit, 28). The story about fetal rights in the Declaration of Independence works because it asserts that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights, and that those rights are violated by a graphic and horrifying practice which is ¡°not only cruel to the child, but harmful to the mother, and a violation of medical ethics¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). In reality, the abortion procedure which involves ¡°partial birth¡± is typically used only to save the life of the woman. Also, the act can apply to a variety of abortion procedures and effectively ban abortion after the first trimester. But by justifying political change with the most extreme example of ¡°partial birth¡± when not medically necessary, the ban is framed in mainstream values meant to appeal to a broad base. The combination of a vague historical account with emotionally potent values makes for a persuasive justification of the ban.

The placement of the fetus in legal and cultural American history also brings up a paradoxical element of the concept of the pro-life fetus. If fetal rights are interchangeable with the right-to-life, and defending of fetuses is the protection of life itself, is the fetus an ahistorical or historical presence? Certainly ¡°life¡± is an essential and unchanging concept that has no point of origin or ties to legal order. Yet on the other hand, the ¡°life¡± that fetuses embody is purported to have a track record in American history. ¡°[T]he image of the iconic fetus marketed by pro-life activists [is] something paradoxically ahistorical (human nature itself) and profoundly historical (its fate has been said to be the nation¡¯s fate¡± (Berlant, 87). This contradiction is embedded in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban statement itself. ¡°This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government, it comes from the Creator of life¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). Legal systems cannot preside over such an eternal essence as life ¨C yet this notion contrasts with the very act that Bush is about to sign as proclaiming his statement. The ban does explicitly aim to ¡°grant¡± life, in accordance with legal precedent and national historic values.

In another technique of reframing American heritage, not only is pro-life ideology revealed to accord with national values, but the absence of pro-life values is also shown to occur in occasional moments of iniquity in our history. Pro-lifers frequently articulate ¡°Roe v. Wade within a strand of ¡®evil¡¯ in history ¨C one of a series of trials that Americans had always been able to overcome¡± (Condit, 49). In this rendition of American heritage, significant historical events such as slavery and Nazism come to represent the battle of principles in which the winning side has always valued the ¡°sanctity of life.¡± In keeping with this connection, it is not uncommon for pro-life advocates to connect Roe v. Wade with the Dred Scott decision. Both denied citizenship, and all the human rights and legal protection that entails, to a class of people. Both described that class as property ¨C either the bought property of the slaveowner or the bodily property of the pregnant woman. Both prevent states from overriding this decision (outlawing slavery or criminalizing abortion outright). And both are simply immoral and need to be overturned, regardless of stare decisis, since the original decision was wrong (Pollitt).

Such significant figures as Ronald Reagan (in Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation) and Justice Scalia (in his dissent in Casey v. Planned Parenthood), and Alan Keyes have all referenced Dred Scott in relation to Roe v. Wade. And more recently, in the second presidential debate, Bush referenced Dred Scott in response to a question about a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. Falling right in line with pro-life (mis)interpretation of the case, Bush described the decision saying: ¡°That¡¯s personal opinion. That¡¯s not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we¡¯re all ¨C you know, it doesn¡¯t say that. It doesn¡¯t speak to the equality of America¡± (Bush, Second Debate). The problem is that the Constitution did allow slavery ¨C as Bush seemed to realize mid-sentence, the Constitution did not say we were all equal. Dred Scott was not exactly ¡°personal opinion¡± ¨C but that is what pro-lifers describe Roe v. Wade as. There are some broad similarities between Dred and Roe. Both involved Supreme Court decisions, and both involved the status of human bodies (if one was about property and the other was about privacy, both decisions in the end affected what black people and women could do with their own bodies). However, this is just enough similarity to make the connection plausible. ¡°Consequently, the two events [appear] as a single line of ¡®villainy¡¯ to be overcome by Americans. As a result of this linkage, abortion [is] not only ¡®written out¡¯ of the American heritage, it [elicits] the same kind of passionate hatred stirred by a long-past Civil War¡± (Condit, 50).

Bush also used a more recent event to villainize those who support the right to abortion and cast pro-life in a triumphant, American role. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Bush addressed the nation from the World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia saying, ¡°This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views. We value life; the terrorists ruthlessly destroy it¡± (Bush, Backgrounder). He kept up the idea that the evil enemy was epitomized by a disrespect for life, saying in the first presidential debate, ¡°Every life is precious. That¡¯s what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters. But I think [the war is] worth it¡± (Bush, First Debate). Here, Bush both identified ¡°life¡± as a common American value, uniting all citizens in favor of it, and also equated pro-choicers with vileness and terrorism. The war was now about ideology and morality, and those supporting the right to choose were on the outside.

One could offer a justification of Bush¡¯s remark. The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center were simply mass-murderers who brutally took lives and destroyed their own out of pure hatred. Though Bush is certainly capitalizing on this poignant interpretation, his intent is not so straight-forward. The way Bush refers to the ¡°life¡± he values is complicated when he also uses his belief in life as a reason to wage war and kill. Similarly, Bush also is notorious for having executed the largest number of people of any United States governor while serving in Texas; this ambiguous stance accords with the frequency that pro-life activists are also in favor of the death penalty. There must be some complications to the sort of ¡°life¡± Bush and other pro-lifers of his ilk promote.

It is not so much that Bush and other pro-death-penalty pro-lifers are hypocritical; it¡¯s more that their pro-life rhetoric is elusive. When pro-lifers refer to ¡°life,¡± they do not necessarily mean existing human beings; they more aptly refer to potential life. Condit describes this sort of ideology as ¡°pro-natalism,¡± the ¡°support of maximal human reproduction¡± (Condit, 62) and aim to ensure that every possible human being that can be born will be born. The concept of ¡°life¡± as pro-lifers argue it now is one that has developed over the past several decades of arguing for pro-natalism. In the 1950s, pro-natalists/pro-lifers would link women¡¯s sexuality strictly with reproduction. After the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s, however, women¡¯s sexuality outside of procreation was not as effectively shameful, which necessitated a change to arguing for ¡°the sanctity of human life.¡± As the tone of the nation became less legitimating of religious connotations, pro-natalism arguments switched again to the current ¡°Right to Life.¡± This suggestion of liberalism meshes well with the country¡¯s liberal-individual discourse. ¡°The pro-Life rhetors consequently modified their favored terms to adapt to the process of public persuasion. ¡®Sanctity of human life,¡¯ rooted in a conservative concern for pro-natalism, was translated into the liberal individual discourse of a basic human right ¨C the Right to Life¡± (Condit, 62). With this logic, pro-lifers can be genuinely sincere and consistent when they advocate valiantly for potential life and equally ruthlessly for the deprivation of allegedly undeserving life.

The ¡°right to life¡± appeal to American liberalism ushered in a new notion of identity politics ¨C with the minority represented being the fetus. In order to claim fetuses as a class of citizens deserving protection under the law, pro-life rhetors appropriate the discourse of identity politics. The ¡°fetal person¡± is silenced and has no visibility in the public sphere. Pro-lifers aim to challenge and transform ¡°stereotypes that define [the fetus¡¯s] identity in the public sphere, emphasizing the claim to the pure protection of the identity form American national membership is supposed to provide¡± (Berlant, 100). With a minority status, fetuses become representative citizens. Berlant explains that today, with our public space fraught with images of racial, class, and sexual divisions and conflicts, ¡°a citizen is defined as a person traumatized by some aspect of life in the United States¡± (Berlant, 1). The suffering citizen has become a ¡°cartoon¡± and a ¡°standard truth.¡± Due to the social hierarchy caused by such strife in the public sphere, every citizen has a ¡°paradox of partial legibility,¡± rendering individuals¡¯ identities which determine their place in the hierarchy generic, public property. The social hierarchy ¡°turns them into kinds of people who are both attached to and underdescribed by the identities that organize them¡± (Berlant, 1). The fetus is the perfect exemplar of this sort of citizenship: marked, vulnerable, and victimized.

The language of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the presidential statement preceding the signing in of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act affirm fetuses as a distinct class of people. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act defines itself as ¡°An Act¡­ to protect unborn children from assault and murder¡± (Unborn, introduction) and later specifies that ¡°the term ¡®unborn child¡¯ means a child in utero, and the term ¡®child in utero¡¯ or ¡®child, who is in utero¡¯ means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb¡± (Unborn, Sec. 1841.d). The act explicitly sets these ¡°unborn children¡± into a defined, unified class. It grants them an identity which is a distinct sub-set of ¡°homo sapiens,¡± thus turning fetuses into a perfect minority. Bush also marks out fetuses as a class, one that is the target of a seemingly systematic violence. ¡°For years, a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth, while the law looked the other way¡­. Each year, thousands of partial birth abortions are committed¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). He recognizes a specific crime (partial birth abortions) against a specific class of people (children inches from birth). The cruel law has seemingly consciously ignored the needs of this silenced minority. Similarly, Bush describes the necessity of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act: ¡°Until today, the federal criminal code had been silent on the injury or death of a child in cases of violence against a pregnant woman. This omission in the law has led to clear injustices¡± (Bush, Unborn). The law has failed to protect a class of its citizens, leading to ¡°clear injustices.¡± This begs the question, injustices to whom? The answer ¨C unborn children/fetuses ¨C affirms that group as a unified, and victimized, identity.

The minority group of fetal persons is also exceedingly vulnerable, and partial birth abortions apparently exemplify their vulnerable status. The partial-birth abortion ¡°is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited¡± (Partial-Birth, Sec. 2.1). Despite the fact that, as Bush asserts, ¡°thousands¡± of partial-birth abortions are performed every year, the practice is described as one this is completely ¡°unnecessary.¡± It is not practiced to save a woman¡¯s health or life, and ¡°in fact poses serious risks to the long-term health of women and in some circumstances, their lives¡± (Partial-Birth, Sec. 2.2). This leaves no possible explanation for doctors to perform such an act, except out of cruelty ¨C or bigotry ¨C towards unborn children. In a battle between fetuses and apparently evil doctors, the fetus will never win without the government¡¯s help. This is why the legislature must step in, for it is ¡°the duty of the strong to protect the weak¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). ¡°Implicitly approving such a brutal and inhumane procedure by choosing not to prohibit it will further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life¡± (Partial Birth, Sec. 2.14.N). Protection of the fetus is absolutely necessary to ensure anyone¡¯s (and everyone¡¯s) vulnerable citizenship.

In the presentation of fetal citizenship, pro-life arguments depend on the connection between ¡°nature¡± and ¡°nation¡± within the idea of ¡°citizenship.¡± Citizenship, to pro-lifers entails more that legal recognition ¨C it also includes social obligations and practices. ¡°One reason the revitalization of this category [citizenship¡¯s social category] is so crucial now is that pro-life rhetoric has seen the relations between nature and nation as central to its sacred logics. Citizenship is the category in which these two formations are supposed to merge¡± (Berlant, 99). For pro-lifers, it is a woman¡¯s natural and national duty to bear children. A pregnant woman is only a citizen in so far that she bears future citizens ¨C she must agree to sacrifice her individual privacy rights in favor of a more compassionate, life-valuing state. ¡°At this time in America¡­ the reproducing woman is no longer cast as a potential productive citizen, except insofar as she procreates: her capacity for other kinds of creative agency has become an obstacle to national reproduction¡± (Berlant, 100). It is the duty of ¡°nature¡± ¨C the propagation of the human race ¨C to ensure the future existence of the ¡°nation,¡± and also the obligation of the ¡°nation¡± to ensure that ¡°nature,¡± procreation, is maximized. ¡°Thus, in pro-life discourse, the aim of national reproduction merges with the claim that fetuses, like all persons, ought to have a politically protected right to natural development¡± (Berlant, 100).

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act speaks in terms that emphasize the connection between nature and nation. The bill claims that ¡°a governmental interest in protecting the life of a child during the delivery process arises by virtue of the fact that during a partial-birth abortion, labor is induced and the birth process has begun¡± (Partial-Birth, Sec. 2.14.H). In such cases, the fetus¡¯s status (potential future citizen) trumps the privacy rights of the pregnant woman (citizen status from bearing those future citizens). Furthermore, a ¡°child that is completely born is a full, legal person entitled to constitutional protections afforded a ¡®person¡¯ under the United States Constitution. Partial-birth abortions involve the killing of a child that is in the process, in fact mere inches away from, becoming a ¡®person.¡¯ Thus, the government has a heightened interest in protecting the life of the partially-born child¡± (Partial-Birth, Sec. 2.14.H). Here, the act palpably promotes pro-natalism ¨C the maximization of human reproduction ¨C in support of national goals. The fetus represents what is going to be a citizen ¨C yet the government hardly goes so far out if its way to protect the rights of persons applying for citizenship status. The government¡¯s ¡°heightened interest¡± represented once labor is induced is in ensuring the propagation of its natural life.

The nation¡¯s concern with reproduction is also reflected in Bush¡¯s statement regarding the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. ¡°As of today, the law of our nation will acknowledge the plain fact that crimes of violence against a pregnant woman often have two victims¡­ Under this law, those who direct violence toward a pregnant woman will answer for the full extent of the harm they have done, and for all the crimes they have committed¡± (Bush, Unborn). Notice that Bush says all the crimes, not both the crimes. There certainly is more than one entity being injured in the murder of a pregnant woman: the innocent fetus, the citizen-bearing mother, and also, the citizen-demanding state. Bush also interchanges the legislation as an obligation of the state and a duty of morality. ¡°The moral concern of humanity extends to those unborn children¡± (Bush, Unborn), yet with the act we also uphold the nation¡¯s mission in that ¡°we reaffirm that the United States of America is building a culture of life¡± (Bush, Unborn). By interchanging the language of morality and national duty, Bush demonstrates just how equatable they are.

Bush¡¯s use of the phrase ¡°culture of life¡± is particularly striking in the contemporary climate of the public sphere. Berlant describes the country as being in a crisis of citizenship, a state wherein we cannot locate the public sphere. ¡°[T]here is no public sphere in the contemporary United States, no context of communication and debate that makes ordinary citizens feel that they have a common public culture¡± (Berlant, 3). National patriotism is measured not in civic acts, but in personal expression and private behavior. Today, ¡°national patriotism [is recast] as a question not of political identity, but of proper public expression, loyal self-censorship, and personal discipline¡± (Berlant and Freeman, 147). Rather than being identified as American through civic duties, ¡°the struggle is now also over proper public submission to national iconicity, and over the nation¡¯s relation to gender, to sexuality, and to death¡± (Berlant and Freeman, 147). Bush¡¯s assertion of our ¡°culture of life¡± fills the void of our questionable public sphere with pro-life sentiment. His phrasing exemplifies America¡¯s culture being based less on civic duty and more on sexuality and morals. With our national identity conflated with our sexual mores, it is conceivable for Bush to promote morals as civil obligations. ¡°[Partial-birth abortion] involves the partial delivery of a live boy or girl, and a sudden, violent end of that life. Our nation owes its children a different and better welcome¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth). The partial-birth abortion ban ¡°protecting innocent new life from this practice reflects the compassion and humanity of America¡± (Bush, Partial-Birth) ¨C and also establishes the shared moral opinions that comprise our national identity.

Bush and the anti-choice legislation resulting during his administration both align with model pro-life/pro-natalist ideology through the rhetoric employed. Bush states his views in language that appeals to a wide audience, yet aligns him with a more extreme pro-life segment. His explicit stance on abortion seems moderate: he allows for abortion to save a woman¡¯s life or health or in the cases of rape or incest; he has also frequently stated that abortion would not be a ¡°litmus test¡± for Supreme Court nominees. Throughout his political career he has adopted a degree of moderacy: ¡°I¡¯ve set the goal that every child born and unborn ought to be protected. But I recognize [that many] people don¡¯t necessarily agree with the goal. People appreciate somebody who sets a tone, a tone that values life, but recognizes that people disagree¡± (Skelton). In reality, however, if his pro-natalist agenda were followed through to its end, establishing fetal personhood, the only way to make abortion legal would be to make murder legal. The Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade recognized the pivotal importance of determining the fetus-as-person saying ¡°If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant¡¯s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus¡¯ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment¡± (Roe v. Wade, IX.A).

Yet Bush¡¯s and the anti-abortion legislation¡¯s utilization of pro-natalist rhetoric hides the actual issues at stake and appeals to a large section of the general public. By arguing for the identity-claim of fetality, making the issue one implicitly of minority rights, pro-life advocates mask the key players in the debate. ¡°The liberal framing of the issue [moves] the contest away from the explicit competition of interests between the underlying power groups involved ¨C wage-laboring women vs. Christian capitalist males¡± (Condit, 63). Though the rhetoric conceals the groups concerned and issues affected for the purposes of attracting a large popular base, it also speaks to and mobilizes the most activist pro-lifers who use the language themselves. The pro-life arguments contain just enough evidence of their partisanship ¡°to select and motivate to activism those who [are] likely to become involved in the pro-Life argument ¨C the religious and ¡®traditional¡¯ Americans¡± (Condit, 56). Bush¡¯s cunning use of pro-life ideology allows him to speak to these pro-life supporters, the same ones who won the election for him last November, while evading the analysis of more liberal voters. For example, it is remarkable that Bush was able to reference the popular Dred-Roe pro-life equation on public television without causing any pro-choice activists to stir. Bush espouses a powerful, if subtle, pro-life language of the fetus¡¯s rightful American citizenship ¨C this time around, let¡¯s not underestimate him or the influence of pro-life rhetoric.

Works Cited:
Berlant, Lauren. ¡°America, ¡®Fat,¡¯ the Fetus.¡± In The Queen of America Goes to Washington City. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. p83-144.

Berlant, Lauren. ¡°Introduction: The Intimate Public Sphere.¡± In Queen. p1-24.

Berlant, Lauren, and Elizabeth Freeman. ¡°Queer Nationality.¡± In Queen. p145-174.

Commission on Presidential Debates. ¡°The First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate.¡± 30, Sep 2004.

Commission on Presidential Debates. ¡°The Second Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate.¡± 8 Oct 2004.

Condit, Celeste Michelle. Decoding Abortion Rhetoric: Communicating Social Change. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (2003).

Pollitt, Katha. ¡°Roe = Dred.¡± The Nation. 13 Oct 2004.

Roe v. Wade. 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

Skelton, George. ¡°California and the West; Talking Baseball and Politics with George W. Bush¡± Los Angeles Times. 5 June 2000.

Unborn Victims of Violence Act (2004).

The White House: President George W. Bush. ¡°Backgrounder: The President¡¯s Quotes on Islam.¡±

The White House: President George W. Bush. ¡°President Bush Signs Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.¡± White House press release. 5 Nov 2003.

The White House: President George W. Bush. ¡°President Bush Signs Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004.¡± White House press release. 1 Apr 2004.

Full Name:  Chelsea Phillips
Username:  clphilli@brynmawr.edu
Title:  BreakOUT: Florida and the Future of Gay Adoption
Date:  2004-12-16 21:27:46
Message Id:  11984
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

The line between public and private is quickly diminishing, if there ever was a line to start. Private ideologies (social and moral/ethical attitudes) have been made public by what legislation does (not) relegate, and then protects the right to privacy for the individuals who abide by these private ideologies. The intrinsic protection of adherents to a dominant ideology forces those with deviant ideology to actively make their private concerns public in order to be granted their "right to privacy." However, even after this guarantee it is not possible for the private to leave the public sphere until the dominant ideology changes radically to incorporate these rights at the same intrinsic level of the original ideology- meaning the right to privacy has to be constantly reiterated until the societal backing makes it dominant. In the case of human and civil rights, legislation has the obligation to intercede on behalf of those disenfranchised by laws, regardless of the impact of or on social attitudes. Once the issue of gay adoption entered the public sphere (i.e. when gay couples were first singled out by the state as ineligible), the only possible way to ensure that these individuals rights would be protected and that one day the rights of all homosexual individuals and couples to adopt would be guaranteed was for the issue to come before the Supreme Court. It is fortunate that the law was not overturned in a lower court, because the decision would not carry the weight of one handed down by the Supreme Court.

Florida State Adoption Logo (7).

Florida state law currently bans lesbians and gay men from adopting children, preferring rigorously gendered family construction, as is made perfectly clear by it's logo. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is attempting to get a case before the Supreme Court that could overturn the law. The ban on gay adoption has been in place since 1977, when the state legislature almost unanimously condoned restriction of the rights of its gay citizens. The lines of public and private are particularly blurred when it comes to adoption. Adoption is a completely public process; there is no privacy for the couple or individual involved as they are scrutinized by the state, whether they be homosexual or not. The state is justified in violating a person's right to privacy in the best interest of the child or children they may adopt. At the time of the Florida law's inception, Senator Curtis Peterson, one of its primary supporters, spoke to the law's purpose: "The problem in Florida has been that homosexuals are surfacing to such an extent that they're beginning to aggravate the ordinary folks. We're trying to send them a message, telling them: 'We're really tired of you. We wish you'd go back into the closet" (2).
History of Florida State Adoption Law
Legislation on the issue was sparked by Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign, which raged through Florida and the nation spreading myths about homosexuality and linking homosexuality to pedophilia. In 1977, Anita Bryant was a popular singer and a spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice. Her campaign against homosexuals played on latent fears and misconceptions about homosexuality and triggered a wide-spread response across the nation from groups that would come to be known as the religious right. She objected to homosexuality as being morally wrong because it showed children that there were alternative lifestyles from the heteronormative nuclear family. Her campaign drew support from religious leaders like Jerry Falwell, who traveled to Miami to meet with Bryant, and ultimately set the stage for what has become a battle between gay rights activists and the religious right.

Since 1977, the state of Florida's legislative attitude has become more equally divided on the issue, but has not changed significantly enough to overturn the law. An appeal was made to a three-person appeals panel, which upheld the law. A request for reconsideration of the decision made to the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which encompasses the geographic area of Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, was denied because the court was evenly divided 6-6. After the trial, many of the judges involved spoke out on a personal note against the law. One judge called on Florida legislators to change the law on the basis that it violates the equal protection clause of the constitution; Judge Rosemary Barkett took the opportunity to berate the state on its hypocritical adoption policies, namely that the state does not bar anyone, including child abusers and molesters, the right to adopt, except gays and lesbians. Another judge, Stanley F. Birch Jr., was quoted as saying: "I consider the policy decision of the Florida legislature to be misguided and trust that over time attitudes will change and it will see the best interests of these children in a different light" (8).Birch fingers the necessity of changing attitudes to changing policy. Without a public outcry, the legislature is not likely to change. Public cases, then, are essential to guaranteeing private rights- placing this issue on the national stage brings public consciousness to bear and sets the stage for allowing legislation to effect larger societal attitudes about private rights.

Although there is strong personal dissent from the decision not to grant the appeal, this denial has allowed the ACLU to bring the case before the Supreme Court for consideration. The Supreme Court is the most public of forums for a discussion of private rights. Decisions of the Court become nation-wide precedents and are causally much more expedient for dispensing rights to individuals and groups. Until that time, there is some comfort in loopholes in the system that allows gay individuals and couples to adopt.

Working the System: Loopholes in the Florida Adoption Policy
On one of the forms required for the adoption process, the candidate is asked to check one of two boxes, stating that they are or are not homosexual. This method of "screening" applicants for their eligibility is rarely challenged. "'We don't go around trying to figure out if they're gay...we don't do that'" (1). says Chris Card, the executive director of one of Florida's private, community-based adoption and foster care agencies. Although there is no way of studying or estimating the number of homosexual individuals or couples who have successfully adopted, most agencies are upfront about there disinclination to actively pursue this information. The availability of this loophole for manipulation would seem to indicate a growing sympathy with the plight of these couples amongst child workers in the state.

In Florida, some same-sex couples have separated for the duration of the adoption process, only resuming their relationships once one partner has legal custody of the child. One man, Jonathan, just gained custody of a boy who was a foster child in his care. By lying on the adoption form and checking the "no" box under the statement, "I am a homosexual," Jonathan effectively slipped through the loophole in the law and hopes to one day use this deception in a positive light by being an exemplary adoptive parent. He is also grateful to the case workers who, he is certain, knew that he was homosexual but managed never to allow it to become an issue in deciding his case.

Florida Foster Care System
Perhaps most indicative of the law's blatantly homophobic basis is the fact that the state has no restrictions on using gays and lesbians to relieve the burden on the foster care system. The state, by not placing children with HIV/AIDS on their lists of adoptable children and refusing to address this reality relegates them almost irrevocably to foster care. The Florida state foster care system is literally overwhelmed with children. Homosexual couples and individuals who do not wish to lie about their sexuality in order to adopt are placed in a compromising position- taking in special needs children, especially those who are terminally ill and not available for adoption at all, both decreases the likelihood that the child will be removed from the home, and increases the likelihood that they will be welcome foster parents. The state, I would argue, knowingly takes advantage of this but refuses to recognize that people as capable and committed to children as those who willingly take on challenging cases more than qualifies them to be adoptive parents. Blatant segregation within the foster care system only underscores the homophobic nature of the ban on gay adoption. Using the state's gay and lesbian couples, Florida can effectively segregate the "normal," "adoptable" children from the "damaged" children by placing them in a closet, along with the "deviant" homosexual citizens who want to adopt. The system capitalizes on the powerless position of gay and lesbian couples who want to have children and has frankly disgusting latent implications that HIV and AIDS are "gay" diseases- making the children suitable for gay couples.

The ACLU case involves three families: two of which are currently providing foster homes for Florida's children. One of these families in particular has become a rallying cry for those interested in the case.

The Croteau-Lofton Case

Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau started their experience with the Florida foster care system almost fifteen years ago. The first of their six foster kids were Frank and Tracy, placed with the two men within a month of each other when both were infants. Ginger, the third, was placed with them soon after, and Bert arrived when Frank and Tracy were four. In 1995, at age six, Ginger died of complications from AIDS, the disease which prompted the state to place her with Steve and Roger initially. It would be rare to find the families so willing to take on one child requiring such extensive medical attention, let alone the six HIV-positive children this couple has devoted their lives to.
Bert, now ten, was also HIV positive when he was initially placed with Steve and Roger. However, his course of treatment has been successful enough to make the virus undetectable- a huge testament to Roger and Steve's care. Unfortunately, since the current ban on gay adoption does not allow the men to adopt Bert, the state is actively looking for a family to place him with. So long as the HIV tests came back positive, the state would not place Bert with a family- he was only suitable for foster care with the disease. The intolerable cruelty of the system is never more evident than in this case: two men commit their lives to these children, Steve even leaving his job at the state's request, and pay the price for their good care of a sick child by making him "adoptable" in the eyes of the state.

Bert has become the central focus of the Lofton Case. Frank and Tracy are fourteen, the age at which children are no longer considered actively "adoptable" and the two youngest children in the family are from Oregon, where the Croteau-Lofton family moved to be closer to Steve's parents in Portland. The family's pediatrician noted what good parents these two men were and recommended them to a case worker. When the state approached Steve and Roger with Wayne and Ernie, both HIV positive, the family welcomed them with open arms. Although the family is large, it is thriving, but the threat of losing Bert is constant.

The Lofton-Croteau Family: (6).

Oregon, where the family is now living, has received mixed ratings from the Human Rights Campaign on gay adoption.4 The HRC determines its overall adoption score by considering three different kinds of adoption: gay individuals, gay couples and second-partner adoptions (for example, in cases of divorce). Oregon does not have a good record for adoptions to gay couples, but has a good record for gay individuals and a mixed one for second-parent adoption. Individual adoptions, however promising they may look for the future of gay adoption on paper, do not mean that the state is supporting gay rights, merely that it is more difficult to determine the sexuality of a potential parent without a partner present. Unless the state specifically questions the parent's sexuality, like in Florida, gay and lesbian individuals are being held to the same standards and heterosexual individuals- and being granted the right to adopt just as frequently. This very fact should actually guarantee that gay adoption is legalized. However, the ACLU is not using evidence of competency found in the cases those who have ducked the system in the current case against Florida. Although the ACLU has not addressed the logic behind this decision, the most likely reason is that the legal transgression would be used to keep the evidence out of court or to paint the clients in a negative light. It is also possible that bringing such attention to the loophole could close it, cutting off the possibility of adoption for a very long time if the Supreme Court sides with Florida.

Supreme Court History: Gay Rights v. State Rights

The Supreme Court's history when dealing with unconstitutional state laws is promising for the ACLU. The Court has consistently upheld the principle that state law cannot disenfranchise a specific group or be used to express disapproval of lifestyle choices of its citizens. The ACLU will present two cases, Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas, to remind the Court of this fact. Both of these cases deal specifically with laws that targeted gays and lesbians. Romer v. Evans was a case from Colorado which dealt with sexual orientation discrimination in many forms. The Colorado state legislature passed the amendment, which repealed legislation already in place designed to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, in 1992. The state insisted that it was to preclude homosexuals from preferential treatment, but the Court upheld the original statues as necessary; and declared the amendment a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the constitution:
Amendment 2...nullifies specific legal protections for this targeted class in all transactions in housing, sale of real estate, insurance, health and welfare services, private education, and employment
Not confined to the private sphere, Amendment 2 also operates to repeal and forbid all laws or policies providing specific protection for gays or lesbians from discrimination by every level of Colorado government(10).
The state was ordered to repeal the amendment and cautioned not to attempt to use legislation to vindicate private feelings towards groups of its citizens. The decision came in May of 1996.

In June of 2003, Lawrence v. Texas made a huge stride forward for gay rights. The Supreme Court's decision in this case declared sodomy laws, which proclaimed private, consensual, sexual acts between individuals of the same and, in some states opposite, sex punishable under law. As in Romer v. Evans, this was considered systematic disenfranchisement of the rights of a specific group of citizens, and was therefore unconstitutional. A Supreme Court decision is the strongest playing card for broad-scale change in the nation. Because of Lawrence v. Texas, sodomy laws in the U.S. have been struck down. The Supreme Court was given the power to establish the presence of a "private" in the lives of American and it did so.

ACLU Legal Strategy
The ACLU will use this idea of the private sphere in its case against the Florida ban on gay adoption. Same-sex people are being blatantly barred from enjoying the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. As in previous decisions, this is a case of using legislation to maliciously restrict the rights of citizens whose lifestyle choices do not fit within the ideology of the administration. Adoption complicates the public/private distinction much more than the other cases have, however. Factoring the well-being of children into the equation changes the matter because of the state's obligation to provide for these children. A fertile heterosexual couple may chose to have a child, may chose to participate in sexual acts that will lead to pregnancy. The decision is entirely private, entirely shared between the two people involved, and their right to make that decision in privacy is absolutely guaranteed by law and nature. A homosexual couple does not have this option. An infertile heterosexual couple does not have this option, neither does an individual. Each of these situations necessitates involvement by a third party: medical technology to increase fertility; legal and guardianship issues; and adoption and foster care all force the private into the public. There is no possible way to avoid this. In fact, now that this is recognized, the best (only) way to guarantee adoption rights for gays and lesbians in the future is to have a Supreme Court ruling setting a precedent.

Even as the moral tone of society in a particular time and place creates legislation, it is impartial deference to the facts of a case which change that legislation, and so feed the larger societal view of an issue. Political rhetoric plays to the emotions of an audience, but the legislation must reflect facts- and the facts in this case favor the ACLU and the rights of gays and lesbians. Instead of speaking within the homophobic framework of the original law, the ACLU will employ a combination of personal testimony (emotion rhetoric) and psychological testimony (clinical rhetoric).

A number of major psychological studies on varying aspects of parenting have been conducted to determine whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children. "No study has found any evidence to support the claim that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents" (2). Each of the studies, seven in all, approached the issue in a slightly different way. The long-term psychological health of children raised by same-sex parents was found to be no different than those raised by heterosexual parents. A small number of studies were exclusively devoted to studying self-esteem, and also found no variation between the results in these two groups. Peer relationships are also unaffected, sexual orientation of the children is unaffected by sexual orientation of the parents, and parenting skills among gay men and lesbians are found to be as good as, and sometimes better than, heterosexual parents.

Major questions need to be asked of these studies: how exactly are test subjects chosen, and how is something like quality of parenting skills measured? The seven studies were conducted under vastly differing conditions. For example, the study concerned with mental and emotional health of the children involved only couples who had gone through insemination- both the homosexual couples and the heterosexual couples. In this instance, the possibility of unwanted pregnancy was eliminated; but other studies did not mention consideration of this factor when finding test subjects. Accidental pregnancies, which cause psychological strain on any family, could be argued as a potential negative influence by a person wanted to discount the studies. Also, many of the studies are comparisons of lesbian motherhood and heterosexual motherhood, whereas only one involved a comparison study of gay fathers and heterosexual fathers. It is unclear without going more in-depth into the studies whether adoption makes a different or larger psychological impact on children than insemination. It is certainly true in any case, however, that a child of a same-sex couple could not be raised with the belief that they were created in the "traditional" way, as is possible when heterosexual couples choose not to tell children that they were adopted. Having same-sex parents places the child in a position of recognizing the public nature of their legal and biological relationship to their parents. In one of these studies involving a comparison of single lesbian mothers and divorced heterosexual mothers- all of whom had children with their ex-husbands- calls into question the compatibility of these two groups because the study rests on the assumption that the added trauma of being "outed" during the divorce process would not affect the overall health of the mother or the child. It is a large assumption to make, and one which was not sufficiently addressed to seriously validate the study.

When examining these psychological studies, the biggest fall for the ACLU will be the lack of any long-term studies on adopted children of same-sex parents. However, the lack is a symptom of the inequality within the system. The studies which are being used serve to counter homophobic myths propounded by anti-gay factions suggesting that pedophilia and mental illness are overtly linked to homosexuality.


The Supreme Court, because of its visibility in the nation and the world, is held to the highest possible standard of impartial decision-making. The authority given to and recognized in the Court is answerable only to itself and must therefore not be undertaken lightly; whatever the decision, it will shape the framework in which we discuss the issue of gay adoption. Public legislation of the private sphere is vital to the protection of the rights of marginalized groups in America; decisions by the Supreme Court such as the striking down of sodomy laws are important steps in equalizing the private sphere for all citizens. The legal system in our country is constantly striving to create and protect a private sphere, but bringing that sphere into public discourse is recreating it as public instead of private. However, once legislation is established and a precedent is in place, the process of societal acceptance, which leads to the fundamental privacy of the heteronormative culture, can begin. The president's position, as directly involved in the appointment of Justices, must be recognized for the fearful power it entails- it is the ability to embody political rhetoric within a judicial structure. Rhetoric itself may and does sway public opinion, but its embodiment is the ability to set precedents which may be applied in broad-sweeping generalities, rather than the specifics of a single law.

Working at the intersections of public and private in the lives of its citizens, legislation strives to locate the boundaries of the individual in the private sphere by making, for example, domestic violence punishable by law regardless of the setting. Legislation also seeks to find the lines between private information in a public setting by upholding the rights of citizens to privacy in their places of work. One of the largest areas still being fought over is the right to privacy of criminals labeled "sexual predators:" those found guilty of pedophilia, rape and abuse. Once these people have left the prison system, are they allowed to resume the private life of a normal citizen, or must they also be publicly declared and labeled as their crime "for the benefit and protection of others?"

When it comes to adoption, legislation struggles to find the line between ensuring the safety of the child and a parent's right to the lifestyle of their choice. With a potentially landmark decision on gay adoption coming in early 2005, couples like Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau will be free to provide a permanent home for their children. Other individuals and couples will be able to stop lying about their own identities or enduring painful separations to escape the persecution of the adoption system in Florida. Hopefully, all adoption agencies will one day have logos like Pennsylvania's:

Pennsylvania State Adoption Logo (8).

WWW Sources

1) Lexis Nexis, "Families At Home, Strangers By Law." Tampa Tribune.

2)The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. , "ACLU Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Appeal in Challenge to Florida Gay Adoption Ban." American Civil Liberties Union website.

3)Lambda Legal website, "Background on Lambda Legal's Supreme Court Case Challenging Texas's "Homosexual Conduct" Law."

4)"Anita Bryant, b.1940, Singer and Crusader." , St. Petersburg Times Online.

5)"Lawrence & Garner v. State of Texas." , SodomyLaws.org

6)ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, "Let Him Stay"

7)My Florida Website, The State of Florida's Website

8)Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange, Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange Homepage

9)Lexis Nexis, "U.S. Appeals Court Narrowly Upholds Only Blanket Gay Adoption Ban." The Associated Press State & Local Wire.

10)Human Rights Campaign website, "What's Happening in My State?"

Butler, Judith. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. New York: Routledge, 1991. 13-31.

Full Name:  Laura Beth Graham
Username:  lgraham@brynmawr.edu
Title:  My Two Bits Worth
Date:  2004-12-16 21:27:50
Message Id:  11985
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

With the war in Iraq nearly two years old, I hoped that new leadership in the executive branch would put an end to the destruction overseas and funds would be redirected to rescue our receding economy, unemployment rate, healthcare services, and living conditions for the struggling American majority. November 2nd came and went, and those of us who shared my views found ourselves the minority. We shed a few tears and yelled at the unresponsive television screen, and surprisingly enough, the sun rose the next morning. No apocalyptic horses or trumpets, just a few chosen liberals feeling suddenly beckoned toward the promised land of Canada where certain rights are more a thing of the present rather than a dream of years to come. It is important to remember that while we do not make the decisions concerning the deployment of troops or the dropping of bombs, we do decide what condition we would like our country to be in when those serving the military are lucky enough to return home. In our current situation, I feel compelled to turn away from protesting the war and refocus on the home front. Many grassroots organizations have been inclined to take initiative in improving domestic policy while the president is not looking. For this reason, I have received another invitation to make a tax deductible donation to a non-profit organization: The Women, Work, and Family Foundation. I now have the personal opportunity to improve gender equality in the American workforce and receive a mug and free subscription to Newsweek in the process.

"The first question is, obviously, Why [are they] asking for money?" (Woolf, p. 41) I must paint the landscape of gender equality in the workforce and determine if funds are necessary in achieving this picture, for I need to ensure that my money is being used only for the most effective and realistic causes. I am pulled in two different directions by competing feminist perspectives—that of the First Wave claiming "sameness" and demanding literal equality for both sexes and that of the Second Wave which recognized the differences between men and women and called for an increased status in women's contributions. The history of social attitudes towards and of women is essential in understanding the biases of American society, and I plan to determine when legislation is imperative for change. It is important to note that most of the women involved in developing the philosophies fueling these movements were from wealthier families than the majority of women in the United States, but the recommended changes will be more inclusive across class lines. I would not give money to a foundation which only supports the entrance of already wealthy women into high paying professions, and I am encouraged by the fact that my requestors recognize the importance of incorporating family into solving the problems facing women in the territory of work.

A historical narrative is necessary to represent the voices of my great-grandmother and mother who argue their points from entirely separate realms. One of the largest victories of the First Wave of Feminism was the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920 which stated that "the right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." (1)
Before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women were disenfranchised from choosing governmental leaders, and one argument against the Amendment was that women were not suited to public life. Before industrialization, both sexes worked on farms at home, but as factories were built, people were needed to run them. Children could not very well be left at home alone, and since women bore and nursed them, the responsibility to remain at home was left to women. Industrialization's alteration of the American economy was historically responsible for the gender division of labor in the workplace. Two very separate and ultimately incompatible spheres were created—home and work—and each sex had domain over one arena: "'There are two worlds in the life of the nation, the world of men and the world of women. Nature has done well to entrust the man with the care of his family and the nation. The woman's world is her family, her husband, her children, and her home.'" (Woolf, p. 53) The inequality was purely monetary in nature, namely, men were paid for their work in the city and women were not paid for their work at home. Woolf thoughtfully asked "Is the work of a mother, of a wife, of a daughter, worth nothing to the nation in solid cash?" (Woolf, p. 54) Yes, Virginia, there is no paycheck for a housewife. Women received no equivalent market compensation for their daily parenting, cooking, and cleaning, and "because she was not reimbursed for her contribution to the family either products or services, a wife was stripped to a considerable extent of her access to cash-mediated markets." (Bernard, p. 243) Some argue that mothers who stay at home with their children receive emotional compensation in the satisfaction of raising children and completing domestic tasks necessary for a clean and happy household. However, capitalism began evolving as the preferred American economy and consequently the basis for society and the workforce.

Women were reduced as the inferiors of men because they were less likely to earn money for the household—emotional satisfaction holds a much lower status than financial earning capacity in a capitalistic society. First Wave Feminists denounced any natural differences between the sexes because they served as the foundation for why only men should be involved in the world of politics. Even today, "politics" is colloquially defined as "the public world of power, relationships, of diplomacy, of elections, of wars," and "it is a politics that artificially separates a public world from a private world." (Saxonhouse, p. vii) Critics of the 19th Amendment claimed that they did not want to defile the home life by mixing family and politics. Indeed, 20th century politics was incredibly corrupt due to the strength of political machines which monopolized city government, but some conservatives were convinced that if women even filled out a ballot, any negative aspect of the political world would filter through them into the home, corrupt their children, and prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities as mothers and wives as illustrated by this political cartoon.(2)

Even the idea of women leaving the house to go vote threw anti-suffragists into an uproar because they left their husband and children behind to suffer. More importantly, the possibility of women's absence from the home forced men to stay behind in the woman's world, and as evident from the cartoon, they were clearly untrained for such a task in American society.

Opponents of the amendment also argued that because women were responsible for caring for the home and family, they could express their opinions to their husbands who could vote accordingly, thereby leaving women out of the direct process—an unrealistic and unenforceable suggestion. Another argument against the women's vote was that women's roles as mothers and homemakers kept the country stable and balanced because they were committing themselves to their children who were America's future leaders (only the boys of course). Radical First Wave Feminists did not accept that men and women had different inherent tendencies, but American society was not prepared to adopt such a position—can you blame them? I certainly cannot absolve biology and the requirement that women bear the children and men do not. The argument of the First Wave Feminists, however, was that physical differences in sex do not equate inferiorities between the sexes or remove them of the privileges of citizenship. The suffragettes used this argument and were successful in convincing the men with legislative power that, different or not, women had the right as citizens to vote. After the amendment passed and women legally cast their votes, it became evident that sameness among the sexes had been historically prevented by women's maternal roles reinforced by industrialization: "it was not views about women or the family that had undergone a radical change by the end of the Great War but views about the vote." (Pateman, p. 343)

First Wave Feminism is not extinct, and according to this line of reasoning, gender equity in today's workforce would be just that—equal. Women in full-time positions would no longer earn less than eighty cents for every dollar men earn in full-time positions as charted in the graph below. (3)

While all people make more money than they used to, a gap persists between the earnings of men and women, and it shows no clear signs of closing. According to the school of thought (if not the actual practice) of the First Wave of Feminism, the bottom two lines would overlap and the top line would run horizontally across the "100" line on the y-axis (which does not even exist on the current chart). In fact, according to radical and strict First Wave Feminists, there would be no need to even differentiate between male and female earnings.

If gender equity in the work force is to be interpreted as "women's attainment of equality or 'sameness' vis-à-vis men," then there are a number of statistics the foundation must address. (Gornick and Meyers, p. 84) There would be an equal number of female and male partners in law firms and the secretarial staff would be more evenly distributed between the sexes; in 1999, there were 250,000 female and 625,155 male lawyers in the United States. However, approximately 262,000 women worked as legal assistants to these lawyers compared to 43,770 men. (3)
Over seventy percent of working women would not be in lower paying service sector jobs, and they would hold more than 11% of corporate officer positions in the 500 largest corporations in America. (Seager, p. 66) Female professors would be just as likely to gain tenure as male professors and would have the job and financial security that comes with it. Men might want to catch up with women in the field of elementary and middle school education where women occupy 2,539,220 of the teaching positions and men occupy only 588,240. (3) The field of medicine is another well known black hole for gender equality—women are involved, but not in the high paying all powerful positions of physicians and surgeons—2,235,960 female and 178,530 male registered nurses and 195,240 female and 528,245 male physicians and surgeons heal our wounds and keep us healthy. (3)

The economic inequity is apparent and a cause for alarm considering the fact that legal assistants and registered nurses earn approximately a third the income of lawyers and physicians or surgeons respectively. (3) As Virginia Woolf so eloquently put it "Can it be that all the names on top of hers [meaning women's names], all the names to which the big salaries are attached, are the names of gentlemen? It seems so." (Woolf, p. 47) However, women are not lacking in numbers in the workforce—more women than ever are working for money, around 58% to be exact, but they are not gaining top positions or even being paid at the overall same rate as men. (Seager, p. 118) With current laws against gender discrimination in the workforce, it is illegal not to pay women the same amount of money for doing the same job as a man. But the ratio disparity is a result of the average wages for all women as compared to the average wages for all men, and if more women have jobs which pay lower wages, the entire average falls below that of men and represents an evident gender disparity.

One can argue that the problem lies in adherence to traditional male and female professions, and the foundation would not do well to force more women to pursue being a physician or more men to teach elementary school. Many women work to fulfill economic responsibilities; they have children, grandchildren, elderly parents, or other family members for whom they must provide. As of 2003, nearly 12.5% of people in the United States lived in poverty and women constituted a greater amount of this percentage than men. (3) The nuances of this data would take months to uncover, but the point is that more women than men are unable to adequately support themselves or the children who more often live with their mothers than fathers—this fact relates back to the difficulty women face in breaking into the more high paying male professions and the overall gendered division of private versus public life.

Enter our bra-burning, Woodstock attending, pot smoking, Roe v. Wade loving, Second Wave Feminist mothers. Their movement was all about choice. Second Wave Feminism celebrated the differences between male and female, and yelled at the top of its lungs for equality in the value placed on women's and men's work. They accepted the existence of traditional spheres and work sites, and "call[ed] instead for new conceptions of citizenship that recognize[d] and value[d] women's 'difference,' rooted in their unique responsibilities for care." (Gornick and Meyers, p. 84) Women are better nurturers and more suited to stay at home with the children, but they were taken for granted. Childcare and public school teaching are some of the lowest paid professions in the country because they reflect the needs of the private household sphere which takes a backseat to the public life—namely war in today's administration. Female professions are still worthy of less money in the eyes of the capitalistic society, regardless of the sex of the person in the position, but such jobs were essential for the health and well being of the nation's future. Second Wave Feminists demanded equal treatment and increased status of women's work.

An entire generation has passed by unnoticed in my account. Simple arithmetic illustrates the gap in my argument: approximately sixty years passed in between the First and Second Waves of Feminism which leaves plenty of room for another generation of able bodied women to advance gender equality in the workplace. Feminism has occurred in waves for a reason—revolutions in social attitudes can only change so much—legislation is the enforcer of new ideas, and, as mentioned earlier, with the exception of the right to vote, little changed for women. Society was not ready to accept literal equality between the sexes and there was not sufficient legislation to the contrary. Add in the historical circumstance of the Second World War, and it became clear that men and women would continue to reign over different spheres of work. The second swell of feminists decided to take a different and perhaps more realistic approach to work with what they had and redefine gender equality to mean egalitarian as opposed to equivalent.

The Second Wave of Feminism arose as a result of the lack of support for women to be able to choose whether or not to enter the workforce. Millions of women worked out of economic necessity, but the majority of them held low paying jobs due to the degraded status of women's work—these women could benefit from the Second Wave of Feminism because the movement incorporated the raising up of womanhood and the traditional responsibilities thereof. A Second Wave Feminist approach to gender equality in the workforce would include an increase in wages for those people who work in professions traditionally labeled as women's work such as child care, teaching (at the elementary, middle, and high school level), nursing, and secretarial work. Women have been handed and have taken the majority of these jobs and due to the historical tradition of devaluing the female sphere they have received treatment unequal to men and male professions.

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan directly addressed the suffragette's daughters who were not compelled to work for a living outside the home. Friedan was concerned with the number of women who were entering the professional work force: "a third of American women now worked, but most were no longer young and very few were pursuing careers." (Friedan, p. 17) Instead they married young, had several children, and did their best June Cleaver impression. The title of Friedan's book was the diagnosis of the illness which caused so many housewives to be discontent with their apparently perfect suburban lives. As with industrialization, technology again perpetuated social roles with the widespread use of automobiles and efficient transit systems. Families could live as far as thirty miles outside of a city where the husband was employed and suburbs spread like wildfire across America's metropolitan areas. Men and women's work sites were moved even farther apart, and First Wave Feminist philosophies became harder to realize.

Friedan pointed out that the problem was not that women became stay-at-home mothers. The problem was that they bought into the new feminine mystique that "says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity." (Friedan, p. 43) They fulfill "their own femininity" by completing domestic tasks and bearing children—that is all. Do everything just right, said the new housewife ideal: cook, clean, nurture your children, dote on your husband, and you will find all the happiness and satisfaction you could ever desire. Because that is all women were supposed to desire, and hundreds of women began going mad because they were not content in such a situation. Many of them were well educated (they had met their husbands in college), but they were not contributing their human capital to the public world because the only model presented to them was to find happiness in home life.

Friedan urged readers to consider the positive impact women could have on society by sharing their intelligence and talents just as men had. She encourages women to consider that their individual femininity might not be contained within the household and the family. There was nothing wrong with those women content in such a role—but housewifery should not have been the only occupation promoted for women who did not have to work out of economic necessity. The Feminine Mystique was foundational material for the Women's Liberation movement of the Second Wave of Feminism. Some women literally wanted to be liberated from the home, and nearly all Second Wave Feminists wanted to the choice to decide for themselves how to responsibly manage their work and family lives without being lessened in the eyes of society for their choices one way or the other.

Therefore, it is obvious that I am dissatisfied with the quality of gender equity within the realm of work, and it would be a waste of my time to lay out the problems yet take no action to address them. I must warn the Women, Work, and Family Foundation that I do not support exclusion on the basis of gender or sex—the first step in the thus far feminist dominated discourse is to bring men into the picture. Imagine a different situation in the anti-suffragist political cartoon: the husband changing the baby's diaper while watching the toddler play with a pair of socks on the rug with a tuna casserole baking in the oven, and the wife walking out the door (sans the irritated smug expression) to go vote at the local precinct. Men are physically capable of caring for children without the mother's assistance. Women are stereotypically better at child rearing and domestic tasks because they are expected to be just as women are not expected to succeed at professional public activities—so we should raise the expectations. The foundation ought to invite men (of all income levels) to workshops for basic tasks such as diaper changing and tuna casserole making. If men know how to accomplish these feats, they are much more likely to practice them and be free of the stigma that it is just women's work.

Fewer men have attempted to bust out from their traditional role as provider than women have from their roles as nurturers. Legislation ought to aid men in taking on certain responsibilities at home by providing paternity leave (preferably paid) so men can spend time gaining that special bond with their newborn or newly adopted child just as women develop during their maternity leave. People cannot afford to compromise their job security by taking excessive days off from work, and granted leave would enable more men to be involved.

Actually the most inclusive legislation to promote equity across the board would be paid extended family and personal leave for all workers—this would not exclude those workers who choose not to have children from the benefits of time off from work. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 grants unpaid leave for up to twelve weeks for family or medical reasons, but not everyone is able to forgo wages for three entire months: "nearly 80 percent of employees who do not take FMLA leave when needed report that the reason is that they 'could not afford to take leave' (DOL 2000)." (Gornick and Meyers, p. 119) It would be too large of a step for the government to assume financial responsibility for paid leave, but employers who provide such a benefit should be offered tax breaks as an incentive.

In the case of workforce equality, legislation reflects social attitudes and is necessary to enforce new practice. The most beneficial course of action for the organization would be to help meet the daily needs of families who struggle with balancing work and family life while simultaneously educating the public on the legislative action necessary to address the problems of these families. In order to take the next step in developing these policies, it would behoove us to listen to the concerns of the persons most often responsible for both spheres of life—women. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations conducted a survey to determine what the working women of America are most in need of concerning legislature.
Nine of the ten laws listed as being on the top of women's legislative priority list apply to a huge majority of workers in America. Of course, this study was conducted by an organization for unions, so the results are not indicative of the needs and wants of every working woman. However, it is a valuable sample for women who most likely work in the service sector whose disparities have been discussed at length. The findings also illustrate women's desire for job and financial security which indicates that women on the whole are not planning on disappearing from the labor market any time soon. Everyone could benefit from increased flexibility to adapt to their working hours to their personal schedule. Few people do not incur health care costs throughout their life, and increased subsidization of this service would significantly ease the financial burden of medical costs. Funds for the proposed legislation should be distributed among the government (from taxes), employers (revenue), and employees (wages) as recommended by Gornick and Meyers in Families that Work. Legislation which supports everyone will foster equality for all by leveling income gaps and work opportunities.

Childcare must be considered since the foundation has committed itself to the particular challenges of having a job and having a family. Without affordable childcare, neither mothers nor fathers can work outside the home to provide for their children. In other developed countries, the most successful childcare systems have "publicly financed care" for children and "subsidies for purchase of private care." (Gornick and Meyers, pp. 204-212) Childcare is also under stricter quality regulations than in the United States, and child care providers are paid significantly more for their services in other developed countries as well. These countries place a greater emphasis on the importance of their work even though it remains a typical position for women.

It is with an optimistic pen that I sign a check made out to the Women, Work, and Family Foundation in the sum of one hundred and eighty-five dollars. Fifty dollars to cover the food and drink necessary to entice adults to a two-hour workshop, fifty dollars to purchase the materials required for exhibitions of domesticity such as cleaning and cooking, twenty dollars for publicity for the event, and sixty-five dollars to pay the child care provider for the evening. Legislation will be necessary to create compatibility between the private and the public, but habitual norms stand in the way. It is time to create equality in both workplaces.


1. Bernard, Jessie, "The Good-Provider Role: Its Rise and Fall." from American
Psychologist, 36, 1981.

2. Friedan, Betty, The Feminine Mystique. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001)

3. Gornick, Janet and Meyers, Marcia, Families That Work: Policies for Reconciling
Parenthood and Employment. (New York: The Russell Sage Foundation, 2003)

4. Pateman, Carole, "Three Questions about Womanhood Suffrage" in Suffrage and
Beyond: International Feminist Perspectives" ed. Caroline Daley and Melanie
Nolan. (Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 1994)

5. Saxonhouse, Arlene, Women in the History of Political Thought. (New York: Praeger
Publishers, 1985)

6. Seager, Joni, The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. (New York: Penguin Books,

7. Woolf, Virginia, Three Guineas. (London: Harcourt & Brace Company, 1938)

WWW Sources

1)Caselaw Website,19th Amendment

2)Library of Congress American Memory Website, Women's Suffrage-Click on the "Cartoon" link then go to "Election Day"

3)U.S. Census Website, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance in the United States: 2003

4)American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Website, Ask A Working Woman Report

Full Name:  Gilda Rodriguez
Username:  grodrigu@bmc
Title:  The Political Performance of Motherhood: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo
Date:  2004-12-16 22:56:54
Message Id:  11987
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Knowing the Body
2004 Final Web Report
On Serendip

During the Argentine dictatorship known as the Dirty War (1976-1983), thousands of people were systematically abducted by the government in order to eliminate all opposition to the regime. These "disappearances," which the dictatorship never admitted to committing, happened across class and age lines, but most of the kidnapped were young students and blue-collar workers. Despite the fact that associations and meetings of any kind were forbidden, a group of housewife mothers decided to protest the disappearance of their children. They began to gather every Thursday afternoon at the same time in the main square in Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, walking alone or in pairs to avoid being arrested for disorderly conduct and wearing white kerchiefs on their heads to be easily identifiable. By showcasing their grief in public, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo turned their motherhood into a performance, and their bodies into political tools, to hold the government accountable. A 1985 Oscar-nominated documentary by Lourdes Portillo and Susana Muñoz, named after the group, not only recorded the Madres' performance of their collective identity, but was also instrumental in providing a broader audience for said performance.

Traditionally, motherhood in Latin America is restricted to the realm of the private. Diana Taylor explains that "'public' women [...] are considered prostitutes or madwomen—that is, nonmothers, even antimothers," while "good mothers are invisible," (1) because they stay home with their children. However, the Madres carved for themselves a third position that broke this dichotomy, going on to become "one of the most visible political discourses of resistance to terror in recent Latin American history" (2; emphasis added), while still remaining within the realm of motherhood. Furthermore, the Madres' struggle only makes sense as it relates to their maternal identity: "[t]he kidnappings were brutal assaults [...] against their role as mothers," according to Marysa Navarro. "Suddenly deprived of their children, their lives had lost their meaning" (3). The Madres uprising was as much about recovering their children as it was about regaining their identities.

The success of their movement was only possible thanks to what Taylor calls its "highly theatrical" (4) nature. Although the Madres were not impersonating something they were not, they exploited the stereotypical characteristics of motherhood, particularly when it came to dress, to obtain their goals. Paradoxically, the highlighting of their status as outsiders in the political system actually allowed them to enter the system.

In Portillo and Muñoz's documentary, the Madres march in the streets in their trademark white kerchiefs. But that is not the only visually homogenizing factor present in the hundreds of women, from all socio-economic backgrounds, that are shown in the movie. Most wear conservative skirts and hold large handbags; many wear eyeglasses. The result is striking: the Madres look old, frail, and powerless. According to Taylor, this "uniform" forms part of the carefully constructed image of the Madres'. These women have "recount[ed] how they dressed down as dowdy old women and became quick-change artist—some of them slipping on less traditionally motherly attire to escape arrest."(5) One of their leaders, Hebé de Bonafini, went as far as wearing her bedroom slippers to the Madres' demonstrations (6), playing with the boundaries between the domestic and the public that they themselves were making flexible.

The "dowdy old woman" costume was so effective because of the patriarchal image of the mother, very much based on the Virgin Mary, as a passive, submissive being who is put on a pedestal because of her inherent goodness. Mothers were "implicitly excluded from the different groups defined as 'subversive'" (7) at the beginning of the Dirty War. Although this changed as the group acquired more and more visibility, the strategy worked because it took advantage of ideas so ingrained in the collective Argentinean psyche. Motherhood, at least for some time, acted like a shield, protecting the women from the military forces, and allowing them to develop the performance of their movement (8).

Aside from their dress, the Madres found ways to use their bodies to make political statements. The documentary chronicles the evolution of these women bodies into "walking billboards" (9) to express their sorrow, and even walking shrines to commemorate their lost children. At first, they only wore small pictures around their necks, but soon they started to cover their tops, coats, and kerchiefs with images of the disappeared. Not long after, big signs with blown-up pictures and demands for the return of the kidnapped started popping up in their demonstrations. The Madres wrote on their clothes, on their kerchiefs, and on signs: the names of their children, the dates of their birthdays and their disappearances, and pleas for justice.

The grieving mother, as symbolized by the Mater Dolorosa, was adopted as a performative identity by the Madres. They walked the Plaza crying and screaming in real expressions of grief for their children. In the documentary, the Madres weep on camera, recounting the horrors of the Dirty War and the "subversive" activity for which their children were persecuted, mostly social justice work in a regime that had suppressed all human rights.

"We don't know if they are hungry or if they are cold," cries one mother in the Portillo/Muñoz movie. Even though most of the disappeared that the Madres grieved for were young adults in their twenties and thirties, the Madres exploited the vision of the mother as a protector and provider, without whom her children are defenseless. As I said before, the kidnappings can be considered an attack on the Madres' identity as mothers, but they are also an obstacle to doing their job, to performing what in way was the "profession" of all these women. They are powerless in preventing harm to their children like they are supposed to; the Virgin Mary could not stop the murder of her son, either.

The religious aspect of the Mater Dolorosa was also played up. The most virtuous of all women, the Virgin Mary had gone through the same thing that they had, they claimed, which afforded them legitimacy. "The Virgin Mary had his son in her arms after he died. We don't even have their bones," said one of the mothers to the filmmakers. By comparing the disappearances to the death of Jesus, the Madres are sending a clear message to the dictatorship, which publicly prided itself on promoting Christian and family values: kidnapping and torturing the young people of Argentina was as big an atrocity as killing the son of God.

Yet, since the Virgin Mary is also the passive and submissive mother by excellence, the Madres; movement could not completely shield itself with the figure of the Mater Dolorosa. In fact, "the women's public exposure resulted on their being ostracized from the church" (10). Expressing "pain was permissible, perhaps, but not anger" (11). The Madres sought the help of the Catholic Church, which turned them away, preferring to ignore the blatant human rights violations committed by the government. In response to the Madres' use of the figure of the Mater Dolorosa, one of the Argentinean bishops said: "I can't imagine the Virgin Mary yelling, protesting and planting the seeds of hate when her son, our Lord, was torn from her hands" (12). In the film, one of the Madres, Renée Epelbaum, recounts how their appeals for help to the Jewish community, a sizable portion of the population in Argentina, also went unanswered.

The anger that the Church found unacceptable is a result of the figure of the "mother-lion," (13) where the mother will do anything to protect her child. De Bonafini herself describes it as follows: "If the child (son) is in trouble, it is the mother who comes to his help. If he's taken prisoner, it is she who defends him and visits him in jail" (14). The Madres can be seen in the documentary screaming "Murderers! Traitors!" at the military leaders, their faces red with indignation, their fists clenched. Near the end of the movie, Epelbaum, stuttering in fury, decries the fact that the perpetrators of the violence against her three children, all missing, still run free. "I cannot accept that someone did it because they were taking orders," she says. She and the rest of the Madres believe that everyone involved in the repression and torture of the "subversives" should be judged for their crimes, even though the disappearances were masterminded by the top officials of the armed forces, including Generals Massera, Videla, and Agosti, the chiefs of state.

While the act of redefining motherhood is revolutionary, some of the motivations that the Madres cited as engenderers of their movement were not quite as progressive. The "mother-lion" position is attributed to the "natural," even fixed and immutable (15), condition of woman as mother and her relegation to the domestic sphere. This view perpetuates the idea of women as objects, subject to forces greater than themselves, in this case nature. The Madres go out and protest the disappearances because "nature" or their "instinct" dictates that they must protect their offspring, according to their own rhetoric (16).

The Madres were not just protective of their children, but of one another. Scenes of their demonstrations at Plaza de Mayo in the Portillo/Muñoz film show the Madres comforting and welcoming women to their midst. One mother, whose daughter Liliana, a historian, disappeared because of her work in social inequality, described the uneasiness she felt when she first decided to join the Madres. "I sat on a bench, somewhat far from the others, watching them," she says. When she finally gathered the courage to approach them, the first thing she was asked was: "Who is that was taken from you?" Realizing the power of that common bond, this woman decided to become an activist. Navarro believes that this emotional connection between the Madres is partly responsible for the effectiveness of the movement: "motherhood created the common bond that allowed them to pool the information they obtained and the rumors they gathered and develop a sense of solidarity, from which they drew [their] strength" (17). Thus, the Madres not only performed motherhood for an outside audience, but they also did it amongst themselves, as a resource for group unity.

Since they lacked children of their own for whom to perform the role of mothers, the Madres took on community service projects, mainly focused on helping the most disadvantaged families of the disappeared, by establishing a charitable foundation. By helping the needy in Argentina, the Madres are fulfilling two tasks. On the one hand, they are replacing their own children with the poor in order to have some to care for. The documentary presents footage of Argentinean slums, where families thank the Madres' foundation for its support, which was not only financial: they established a "network of communication and support" (18) and provided whatever information they could find about the disappearances. Also, the Madres' community outreach is a way of showing the government that their children were not actually criminals, but just people who wanted to eliminate social injustice in Argentina. Most of the mothers that speak in the film had children who were somehow involved with improving the living conditions of the poor, by building daycare centers and participating in political action groups. Daring to do the same thing that got their children kidnapped shows that the Madres not only condoned, but actually supported and saw nothing wrong (or "subversive," to use the government's language) with what their children did.

At the beginning of the Portillo/Muñoz film, a mother pleads to an invisible interviewer for "their" help. "They" are the people outside of Argentina: the foreign press, the diplomats, etc. In the beginning, they mobilized to attract the attention of their own government: the Madres were there and they were not going away. However, when the outside world started paying attention to the human right abuses in Argentina, despite the dictatorship's denial of any wrong-doing, the Madres saw the marketing of their performance to the international community as helpful to their cause. Thus, they sought and received the support of women in the Netherlands, France, Canada, and other countries. These "Western" women allied themselves with the Madres by replicating their performance, marching in places like Amsterdam and wearing the same white kerchiefs. This phenomenon further emphasizes the character of the movement as a theatrical, scripted performance, because it can be reproduced, with different "actors," outside the political context for which it was first created.

Some of the Madres were invited to meet world leaders, including the Pope, for interviews and photo ops, where they always wore their kerchiefs. If their political nature was ever put to question, it is at this point in the movement, when they are clearly being recognized as political entity, where the Madres affirm the legitimacy of their cause. In addition to that, the fact that these women were willing to perform their constructed identity, down to the white kerchiefs, for the leaders of the outside world, shows the degree of the Madres' awareness of the power of the symbolism they use.

When two Latina filmmakers, Lourdes Portillo and Susana Muñoz decided to make a movie about the Madres, the performative intention became double: the film is at the same time a means for the Madres' performance to reach more people, and a performance in itself. The movie is not just about the Madres and their struggles; it is a condemnation of the Dirty War regime. Muñoz, an Argentinean, left her country because of the oppressive atmosphere, so her deciding to make this movie about a protest movement is in and of itself a protest. Portillo, who was born in Mexico and identifies as Chicana, is highly critical of systems of power in Latin America, the consequences of which are often the subjects of her films. Their intended public is not the people in Argentina, who already know about the Madres, but rather those who are outside. The viewer's perspective of the Madres' performance of motherhood is thus affected by the sympathy the filmmakers feel toward them and their own interpretation of that performance.

In her analysis of the documentary Paris Is Burning, writer bell hooks decries the lack of "appropriation," on the part of the movie's white lesbian director, of the black gay subculture she depicts. Even though the Madres' film is and has to be influenced by its directors' experience and viewpoints, there is not such a radical gap between the filmmakers and their subjects: they are all Latin American women trying to hold an oppressive government accountable for its actions. In spite of that, there are two fundamental divides between the Madres, and Portillo and Muñoz. First off, both the filmmakers are lesbians (although not nonmothers: Portillo was married to a man and had children with him) (19); this fact positions them far from the Madres, who adhere to a certain extent to traditional roles, and are not willing to transgress the patriarchal system in such a major way. Also, both Portillo and Muñoz immigrated to the United States from their respective native countries, placing them outside of the context in which the Madres live. Portillo and Muñoz view the Madres' movement through a lens affected by their progressive ideas, which, while different from the Madres' ideology, actually help the latter's cause. The filmmakers' rejection of not only the military regime, but of all oppressive conservative values, provides the film with a heightened sense of the drama in the situation and provokes pity in the viewer.

The film, released by Portillo and Muñoz just two years after the end of the dictatorship, made the Madres gain international recognition for their efforts. In making the movie, the filmmakers replicated, in their representation of the movement, many of the strategies the Madres had used (and still use to this day) to present themselves, like the aforementioned creation of a pitiful image of the Madres. The women that Portillo and Muñoz interviewed, among them Epelbaum, one of their most prominent leaders, were shown in their homes, drinking tea and surrounded by pictures of their children. By alternating between footage of the Madres protesting as group and scenes where one mother speaks from her home, Portillo and Muñoz recognize and honor the Madres' distinction between individual and collective identity. Taylor says that "[The Madres] perceived and literally acted out the difference between motherhood as an individual identity (which for many of them it was) and motherhood as a collective, political performance."

Judith Butler considers this separation of the private and public identities (the "person I've always been" vs. the "I" that performs motherhood) (20) problematic, because it highlights the oppressive system in which the two are necessarily apart (21). While this is true, because the traditional role of motherhood results from the patriarchy and is necessarily relegated to the home, Taylor considers the redefinition of it as a "viable and practical" solution to the Madres' problem (22). Butler would find the very use of motherhood as a political tool flawed, since the role of mother can only be stretched so far because the inherently limited by the patriarchal system. Taylor, on the other hand, recognizes the virtual impossibility to completely overturn the system at the historical moment in which these women lived, and instead lauds the Madres' efforts from within the system, even if the results they did and could obtain are limited by it.

The Madres' movement was effective in that it brought international attention to the human right abuse problem in the Argentina of the Dirty War. Still, many consider that these women failed to truly change the situation, since their pleas did not stop international aid or the recognition of the legitimacy of the military regime around the world (23). What eventually caused the ousting of the dictators was the so-called Falkland Disaster: in an effort to bolster nationalism, the government tried to take the Falkland Islands back from the British, with disastrous results. This, coupled with one of the worst economic crises in Argentinean history, led to the instauration of a democratic government in 1983.

Despite their inability to topple the dictatorship, the Madres indirectly provoked many positive changes in Argentinean society, especially in regard to women. By speaking out about human rights violations, they increased the awareness of the need for laws to protect people from violence. Groups that came after them borrowed these ideas and were able to amend domestic violence, sexual harassment, and divorce laws, as well as push for decrees that insured the greater participation of women in the political process by, among other things, guaranteeing them a fair chance to be elected for office. Above all, the Madres showed the Argentinean people that women, in spite of their traditional confinement to the domestic sphere, could have powerful political agency.

The performance of the Madres' motherhood was effective in that it achieved the visibility of their cause. Their own visibility, in an apparent contradiction between the public/private dichotomy, was both a resource for and a side effect of their political mobilization. Nevertheless, because their performance took place within the boundaries of the patriarchy, due to the Madres' utilization of characteristics ascribed to women (and, more specifically, to mothers) by the patriarchal system, it could only go so far. Although their performance provided the Madres was (and still is) a way to create and exert their own political agency, this agency is limited, because the role of mother that they chose to use as a tool is inherently limited in its scope.

1. Taylor 195
2. Taylor 191
3. Navarro 256
4. Taylor 184
5. Taylor 195
6. Taylor 196
7. Navarro 257
8. Navarro 258
9. Taylor 183
10. Taylor 196
11. Taylor 196
12. Taylor 196
13. Taylor 199
14. Taylor 199
15. Taylor 203
16. Taylor 198
17. Navarro 257
18. Taylor 201-202
19. Fregoso
20. Taylor 206
21. Butler 123
22. Taylor 194-195
23. Taylor 201


Butler, Judith. "Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion." Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge, 1993. 121-140.

Fregoso, Rosa Linda. "Lourdes Portillo: The Devil Never Sleeps and Other Films." University of Texas. 2001.

hooks, bell. "Is Paris Burning?" Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992. 145-156.

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Dir. Lourdes Portillo and Susana Muñoz. Videocassette. Xóchitl Films. 63 min.

Navarro, Marysa. "The Personal is Political: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo." Power and Popular Protest. Latin American Social Movements. Ed. Susan Eckstein. 1989.

Taylor, Diana. "Trapped in Bad Scripts: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo". Disappearing Acts. Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War." Duke Univ. Press: 1997. 183-222.

Full Name:  Doyle, Jorgensen, Mao, Rodrigu
Username:  mdoyle@brynmawr.edu, sjorgens@brynmawr.edu, rmao@h
Title:  Gender, Sexuality, and Political Agency
Date:  2004-12-16 23:10:54
Message Id:  11988
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Knowing the Body
2004 Final Web Report
On Serendip

- Introduction
1. Women's Opposing Roles During Times of War - Maryssa Doyle
2. The Political Performance of Motherhood: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Gilda Rodriguez
3. The Systematic Destruction of Women's Agency in Juárez, Mexico - Sierra Jorgensen
4. An Analysis of Gay Bashing Through Exploration of the Matthew Shepard Event - Rebecca Mao


As citizens, people rely on the state as an agent that acts on their behalf, by providing them with benefits such as basic protection, healthcare, and education. However, the state itself derives its power (or agency) from the fact that its citizens give up some of their individual agency in exchange for the benefits that belonging to a state provides. People are, thus, both the creators and the subjects of the state. The essays in this book explore the relationships and constant struggle between private and public agency in different contexts as they relate to issues of gender and sexuality. It is especially important to examine the interplay between these two types of agency because of the way that they affect groups that have traditionally been outside of the political sphere, like women and homosexuals.

War has traditionally been the way in which a state protects the interests' of its citizens from another state or force, while at the same time requiring people to give up their lives to protect the state. For many years, women were officially excluded from warfare, although, as Maryssa Doyle finds in the first essay in this book, they have found other ways of participating in armed conflict and thus expressing their agency. During conflicts such as the United States Civil War and the American Revolution, women pledged to refrain from buying luxuries as a sign of solidarity with the troops; they also became nurses and often read letters from home to troops as a way to improve morale. It was rare, but not unheard of, for women to disguise themselves as men and become soldiers themselves. Other women subverted the government and became spies, relying upon the prevailing notion that killing a woman, even a traitor, was an unspeakable evil. Even if women could not appear in uniform alongside their brothers, they did not let law and social mores hamper them in fighting the enemy as best they could.

The "enemy" is not necessarily another state, but sometimes it is the state itself that battles with women. The Madres of Plaza de Mayo is an organization of Argentinian women dedicated to protesting the disappearance of their children during a period called the Dirty War in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Gilda Rodriguez shows us how these women, despite the societal limitations to female political action in the Argentina of the time, managed to get their voices heard. By redefining the same constructs that made up their roles as mothers, the Madres turned their motherhood into a political performance. Although agency had been denied to them because being a mother was seen as a private role, these women managed to shake up the state power's structure without abandoning their position in society.

In her book Three Guineas, writer Virginia Woolf claims that economic independence is the key to a woman's freedom and agency. But, in the case of the women of Juarez, Mexico, a small measure of agency had literally deadly effects. In Juarez, an unknown number, estimated between 300 and 600, of young women have disappeared and been murdered in the last decade. They are all young, poor, workers or students who look similar. Often the girls are beaten and gang-raped before being killed. Very little is being done about these murders at the governmental level in Mexico, but they have drawn national and international attention. Women gather weekly in Mexico to protest and hold vigils to send a message that these murders must be stopped. While on three different occasions suspects have been arrested, the murders continued, often within days of the arrests, and the cases of the suspects were mishandled. These murders have occurred in a political and social climate where women, by, among other things, working in factories known as maquiladoras, are gaining a small amount of economic independence and therefore agency. This agency is threatening to a higher patriarchal system and assumed values. Men are reacting to this threat and attempting to remove that power. Sierra Jorgensen's piece in this collection looks at the extent to which Woolf's ideas apply to the situation in Juarez. It also examines the government and maquiladoras' failure to protect the women who have given up a bit of their agency with the understanding that they will be protected. Jorgensen also explores how this issue is (or is not) changing the overall landscape of Mexican culture.

The state fails to perform its duty as a protector of its citizens when they become harmed under its watch, as in the case of the Juarez's women. Gay bashing illustrates incidences all in which bodies experience physical injury. In modern U.S. communities various militant conservatives individually target homosexuals in "gay bashing." Though few conservative political groups explicitly avow targeting gays for physical violence, some of their members individually carry out anti-gay brutality. The government supports an anti-gay atmosphere by permitting the medical and legal institutions to use the "homosexual panic" defense in the legal justice system. The brutal murder of Matthew Shephard, a young gay man, in 1998 illustrates a relatively recent incident in which the human body becomes politicized. Basing her exploration on Michel Foucault's discussion of the state's use of torture in his book Discipline and Punish, Rebecca Mao examines the relationship between the state and Shephard's murder. What is the process by which the pain and death of Shepard's body transform the personal into the political? Mao conceptualizes Shepard's attackers as agents of the state in an analysis of torture's role in gay-bashing.

A good balance between the agency of the state and that of its citizens is hard to establish because of the strong connection between the personal and the political. The essays compiled in this book illustrate how a state's use of its power can be limiting and/or detrimental to groups outside the traditional political system, such as women and queers.

Full Name:  Claire Pomeroy
Username:  cpomeroy@haverford.edu
Title:  Redefining Public and Private in the Framework of a Gendered Equality
Date:  2004-12-16 23:30:21
Message Id:  11989
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

"Public and private are imbedded within a dense web of associational meanings and intimations and linked to other basic notions: nature and culture, male and female... The content, meaning, and range of public and private vary with the exigencies of each society's existence and turn on whether the virtues of political life or the values of private life are rich and vital or have been drained, singly or together, of their normative significance."

The mantra of second wave feminism, "the personal is political," signifies the first attempt to break down the gendered division between the private sphere attributed to women and the public sphere of men. There is no clear origin of this public/private division; it could have been, as Germaine Greer humorously suggests, "while the male-hunter-gatherer strolled along burdened with no more that his spear and a throwing stick, his female mate trudged along after him carrying their infant, their shelter, their food supplies and her digging stick." It appears that, from the moment of human interaction and language, and its implicit category making of social divisions, women have always been associated with the private, and men with the public.

From the beginning of first wave feminism and the fight for women's suffrage, women have been using politics to enter the public realm of men, thus challenging the stark division between public man and private woman. A goal of the feminist movement has been to create equality between the sexes, both in the public and private spheres of life. In doing so, the gendered spaces of men and women have become blurred and, because of the linkage between public/private and man/woman, respectively, the division between private and public has also become unclear.

The deconstruction of the public/private binary has several implications. It has politicized women's voices in a way that has disrupted the unity of women. Second, the concerns of private life are now exposed to the public, allowing for public and political influence on the private life, specifically in the form of legislation. Third, the deconstruction of the public/private threatens the individuality of experiences of women as women. Finally, it jeopardizes the sanctity of the private space. By looking at different models for gender equality within the private and public spaces we can begin to find a way in these spaces can be reconstructed to achieve a gendered equality while still preserving the public/private divide and the integrity and individuality of men and women.

As more women have entered the work force, and thus the public sphere, there has been an increasing focus on how this movement influences the idea of the traditional private life. Since the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, men have been defined as the money-making workers and women as the child-bearing emotional support for men. In this traditional model "the ability of the unencumbered individual (man) to participate in the public sphere of work and politics assumes that someone, usually a woman, is preparing his food, cleaning his house, and raising the next generation of laborers through her reproductive labor." The expectation that child care will be done 'for free' by the mother in the home is connected to the lack of publicly funded day care that would enable women to work outside the home as well as the underpaid nature of child care labor. In the same vein, the devaluation of child care and the work of nurturing also serve to undervalue the work performed by women in the labor force. With women moving out of the house and into the labor market, the traditional model is challenged. To compensate for this, the division between private and public is being refined.

The shifting division between the public and private spheres results in an unclear distinction between the two, and the manner by which this division is refined is connected to the state. In the course of history, women's voices have been silenced in the public arena. This silencing is due significantly to that which defines them as women and to which they are inescapably linked: their sexuality, their natality, and their body. These three things helped situate women in the private realm. Linked with public/private is the political/apolitical dichotomy which closes women into an experience of the apolitical private, consequently overlooking women's distinctive experiences in politics. To combat this, women's voices have entered the political realm to protest for legislation that addresses the structural oppression they experience as women because of their association with the private. Women have been the primary proponents to the creation of better child care, better paid maternity and paternity leave, and equal pay in all occupational fields; all things that push the feminist agenda of equality for the sexes. Unfortunately, in politics, women's concerns and demands are regarded as reflections of moral or familial commitment, rather than an authentically political stance. Their issues are deemed "women's issues," thereby trivializing the issues. In doing so, these issues become "women's problems" and can be more easily bypassed by the male-dominated political system. In truth, however, these initiatives are to work to balance the public and private lives of everyone, so that the shift between private and public can be stabilized.

The politicization of women's voices has dual function. In part, it perpetuates the male/female dichotomy by creating gendered spaces within the public realm by creating "women's issues" as a political agenda, which rests outside mainstream (male) politics. At the same time, it causes women to adopt masculinized voices to be taken seriously within mainstream politics. In the discussing of politics, their female perspective cannot be brought into their argument, because if it is, the argument will be devalued. If their prospective is not female and is presented in the male dominated setting of politics, it is likely that they will present their ideas from a male perspective, so that the people who are being presented to (males) can identify with what the woman is saying.

The masculinization of women occurs in all public areas, including the work force. To be taken as serious workers, women must dress in a masculine manner, cannot mention the existence of their children and can never leave work to address familial responsibilities. This creates a double edge sword for working mothers; socioeconomic structures reinforce women's primary responsibility for day care while gender-neutral family laws tend not to acknowledge the continuing nature of care giving. Women are increasingly expected to work what Arlie Hochschild has named "the second shift."

The division between the masculinized women's voices and the women's voices advocating for "women's issues" causes a rift between women that makes it harder for equality to be accomplished. When women adopt the masculinized manner in their public persona, they are working to uphold the gendered divisions of public and private. However, if they do not adopt a masculine style in the work force, it becomes increasingly difficult to succeed. Without success of women in the work force, women will remain contained in the private. On the other hand, if women's voices are divided along gender lines, there is no way to create a unitary women's voice to push for social and political changes that will create a gendered equality in the public and private spheres.

For a long time politics has rested in the public realm; the private realm was a place to escape from politics. Frances Olsen derives the connection: "Just as family was once seen as the repository for values being destroyed in the marketplace, the family may also be seen as the sanctuary of privacy into which one can retreat to avoid state regulation." So it follows that

"the ideology of the public/private dichotomy allows government to clean its hands of any responsibility for the state of the 'private' world and depoliticizes the disadvantages which inevitably spill over the alleged divide by affecting the positions of the 'privately' disadvantaged in the 'public' world."

Taken together, the family is viewed as a 'haven in a heartless world' that should be protected from the scrutiny by the state and law. These societal ideas, based on the binary public/private division, make it difficult to argue for legislation of things that appear to be in the private realm.

It is slowly being recognized that the public and private are not in opposition to one another, but are in reciprocal connection with one another. There have been political efforts, through legislation, to rectify the gender differences of the public sphere. Major initiatives have been taken to rid law and social policy of assumptions based on stereotypical images of women as economically dependent wives and mothers. Paternal leave and other legal policy changes are in place to encourage men to participate in the parenting of children. Despite the efforts to ensure equality for women, promoting the sharing of familial responsibilities by women and men, and enhancing women's position in the labor force, gender inequalities still persist.

One piece of legislation that is highly contended, and has great influence on the public/private debate, is that of legal abortions. The topic of abortion approaches the public/private division and deconstruction in two ways. First, it approaches the public/private debate socially, looking at its influence on the public man/private woman dichotomy and its influence on the oppression and autonomy of women within the public sphere. Second, it speaks to the political and legislative division of what is considered public and private territory, and the extent to which legislation can regulate the private.

Abortion, as it is situated in society today, acts both as a tool of liberation and of oppression for women. Without the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, women would be forced into the private domain as mothers, unable to enter the public realm and gain equality with men. On the other hand, the right to abortion serves to bypass the greater issues of female oppression intrinsic in the male-dominated public sphere, such as the lack of support for women as mothers within our society.

Abortion is integral to a women's right to sovereignty. It derives from the equality doctrine that, at its core, requires people be treated with equal respect, and from that should be equally treated and cared for by society. If forced into pregnancy because the lack of safe, legal abortions, women would be denied access to the benefits provided to those in the public realm. Once a woman becomes a mother, her resources to education, employment, and health care become severely limited. Compulsory pregnancy laws violate the traditional American ideals of individual rights and freedoms. Without the right to abortion, women's access to the public would be restricted.

Conversely, abortion also acts as a mechanism used by patriarchal culture to keep women in submission by not adapting its structure to encompass mothers. With abortion, women's equality is still based in a male-dominated public sphere whose legislation favors men and discriminates against mothers. To be on an equal level politically, socially and economically, women cannot become pregnant. Women must adopt the characteristics of men in order to be equal.

Despite the contradictory affects of the position of women within the public/private debate over abortion, the idea of equality insists that women be allowed to choose to have abortions because of women's position in society and the roles and responsibilities of women in society in relation to others. Abortion is necessary to aid in the movement of women from the submissive private life to gain control offered by the public life. With autonomous power, women then might be able to begin to change the structures of the public and private to encompass gender equality.

The right to abortion is deeply situated in discussion over public legislative jurisdiction over the private actions. As discussed earlier, women's lives and women's issues have tended to be relegated to a separate, private sphere that is considered immune from regulation. The private realm is described as a 'haven' from the injustices of the public realm. Privacy is viewed as a fundamental right and "can be interpreted as being involved in a range of constitutional and moral issues – freedom from surveillance and searches, reproductive freedom, freedom to associate, confidentiality of communications, and family values." To many people, though, the private sphere is not necessarily a safe haven. It is a place that can harbor physical and emotional abuse, and without regulation of these things, the injustice in the private sphere could go on to hurt many. In accordance, the privacy of home could be utilized to mask the production of drugs, bombs, and so on that may threaten the well being of other humans.

The regulation of things within the private realm is precarious, because "by its very terminology – privacy – the doctrine suggests at its core that it is plausible to divide the world into two spheres: the public and the private. The presupposition is that privacy should be protected because private acts do not affect public life." On the contrary, the public and private are deeply interconnected spheres and do affect one another greatly. Some privacy must be forfeited to gain protection from potential harm that may occur in the private sphere. There must be laws intact to deal with the consequences of harm that take place in private.

In Row v. Wade the Supreme Court found that the right of privacy "was enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy," creating a precarious position for abortion in relation to privacy. It deals with the existence of two bodies in one, and the choice to undergo abortion influences the well-being of both. In the cut and dry definition above, privacy should be regulated when it comes to affecting the public sphere. The decision that women make about how to use their reproductive capacities profoundly affect our society, and the decisions that the state makes with regard to reproductive health policies profoundly affect the lives of women. Abortion, therefore, is not solely in the private realm. However, with that argument and the control over a woman's own body can be from the public realm, it becomes quite difficult to define the limits of public control over the private domain.

Abortion is only one of the many pieces of legislature that aids in distorting the division between private and public. While there have been many positive advances through legislature and social change for the equality of women created by their entrance into the public realm, there are also some disadvantages. Women have had to sacrifice their womanhood and adopt a masculine attitude to succeed in the work environment. In the deconstruction of the public/private division, the individuality of the experiences of women as women is threatened.

In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf addressed unique experiences of women that are lost when women join the causes of man. Woolf sees the division of man and women not along the lines of public and private spheres, but as members to two different societies. Unlike most feminist ideas of integration of men and women within the public sphere, Woolf argues for the creation of a separate society for women that works in conjunction with but separately from the society that has previously been created by men. She reasons

"...it seems both wrong for us rationally and impossible for us emotionally to fill up your form and join your society. For by doing so we should merge our identity with yours; follow and repeat and score still deeper the old warn ruts in which society, like a gramophone whose needle is stuck, [that] is grinding out with intolerable unanimity..."

By joining the male society, Woolf predicts that the presence of women would not act to transform it to encompass women, but instead merge their identity with it and lose their individuality. This, in fact, is what we have seen happen. Women are losing their feminine characteristics and adopting masculine ones to be successful in society, in turn losing their individuality as women.

Woolf writes about the creation of an "Outsiders' Society." This name "has the advantage that it squares with the facts – the facts of history, of law, of biography; even, it may be, with the hidden facts of our still unknown psychology," which support the devaluation and exploitation women. There are few good reasons for women to try to join a society which has consistently ignored them. In the sixty-six years since Three Guineas was published, very little has changed. On a whole, women have been subjugated by men in society. Women have been forced, through social structures and attitudes, to remain in the private. When they have entered the public sphere, it is under men's direction and jurisdiction, forcing women to lose their femininity and replace it with masculinity. To keep the individualized experiences of women, women today must form a separate society similar to Woolf's "Outsider's Society." This society could essentially push for the equality of women within the public sphere, a sphere that encompasses both the societies of men and women, while maintaining the individualized experiences of women.

The deconstruction of the public/private divide is not only causing the loss of the individuality and uniqueness of the female experience, but it is also threatening the sanctity of the private space. The private space is being destroyed because of its intrinsic association with the oppression of females, but as it is being destroyed, the benefits of private space are also being ruined. Both the public and private realms have morally associated characteristics with them. The public moral evaluation – duty, justice, right, equality, liberty, legitimacy, resistance – is counterbalanced by the private moral sentiment and emotion – affection, responsibility, love, mercy, compassion, decency, kindness.

Associated with the private sphere is intimacy; with the public sphere is detachment and coldness. The private sphere is a place that a person can escape from the impersonal public sphere. Privacy "allows us to do things we would not do in public, to experiment, to engage in self-reflection; it protects us from majoritarian pressures; it allows us to control who we will have access to ourselves and to information about ourselves, and to make decisions that critically affect our lives." It is not intended to secure separation from social pressure, but to assist social involvements and intimacy.

As the line between private and public dissolves, the private haven that procures love, trust and compassion does so as well. It must be addressed that the private does not necessarily provide this haven; for some the private harbors fear of the injustices that can be committed under the radar of the system. However, if the private is fully abolished, the autonomy of individuals will be lost. Privacy is a way of affirming the "centrality of uncoerced individual decision-making in important areas of human activity." If the private space is completely lost in this blurring between public and private, the sacredness of our sovereignty as individuals will be lost along with it.

Thus far, two models have been presented for the way to regulate the public/private divide. The first model is the model that is the model that is currently being enacted in modern day American society. In this model, women are thrusting themselves into the public sphere and are determined to gain equality. Unfortunately, this approach is haphazard and separated, with some women adopting masculine characteristics to succeed while others are struggling to succeed while maintaining their femininity.

Woolf's "Outsider's Society" is the second of these two models. In this version of approaching the public/private debate, Woolf suggests creating a separate society for women; a society that exists both in the public and private realms but exists separately from the society of men. Since "Outsider's Society" will be comprised solely of women, it can respond to the needs and individualities of women, preserving their uniqueness.

Neither of these two models truly encompasses one of the major goals of contemporary feminism: to create a gendered equality both in the private and public. This equality is an equality that encompasses the individualities of all genders instead of forcing all genders to adopt the stereotypical characteristics of men to succeed in the public, or the stereotypical characteristics of women to do the work of the private. The achievement of this equality is not just to create equality within the public sphere of work and politics, but to engage people of all genders in every aspect of life. Working towards gendered equality will facilitate in the de-gendering of the areas of public and private without collapsing the divide.

To begin to achieve this goal of gendered equality, there is "a call for retaining but recasting the public and private boundaries as part of an effort to preserve each yet reach towards an ideal of social reconstruction." By taking part of Woolf's argument and looking outside the dominant society, not within, can justice and equality and liberty for all men and women begin to be achieved. In order to reconstruct the public/private in a gendered equality, first a deconstruction the market/family and state/family aspects of the public/private must take place. This does not mean that there is a need to destroy the line between the public and private totally, but the need to redefine this line in a background of equality.

The reconstruction of the public/private divide along the lines of gendered equality is an undeniably prodigious ambition, but having a final aspiration and ideal will aid in directing the change that is needed. This change must not be forced in the form of legislation, though legislation does help in shaping social attitudes, but must be completely embodied by individuals to facilitate in the social change needed to achieve gendered equality. Slowly, through small refinements of the public and private, this gendered equality will hopefully become an effective reality.


Boling, Patricia. Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Boyd, Susan B. "Challenging the Public/Private Divide: An Overview." Challenging the Public/Private Divide: Feminism, Law, and Public Policy. Ed. Susan B. Boyd. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1997. 3-33.

Colker, Ruth. Abortion & Dialogue. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Public Man, Private Woman: Woman in Social and Political Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Greer, Germaine. The Whole Woman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1999.

Hochschild, Arlie R. The Second Shift. London, England: Penguin Books, 1989

McClain, Linda C. "Equality, Oppression, and Abortion: Women Who Oppose Abortion Rights in the Name of Feminism." Feminist Nightmares: Women at Odds, Feminism and the Problem of Sisterhood. Ed. Susan Ostrov Weisser and Jennifer Fleishner. New York: New York University Press, 1994. 159-188.

Regan, Priscilla M. Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Siltanen, Janet and Michelle Stanworth. "The politics of private woman and public man." Women and the Public Sphere. Eds. Janet Siltanen and Michelle Stanworth. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1984. 185-208.

Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1938.

Young, Iris. "Pregnant Embodiment." Body and Flesh: A Philosophical Reader. Ed. Donn Welton. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1998. 274-290.

Full Name:  Marissa Chickara
Username:  mchickar@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Governmental Family Policy
Date:  2004-12-17 00:44:25
Message Id:  11990
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

The modern working woman is struggling to balance work and family. The Second Wave of feminism has pushed her into the workforce, promising its ideals of equality in wages and in the home. However, many women find themselves in a world that devalues their work in home and in the workplace. Our society has not yet caught up to the Third Wave of feminism, which attempts to break down the traditional gender roles our constructions of work and family are based on. Many are hoping that government intervention through work policies that reflect the demands of an egalitarian family will be able to propel men and women out of the "stalled revolution".

One must now address the question why the United States government is not following the lead of other industrialized nations if they are so supportive of "family values" and "moral values." Until there is a public outcry that can no longer be ignored, which is fast-approaching, the government can continue playing with words in order to avoid accountability. The problem exists with how these policies are categorized. The common term applied to such policies is "social benefits." This language alludes to the "social welfare state"-an ideal a liberal democracy like America does not strive to uphold. The American attitude for such concerns is usually along the lines of "you have your rights, now work it out for yourself."

However, it is crucial to break down the relation between these family-friendly policies and the word "benefits." Progressive policies do not predominantly "benefit" working mothers. Without such policies, women cannot pursue their right to earn a living in the same way a man could. Earning a living is not a "benefit," equal opportunity for employment is not a "benefit"- but a "right." In our capitalist culture, "the one right of paramount importance to all human beings" is the right to earn a living, and in accordance with the law, any obstruction to a fundamental right must be remedied by the government (Woolf, 101).

That may explain why the government is avoiding a proactive role, but another question must be addressed as to why our society is looking to the government for a solution to the modern gender dilemma. The government does not have a good track-record when it comes to representing the historically oppressed. The government has helped support the patriarchy that exists in our workforce today and still stands to benefit from it.
Why would the government attempt to break down our traditional "bread winner" society?

If anything, the government benefits the most from this construction. As long as the value of work relies on dedication and long hours, the United States will continue to have the hardest working labor force in the world. This is a bad situation for men, who are under pressure to maintain the "bread winner" title and miss out on quality time with their family. This is a bad situation for women- working mothers especially- who have to compete on the same level with men for less money, and still bear most of the burden of the "second shift."

But, this situation is by no means bad for the government, at least in their perspective. The less equality women achieve in the workforce, the poorer they are compared to men, and society can hold on to model of the "traditional" family a little while longer. The picture of women achieving their full potential in the workplace and independence from men is a scary one for the conservative forces in power. That would just lead to divorce, single mothers, delinquent children, homosexuality, and who knows what else.

If this is all true, then it becomes dismal that any party in the government will be willing to destruct this oppressive machine that had worked in its favor for so long. But, there has been a growing interest in United States for these work policies and a growing pressure to follow the path led by Western European countries.
Western Europe's social benefits that relieve the pressure on working families are a great example of how a former patriarchal society has attempted to right the wrongs- even if it was for completely the wrong reasons. Did even these governments intend to promote gender equality, or was it just another attempt to further capitalism? "I'd like to think that the reason why the boys are now so interested is that they've seen the light- the innate justice and good sense, etc- but in truth, the interest is far more to do with electoral strategy" (Bunting, 1).

The same strategy can be used here in the United States by the parties. "Work-life balance is now regarded as the political equivalent of unexplored Antarctica- virgin territory with huge potential" (Bunting, 1). If only John Kerry would have utilized this strategy. The majority of mothers voted for George W. Bush, proving the good looks of John Edwards were not enough to win the hearts of the female vote. "Politicians who talk about the work-life balance show some understanding of the aspirations of ordinary people" (Bunting, 1).

In the year 2000, the French government cut the standard workweek down to thirty-five hours, which applies to two-out-of three French workers. Americans may use this as an example of how our government should follow other industrialized nations in easing the burden of work and family for the modern worker. However, this effect was never the explicit intention of the French government when applying this policy. The goal of this policy was not promoting gender equality, but "lowering unemployment by spreading work around among more employees" (Woods, 2). Now, under pressure from international competition for jobs through globalization, many Western European countries are revising their workweek to return to the traditional forty hours.

This example shows that actions by the government are only taken when it suits their best interest, and capitalist whims can change on a dime. It a waste of time for people to sit back and wait for policies to be handed to them in order to correct the imbalance in their own personal lives. A more active role must be taken by individuals to demand policies that will finally foster the environment for women to have an equal right in earning a living.

In American society, "private patriarchy in families combines with public patriarchy in governments and economics to create a system of domination which subordinates women in the workplace and in the home" (Contemporary Women's Issues, 1). Some people may be hesitant to continue using the word "patriarchy," which reflected much of the frustration of Second Wave feminism. The fact is that a system of patriarchy does still exist in our nation today, especially in the workplace.

Our labor laws have not been revised since the 1930s, which says a lot about why women are finding it hard still. One look to who was the type of worker these standards were seeking to protect. Working women with children did not fit mold of the average worker in the 1930s, and they are still not able to fit into this rigid mold today.
"As capitalism and patriarchy interact in the development process, they shape gender relations inside as well as outside the household, contributing to the gender differentiation of labor globally." There is a new problem that the workplace must address, that they have so far gotten away with. "The issue is that there is a denial about the existence of gender inequality (Contemporary Women's Issues, 2).

There is even a deeper denial about what needs to be done about it. I remember watching John Kerry on television during the presidential campaign, answering questions from the audience. One woman asked him how he plans to address the issue of inequality in the workplace for women. I was surprised when he answered that his new health plan and his support for an increase in the minimum wage was how he will go about solving this problem.

This showed me that even a "Liberal from Massachusetts" was falling short of what dramatic changes need to be made. Sure, an increase in the minimum wage will put more money in women's pockets. This might even distract women long enough to allow them to forget that has nothing to do with the fact that they will still be earning less than men. It reminded me of how governments in Muslim countries make "changes" like allowing women to wear make-up in public, hoping that will please them enough that they will not ask for the right to vote.

This is especially true for the under-represented families in society. "The dominant paradigm of economic citizenship, a wage-earning father with financially dependant mother and children, excludes same-sex couples, and arguably, single-parent families. The heterosexual bias infiltrated policy constructions of the family" (Journal of Women's History, 2). Gay and lesbian families may reap the benefits if these policies were implemented, but how much do these policies actually address their particular arrangements. Policy makers discuss shortening the hours at work so "fathers" can spend more time at home and share the domestic burden with their "wives." No where in any formal language is there a reference to same-sex couples with children, even though they fall victim of the same gender constructions.

Even in a majority of same-sex couples, there is a designated "breadwinner" and a designated "domestic worker." Except unlike in heterosexual couples, these rules are not based on gender but on economic potential. The same tensions exist between the "breadwinner" and the "domestic worker" no matter what the sexual arrangements of a relationship may be.

While social policies can relieve this tension even in same-sex couples, it will not improve the standing of same-sex couples in society if it is done in the name of the "traditional family." If policies are implemented to improve the marital relations between a man and a woman, to give mothers and fathers more time with their children, or to free women from the shadow of being financially dependant on their husbands, they are truly not reflecting the faces of the modern American family.

This relates to the "philosophical opposition between 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual'," and more specifically, "the couple 'inside' and the couple 'outside'." Same-sex couples can benefit from family policies, even if they are still regarded "outside" of society's construction of the traditional American family. None of the studies I have found discuss how family polices will impact same-sex couples. This should matter, because same-sex couples should be able to evolve in their own respect, and not just by being absorbed into the evolution of the heterosexual couple.

It is hard to rely on government legislation to change society's norms. Even though a law was past decades ago allowing inter-racial marriage, the practice is still stigmatized today. Constructions of gender have existed long before constructions of race and can prove to be even harder to break down.
Even in Europe, where family policies have been put in place, pressure still exists for workers to continue to work long weeks, well beyond the national limit. Last year in Britain, "the number of men working more than forty-nine hours a week has broken the three million mark." This accounts for almost a quarter of the male workforce that are working beyond the limit entailed in the European Union directive. The pressure of men to work and maintain their "breadwinner" roles shows there is still much improvement to be made.

Most men are reluctant to work shorter hours. The reason is not necessarily that they do not want to work less or spend more time with their family. The underlying reason is that until women are able to achieve equality in wages in the workforce, men do not have much of a choice than to assume the role of the "breadwinner."

Also, it is hard for men to take advantage of family policies in a work culture that still regard men as the "breadwinners" and devalue time spent at home. A study conducted by Wake Forest University has shown that men who take time off for family matters are viewed negatively in the workplace, compared to women who take time off. This is due to the continuing expectation of women bearing the responsibility of the family, and men completely dedicated themselves to the workplace.

"Working fathers may have to choose between taking leave to care for family needs and being perceived negatively at work, or not taking care of family needs in order to avoid undue penalties at work." The study concluded that "in the same way that women should have the opportunity for involvement in the workplace, men should have opportunity for involvement in the family." A recommendation of the study is for employers to "create a culture in which it is acceptable for both men and women to equally participate in and benefit from family policies" (Walker, 1).

This study also does not reflect how family policies affect the parents in same-sex relationships. If it is "perceived negatively" for a father to take time off at to contribute to his traditional family, one can only imagine how the workplace would respond to a father using the same policy without a dependant wife at home. It would only make it harder for gay couples to utilize the policies if they are only acceptably applied to mothers

Also, is it really the employers that are creating this culture or the workers themselves? There are workers who enjoy their time spent at the office, and they contribute to a work culture of devotion that makes it hard for other workers to show less devotion. While Americans do work longer hours than their European counterparts, this can be explained, since "they are also more satisfied with many aspects of their jobs" (Arora, 1).

In a Gallup Poll, thirty-eight percent of Americans said they work more than forty-five hours a week, a full ten percent higher than the response from Britons. While European countries are known for their vacation time, fifty-two percent of Americans reported to be "completely satisfied" with the vacation time they receive- compared to only forty-nine percent of Britons. This shows that Americans may not be so willing to give up their time at work, since more than half a satisfied with their arrangements already (Arora, 2).

The most significant reason why Americans work longer hours than Europeans "could be that they're more likely to see greater potential reward" for their effort. Forty percent of Americans are "completely satisfied with opportunities for promotion in their jobs," compared to only twenty-five percent of Britons. This gives another reason to why Americans work long hours besides pressure from the employers. If employers are the ones to change the workplace culture in order for parents to take advantage of family policies, the only power they might have is to make promotions less attainable so people do not have a cause to work so hard- and this is not realistic (Arora, 2).

An article in the Social Science Quarterly last year refuted the thesis of Arlie Hochschild's "The Time Bind." She holds that "people who are dissatisfied with housework, parenting or marriage work more hours, or at least prefer to work more hours, especially if they're highly satisfied with their jobs." The employees of a Fortune 500 company in Hochschild's study "at all levels of the company indicated that work was more pleasurable than home, pointing for instance, to workplace friendships and a feeling that they were more wanted on the job." These responses question the dichotomy of work and family that many of the family policies reinforce (Ascribe Newswire, 1)..

The article written by two sociologists, Dr. Alan Booth and Dr. Susan L. Brown, found Hochschild's results should not speak for working families. They determined, "The only exceptions, where people were at work longer, were parents who had teenagers and were especially dissatisfied at home and satisfied at work. But workers who fit that description compromise only three percent of dual-earner couples who have children" (Ascribe Newswire, 1).

The average American worker who has children does not have the luxury to view time at work as a social sphere- a place they are willing to spend even more time. Without government-funded child care, workers have to pay child care centers for each hour they spend at work. Many workers do not have the kind of disposable income to increase their child care costs so they could socialize at work.
The working professionals who can afford the quality substitute child care can be more willing to spend more time at work, knowing their children are being well cared for in their home. But this minority should not speak for most workers, especially when dealing with policies that can give parents who want to spend more time with their children the opportunity.

What is important about family policies is that they are gender-neutral. Implying that these policies are good for mothers will only reinforce traditional gender roles. If only women were encouraged to take part-time work to balance the family demands it would not have the same effect as if a father took part-time work. When a women takes part-time work, this leaves the "breadwinner" role up to the husband. The husband will then assume the traditional "breadwinner" stereotypes that leave the responsibility of the home up to the women.

Part-time work can be considered supplemental or "extra money" to the male breadwinners, and the work wives contribute will be de-valued. The amount of support a woman receives from her spouse is a factor that will influence her choice to continue in the workplace or stay-at-home. "In general, the more important a man's job, the more backstage support he receives, and the less backstage support for her job a woman receives, the less important her job becomes" (Hochschild, 266). Wives of "breadwinners" perform "virtually all the housework and childcare," and "the wife's commitment to outside employment was generally limited, and her income was considered supplemental" (Coltrane, 97).

However, once men are able to take part-time work, when government policies prohibit part-time work discrimination, then there can be a shift in traditional "breadwinner" roles. Although it seems like it will only when men take part-time work will it have value, it is more that only when the work becomes gender-neutral can society view it as an important investment. One has to consider that gender can have a more constraining hold on men in the workplace than it does women. "Men actually occupy tighter straightjackets than do women when it comes to gender roles. While male characteristics continue to be the gold standard in American [and world] business workplaces, men who stray from those traits can be more penalized than the women who do so." A man who does not live up to his traditional role "is covertly judged to be a slacker" (English, 1).

This provides another perspective to why it is more acceptable for women to utilize family policies. Since a high numbers of women in top levels in professional and business positions have only occurred in recent history, the work culture has not had the time to establish a rigid mold of how working professional women are supposed to act and behave, like it has with men. The call for women to be more "masculine" in order to be in the business world has lessened, and women do not have to break away from generations-old expectations of how they should behave in the workforce as professionals.

In a similar way, it is the women who are penalized for having a demanding work schedule if their family needs are being neglected. This is because women are going against their generations-old expectations of a woman's role in the home. Americans still believe that if push comes to shove, it should be the women who cuts back at work to meet her family demands, which is why they are the ones most often offered flexible policies at work.

Flexibility "provides workers with greater discretion over how they meet their family responsibilities and balance the public and private aspects of their life" (Gerson, 212). This aspect is even more important to women who assume the "second shift," since they are able to fit in the hours needed to fulfill their domestic chores, as well as taking care of the children. Without flexibility at work, it would be impossible for more "traditional" women to perform all of the responsibilities of the home and a demanding workplace.

Part-time work is another option many women take after having children, since "many opt out for shorter hours as a strategy for obtaining flexibility" (Gerson, 213). This is because a majority of women in the nation still consider managing the commitments to home and family their responsibility and do not consider demanding the same level of contribution from their husbands. They see the choice of staying home or continue working as one they have to decide after having children, and this reinforces traditional gender roles in the home.

For mothers employed outside the home, "flexibility and autonomy are likely to be as or more important that working hours" (Gerson, 209). Employers that offer flexible family policies-such as flex-time, working from home, and paid parental leave- will result in less female workers leaving the workplace after having children. This proves true for many women, "and as the workplace becomes more stressful and all-consuming, the exit door is more attractive" (Belkin, 13).

Granting flexible options to workers, especially women, can have the effect of promoting gender equality. However, the policies really just put a band-aid over an old wound. Women may chose to work if flexible options were available, but what if they were not? The same conditions and gender roles still exist women who do not have a financial obligation to work may find "opting-out" an attractive resolution.

There is one example of how conscious changes are being made to make the workplace more aware of how concepts of gender shape workers. Last year, the Ms. Foundation expanded its traditional "feminist" holiday to "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day." The view has shifted from the previous "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" in the "need to looks at how girls and boys can progress together." This has been in response to criticism that the holiday "bred victimology in girls and left boys behind year after year."

The Ms. Foundation also distributes books and games to "re-educate boys and girls on 'gender stereotypes'." This attempt to bring up the next generation in a gender-aware environment will hopefully lead to real changes. Materials suggest teachers should prepare students for the holiday by asking students to pretend they were living in a box. "Questions teachers should ask include 'What do people say to girls them keep them in boxes?'."

Some people oppose these activities, saying that "teaching girls that they are victims of patriarchal oppression gives them a false view of society and is hardly liberating" (De Pasquale, 1). However, having young boys think how girls are put in "boxes" can make them more sensitive to gender issues in the future and less resistant to change of traditional gender models.

Government policies that support family issues would help the modern American family to balance the demands between work and family. These policies will little to actually fix the underlying causes of gender inequality in the workplace, but hopefully they can give men and women some autonomy from capitalist forces. It is up to individuals to go about changing how society views men and women in the workplace, and legislation will not be the only way to facilitate this change.

Works Cited

Arora, Raksha. "Are Americans Really Abject Workaholics?" Gallup Poll Tuesday
Briefing. 5 Oct. 2004. http://lexis-nexis.com

Belkin, Lisa. "The Opt-Out Revolution." The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2003

Bunting, Madeleine. "Comment and Analysis: It's all about the opt-out. The Guardian. 27
Sept. 2004. http://lexis-nexis.com

Ascribe Newswire. "Working Parents Aren't Forsaking Job For Kids." 21 Jan. 2003

Coltrane, Scott. Family Man. New York: Oxford UP. (1996).

Contemporary Women's Issues. March 2003. Vol. 52, No.2. http://lexis-nexis.com

De Pasquale, Lisa. "The PC Workplace." The Washington Times. 27 April 2003.

English, Holly. "Workplace Issues; When employers deal with 'gender issues,' they need
to include men." Legal Times. 10 Nov. 2003. http://lexis-nexis.com

Fuss, Diana.. "Inside/Out." Critical Encounters: Reference and Responsibility in Deconstructive Writing. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995. 233-240.

Hochschild, Arlie. The Second Shift. New York: Rutledge Publishing, Inc. (1995).

Gerson, Kathleen and Jacobs, Jerry A. Changing the Structure and Culture of Work.

Journal of Women's History. September 2003. Vol. 15, No.3. http://lexis-nexis.com

Full Name:  Bree Beery
Username:  bbeery@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Gender Politics in the US Criminal Justice System
Date:  2004-12-17 02:07:10
Message Id:  11991
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Bree Beery

December 15, 2004

IPGS ~ Final Paper

Anne Dalke and Gus Stadler

Gender Politics in the United States Criminal Justice System

Chapter Two of A Thwarted Patriarchy

The United States criminal justice system, an outwardly fair organization of integrity and justice, is a perfect example of a seemingly equal situation, which turns out to be anything but for women. The policies imposed in the criminal justice system affect men and women in extremely dissimilar manners. I plan to examine how gender intersects with the understanding of crime and the criminal justice system. Gender plays a significant role in understanding who commits what types of crimes, why they do so, who is most often victimized, and how the criminal justice system responds to these victims and offenders. In order to understand the current state of women and the way in which gender relates to crime and criminal justice, it is first necessary to provide a comprehensive analysis of the historical evolution of women in the criminal justice system and the affect that the different waves of feminism have had on policies and practices towards women in this system. I plan to argue that the criminal justice system is another form of patriarchal control, a sexist organization which creates conflict between the private sphere of a woman's life and the public. This control extends far beyond the just incarcerated women, it affects all women. Despite the fact that there have been changes to certain policies and prison regulations, though made with resistance, none of the changes have been for the better. By looking at past and present situations as well as the differing feminist perspectives on the justice system, I hope to offer ways and opinions on how to improve this system and allow women to equally balance their life in the public sphere as well as their life in the private sphere.

Before I begin, however, I would like to explain the reasons for which I had to write about this topic. I have always been very interested in criminal justice and criminology for no particular reason other than that it fascinated me. Criminology is the study of crime and is concerned with developing theories on what causes crime, whereas criminal justice focuses more on the processing of victims and offenders. Crime remains a constant problem in every society, no matter how civilized or uncivilized that country may be. Although, the criminal justice system does receive a lot of attention, the attention is focused more on the males in the system rather than the females. Since 1980 the number of women in state and federal prisons has increased at nearly double the rate for men. There are now nearly seven times as many women in state and federal prisons as in 1980, yet there is still a common misconception that the criminal behavior of females is not a serious problem. In fact when I first enrolled in the class I thought there would be a section about gender politics in the criminal justice system because it is an extremely important component in society, and I was disappointed to discover that there was no such section. I feel that this topic is one of importance because the policies and practices of the criminal justice affect all women, directly or indirectly, and is why I chose this subject over the many others.

In order to better comprehend the issues in which I will be examining, it is important to have an understanding of the difference between sex and gender, the role and definition of a 'patriarchal society', as well as a general background of feminism.

The differences between men and women are most often divided into two groupings: gender differences and sex differences. Gender differences are those that are ascribed by society that relate to expected social roles whereas sex differences are biological differences. Most of the differences recognized by society, between men and women, are gender differences that are not biologically determined. Unfortunately these socially constructed differences are entrenched largely in inequality. In fact most, if not all organizational structures, including the United States criminal justice system is gendered, meaning that they are rooted in discrimination between the sexes. More often than not, if an organization or any other analytical unit is "gendered," then gender is not simply an addition to ongoing processes that are gender neutral. Rather, a gendered organization is one in which control, identity, meaning actions, emotions, and advantages are patterned by distinguishing male and female, masculine and feminine. Legal cases have historically confused sex and gender differences, often ruling to the disadvantage of women based on the misconception that societal and cultural differences are "immutable." Legal dissertation has traditionally failed to differentiate sex differences from gender differences, viewing both as intrinsic and not acknowledging the role that society plays in propagating these gender inequalities.

Fundamental in this distinction between sex and gender are the notions of patriarchy and sexism. Sexism refers to the oppressive attitudes and behaviors directed at either sex; it is discrimination or prejudice based on gender. However, these discriminations, prejudices and negative behavior and attitudes based on sex and gender have been historically aimed at women. Patriarchy on the other hand refers to a social, legal and political climate that values male dominance and hierarchy. Central to the patriarchal ideology is the belief that women's nature is biologically, not culturally, determined. What many may identify as gender differences, such as the idea that women are natures and mothers, are often defined as sex differences by the patriarchy.

Although the modern day patriarchal social structure is not as powerful as it once was, the state still operates from a man's standpoint. The laws are consistent with men's experiences and viewpoints. Men are often the ones studied as non-gendered subjects, "In criminology, as in other disciplines, it is men, not women, who supply the essential (and therefore unexamined) 'standard case'. Men, themselves, are not compared with others to see what makes them specific and different." Patriarchy then remains as part of a defining quality of culture and society and thus criminology and criminal justice. This patriarchal oppression is causing many, feminists and otherwise to advocate for "feminist or woman's law" in order to "describe, explain and understand women's legal positions, especially for the purpose of improving women's positions in the law and society."
However, many believe that the criminal justice system is too deeply rooted in patriarchal presuppositions to permit any type of consequential changes for the better.

Understanding the distinction between sex and gender and how this distinction is carried out by a patriarchal society is important in enlightening society that most differences between men and women are societal, gendered based rather than biologically determined. Unfortunately these socially constructed differences are ingrained principally in unfairness towards woman, which means and proves that the criminal justice system as a 'gendered institution' is essentially one of inequality and oppression.

This notion of inequality and oppression then leads into the larger issue at hand, how the criminal justices system controls women through both the private and public spheres. The majority of feminist theorists argue that traditionally women have been betrothed to the private sphere in society. In fact many feminist criminologists and theorists argue that fleeing the home and escaping the sphere of domesticity, by engaging in criminal or illegal activities, in the end, only provides the public sphere of the state more power in matters of the private sphere. They believe that women, from their private stance, should stand up against and prevent the intrusiveness of the power of the state. On the other hand, some feel that if women disparage the state completely that they will only end up damaging themselves because the public and the private are inextricable linked. Within a culture that holds silence and subordination to be the stipulation of women's respect, women's speech and action have little influence in the public context. While the private is subsidiary to the public, it is by no means separate. These feminist theorists seem to be arguing that in linking the feminine to the private and setting it up in opposition to the public it will only create a situation whose outcome would be meaningless because it prevents women and men from viewing themselves as an interdependent social system with the private having perhaps a subordinate but no less of a stake in the whole.

Many of these issues are dealt with in the literature reflecting upon the theoretical aspects of feminist thought. Feminized politics seems to be almost at odds with women's traditional place in society and the patriarchal family as they define it. This is most evident in the literature which opposes the public to the private sphere where one notes an underlying disparagement for the importance of what women have given society in their long-established roles as wife and mother and ultimately administrator of all domestic duties. It is very clearly assumed that these roles are considered politically ineffectual and degraded in contrast to the male public realm. In the public versus private argument, the question is rarely asked, "what is wrong with society that it degrades these roles and does not recognize their importance to human society," but rather the question is, "what is wrong with society that it does not liberate women from the constraints of these roles to play a 'more important' part in public society?" These exact issues are what I will be dealing with in regards to Virginia Woolf and her feminist book, Three Guineas, a little bit later in my paper.

However, before I begin to discuss the ways in which the different waves of feminism have influenced the criminal justice system I feel that I should first address the question, "what is feminism?" Feminism is a theory which recognizes that gender inequalities exist in society and values change that enhances equality between the sexes. Feminism is by no means a new concept, in a sense feminism has always existed,
"Certainly, as long as women have been subordinated, they have resisted their subordination. Sometimes the resistance has been collective and conscious; at other times it has been solitary and only half conscious, as when women have sought escape from their socially prescribed roles through illness, drug and alcohol addiction and even madness."
This proves to be especially true in explaining why women commit crimes; they do so to escape the repression of the private sphere and gain freedom. There are five major forms of feminism: liberal, Marxist, socialist, radical, and postmodern. However, for the purpose of this essay I will solely be discussing feminism in terms of the waves in which it came in, starting with the first wave feminism of Virginia Woolf, then moving on to the second wave feminism, with which I will be describing using Enloe's work, and then ending with where feminism is today, which I consider to be the beginning of the third wave of feminism.

In preindustrial societies, women and men were subject to the same penalties, which consisted of burnings at the stake, hangings, whippings and worst of all public ridicule. However, despite the fact that the general punishments of men and women were similar, the reasons for which they were sentenced were greatly to women's disadvantage. Women were punished for the most minor offenses, such as fornication, adultery and even drunkenness. These 'moral' offenses were taken so seriously because they were public order offenses. Women were expected to stay in their sphere of domesticity, and if they stepped out of the private sphere into that of the public, they would be punished. What is ironic though is that public humiliation was a more common punishment for women than for men. For example, female convicts would have to confess their sins and crimes before they were hanged.

The first, and most active reform in the imprisonment of women arose in the late 19th century along with the rise of the first wave of feminism. The term, first wave feminism, refers to the first collaborative movement that worked for the reform of women's social and legal inequalities in the late nineteenth century. Although individual feminist such as Mary Wollstonecraft had already argued against the injustices suffered by women, it was not until the late 1800's in which actual reforms were made. The key concerns of first wave feminists were education, employment, the role of women in society and the plight of intelligent middle-class single women. They were not primarily concerned with the problems of working-class women, nor did they necessarily see themselves as feminists in the modern sense. Because they were not primarily concerned with the problems of working class women, they thus were not primarily concerned with the patriarchal injustices in the criminal justice system because most, if not all, of the women in the prison system were those of the working class. This is why the most active prison reform was conducted by wealthy, white women who often held stereotypical views of women's roles in society. With their influence, reformatories were created, with the goal of remolding, rather than punishing, women by encouraging "proper" gender roles.

However, Virginia Woolf, one of the leading pioneers in first wave feminism, offers in her book Three Guineas, solutions to help aid in the independence of women from the private sphere and gain access into the public sphere that men dominate. Although she mainly discusses the daughters of educated men, she addresses women in general. In Three Guineas, the speaker receives three separate requests for a guinea; one for a society promoting employment for professional women, one for a women's college building fund, and one to help prevent war. This book is an answer to these requests--and as Wolfe examines the three causes and points out that they are inseparably the same, she declares a new tactic of feminine purpose,
"She follows two streams of thought until they flow into the same sea; and that end, that finally encompassing wholeness is not merely peace, not merely freedom and equality for race and sex, it is human civilization, a civilization which must be better, sounder, toward so broad a purpose must we move if wars are to be prevented and the human mind and spirit are to stand erect and fearless in this world."
She disagrees with what was and still remains the central notion of patriarchal ideology that women's nature is biologically, not culturally, determined. She affirms that female otherness is culturally, not biologically constructed, thus evoking the early ideas of 'difference feminism.' She offers many valuable methods in which to escape the oppression of the patriarchal society, and although she is discussing war, the word 'war' can easily be replaced with 'injustice towards women' and still be read the same way, "We can best help to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods... to assert 'the rights of all - all men and women - to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty." These 'new methods' she discusses involve escaping from the four main oppressors women face in society: poverty, chastity, derision and unreal loyalties. What is interesting it that although first wave feminism strived for equality they advocated gender differences. However, their attempts for equality proved successful in the criminal justice system. By the 1930's women's reformatories were gone and the sex segregation and gender stratification of male and female institutional regimes had become standard throughout the United States. Thus first wave feminists obtained what they strived for, equal treatment between men and women, while still recognizing their differences.

Two occurrences happened in the 1960's and 1970's that renewed interest in women's penal reform: the rise of second wave feminism and the concern with the fact that women's crime rates were growing faster than men's. The 'second wave' of feminism began in the late sixties and had an enormous impact on the way in which women were treated in the United States criminal justice system. In America, second wave feminism rose out of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in which women, disillusioned with their second-class status even in the activist environment of student politics, began to band together to contend against discrimination. This action of banding together goes directly against what Virginia Woolf preached. She believed it was best for women to gain freedom from unreal loyalties, which includes groups of any kind because a collection of identities will create a power that will then lead to war. Her reasoning proved to be true because it the movement was not a unified one; there were many differences emerging between black feminism, lesbian feminism, liberal feminism, and social feminism. However with the reemergence of feminism in the 1970's, U.S. reformers began to call into question the value of sex-segregated prisons. Despite the fact that these segregated facilities had considerably decreased the abuse (particularly sexual) of female prisoners, they had also worked to uphold damaging gender stereotypes and controlled incarcerated women's opportunities.

Second wave feminists, such as Cynthia Enloe, preached a theory very different from that of first wave feminists. She believed more in equality feminism rather than difference feminism. She sustains that women are not different than men and that women are for example, in fact not all nurturers or opposed to war. She maintains that, like men, women to have violent feelings and are too prone to criminal tendencies. also Second wave feminism had more influence because it was based more strongly in working-class socialism. The slogan 'the personal is political' is representative of the way in which second wave feminism did not just strive to extend the range of social opportunities open to women, but also, through intervention within the spheres of the public, to change their domestic and private lives.

Although second wave feminism brought about a multitude of positive changes to the United States criminal justice system, women's prisons are still burdened with programs and policies that reiterate and endorse "proper" women's roles as "domesticated goddesses." Gender differences in women's and men's prison experiences and access to services and activities generally show an apparent discrimination against incarcerated females. Although the execution of creating co-corrections was thought of as a means to decrease gender discrimination in the criminal justice system, this appears not to have happened.

This then leaves us to the present day situation of females in the criminal justice system. There seems to have recently been an uprising of feminism, one that I believe will be considered the third wave of feminism. In fact Rebecca Walker, daughter of author Alice Walker and godchild of activist Gloria Steinem, published an article in Ms. entitled "I Am The Third Wave," which drew a surprising response. Although significant improvements in terms of legal reforms and employment practices have been made since the 1970's, women continue to face sexist discrimination as well as detrimental stereotypes. While the feminist movements of the past have drastically advanced legal reform and policies, further legal and policy reform is nevertheless required. I believe that the best way to change this system is from the inside. Woman are no longer the 'outsiders' they were in Virginia Woolf's generation. In fact a perfect example of the inside manipulation of the system is with the National Association of Women Judges. Previously the attempt to educate judges on sexism was denied because many people refused to believe that judges could possibly even consider making biased decisions. So these female judges and reformers formed the NAWJ. Their new role as "insiders" then facilitated to start the National Judicial Education Program to Promote equality for women and Men in the Courts (NJEP). This program has since proved to be incredibly successful especially in regards to the outgrowth of the Gender Bias Task Force, which is implemented in 35 states. The success of this program just goes to proves that by becoming part of the 'inside' of the public sphere, women can create better circumstances for their life in the private sphere. Although the change will be a slow and gradual one and may not happen within the period of third wave feminism, it will happen someday. By actively participating inside the public sphere women, rather than the government or society, can control their own private sphere and no longer be submissive to or reliant upon the state.

In conclusion, although the United States criminal justice system seems to be an externally fair organization immersed in the ideas of integrity and justice, it is in reality a perfect example of a seemingly non-discriminatory institution, which turns out to be anything but for women. The policies imposed in the criminal justice system affect men and women in extremely dissimilar manners. Gender plays a significant role in understanding the role females play in the criminal justice system and how the system then responds to and treats these victims and offenders. By looking at the history of women in prison, it becomes apparent that the criminal justice system is another form of patriarchal control, a sexist organization which creates conflict between the private sphere of a woman's life and the public. This control extends far beyond the just incarcerated women, it affects all women. Despite the fact that there have been changes to certain policies and prison regulations further legal and policy reform is still required. In looking at past and present situations as well as the differing feminist perspectives on the justice system, it seems that the one of the best ways to invoke change in the system is to attack it from the 'inside,' which will hopefully and ultimately allow women to equally balance their life in the public sphere as well as their life in the private sphere and gain the equality we so deserve.


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Freedman, Estelle. 1974. "Their Sisters' keepers: A Historical Perspective on the Female Correctional Institutions in the United States, 1800-1900"; Feminist Studies
Heidensohn, Frances. 1986. Women and Crime: The Life of the Female Offender. New York: New York University Press
Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas, 1968 Harvest/HBJ Book
Freedman, Estelle. 1974. "Their Sisters' keepers: A Historical Perspective on the Female Correctional Institutions in the United States, 1800-1900"; Feminist Studies
Cynthia Enloe. Making Sense of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in an American Election Year "What Does a Feminist Curiosity Have to Offer?" (2004)
Belknap, Joanne. 2001"Gender, Crime and Justice"; The Invisible Woman, Canada: Wadsworh Group
Rebecca Walker, 2002. "Ms." Magazine "I Am The Third Wave,"
Van Voorhis, Patricia. 1991. "The Impact of Race and Gender on Correctional Officers' Orientation to the Integrated Environment." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency

Full Name:  Mar Doyle
Username:  mdoyle@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Minerva and Vesta: Women's Roles During Times of War
Date:  2004-12-17 02:26:20
Message Id:  11992
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Minerva and Vesta:

Women's Roles During Times of War

With the prevalence of war goddesses in most traditions from China to Greece to Ireland, women have been separated from the front lines of war for centuries. The goddesses, the divine representations of women in the ideal, are torn between dual roles: that of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and just war, and that of Vesta, goddess of hearth and home. These two roles, warrior and mother, are not necessarily as very different as they might appear at first glance. Western tradition claims that women are not made for war, but for household work: sewing, cleaning, cooking, and looking after children. Society told women to carry brooms in lieu of swords; to collect firewood instead of ammunition, and to keep house rather than protect a nation. Yet, for centuries, women have fought their peoples' wars, even if they never lifted a sword or fired a rifle.

Yet, in Virginia Woolf's book, Three Guineas, she claims that women do not actively participate in war. She tells the reader, "To fight has always been the man's habit, not the woman's" (Virginia Woolf, 6). She proceeds to explain that women have been set in a world apart from men. According to Woolf, men and women exist in separate worlds, coexisting, but not interacting. Women live outside of the masculine spectrum of official schooling, professions, and, of course, war making. I beg to differ. Women have always interacted with men and live in the same world as their masculine counterparts even when it comes to schooling and professions, but especially when it comes to war. Women have always joined their brothers in the trade of war making and to deny their efforts and victories is to deny a great portion of history and a profession that was, and is, almost always open to women, even when they could not share in the careers of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers.

We rarely hear of these women, though, because they were not on the front line. The AAS Online Exhibitions claims, "The term "war hero" usually refers to a man who unselfishly risks his life to fight" (AAS Online Exhibitions). In many ways this is true. War heroes, especially of wars that were fought earlier than the twentieth century, are almost invariably men. In schools throughout the United States, primary school students learn the names of heroes of various American wars: George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee; but rarely do they learn about the women who helped these heroes: Molly Pitcher, Belle Boyd, and Elizabeth van Lew. Women learned to sacrifice their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers for the same causes for which these men sacrificed their lives.

The first United States war in which women fought was the American Revolution: the war that allowed their country to be formed. While their husbands cleaned their hunting rifles and readied their clothing, American women fought the British in their own way. The most prominent form of battle, especially in Boston and New England, was the boycott on tea. It sounds like a simple thing, boycotting tea, but the English imported it to the Colonies and made a great deal of money on the tariffs. When New England housewives ceased to purchase tea, some going so far as to brewing herbal teas with raspberry leaves, the British knew a revolution was in the process. Women boycotted other goods and did their best to support their soldiers (Boston Tea Party). Some women were forced to host British soldiers, known as Red Coats, in their homes (Women of the American Revolution), but they forbore and awaited the end of the war and the return of their husbands and sons as free, independent men.

These women fought the British Empire on their own terms. They were forced to house foreign soldiers and cater to the very men who were preparing to kill their fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers. Women lost the rights to their own houses and were rendered helpless by the law when it came to protecting their property (Women of the American Revolution). This did not hold well with the American women, many of whom desired a free country as much as their masculine counterparts. Some women, such as Phillis Wheatly and Susana Haswell Rowen, loudly voiced their complaints in print, partially shielded by the very same gender that kept them off of the front lines. Other women, such as Eliza Wilkinson, literally fought the British who encroached upon their land. Wilkinson took a decidedly fierce position upon women and war, saying "None were greater politicians than the several knots of ladies who met together" (Women of the American Revolution). These women knew how to fight a war without ever leaving their houses and lands.

Other Revolutionary War women chose to leave behind the comforts of their homes behind and join the men at war. It was rare for women to take up arms and fight as soldiers, but they did as best they could, given their strict social roles. A prime example of this is Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, better known as Molly Pitcher. She followed her soldier husband as he fought. Molly Pitcher earned her title at the Battle of Monmouth when she brought water to the fallen soldiers on the field (Molly Pitcher). Women were so taken with following the soldiers' camp that the Women of the American Revolution calls the Camp-Followers "one of Washington's head-aches" (Women of the American Revolution). These Camp-Followers were a thorn in the side of the commanders because they wanted women to retain their traditional roles as mothers and housewives. Yet these women defied their leaders, taking precedence from their European forebears, and aided their husbands, sons, and brothers on the battlefield.

On page 31 of Three Guineas, Woolf states, "If we help an educated man's daughter to go to Cambridge, are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war?" Clearly, women think about war whether or not they attend Cambridge because Woolf, who was denied the privilege of being educated at Cambridge, is thinking about war throughout her book. In the American Colonies, most men were denied such an education, save those who were intending to enter the priesthood or were quite wealthy. It would be nearly unheard of for a woman to be educated at such an institution. Yet, these uneducated masses managed to wage a war against the most powerful empire since Rome, the British Empire of the eighteenth century, and win. They put their minds to war, without translating Latin texts or memorizing Shakespeare. The Americans won the war without diplomas from Oxford and Cambridge, defying Woolf's belief that the desire and knowledge to make war is intrinsic to education. Instead, the proof implies that this desire and knowledge is intrinsic to humanity. If they perceive a danger or an oppressor, then the instinctive reaction is to fight it. This is seen in lower order animals and often referred to as the 'fight or flight' reaction.

As was traditional during times of war, women took over their husbands' roles during the American Revolution. Women learned to manage businesses, schools, and farms. They boarded enemy soldiers, taught schools, conducted letter writing campaigns, and enacted political activity. Yet, all of this came to a halt when the Americans won the war and the British retreated. The rights these brave women had gained during wartime were once again returned to the men (Women of the American Revolution). Men were declared the heroes of the hour and much was, and still is, made of their considerable sacrifices and bravery, but it was done at the expense of the women.

The dual roles of women during wartime recurred during the American Civil War. The same people who wore corsets and hoop skirts, who had fainting spells, and were expected to live in high society were given control as men took up guns and uniforms. Once again, women learned to fight a war without taking up arms. They were forced to take over men's lives and men's work when the men were no longer around to fulfill these necessary duties. Farms still needed to be tended and businesses still needed to be run. For a war to continue, the economy must continue. A change from their Revolutionary War mothers, the women of the Civil War took on two true professions as the nation was divided into two: espionage and nursing.

Nursing, of course, was considered a more respectable way to support the soldiers and the war. Most of the Civil War nurses, as with the heroines of the Revolution, remained anonymous, but were a bastion of the war effort. These women left their homes and children to save a country. Florence Nightingale, a British citizen herself, pioneered this career choice during the Crimean Wars, working with other British women to heal the British soldiers injured in battle. Learning lessons from their European sister, the women of the Confederacy and the Union helped to heal wounded soldiers, on both sides of the war, and became known for reading letters from home to the injured soldiers, undoubtedly improving morale (AAS Online Exhibitions).

The art of espionage was open to women in both the Union and the Confederate States. An advantage of a female spy was her gender: neither side of the war would execute a woman, even on point of treason (Hearts at Home: Spies). Famous Confederate spies include Belle Boyd, who carried important information across borders and is known for saving Confederate captains from Union troops, and Rose O'Neal Greenhow, who helped win the Battle of Bull Run by leaking important information to Confederate troops (Rose O'Neal Greenhow Papers). Some Union spies were women firmly ensconced in Confederate society, such as Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Elizabeth Bowser. Van Lew helped prisoners of war and watched important Confederate political figures while Bowser was a maid in the Confederate White House itself (Female Spies for the Union).

Despite the fact that women were still not allowed on the front line and could not carry arms with their brothers and husbands, during the American Civil War, women came closer to the battlefields than they had during the American Revolution. They learned to play on the traditional gender roles through espionage. They could aid their causes without risking life and limb with the same recklessness as a male spy. While the men fought and killed, wounded and were wounded, the women of the Union and Confederacy learned to be nurses and to read and write.

In Three Guineas, Woolf makes the claim that "scarcely a human being in the course of history has fallen to a woman's rifle" (Woolf, 6). History itself refutes this claim. If we look at soldiers in war alone, ignoring female hunters and women defending their homes, there is evidence to decry Woolf's claim. Women have been in the business of espionage since Roman times and earlier. Women have dressed as men and fought on the field as soldiers, many even in Woolf's native Britain. Women fought in Crusades during the Middle Ages and women fight today for the United States army. Women have carried swords, guns, and poisons during the intervening years. Violence, Woolf's words imply, is not natural to women. This is an untruth. Women commit acts of violence on a daily basis, one only needs to read the newspapers or watch the evening news to understand this simple fact.

These two wars, the American Revolution of 1776 and the American Civil War, were fought by men with horses, muskets, rifles, ships, and cannons. It was men who stood on the front line and faced down the enemy, offering their lives for their country. Men fought, died, and bled in these wars. But what is so often forgotten when we remember war heroes are the women. The women may not have taken up arms and led armies with a battle cry, but they offered as much as their brothers did. When the rebels of the colonies hosted British soldiers, they knew that if they spoke their mind, it meant death or imprisonment. The women of the revolution went without necessities in the hopes that it would help with the war effort. As the ladies of the Civil War nursed the injured soldiers back to health, they ran the risk of contracting the solders' illnesses and dying themselves. When they worked as spies for their governments, they knew that their enemies considered them traitors and would gladly imprison them. It is a sad thing indeed when these women's contributions to the nation are forgotten in the shadows of their larger-than-life brethren.

Clearly history itself contradicts Woolf's claims. Three Guineas was published in 1938 and is, without a doubt, a product of its time. Certainly, today, women have access to many of the commodities that Woolf's generation was denied. But the women and the wars I have referenced in my papers lived and occurred long before Woolf's time. If she so chose, she could have found this self same information, albeit it would have been a bit harder without the use of extensive libraries and modern technology. Even had she not searched for female soldiers and fighters from the United States, Woolf could have looked to European tradition. Saint Joan of Arc may be one of the most famous female soldiers of the modern era, leading the entire army of France against Britain, something no British male or female would be soon to forget. Or, reaching further back in time, Woolf might have remembered from Greek and Roman mythology the tales of the Amazons, a tribe of wild women, all warriors and nearly undefeatable. She was clearly a woman of means who was well educated, especially for her time period and gender; how else could she have written the sheer number of published pieces that she has? She had undeniable access to this information.

It is an indisputable fact that women are a part of war and a part of the man's world. In fact, it is a misnomer to call it a man's world, this existence belongs equally to women as it does to men. Women may have a differing social history from men and there may be a different culture for women with separate expectations, but women of the world live in it. To deny their hold on the world is to deny their responsibility to the world. Women have their place in war, as they have a place everywhere else. They are as accountable for war as men are. They ought not to use men as their scapegoat in this arena. Women, especially in the armies of Western nations today, join men on the battlefield. They always have. I think they always will. It is a time honored tradition. But with the privilege of living in this world and fighting its battles comes the responsibility of waging a war, considering the ethics of waging war, creating laws and rules regarding battle conduct, and accepting the fact that, inevitably, who ever wins the battle or the war, people will be lost. This weight falls on the shoulders of all of humanity and it is unjust to divide the species by gender in this aspect just as we cannot say that only Caucasians or only Asians have ever made war.

Warmongering seems to ignore class, gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and education. Woolf, in her writing, seems near obsessed with the idea that women can separate themselves from war by separating themselves from men. I think this is an interesting theory, but, in the end, implausible. By creating another dividing line regarding war, adding to social status and nationality among many and sundry other dividers, we would only create more incentive for war. If one has weighed the ethics and choices of war and decided, as Woolf did, that war is a poor choice, isolating what might have been powerful allies is a poor decision indeed, especially when those very allies appear to be the controlling force behind the war making.

In conclusion, Woolf's ideas in Three Guineas, regarding women and war, prove to be false. The records of women and war, regarding the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, openly disregard her theories. War transcends the artificial social barriers humanity has created over time. To claim that women take no part in war is to put women far away and on an idealized pedestal that they, and no one, truly do not deserve. Women may or may not be the same as men, but both genders live in the same world and face the same problems of that world. It would be better for men and women to face these troubles side by side and together rather than as two separate peoples who happen to exist near to one another. It is as Benjamin Franklin said of the American Revolution: Better that we all hang together for we will surely hang alone.


"AAS Online Exhibitions: A Woman's Work is Never Done." © 2004. Cited 22 November 2004.

"Boston Tea Party: ...drinking to independence." © 1996. Cited 22 November 2004.

"Female Spies for the Union." Cited 22 November 2004.

"Hearts at Home: Spies." © 1997. Cited 22 November 2004.

"Molly Pitcher (Valley Forge Frequently Asked Questions)." © 1998 – 2004. Cited 22 November 2004.

"Rose O'Neal Greenhow Papers." © May 1996. Cited 22 November 2004.

Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas. ©1938, 1966. Harcourt, Inc. Orlando, Florida.

Zarro, Alexis. "Women of the American Revolution." Cited 22 November 2004.


WWW Sources





Full Name:  Nancy Evans
Username:  nevans@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Difference Feminism: June Cleaver with an M.B.A. or a New Brand of Women?
Date:  2004-12-17 09:50:45
Message Id:  11993
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

The notion of difference among the sexes has been studied extensively in terms of cognition and brain activity. An MRI can back these claims, showing male and female brains 'lighting up' in different locations based upon different stimuli. Anyone with a close relationship to a child can attest to the fact that they were born with certain traits. Perhaps their nephew is very shy, while their niece has never met s stranger. In other words, some difference among individuals is innate, fundamental. This notion has been applied to studies in the animal world. Susan Allport, author of A Natural History of Parenting,, notes that "Males provide direct childcare in less than 5 percent of mammalian species, but in over 90 percent of bird species both male and female tend to their young." While researchers have focused on other species, they have been hesitant to apply this sort of lens to human families, largely because this sort of biological inherency does not directly align with the push for equality and equal rights that have been so important in recent history in the United States. Fundamentally, to state that biology creates difference in humans and that this sort of difference has the ability to manifest itself in divergent capabilities carries political and social risk for minority and oppressed groups.

This has been a main tenet of the argument against difference feminism, yet even some of the most socially radical women have yet to abandon the importance of difference. This paper will examine the limitations of difference feminism, applying a critical lens to the discussion both for and against, with special attention to current political implications. The devaluation of care work in the United States will figure prominently, as well as policy solutions that are pro-women on both sides of the debate.

Many women, despite their views of difference feminism, hold varying expectations for the behavior of women. In her article "What Abu Ghraib Taught Me", Barbara Ehrenreich recounts her the process by which she became disillusioned with the notion of female moral superiority. Despite claiming that she "never believed that women were inherently gentler and less aggressive than men", Ehrenreich divulges her shock at the images of Spc.s Megan Ambuhl, Sabrina Harman, and Lynndie England, stating "secretly, I hoped that the presence of women would over time change the military, making it more respectful...but I don't think that anymore." Ehrenreich lays the foundation for a concise argument for gender equality; namely, if women want to achieve equality, they must let go of the notions of higher moral existence. In other words, if women are as good as men, they are also as bad as men. The message becomes somewhat convoluted as Ehrenreich seems unable to let go of the idea that women may still be able to change corrupt, male-dominated systems. She proves herself an optimist in favor of the difference feminism she previously decried, qualifying her argument with the belief that "women do not change institutions simply by assimilating into them, only by consciously deciding to fight for change. We need a feminism that teaches women to say no."

While Ehrenreich's remarks seem highly contradictory, within them lies an inherent paradox of the role of women in male-dominated systems. Perhaps women are no stronger in character, no more inclined to do the morally right or just thing than men. Women may partake in the same questionable or punishable behavior as men, but this is contingent upon women buying into the male-centric and male-created systems that afford these opportunities. The fact that a uterus may be "no substitute for a conscience" is lamentable, but valuable in that the recognition leads Ehrenreich to a seemingly brightpanacea: the idea of opt-out feminism. Biological differences and moral inherency aside, women have the unique opportunity to remove themselves from a system that is not built or upon their values, decisions or input or contingent upon their

"Just say no" feminism is an appropriate summation of the thoughts and concerns expressed in Lisa Belkin's now-famous article in the New York Times, "The Opt-Out Revolution". In her article, published in November 2003, Belkin brings to light the voice of the highly-educated woman who has chosen to reject the ideal of gender equality in favor of a more care-centered, female-specific ideology. Of the women cited in the article, all attended Princeton, most are members of an Atlanta book club, about half are not working at all, very few work part-time or do free-lance work, and only one has a full-time job (but no children). Interestingly, the women in Belkin's study received a prestigious education (all have at least an undergraduate education, with most
having received an MBA) but came from different socio-economic backgrounds, had differing histories of parental involvement and work outside the home, and in some cases belonged to different generations of feminist thought, yet all shared an appreciation for the ethic of care. These women "[were] recruited by the top firms in all fields. They start strong out of the gate. And then, suddenly, they stop" to attempt to redefine success outside of the workplace. Belkin provides a logical continuation of Ehrenreich's hesitant tapping at the door of opting-out. While Ehrenreich might imagine women to stay within the system and work in a top-down manner to bring about change, Belkin takes a more grassroots approach, noting that "it's not just that the workplace has failed women, it is also that women are rejecting the workplace."

The logic behind Ehrenreich's hesitance is easily understandable: she worries that opting out based on sex differences will rewind the feminist movement while fighting the system from within can keep up the struggle for equality among the sexes. Belkin provides an answer to the main tenet of this concern. Yet before proceeding to Belkin, it is important to understand the way in which feminists address-- and have addressed-- women with regard to work and family. The first public stirrings of women moving out of the home and into the workplace came with the publishing of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. The problem with Friedan's argument, a problem that has carried women through the fight for equal rights, was that Friedan attempted to impose as strict a command to work outside the home as previously existed for women to stay in the home. According to Friedan, women should, and indeed must, work outside the home. This sentiment is all too similar to the claim that women should, and indeed must, play the role of housewife and mother. Both claims are inflexible and assume that women are an invariant bloc and can be treated as so policy-wise.

Belkin attempts to resolve the aforementioned problem by making room for free will. She avoids Ehrenreich's fear of feminist backsliding by discarding the collective notion of feminism in favor of a rational-choice model. Women are not under any obligation, real or imagined, to opt-out, yet the choice exists. In many lights, this seems a forward movement in the feminist movement as it provides room for differentiation and choice. She makes the statement several times in the article, noting that women who have opted-out are not "something out of The Bell Jar. She is not trapped. This is a choice." Belkin further concedes that her thoughts are not for all women as she "understand[s] that there are ambitious, achieving women out there who are the emotional and professional equals of men...and climbed the work ladder without pause."

Secondly, Belkin leaves room for a logical follow-up to "The Opt-Out Revolution" as a non-gender specific policy. Upon close examination, there is little about the revolution that depends upon some inherent myth of a collective nature of femininity. Opting-out is less about women, men, and sex differences and more about resuscitating the value of care and caregiving. Women who opt-out are not giving up work and success altogether, they are "redefining success. And in doing so, they are redefining work." There seems no reason why men, should they choose to leave male-centric systems, should be excluded.

The emphasis on care is an important one. Previous to Friedan's call for women to move outside the home, women's devalued status and their synonymity with caregiving aided in the devaluation of care. Friedan's assertions did little to protect the importance of care, depreciating its value all the more by making it seem essentially trapping and undesirable. The fight for gender equality, in these terms, became a fight to, as Belkin puts is, "become men." Many of the women Belkin interviewed expressed a fulfillment gained from caring for their children that they never received from their work outside the home. One woman (who graduated from Princeton and received her PhD from Harvard) states, "I don't want to be famous; I don't want to conquer the world...maternity provides an escape hatch." Another of the women recounts a moment of doubt concerning her choice to opt-out. She says,

"Sometimes I worry that we're really just a bit lazier. But in my heart of hearts, I think it's really that we're smarter. Maybe evolution has endowed us with the ability to turn back our rheostat faster, to not always charge ahead after one all-consuming thing. To
prefer a life not with one pot boiling but with a lot of pots simmering; to prefer the patchwork quilt, not the down comforter. Oh, God, will you listen to these domestic analogies? Are they really coming out of my mouth?"

A central problem of difference feminism or opt-out style difference is how to restore value to what is traditionally considered 'women's work' without pigeonholing women as the 1950's style housewife-and-mother. The above account is a testament to this worry. This woman, analogizing her life to dishes, quilts, and other clichés of domesticity, may just as easily be June Cleaver as an opted-out corporate lawyer. What are the implications of this? Does the mindset with which women re-approach domesticity matter? The answer may depend upon the location of the idea. Within the sphere of feminism, an opt-out and forward-thinking view of women's roles can be highly valuable. Or it can be seen as not revolutionary in the least, especially by women who choose to remain in the career world, either by choice or necessity. Shirley Tilghman, a molecular biologist at Princeton, views opting-out as copping-out saying, "Have these young women really internalized the idea that women really do not lead? There was a time when that kind of thinking would have inspired outrage." Belkin herself begins the article with a challenge to the reader: "Walk into any Starbucks in any Starbucks kind of neighborhood in the hours after the commuters are gone. See all those mothers
drinking coffee and watching their toddlers at play? If you look past the lycra gym clothes and the Internet-access cell phones the scene could be the 50's, but for the fact that the coffee is more expensive and the mothers have M.B.A.s." This is another example of the June Cleaver/opt-out lawyer dilemma and a poignant example of how these women may be construed as "lazier".

Another problem with Belkin's notion is its inherent bias towards well-educated, well-off women. The lives of many women, whether they believe in opt-out feminism or not, do not afford them the chance to leave a paid profession. In many cases, financial stability is more of an important factor of family well-being than having a parent at home.
Belkin addresses this concern solely under the umbrella of her 'this is not for everyone' sentiment, but never truly faces the fact that her philosophy is inherently a privileged one. This critique was picked up by Stephanie McCurry of Bryn Mawr, Pa (coincidentally) in a response memo she left on the New York Times website regarding "The Opt-Out
Revolution". McCurry says, "If there is, as Belkin says something revolutionary in the decision by privileged women to opt out of paid work, it looks anything but revolutionary from the perspective of the family. Combining professional work and motherhood over the long haul-- now that's something new." Indeed, this may be the shared expression of many women who, because opting-out is not a viable option for their families, discard the idea either out of frustration or genuine concern for its implications for women.

As poorly as 'enlightened domesticity' may fare in the all-female world, relocate it to the male dominated world, especially the political realm, and this brand of feminism runs the high-risk of becoming markedly anti-feminist. With regard to the current political culture of the country, women opting-out means less women in policy determining positions. Of 435 members of the House of Representatives, 62 are women and of the 100 member Senate, only 14 members are women. A lack of strong female representation coupled with an opt-out movement (especially one very easily mistaken as an embrace of more conservative and traditional values) may result in a cultural shift back towards more masculine centered policy and political thought. Compounded with the fact that countries in crisis (like war, for example) tend to see a more conservative value shift, the mindset women hold regarding their own opting-out may be of no importance when located in a larger and potentially manipulative system.

How, then, can the government play a role in the revaluation of care giving and opting-out? Current policy suggestions for families tend to fall into three ideological categories: the non-parental care schema, the dual-earner dual-carer schema, and the compensated care schema. FAMILIES THAT WORK BY GORNICK AND MEYERS. The moral and value implications of these policies range in opt-out compatibility. The non-parental care schema, code for universal day care, values a highly stable environment for children but not necessarily parental care. The program, supported by social liberals such as Hillary Clinton, would free both parents to work and remove the child care burden. This
policy, while family-friendly, does not mesh well with the components of difference feminism. The dual-earner dual-carer schema, coined by Gornick and Meyers, takes a step in the opt-out direction and obliterates sex differences. Gornick and Meyers believe maternity and paternity leave, as well as options for shifting to part time work are essential for productive families. Their approach allows both men and women to opt-out in a scaled-down manner, as both work and care in nearly equal amounts. While this policy aids in adding value to care by making it a gender neutral issue, it will treats care giving a distraction from "real work"

It is the compensated care giving schema that is most attractive to women who choose to opt-out, those who are concerned with building the image of care giving, and arguably even to those like Stephanie McCurry, who may need financial incentive to even consider leaving the professional world. Compensated care is, by definition, receiving a wage for work done inside the home. It is also a policy suggestion likely to garner bipartisan support. One argument for compensated care holds that if anyone outside of the female head of family were to perform her duties (cleaning, cooking, child care) they would receive a wage for their time. In order to stop the pattern of being a society
in which women's unpaid and undervalued work inside the home allows for men's work outside the home, care should be valued as a paid profession. Social and political conservatives, eager to see a return to more traditional values, would likely be in support of such a program, as would many feminists who see the potential for such systematic changes to affect the legitimacy of care giving. Offering wages for care is problematic in many senses. How to fund such a policy is as unclear as how the government would regulate one. For example, in "The Second Shift" Arlie Hochschild found that women
(albeit women who work a full-time job) work so much around the home as to account for an extra month of hours each year. Under a compensated care economy, would a mother who wakes up at three in the morning with a colicky baby 'clock in' the hours spent tending to the child? Obviously, this is implausible, but compensated care has many unknowns. For example, imagine compensated care required a minimum number of hours, 40 let's say, spent working inside the home each week. How would this time be monitored? Who would oversee the legions of opt-out women? Could women be fired from their 'jobs'? How many would abuse the system?

These questions, while problematic, are not enough to abandon a discussion of the potential usefulness of a compensated care system. In terms of adding value to care, making it a paid profession seems the fastest route to a main problem of opting-out: it makes one financially dependent upon someone else, usually a woman upon a man. It would be foolish to declare that money does not have political sway in the United States, or that one's importance is based at least in part by their income. Opting-out for pay also allows the system to be more compatible with other brands of feminism. In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf insists upon the importance of financial independence. It also seems to be an indirect route to Ehrenreich's belief that women should not mindlessly assimilate into corrupt systems, rather they should work to change them. Compensation for care seems to resolve the notions of Belkin, Ehrenreich and Woolf. Such a policy helps bring the chance to opt-out down from the upper echelons of working women and into the mainstream, it allows women to "fight for change" with very little assimilation, and it allows for the financial security that allows women to remain free from "unreal loyalties" and the aid of men.

Creating wages for second shift type work does not just help women who opt-out. Unmarried and gay couples can also reap benefits from compensated care, especially as there are few governmental policies in place to protect their rights within and after a relationship. Aside from insuring financial stability within a relationship, providing wages for care supports women post-relationship. One might make the argument that marriage provides some security to protect women who choose not to participate in the outside labor force. To some extent, this is true. However, the support systems in place usually do not take effect until the couple divorces. For instance, in commonwealth states, women who provided care or worked inside the home are entitled to fifty-percent of the collective belongings as well as a continuation of insurance and other similar benefits. Although their are risks for any individual who makes a career out of uncompensated care, these risks are highly magnified for couples who do not marry or cannot marry.

Specifically, creation of a "traditional" one partner in the home, one partner in the work force schema is particularly risky for gay couples as there are currently no supports in place to protect or provide for the opted-out partner. In his article "Domesticity and the political economy of lesbigay families" Christopher Carrington presents the case
of Henry and Joe, a gay couple he first interviewed in 1996 then again in 1999. When Carrington first interviewed the couple, who had been together for fourteen years, he found that they led a highly 'specialized' lifestyle. Henry worked part time outside the home as a nursing assistant while Joe worked as an attorney for a prominent
financial services company in San Francisco. In their own words, Henry "tend[ed] to hold down the fort" while Joe "[Brought] home more of the kill." Henry's $28,000 a year salary did not compare to Joe's $110,000 income, so Joe financially supported most of their life and Henry handled the details of the money and the responsibilities of the home.

Despite sharing their home, it was Joe who made the house payments and Joe who actually owned the home. This became problematic when the couple separated. Clearly having never been married, Henry was offered no financial settlement. As the couple had planned to retire together, Henry had no savings to speak of and very few personal belongings. Joe, on the other hand, had saved 10% of his yearly income for retirement. Henry took very little when he moved from "their" home to a small apartment in the Castro district of San Francisco, stating that "much of [their possessions] belonged to Joe, He did buy [them] after all." Although in the eyes of the law, Henry and Joe's separation is equitable-- after all, no one forced Henry to work part-time or to fulfill a more domestic role and Joe was under no legal obligation to provide for Henry. Perhaps Henry made a bad choice in pursuing domesticity. Of course, this critique still assumes that providing care is not of value. It presumes that individuals who choose a domestic life should be forced to rely solely on the continuation of their relationship for their livelihood. This is neither a fair nor useful supposition as it merely reinforces the claim that caring for a family or home is not a worthwhile profession and those who choose it
should reconcile their choice with the risks associated with it. This situation becomes even more complex for unmarried or gay couples with children, as one partner often takes on a domestic role or opts-out.

A main component of the argument for compensated care is the treatment of children as a social good. This idea, that well-rounded and healthy children are the well-rounded and healthy workers, civic leaders, and citizens of tomorrow, is a large selling point for many conservatives and liberals alike. If women have the chance to opt-out and be financially secure in their own right, they will arguably produce a generation of high-quality children. A few of the women in Belkin's article attest to this. Jeannie Tarkenton, a mother who opted-out of her job as a respected reporter for a local news station, asserts that she "assumes her daughter will work. And I want to give her an some example of working women as she grows up. I plan for this example to come from me somehow." In this light, the women of Belkin's article nearly echo Ehrenreich. They do not want to quit the system, they are merely out for the meantime, so that their children can re-enter with a
different set of expectations and standards. This seems highly analogous to Ehrenreich's claim that women should "consciously fight for change rather than assimilate"

It seems opt-out women are fighting for change, but they are doing it in a way that subverts the system even further by fighting a different style fight. Belkin's opt-out women are not giving up entirely on the system of work or the potential for a balance between work and family life (perhaps one similar Gornick and Meyer's dual-earner dual-carer proposal). These women seem to know that the mindset of the workplace is not currently conducive to this type of sharing between the sexes. Opting-out gives them the unique ability to directly affect the way in which their children view work and family. They may produce a new generation of "opt-in" women and an equally fair-minded generation of compatible men.

Clearly, a division among women as to whether opting-out is revolutionary or limiting means that a shared sentiment within the discussion, and most likely policy solutions, still have a long time before they can be realized. It may be that the changes to the workplace that opt-out women desire may have to wait until this next generation, or perhaps longer. In the meantime, it would be careless to imagine that women who opt-out are simply incapable of participation and success in male-dominated spheres. Belkin poignantly addresses the element of rational choice, asking, "Why don't women run the world?"
and answering, "perhaps it's because they don't want to."

WWW Sources





Full Name:  David, Jana, Deb, Beth, Ariell
Username:  jmcgowen@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Anthology of "S" Introduction
Date:  2004-12-17 10:32:54
Message Id:  11994
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

Anthology of "S"

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Structure, David Little

III. Sensationalism, Jana McGowen

IV. Stigmatization, Deb Sosower

V. Self, Beth Piastra

VI. Sex, Arielle Abeyta


In current events, social attitudes about gender and sexuality have had an enormous impact on public policy and politics. For example, in the latest U.S. presidential election, exit polls indicated that the majority of Americans votes were most influenced by moral issues. Based on President Bush's more controversial policies from his first term including the ban of partial-birth abortion and his approval of an amendment to the constitution to restrict marriage from non- heterosexual couples, we can code "moral issues" to indicate a strong opinion regarding such gendered issues as abortion and gay rights.

In asserting that moral issues was the most important factor of the 2004 election, it can be seen how influential and prevalent social opinion of gender and sexuality color our political system. It appears that moral issues indicate a conservative standard regarding the negative impact of gendered issues on our society.

In our book we explore the possible harmful impact of social stigmatization on issues such as same-sex marriage, sexual assault law, obscenity in the media and the arts, categories of gender and race, and the sexualized and powerful appearance of women. We use these topics to highlight the broader implication of social stigmatization through a series of questions: Who is being offended? What exactly is obscene? Who is being attacked? What are the rules, social or legal, regarding censorship or categorization? Do we as a social body have enormous influence over our media and political systems or is it just the opposite? If something is controversial, should it be celebrated or condemned? Through media, rhetoric, art and physical bodies we explore these questions and the social implications of the answers.

It is apparent in the diversity of topics in our book that gender and sexuality issues are pervasive; invading every aspect of our lives. That is why we are able to illuminate American culture from five distinct lenses. Despite the broad range of topics, they all share the common threads of cultural imposition and relation to the body. We explore language, imagery, ideals and their interwoven nuances and meanings. We look at agency and structures and the driving forces that are behind each issue. We want to know who is saying what, how they are saying it, and the reasons behind why they are saying it in that particular way. Who and what influence the decisions we make?

We examine the myth of normality and what constitutes the "other." This book entertains the idea that "normal" is an illusion, a social construction that is holding these conservative ideals in place by pressuring individuals to conform. Whether it is the issue of marriage, language, sexual assault, obscenity, gender, or high heels, the fact is that there is no normal. There are individuals whose identities and ideals exist outside language demonstrating the social pressures and stigmatization that this book emphasizes as problematic to our freedom to choose our own identities and lifestyles.

It is important to pay attention to language and its inadequacy to speak for those who deviate from mainstream society's acceptable practices and norms, because this contributes to the bipolar world of right and wrong of whose existence the current administration is trying to convince us. The world is not black and white but shades of gray, and the act of trying to fit everyone and everything into neat categories is an impossibility that this book will strive to persuade you, the readers, to acknowledge.

It is important that we pay attention to how our or others' morals are imposed and whether or not we have the right to self-imposed morals. This book argues that diversity and the individual are being suffocated and are perhaps even in danger of being
wiped out. There is an urgent need for us to examine the world in which we are living and to ask the questions that we seek answers to in this project. Do we create the ideas we see in pop culture, the media, art, classifications, language, laws, and debates? Does this broader culture of morals, stigmas and stereotypes represent us and accurately reflect who and what we are in America? Or does the opposite happen? Do we do as we're told by some larger infamous "they" or perhaps "The Man"? Do we internalize propaganda, media, language innuendos, and then perpetuate the ideals they project onto us? Who controls society, the media, the agendas, the stigmas, the issues? What power lies in the represented? In the individual voice?

Our book examines these questions through the diverse issues of women's love of gendered language in legislature surrounding same-sex marriage, censorship and what is considered "obscene," homoerotic art and why, rape and the laws that contribute to how it is viewed by society, the problematic act of separating one issue such as race when discussing other issues such as sexuality or gender, and women's love of backbreaking shoes.

Our book explores the ways in which gender and sexuality inform the dynamics and mechanisms of power and how these mechanisms, in turn, inform gender and sexuality. Can progressive attitudes towards gender and sexuality restructure contemporary power gradients along gender lines or will these attitudes merely become appropriated by current systems of power? By examining the way in which this power struggle and gendered power inequality are codified into legislation and political discourse, one can attempt to understand the motivation for the push and pull for power from both sides of the current power struggle. Does this codification allow for a restructuring of this debate in terms other that conservative and liberal that may be more illuminating as to how power moves within the system of this discourse?

These particular questions and concerns are addressed within this book from several different perspectives using varied subjects. The examination of the politics and power dynamics of gender and sexuality is incredibly important right now because so many freedoms and liberties awarded to once-oppressed (and in many ways still oppressed) persons are in grave danger due to the sentiments of the current administration and continuing social stigmas. By contemplating and analyzing these political and cultural structures of gender and sexuality we can understand better the ways our freedoms, rights, liberties, and power are threatened and therefore be more apt at protecting them.





Full Name:  janamcgowen
Username:  jmcgowen@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Female and Her Story on Trial
Date:  2004-12-17 10:41:12
Message Id:  11995
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

The theme of the first semester of my senior year at Bryn Mawr College, although I have lacked any gender coursework in my first three years of semesters, unexpectedly heavily involves the collision of the science, literature, and politics of gender. As my most last minute, haphazard schedule of any semester ever, on the next to last day of the shopping week period, I found myself adding two gender studies classes to my schedule. One entitled Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology for my Psychology minor, and the other entitled, Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Sex and Gender. Both classes, although very different in their methodology - (one placing a profound importance on precision, cautious and careful experiment design, and the other on "stories" both individual and collective, and their relation to society) - hoped to find the "real" gender problems, look at them with the attention they deserve, and encourage some kind of dialogue for change.

Gender Development, as a psychology class, was focused on the role of psychology in reporting only what can be proven, or statistically "significant." It took the stance that science, although slow, has the advantage of facts, which my professor insisted are key for social recognition of a problem which can be sited and lead to broad social change. My other class was in Bryn Mawr and Haverford's shared Feminist and Gender Studies department, although it spent a few classes dedicated to looking at gender from a biological perspective, in general, has looked less at the science, and more at the story or groups of stories that intellectuals tell about their own personal experience, as well as their observations of the larger societal picture concerning gender and sexuality. The class also encouraged intellectual discussions like we were participating in class about these topics and believed the dialogues were key for opening an awareness that might lead to social improvement. I have continually struggled with the scientific and intellectual representations of gender development and stigmatization, especially regarding the role of socialization (by "socialization" I mean the stereotypes and stigmas placed on individuals by society based on their sex, sexuality, or gender). How do I define my own experience, do either of these classes tell a better picture for me and my story, or for society, do either provide a better or at least more useful story?

My thinking about these questions came to a head when in my final Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology class, for the first time the professor had not asked the class to read a cluster of psychological studies. Instead, we were discussing two popular, non-academic, books written for a broad audience, but mostly for parents about the difficulties of growing up based on societal expectations of gender. One of the books was about the trials of girls losing confidence in subjects like math and science, eating disorders and expectations of a girls' physical attractiveness. The other looked at the alarming amount of clinical depression in boys and encounters with the law that young men face today as they approach adolescence and the societal expectations to stay unemotional and to deal with anger or sadness through physical aggression. However, instead of talking about whether or not the class thought boys or girls "had it worse", the class focused on the unscientific nature of the two books, especially the one about girls. Peggy Orenstein, author of Schoolgirls, took the role of reporter in her book, and she does an in depth journalistic report of twelve adolescent girls observing the struggles they encounter as females in middle school where Orenstein says is "the beginning of the transition from girlhood to womanhood and, not coincidentally, the time of greatest self-esteem loss" (xxiv). Full of "science-thinkers", my class saw Orestein's book as offensive and dangerous. Where was her research, why did she seem to only chose cases of girls with the worst possible exemplification of female societal victimization? The lack of statistics, lack of a large subject sample, lack of good procedure (interacting with the girls sometimes when she felt the girls were unsafe, but not in others) was extremely upsetting to my professor and my class.

I honestly hadn't had too much problem with unscientific nature of the book. Maybe it's because I'm not a Psychology major, I'm an English major, but when I read it, I guess I just kind of just took the story for what it was, one woman looking at two schools in one city in America, which of course couldn't account for every girls' experience, but it was an interesting case study. But as I thought more about it, perhaps the bigger reason that I didn't have an issue with the lack of science in the book was that I agreed with the story that she told, and I could pick out a number of quotes from Schoolgirls that expressed how I felt about the female disadvantage better than all the sentences of all the psychological reports I had read put together. I raised my hand and asked something like, "Perhaps we might excuse Oreinstein for her lack of attention to detail, and perhaps even for a possibly inappropriate exaggeration, because her goal is social change." I could tell I hurt my professor with this remark, as she got flustered and mentioned that she thought it was interesting how different people go about trying to change society in "their own way", some dedicate their lives to scientific research, while others write books based on limited research or data. As the class ended, I realized that I was sorry for saying what I had, the psychology was just as important if not more than the book, but I couldn't help wondering which was better, or if Orenstein was perhaps actually better or more important than my professor's psychological studies, was the story better than the science?

One interesting aspect looking back on that class was that Orenstein had not taken the scientific approach in writing her book that she complained the girls in her book were not expected nor encouraged to learn. One fact I think most can agree on is that women, although still doing well in the scientific field of biology where women have always shown skill and interest as both mothers and nurses, and are now making a good appearance in the role of doctor, are still not getting involved in many other scientific fields like engineering or computers. Another scientific field that many look to for social change probably more than psychology, and that women have struggled to find a place in, is Law. Women as both lawyers (interpreters), and legislators (makers), are struggling to make that science, the one that governs citizens, a gender even playing ground. Patricia Williams, a black woman who practices law, in her book, "The Alchemy of Race and Rights", proposes the scientific aspects of studying law in her first chapter, "Legal writing presumes a methodology that is highly stylized, presidential, and based on deductive reasoning. Most Scholarship in law is rather like the 'old math': static, stable, formal - rationalism walled against chaos." This dichotomy of chaos that skirts just along the edges of the extremely structured law according to Williams is, "that life is complicated" while, "Law too often seeks to avoid this truth by making up its own breed of narrower, simpler, but hypnotically powerful rhetorical truths" (10). Williams seems to follow my proposal about the usefulness of the individual story through the mode she uses to talk about her experience working as a lawyer. In her book she weaves the individual stories of the cases into her experience with the law. This form Williams describes as "a model of inductive empiricism borrowed from - and parodying - systems analysis", and she proposes that her reason for "this sort of analytic technique", is that it "can serve to describe a community of context for those social actors whose traditional legal status has been the isolation of oxymoron, of oddity, of outsider (Williams 7).

These social actors that Williams wants to include in her analysis of the law because they are traditionally left out, unfortunately are actually the majority of the population in the United States. If white, male, heterosexual is on the inside, every other category of gender, race, and sexuality falls on the outside of the traditional law. Cherri Moraga, in The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind, talks about being a member of this outside category while at the same time being part of the inside. She allows her reader to watch her mind as it harshly comes to terms with her dual identity. With a white Canadian father, and a Mexican mother, Moraga feels that she must chose her identity, and though she is "of that endangered culture" (Mexican) "and of that murderous race" (white), "I am loyal only to one", and in her case she chooses to be politically faithful to her mother's, Mexican blood. She chooses because she wants a term with "political bite" that she feels terms like biracial and bisexual don't assert. In a biracial individual like Moraga, the colliding categories are often most obvious because of one's outward appearance. Moraga pinpoints the hidden dilemma; it isn't just the mix of two people who don't look alike, it's a deeper level of mixing of two inherently very different categories. Her parents or their ancestors were members of groups with different, almost opposite political backgrounds and positions, one as the oppressor and the other as the oppressed, what Moraga calls raper and rapist.

In the anthology Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality, Nineteen essays look at the kind of hidden political context that Moraga speaks of. The story is that African American men are liberal, but in the case of Clarence Thomas, the opposite was true, and this truth was hidden behind the color issue that everyone was talking about during his Supreme Court nomination. Politics become invisible when race is in the limelight because, "people can't read your mind, they read your color..." Williams and her fellow writers in their anthology argue that the dangers of identification, of using what we can see to assume what we can't, finally needs to enter into public consciousness. "What would have been extraordinary would have been to ignore Thomas's body...the articles would have had to discuss...that aspect of him more difficult to appraise-his mind" (Race-ing xv). Clarence Thomas was black, but he also identified as a "black-conservative", which to many seemed to be a contradiction considering the anti-equal -rights platform of the conservative legacy in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. in a letter to Thomas writes that he is "at a loss to understand what it is the so-called black-conservatives are so anxious to conserve"(17). None the less, this lack of understanding Higginbotham expresses, led to the outcome that Thomas was approved by conservatives because he was conservative, and by liberals for no other reason than that he was black.

The categories of race and politics had collided by the end of the Thomas proceedings, and had in a way began breaking down the typical racial stereotypes, not all blacks are liberals, and just because someone shares your color of skin, doesn't mean he shares your political agenda. But this doesn't even take into consideration another aspect of Thomas's nomination to Supreme Court Justice, the outcries of an African American female, named Anita Hill. Suddenly, the political event of Clarence Thomas being nominated for Supreme Court justice, when Anita Hill enters the picture, becomes a complete narrative. The story of two individuals moves to the center of public consciousness. When Anita Hill did accuse Thomas of sexual assault, she fits into one of two stories, either "he the benevolent one and she the insane one" or "he the date-raper, sexual assaulter,...and she the docile, loyal servant", and the only "balance" found was to "reorder these signifying fictions" (xvi). The demand for keeping a stereotypical story that goes along with "justice" and law which seeks to find "the truth", ends up defeating itself. None of the stereotypes fit the truth, and yet the public still held on to its stories.
Still, although the truth about Anita Hill was never really found, and Thomas was finally approved as a member of the Supreme Court, this private story when made public, because of it's atypical nature, did bring about something positive, and the groups that came forward to protest and support were racially, politically, and gender diverse.
"Yet regardless of political alliances, something positive and liberating has already surfaced. In matters of race and gender, it is now possible and necessary, as it seemed never to have been before, to speak about these matters without the barriers, the silences, the embarrassing gaps in discourse. It is clear to the most reductionist intellect that black people think differently from one another " (Morrison 111).

However, today I wonder, not to be pessimistic but maybe realistic, where have these conversations gone? In my piece, The Hidden Hierarchy of Silences, I sought to find how society's "real" problem played out when race and gender came together by looking at what moments recently involving both categories have caused the most controversy. Two arenas where African Americans have perhaps found some amount of level field, (the same arenas that African-Americans have been slowly gaining ground in for decades) are musical entertainment and professional sports. Yet, I found that despite the acceptance of black men into football, and black women into the entertainment industry, the sexual prejudice of women with a sexual appetite being ostracized, still existed. The only difference was that now society is desiring to protect black men on professional football teams from being stigmatized as associating with the "sluts" that black men "on the street" are placed in the same category with. I was looking to find the story I imagined, that gender issues were being used to cover up race issues, but what I found was the reverse. Today, if the story is that both white and African American men are too good for sexually aggressive white females, I hate to imagine where that leaves black women.

According to Williams, it leaves them as the ultimate witch.
Later in the anthology, is a piece by Patricia Williams in which she declares herself a witch, and that all black women share her "powers" through the symbols of black and women that society places on her.
"Show your subjects the symbol of blackness and you will be protected by your invisibility.....of your femaleness and you will be able to diminish in size and escape through a crack in the wall...of professionalism and you will be able to stop strong rampaging armies by turning them into brick walls."
Williams warns that using these identification categories can seem like power, but in the end this "magic" causes the annihilation of the individual. This is especially true for black women who manage to have every contradicting story placed upon them, and they are somehow always the losing subject in the stereotype, the witch in the story. This magical ability to be a thousand wrong things at once, is what Williams refers to as a kind of black magic: "Anita Hill is dipositively a witch...She was controlled yet irrational, naïve yet knowing, prim but vengeful, a cool, hotheaded, rational hysteric"(169). Williams notes the impossible standards required of women when they take the stand in court. The contradiction of what femaleness is inside and outside the courtroom in sexual assault crimes displays the ultimate contradiction of a female in the masculine-ized legal system. Outside the courtroom, in almost all scenarios but especially in date and romantic situations, women in society are taught to be passive. Inside the courtroom, however, traditionally male verbal aggression is essential, and in the eyes of the male interpreted law, women are expected have acted aggressively toward their sexual assaulter. Thus, feminists have expanded their general ideas to describe the feminist theory as it applies to laws and judicial proceedings. The feminist theory takes into account the fact that because laws are written and interpreted by men, statutes that deal with crimes where mostly women are the victims and males are the assaulters, are unjust in that they are written from a male perspective. Thus, many feminists ask for recognition of women's viewpoints, and experience where women are primarily on the receiving end of violence in achieving equality.

Finally though, Anita's story eventually entered the courtroom, and therefore had to become "legitimate", and in the court of law, stories don't matter. They exist, but they aren't allowed to exist or at least not be discussed, for the law is a discipline of science. Williams calls this refusal of the story (but not really) "one of the law's best-loved inculcations: the preference for the impersonal above the personal, the "objective" above the "subjective" (87). Williams says she is worried about "a deep misunderstanding of the struggle, a misunderstanding that threatens to turn the quest for empowering experiential narrative into permission for the most blatant expressions of cynical stereotypification" (83).

So where does this transforming of story into established science begin? How does Anita Hill's story begin to disappear or transform once it is in the hands of lawyers? Law students all begin in one place, Law School. Williams, once a law professor, notes that when she was taking different questions into consideration for Law School exams, she noticed that these exams were in danger of teaching students to be colorblind, but in a way that ends up having the opposite effect. This is because by ignoring race, one risks ignoring the stereotypes that exist around race, and if these are not addressed, they can't be broken down.
"Students are left to deal with raised issues of race and gender as unframed information, as mere backdrop...The message that is reinforced by such exams is that white racist, sexist stereotypes may be part of life, it's not important - or important not - to deal with them in the law. (And yet of course we know it is.) Or that it's not so important that it can't be severed, caged, and neatly suppressed (Alchemy 87). One example that Williams provides as a stereotype that exists but is ignored in the name of science and equality is/was that "women can't be raped by their husbands" (87).

I want to break from the story that my paper has been telling so far about the political sphere, and look at the contradictions of sexual assault law that I am familiar with. I want to examine the "story of the law" independently, in hopes that I might tap into what the more scientific method tells us about what happens when the established story collides with the personal one. For although I am not documenting (in this strictly "scientific" analyses) names and specific circumstance, rape and sexual assault, if anything, are very personal crimes which most of the time involve two people who know each other well. They have a history, a story. Williams argues that Anita Hill's story was never exposed because of the already existing, yet hidden stereotypical stories that surround the law and courtroom in sexual assault crimes.

Andrew Taslitz in his commentary on Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom notes, "The message the law sends to women is this: be passive, sensitive to male needs, fearful of venturing out at night in public spaces, and dependent on the protection and presence of a man." (Taslitz 136). Two key elements of rape that must be proven in all states are non-consent and force. However, states differ in whether or not non-consent needs to be verbal, whether or not force needs to be physical, and whether both or just one of these requirements must be satisfied. Today, many states still require proof of physical force, although, some like Pennsylvania don't require that the force be "physical". As to non-consent, most states require, a verbal "no". The question that was not asked of Anita Hill was "The woman question" in the case of rape and sexual assault is, "Why the defense of consent deals with the perspective of the defendant and what he 'reasonably' thought the woman wanted rather than the point of view of the woman and what she 'reasonably' thought she conveyed to the defendant" (Vago 69).
However, The progression of law in the case of sexual assault seems to go against the before proposed arguments that what we need is to breakdown the categories. By asking the woman's story instead of the man's story, aren't we still assuming that all women are something, either weak docile servants or overly zealous temptresses (or both)? Patricia Williams at one point at a conference called The Sounds of Silence where "the topic of the day [was] the social construction of race and gender and oppression" , she is asked to "comment on the rape of women and the death of our children" Caught with my guard down she explains, "I finesse the question with statistics and forgotten words. What actually comes to my mind however, is a tragically powerful embodiment of my ambiguous, tenuous, social positioning; the case of Tawana Brawley." Tawana Brawley, for Williams is the reason that categories perhaps should not be overlooked in rape convictions. She was a black woman, raped by a white man, and the lawyers decided that she need not even testify, and "without her, the script unfolded at a...fantastical level, but the story [was] the same: wild black girl who loves to lie, who is not innocent (...referred to her as the "defendant") and whose wiles are the downfall of innocent, jaded, desperate white men; this whore-lette..."(Alchemy 174).
In order to help in cases like Tawana's where the woman's side of the story is literally not even heard, in the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State ex rel. M.T.S., the New Jersey legislature became the first to amend their sexual assault law so that it conformed with the state's law of assault and battery. It now states "permission to engage in sexual penetration must be affirmative and it must be given freely, but that permission may be inferred either from acts or statements reasonably viewed in light of the surrounding circumstances" (Forell and Matthews 238). This statute does not require a verbal "no", nor does it require proof of physical force, and many feminists support the New Jersey statute. The question that was not asked of Anita Hill or Tawana Brawley was what feminist theorists in law call "The woman question" which in the case of sexual assault is, "Why the defense of consent deals with the perspective of the defendant and what he 'reasonably' thought the woman wanted rather than the point of view of the woman and what she 'reasonably' thought she conveyed to the defendant"(Vago 69). Clearly, feminists want a larger focus on whether or not women think there was a clear affirmation rather than whether or not men think there was an unclear refusal. Rape law in New Jersey then, is trying to break down this stigmatization of women. It's trying to not make women on the stand feel like witches on trial who are damned if they did commit the crime and damned if they didn't.

In the case of these women, like Anita Hill, if the law required the woman's point of view, and it asked what a reasonable woman thought a reasonable woman might have done, does this go too far in the other direction? Shouldn't the goal be to ask what a reasonable person might have thought that a reasonable person might have done? By even recognizing that women are taught to be "passive" in life, it seems that we are expecting a stereotype of passivity that not only risks the ability to reinforce itself, it further leaves no room for the story of the aggressive woman to even exist. And yet the argument that remains in all of this is that no matter how many categories are broken down, it ends with a question about a story. The final question then isn't whether science triumphs over story, it's whether "my" story beats out all the other stories. I must admit that I will keep the stories of Schoolgirls, and even the pscyholoical studies I learned about long after the Real Boys stories have been discarded from my memory. I agree with the stories told in Schoolgirls, and I can relate to those stories. As individuals we take what we need from what is presented to us, and neither law nor science is exempt from this human skill, for selfishness is colorblind, gender blind, and even genre-blind. "Perhaps what connects the distraction of these glittering fan-dancing stories, is as a friend of [Williams's] writes, 'there are no bodies (nobodies?)-only ciphers for the will of other entities. They do not exist except as markers of narrative transactions'" (En-Gendering Power, 169)

It seems that we are left with the knowledge that humans need stories about sex and race to understand enough to even begin to design a system of justice, and so the story always supercedes the science, whether intended or not. People may say they are thinking scientifically, judiciously, but they almost never fail to have a story in the back of their minds, science just means to keep that story silent, to not let the story appear. Whether from narratives written in a book, seen and sensationalized on television, or recognized in a courtroom, there are hundreds of stories ready to be told, the question is whether we are willing to hear the "truth." So then what is the whole "suppressing the story" routine all about? If the science is really just a mask, why wear it?

Perhaps Orenstien has part of the answer of why we in serious scenarios like law, where a person's life might be at risk, the stories are disregarded. Orenstein, probably couldn't answer this question because like the girls in her book that couldn't and weren't encouraged to learn the skills, they were also never taught the supposed value of science. One skill of science is to ignore silly stories even though the truth is that everyone lives by those silly stories. Then perhaps the narrative is suppressed because femininity is suppressed, and stories are associated with female-ness. And if the answer to gender equality is breaking down gender categories, then we must also bring the story up to the science, and then break them apart. This is not to say that society doesn't need laws or methodology or facts, but that we shouldn't hide behind those facts in the name of "truth". Because in the end, there is no truth, only stories, and we must be conscious that society can always pick and chose which stories it wants to hear. But that in a democracy, selfishness is not always a bad thing, the key is knowing and expecting every person to be selfish in his or her own way, and that their selfishness is not and cannot be determined by the stories we know about categories like race and gender.

In the recent United States Presidential election, when shown a color coded map of the voting results in my Gender Studies class, my classmates were astounded to find the way red was divided from blue, the way votes for the democratic nominee were not so distantly divided from votes for the republican nominee. We were hard pressed to find a state, or even part of a state that was entirely one color (unless it was desert land in Nevada). One of my classmates noticed the heavily student populated area near the University of Texas, and was "surprised that Texas had so much blue". One of the things I have honestly been most disappointed and frustrated in especially this final year at Bryn Mawr is the extreme, almost obsessively insular nature of the students at Bryn Mawr and Haverford concerning their political viewpoints. They have such great ideas, yet only seem interested in sharing these ideas amongst one another. One thing that I have gathered from both my scientific and other classes, is that there is no easy categorization technique that is successful. Yet, students refuse to look for temporary job opportunities or even spring break anywhere near a "red-state". I perhaps naively associated liberal with open-minded, and hoped to escape in my move from Dallas to Bryn Mawr four years ago, and yet I constantly hear close-minded remarks that Texans are stupid or racist or somehow redneck and backwards. I am afraid of these remarks not because I am offended, but because I hope that the map from election night is not the end of the purple nation. It is important that all the students at places like the Bi-Co realize that every individual has a story, and knowing what a person believes based on where they are from is far from simple science. And further, the students here and everywhere must actually talk to conservatives. Chances are, there's one living closer by than you think, and no one will die from being offended, I promise. The problem is that the republican stance can't just be brushed away as stupid, because until the convincing stories behind it are uncovered and really understood, like the approval of Clarence Thomas, (or like the remainders in a hard math problem), they will just keep coming back but each time in an unrecognizable form.

Works Cited:

Williams, Patricia. The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality. Ed. Toni Morrison. New York: Pantheon,1992.

Forell, Caroline and Donna Matthews. A Law of Her Own. New York: New York University Pres, 2000.

Moraga, Cherri. "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind." Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity. Becky Thomson and Sangeeta Tyagi, eds. New York & London: Routledge,
1996. 230-239.

Taslitz, Andrew E. Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

Vago, Stephen, Law and Society. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

WWW Sources





Full Name:  Elizabeth Piastra
Username:  epiastra@haverford.edu
Title:  The Category of the Individual
Date:  2004-12-17 10:53:52
Message Id:  11996
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault argues that there is a "pure experience of order and its modes of being" (Foucault xxi), that order exists and that it is necessary. Foucault is concerned with language because it is a mode by which we maintain order in the world, and according to his argument, what we should fear are heterotopias, which "undermine language," "make it impossible to name this and that," "shatter or tangle common names," and "destroy 'syntax' in advance" (Foucault xviii). When Foucault refers to 'syntax,' he is not just talking about our method of constructing sentences but "also that less apparent syntax which causes words and things (next to and also opposite one another) to 'hold together'" (Foucault xviii). In other words, there is need for us to take into account how the things in our world are related to each other. One of the ways in which we do this is through the method of categorization, which allows us to organize our world according to similarities and differences. However, Foucault stresses us to be cautious, to realize that "we shall never succeed in defining a stable relation of contained to container between each of these categories and that which includes them all" (Foucault xvii). An all-inclusive category does not exist; it cannot exist.

Foucault insists on the need to pay attention to what is present in the "empty space, the interstitial blanks separating all these entities from one another" (Foucault xvi). It is not that language is inadequate; it is just that we must be conscious of not only what is stated but also what is not directly stated, what is contained inside language and what is outside language. When we organize the things in the world into different categories, we create the illusion of a black and white world, one where everything can be clearly and neatly separated into these categories. The world becomes divided by a system of binaries, including the socially constructed categories of "normal" and "other." Foucault speaks to this concern regarding the "other:"

The history of madness would be the history of the Other – of that which, for a given culture, is at once interior and foreign, therefore to be excluded (so as to exorcize the interior danger) but by being shut away (in order to reduce its otherness); whereas the history of the Same – of that which, for a given culture, is both dispersed and related, therefore to be distinguished by kinds and to be collected together into identities. (Foucault xxiv)

The exclusion of the "other" is what is represented by the "empty space," and "it is only in the blank spaces of this grid that order manifests itself in depth as though already there, waiting in silence for the moment of its expression" (Foucault xxi). Though language may attempt to refuse the inclusion of the "other," the truth is that the "other" is interior, always present, and a necessary part of the order.

In The Order of Things, Foucault not only defends the significance of categories but also highlights what is problematic about them: categories are defined only by similarities. With categories, the language of the collective always threatens to overwhelm the voice of the individual. It is impossible for categories to accurately represent all of the differences that are contained in individual experiences. However, to interpret categorization using Foucault's arguments about order allows us to resolve this problem. Maybe it is not categories that are the problem. After all, it is necessary to maintain order, and a system of categorization is one of the modes that efficiently allow us to do so. Categories contribute to our identities, collective and individual, but it is important to be aware of the fact that there is something lost in between the two, that the collective identity can never entirely speak to the individual identity. In other words, there is always going to be "empty space" surrounding categories.

Though they may be necessary and useful, categories blur the reality of experience. An individual is unable to experience life only according to one aspect of his/her life. For example, a woman may understand life through her perspective as a woman, but her experience is not defined only by her gender. She must take into account her race, class, geographical location, etc. Categories may contribute to one's identity, but no single category is capable of determining everything about one's experiences, which are entirely one's own and no one else's. In other words, categories are not independent of one another. This understanding of categories is why there can be no "typical" experience, why there is no such thing as "normal." We must realize the value in the individual experience, including those of the so-called "others," in order to establish an appreciation of diversity and of difference. In fact, it is by examining the stories of these "others" that clearly allows us access to the falseness of the social construction of "normal" and the myth of normality. The "others" that this paper examines are the intersexual character of Callie/Cal in Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex and the mixed-blood Cherríe Moraga, whose narratives demonstrate how life and its experiences are not defined by categories.

Middlesex is a novel about the search for origin, and its protagonist is Callie/Cal, who is a 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodite, an intersexual. However, Cal is not androgynous; he possesses all of the secondary sex characteristics of a normal male except for baldness, but his genitalia is ambiguous. Cal's narrative is not just his story; it does not begin with merely his birth but instead traces the history of his family back to his grandparent, Lefty and Desdemona. Cal studies the scientific, his genetic history and the journey of "a recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome" (Eugenides 4). He looks to the marriage of Desdemona and Lefty, third-cousins but also sister and brother, and then to the marriage of his own parents, Milton and Tessie, thinking that maybe here he will discover how it all started and why he is the way he is, but what about Chapter Eleven? His brother shares the same exact genetic background, demonstrating that this cannot be the explanation. Cal returns to the point of his conception, the circumstances that Milton and Tessie created in order to have a girl despite Tessie's moral reservations, "To tamper with something as mysterious and miraculous as the birth of a child was an act of hubris. In the first place, Tessie didn't believe you could do it. Even if you could, she didn't believe you should try" (Eugenides 5), but immorality cannot be the origin since the incest of Milton's parents is also unacceptable, and it has already been demonstrated how that is not the cause. What about the moment that Cal discovers he is not a girl? Where is the origin of his knowledge? One could argue that it was when he practiced kissing with Clementine Stark or when he did not get his period or when he had sex with Jerome or at his visit with Dr. Luce, but Cal's narrative is touched with the gift of hindsight, and even if he says he knew at a certain moment, one can never be positive. Just as his intersexuality had no clear origin, neither does his realization that he is anything other than a girl. Cal's narrative touches on multiple possible origins, each time concluding that it could not be the origin. In the end, the novel seems to conclude that there is no one origin, no single determinate factor. A point of origin, like a single category, does not exist independently of everything surrounding it, and just as origin is denied in Middlesex as determining anything definitively, so are categories.

Cal was raised as a girl and on the birth certificate is the female name Calliope Helen Stephanides. If one was forced to categorize Cal, the result would be that he is an intersexual. However, Cal, as the little girl Callie, was not confused, "I was brought up as a girl and had no doubts about this" (Eugenides 226). Her infant body passed as a girl; her physician Dr. Phil did not notice anything unusual when she was born just like Tessie did not realize that anything out of place when she bathed her daughter. As a young girl, Callie appeared to be a girl; more than that, she was a beautiful girl inhabiting a world of eyes, where everyone stared, attracted by her beauty. Her brother, staring at her with her underwear pulled down and her skirt pulled up, is turned on, "He didn't have much to compare me to, but what he saw didn't misinform him either: pink folds, a cleft. For ten seconds Chapter Eleven studied my documents, detecting no forgery..." (Eugenides 279). No one suspects Callie is not a girl, including Callie herself, because there is nothing about her that contradicts this belief. Callie, like all human beings, experiences life only once and is only able to see it through her own eyes; she would not have been able to identify anything out of the ordinary in her experience as a girl because she would have no way of knowing it was different from that of any other girl. From her perspective, everything was "normal," "How did Calliope feel about her crocus? This is at once the easiest and the hardest thing to explain. On the one hand she liked it...The crocus was part of her body, after all. There was no reason to ask questions" (Eugenides 330).

Even during adolescence, Callie is in the dark about her biological gender, suspecting something but not knowing. She begins to go through the changes of puberty, blaming her failure to get her period on being a late bloomer and anticipating it in the future, "I grew tall. My voice matured. But nothing seemed unnatural. My slight build, my thin waist, the smallness of my head, hands, and feet raised no questions in anybody's mind" (Eugenides 304). Callie's flat-chest does not seem problematic to her, "The early seventies were a good time to be flat-chested. Androgyny was in" (Eugenides 304), and neither does her facial hair, "No, Calliope was not surprised by the appearance of a shadow above her upper lip. My Aunt Zo, my mother, Sourmelina, and even my cousin Cleo all suffered from hair growing where they didn't want it to" (Eugenides 308). She is a girl who defines herself, as we all do, by the times in which she lived and by her culture; in other words, her experience as a girl is not separate from her experiences as an adolescent in the seventies or as a Greek-American. It is all intertwined into one experience, one identity.

In high school, Callie finds herself once again attracted to a girl, the one whom she calls "The Obscure Object." Callie finds herself having sex with Jerome as Rex and the Object simultaneously make-out on the other side of the room. Cal, looking back, is convinced that at this moment, he realized something unusual about himself:

Jerome knew what I was, as suddenly I did, too, for the first time clearly understood that I wasn't a girl but something in between. I knew this from how natural it had felt to enter Rex Reese's body, how right it felt, and I knew this from the shocked expression on Jerome's face."(Eugenides 375)

However, it can be argued that this is a mistaken interjection on Cal's part, that this realization is a result of his reflecting on his past, that even Cal cannot believe he didn't know; he wants to believe he was aware of his own body when the reality is that he could not know it was not as a woman's should be. As Cal proceeds to point out, he did not actually know what he says he did, "Reader, believe this if you can: He hadn't noticed a thing" (Eugenides 376). In fact, Cal could not have been more incorrect; the expression on Jerome's face is a result of his belief that he has just had sex with a girl. Callie's attraction to females does not change when she becomes Cal. Cal's attraction to girls when he was Callie was not a sign that he wasn't what he believed himself to be, that is, a girl; Callie's conclusion was merely what it should have been, that she was a girl who was attracted to girls. Sexuality offered no solutions to the questions that had occasionally surfaced in Callie's mind, "Why should I have thought I was anything other than a girl? Because I was attracted to a girl? That happened all the time. I was happening more than ever in 1974. It was becoming a national pastime" (Eugenides 388). Her attraction to the Object was not a reflection of her true self coming out because gender does not determine sexuality.

Cal's genetics, though they have played a role, have not completely determined who he is, "Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind" (Eugenides 479). Cal's identity is not defined by his intersexuality or by his male brain, and though the name on his most recent driver's license may be Cal, it still isn't, "Unlike the other so-called pseudohermaphrodites who have been written about in the press, I never felt out of place being a girl. I still don't feel entirely at home among men" (Eugenides 479). He is aware that his individual experience cannot represent any pseudohermaphrodite experience, that the category does not encompass all that he has been through. Cal has lived life as a girl, as Callie; he has been able to pass as what he is not just as he now chooses to live pretending to be a man. Biologically, Cal has never been and never will be a male or a female, but his ability to experience life as a man or woman, to be treated as though he is no different, is a unique perspective. It resembles the moment when everyone else is maturing except for Callie, "Only Calliope, in the second row, is motionless, her desk stalled somehow, so that she's the only one who takes in the true extend of the metamorphoses around her" (Eugenides 286); she is the only one who sees everything because of her position as an uninvolved outsider. If we pay attention to his voice, his experiences, to try and categorize Cal only according to gender, or any other category for that matter, becomes impossible.

Cal cannot be thought of only in relation to gender and sexuality. As he demonstrates in his narrative, his identity is shaped by gender, sexuality, race, class, culture, heritage...anything that has affected his experiences. This idea is why he includes descriptions of the time periods through which his grandparents and parents lived and why his Greek-American heritage and cultures are emphasized; the reason why Cal includes his encounters with Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes and his role in the race riots that took place in Detroit in July 1967. Cal is aware of how race issues permeate into all aspects of life, including his own, "Shameful as it is to say, the riots were the best thing that ever happened to us. Overnight we went from being a family desperately trying to stay in the middle class to one with hopes of sneaking into the upper, or at least the upper-middle" (Eugenides 252). It is his position as "other" that allows him to realize the injustices against all "others," the blacks of Detroit, intersexuals, the "ethnic" girls, "Until we came to Baker & Inglis my friends and I had always felt completely American. But now the Bracelets' upturned noses suggested there was another America to which we could never gain admittance" (Eugenides 298). Cal hears the truth in Morrison's words to his father, what Milton never understood, "The matter with us is you" (Eugenides 246). It is not Cal's intersexuality that is the problem, but mainstream society's refusal to accept him as anything but "other" and their denial of the value in his individual experience. It is the fear he feels as a result of being who he is, "Is it really my apolitical temperament that makes me keep my distance from the intersexual rights movement? Couldn't it also be fear? Of standing up. Of becoming one of them" (Eugenides 319).

In "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind," Cherríe Moraga refuses to be defined by categories because they do not speak to her experiences. She claims that "we invent ourselves" (Moraga 232), that our identities are based not on the categories that are imposed on us but instead are shaped by our experiences. Moraga is biracial, the daughter of a Mexican mother and a French and British-Canadian father, but in her case, she denies the categories of 'biracial' and 'bisexual' because she feels as though they do not reflect what her race and sexuality have meant to her:

I think that is why I have always hated the terms 'biracial' and 'bisexual.' They are passive terms, without political bite. They don't choose. They don't make a decision. They are a declaration not of identity but of biology, of sexual practice. They say nothing about where one really stands. And as long as injustice prevails, we do not have the luxury of calling ourselves either. (Moraga 237)

Moraga may be biracial, but others have always seen her in relation to the people around her, regardless of what she is and what she considers herself to be. The biology of being biracial does not affect how Moraga has been treated in reality. What her experience of being biracial has taught her is that she will be judged on her skin color and that she must make a choice in this country where race matters, "But regardless of how the dice were tossed and what series of accidents put our two parents – one white and one colored – together, we, their offspring, have had to choose who we are in racist Amerika" (Moraga 236).

Moraga realizes that no matter what her choice, she will be unable to control how others choose to categorize her, "But people can't read your mind, they read your color, they read your womanhood, they read the women you're with" (Moraga 236). This is part of Moraga's reasoning for why she is able to define herself, why she must invent herself; it is because if she didn't and depended on the categories of others, she would have no identity to which she could truly relate. She is judged by her appearance and not by the life she has lived, what she has experienced, "We smile, sadly. 'She's right,' I say later. 'In her world, I'm just white" (Moraga 234). Moraga understands the unfairness of categories because she is forced to defend her own system of categorization in regards to her identity, "Nobody else has to – prove who they are, prove who they aren't" (Moraga 237). It is because of this that Moraga is destined to not belong to any race; she will never be accepted as one thing but will continue to pass through the worlds of other races, privileged to experience life from many points of view but always aware of who she considers herself to be.

Moraga resembles a chameleon in the sense that how her light-skin is viewed by others is based on and varies with her surroundings. According to Moraga, "My lovers have always been the environment that defined my color" (Moraga 233). She has been viewed as a whitegirl with a Black lover, a Puerto Rican when in Brooklyn, "Spanish" when in Harlem, a Cuban when in México, a brown girl in a family of brown girls sitting on a brownstone, a half-breed who looks like every other breed when among the Native American in the United States, everybody's cousin among Chicanas, Italian, and Jewish (Moraga 233). Moraga's race is somehow constantly changing despite the fact that the reality is that her biological race never does. For her, race always exists, even in her relationships, "In love, color blurs but never wholly disappears" (Moraga 232); not only that, but her relationships have defined her race.

Though Moraga is able to pass as what she is not, she is always aware during these masquerades of her position as "other" and chooses to embrace it, "Call me breed. Call me trash. Call me spic greaser beaner dyke jota bulldagger. Call me something meant to set me apart from you and I will know who I am. Do not call me 'sister.' I am not yours" (Moraga 237).. Here, Moraga considers the possibility that she is speaking to her brother, who has entered the white world, making a choice she does not understand but is natural to him. She sees it as a choice made against her. The category of biracial is a category that encompasses individuals of many different races. It is not its own race; Moraga is not judged by the fact that she is biracial but by the color of her skin. Even her brother, who has the same genetic backgrounds as Moraga, does not understand her position because he can comfortably pass as white.

However, she cannot comfortably embrace the white world, but she cannot totally deny it either, "Still, I push her away from me that night, that white away from me. But she will not let go" (Moraga 236). Moraga's father was white, and it is a part of her. Her reaction to how she resembles her grandmother is uneasy, "She was white, and therefore, foreign. And now, over a generation later, her daughter tells me I was made in her likeness" (Moraga 235). At first, Moraga cannot imagine how she would be able to relate to this woman who is "other" to her. It is the whiteness that Moraga has issues coming to terms with because, for Moraga, white is more distant to her than any other race. White is accepted and presents her with the illusion that there is clarity in being white, an identity that automatically extends power. White is something that she will never be at the same time that it is a part of her. What allows Moraga to finally embrace the white that she fears inside her is the white women she loves:

My aunt's name is Barbara, and I am here to make peach with her in the white women I love, in the white woman I am. All those "Betts," that "trash," that working-class whitegirl I learned to fear on the "other" side of the family, on the "other" side of me. (Moraga 236)

She realizes that if she is to love herself, she must look beyond the categories to what she is, still capable of inventing herself but only if she acknowledges all aspects of her identity. She must be able to know herself so that she will not lose herself in all her experiences. Moraga is also forced to come to terms with the fact that she cannot seamlessly transform herself into a Mexican woman either, "I am a trespasser. I do not need signs to remind me. My immigrant blood is a stain I carry in the fading of my flesh each winter. But I am made of clay" (Moraga 239).

Clay is a part of the earth, and it is this view of herself that allows Moraga to find peace. We all come from the earth, and the earth does not judge us by our skin color. Moraga is never "other" to the earth; it is not a relationship concerned with race like all the others she has been a part of, "I have never had a race-less relationship. Somehow I have always attributed this to being mixed-blood, but I wonder if anyone has" (Moraga 232). Moraga realizes that as a result of the world we live in and its need for a system of categorization in order to maintain order, we are all subject to being judged by our race. White is a race category that denies experiences just as biracial is; neither category embraces the individual's culture, or in Moraga's case, the multiple cultures that she has experienced. To be categorized as white is not a reflection of a world without race as Moraga knows first-hand. However, Moraga realizes that she has lived in a world of color different from most individuals, that she has never been one thing definitively, and that this has allowed her to see beyond skin color once she was able to see past her own, "The first colored woman I slept with wasn't colored at all but darker than me in her anger, in her resolve" (Moraga 234). Color is not about skin but about experience just as race is.

Moraga never able to transcend race; it is too much a part of her and has defined the world in which she lives for too long, but as is apparent in her statement about her lovers, her sexuality and relationships are not separate from her race. Moraga's identity may be entrenched in her race but it is not only her race that has defined her experience. In fact, it could be argued that it is not her race that defined her experience at all because even though she is biracial, she has lived as a woman of many different races; she is white and Mexican but has passed as other races. It is not just because she is biracial that decided this for her but a result of her particular skin color and, as Moraga has stated herself, her relationships with women of other races, in other words, her sexuality. Just as her race and sexuality have equally defined her experience, voice, and identity so has her gender, "...we've known a lot of women. Why is it so hard to write of what we know about women? And much of what I know, I admit, is about race" (Moraga 232). Moraga has indirectly answered her question in her writing. She cannot write only of being a woman because her experience has not been defined only by belonging to the category of woman. It is this inability to speak for the collective that returns us to the voice of the individual, the value in the individual experience.

Moraga is willing to place her hope in the "others," of this world, "Maybe they are the hope of the future, these mixed beings who will bridge a world of opposition, re-unite the human with the natural world" (Moraga 237). Her use of the expression "mixed beings" can be interpreted as one that transcends race. After all, we are all "mixed beings," capable of being placed into multiple categories by those around us seeking to order their worlds. We place ourselves into categories in order to establish a collective identity, to avoid isolation and loneliness. However, our identities are defined by our individual experiences, by the stories that are told by our individual voices, and not by our categories. One individual will never be able to speak for the collective identity, only the individual because there is no "normal" experience contained in a single category. We are all "others;" we just haven't realized it yet, haven't found the value in the individual experience and voice. At the conclusion of "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind" Moraga's tone has become hopeful for the future as she writes, "All is familia: ancestor and future generations. The tree branches out, bears fruit...Not violence, but a slow and peaceful return to the river" (Moraga 239). According to Moraga's analogy, we are all connected through the tree of life; we are all family. Categories are the branches linking us to each other. However, we are all individual pieces of fruit, comprised of our own unique combination of categories, our own separate experiences.

Cal has spent his life with others categorizing him and defining him by his gender, "Can you see me? All of me? Probably not. No one ever really has" (Eugenides 218). By only examining Cal's gender and sexuality and Moraga's race, we lost something. We weren't able to understand their experiences because we only concerned ourselves with the categories we believed defined them, ignoring the reality that there is always, as Foucault says, "empty space," the meaning of which is just as significant as the words that are present. The answer is not to be found in language, in the words that stand for categories; categories will never be able to represent the wealth and diversity of experience just as the words for emotions cannot contain the particular detail of how emotions are experienced, "Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in 'sadness,' 'joy,' or 'regret.' Maybe the best proof that language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling" (Eugenides 217). We must realize that the only "normal" that exists is what is "normal" to the individual, to us. Our categories do not define us; we define ourselves. Through our experiences, we create identities that are unique to us, and we, as "others," must learn to value our individual experiences because that is where the answer is, where it always has been.


Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. New York: Picador, 2002.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New
York: Vintage Books.

Moraga, Cherríe. "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind." Names We Call Home:
Autobiography on Racial Identity. Eds. Becky Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi.
New York: Routledge.

WWW Sources





Full Name:  Mo Convery, Chelsea Phillips,
Username:  cpomeroy@haverford.edu, Graham Laura Beth Title:  Legislation and Societal Attitudes: Still a Love-Hate Relationship
Date:  2004-12-17 11:06:53
Message Id:  11997
Paper Text:
Legislation and Societal Attitudes: Still a Love-Hate Relationship

In a nation currently divided along political and ideological lines, many inadequacies within public policy and legislation have become poignantly clear. This book addresses the inconsistencies which arise when societal norms are used as the foundations of public statutes which place pressure within the private realms. This system of legislation based on this ideal of normalcy allows the needs of individuals to be neglected and repressed when balanced protection under the law is necessary. This unbalanced value of normalcy is constantly perpetuated through the basic political rhetoric and past laws which politicians and lobbying parties present. It is only when legislators are able to identify this reliance on normalcy and respond accordingly to a changing and diverse society that the laws will be most valid. Most importantly, several questions concerning governmental roles must be raised. When is it appropriate for the law to invade the private realm and support "normalcy"? Concurrently, how are laws monitored? What happens when the law goes too far or reflects the values of only a specific group? This balance between the values public normalcy and private rights is most fragile. As students and valuable citizens, it is our responsibility to reflect upon this role of the government and to monitor the programs and rhetoric that it presents.

Current legislation, such as that on abortion, and social movements, such as the feminist movement for equality, have led to a blurring of the division between public and private. Abortion questions the public/private division of the law, creating an unsettled debate over to what extent legislation can regulate a person's private life. At the same time, the feminist movement questions the societal division of public man, private woman. Both lead to a confusion as to where and when the state can intervene in the lives of its citizens, especially when it comes to the perpetuation of "normalcy." It is this "normalcy" that is responsible for the repression of women by the public man/private woman binary. By deconstructing the link of man/woman with the public/private through legislation and social movement can, in turn, become a reconstruction of the public and private spheres to create a gendered equality in both.

On the other hand, when is it necessary for the public to invade the private?
This is the case when examining international systems of public health. There has in the past been a great rejection of the private experience in the name of public health efficiently. In 2004 the WHO publicly addressed an extension of health analysis in the 2004 WHO World report on Health and Violence. As illustrated in the report, the increased levels of personal discussion of the private experience allowed for the development of complex partnerships between once marginalized groups. Form this; public health officials were able to gain a greater understanding of the root causes and possible methods of prevention. Focusing on individual cases not only addresses groups of people who might otherwise be neglected, but it also presents a more complete and diverse view of the problem at hand. Furthermore, legislation was able to reflect this diverse collection of ideas and experiences is necessary in creating statutes that are most appropriate and efficient.

Pro-life arguments of the "right to life" exemplify the merging between the public and private spheres. Lauren Berlant describes the convergence of public and private as "the intimate public sphere," in which citizens are defined not by a common civic duty, but instead, by a shared morality. In this "crisis of citizenship," with no one quite sure of where s/he stands in relation to the norm, and everyone forced into an identity politics, the fetus represents the ideal citizen – utterly vulnerable and in need of government protection. Pro-life arguments describing fetuses as the ultimately silenced, victimized minority capitalize on shifting meanings of citizenship to find a place for the fetus within it. For example, this blend of public and private is what allows George W. Bush to interchange the phrase "right to life" with "culture of life" so easily, creating a nationality supposedly unified over a concern for fetuses.

The current landscape of the workforce has been shaped by a gendered division of labor resulting in the devaluation of traditionally female occupations. It is essential to examine the historical waves of feminism in America and the social and legislative ramifications of the movements in order to understand the modern realities of gender in the workforce. The First and Second Waves of Feminism challenged the very philosophies at the core of the tradition of men working outside the home and women working inside the home. Such traditional norms have weakened, but there is little governmental support for those people who are either economically forced or simply choose to live outside the established custom. In the case of modern workforce equality, legislation reflects social attitudes and is necessary to enforce new practice.

Boundaries of public and private are permeable and constantly shifting. One of the Supreme Court's roles in legislature is to define and protect the bounds of privacy. In the case of adoption, the normally private decision to have a child is forced into the public realm. Background checks and intense scrutiny of potential parents invades rights to privacy on the grounds that it is in the best interest of the child. In January, the American Civil Liberties Union is hoping to come before the Supreme Court and strike down a Florida law banning homosexual individuals and couples from adopting. The ACLU is representing four men currently involved in the foster care system, and will argue the case on the grounds that the law is being used vindictively to express disapproval of a lifestyle choice, which is unconstitutional and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

In our current political atmosphere it is vital for politicians and citizens alike to understand the intricacies which lie within the relationship of public and private. Most importantly, the power which these realms of identity hold and the repercussions of placing one above another must be thoroughly understood. We as a community body have the power to shift and dissolve the boundaries of public and private through legislation and social movement. In understanding the details of these boundaries, we will be able to utilize them for these purposes.

Full Name:  Mo Convery
Username:  mconvery@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Forcing the Private into the Public; the Face of Exploitation in Public Health
Date:  2004-12-17 11:16:29
Message Id:  11998
Paper Text:


Knowing the Body

2004 Final Web Report

On Serendip

International public health policies attempt to reform the social and political systems which influence the health and safety of all citizens of the world. In the past, these policies have been created through the strong reliance on and exploitation of socially constructed systems of classification such as gender, sexuality, nationality, and economic class. It has been a system of correlation between the behaviors which seem prevalent within social groupings and chances that those behaviors will lead to disease transmition or infestation. In January 2004, the World Health Organization announced a radical change in their policies surrounding public health study and prevention in the 2004 World Report on violence and health. Instead of focusing on larger global and national trends, the WHO called for an expansion of policies and increase of resources which focused more on the experiences and support of individuals rather than groups. This value of individual experience holds extreme promise in the expansion and effectiveness of public health initiatives as well has changes many societal systems of classifications. However, there may be detrimental effects of this change that exploit the very subjects that they attempt to help. It is a question of forcing the private experience of disease into a public domain. Where are the lines of public verses private drawn?

Public health by its very definition emphasizes public classification over the individual body. Its basic goal is to establish effective general health services that meet the minimum health requirements for a majority of people. With this general goal in mind, there are two major assumptions made within the formation of public health policy. The first assumption is that there are discoverable uniformities in the behavior of a population that can be expressed as generalities or theories . Second, when a public health organization identifies these patterns and begins to work against them, the prevalence of disease and possible transmittion is expected to drop significantly. While, these goals and assumptions are the foundation on which public health policy is formed, there remains great variability in interpretation. This is particularly evident in the formation of institutional philosophies.

Since its conception in 1948, the WHO has consistently swayed between two differing philosophies of public health; the vertical and horizontal methods . The vertical method which dominated the initial years of the WHO focuses on identifying and policing the one disease which was deemed the most damaging to social, political, and economic systems. This analysis of disease is based in statistics. As such, the effect of a public health program can be clearly monitored. If there is a positive response, the numbers will reflect so and vice-a-versa. In reducing disease to statistics there is a removal the individual, culture, or social influence.

In stark contrast, the horizontal approach seeks to address health from a holistic perspective. Health and disease are defined by the groups which they affect and the social classifications which they worked within. Most of all, the horizontal approach attempts to identify the effect which sociological, economic, and political realms play on the spread and prevention of disease. It attempts to address these larger issues in addition to the basic medical care which patients receive. While the horizontal approach does expand the study of disease, it still is based in statistic classification. While it may now longer be a question of health verses disease, its statistical nature is based within social classifications. There is no I, there is no individual body. There is only the groups of which are diseased.

The horizontal model of public health has dominated WHO policies since the late 1970's . This valuation is highly reflected in the World health reports from 1995-2003. Such topics addressed in these years include: world poverty, social stigmatization of mental health, childhood vaccination policies, and a comparison of health systems. In all of the above cases, there is no respect for the individual body or the possibility of individual agency. As stated in the 1997 report on communicable disease, "Health is being increasingly affected by a number of factors over which an individual has little control...and over which the conventional health sectors have little sway". This statement above is followed by a call to respect international health policing. Not only is there a question of individual agency but there is a questioning of the health systems which work in closest proximity to the individual patient.

While it has held dominance and validity in the public health world for the last 30 years, the horizontal method was publicly questioned in the 2004 World Report on violence and health. In this report the World Health Organization announced a radical change in their policies surrounding public health study and prevention. Instead of focusing on the group dynamics and larger statistical patterns, the WHO urged public health organizations worldwide to place value on individual experience and expand the forums which public health initiatives are discussed. They announced several major policy amendments to solidify this initiative.

On the basal level, the WHO urged for the enhancement of data collection within community systems. Instead of relying on statistical correlation between group membership and behavior, the WHO pressed organizations to become more reliant on case studies and individual experience dialogue. Similarly, the WHO also urged for a more diverse and comprehensive range of social educational polices and initiatives on the community level. In both of these suggestions there is an increased admittance of the individual body and personal agency. Thirdly, the WHO pressed for promotion of and adherence to primary response for diseased patients. In ensuring such, public health agencies are communicating to individuals that they publicly value of personal rights and health. Moreover, these rights are and will be supported and monitored on the national and international level.

In these amendments there is an embrace of the individual by a powerful public agency. Such an authoritative and influential statement has the ability to pose dramatic implications. Now that the shift is publicly and officially stated, it is necessary to explore the implications and repercussions which this entails from three standpoints; the level of public health, socially classified groups, and the individual. How will this change impact the efficiency and effectiveness of public health programs? Secondly, will this change affect current systems of classifications positively or negatively? Finally, will our definition of individuality and personal agency change accordingly? Like many issues in public policy, there is no right answer. In fact in exploring the various responses to such questions, binary arguments begin to develop.

In regards to public health effectiveness, the switch to focus on the individual has many positive ramifications. First and foremost, it expands the discourse of health which is able to take place. Public health institutions are no longer forced to work inside the limits of social constructions. While certain individual groups may in the past be tied to disease, they are not the only ones affected. Further, in expanding the discourse, public health officials will expand their understanding of disease experience. Simply stated, they may develop a more complex and accurate view of disease and disease transmittion. From this, they will be able to form more effective and reasonable programs for prevention, treatment, and outreach. As Foucault states identifies as sex being in his History of Sexuality, health is also something, "one had to speak of it as a thing not simply condemned or tolerated but managed, inserted into systems of utility, regulated for the greater good of all, made into a function of according to an optimum (Foucault 24).

By listening to every individual affected by disease and violence, public health institutions are placing equal value on individuals from varying groups. Once marginalized groups become included in discourse and thus have the opportunity to feel the impact of health policies individually. Addressing the individual experience forces people to place themselves within the larger scope of disease. It also pushes individuals to embrace there personal risk and not to denounce this risk due to lack of affiliation to a "diseased group". For some this may include admitting responsibility in the transmitting disease. Once more individuals are able to assess their true risk and see how their behavior fits within the system of disease, they will be more apt to take a clearly defined role.

On the other hand, public health's main goal is to ensure the health of the majority of people while placing the least risk on the minority. It is an institution which utilizes classifications for the better good. In associating diseases with social classifications, public health institutions are able to identify those who are most at risk and react accordingly. Simply stated, they can reach the greatest effected population in the most efficient manner. From a preventative standpoint, certain behaviors or genetic makeup within classified populations maybe leading to disease. In identifying such patterns and associations, public health programs can gain further knowledge of a disease profile. In times where a fast solution is needed, such as in an outbreak of a communicable disease, this understanding of group correlation is imperative in prohibiting disease explosion. Further, resources, both economic and practical, are limited in public health organizations. Programs must not only be effective but practical. Working with classifications offers a quick and effective response to the majority of people being affected. While, this approach may work against the preventative angle of disease, it offers a solution.

Similar to the effect on the individual, the effect on group dynamics and classifications is bipolar. It is of no argument that group classifications can be oppressive and limiting in many ways. Classifications force individuals to live within a system of expectations based on the defining characteristics of their group identity. Individuals within group classifications can face stigmatization on two fronts. First, they can experience stigmatization from inside their group by deviating from the group norms. Deviation from such norms and values can be seen as a rejection or, in a more active way, a challenge to the basic group identity. This deviation or challenge can by seen as a threat when in actuality it is simply a person demonstrating their individuality. Why individuals may not claim affiliation with a particular classification, others my put them there. This is a form of oppression.

The second front of stigmatization comes from the outlying groups; those who are not included in the social classification. Groups themselves may have stigmatization associated due to their own deviation from societal norms or general patterns within their group. As such, all individuals associated with the group acquire the stigmatization whether justified or not. In a society which places severe stigmatization on disease, this system of group association can be most damaging and oppressive.

As stated earlier, shifting focus to the individual increases the discourse of disease. This allows an individual to challenge group stigmatization through embracing their individuality in a current socially accepted forum. As Foucault sates, "Modern Puritanism has a triple edict of taboo, nonexistence and silence" (Foucault 5). In opening up discourse and hence disrupting the silence, the individual is able to challenge the oppression. This challenge of oppression further confronts the systems of classifications.

In another regard, breaking down the sharp lines of classification allows for the formulation of a communal responsibility surrounding disease. If the diverse experiences of disease are expressed, disease is no longer limited to once associated groups. Thus, it is no longer one group of people responsible for disease presence; it is a problem for the whole of society. Thus the focus can be shifted from diversifying disease education to truly addressing preventative measures.

On a more negative note, once the previous systems of classifications are challenged, what prevents different, possibly more oppressive, classifications from forming? It is human nature to classify. As stated in The Embodied mind, "Since we are neural beings, our categories are formed through our embodiment...the categories we form are part of our experience" (Lakoff 19). It helps people to understand their surroundings and sets an ideal prototype of which to standardize identity. While there is hope that new classifications may be less oppressive in nature, there is also the chance that new classifications may be more harmful. Public health programs set out to confront disease causing behavior before it even begins. Under the newly reformed WHO model, education and reprimand of the individual diseased are used as preventative measures. As Judith Butler states in her essay Bodies that Matter, "The reprimand does not merely repress or control the subject, but forms a crucial part of the juridical and social formation of the subject" (Butler 121). Even though the focus is on the individual, the system of communication of the disease forces it to become subjectified in a social realm. Thus, it is possible for another system of classification based on social jurisdiction to form.

Now that the polar repercussions for public health policy and group classifications are understood, it is necessary to address the main focus of the reform; the individual. The individual is affected in 3 basic positive regards. On the basal level, this reform is an official and authoritative agency publicly stating value of the individual experience. Through this public identification, the WHO gives in the individual experience validity in social context. It is no longer a restricted personal experience, but it is a tool for the general good. Second, the basic programs which the reforms outline insure that each individual will feel the effects of public health policy. There is a new attention to ground level work with communities.

Most importantly, by including the individual in discourse, the public health institution is giving the individual power. It is the individual who dictates WHO's perception of disease. From this compellation of individual experiences, WHO can act accordingly. Further, the individual now has the power to choose what they do and do not disclose. They have a choice to remain silent or speak of their experience. Most importantly, the individual has a choice to the degree of silence they choose. It is not a system of binaries. As Foucault states, "There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourse" (Foucault 27). Silence is a tool. Individuals can include a personal stratagem in their dialogue by merely disclosing what they choose. Not only can they help to shape their personal experience of public health and disease, but further, they can control how others may experience such.

After understanding the power structure which develops when individuals are invited into discourse, it is vital to answer several questions. When does the reliance on the individual become an exploitation of private identity? In forcing the private into public discourse are we objectifying the subject? Henceforth in making the private public, are we not too making it unjustly political? To answer these questions it is necessary to address the systems of discourse. Silence is a very powerful and manipulative tool which each individual subject holds. One of the most restrictive forms of oppression is when an individual is forced into silence. On the other hand, it can be equally damaging to force an individual to lose their choice of silence for social gain. As Foucault describes in his essay The Repressive Hypothesis, " The forbidding of certain words, the decency of expressions, all the censorings of vocabulary, might well have been only secondary devices compared to the great subjugation: ways to make it technically useful"(Foucault 21). The reliance on case studies which the WHO projects suggests this forcing of individuals into disease discourse.

It is not an embrace of the individual for moral reasons. It is instead an embrace causing subjectification. The WHO has a desired outcome. The method in what they use to acquire this goal does little to protect the individual involved in discourse. As stated earlier, it is easy to slip from one mode of classification to another. In this instance, the individual is at particular risk. If further classifications occur, their identity and experience would be the foundation. Not only could their identity be harshly criticized, but their experience can be stigmatized.

As a student and an individual who strongly supports greater roles of international health organizations on the ground level, I was initially in great support the new amendments to the WHO policy on health. After the previous analysis however, I was struck by the unsettling implications to health policy effectiveness, group classifications, and the individual. On one level, the embrace of the individual allows for a more diverse group of experience to emerge into the public realm and policies to reflect accordingly. However, there are also some highly dangerous implications when it comes to the power balance of discourse itself. Public organizations such as the WHO have the opportunity and authority challenge systems of discourse in the name of social utility. However, my question remains; what is the cost? Currently, the WHO appears ready to give up the sanctity of individual experience when it may not in fact want to be given. There needs to be a system in place which upholds an individual "right" to choose in discourse. In making it a protected choice whether an individual speaks, the WHO is upholding the delicate balance between the subjectification and objectification of the individual. The main goal of the WHO is to uphold public health. However, the manner in which they perform their duties can have significant effects on communities throughout the world. They have a responsibility as an international public aid institution to reflect upon the affects which their actions and policies hold.


Hoole, Francis. Politic and Budgeting in the World Health Organization. 2 Indiana Unniverstity Press. 1997.
Siddiqi, Javed. World Health and World Politics; the World Health Organization and the UN System. 194-195. University of South Carolina Press. 1995
Siddiqi 196
World Report on Health Summary. World Health Organization, Geneva 1997.


World Report on Health Summary. World Health Organization, Geneva. 1995. 1996. 1997. 1998. 1999. 2000. 2001.2002. 2003.

World Report on Violence and Health Summary. World Health Organization. Geneva. 2004.

Global Campaign for Violence Prevention Newsletter. N° 4- April 2004. WHO Geneva.

Butler, Judith. "Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion." Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." 121-156.New York: Routledge, 1993.

Delany, Samuel. "Aversion/Perversion/Diversion." Longer Views: Extended Essays. Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1996

Foucault, Miachael. "We 'Other Victorians'" and "The Repressive Hypothesis."The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction.Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1980.

Hoole, Francis. Politic and Budgeting in the World Health Organization. 2 Indiana Unniverstity Press. 1997.

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. 3-44.New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Siddiqi, Javed. World Health and World Politics; the World Health Organization and the UN System. 194-195. University of South Carolina Press. 1995

Full Name:  Arielle Abeyta
Username:  aabeyta@brynmawr.edu
Title:  High Heels: 4 Inches Closer to Heaven
Date:  2004-12-18 18:50:17
Message Id:  12000
Paper Text:
High Heels: 4 Inches Closer to Heaven

"To be carried by shoes, winged by them. To wear dreams on one's feet is to begin to give reality to one's dreams."
-Roger Vivier

Shoes of every make and style are loved by women across the globe but it is the heel, whether stiletto or platform that is coveted, adored, desired in such abundance simply in and of the shoe itself. They're everywhere. They run rampant in books, calendars, photographs, album and movie covers, dangling in miniature precious metal versions from earlobes and chains, women's closets and even their living rooms, and let's not forget their most important place of residence- women's feet. They're a constant obsession in pop culture, endlessly talked about and fetishized in television, movies, song lyrics, and seem to be worn without fail by glamorous celebrities no matter the occasion. The most notorious of the shoe loving pop culture media is of the smash HBO series Sex and the City, in which shoes are one of its main themes.

Cast of Sex and the City at

What's in a shoe? Perhaps it was originally intended to protect one's feet from the elements but today the shoe has evolved from its practical origins to grandiose heights, and at the highest level is of course, the high heel. Heels are not something one simply wears on their feet, but a passion, hobby, personal expression, source of authority, sexual independence, staple of gendered feminine culture, mark of flaunted femininity, psychologically empowering, and joy. Women choose to wear high heels for many reasons; the key is that they indeed are the ones who proactively choose to endorse the high heel, often at the expense of their own physical comfort.
High heels have long been stigmatized as a crippling mechanism of the ever present and detrimental patriarchy. As a system of values, categorizations, lateral and vertical hierarchies, oppression, subordination, presentation and performance overlaying American society, meanings are infused in every aspect of life. It appears impossible to escape misogynistic values but as Judith Butler writes, "The law might not only be refused, but it might also be ruptured, forced into a rearticulation that calls into question the monotheistic force of its own unilateral operation." (Butler, 122) In other words, never underestimate the "range of disobedience;" (Butler, 122) because the possibilities of rejecting domination are endless.
The significance of shoes, feet and high heels have a history of masculine power and female fetishization. Opponents of the high heel often call upon fascist beauty standards and self destructive desires to please men as the culprits responsible for causing women to don back breaking heels which limit mobility and cause extreme physical harm not only to the feet but also the knees and back.
However, high heels are most often learned in a matrilineal context; whether one learns to wear them from watching and/or hearing their mother, their favorite actress or pop culture in general, the appreciation is taught by women. It is a conscientious decision made by women to participate in a crafted female culture. Little girls emulate their mothers and role models and the guiding women in their life, friends or relatives teach them. High heels are a way of passing on "the feminine" as a learned process.

Little girl wearing her mother's heels

Harmful footwear being perpetuated by women is nothing new; it can be seen in other cultures. Most notorious is Chinese foot binding in which it was seen as a rite of passage. Between the ages of 3 and 8, girls underwent "gin lien" in which, according to tradition, a mother gave her daughter a pedicure then folded the four toes forward and under the arch, bound them, only to unbind them thereafter to bath and bandage them further and tighter to the hopeful form of the rare and glorified three inch "golden lotus." (O'Keefe, 405) In Western society high heels are also damaging if worn frequently and like Chinese foot binding are self inflicted within the feminine realm.

A traditional Chinese "lotus" shoe. - http://www.silcom.com/~bevjack/03.html

Speaking of the high heel and specifically the stiletto, Caroline Cox, author Stiletto, says, "Not for nothing do we refer to stilettos as killer heels. These are shoes that blatantly contravene the original purpose of footwear: to protect the feet and aid mobility." (Cox, Instyle Magazine) There are earlier records of high heel shoes that served a practical function such as heeled boots horse riders wore to grip their stirrups better.
However, 1533 was the year that gave birth to the high heel that served no purpose other than beauty and vanity. Catherine de Medicis, aged 15, brought them with her from Florence to the French court when she wed the Duke d'Orleans where they were eagerly embraced by Parisian noblewomen. Up until the 1700s, the five inch heel was most popular amongst European women. However, when the French monarchy fell, so did the height of shoes. From then on heels rose and fell depending on current fashions and politics. (O'Keefe, 74)
The high heel returned to dominate fashion in the middle of the 1900s and in 1988 America's first heel factory opened, allowing for easier access and availability. However, the 1950's ushered in the era of the stiletto. O'Keefe says, "Of all the miracles of modern shoe technology, the stiletto may stand as the greatest." (O'Keefe, 120) The architecture is such that a women's weight is balanced on a heel the size of a pencil.

While high heels have remained popular, in the last half century they have been a controversial topic. Many second wave feminists rejected standards of "feminine beauty," denouncing what they saw as women, "being forced, by social and mass media representations controlled by men, to see themselves in fragments through male eyes." (Gamman, 95) High heels came under attack along with many other gendered aesthetic objects at this time. However, in the eighties high heels were reclaimed in the name of personal choice and women's empowerment. "Dressing up, grooming, and playing around with identity could not be regarded as a response to oppression or the 'male gaze' when sisters said they were doing it for themselves." (Gamman, 96)
It was at this time that women really began to conscientiously reclaim the "feminine" as a personal and even rebellious decision. Nancy Friday, author of The Power of Beauty, writes, "We do it for the image in the mirror, the reflection of ourselves as hot and in charge, an extraordinarily satisfying goal that we can live with more happily than with a man; who needs him?" (Friday, 466) Today the arguments surrounding high heels fluctuate depending on style and popularity.
Much of the intense debate around high heels is generated by the harmful effects of high heels and especially the stiletto. More and more studies emerge everyday with resounding voices saying that shoes are physically detrimental. Foot doctors say that continual use of high heels with narrow toe space can actually lead to foot deformities. A clinical professor of orthopedics, Michael J. Coughlin says, "The deformities that often develop after years of wearing high-fashion pumps are similar to foot problems that were formerly seen in Chinese women whose feet had been bound." (Okie in Benstock and Ferriss) Additionally, long time wear of high heels is also being linked to knee arthritis in women, and most recently, back problems.

Women receive 90% of foot surgeries performed in the United States.


Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City says "You have to learn how to wear his (Manolo Blahnik) shoes – it doesn't happen overnight... I've destroyed my feet completely, but I don't care. What do you really need your feet for, anyway?"

While health issues may be the immediate issue of high heel detractors, another is mobility. "A feminine shoe imposes a new problem of grace and self consciousness on what otherwise would be a simple act of locomotion, and in this artful handicap lies its subjugation and supposed charm." (Gamman, 96) Whether nine inch heels preferred by strippers or three inch "kitten heels" being worn by teenage girls, they reduce mobility and physical ease to varying degrees.
The dangers are many; everything from side walk grating, stairs, slick floors, any speed faster than a leisure pace, any distance longer than a ten minute stroll, to the impossibility of crossing a lawn without sinking and being left to yank leg while balancing on the ball of the other sinking foot. High heels are the most challenging shoes one can wear if walking is the objective.
It is their paradox; heels are shoes that don't protect but harm, don't provide comfort but instead are more likely to be intensely uncomfortable, don't aid movement but restrict it. In dangerous situations, high heels hinder escape and have been denounced by feminist detractors for, "slowing them down when the need to run away from male violence and oppressors arose." (Gamman, 96)
However, mobility is not the point of high heels. In Allison Pearson's bestselling novel, I Don't Know How She Does, the protagonist is a professional woman who continually refers to the "armor" she wears into the office. When she has a particular need to impress, her suits get more expensive and her heels get higher. When asked how she can even walk she bluntly says, "Walking is not the point." (Pearson)
The question remains; what is the point of high heels? Their very existence and women's dedication to them is full of complicated innuendos, infused with meanings, drenched in politics and striking to the heart of what it is to be "feminine." High heels speak to women and society. They refuse to be considered just another accessory, but demand recognition of their complexity and power and feminine construction.
When wearing high heels, one cannot slouch or hang back. Linda O' Keefe, author of, Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers and More, writes, "Physically, it is impossible for a woman to cower in high heels. She is forced to take a stand, to strike a pose, because anatomically her center of gravity has been displaced forward." (O'Keefe, 71) This proactive stance, sexually enhanced posture, and added height provide psychological empowerment for the wearer and convey an autonomous and feminine message into society. Simon Doonan, creative director of Barney's in New York says "High heels create a level of authority." (Gamman, 98)
High heels infuse the wearer with a sense of power; more importantly feminine power, not an offshoot of some masculine aspect. Lee Wright, "points to the associations of the stiletto with symbols of 'liberation rather than subordination,' symbols that are 'progressive rather than retrogressive,' conveying 'rebellion and dominance'." (Kaite, 96) While men and masculinity also have an interesting shoe history that at times includes various heeled styles, today high heels are exclusively feminine. So often women in society draw upon masculine constructs and ideas of power, adopting them for their own instead of reclaiming the "feminine" in a powerful and authoritative way- but they do with high heels.
High heels belong to the traditional feminine realm but do not subordinate. They instead radiate dominance; perhaps in a subversive and gendered form, but nonetheless it is dominance and most importantly – a woman's dominance. Patricia Field, a Sex and the City stylist used stilettos to "symbolize the characters' sexual power, as well as their independence." (InStyle Magazine, 346)

"I can't wear flats; I always feel like I'm walking uphill." - Anonymous

Much of this power comes not only from the physical aspects such as height, posture and body inflections, but also from raw sex appeal. High heels are a traditional wardrobe staple of every vamp and streetwalker which makes sense since they cash in and use sexuality for their own purposes and as Gamman says, "It's hard not to be sexy in a pair of high heels." (Gamman, 98)
The high heel is the "zenith of the very feminine look," (Kaite, 96) and its contribution to the construction of feminine identity is blatant. Despite possible negative consequences, they have other physical effects on the wearer. Esquire writes, "They taper the toes. They arch the instep. They lift the calves. They tilt the fanny and bow the back and oil the hips and sashay the gait.... They make the foot look shorter and more precious and yet add the formidableness of extra height." (Friday, 463) They create the illusion of longer and more defined legs, more pronounced and curved breasts, and a rounder butt. High heels emphasize all the aspects that are considered to belong to the realm of women's physically sexual attributes.

According to Harper's Index, high heels
raise the buttocks as much as 25 %.


The alluring eroticism of women in high heels is recognized and even feared. In the United States' earlier history, "The Massachusetts colony passed a law: 'All women, whether virgins, maidens or widows, who...seduce or betray into matrimony any of His Majesty's male subjects by virtue of...high heel shoes, shall incur the penalty of the law now enforced against witchcraft.'" (Benstock & Ferriss, 10)
High heels, most effectively stilettos, embody complex paradoxes and social innuendos. There is inherent tension between sexuality and danger. They constantly revolve and play with the masculine/ feminine dichotomy. The "The high heel is a weapon...and also a phallic symbol. And at the same time that it cripples a woman, it makes her seem powerful. In heels, the woman can be evilly subdued – she can't run very fast, she's off balance, her feet probably hurt – but she's also taller, wearing a spiked thing that could be driven into a man's body: It's called a stiletto after all."

"Stiletto" means "thin-bladed knife" - Kaite, 96


Freudian theory says that shoes represent the female body and in dreams, they represent female genetalia . The "Shoe is symbolic of the vagina. Tension between the "active" and "passive" components of the shoe...It is an economic balance of two parts: a womblike enclosure and the phallic extremity." (Kaite, 97) These are "heels with the potential of piercing and penetrating, and thus have powerfully invasive qualities." (Kaite, 100)
With such meaning infused in every step a woman can take, it is no wonder that the shoe has become an object of fixation, obsession and love. In today's world of glitzy-glam consumerism and self-discovery, every accessory can be an attempt to encapsulate and define one's perfect self image. Ferriss and Benstock write that there is a "...satisfaction we take in having purchased a pair of shoes that 'is us,' that represents us... The fashionable dress of the Western world is one means whereby an always fragmentary self is glued together into a semblance of unified identity. Shoes serve as markers of gender, class, race, ethnicity, and even sexuality." (Ferriss & Benstock, 4)
Shoes have always denoted lifestyle and one's place both in the formal and informal sectors of society. As the famous Forrest Gump says, "There's an awful lot you can tell 'bout a person by their shoes --- Where they goin, where they been..." (Forrest Gump, 1994) In the case of high heels tend to say one of two things about a person, high class or sex worker.
Due to the sexual aesthetics and erotic accentuation of the body they are an ideal choice for sex workers. More importantly still is the many-layered sexual and fetishistic meanings infused into high heels. Feet and high heels are the number one most common sexual fetish. "The stiletto heel is a fundamental part of the contemporary pornographic code." (Kaite, 100) Let's face it, how often do we see a playboy bunny in sneakers?

"Ya makin' money Boys call ya Hell on high heels" - Motley Crue lyrics (2000)


In contrast, the other social realm in which high heels are pervasive is the upper class. Kaite says "The initial association between rank, wealth, and certain styles and fabrics is made: silk and the high heel are for the leisured classes, the bourgeois classes." (Kaite, 93) From Catherine de Medicis and the ladies of the French court to Manolo Blahnik's "limousine shoes," high heels proclaim wealth and status.
On the other hand, " 'Sensible shoes'- from moccasins to work boots- identify the wearer as a member of the laboring classes, feet planted firmly on the ground." (Benstock & Ferriss) In sensible shoes one can plow a field, pave a road or simply walk as a means of transportation. In heels one is clearly going "somewhere" in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
Since their Venetian birth, high heels have been markers of the privileged. In the sixteenth century, both men and women of the leisure class wore heeled shoes as high as thirty inches. In order to walk a servant on each side supported them. Tamsin Blanchard, author of The Shoe: Best Foot Forward, speaks of the similarities of foot binding and high heels. For like the high heeled Venetians, Chinese women could hardly be expected to do much but recline in luxury on their ideally sized three inch bound feet.
When looking at high heels and the upper class connotation of today she says, "A similar psychology of wealth and status may still be operating, the richer you are, the higher the heels, and the more likely it is that you only have to walk a few short, painful steps from you limo to your destination." (Tamsin, 11) Today this upper class connotation remains, after all, "Women may 'wear' slippers, 'put on' sneakers and 'slip into' loafers, but they 'dress' in high heels." (O'Keefe, 72)
Another important factor speaking to the nuances of class and femininity is foot size. With 88 percent of surveyed women wearing shoes that are too small, there is clearly a remaining obsession with small feet. The high heel tapers the toes and arches the foot giving the appearance not only of eroticized curled toes but also the illusion of being small and delicate.
Perhaps the woman with the feet most renowned for their small size is the fabled Cinderella. Even though she had been delegated to a servant's position, the prince of the kingdom fell in love with her at the ball. However, when she fled at midnight she left behind one impossibly small glass slipper. The prince then searched his kingdom for the woman whose feet were small enough to fit the slipper. He was in essence looking for the most refined, most feminine woman in the kingdom- and all of this from the size of her feet.
Toomey wrote that the heel is "slivered to the slimmest shapes to make us all look as dainty and delicate underfoot as a Cinderella." (Kaite, 96) Modern women still go to great lengths in pursuit of their Cinderella charm. A study by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle society estimates that the average woman has size 8 wide feet, "but the best-selling women's shoe size is 7 ½ medium, suggesting that the average woman...is hobbling around in shoes that are both too short and too narrow." (Friday, 465)
With so many gendered implications, it is clear that patriarchal values still permeate society dividing men and women into masculine and feminine worlds and furthermore into hierarchal categories. But the end result does not have to be submission or devaluation. Women, and others, can refuse degrading victimization and reclaim that which is ours both within and without overarching systems.

"How tall am I?
Honey, with hair, heels and attitude I'm through this damned roof."

- RuPaul (O'Keefe, 125)

In wearing high heels women can choose to empower themselves – yourselves – ourselves – myself and own the power surrounding these dangerous, sexual, authoritative, proactive gendered objects- high heels. Women are often looked at skeptically for certain behavior such as donning sexy stilettos, as if they certainly don't really want to wear those shoes but perhaps have just mistaken their own desires for misogynistic beauty standards and imposed systemic values.
The truth of the matter is that we all do live in this system, is it possible to ever disengage our desires from our experience or infused cultural innuendos in and of the body? Perhaps yes, perhaps no; but the decision to wear high heels is one way to rebel within a system. Women who wear these tall heel it because they like to, for their own pleasure. Whether they like the erotic connotations, excitement, height, delicate structures, dangerous points, phallic penetrative qualities, royal history, haughty independence, aesthetic beauty or a confusing combination of all of that and more, women who love high heels do so of their own volition and desire.
Manolo Blahnik, the "high priest of high heels" (Benstock & Ferriss) sums up the patronizing idea that women should be pitied for their chose and love of high heels. He was once asked if he, "ever felt sorry for all those women teetering through their lives on the spikiest of high-heeled shoes," to which he responded, "Oh, my God, how could I feel sorry for them? Sorry. Sorry for who? They love it." (Specter, 388)