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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Knowing the Body: Gender Politics Forum

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marriage, institutions, normativity, homophobia
Name: gus
Date: 2004-11-06 11:39:41
Link to this Comment: 11392

This week's readings address the subject of marriage, which has been a multi-faceted political issue in recent years, as well as in recent days (!) In particular, we'll be looking at the same-sex marriage issue, and seeing a variety of perspectives--including anti-gay marriage positions articulated by queer activists as well as conservatives. The former question the idea that marriage is a sound political cause, especially given that it entitles married people to certain material benefits denied to single people.

In post-election discourse, there seems to be general agreement that gay marriage played a big role in the campaign. As I was saying on Thursday, I'd like us to try to figure out the particulars of the normative anti-gay marriage position. It's fairly easy to identify virulent homophobic rhetoric, but what about the "moderate" position--actually the Democratic party line--that gay and lesbian individuals deserve tolerance, but that marriage is "between a man and a woman"? Since we're talking about "real" politics now, what kinds of arguments and strategies seem necessary to address this in some ways more complicated position? And if you're against marriage from a non-normative side (Kipnis, Warner, others in the Nation), is it worth devoting any energy to this issue, whether or not it determined the election results?

theorizing: on being troubled with normalizing
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-07 08:40:38
Link to this Comment: 11401

You know, as part of the range of concerns, ideas and perspectives represented in the new forum on the Place of the U.S. in the World Community, I find myself wanting to keep the abstract and theoretical strain going, in interaction with the personal: seems to me it's no luxury, but a way of thinking our way through and around this particular tangle.

Our readings for Tuesday include a forum from the July 05/04 Nation called "Can Marriage be Saved?" In that forum, Judy Butler asks, "Are you for or against gay marriage? Once one agrees to answer the question, one is already trapped. By answering, one loses the chance to ask, why has this become the question?...Gay marriage is not the same as alternative kinship, and it's only through extended kinship and broader community alliances that antiviolence efforts stand a chance of success....Rather than privatize those relations of care, why not extend our conception of kinship and community....?

I've been married for a long time. In 32 years, I have enjoyed all the privileges of marriage; I have experienced also a pretty full range of its limits. I speak from that (privileged/ limited) position when I say that I'm puzzled by the emphasis on gay marriage. I think I understand the resistence to it, as a drive to protect a place of (institutionalized) safety that is akin to the desire to protect our (national) borders from what is different; but I need some help in understanding the desire to institute it in the first place, the desire to normalize. Along w/ another author we'll be reading later this week, Michael Warner, I have some Trouble with Normal, and am troubled especially by the politics of normalization. What I'm reaching for here is a recognition of diverse sexualities which (as Warner says) "would give us no view of who "'we' are," would replace the desire to be represented with membership in a movement that insists on variance....

public vs private
Name: Mo Convery
Date: 2004-11-07 13:21:21
Link to this Comment: 11412

Marriage is an issue of private and personal ideals. What defines a marriage for one individual/couple is not what defines marriage for another. The diversity in marriage definition was strikingly shown in the Nation’s article. For some, marriage was merely a legal pact, while for others it was a relationship which forced kinship and parental rights, while for others it is a unifying relationship based on fidelity. No matter what the law outlines as a proper marriage, in the end people interpret and act in their marriage how they wish. Notice the presence of “open” marriages, non reproductive marriages, etc. Legal marriage forces a private pact to be public and most of all, the legal marriage outlines a set of rules for which the marriage should work within. This forces individuals to measure their ideals and definition of marriage against a standard. It forces the “private” into the “public” discourse. I wish to argue that it is the large discrepancy between the "private" and "public" is a fundamental problem when trying to form marriage laws.

Marriage and the Ideal Family
Name: grodrigu@b
Date: 2004-11-07 21:56:41
Link to this Comment: 11425

While reading the essays in The Nation, I found that many looked at the conflict that many Americans have with regards to gay marriage: they want equal rights for everyone, but they want the institution of marriage to remain intact. Ellen Willis say that many of these people "support gay civil rights yet feel emotionally attached to heterosexual marriage as one of the last remaining bastions of traditional family norms, which are fast slipping away" (16).

Growing up outside of the U.S., I often heard people around me express their confusion at the apparent contradiction of American culture: on the one hand what, to my largely conservative Mexican friends and relatives, seemed like an alarming immorality (sex, drugs, rock and roll, and what have you) reflected in the media, versus the desperate desire to have the (white, heterosexual, 2.5 kids and a dog) family as the center of society. We've all seen the minivan commercials. Or my personal favorite, those where the family leisurely eats breakfast together on a weekday morning.

It seems to me that the notion of family as romanticized by the media has become such an unattainable ideal, that many Americans are desperately looking for ways in which to salvage it, even though I highly doubt that most American families resemble the minivan commercials. Opposition to gay marriage appears to be a misguided attempt to hold on to the tattered shreds of this vision of what a family should be, while ignoring/blinding themselves to reality.

Marriage what what?
Date: 2004-11-08 11:33:32
Link to this Comment: 11440

Why bother?
Name: LB
Date: 2004-11-08 11:55:53
Link to this Comment: 11441

Well now I sure as hell don't want to get married. Why bother with the marital panopticon? Kipnis' piece is well-written and humorous but I lost some of her theory while laughing out loud. Here's what I have to say to those people feeling constrained by the work of marriage: DON'T GET MARRIED. There I said it. Call me conservative, I dare you. But if you don't want to be constrained by the hard work required for marriage, then don't enter into that legal contract. Some people are working their asses off for the right to get married, and we're supposed to have sympathy for those people who have the right yet sabatoge it? I don't think so. This is not my interpretation of Kipnis' claim--just my thoughts on the subject.

Now that I've gotten that out, Kipnis does present an interesting argument of why some gays may not support gay marriage. Given that so many spouses cheat on each other, gay marriage allows an entire new population of people to be cheated on with legal repercussions. Will 50% of gay marriages end in divorce as well?

Legislating Morality?
Name: Sara Ansel
Date: 2004-11-08 16:46:54
Link to this Comment: 11445

I have always grappled with this question. The question being not if one should legislate morality, but the fact that most people accept we should not, but do. A great historical example of this would be the prohibition: it didn't work because it was agreed that legislating what some people believed to be wrong was neither realistic nor productive. Yet isn't this what we are doing today? Isn't that what all laws are? A means of organizing a society around certain accepted beliefs - ground rules if you will.

So where does gay marriage fall into this? My immdiate thought is that it is wrong to prevent it legally. Our laws are designed to keep us safe, not ideologically homogenous. Yet, then I think further. If I was to challenge the prevention of an act such as legalising gay marriage, shouldn't I challenge the law against spousal agreement for an abortion, or how about parental agreement? These are all means of instilling morals on society. (I do challenge them.)

I believe that by allowing legally for gay marriage, we would be reshaping the idea behind laws. With both the House and the Senate populated by a majority of a single party, we are in danger of losing some checks and balances, and thus the ability to prevent one party's agenda from reshaping society. Yet, I can not help but look at myself and realize that by demanding our laws reflect my agenda I perhaps am asking our system to reflect my own agenda. Then again, my agenda is right. :-)

Response to The Nation
Name: Marissa Ch
Date: 2004-11-08 17:12:04
Link to this Comment: 11446

I too do not fully understand the push for gay "marraige" and not "the more radical solution of civil unions" (p.17). As a white heterosexual, the institution of marraige leaves me with a knot in my stomach, because you cannot deny nor forget the oppressive religious nature of it-no matter how much it may change on the surface.

I also can't imagine that gay marraige will help the institution by "restoring it to its original splendor" (p.20). Only because this explanation implies a selfish reasoning-"we'll accept it, only if it helps us in the long-run." Marraige will more likely hurt gay realtionships in the long-run. While present married gay couples fall under the "love that has lasted" category, this will quickly change over time. As soon as drive-thru wedding chapels offer gay marraiges, the institution of gay marriage will go down hill. Now, gay couples can enjoy the same feelings of emotional misery, stigmas of divorce/adultery, sexual frustration,and being trapped in a box that heterosexuals have been privelaged with for centuries. I'm sure divorce lawyers are salivating.

Name: Beth
Date: 2004-11-08 19:09:46
Link to this Comment: 11450

As we head into the topic of marriage, specifically the political issue of gay marriage, I can't help but returning to a conversation I had in the summer with a friend of mine who could be placed into the category of individuals to whom Gus was referring. He was trying to explain to me that he wasn't against gay couples or any sort of equivalent of marriage, say something such as civil unions. What bothered him was the use of the exact term marriage, which to him has always been defined as something between a man and a woman. As someone who went to Catholic school for many years, marriage was defined as a sacrament of the Church, which has expressed in its doctrine an opposition to homosexuality (ironic when one thinks about how historically some men have chosen the priesthood). However, my friend is not particularly religious. In fact, I might say that I don't consider him religious at all. His argument stems more from the fact that he doesn't understand why gays and lesbians would want to claim the word marriage as their own if there are other ways to achieve the legal rights. It seems to have come down to an issue of normality, and I don't understand why individuals can't embrace their differences. Why are we as members of society constantly striving towards the majority and the socially constructed norms that don't have to exist?

Name: Beth
Date: 2004-11-08 19:15:11
Link to this Comment: 11451

I just wanted to clarify something that might be misinterpreted in my post. My friend wasn't opposed to the act of gay marriage itself. At least how I interpreted what he said was that he did not believe in legally denying homosexuals a ritual of marriage but was against the use of the exact word "marriage." He was not saying that civil unions had to be the answer. It was more that the use of "marriage," a word steeped in religious traditions seemed inappropriate. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure he even approves of marriage itself these days considering the divorce rate...

Why the push for gay marriage? A reason
Name: Deborah
Date: 2004-11-08 19:24:43
Link to this Comment: 11452

As I've been recovering from the election's disasterous results I have been in many internal debates and interpersonal debates discussing the relevency of gay marraige as a social and political agenda, and making/hearing predictions as to the current administration's policies on gay marriage. On the one hand, I can see the reasoning behind many people, including liberals and/or gays, valuing gay marriage as a lobbyist or isolated interest, in comparison with the failing economy, the deficit, job loss, LIFE loss in Iraq and Afganistan and soon Iran, etc, political events going on. I can hear what people are saying about the non-sanctity of hetero marriage as it currently stands, so why should gay's want it too? Well, let me tell you why: Because it is a basic social and legal human right that all Americans should have. I don't give a crap why anyone would want to get married, only that they should have the right to if they want. Who are we to say that gay marriage would eventually hurt gay relationships? We don't have the right to dictate the choices of others. THat is what I fundamentally believe. We shouldn't have the right to dictate what gender a hermaphroditic child should have, we dont have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body, and we shouldn't think that we have any ground with which to limit gay people's rights, period. I honest to god to not understand what it is about freedom of choice that is so scary to conservatives. How is offering the choice to gays to get married, OR NOT, so hidious and insidious? Just because you're hetero does not mean that you want, will, or like getting married. Granting gay marriage means exactly the same about queer people. Hey, I'm gay...but I might get married. To a man. That doesn't change that I'm gay in the that's one crack in the system...bisexual marriage. Why do I care about marriage? Well personally, I'd like to start my own a wedding planner. I love weddings. I think that they are a delightful, family and/or friend oriented celebration of love and commitment, and I've always liked a good party. So, that is why I value gay marriage, because no matter who I end up with or what gender, I should be granted the same rights as anyone else ESPECIALLY in the field of my career interest. It IS a big deal to gay people, and I think belittling it as extreme or an unwise wish is belittling and condescending to the queer community. If it really weren't a big deal, we wouldn't have the current president.

That being said...
Name: Deborah
Date: 2004-11-08 19:31:57
Link to this Comment: 11453

I agree with Beth and with Judith Stacey in their comments about civil unions...I honestly think a solution legally and governmentally would be to call every marriage and partnership a civil union, and people who want their civil union to be a religious marriage, should go to their church and have a religious ceremony. I thought it was illegal to discriminate based on religion... so why can we legislate gay marriage bans (or banns, ha) on the basis of religion? If we ACTUALLY seperate church and state, then marriage would not be recognized by the state, only civil unions. I wonder what heterosexual people would feel like to see this "right" taken away from them to be married in the eyes of the law. That might allow them for one brief moment to begin to imagine the pain that gay people are going through right now, knowing that 54% of America cared more about denying them this right by supporting the current president then embracing diversity or human care.

As Creative As It Gets?
Name: Rebecca Ma
Date: 2004-11-08 19:36:43
Link to this Comment: 11454

I agree with Kipnis’s argument that gay marriage will only worsen the unfair divide in allotment of institutional resources between couples and singles. It would be more useful to conceptualize the benefits of marriage, such as right of attorney, healthcare, hospital visitation and etc. as benefits that should be righteously available to everyone, regardless of marital status. For example, the government should give support to parents, apart from of the marital status of the people doing the parenting. Judy Butler contends that gay marriage is outside of the traditional establishment’s method of maintaining kinship ties. Yet her point fails to convince me since gay marriage is far from creative in that gay couples want exactly what straight couples want. Whether it’s a bridal gown, a religious ritual, or legal rights, gay marriage still mimics normative marriage as we understand it—a state sanctioned relationship. Gay marriage, what initially appears as a progressive idea is actually reactionary. It would be very unfortunate if well-intentioned gay couples who are in love actually manage to save the sketchy, crumbing institution of heterosexual marriage. There must be more creative ways to express our sexuality, including homosexuality than marriage, an institution itself that should be seriously questioned and challenged. Furthermore, by monopolizing the gay community’s political front, gay marriage hinders urgent and more violent issues in queer affairs, namely gay bashing and the astoundingly high suicidal rate in gay and lesbian teens.

American Dream or Nightmare, I still want it!
Name: Jana
Date: 2004-11-08 23:26:10
Link to this Comment: 11460

"Unfortunately, what 'for the sake of the children' means, in practice, is habituating children to contexts of chronic unhappiness and dissatisfaction; to unmet needs as status quo; to bitching mothers, remote fathers, and other gendered forms of quotidian misery." - Laura Kipnis

I disagree with Laura Kipnis's point here. I think she takes it too far. I believe in marriage because I believe in relationships, and I believe in investing in another person who you get to know for a long time for many years, and that that time and that WORK, yes WORK, is something valuable to all people involved in that relationship (including children). I haven't been married, but I have the desire to "cheat" on Bryn Mawr many times, but I think that my degree and time spent here will be worth it in the long term. Marriage seems to also be for long term rewards, not short term ones.

In response to the desire for the norm. People want to be recognized by society. We keep talking about how bad society is, but that doesn't stop me or anyone else from wanting a wedding and a family with a house and a little dog. Even if society doesn’t recognize you as “the norm”, that doesn’t stop you from wanting it. It is amazing though, how it can work that way. No one really is "the norm", yet somehow we are all determined to obtain normalcy. The media is part of this, but it seems like there is something in our brains that ignores what is real, and only wants to strive for something we know is unattainable, and would be really boring if actually attained

My two cents
Name: Ed Sikov
Date: 2004-11-09 13:36:09
Link to this Comment: 11466

Rebecca Mao told me I could crash this conversation; blame her.

Just a personal note: My partner and I have been together for almost six years and have lived together for three. We're now being asked, "Why don't you get married?"

Before all of this, we were firmly and happily outside the mainstream, and everyone we knew appreciated that fact. Now we have to justify why we aren't trying to be in it.

We became domestic partners under NYC law. Why? Solely so I could get on his health insurance.

Still, I'd love a set of Georg Jensen silver and a new espresso maker, so if you want to give us presents I might consider a quickie trip to Toronto....

--Ed Sikov
Visiting Associate Professor of General Programs, HC

Name: Gilda
Date: 2004-11-09 17:01:42
Link to this Comment: 11471

Just wanted to share with y'all what writer Sarah Bunting had to say on the subject today:

I really do not have the first idea why anyone would give a tinker's damn what gay couples do -- or what anyone else does, really -- if it's not infringing on anyone else's happiness. The idea that allowing same-sex couples the right to the legal protections offered by marriage somehow devalues the institution is utterly incomprehensible to me. If anything, it pulls marriage farther away from its medieval roots as a business arrangement and makes it more valuable and more of a strictly spiritual alliance. And if you want to string someone up for devaluing the institution, maybe you ought to start with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Billy Bob Thornton. I mean, for fuck's sake.

I think it comes from a place of ignorance. It has to; I can't find any other explanation for that kind of bigotry. It's not an excuse, but I guess it's the reason. I don't know anyone personally who is against gay marriage, so I really couldn't tell you what goes through the minds of its opponents or why they don't have anything better to do with their time than fighting for the codification of discrimination.

I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar, so you should take this with a fistful of salt, but from what I've heard, the gay-marriage ban has no chance. Once the ACLU elbows its way into the fray and starts filing lawsuits charging that these bans violate equal protection, which they do, the court system is going to have to rule that the bans are unconstitutional -- thereby codifying it in the other direction, as legal. Maybe I've just chosen to believe this because it sounds good and fair and I want it to turn out that way, so if anyone wants to correct me, please do. By which I mean "man, I hope you don't, because guh."

But until we start seeing challenges in the courts, keep your eyes and ears open. Read the news; see where the legislators are as far as putting anything in motion, and right to your local, state, and federal reps telling them that acting on the ban is unacceptable to you.

long post, nominally sorry
Name: Jessie
Date: 2004-11-10 00:44:39
Link to this Comment: 11481

I really don't understand the argument presented in class against gay marriage -- that marriage is a flawed institution so why should we extend it to even more people. Simply because the system is not perfect doesn't justify criminalizing same-sex couples who enter it. Yes, I agree that marriage has a pretty sketchy history and is definitely not a perfect system currently. But I cannot endorse an argument that concludes in justifying discrimination.

I agree wholeheartedly with Nancy's argument that, like voting, marriage is a right everyone should have regardless of the institution's perfection. Rebecca countered that gay marriage is different from voting and can't be rationalized as a system that everyone should be able to enter into: you can’t have a democracy without voting but you can have people loving each other in a society without marriage.

I can’t think of a society where this is the case – a culture that’s organized around something that doesn’t include families or kinship ties of any sort. Families are the bedrock of society, whether they’re polygamous, monogamous, or anything else you can think of. Moreover, our own society is so steeped in the notion of family it would be completely unrealistic to try to radically erase the idea from every corner of our culture. Right down to casual conversation ("Hello, Mr. Smith, how's the wife and kids?") and office decor proudly displaying family photographs, our society is structured around, currently, monogamous heterosexual family -- rather than challenge the notion of family altogether, it would be much more effective to expand the definition of family to include everyone. Call me conservative, but I really think it’s a good think to give legal status to people in order that they can continue their families – and I think that this organization is central to society.

But here’s my other point. Even if you believe that the marital institution is flawed and therefore we should stop it entirely, why don’t you go after the heterosexual couple’s marriage licenses rather than attack a specific class of people? And, because I asked, here’s my answer: because there’s something okay about attacking gays in our society. Because there’s a gap between who IS gay and who can TALK about being gay (yeah, I’ve brought this up before and it’s also sort of Foucauldian). Because of the framework that’s been set-up by right-wing religious extremists that claims that sanctity of marriage is somehow directly about gays. Trying to get at marriage through gays is the thought pattern that’s victimizing gays and ultimately making marriage a more oppressive institution.

Also. Towards the end of class, a few people were talking about marriage in terms of what sort of relationship status would be best for children. Like, the reason to have marriage is to protect children, so let’s see if we can protect kids regardless of the marital relationship of their parents – I think that’s how the arguments basically ran. So, I wanted to point out that marriage is not just to benefit children – the more salient point is that marriage is an institution that helps the people who enter into the union. And it helps them out with something like 1,049 federal rights in all. Most of these rights don’t have anything to do with helping any potential or existing children: the rights are directly to help two people live together as a unit in themselves. For example, you can’t be forced to testify against your spouse in court. You also have the right to live in the same nursing home together. All of these are legal recognition of their very right to form a home together – there’s no way to argue that we should focus on extending these rights to everyone without arguing that we should give everyone the right to be legally recognized in a spousal relationship.

And too… I disagree with the statement that “marriage is not a revolutionary act.” It’s offensive to assume that gay people simply seek to imitate heterosexual people. Just because gay people use the same institution as straight people does not mean that we use it in the same way. For example, I probably would look a lot different in a tux than, say, your average groom. This ties to what Butler was saying: taking on a socially demanded identity does not mean that you perform it in the same way you’re asked to.

Another reason why gay marriage is “revolutionary.” Giving legal recognition to gay couples will bring enormous changes for gays and social structure. Just look at the way the ANTI-gay marriage laws are being used: already high school health textbooks are being re-written to say “husbands and wives” rather than “married couples.” Right now, businesses are discontinuing health insurance coverage to their employees’ same-sex partners. Gays are being systemicallly excluded from social life, and anti-gay marriage laws are obvious manifestations of it and tools used to do it.

And even if gays WERE just imitating hets, or if gay marriage wouldn’t ultimately change gays’ social status – that still isn’t an argument against gay marriage. It may critique the usefulness/necessity of the institution, but it in no way justifies the singling out of a specific group of people and denying them civil rights.

Very emotional issue
Name: Sierra
Date: 2004-11-10 10:03:46
Link to this Comment: 11483

I would like to say that I think that Jessie's posting expresses her arguments beautifully and I would have to agree with what she says.

Presenting marriage as a flawed institution doesn't cut it for me. I agree that marriage as an institution sucks. But just because it doesn't work for me, or even some heterosexual couples, it doesn't mean that it doesn't work for some people.

It also offers some great benefits. Despite a public declaration of love, non-US citizens are able to apply for permanent citizenship immediately when they marry, spouses get visiting rights in hospitals, and adoption would probably be facilitated, among other things. So, even though I don't like marriage, it does offer me some great benefits and it is not right to exclude a certain population from those benefits.

If the argument is that conservatives want to preserve the integrity of the institution of marriage, my only suggestion is that they take a look at some of the very corrupt straight marriages that exist right now.

I appreciate Professor Sikov's posting. It is true that if Gay marriage were legalized it would put a certain pressure on gay couples to marry. But, if a gay couple still wants to live "firmly and happily outside the mainstream" they can still do that by not getting married. A gay couple should not, though, be forced to live outside the mainstream if they do not wish to.

Perhaps it's clear that this is a very emotional issue to me. And, that was actually going to be the point of my posting and I got sidetracked. This is a very emotional issue for many of us and it is difficult to remove the emotion and personal ness (did I make up that word?) from discussion and make it purely theoretical. So, I would like to ask that we all be courteous of each other and recognize that this issue packs a lot of emotion when it comes to class. Let's all make our points clearly and allow others to finish speaking and make their points before we begin talking, I think that they may help people not feel personally attacked or so defensive about the issue.

something borrowed, something blue
Name: Nancy
Date: 2004-11-10 13:30:40
Link to this Comment: 11490

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition


Syllabication: Nor-mal

A town of central Illinois north-northeast of Bloomington. It is the seat of Illinois State University (founded 1857). Population: 40,023.

As Anne said in her posting there is smething peculiar in the "politics of normalization". I want to tie this allll the way back to Carolyn Dinshaw... the idea of queerness emerging as a response to normality, specifically homonormality in this case. Some gays do want a white picket fence and all the other bleached-out cliches that help keep the institution of marrige afloat, and what exactly, is wrong with that? Not too much, I suppose. We have beaten the dead horse of the civil rights implications, but on a social movement level, if gays move more toward the center, there will always be some more radical movement to the left of left of center.

This is the reason, I think, why 'queer' gets to be so all inclusive. It's saying gay isn't enough to be celebratorily out of the mainstream. Give me your polygamous, your adulterous, your deviant masses yearning to breathe free... Basically, those who want to chase after the idea of normality will, whether the government condones it or not, and those who don't will simply become queerer, I guess.

RE: Jessie's post, and something Chelsea mentioned at the end of class yesterday, we have never been okay to be a country of separate but equal.

Also frustrating-- Clinton advised Kerry to come out in support of the amendments banning gay marriage before the election. He didn't, obviously, but thanks for nothing, Bill.

my "cookie jar" story
Name: nancy
Date: 2004-11-11 01:07:36
Link to this Comment: 11502

I have often heard homosexuality described as a "vice" and (until Sullivan prompted me to look up the actual meaning) I thought, from contextual clues alone, that vice meant guilty pleasure (as opposed to a serious moral failure).

revising our national story
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-11 13:16:55
Link to this Comment: 11515

I'll be asking in class today if we can generate, together, a story big enough to include all we've said above (plus what the authors we've been reading are saying) into a story without an outside.

As stepping stone (inspiration?) I thought you'd be intrigued by these representations/revisions of the post-election story we are writing about ourselves: see and

Contact Hypothesis
Name: nancy
Date: 2004-11-11 22:42:13
Link to this Comment: 11527

The conversation we had today about "wife swap, gay style" and relocation programs to the Midwest may have been mostly joking, but it reminded me of a paper I wrote for a class last semester. The class was the political psychology of group identification, and the paper I wrote was a critique of HD Forbes' 'contact hypothesis'. The hypothesis speaks to the collective power of groups, how the sheer number of individuals in a group makes it easier for individual members of the group to justify actions that may be discriminatory or beliefs that may be stereotypical. According to Forbes, even though people in the group may have a different take on the issues, they are more likely to agree with the group because they value their group membership more than their opinion.

He also addresses the fact that, cognitively, it is much easier for the human brain to think in terms of stereotypes. One negative encounter with a member of another group may cause our brains to associate negative emotions with that group in order to save cognitive time. Like, if I met a tiger on merion green, I am not likely to list in my head the reasons why this particular tiger is a threat to me. I know that tigers are essentially threatening, so I can run away before I get eaten.

So what is the point of all this besides to say that people hold stereotypes and like it that way? Well, Forbes (althought he was not the first) found that one on one interactions between opposing group members had the remarkable effect of changing one's mnd about the other group. He then cited all sorts of important sounding evidence.

I took a really critical position to this, very similar to what Arielle expressed in class today. I thought that it was unlikely that any changes caused by the contact hypothesis woule be wide-spread enough to make a difference. I think I may have even called the hypothesis an erudite description of the process of making friends.

I would be a little more lenient now, maybe only out of optimism. Just interesting that the issue came up in class and that their is scholarly research done on it.

Adoption Laws
Name: Jana
Date: 2004-11-12 12:12:04
Link to this Comment: 11532

I got this info from

The vast majority of states no longer deny custody or visitation to a person based on sexual orientation. State agencies and courts now apply a "best interest of the child" standard to decide these cases. Under this approach, a person's sexual orientation cannot be the basis for ending or limiting parent-child relationships unless it is demonstrated that it causes harm to a child. Using this standard, more than 22 states to date have allowed lesbians and gay men to adopt children either through state-run or private adoption agencies.

Florida's 1977 law is the only law in the nation that bans gays and lesbians from adopting children

Currently, six states around the country (Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah) are considering or have recently considered bans on gay and lesbian foster care and/or adoption.

More than two more cents
Name: Ed Sikov
Date: 2004-11-13 12:25:41
Link to this Comment: 11540

Here's one way our inability to legally marry costs gay men and lesbians real dollars:

As I mentioned earlier, my partner Bruce and I registered as domestic partners in NYC solely to get me on his health insurance plan. (He works at Cornell med school.) However, because the IRS does not recognize our relationship, Bruce has to pay income tax on that benefit. Husbands and wives don't pay that tax. For them, spousal health insurance is considered a right, not a privelege.

It's yet another aspect of what we call "the gay tax" - meaning the price we pay for being gay. It goes right along with my original use of the term "gay tax": the fact that whenever we go to a restaurant that's owned, operated, and frequented mostly by gay men, we're sure to get lousy food.

Ed Sikov, HC '78

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-13 13:21:18
Link to this Comment: 11541

We're making a move, this week, from the politics (and tax benefits) of marriage to the politics of war...w/ a particular inquiry into the role that sex and gender may play in the activity of war-making (a move already anticipated on the post-election forum.)

Read, please, the third chapter of Virginia Woolf's 1938 Three Guineas, as well as as many of the current attempts to talk about gender and war-making as you can manage (selections include two short essays by Paul, "I Believe ..." and War Is a Bad Metaphor; a web site under construction by Gus, a faculty conversation w/ Cynthia Enloe, and a talk by me). Then post here, before Tuesday's class, what it is you are thinking now...

about the politics of belief and category-making, of gender and war.

Second Parent Adoptions
Name: Ann Dixon,
Date: 2004-11-13 13:54:10
Link to this Comment: 11542

Only seven states and the District of Columbia currently guarantee that a second person (of a same sex couple) can have legal recognition as a parent (see HRC's report).

Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-11-13 13:59:54
Link to this Comment: 11543

I want to add my voice to this conversation, but I confess that I don't know how. I feel so strongly that we all deserve the same rights and choices, that I get overwhelmed to the point of silence when it comes to discussing why or if or how exactly that should come about. I think of things to say in class, and I sometimes think of things to write in here, but when I actually get down to it- especially when I read the very well-articulated pieces my classmates have written, I feel this sense of what can possibly be the point? The arguments are being made, and they are being made well- but no one is listening. Maybe this is a little bit of a delayed onslaught of depression from the election, but wow, sometimes it just seems so hopeless to talk to each other when we are so categorically refused a voice by our administration. I hope I will come back and write more later, but for now I'm not sure I can on this subject.

interracial marriage
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-11-14 15:09:22
Link to this Comment: 11554

These are just some personal comments- particularly the latter half- that I didn't bring up in class but that I was thinking about since the issue is dear to my heart.
During both class periods this last week interracial marriage was brought up as part of the discussion surrounding gay marriage. I think the idea was that just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a common practice. In other words, if gay marriage were to be made legal, it doesn’t mean that every homosexual couple would be rushing the isles. I personally don’t care if no one or everyone were to be married but I wanted to throw out the realities that even with legality and the degree of acceptability that suggest, there are still many other factors to take into account. I mean let’s face it, just because Uncle Sam says it’s okay doesn’t mean the rest of the family does. It’s one thing to introduce mom and dad to your swell roommate of several years, quite another to introduce them to your fiancé who, just like you, happens to have a penis/vagina. This is just one of the MANY countless things that would factor into a marriage decision even if it were legal. What triggered this thought was, as I previously mentioned, the discussion around interracial marriage and the fact that while it is legal, only 2% of married couples are interracial while we suppose that the percentage for interracial couples who date is probably higher. I wanted to talk about that a little bit but didn’t think it was necessarily relevant to our discussion and didn’t want to get off topic. However, now I will. As the product of an interracial marriage I had a comment or two. First of all, marriage is difficult enough as it is. Divorce rates are climbing, what is it now, one third? half? of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce? And those are numbers that are primarily comprised of heterosexual monoracial (word?) couples. Now, if it’s hard even without much diversity and the larger society approving of one’s union, imagine the difficulties one faces as an interracial couple. Several people brought up the outside social and familial pressures, parents wanting their children to marry or NOT marry certain races, or outside of the race depending on their particular angle and ideology. And yes, that’s huge! Having one’s parents immediately reject your significant other because of a physical feature, never being able to look past it, is difficult and detrimental for a couple to deal with. In addition to that though, are other issues, and by that I mean culture and background. Reconciling two different cultures within one household, within one child is a challenge. I mean hell, every little thing within the household is going to be infused with two completely different cultures; language- Spanish and English/ food- spicy and bland/ religion- Catholic and Jewish/ ideology (household chores) - feminist and machismo/ hometown- ghetto and suburbs/ the list goes on and on with every kind of combination possible. And the thing is while that’s the case with any two people, it’s just that much more amplified coming from two different cultures, worlds, peoples, and ideas. It’s not just two different people with different preferences, it’s two different people from two histories of traditions that are nations apart, colors apart, histories apart with two different ways of seeing and existing within the world. And as for the children, imagine trying to fit all those innumerable difference inside of one body, one brain, one person trying to figure out this world. It does not surprise me there are not more interracial couples because believe me, it’s difficult as all fuck.

latest thinking
Name: gus
Date: 2004-11-14 16:02:16
Link to this Comment: 11555

I'm sorry I missed the discussion on Thursday. I've been thinking a lot since the heated conversation on Tuesday, talking with friends about it, etc. And this is all a still ongoing process, for me, of figuring out how to feel and think after the election. Here's how I'd put my "story" in relation to the one that seems to have been generated in response to Anne's posting.

The drive against same-sex marriage must be resisted, because it is a politics of exclusion and scapegoating. Sierra's posting encapsulates this position powerfully. And in fact, I'm not as confident as Gilda that the amendment won't happen--especially with the Supreme Court liable to right-wing frontloading.

That said, let's do be aware of the limits of this issue. In the U. S., the right to vote is considered a civil right. Marriage ought to be. But so (some, including me, would say) should universal health care. And celebrating marriage does, I think, retard progress on this issue. Because our nation uses marriage as a mode of access to health care, rather than providing it to each individual.

America generally has a kryptonite reaction when it tries to think about anything involving material resources as a basic right. Most Americans consider rights to mean your right to choose to do certain things-- but this way of viewing rights erases the fact that because of economics, not everyone has the same range of choices. The Republicans always say they want people to have the right to choose their own health care. Thus they make a quasi-civil rights issue out of a system in which many people can't afford to participate in the choice making. That's why I'm less inclined than some people to see the politics of same-sex marriage as revolutionary. In fact, my flipside fear of the Constitutional amendment is that we'll just end up making the world safe for a bigger population of gays and lesbians in some slightly more moderate Republican party (or centrist Democratic) of the future.

Women at war
Name: Gilda
Date: 2004-11-15 00:12:27
Link to this Comment: 11564

In her summary of Cynthia Enloe's talk, Anne says that "[c]onventional distinctions between public and private are altered when the wives of military men are understood as political actors, or when sex workers who live around military bases are seen as contributing to the military effort." This made me think about the traditional ways in which women are involved in war-making (e.g., replacing men in jobs while they're away fighting, or in the ways that Enloe mentions) vs. the less common, less talked-about direct involvement in war. I'm not refering so much to the present, where women do in fact fight wars (although their limitations when doing so is a whole 'nother issue), as to the way it's been historically.

Soldaderas were women who, during the Mexican Revolution, followed "their" men to battle--presumably in order not to be separated from them and to be able to cook and clean for them. However, they ended up fighting in the war themselves, and becoming generals and colonels (the highest ranks in the Mexican military at the time) in both the official army and the various insurgent armies. While official history recognizes their role as actual soldiers in the Revolution, none of the major figures (Zapata, Villa, etc.) of that war is a woman.

In one of my other classes we were looking at pictures of soldaderas and male soldiers, and what struck me as really interesting in terms of gender politics is that while the soldaderas dressed as men to perform their identity as soldiers, they always wore male peasants' clothing, but the men (some of them lower in rank than the women) mostly wore uniforms or tailored civilian suits. By allowing the women to dress like men and be official members of their armies, the men were recognizing their importance from the movement. But by barring them from fancier male clothes (and consequently, the prestige that comes with them), these men seemed to say that the soldaderas' contribution to the war and war-making would never be on par with men's.

Name: Gilda
Date: 2004-11-15 00:15:52
Link to this Comment: 11565

Just to clarify--it wasn't I who was confident that the marriage ban would never pass. I was quoting Sarah Bunting, but I messed up my HTML, so it doesn't look like a quote.

"Sanctity" of Marriage?
Name: David
Date: 2004-11-15 04:14:20
Link to this Comment: 11569

When we left class last we were still wrestling with the idea of why their exists a conservative resistance to gay marriage. I still cannot figure out the basis of this resistance, the real foundation of the fear of same sex marriage. I still haven't pinned anything down but have made a few observations that have struck me as significant concerning the group of individuals who would condemn same sex marriages. One thing that has struck me is the extreme popularity of television shows that obviously and baltantly devalue marriage like, "The Bachelor," "Who wants to marry my dad?," "Who wants to marry a millionaire?," blah blah etc. etc. These shows definitely appeal to the demographic that would claim to be protecting the "Sanctity" of marriage by preventing same-sex marriage. I know that this class tries to maintain an objective and all-inclusive rhetoric while dealing whith radical opinions but can I just put that aside for a minute and be disgusted by the hypocrisy of mainstream America. As I realized this, I am simply appalled...I can't even try to make sense of it because all I can remove from this observation is that most Americans are idiots and cowards.

On a less angry note, I think that all couples of any gender configuaration should be able to crontractually enter into however many or however few or the rights offered to them by marriage status. Many couples are happy outside of the mainstream but if they would chose to apply for certain tax breaks, etc. then they should be able to them whether they are married or not. As long as two individuals in a realtionship maintain a single houseold they should be afforded the same rights as a married couple.

a change of topic
Name: Rebecca Ma
Date: 2004-11-15 09:01:15
Link to this Comment: 11570

I reallly like our the conversation about gay marriage, and it would be awesome if we could continue it, but I have a bit to say about women/ war readings for this week. Virginia Woolfe contends that it would be useful to feminism if the state paid housewives for their domistic labor. Many contemporary feminist theorists voice the same belief by arguing that if housewives' labor counted in the calculation of economics, then women would recieve the recognition that they deserve. Despite these arguement, I am torn about the idea that paying housewives can change women's oppression within the market because it does not alter the division of labor. Using this concept, many women are still be responsible for domistic labor and men remain outside of the home. It would be more usefule to change the system. For example, if work hours for people raising children decrease then in a couple, partners could share the household chores equally.

the most frightening words in the English language
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-11-15 15:32:38
Link to this Comment: 11578

“Our search will yield that which I strongly believe.” There seems to me to be a parallel between this quote from our oh-so-adored president and the attitude Woolf is harkening to in the last chapter of Three Guineas: “…that we should join a society, devoted to certain measures whose aim is to preserve peace…” (85) Isn’t that what Bush was doing when he asked people to vote for him? Wasn’t that what both candidates were doing? It was really only the measures they proposed which differed. A war for peace. Mr. Bush: Before you ask us to support you in a continued war for peace, “Ought you not…consider why [you] have failed?” (87). Except that you don’t see failure. How can you not see failure? How can you, as the author of the letter to which Woolf is responding, assume a commonality of thought amongst the nation you have so bitterly divided? Blindness comes in many forms, and willful blindness is the worst kind.

Free flow thinking on gay marriage
Name: Claire
Date: 2004-11-15 16:23:57
Link to this Comment: 11579

Note: This is a very random post. Bear with me...

Since I have not yet had time to do the readings for tomorrow I thought I might take this time to post about my thoughts from last week's discussion. Marriage, as an institution, has always been defined as the union between a man and a woman. In previous centuries its function was based in procreation and continuing of the genealogical line. Even when one, or both, of the parties involved in the union of marriage were gay, the marriage was still endorsed and consummated for the sake of the genealogy. How many gay royalty have we heard of? Yet, they married to keep the royal line going. In Jane Austen's time marriages were made purely for economic reasons, for the benefit of the respective families. And, in the peasant class, marriages also provided economic benefit. The idea of marriage as an economic choice carries into today. As educated Bryn Mawr and Haverford students I doubt any of us are going to have to worry about making ends meet because our education will make us get far. And yet, a marriage union could help ease any economic strife by creating joint assets, as well as the other benefits of marriage. Why, then, in this day and age, is marriage limited to only heterosexual relationships? The basis of marriage is no longer to procreate, nor to make familial ties between families, so why must it remain heterosexual?

We discussed a bit in class the idea of homosexual marriage as frightening because it acknowledges the idea of homosexual sex. And, as we all know, homosexual sex is BAD (sarcasm!!!). I originally argued that gay marriage should have the opposite effect, because it would tame the homosexual raging libido and decrease the evils that homosexual sex brings into the world. But, for some reason, homosexuality is still demonized. I think part of this still lies within the idea that homosexuality goes against the natural order of procreation. Truthfully, I really have a hard time reconciling these issues because I am unable to understand the justifications behind the anti-gay marriage arguments.

Hmm... so I think I might have jumped around here enough. The last point I would like to bring up (and probably leave hanging) is what we briefly discussed in class: the idea that if we lived with someone of a different viewpoint for a period of time we might be able to change their mind about gay marriage. Yet, why is it that we think we can change their mind without them changing our mind? I spend 2 hours once arguing with a Jehovah’s Witness about this and many other points. In the end I left with the feeling of futility and felt that nothing had been accomplished in our discussion, on either side. We were both too close minded and set in our ideas to listen to one another. How, then, are we going to be able to have constructive conversations on this point if both sides are so steadfast in their ideas?

After doing the readings...
Name: Claire
Date: 2004-11-15 17:38:36
Link to this Comment: 11582

Little did I know that in making my last point of my previous post (about the feeling of futility when talking with people of opposing opinions) I was going to be addressing a topic so pertinent to the readings. After doing these readings I am still at a loss for how we can "hear each other's stories so that we can better tell and retell our own and, in doing, contribute our own pieces to the continually evolving human story" if there are people out there (such as our current president, fundamental religious groups, and even us) who are steadfast in their opinions. I agree that there is a line between remaining steadfast in your own opinion and enforcing that opinion on others, but I still don't know how we can reconcile the two. I am pro-choice and believe that a woman has the right to the control over her own body. I am for gay marriage and believe that there should be no difference between the union of a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple under the law. However, those are just my opinions. Just like George Bush is of the opinion that he "believs in the sanctity of marriage." Where and when does opinion become law?

Knowing Ourselves
Name: Mo Convery
Date: 2004-11-15 18:55:17
Link to this Comment: 11583

Both Paul Grobstein and Virginia Woolf present one key question; in war, who is fighting? In his article “War is a Bad Metaphor”, Grobstein identifies problems in identifying the enemy. In the case of the “war on terror”, there is no clearly defined enemy. How can a war effort be successfully launched and completed if there is no concept to who we are actually invading? Woolf takes this criticism of the ambiguous nature of war to another level when she examines how a country identifies the “invader” (the people doing the fighting). Within the culture of the group which is invading there is an ambiguity and inconsistency in values and roles. All people are held to a standard, in Woolf’s case this was sons of the educated men. While, Woolf did write for a period audience, I truly believe this same criticism of the “invading” culture is pertinent in the “war on terror”. It was made poignantly clear through the 2004 election that the US is a divided nation. The politics of today plays on the categories that define us such as gender, sexuality, ideology, economics, education level, and regional placement. Like the problem that not knowing the role of the enemy plays, how can we fight a battle when the values of the war only reflect a portion of the population of the US? We do not know our enemy or really ourselves.

War, Woolf, and Modern Times
Name: Mar
Date: 2004-11-15 23:41:58
Link to this Comment: 11594


War, for only being three letters long, is a big word. It means death, fighting, blood, enemies, allies, and a score of other words and thoughts, most even less pleasant.

I admit to being torn over Woolf's discussion of war. My family, traditionally, has been a military family. I know relatives who have fought in every war the United States has waged since their immigration. That is not to say that I believe war is good. Far from it, they taught me that war is a terrible thing, something to be evaded - but not at all costs. If people are to risk their lives for you, my cousins, my grandfather, my uncles, told me, respect them. They are offering themselves as a sacrifice rather than you, your future, and the future of our nation. **And sometimes - sometimes - war is a necessary evil**. I have heard stories from survivors of the atrocities committed in Vietnam, in the Pacific in WWII, and, most recently, of the lives of the soldiers holding Iraq. These brave men have all declared their sacrifices and their losses worth it for fighting in these wars.

Those thoughts on war aside, and Woolf's criticisms of rank and file military set on the back burner, I enjoyed her discussion of pacifism and work against war. It is true that often the 'Outsiders' can do a great deal of good without the hierarchy and treasuries found in organized societies. This still continues today, even if 'Three Guineas' can easily be classified as a period piece. Not every war is just and not everyone is helpless against that. Woolf proves that point time and time again - even if a person is cast aside by society, subordinated, or unjustly put down, he or she can still influence what happens in his or her world.

Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-11-16 00:11:45
Link to this Comment: 11595

so this isn't really about war, it's me on a tangent...which is my problem with posts, i just start rambling about some idle thought...i guess it's nice though because there's no professor to pull me back on topic and how often do we just get to kind of bumblefuck along to our peers without having to see the "what the hell is she talking about?" looks...
I’ve just started reading chapter three and one thing that has thus far jumped out at me is the idea of prostituting the mind or “to sell your mind without love” (p169). It’s a concept we’re very familiar with but we use terms like “sell out” which I don’t think speak on the same level of intensity. As I read through this, my initial response was a fit of self righteousness “I will never sell out because I believe in myself and my ideals and oh those poor people who would even consider it.” Then I stopped lying to myself and began to think of all the times I sell out…sell my mind without love. It happens all the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t hate it, or fight it, or know it’s happening, but fuck, I do it. Every time I have a professor who just wants regurgitation it drives me crazy. I HAVE A MIND! IDEAS! LET ME SAY SOMETHING REAL! But I know that me saying “something real” isn’t going to get me a good grade. They don’t want to hear it, they want to know that I’m getting some basic points they think are important, not some idea, some tangent that I want to explore, what I think is important doesn’t matter. And what do I do? I regurgitate, hating it all the while. And hell, what about the fact that I’ve always wanted to see “Feminist and Gender Studies” on my degree because of the proactive nature it implies? And now that May 15 is about to roll around the corner and along with it, nightmares of my future in a hulluva pimped out cardboard box, suddenly I’m thinking shit! Ya know, the real world isn’t as inviting to self labeled “feminists” as this very liberal academic world of Bryn Mawr. And really, do I want to apply for jobs with a major that in many people’s eyes still translates into “Man Hating Dyke Studies” printed across the top of my resume? The answer is FUCK NO!!! That’s my future, and can’t I sacrifice a few personal ideals for a greater chance at a steady income? Well…can I? And will I take a job anywhere? Even if I hate what I do? What my company stands for? Maybe not forever, but at this point I’ll take what I can get, I will sell my mind without love. It’s an interesting conundrum and by interesting I mean one of those heart wrenching times in life when we see who we really are, what REALLY matters, how I’m actually going to live my life- they way I dream about? Or the way They tell me to? So I guess for now I have to say I’m not perfect, I’m just trying to get by like everyone else. And yes, sometimes I do sell my mind without love, but I’m going to try and hang onto to my soul for a while longer.

Date: 2004-11-16 01:08:04
Link to this Comment: 11598

Name: LB
Date: 2004-11-16 01:20:51
Link to this Comment: 11599

I have an intellectual crush on Virginia Woolf. She is that person I want to bring back from the dead and have a conversation with. I am obsessed with the tone of her writing of any and all of her works. She makes the reader feel stupid without ever knowing why he or she feels that way. What I am not obsessed with is the idea that indifference is an effective tactic for preventing war, but I will try and reason out her argument. After all, it has worked for Switzerland for past global conflicts. I don't think indifference to be very useful because it seems like a waste of energy--not taking sides just takes up space in the middle. But then, wars can be much greater wastes of energy. The last chapter of "Three Guineas" sounds like unnamed cosmopolitanism to me. She writes "is there not something in the conglomeration of people into societies that releases what is most selfish and violent," and women are smart enough not to claim dissuade or encourage men in such behavior. Since their "country is the world," they have no loyalties to traditional countries such as England so they do not fall prey to the overwhelming surges of nationalism, etc. Zealous patriotism is the foundation for a great deal of bloodshed (or just general disagreements), and I see women as being lucky to be above such a fanaticism. Women are forgotten in the rights afforded to other citizens, so women forget the traditional country. Amen to making your own, sister.

Name: Beth
Date: 2004-11-16 02:00:25
Link to this Comment: 11600

As I read Paul Grobstein's "I Believe...," I kept thinking back to our class on Thursday, specifically the discussion we tried to have about why conservatives are against same-sex marriage. Grobstein states that " 'I believe' needs to be better the start of a conversation rather than the end of one." It's one thing to start a conversation, to challenge another's beliefs; it's quite another to try and change them. I'm not saying that an individuals's system of beliefs can't change; as one lives through different experiences and events, he/she is undoubtedly affected by them. However, I realized that most people are very stubborn about what they believe; another way to say that, and a more positive way, is that they strongly believe in their ideas. Why is that a problem? It seems to me that it tends to bother others most if they disagree with someone's beliefs. For instance, they say, "How can someone believe that? There's no logic." But in reality, that's probably exactly what that someone is thinking about when he/she considers the opposite of his/her beliefs. I mean, if beliefs are so easily compromised, I would think then that they are not very strong convictions. Don't we respect people who "stick to their guns"? Should that only apply if we happen to share their cause? The idea that we could somehow create "a shared belief with which everyone can live" is impossibly idealistic. I'm not even sure it's something that would be a perfect improvement. After all, haven't we been talking about difference, diversity, the "other"? Isn't this somehow seeking to expand the umbrella of normality instead of embracing otherness? Not to mention, it's basically impossible to please everyone. Most of us might think that Bush was the wrong choice, but obviously there are plenty of people out there who contributed and are content with the results. Also, what about the fact that they voted because of moral values? Aren't we all in some way voting according to our morals, our beliefs? I believe that I vote according to what I believe is right; I expect others to do the same...and I'll grudgingly admit that I expect this even if these others don't agree with my opinion. I don't consider myself to be very religious, but I know many people that are. Grobstein implies that we must worry and fear about those beliefs that seem to be set in stone. Would it be better if no one believed in anything strongly? If we all wandered around open to everything? What would that accomplish? Would the world really be a better place? I agree that one must look at the world in shades of gray and not black and white, but at the same time, after being in this class, I'm having a hard enough time figuring out identity as it is. I can't imagine having to exist in a world where there were no "strong beliefs." Would we be able to know anything?

One other thing that I wanted to comment on is the "War on Terrorism." I'm from New York, and I found it interesting that the majority of the population who inhabits the central place that terrorists hit on September 11th still chose to vote for Kerry. Now what would those in favor of the war say in response to that?

Active passiveness, and lots of questions
Name: Jana
Date: 2004-11-16 11:17:09
Link to this Comment: 11604

On the war subject, Virginia Wolfe mentions women will only move forward “by finding new words and creating new methods” showing a necessary gender seperation, but then gives the three guineas showing both genders' connection in seeking peace. Although I was annoyed and dissapointed when she gave over the three ginueas at the end, she might have the right idea. She isn’t silent about her view that women should be more of a part of dominant culture, but her action shows that she thinks that to change things, you have to change them through the “inside”. Wolfe in handing over her donation, is doing what she thinks will promote peace between the sexes (avoiding active resistance through active indifference). This indifference is kind of like a gandhi perspective, a passive resistance. On the other hand, I can see how if you aren’t indifferent on the inside, how you are supposed to be indifferent on the outside? And the actions she proposes don’t seem indifferent, they seem more resistant than indifferent. But active resistance would be more in the spirit of war of which she is trying to avoid. I guess I’m bringing up the whole, is war or at least active or agrressive resistance a nessessary evil argument here. Bush's war is so unpopular and so popular because he claims it is a war that will never end. What is the peace response to Bush? Would Wolfe’s ideas work? Is there such a thing as change through passivity? Or is it that you should only be aggressive in short bursts, not extended times? Where does one draw the line? (how does indifference as passive aggression work or not work in a today’s world, and would or could it be different in a female one?)

Peace,Woolf and War
Name: Bree Beery
Date: 2004-11-16 13:44:35
Link to this Comment: 11607

I find this topic of war and peace to be fascinating because it hits so close to home. Everyone (that is all of the males) in my family with the exception of my blacksheep, hippie father has served in some war or military service. This has created huge conflict in my family. However, what is ironic is that everyone who served was and still is against war, but merely participated because they felt that they must fufill their duty to their country. Yet what I have always wondered is why must one need to fight in order to "fufill their duty"? Why can't one do so by helping to create peace instead of war. And why must one feel that they must owe their country anything?

This is what I found so interesting in Woolf's "Three Guineas." Like LB stated earlier, Woolf claimed that a woman's "country is the world," therefore their allegiance belongs to all of mankind rather than to just one nation. There is no fanatical nationialism, nor no need to fufill ones duty in a violent and disturbing way. This task of bringing peace to the world is an even larger task than the men who merely fight, yet women generally and humbly accept it. Woolf greatly ascertains that women, regardless of their 'outsider' status are the ones who can greatly generate a shift from war to peace.

Another aspect of the reading that greatly struck me was the linguistics of war. Before I left for college, I recieved a quote book and after the readings, looked up the amount of quotes for war vs. peace. It was astonishing, while there were 6 pages of quotes on war, there were merely 2 columns of quotes on peace. War, rather than peace holds so much importance, that it is often refered to as "necessary" or an "art." Across the country, we are taught more about war than about peace, which was why I was shocked to come here and find that Haverford has a "peace and conflict" course.

Over the summer I went to a conference on peace studies in Washington DC and the speaker refuted the claim that war is a necessary evil by stating that there are already enough necessary evils and voluntarily adding another is nothing but moronic. He also stated that war is not an art because whereas art creates, war destroys. Anyways sorry for the tangent, but the best that I can leave you with is a quote that my grandfather used to say at the end of all of his war stories, "There never was a good war, or a bad peace."(Benjamin Franklin)

screening-lecture 11/22
Name: gus
Date: 2004-11-16 19:42:59
Link to this Comment: 11617

8 p.m., Monday, November 22, 2004
Thomas 110, Bryn Mawr College

Screening and presentation by director Jill Godmilow
"Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman" (1974) and "What Farocki Taught" (1998)

A biography of Antonia Brico, the first woman symphony conductor in the world. In 1930, Brico became the first woman ever to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. Hailed as a "Girl Genius," she went on to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and The London Philharmonic. ANTONIA broke with the orthodoxy of the documentary genre, and received an Academy Award nomination and the Independent New York Film Critics Award for Best Documentary. In December, 2003, it was selected for inclusion and preservation in the National Registry of Film at the Library of Congress.

WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT (1998); 16 mm, 30 min.
A stubborn, loving remake of Harun Farocki's 1969 film-essay on the production of Napalm, INEXTINGUISHABLE FIRE. While it demonstrates the impossibility of resistance to Napalm's production by Dow Chemical employees and ultimately to its use by the U.S. military forces fighting in Vietnam, Farocki's film is radical in technique, cooling the hot topic of terror down to frank, rational substance through Brechtian under-representation. Taking as its subject the political and formal strategies of Farocki's film WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT is a film on the borders of pedagogy, distribution and film history.

Director Jill Godmilow has been making films for more than three decades. In addition to ANTONIA and WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT, her films include FAR FROM POLAND (1984), an experimental feature documentary about the Polish Solidarity movement, WAITING FOR THE MOON (1987), a fictional biography of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, ROY COHN/JACK SMITH (1995), a cinematic translation of performance artist Ron Vawter's extraordinary solo theatre piece, and LEAR '87 ARCHIVE (CONDENSED), a three-disc DVD work on Mabou Mines' gender-reversed production of King Lear. Godmilow is at work on a video opera about animals called THIS LONGING. She teaches film production and theory at the University of Notre Dame.

Jonathan Kahana
Department of English
Director, Program in Film Studies
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 526-5302 office
(610) 526-7477 fax

on difference and language
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-17 10:27:40
Link to this Comment: 11623

Your first set of webpapers are available @ First Web Papers; also accessible now from the course homepage. Sorry for the delay in getting these up (some of you will see that your formatting problems haven't been fixed, that you still need to re-submit that first paper before going on to the second...)

As I said @ the end of class yesterday, I had the feeling that I was "trying too hard to teach," pushing too much to get you to see something (the "something" was Woolf's "maximalizing-difference" feminism, and its usefulness for us today....) The question I still have (and would still very much welcome answers to) is what happens to this sort of valorization of difference when social conditions change (when women begin taking college degrees, for instance, or entering the professions...). Do women lose their differentness, and so their distinctive contribution to the larger human story? Should they? Should they want to? Is it worth preserving marginality in order to preserve the important difference it represents?

Re-reading Woolf reminds me, too, that I'm still curious to know more about what you think is "the aim of education, what kind of society, what kind of human being [it should] seek to produce" (33).

A useful test case: what would Woolf's analysis be of the bi-co?

And: what advice is she giving us about the uses of language? "The English language is much in need of new words" (80); "Let us...destroy an old word, a vicious and corrupt word that has done much harm in its day and is now obsolete...the word 'feminist'" (102).

Write your thoughts here. Come back tomorrow for more (from Scholes, from Scarry) on the usefulness and limits of language. In constructing gender. And in constructing war.

Thinking back
Name: Sierra
Date: 2004-11-17 12:38:10
Link to this Comment: 11628

Hey guys, I just posted this back in the thinking biologically section, but I also think that it fits here and I know people probably don't read the previous forums so I am posting it here too.

I just had a very interesting discussion with a friend of mine about Wittig's "One is Not Born a Woman." Wittig argues, like we did, that woman is something that is socially specified and not natural. She was unable to understand this, so I had her read some of the postings on the forum and explained to her Professor Grobsteins lecture and had her look at the pictures of the lecture. After about an hour of talking she was able to accept that sex and gender were different. But she was hung up on the penis. She could not grasp how a person with a penis could not be a man. So, I explained the possiblity of being intersexed. As we left the conversation she was willing to admit that a person could be "biologically male, biologically female or biologically fucked" and she would also admit that a person of a certain sex could identify as a different gender but underneath it all they were still ultimately their sex. So, I guess my point is that all of us in the class seem to have very progressive thoughts about what sex and gender are and what rights that should afford us and how we should abolish those categories, but this conversation made me realize that we are such a small population. So many people do not understand an underlying difference between sex and gender and aren't even aware of the possibilities that exist within intersexed children. It also brought me back to the idea of gay marriage and abortion. Some people were saying that it is not revolutionary to allow gays to marry but that we should change the structure of the institution instead. So, relating it back to my discussion, before we can change the structure of sex and gender and possibly abolish the binary we have to make people aware that there is a socially constructed binary and people fit outside of it. Before we can change marriage, we have to let everyone do it. Before we can make a decision on abortion we have to make sure everyone understands it.

Language of War
Name: Marissa Ch
Date: 2004-11-17 23:26:59
Link to this Comment: 11641

After I read Scarry's piece, I started reading news briefs today's battle in Iraq-looking for examples of how language is used today in our de-sensitized society. I went to the Fox News website (,2933,138795,00.html), hoping to find vegetable metaphors or the like. But even on this conservative website, there were phrases such as "U.S. Marines hunted remaining fighters," "search-and-destroy mission," and "November became one of Iraq's bloodiest months." I think, especially with all of the "embedded" journalists and dissenting political opinions, it is hard to maintain Scarry's description of "language without permitting the entry of reality of suffering into the description" (p.66).

Also, Scarry's view of "war is a contest" cannot really apply to the "war on terrorism." This current war is not, as Scarry described, "a contest where participants arrange themselves into two sides and engage in activity that will eventually make it possible to designate one side the winner and one side the loser" (p.87). This reminded me of Paul Grobstein's comment that "there is,in the case of terrorism, as in the case of cancer, no well-defined or single invader or enemy."

article on taking care of yourself in the face of
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: 2004-11-24 09:32:26
Link to this Comment: 11754

Here is a really good article on dealing with public homophobia in one's personal life, that Anne asked me to post:

Click here:

Have a good Thanksgiving,

Name: Mo Convery
Date: 2004-11-28 12:30:56
Link to this Comment: 11777

When I was reading through Gleenda Russell's article "Surviving and Thriving in the Midst of Anti-Gay Politics" I was struck by her portrayal of the gay rights movement as a "cultural war". Through her use of language, using terms such as seige, mobilization, allies, and fronts, she created a sense of empowerment and a need for strong self defense within the gay and gay allied communities. When her analogy/terminology is taken in reference to Chris Hedges article, there are many implications for both the gay community and American culture in general. In his article, Hedges creates this picture of addiction, desperation, and cultures void of love and spirituality which propels the cycle of war. In regards to the gay rights movement, there are many systems of governmental aid and cultural support which bluntly fall short in what they are meant to accomplish and provide. As a result, it leaves people, both for and against gay rights, searching for reasons why these systems have failed and ways to insure that these needs are met. A system of polarization develops when one side blames the other for the ills that they are facing or places the needs/rights above the needs/rights of the other group. This “mobilization” or creation of fronts is imperative to this idea of “war”. While I do see the validity in comparing the gay rights movement to “war”, I am deeply trouble by the implications of ongoing violence, stricter polarity, and cultural/personnel dissolve which Hedges describes as products of war. “War” is a cycle that can not easily be stopped once begun and the products are often not what one expects. Are we as a culture propelling a system of polarization that makes this type of “war” inevitable? Is there a way to confront gay rights without such polarization? In confronting the real problems at hand (ie the reasons support systems are failing) could a more direct and effective gay rights movement develop? Or is this the only way that the rights of all sexual and gender identities be guaranteed?

Ethics of Responsibility
Name: Gilda
Date: 2004-11-28 16:28:38
Link to this Comment: 11778

When reading the Hedges piece, I was struck by a section near the end of his introduction (p. 16) where he talks about the need for “armed intervention” in war zones around the world need the need for an “ethics of responsibility” in the part of the U.S.

It seems to me that the U.S. has used that very “ethics of responsibility” rhetoric over and over again to cover up what is plain old interventionism. The United States fathoms itself to be the world’s savior and giver of freedom, but it only intervenes in foreign conflict when it reaps benefits from getting involved. Perhaps it’s naďve of me to think that, if the U.S. were truly a “savior,” it would help other countries’ out of the goodness of its heart. But even being more realistic and accepting that the U.S. has had and will continue to have ulterior motives when “helping” other countries, its strategy seems to backfire more often than not. Arming Saddam Hussein? We all know how that turned out. Helping out a nice young Saudi named Bin Laden? Check. And Pinochet couldn’t have ousted Allende and established his dictatorship in Chile (one of the most horrible examples of genocide in recent history) without the help of Uncle Sam, who didn’t want commie Allende in power.

At the same time, because of the U.S. interventionist policy, the world (especially developing countries) has come to expect American aid, even if the outcome of being helped hasn’t been that great in the past.

I’m deeply conflicted on this issue. Part of me wishes the U.S. would stop sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong, but I also know that almost two centuries of doing exactly that have created a dependency, so taking away American aid could be disastrous.

more on militarizing...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-11-29 07:47:04
Link to this Comment: 11779

Mo and Gilda are a step ahead of me here....:)

Welcome back to all of you from Thanksgiving.

Our readings for tomorrow include the front matter from After Shock (some of which we discussed already last week), and selections from both Chris Hedges' War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Enloe's book on the International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Sex and gender seem largely peripheral to Hedges' analysis; I think there is a single mention of each, along w/ more extended reflections on the differences between "domestic life" and "war," beween "eros" and "thanatos." What thoughts arise as you put Hedges' account into conversation w/ Enloe's analysis (which steps off in turn from Virginia Woolf's): an argument that we have insufficiently understood both the extent of militarization and the particular and various uses it has made of women?

Woman against Woman
Name: Claire
Date: 2004-11-29 16:26:28
Link to this Comment: 11785

After writing my last paper on the division of women on the topic of abortion, I was immediately struck by the clear division between women portrayed in Enloe's piece, and how it was the militarization of women that was causing the rift between us. Enloe clearly laid out the hierarchy of women within the culture of the military and explained that it is this hierarchy that allows for the manipulation of women. As Enloe states "Military policy makers have depended on - and thus maneuvered to control - varieties of women, and on the very notion of femininity in all its myriad guises" (x). Why is it that women are able to be torn apart in a way that causes us to lose a connection with other women to profit the masculinity of the military? All of us are defined by, and treated in a different manner because of, our identity as women. We, as a group, have been subjected to different treatment based on our gender, our "femininity" used in political actions, even controlled in protests we thought we had control of. Why, if we make up greater than fifty percent of the world's population, can we not stand together as one? Men may be divided by race, religion, political thought, etc. but when their masculinity is threatened they come together to protect that masculinity. Why have women not done the same? I think a great part of it lies in the fact that femininity is not associated with power as masculinity is. But how will women ever gain a right to control their bodies and their actions if they never band together, shaking the military/masculine control? Is this the only way that we can shake this control?

If ˇ°militarization does not occur simply in the obvious places but can transform the meanings and uses of people, things, and ideas located far from bombs or camouflaged fatigues; militarization may privilege masculinity, but it does so by manipulating the meanings of both femininity and masculinityˇ± then how are we to even begin to understand how we are being manipulated (Enloe, 289). I would suggest that the only way to overcome this covert manipulation would to overtly band together as women, dropping our catty dispositions to dislike other women. Where did we get this disposition anyway?

Name: Beth
Date: 2004-11-30 01:31:39
Link to this Comment: 11802

Enloe continually points to feminism and to the resulting "feminist awareness" (295) as being responsible for noticing the differences among women. According to her, it is "women thinking and acting as feminists" who "have been responsible for revealing how dependent any militarization process is on certain ideas about femininity and on the labor and emotions of women" (293). What becomes the place and status of women who do not self-identify as feminists? I felt as though Enloe's writing could be interpreted as feminism being superior, as the right choice for women. In her concern for the divisive nature of militarization, she seems to have overlooked the similar repercussions of feminism on women. For example, those who choose to be homemakers or sexworkers, and feminists' take on these women as somehow making the wrong choice. Enloe admits that "American feminism are distinct" (xvi) but seems to group American women and their experience into one category. She states, "American women have a lot to learn" (xvii). Don't they also have something to teach? Shouldn't feminism be teaching us to value all experiences and voices equally? Also, there isn't any one American woman experience just as there is no defining experience for any category. As Samuel Delany states, there is no actual collective identity. Another thing that I wasn't sure how to interpret is Enloe's statement regarding "American manipulations of ideas abotu women and to the appeal that those militarized ideas have for so many womoen" (xvi). Once again, this returns to the idea of feminists VS. women. If it appeals to women, is that problematic? Wrong? Don't women have the right to choose what appeals to them?

The Royal We?
Name: LB
Date: 2004-11-30 01:31:50
Link to this Comment: 11803

Who is the "us" which Hedges addresses? Humanity? Americans? Having conquered his introduction, I think his audience is Americans who have not supported the war on terror but who have never had to live a single moment of it. That's me baby. I think war is good for absolutely nothing but I have never had my existence threatened by another person. I join Hedges call for repentence, but my call is for forgiveness of my hypocrisy. My friend put it quite succinctly "My life is the most important thing to me right now. There's nothing I would die for at this point in my life." Is my lack of desire to understand war just a phase? Why don't I want to listen to the "nationalist rhetoric"? Do dissenters of war not also invoke pity--peace is under threat and that is what I hold sacred. Of course, I don't bomb the hell out of a city to prove that point.

Name: Jana
Date: 2004-11-30 02:42:15
Link to this Comment: 11805

I really enjoyed Enloe's piece. I agree with her more than I think Woolfe's piece that kind of assumed that women were not a part of certain aspects of the military at all. Part of that has changed because of time, but women are not only a part of the war as victims, but also now as soldiers and as blatant supporters. Enloe brings up the broader implications of the military itself as inherently suppressive to women who "get in the way", yet she points out that the military still asks and relies on women's help through prostitues, soldiers, and the basic quailty of working on the homefront. What about women’s role in simply not complaining or causing trouble back home, silently and steadily keeping things moving etc? Enloe suggests that we should ask harder questions of the military, and break down its ideology or whatever, but I wonder how easy that is to do. I don't think letting women join up into this process (soldiers) is going against the goals of feminists. I think in some ways it's like government. Women have to get in the government to change the laws, and so maybe women who get in the military can help to change the code.

continuing the discussion...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-12-01 08:58:49
Link to this Comment: 11825

Our readings for Thursday include short essays by Ehrenreich, Marshall, Sante and Sontag about Abu Ghraib; they extend in some interesting ways our consideration, yesterday, of the presumptions underlying Hedges' and Enloe's discussion of what constitutes "femininity" and "masculinity," the "domestic" and the "war-like," the "militarized" and the 'de-militarized." Post your reactions here before class, please....

web publishing
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-12-01 13:54:11
Link to this Comment: 11831

It took a little doing (and re-doing; thanks to Ann Dixon) but you can now find your "books" on line @ Second Web Papers (also available from the course home page).

Fun in real torture as in S/M sex
Name: Rebecca Ma
Date: 2004-12-01 17:08:52
Link to this Comment: 11834

Our discussion on Monday delved into the meanings of femininity, masculinity as related to the military. Hedges contends that war generates meaning in people’s lives and gives them a sense of identity. Considering the reading from last class, my reaction to Thursday’s materials, to Sontag and Sante in particular is concern about the reconstruction of the meaning of human torture. Both authors describe lynching as events grounded in American history where the immediate purpose of the activity is to take pleasure in producing another person’s pain. The pleasure that torturers feel is not heavy or dark, but light and gleeful. The theme that fun has become interwoven into human torture complicates the relationships between pornography and sadomasochistic sex. And what role does technology play in these activities? The writers seem split between recognizing the usefulness of digital cameras’ ability to incriminate guilty parties by documenting crime and blaming internet pornography sites for presumptively encouraging soldiers to perform copycat acts on defenseless prisoners against their will.

on Woolf and difference feminism
Name: Jessie
Date: 2004-12-01 17:29:44
Link to this Comment: 11835

Sorry for the lateness. On Woolf and difference feminism. Woolf stresses women’s difference, but she doesn’t say it has to be that way. Women are tied together by similar experiences, not by biological destiny. It’s important to emphasize this – she doesn’t laud anything intrinsic about women, and therefore allows for a time when women wouldn’t be necessarily subordinate. By talking about women’s experiences, she allows for social criticism that takes us to the roots of social forces that privilege masculinity and war-making. Women have different experiences, and so they also have different (and extremely valuable) perspectives – they have access to observations not possible for socially privileged men (like Marxist thought about the privileged knowledge of the working-class). Once we integrate this different perspective into dominant social structures, that structure will change for the better. That’s the distinction I want to make here – the difference between integrating “women,” as individuals, and integrating women’s experiences on a social level. Woolf recognizes this distinction when she donates her guineas. She sees, for example, the potential for women’s colleges to value women’s experiences rather than simply educate women to be like men and perpetuate the patriarchal system.

The danger with this sort of idea, though, is in essentializing women’s experiences. We have to recognize that Woolf’s difference feminism is only a starting point. Not only do women-in-general have a distinct standpoint (which really means “the daughters of well-educated men,” which really means “white wealthy straight women”) – every marginalized group provides another valuable perspective. Feminist standpoint is strengthened by recognizing the diversity within “women-in-general” and incorporating more and more perspectives.

*dead posting* thumbs up!
Name: Deborah
Date: 2004-12-01 21:04:08
Link to this Comment: 11838

"What did the rescue of Jessica Lynch mean to you?
Obviously, it's a great thing that I was lucky enough to take part in, and I'm very proud of it. I'm very glad that we were able to bring her back alive. We all received awards for it. But as far as what it meant, it was another mission. And after that mission, you pick up and go on to the next one."
--Sergeant Brian Hughes, gay retired army officer

The Advocate Nov. 9 2004

I was researching for my final papers and came across this interview that Brian Hughes gave in response to his honorable discharge from the army for coming out of the closet. I thought it goes a long way toward addressing the implementation of key issues that we are discussing, the interplay between militarisation and gender. Here, a soldier relates the true messege of the military irregardless of gender; that despite the fact that one of the soldiers rescued was a woman, which is great, the rescue was one of a generic, though heroic set of missions. This is a victory of femenism for me, in that the actual members within the military responsible for the deed did not elevate Lynch's status and their own merely due to her female gender. And then, despite his service, Hughes was unwelcome to stay in the military due to his sexuality. Clearly, as was stated in Ehrenreich's article, gender equality is too low a goal to attain and be satisfied.

Something I wanted to address in Rebecca's previous post: I was disturbed by the "Tourist and Torture" article's and then her interpretation of the torture depictions being in any way connected with S/M sex, or even pornography per se. Sadomasochism uses devices of pain but in a consentual fashion. Torture and rape are measures of control and NON-consentuality. Thus, they are opposing forces of interaction despite any cosmetic similarities. What I wrote my paper on was actually the way in which photographic images lend themselves to being characterized as pornographic, because the viewer has a harder time seperating Reality with Representation. I thought Marshall's article was very smart in going beyond the representation of the images to the reality behind them: Why are they being representational? What is the True reality behind their emergance and existance to begin with? However-many female officers were involved, (and by the way, women are no more accountable for their actions then men are, so why do feminists keep blaming them more?), it was still PATRIARCHY that started this war in the first place: it was men who created the war, in the forms of Bush and Bin Laden, etc. Women are still reacting to the militarization that this war, started and perpetuated by patriarchal men, have placed them in.

My final thoughts are that in seperating only the gendered qualities of Abu Ghraib, we are ignoring the other prevelent equality issues at stake, most pointedly, racism. That was what I identified most with in Sante's article. To me the torture reads not as sexual but as racial, which is equally as disgusting. How can we "spread freedom" when we intern these men to be tortured and disparage the equality of the country we're fighting to "liberate"?

women in the military vs feminism in the military
Name: Jessie
Date: 2004-12-01 21:08:35
Link to this Comment: 11839

Like Woolf, these articles emphasized for me the distinction between gender on an individual level and gender on a social level. The fact that women were involved in Abu Ghraib does not change that sexual abuse is gendered, and that it is perpetuated by a patriarchal system. This does not mean that we should ignore individuals, but it does mean that we should consider individuals as participants within a broader system.

The discussion of Abu Ghraib in the media – and in Ehrenreich’s article – focused too much on the significance of the individuals involved and not enough on the patriarchal system. A focus on individuals doesn’t explain the social pattern of dominant groups attacking subordinate groups (in lynchings, in rape, in the Iraq prisoner abuse). Sexual abuse must be considered as a manifestation of oppressive patriarchal dynamics between dominant and subordinate groups. As the Marshall article points out, the abuse of male Iraqis by female Americans relies on the same dynamic of dominant and subordinate groups, and has the same purpose to humiliate and de-humanize the victimized. The Abu Ghraib instance uses a gender model to emphasize racial supremicism. To say that women perpetrators challenge the feminist observation that sexual abuse is gendered is to deny the social system that promotes that behavior. I agree with Ehrenreich that simply putting women in the military is not enough, however I think she's too hasty to say that feminism has failed. I think she misunderstands the difference between the influence individual women can have on the military and the influence feminist observations can have on the military.

Abu Ghraib
Name: Marissa Ch
Date: 2004-12-01 22:34:21
Link to this Comment: 11840

Ehrenreich observed that the pictures of the abuse depict "gender equality"- in that women can be as morally corruupt as men. I think it was naive for her to belive that women's participation in the military would make it "more capable of genuine peacekeeping." If women want to promote peace, joining the military is not the way to go about it. I do not believe soldiers have any power to change international diplomacy, they are just "bodies" that fight in war, period. She mentioned Condoleeza Rice, who is one of the few capable of making real changes, but Rice put in that position to serve a very specific purpose.

Ehrenreich says "we need a feminism that teaches a women to say no" to rapists along with military hierarchy. This reminded me of rape victims testifing against thier perpetrator, being trapped by the circumstance "well you knew what was going to happen when you went into the bedroom, you knew what he expected from you next after you were already fooling around, you made it seem like you were willing.." and the like. Thoughts like these still play a role in people's minds when it comes to judging rape, and you can compare the same way of thinking to women who join the military and are made to carry out orders..What did they expect anyway,not to go all the way, it's too late to say no now.

However, women who join the military should not be expected to succumb to sexual assault by thier peers, even though as Marshall mentioned, this has already happened to some 100 female officers in Iraq alone. More change can be made to the military if the media paid more attention to these statistics, even though dirty pictures will bring higher ratings.

What's going on?
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-12-02 01:41:56
Link to this Comment: 11841

Reading these articles I found myself unsettled in terms of thinking about the posing of the soldiers- thumbs up and an “impish little smile”? What does this mean? What do these pictures mean? Is this torture any different from private unfotographed torture? If these soldiers were doing the exact same thing but without a recording device would it mean the same thing? These authors say no. That in fact the camera makes all the difference in the world. They say they are acting like tourists! Me with the Eiffel Tower, me and Mickey, me with the naked Iraqis! Is this in some way more dehumanizing??? Can this be more dehumanizing than rape and mangling and torture of a private nature? Sante says that “The Americans in the photographs are not enacting hatred; hatred can coexist with respect, however strained. What they display, instead, is contempt: their victims are merely objects.” Is this to insinuate that when other soldiers for other countries or our own kill, they see their victims as human simply because they aren’t saying cheese? Does the average soldier or person kill someone they respect as an equal human being? Is it possible? I suppose yes it probably is in certain situations, maybe if the two had a repertoire, a history, individual respect. But can someone kill an unknown somebody and respect them?? It doesn’t seem possible. Respect is earned, not given. I just feel the whole situation is confusing. Just from their souvenir attitudes and the fact that “censure probably never crossed their minds” one can see that dehumanization must be institutionally accepted. Is it America? Is it us? Is it every society? Is it every army? Is this what war does? After seeing death and violence and destruction do soldiers internalize that as “normal” and “okay”?? Does violence and destruction upon other’s bodies come to be seen as the “normal” way to get some “emotional release”? Is abuse breeding abuse? Or is it more than that? Is it coming from other places, is it always racist? Can it only be done with the Other? Is it reacting to survive in traumatic times? Would meditation no longer suffice in these circumstances? Why do they do it and why from all apparent evidence, are our soldiers doing in en mass. Not the “mentally disturbed” one or two…is it because at home they have people like Rush Limbaugh saying it’s like a fraternity rush! They’re just having a little fun right!? Sure, if you’re Marquis de Sade...

Violence against humanity
Name: Beth
Date: 2004-12-02 02:28:00
Link to this Comment: 11842

I believe in studying gender issues or else I wouldn't be in this class. However, the photos of Abu Ghraib did not affect me as a result of my feminism as Ehrenreich claims was her case; my heart was broken because of humanity and the violence human beings are capable of inflicting on one another. I don't think I could entertain the idea of not being shocked by the violence and cruelty of the events in the photos even though I know there are probably individual out there who weren't. I do not think I would want to exist in a world where no one found this to be shocking; I can hardly comprehend the reality that there are people now who accept these photos as an acceptable norm. Ehrenreich's article is full of contradictions. Whether or not she wants or chooses to admit it, she does have illusions about men and women, before and after the photos of Abu Ghraib. The idea that feminism exists because women have something to teach men is one that has a history and that continues to persist, but is it the only thing that justifies feminism? Is separate but equal the way to go? Is there a way to value the individual experience and voice without stressing categories? Will there ever be difference without the issue of superiority? Maybe the answer does not have anything to do with assimilation but focusing on humanism and individualism. Even at the end of her article, Ehrenreich has returned to the idea of men acting like beasts, seemingly as though she has forgotten the women of the photos. I do not think that it can be argued that these women were assimilating into the violence of a man's world, a man's war. If women are responsible for these acts, it is because they are capable of them;we as human beings are capable of them, and for me, this is a problem that has to do with the world, with us as human beings, regardless of gender.

Marshall's argument about misogyny troubled me. I do not agree that "it is probably that the women receiving notoriety are far less significant than they have been portrayed." It does not change the horror of the acts because they are women. As Ehrenreich states, it is foolish of us to believe that women are incapable of violence because of their gender. Haven't we been arguing in class that gender doesn't determine anything? That what we know of masculinity and femininity are social constructions? For me, Marshall's article highlighted a problem of focusing on gender. It is important to pay attention to any sort of violence. I do not think we can blame the behavior of the women soldiers involved on misogyny nor do I think that we should. It does not justify their acts in any way. It is not obscuring "the real causes of the atrocities" or detracting from a "more prevalent violence." The numbers are not what decides what is important or horrific; it is the fact that the act itself has been committed at all. Sante's article touches upon another concern that I have: there is a danger is justifying violence in any way. Sontag's statement that "people do these things to other people" is something I hope that we will never accept as the way things have to be. Her comment that "up to them, there had been only words..." is related to what we have been saying about language all along, that it is inadequate and problematic.

Gendering Eros and Thanatos
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-12-02 13:23:13
Link to this Comment: 11847

Eros seems to be synonimous with femininity and thanatos with masculinity. In this way, we are looking at femininity as the embodiment of protection- never mind the gender of the body which inhabits it- and masculinity as self-destructive, again despite the gendered body that performs it.

Because the gender of the body itself makes no difference to the performance (male femininity, female masculinity)- how can we truly justify a statement that women in the army would change the structure? It seems to me that, while certainly masculinity and femininity are affected by the gender which performs them, the eros/thanatos distinction remains in tact. Therefore, it is masculinity that literally goes to war, and femininity which is the indirect contributor. The only way to change the face of war would be...I don't know, to screen soldiers and officers to be more feminine or something, regardless of sex. BUT how are you going to change the face of war if the war is inherently masculine? By only putting the feminine in the army? What we define as feminine (not that I agree, just speaking culturally) will make war cease to be war because it is unifying. In fact, the only way it seems that we can make any change is to allow everyone into the military regardless of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, education...maybe then it will stop being war? Or maybe don't elect masculine people to congress...

What a Hitchhiker Taught Me
Name: Bree Beery
Date: 2004-12-02 13:39:23
Link to this Comment: 11849

In reading the assigned texts for Dec. 2, I was reminded of the time my father and I were driving and decided to pick up a hitch hiker who turned out to be on a crusade for world matriarchy. He explained that he felt that women should replace men in all governmental positions and that women should have more control than men because with women in charge there would be no war, no hunger, no poverty and the world would be a better place. I asked him why he was so sure that everything would be perfect if women were in charge and he explained that women, by nature, are mothers and peacemakers; they are not violent nor war hungry, but care more about helping others rather than hurting them. This upset me a great deal because not all women are like that. He placed women on such a high pedestal that his thoughts towards/about women were just as extreme as the thought’s men had 1,000 years ago. Whereas they believed that women were not as good as men, he believed that women are better than men. Why can’t they just be the same, why must they be placed below or above men? And why are men the standard with which women should be thought of? Not all women are against war and not all women are caring mother figures, they too, like men, have feelings of hatred, guilt, etc. This is why I found Ehrenreich’s piece quite disturbing. I agree with her in the sense that women can be as morally corrupt as men as demonstrated by the pictures of the abuse. However, I do not agree with her last paragraph, “it is not enough to be equal to men…it is not enough to assimilate.” I think that that is a very childish and hypocritical way of looking at the situation. I do not believe we should exacerbate our differences, but rather realize our similarities. This is why I love Woolf who although talks of women’s differences, yet does not say that that is the only way.

After reading these texts I looked up ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ in the dictionary and although I was not planning on including this in the posting what I found was kind of shocking so I decided to include it. In Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1998) femininity is described as, “Having the qualities of a woman; as, in a good sense, modest, graceful, affectionate, confiding or in a bad sense, nerveless, weak, pleasure loving” whereas masculinity is described as, “Having the qualities of a man, suitable to, or characteristic of, a man; virile, not feminine, strong, robust.” I just found this quite disturbing that these gender stereotypes/differences are still discussed in such a contemporary era.

Name: Sierra
Date: 2004-12-02 14:01:56
Link to this Comment: 11850

Admittedly I am uniformed. I know very little about the incident that we are reading about, so I don't know how well I can comment on it.

I think that out of the four, the Sante article was my favorite. It focused not on gender, but on the actual atrocity that was occuring. I think I have to disagree with the Ehrenreich because it relies on the idea that men and women are inately different. It also uses patriarcial views that women are more caring than men. I think it is also interesting to consider in light of the Marshall article that women were "necessary" in war for the sexual entertainment of men. It was expected and accepted that men would rape and objectify women, but when woumen have sexual needs or do just what men hae previously done it is an outrage.

Masculinity and femininity
Name: Sierra
Date: 2004-12-06 17:00:19
Link to this Comment: 11888

I just read Bree's post and I thought that it was really interesting that one of the qualities of masculiity is NOT feminine. Even the dictionary reinforces the idea that woman is other than man.

Panel Discussion
Name: nancy
Date: 2004-12-12 20:27:19
Link to this Comment: 11959

I wanted to address Jana's question from out panel presentation, and we ran out of time before any of us had the chance to provide our thoughts. While we were discussing difference feminism and gender equality, Jana problematized (in a helpful way) our questions of difference masculinism by bringing up the case of Jimmy Corrigan. I don't know what answer I would have given at the time, but I have been thinking about the notion of gender equality, and the fact that it tries to make similar two very dissimilar states of being: male and female. Of all the category-making we ruled out as irrelevant, too confining or not confining enough, one of the biggest take-away lessons from the class (for me) has been coming to the conclusion that gender equality is not something to strive for, that differences of women (althougth I don't believe there is some inherent collectivity between all men or all women) are only thought of as lesser because of societal devaluation of women and care. When I think of Jimmy Corrigan, I think of the image Arlie Hochschild conjures up in The Second Shift-- the image of the woman in the power suit with ridiculous shoulder pads and a briefcase hoping against hope that no one will think about the fact that she is a woman. I remember making the offhand (at the time) comment when we were discussing Jimmy Corrigan that perhaps the lengths that women are willing to go to achieve a pseudo-male identity and standard displaces men into Jimmy Corrigan-like status. Gender equality seems to perpetuate the notion that high-power, high-profile status is most desirable. If women continue to push for this, are they not recreating an oppressive system for men like Jimmy. I don't buy all of this right now, but it marks a significant shift in my thinking or gender equality...

Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-12-13 18:27:15
Link to this Comment: 11964

As we were discussing the American abuse of Iraqi prisoners I found myself thinking about the seeming inherent tensions between institution and individual. In the terms of violence whether of a sexual, mental, or physical nature how sanctioned is it? And by whom? Where is the pressure to behave coming from? Is it generated by the individual? Is there something in human nature that is triggered in times of war to abuse? Is it just a natural response? In class we all seemed to be somewhat baffled by what could possibly have inspired those soldiers to stack naked men up “for fun”. How many of us though, have fought a war, been through boot camp, thought we might die at the hands of an enemy soldier? One place the philosophy of kill or be killed exists in its literal form is war. Humans can adapt to the most intense and inhumane of settings when necessary and along with that, one’s morals, standards and behavior. However, let’s say that this is not a natural response and that the majority of individuals wouldn’t be so transformed from what one would hope their original morals were. Let’s say that these soldiers would never dream of doing something like that on their own- of their own desire and volition. Let’s say instead that the pressure to behave and harm comes from the greater military institution. Is this a way of controlling not only the enemy but our own soldiers? From the emails and statements and disregard of complaints it does seem to be institutionally sanctioned. Why though? Is this encouraged abuse only a characteristic of the military and war? Is it seen in every military or just ours? And if it’s every one, does it manifest differently? In the military I feel that individuality is disregarded, erased in order to create obedient soldiers to make up cohesive units to obey orders from a superior, who obey orders from their superior. It’s explicitly structured, authorized, and controlled. This makes sense; after all, it certainly wouldn’t do if each squad decided to fight a war on their own time and with their own strategy. So if abuse is sanctioned by the institution, what is an individual to do if they want to still participate- or are drafted? Can they choose not to participate in this “culture”? What if they’re told to do it implicitly, or even explicitly? If all individual soldiers were to refrain or to proactively refuse what would happen? Would this lead to a disintegration of the hierarchies of power, or perhaps a transformation? It’s complex and I don’t have answers, just musings.

Women's Colleges
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-12-13 20:11:00
Link to this Comment: 11966

I thought Sara’s topic about whether women’s college’s are necessary and/or beneficial/good. As a senior at a women’s college it’s an issue that has been the subject of many a conversation. I have to say that I think women’s colleges are the best place for a woman to study. This is not to say there aren’t problems with single sex education or that I’m not concerned. I am. The world is in fact co-ed. We, as women educated in a single sex institution are taken out of the co-ed environment for four years. There are many potential harms in that- how many of us leave Bryn Mawr idealistic that the only thing to affect our professional lives is merit? There’s countless things we haven’t dealt with in college- perhaps we’re too sheltered in that sense. However, despite the possible downfall of single sex education I think that overall it remains the best place to educate a woman. I know that politics and inequalities operate here too, but not at the same level as coed schools. There is not as much gendering of classes here. Women take math and science or art and music as they choose. Moreover, here we are the leaders. We are the class presidents, the athletes, the student workers, the democrats, the republicans, the magnas, the sumas, the treasurers, the activists, the t.a.s, and everyone in between. So yes, when we get out there the real world might tell us we can’t, we’re not good enough, we’re just girls. But for four years we’ve heard we are the best, we can do it, we will succeed and hopefully, that is what we will continue to listen to even in the face of opposition.

Organization against religious persecution http://
Name: Gina Fello
Date: 2005-01-22 21:01:55
Link to this Comment: 12162

"...If you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps 'the' religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect;but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult." Leo Pfeffer.

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