Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 8

Notes Towards Day 8 of
Critical Feminist Studies

Welcoming Katie Baratz

I. Announcements
signing in, paying up
journalists t'morrow @ 3, The Laramie Project, G&STEA
writing conferences w/ me, Fri, Mon a.m.s?
for next Tuesday: read Rosemarie Garland-Thompson on Feminist Disabilities Studies
(The Politics of Medicalization: standardize bodies, eliminate any physical differences, treatment of intersex)

II. Katie

Joining the procession of educated men...



"Do we wish to join that procession, or don't we? On what terms shall we join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men?" (Virginia Woolf, The Three Guineas, p. 62)

...and continuing the "Easter" theme in Middlesex:


What strikes you, as you make
the move from the language of the novel to that
of personal narratives and the handbook for parents
of children with disordered sexual development?

What questions or observations do you have for Katie?
What would you like her to talk about?

From the Mythic to the Medical: A Shift in Discourse
is filled with questions that range from the personal to the theoretical
(and the relation between them):
what are your life experiences, and those in your support group?
what are the medical and social implications of those experiences?
about what you think about the gender binary, feminism...?
where to begin?

anorton: I am...unsatisfied with the term "disorders of sex development"..."that carries definitions from the semi-innocuous "irregularity" and "confusion" to the more-negative "disturbance" and disease"....

skumar: every dimension of the novel has an in-between...Eugenides' Middlesex is two-fold, a parallel construction that challenges societies' tendency toward categorization

Questions for Katie:
a) if she felt a sense of disconnection between her mind and her body...
b) How she defines Feminism....
c) Katie feesl about referring t intersex as "a medical condition"
d) What incited her decision to become a medical doctor..if she wrote her medical school essay on being intersex? mention it in her medical school interviews?

jlustick: I was interested in Hilda's remark..."that she never felt pressure to choose a gender"....I would imagine that...would lead to intense social it possible to raise a child without assigning gender...? are their any circumstances under which gender assignment surgery....?

sarahk: any specific similarities...between yourself and Calliope...? your initial reaction [to your condition]?...your personal opinion about the gender binary?....your personal way of separating the terms "sex" and "gender?".... the audience [reaction] to your interview on Oprah? Does your condition allow you to step outside your body as a woman at all? Do you feel like you have a fresh perspective to add to the term feminism? How did your discovery of your condition affect your body image, and do you think that a girl finding out she is intersexed necessarily exempts her from the societal pressures telling her what is "beautiful" for a woman's body?

mpottash: ...for Katie, nurture was what was important. For Cal however, nature was more important. How are distinctions between nature and nurture made?...I was also interested in Hilda's comment that..."Society pressures you to choose sides just like they pressure mixed race people to decide". This brings us back to Tuesday's discussion about organizational control.

stephanie2: how did she make sense of herself and her body as a child?
How did she feel when she found out that she was intersex?
How has being intersex changed your perspectives on gender, sex, and identity? Are they separate or are they one? an aspiring physician, what advice would you give to fellow peers in regards to understanding and attending to someone with your condition?

kscire: What/Who influenced your decision to begin taking estrogen?
Do you think you would be interested in medicine if you hadn't been born with AIS?
Do you feel that having such a unique adolescent experience has contributed to your world view?
How has having AIS affected your romantic relationships?

sarina: mythical or literary methods can teach much more than the medical community.

lrperry: there are SO many different varieties of the intersex experience...that must always be a challenge as an try to change the way an entire group in society is treated and does seem like you and Cal are engaged in a similar project – telling your own story to help others understand...what does it mean to 'get it'?
dhathaway: feminism is about equality in a sense of refuting categorization and destroying boundaries that are made socially....does the term still work?
Are you a feminist?
Did you feel pressure to fit into the gender binary?
How did you feel when you learned about AIS...? Did you feel like you deserved to know sooner?

sarahk: assuming the gender extremely harmful to women's independence and strength...

ssherman: parents can get upset...because DSDs are...genetic. No one wants to think that they put this upon their child...
How did your parents react when they found out you were intersex?...
In your support group, had most of the other kids been told by their parents right away....?
What is your feeling about the DSD handbook?

jzarate: Do you think your condition has affected your relationship with other females?
What advice would you give to parents with an intersex child? an intersex person confronting societal gender binaries?
the chapter...offered great insight into the negative side effects of secrecy...also reminded me about the need to "fit-in" at a yong age...cultural divisions are based on unrealistic traits..."feminism"...must become more fluid

ebock: I wonder how Cal feels about feminism?...this book seems to imply...that gender isn't relevant...yet it still ends in an oddly predictable...way: the character accept the inherited social/culture power of being male...kind of taking the easy way out....

Perhaps...this is an issue..that...has to do with the assignments of...all children...this desire to have your child feel normal do with...fitting into a societal box....Hilda said "she feels and looks 'more male' or 'more female' in different situations...this is probably a true situation for most people...If we allowed for might allow for happier kids...

hope: Is it useful to seperate the biology of the mind from the biology of the rest of the body? I also wonder how Cal's life would have been different had his parents been informed about DSDs and had comunicated more openly with him...
Notes from our Conversation:

"benign paternalism" (=don't tell the patient what would upset her)
"pseudohermaphrodism"-->  "disorder of sexual development"
(vs. variations? ambiguities?  differences?) -->
the term "intersex" reinforces the sexual binary:
operates as "a net in the middle to catch everyone who is neither male nor female"

sickness (body not working) vs. illness (how you experience that sickness)

advocacy vs. activism (personal vs. general interventions?)

inability to "fit " in a self-fulfiling description: you become the disorder?

is it possible to raise a child without gender?
without a gender construct? is that the ideal?

might transgender be thought of as a category of intersex?

what does it mean to "feel female"?
are we instructed to feel that way?

"in adolescence, everyone experiences a sense of sexual disorder"