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Notes Towards Day 16: Queering/Cripping the Norm

Anne Dalke's picture

I. 2:25-2:45--coursekeeping
* sign-in sheet

* 4 p.m. this afternoon: eco-360 tea in DVRm

* 5 p.m. Sunday: your second web-event is due

* for Tuesday's class, read all of Gayl Jones' 185-p. novel, Eva's Man

* this marks our move into the third section and most exploratory section (!) of the course:
1) self-representation, 2) institutional accomodation, 3) "unbinding" woman-->
having problematized the gender binary, the very category "woman,"
how might we think about/act to stop the oppression of women?

This novel is a "highly symbolic and temporally disorienting account
of a woman who defies familiar categories of victim and agent."

I will set up a silent conversation, for us to talk about her silence,
but please bring your own questions (or--of course!--post them on Serendip!),
so we can attend to them also.

* sign up to indicate interest in having dinner with Heidi Hartmann,
after her talk,
4:15-5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, 11/12,
about the Impacts of the Recession and Recovery on Gender Equity;
Heidi is an economist, President of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, &
Scholar in Residence with the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium
we are inviting poli sci and econ students to come to dinner too, so places may be limited

* feeling flippy on Tuesday--from trying too hard to provide too much accessibility?
(two screens, being in a small group and running the whole,
conscious of all the different needs to slow down/speed up...)

* not sure about the use value of --
project it today and next week, then re-view
(don't like the obstacle in the middle of our circle)

* from Laura Swanson: Being at Haverford & Bryn Mawr was special time for me, so I wanted the images to evoke a surreal feeling that was somewhere between a contemporary photographic portrait and art history painting. The portraits I chose are ones that are most compelling to me. I am using the ‘serious’ one in a series of all the portraits on my website....I used the word surreal because, to me, the portraits represent an experience that was a bit like a dream....I’m becoming accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle of artists. I’ve had such profound experiences, but they are temporary. After they’re over, I go back to my everyday life of day jobs and other mundane stuff. So the experiences seem like a hallucination as they seem so distant....I wanted the portraits to reflect that. I wanted everyone to appear super-human, somewhere between a religious portrait , propaganda poster, and a modern editorial portrait you’d see in the New Yorker. I treated each portrait like a painting and applied contrasting layers of cold and warm light with super clarity/sharpness and softness. So the end result is something that is compelling, yet hard to place.

II. start today, as Tuesday, w/ MargaretRachelRose's
suggestion of small group convos (count off by 8's):

contined reflections on home/homelessness = safety/risk:
I have found home at Bryn the wonderful people I surround myself realizing who I am and the reassurance that this is the place that I need to be. Home is within myself and all around me here.

questioning our desire for sameness and what do we have to give up for it

samuel.terry: there can be complacency in security. However...there is nothing desirable or chosen about being homeless...I believe in travel, adventure, and exploration, as methods to grow but to call that homelessness is to demonstrate the extraordinary privilege of never knowing what it’s like to not have someone to call along the journey, a porch light on somewhere waiting for you to return.

kwilkinson: I don't think it's fair to expect others to self-censor or limit their voice for the benefit of others….We have the opportunity to cultivate our own voices in this space…. historically WOMYN’s voices are not celebrated…I know it's scary, but take a risk and put yourself out there. Your voice is powerful, and you are in control of that. Never let anyone (yourself included) take that away from you because it is the most powerful tool that you are ever going to have. 

pialamode314: Was I living on queer time when I forgot to make a post?...If I'm setting my own deadlines, is that me imposing normative time on myself? Is it helping us at all by talking about so abstract a concept? the end, we still have a paper due by 5pm on Sunday. So what is the end point for this discussion?

III. picking up on these postings/continuing with Exile and Pride...

on Tuesday, we focused on the questions of home and homelessness,
on the relationship of being safe in a familiar space, and your ability to do academic/intellectual work,
to put yourself out there, engage in activities that feel risky, in order to learn (sam problematized this--
is the call to "willed homelessness" a gesture only possible to the privileged, who feel secure?)

today I want us to focus on the particulars of Eli Clare's life story,
in particular on the intersectionality of the story he tells:
"Gender reaches into disability; disability wraps around class; class strains against abuse; abuse snarls into sexuality; sexuality folds on top of race...everything finally piling into a single human body"

Eli was a girlchild victimized by sexual abuse, a rural tomboy who enjoyed the outdoors,
a transman who had to leave his rural home to become himself, and someone with
cerebral palsy who (this was the most telling moment of intersectionality
for me) was freed of the pressures of sexualization: "The same lies that cast me as genderless, asexual, and undesirable also framed a space in which I was left alone to be my quiet, bookish, tomboy self, neither girl nor boy....How would I have reacted to the gender pressures my younger, nondisabled sister faced?" (151-2).

this is a memoir that locates itself theoretically  "on the backs" of
the work of black feminists, taking as keynote, for example, the
Statement of the Combahee River Collective, 1977:  "(W)e are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives" (xi) .

[Chirlane McCray, the wife of NY mayorial candidate Bill de Blasio, was a member of this collective...and got a lot of flak from her lesbian sisters when she married him...echoes of kwilkinson's "my boyfriend is my home, and my best friend...I am afraid, when I say this, that I am not enough of a mawrter, not enough of a feminist....]

Eli's story is one of intersectionality, but it is also one of division:
"I lived by splitting body from mind, body from consciousness, body from physical sensation, body from emotion as the bullies threw rocks and called retard, as my father and his buddies tied me down, pulled out their knives. My body became an empty house, one to which I seldom returned. I lived in exile" (153).

"How do I write about this body reclaimed...How do I mark this place where my body is no longer an empty house...but not yet a house fully lived in?" (153).

The story he tells is the story of loss, but it is also a story of reclamation. I was pretty excited to learn from Eli @ the Disability Studies Conference this weekend that he is now doing work on "prairie restoration"--using an ecological lens to think about repairing the broken body (along these lines, see also Rita Lehrer's portrait of him....).

But because your writing task this weekend is re-making institutional structures to incorporate intersectional identities, I think we should focus our conversation today less on Eli's self-restoration than on his explanation of "the tension between the one who is shaking the world up and the one who simply wants an entrance into that world [which] shadows many marginalized, politicized communities today" (141).

This resembles the distinction between 1st and 2nd wave feminism:
getting women a place @ the table/in the structures of power (=establishing BMC),
and re-ordering the structures themselves (which might mean queering the space, cripping the time....)

* the analogy of "queering = cripping":
"... to resist the negative interpellations of being queer or crippled (not to mention queer and crippled), members of both groups have developed a wry critique of hegemonic norms. In queer communities, the application of this critique has been given its own verb: to queer. Queering describes the practices of putting a spin on mainstream representations to reveal latent queer subtexts; of appropriating a representation for one's own purposes, forcing it to signify differently; or of deconstructing a representation's heterosexism. Similarly, some disabled people practice "cripping." Cripping spins mainstream representations or practices to reveal able-bodied assumptions and exclusionary effects. Both queering and cripping expose the arbitrary delineation between normal and defective and the negative social ramifications of attempts to homogenize humanity, and both disarm what is painful with wicked humor, including camp."  Carrie Sandahl, "Queering The Crip Or Cripping The Queer?: Intersections of Queer and Crip Identities in Solo Autobiographical Performance." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 9.1-2 (2003) 25-56.

* queering/cripping both challenge the "hegemony of normalcy":
"the 'problem' is not the person with disabilities; the problem is the way that
normalcy is constructed to create the 'problem' of the disabled person" (p. 24).

"The concept of a norm, unlike that of an ideal, implies that the majority of the population must or should somehow be part of the norm. The norm pins down that majority of the population that falls under the arch of the standard bell-shaped curve....Any bell curve will always have at its extremities those characterisitcs that deviate from the norm. So, with the concept of the norm comes the concept of deviations or extremes.  When we think of bodies, in a society where the concept of the norm is operative, then people with disabilities will be thought of as deviants (p. 29)....One of the tasks for a developing consciousness of disability issues is the attempt ... to reverse the hegemony of the normal and to institute alternative ways of thinking about the abnormal" (p. 49).
--Lennard Davis, "Constructing Normalcy: The Bell Curve, the Novel, and the Invention of the Disabled Body in the Nineteenth Century."  Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness and the Body.

* What norms do you occupy?
Where do you see the norm? Look around the room: Who represents it?
(in gender, sexual orientation, race, class, religion, ability....?)

* How much does normalcy enter into the constructions of our disciplines and curricula?
in science: survival of the fittest
in social science: statistical norms
in humanities: normalized forms (genres?)

* Where do we invite deviance in our study?
Abnormal Psych
Sociology of Deviance...

* Where/how did you observe the normal in operation this week?
* Where/how might you imagine 'queering' or 'cripping' the norm?

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (1984):
"Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts know 'that is not me' .... It is with this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside .... Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we ourselves may be practising...."

IV. @ 3:15: take this conversation into discussions of your writing projects
go round and say what you want to do-->
then self-organize into small groups (based on overlapping interests?)
to help one another brainstorm the shape of your papers