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Cross-Dressing in the Theater: Unbinding and Binding Gender

A lot of my thoughts this past month have been about cross-dressing in a theatrical setting – what it means for my own gender and other actors’ gender exploration. In my third web event I focused in on this idea and how it relates to feminism unbound. I discussed the idea of cross-dressing in the theater and how Judith Butler’s notion of performativity unbinds gender and can itself be further unbound to allow for more freedom in gender expression and exploration.

Summary of web event #3: Performativity and Feminism Unbound

In my paper, I defined “feminism unbound” as feminism after we have problematized the ideas of sex and gender, after we have realized how difficult it is to define the category “women,” after we have acknowledged that sexism affects everyone in infinite ways and that feminism is not a movement for women, but for humanity. I then took this idea and decided to apply it in a theatrical setting, where I have spent a good deal of time this past semester.

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Ecofeminist meal and final project

I thought it was really interesting to do our group project on ecofeminism and explore the subject more than we had in class. I have very mixed feelings about the concept and when we mentioned it in class it was more just in passing and often not taken so seriously, so this was a perfect topic to focus on more. I mentioned this in our presentation, but I think the thing that strikes me the most about ecofeminism is how open and accepting the concept is - it's definitely a case of feminism unbound - yet at the same time, how it is so inaccessible to the majority of people because in order to be a full ecofeminist vegan, you need to have access to the money and resources for it, which leaves ecofeminists in a very exclusive, classist clique. I'm not really sure how this issue could be solved and how ecofeminism could be made more accessible to a more diverse community though, which makes the situation very difficult - hence my mixed feelings about the subject! I was also interested to hear what other people's thoughts on ecofeminism were, especially because like I said, we hadn't taken it very seriously in class before; we'd just been brushing it off as totally radical. Although I'm only a vegetarian (not full vegan) and would have trouble identifying fully as an ecofeminist, I do think the movement in theory has a lot of good ideas and thoughts behind it, and studying it more has made me more concious of such things. Anyway, it was a fun project to put together! I documented some of the cooking shenanigans, so I will post those photos here.

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Web Event #3: Performativity and Feminism Unbound

            It took me a while to really understand the concept of “feminism unbound,” and alas I am sure there is still much more to learn and understand about it. What does it mean to unbind feminism? In the simplest sense, “feminism unbound” is feminism after we have problematized the ideas of sex and gender, after we have realized how difficult it is to define the category “women,” after we have acknowledged that sexism affects everyone in infinite ways and that feminism is not a movement for women, but for humanity. There are many places one can look to find and promote feminism unbound, but I would like to focus in on one particular place: the theater.

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Marketing to Women

I had an interesting experience over my Thanksgiving break. I've had the same phone for several years now and was due for an upgrade, so while I was home I went to the store to get a new phone. I am not well versed on what new phones are out and which ones are best, so naturally I asked someone at the store to help me out and give me an idea of what phones I should look at based on some preconceived ideas I had of what I wanted. The guy who helped me was very friendly, but at one point, he began telling me about a phone in the store that "girls really love." He kept telling me that "girls love this phone because it's very thin so they can fit it in their supertight jeans." Now if this salesman had known anything about me, he would have known that was the quickest way to piss me off and lose that sale. He repeated that statement to me about 3 or 4 times as I was looking around at other phones, and it made me super uncomfortable. First of all, I was pissed that he was stereotyping young women and me (though I wasn't even wearing tight jeans at the time so okay...). Secondly, I was pissed that he saw me as a female customer and assumed that because of that, I didn't care much about the technology, I just cared about the aesthetics of the phone, because of course no woman in her right mind would be interested in technological details!

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Feminism IS for Everybody

Near the end of class today when Anne asked us to discuss whether feminism was for everybody, my immediate response was, "YES. ABSOLUTELY." Sexism and patriarchy affects everyone of all different genders in our society, and sometimes people who are unaware of the issues don't realize that. I remember in high school when I was still a budding feminist without much background, I often would get into arguments with classmates about feminism, but when people began to talk about issues men faced and how sexism against men exists, I really didn't know how to intelligently counter the argument, though I knew it was wrong. Unfortunately, the way I felt then is probably the way most people in today's society feel because they are not exposed to the idea that patriarchy affects everyone, including men. That's why I loved bell hooks' definition of feminism: "feminism is the movement to end sexism." Plain and simple. Sexism can rear its ugly head in so many different ways, and it's often not recognized as such. The idea that only men must sign up for the U.S. military draft? Patriarchy teaches us that women are weak and fragile and must be protected. Sexism. The fact that men are more likely to lose custody of children in divorce cases? Patriarchy teaches us that women are better nurturers and care-givers than men and child-rearing is women's work. Sexism. The idea that men cannot show emotions or dress in feminine styles? Patriarchy teaches us that feelings and feminine clothing are women's things, and god forbid men degrade themselves by expressing feminine qualities. Sexism.

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Web Event 2: Queer Students of Color in High Schools

In discussions today about making institutions – in particular, high schools – more accessible for people of various identities, many different ideas are brought to the table. These discussions largely center around topics such as race, sexuality, gender, and disability as separate issues to be dealt with. However, often this excludes people with intersectional identities. One specific example of an intersectional identity that is frequently ignored when discussing issues in high schools (and the main focus of this paper), is queer students of color. Although research in areas such as education and experiences of youth who identify as LGBTQ has increased over the past 20 years, the specific issues of LGBTQ students of color in elementary and high schools have been largely untouched by research and discussion. What little research does exist has shown that students who are both queer and colored, in addition to challenges related to their sexual or gender identity, face challenges related to their race and ethnicity (Diaz & Kosciw 2). It is important to try and make high schools safer places for these students to freely express their intersectional identities by exploring some of the reasons why queer students of color feel so “other-ed” by various communities, what kinds of issues they face in high schools, and discussing ideas for ways to improve their educational experience, both academically and socially.

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Thoughts on queer time and this late post

Obviously, this post is late. The minute I walked into class today I realized I hadn't posted and my first thought was, "Oh no I screwed up and forgot!" I gave very little thought to it, other than concluding that I should definitely make a post later that night. However, I was really intrigued when Anne brought up the idea of queer time in relation to people not making posts on time this weekend. Was I living on queer time when I forgot to make a post? I had so much other stuff going on this past weekend, academically and with Lantern Night, so making a post on Serendip was not front and center in my mind. For any ambitious student at any other college, putting a cultish tradition above homework would probably seem irresponsible, but for me I hardly put any thought to it. Lantern Night and Step Sing were higher on my priority list for that day, and that was it. Is that an example of me living on queer time, ordering my priorities in a way that does not necessarily follow what would be normative outside of Bryn Mawr? Our discussion of queer time today also got me thinking about how ingrained normative time is not just in academic institutions, but in individuals (of course I can only speak from my perspective there). When Anne talked about running a class on queer time and simply saying that we'd have to have four papers written by some far off date, Caroline mentioned how she would put herself on a schedule and set her own deadlines.

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Web Event 1: Self-Expression and Gender Identity on Facebook

            The rise in popularity of social media networks such as Facebook in our generation has sparked a lot of discussion amongst people about its potential for breaking down barriers of self-expression, especially when it comes to gender identity and exploration. As one study quotes, “Online media was cast as a potential agent of social change with respect to gender oppression and discrimination on a number of levels” (Bailey et al. 4). People talk about having the freedom to customize their Facebook profiles to portray the person they believe themselves to be, or aspire to be. It also seems in many ways to be a great avenue in which to explore and express gender identity. I myself have found that I love using my Facebook profile to express my continuously changing gender identity. Though I identify as a woman and have never changed genders, over the past few years the way I express my gender identity has certainly altered. By uploading photos and making posts on my Facebook profile, I have found a way to proudly express my identity to my “friends” as it changes. I even have a good friend who transitioned to a gender-neutral identity over the summer, and they used Facebook as a way to make people aware by changing their name and pronouns on their profile, followed by an open statement about it in a post to clear up any confusion. With all of these positive experiences, it would seem that Facebook is an ideal playing field for social change.

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Was my happy anti-self portrait invalid?

I had a really interesting and unexpected personal experience when presenting our anti-self portraits to the class. I really loved creating mine and I thought it showed a cute and happy little snippet of my private life and the things I love (yes, I do sit in my room naked playing the ukelele frequently). I was really excited to present it in class because I thought it represented the person I was very well. However, when I got to class and started looking around at all of the other anti-self portraits people made, I began to feel really insecure about my own. So many people had created these amazing, beautiful portraits that showed a deeper, sometimes darker part of who they were or the things they have experienced, and I felt like my happy little video was inadequate and superficial. I felt really self-concious about it and was really worried that I had messed up the assignment and should have done something to represent some deep dark part of me that no one knew about. Then at the end of the class when Laura Swanson mentioned mine as a happy anti-self portrait (in a way, validating it for me), I realized that I had chosen to do a happy portrait for a reason, though I may not have realized it at first. I am in general, a perpetually happy person down to the core no matter what, and though I don't often acknowledge that out loud, it is something I see in myself and I guess subconciously felt the need to represent in my portrait.

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Defining feminism and accessibility

One thing that I have been finding in this class, and especially after our discussion last Thursday, is that it's almost becoming harder for me to define feminism itself and what makes something feminist. On one hand, this is a little frustrating since for the longest time I've always known exactly what I believed as a feminist, but on the other hand, the fact that I am hearing all these new sides to feminism and other people's relationship with the feminist movement has been expanding my views and is probably a good thing. For example, I've known that the feminist movement is dominated by the voices of white women, but I never put too much thought to it simply because I, being a privileged white woman, never felt the negative effects of that. However, some of the discussions we've had in this class have come back to that fact, and it has opened my eyes to some of the race issues within the feminist movement and has caused me to really struggle with defining something (e.g. a text like Persepolis) as feminist or not. In thinking about all this and wrestling with a working definition of feminism for myself, I've found myself coming back to thinking about accessibility. I am a very passionate feminist and I enjoy being challenged by all of these different views and definitions of feminism, but as wonderful as that is, not being unified in a basic definition probably makes it very hard for many people who are unfamiliar with these issues to relate to feminism.

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