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Sex and Gender Forum

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Name: Serendip
Date: 2005-08-30 15:55:48
Link to this Comment: 15934

Welcome to the on-line forum area for the core course in the Program in Gender and Sexuality at Bryn Mawr and Haverford. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but we hope you'll come to value it as much as students in other courses have.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a place for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're not worrying about "writing" but instead that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others, and theirs can help you.

So who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our class. But also for the world. This is a public forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in--others you might or might not know. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. Your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. Glad you're here, and hope you'll enjoy and come to value the activity of working and playing together in this space.

Second welcome (and archive!)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-08-31 17:48:42
Link to this Comment: 15945

That was the generic "Serendip" welcome to Playing w/ Categories.
Here's a more particularly Anne-ish one.

What a wonderful conversation we had together this afternoon!
Thanks to all of you...

As archive, and for reference:
here's the source for the "blindspot" exhibit I used,
which was originally created by Paul Grobstein: Seeing more than your eye does.

And here's the source for your second experience, "This is Not Yellow," part of a powerpoint presentation Sharon Burgmayer prepared to explain
"The Teleology of Green, or: Is There Meaning in Orange?"

Also for the record: here are our "metaphors for the classroom"
(let me know if I omitted/mangled yours, and I'll add revisions....)






  dinner party guestguestshostesses
prisonfun activityinmateinmatesoutreach coordinators
high wallssmall patch of sunlight observer growing plants "teachers?
what teachers?
it's just the sunlight"
 organic gardengrowing plantsgardener
  princess placer of the-pea-that-always-irritates
 swim meetswimmersreferees (with stop watches & whistles)
 sportteam memberscoaches
 academic summer campcamperscounselors
"Finding Nemo"confined spaceNemo: motivated/cluelesssea creaturesexpedition leaders

(who writes the script?)
 auditionactor wanna be more (less?) accomplished performersjudges for
the try-outs
  food distribution centervery hungry receiver of very tiny portion  distributors of tiny portions
 family reunionfamily members
(who can't remember each others' names/
have to educate one another
 forestelephant rider riders of other animalskind elephant trainers

What I noticed, writing these up?
That none of them are the least bit gender-inflected....

Wonder what that says about the importance of gender?
Wonder what Thorne's classrooms and playgrounds look like, categorically/metaphorically speaking?
Let's see....

Posting on GENDER PLAY
Name: Jen
Date: 2005-09-01 07:54:28
Link to this Comment: 15958

Yes, great conversation yesterday! I'm looking forward to hearing your reactions to Thorne...A few questions to spur your ideas (address one, all, or none in your posting):

How does Thorne echo -- or challenge -- your own ideas up to now about how children "become" girls and boys?

To what extent do her observations in American schools resonate with your own childhood experiences, and/or your more recent ones?

Any thoughts on how Thorne's findings/argument relate to the classroom metaphors you came up with in class yesterday?

reactions to thorne
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-03 09:12:43
Link to this Comment: 15970

I am having a hard time recalling ‘memories of gender’ from my childhood. I don’t have many vivid/specific memories of childhood. Most of my childhood memories are of myself and my younger brother. As Thorne points out, “in our culture the model of sisters and brothers offers one of the few powerful images of relatively equal relationships” (172). I realize, however, that an instance of gender is not implicitly negative. I demand change only when gender is used as a restriction, a handicap, when gender is pivotal point of power distribution.

Personally, I do not have memories from childhood in which gender was taught as method of social stratification. Since childhood, however, I have experienced (and do experience) gender as a key in power distribution. I appreciate Thorne’s attempt to pinpoint the origins of this inequality in childhood. Probably because I do not have those memories of childhood, however, I am not convinced and am looking forward to hearing if others, with more vivid memories, are convinced.

I am intrigued by this statement of Thorne’s about sisters and brothers. It leads me to think that the inequality in relation comes when sex comes into the picture. Since sex plays much less of a role (or, such a different role) between siblings, I am not surprised by Thorne’s statement that this may be the best model of equal relation.

I am thinking about sex as struggle for power. The problem is the heterosexual assumption in our society that skews the power distribution even before the act. The act is inconsequential. The act is hidden and, therefore, is left to society’s imagination (which is guided so carefully by the media? Humm…) and created by these imaginings. Even in homosexual relations there is a heterosexual assumption that one party is dominant and one submissive. The roles are set. I wonder if there is such a thing as sex between equal parties … or, more realistically, if there is such a thing as a sexual relationship in which the distribution of power is absolutely fluid. This brings me to question the nature of roles. I think of a role as something that is set, a solid. The unchanging, chained quality of any role bothers me. Is there such a thing as an unbinding role? Being bound seems implicit in the term role. Unless! We are role playing, if we are actors in our roles.

Female Contamination as Power!
Name: Patricia F
Date: 2005-09-03 15:58:56
Link to this Comment: 15971

I thoroughly enjoyed Thorne's ideas. It was very relevant to many experiences that I had and vividly remember from my childhood or days as a "kid"--a word that seems to be less derogatory according to Thorne's observations.

I distinctly remember one time when I was being chased by a bunch of my girl friends. I had proudly told my friends at the lunch table that I knew where babies came from and they all were very jealous. My mom had given me "the talk" that night prior while I was taking a tub. The "talk" involved the real process of "baby-making" and left me feeling a bit scared by it all, but I also felt very cool being privy to information of the "grown-up world" at the age of 11. The chase ensued after lunch since I wouldn't tell my friends what I knew, but it only included girls. The boys at the table rolled their eyes and said that they already knew how it happened although I'm not sure if that was actually the truth. But, similar to Thorne's analysis, the all-female chase ended only because I got tired and didn't involve any aggressive activity.

In addition to being entertained by Thorne's ideas by connecting them with my memories of the past, I was extremely intrigued by the anthropologists' claim that female contamination can be used as a source of power. "Male susceptability to female pollution can be experienced as a source of vulnerability; if a girl is designated as having cooties or threatens to plant a dangerous kiss, it is the boy who has to run." (182) I loved it! I think that it's very symbolic of the fluidity of power and gender which is central to Thorne's argument. It's not so much that it's all about gender, but rather that gender is among many other things that make up power relationships. I feel like looking at gender dynamics this way yields positive effects because it doesn't seem so overwhelming and makes change a realistic goal. Gender dynamics is maleable and, as she cites from the teachers that have implemented positive change, is able to be worked with.

Boys in skirts
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-09-03 17:07:57
Link to this Comment: 15972

I really enjoyed Thorne's piece. I think I got a little overzealous in my highlighting, however.

I've never spent much time thinking back to my elementary school days with an adult mind. When I think of those days, I think with a child's mind, the mind that I had during those days. I think Thorne's piece was good for making me think in an analytical way about what teachers or peers did. For example, I never gave much thought to why teachers assigned seats to us. I was just annoyed that I couldn't sit with friends. But the more I think about our assigned seats now, I more I realize that I can't remember a single time I wasn't seated next to a boy. During lower grades (3rd to 5th grade), we'd sit in groups of four - two tables facing two other tables. And I always ended up next to a boy. I remember this being an ... exhilarating? feeling. I say “exhilarating” because I didn't interact with boys very much, so it was strange and exciting to sit next to them in class. It was weird to talk to them. (However, I definitely played chasing games during recess. My three friends and I would chase a group of three boys, and then they’d chase us). Now I realize that the teachers must have arranged our seating in order to encourage gender mixing.

I have to mention this one anecdote now, and I think you will see why. In fifth grade, a group of boys started raising hell with our administration. You see, from October to April, shorts weren't allowed in school. But girls could always wear skirts, so on warm days, we'd wear our skirts and be comfortable, but boys would still be smothering in long pants. So, one day, this group of boys .... I think there were five of them … came to school in skirts they had borrowed from their sisters. It caused a HUGE FIT. The class was absolutely disrupted because, wow, boys in skirts. I don't know if we learned anything during that day because we were all so excited.

Near the end of the day, the lower-school principal came into our class to talk to us. I don't remember most of what she said, but I do remember that she said the word "disrespectful" in relation to why the boys shouldn't wear skirts. She said something along the lines of, "It's disrespectful toward their sisters, their females classmates, and their female teachers for the boys to dress like this." I remember thinking it was a weird thing to say then, and it still seems weird to me now. I’m not exactly sure what conclusion this brings me to. I guess this is an example of the principle clearly stating what boys did and what girls did. There was no gray area, only black and white. Boys didn’t wear clothing – period. And the reason that boys didn’t wear girls’ clothing was that it was Anti-Respectable.

I also remember that the boys didn’t get a lot of flack from the other boys for wearing the skirts, but I still have the image of one of the boys leaving for the day after the principle talked to us. He looked so ashamed. So that was interesting.

Can we play with gender?
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-04 08:13:23
Link to this Comment: 15973

This piece left me with more questions than with a true understanding gender as it is played out in the playground or school. I found it difficult to get past certain thoughts, like, are children still so separated on the playground? Do these gendered roles still occur in classrooms with large numbers of boys versus girls and vice versa?

Orah asked a great question about power in sexual relationships and I don't know if there ever is real fluidity of power in sexual relationships. I think even if two people discuss the roles they wish to play in a relationship and if equity of power (the question is, what does power mean?) is important, other factors can strengthen and diminish this.

I also kept thinking about children who for some reason or another are left out of gender play and how that affects their life as "girl" and "boy." I can recall from my own experience in grammar school not wanting to do the things girls did (Barbies, make-up, boyfriends) and how no matter how hard I tried to do what was considered "boy" activities (playing baseball/basketball, skateboarding, Legos) someone would "correct" my behavior by admonishing me to act more like a girl. Also, my best friend has been a boy for a very long time, since grade school, and that was also very taboo.

I also wanted to highlight something Thorne noted that states, "The topic of children and gender should be considered in close connection with social class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality and not artificially stripped from these other contexts." (pg. 9)

Are gender roles something you are born with? What happens when you defy what gender roles are prescribed by your culture/society/family? How does someone deal with this conflict?

Little eyes...
Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-09-04 13:21:19
Link to this Comment: 15976

I shared Sarah’s experience of viewing my Osh Kosh B’Gosh-wearing days in a new way now that I’m somewhat more grown-up. When I was in kindergarten and first grade, the power that the teacher held over me and my classmates was so prevailing that there was simply no questioning it. Everything that the teacher did or said seemed to have been so carefully thought out; after all, it was she (and it was a she for me all the way through elementary school) who got to make all the decisions in the classroom. I even remember thinking as a 5-year-old that my teacher had chosen to be “mean”, and I suppose that even from an early age we think of the teacher as a purely rational being. I took it for granted that there was a good reason for each of her actions.

It seems that the teachers in Thorne’s article, however, were not the least bit aware of the actions they were taking in sorting children into groups of “boys” and “girls.” The teachers didn’t have explanations or reasons for the separation, maybe because they were all grown-up women, and even a child can see how different they are from grown-up men.

In my memory, one day I am in the yard with my Dad wearing pants low on my would-be hips and no shirt helping pick weeds. Then all of the sudden I am in first grade and a boy is making fun of the way I sit with my legs crossed, so ladylike.
I think the child’s capacity to observe and imitate probably accounts for the rapid change. But why in kindergarten and not preschool or seventh grade? Is kindergarten when we start putting pressure on children to start acting more grown up, to become little versions of men and women?

models for future behavior, unfortunately
Name: em
Date: 2005-09-04 14:50:35
Link to this Comment: 15980

this article resonated with a lot of my experiences on the playground--especially on the kickball field. i remember my third grade teacher, a curly-haired woman with an upturned nose and a shrill voice, urging me to go play kickball with the boys. for a long time i was the only girl out there. i don't know to this day why she wanted me to go play kickball--perhaps i did not get along with the other girls as well as she would have liked? i do remember some arguments over what i perceived as injustices on the playground, come to think of it. i tended to form intense alliances, and became rather hot-blooded when i felt they were being violated. however, sometimes i spent all recess reading, so perhaps my teacher just wanted me to be more active? i do remember playing every day, and getting better, so soon the boys actually wanted me on their teams, and gave me a nickname: tiny. i was never captain, but i was a contributor, and soon i began to spit and hike up my pants when i came up to the plate to kick, just like the boys did. it was an interesting period for me, and i remember sometimes being amused because i had short hair, and if i was standing around with a group of boys, i generally was addressed as a in "you boys better come in now, recess is over."
cut ahead to last night on the steps of brecon: i had been thinking about the idea of the male intruding on the territory of the female, disrupting foursquare and jumprope. my friend maria joked that it was a variation on the hunter gatherer theme--the men ran out into the grass and traveled far and wide while the women stayed home near the hearth (or the asphalt, in this case) until the men returned home to bother them for attention, sex, food, etc....we were all sitting outside, enjoying the saturday night air. a group of older guys, i'd say in their late twenties, were sitting outside as well. there were some incredibly attractive women out there on the steps with me, and the guys noticed this after a short while and began showing off--their intrusion into our conversation about the nature of relationships (ironically) took the form of racist and sexist jokes, told louder and louder until finally, one of my friends stood up and remarked that we'd be better off inside. the self-righteous part of me wishes i'd stood up with my arms akimbo and said something to the effect of "get the hell off our steps," but i realized in retrospect, it would not have been helpful or productive. (oh, but it would have felt so good...). the real issue was that these guys were still modeling (in an even more intense form) the same patterns that the article discusses. these guys were just as clueless as fourth-graders on the playground when it came to how to interact with the opposite gender.
just some observations.

Name: alex
Date: 2005-09-04 16:37:55
Link to this Comment: 15982

a week or so before i left for school i was at a friend's house, and his little cousins (between 2 and 8 years old) were there visiting.
"what's your name?" the six year old asked me.
"alex," i told him.
"alex? that's a boys name!!!" he said without even thinking. this young boy's immediate reaction to learning my name was hilarious to me, though i was not surprised that he had not learned of the concept of unisex names yet.
changing gears completely...
on page 34 thorne says, "other teachers also peppered their classroom language with gendered terms of address ('you boys be quiet;' 'girls, sit down;' 'ladies, this isnt a tea party'), implying that gender defined both behavior and social ties"-- it seems to me that using gendered terms to keep kids in line simply suggests that a group of kids from one gender is misbehaving-- if there are three girls standing up, it would be silly for the teacher to say "you people there, sit down," and if some boys are being rowdy, telling them specifically to be quiet seems more effective to me than directing a general "be quiet" to the entire classroom. i think perhaps thorne was reading too much into gendered terms in situations like this.

one thing i remember clearly from my few years at public elementary school was the assigned seating extravaganza. assigned seating was always a big deal, but the moving of unruly students was even more major. however, in my second grade class, reassignment of seats usually involved moving a well behaved girl to the desk next to a poorly behaved boy, as if her good manners would rub off on him. my teacher seemed to think that if she mixed boys and girls, they would be less disruptive while sitting next to each other. of course, boys werent the only unruly kids, but my teacher never moved a boy next to a misbehaving girl... im not quite sure what that means, except that i ended up getting moved around a lot. that may have somehting to do with why i switched to private school after 2nd grade (hmm...) anyway...

another small anecdote... when i was in 6th and 7th grade i played on a coed soccer team. except i was the only girl in the league (ive always thought it was weird that most soccer leagues for younger kids are divided into all girl's and coed teams, though there isnt an all boy's league). as a 12 year old girl, i was taller and more powerful than most boys, who hadnt really started to develop. this one time i was about to run up to a boy on the opposing team and steal the ball from him when i heard a man on the sidelines yell "come on, dont get beat by a girl!" so of course i got the ball, and knocked him over in the process. i dont think i would have been as offended had another team member shouted this, but hearing a father, presumably the father of the boy who i just slide tackled, yelling gender biased comments across a soccer field really struck me. the basic fact is that there is a period in life when girls have developed and boys havent, making them able to jump higher, run faster, or charge with more force, and i guess that father had simply forgotten not sure what aspect of gender roles i feel is biologically there from the beginning, and what is learned, but i do feel like it is a mixture of both, and i think that the stereotype of boys being bigger and stronger than girls is part of the learned group.

the first of many long winded posts
Name: Amy
Date: 2005-09-04 16:43:11
Link to this Comment: 15983

I definitely identified with a lot of what Thorne had to say about how boys and girls pit against one another and found these chapters enlightening, confirming and funny. I was relieved that she didn’t quantify her research (at least in the portions that we read) but rather used specific examples to explain larger themes.
What struck me the most is how important this stage of children’s lives is in forming their gender identities. My friends say that I have it in for anything with a permanently attached penis, but really I dislike how socialized males turn out, rather than the men themselves. I think that until there is liberation for men from what Thorne calls “aggressive masculinity” women can not truly be equal. She illustrates this by explaining that as the boys are lumped into “naughty” groups, they “define themselves in opposition to girls” and with the pitting of gender against gender, these qualities become associated with boys being superior to girls (p 169). It’s so frustrating and appalling that some people see boy’s disruptive behavior as normal, whereas girls can never be disruptive, because it’s already unladylike (a word which I can’t believe passed my spell checker). She says that some parents worry that their sons “will be taunted by other kids” for being too feminine (p 168). Well, to these parents I say two things. 1) Oh, heaven forbid that your male child show some sign that he does not conform to the gender stereotype and might actually just be a nice person and 2) often times when parents try to shoo away their children from things because they are afraid it will be hard on the child only end up messing the child up even more because they don’t have the support of their parents and they have to go through years of therapy to be ok with being themselves again.
Thorn brings up the problem of “heterosexualized femininity,” the labeling of “tomboys”, “sissies” and “fags”, and trans people who don’t stay in their assigned gender category, but, as a glaring omission in my mind, she does not address homosexuals (maybe she does this in another chapter). This probably harkens back to adults being afraid of turning kids gay or addressing children’s sexuality, I would argue that children address their own sexuality in defining their relationships between each other as mortal enemies or potential mates. Boys are called “fags” sometimes if they like to play “girl” games, which is a very interesting link between gender and sexual orientation. Why is it that the boys only have references to sexual orientation, and not the tomboys, since tomboy is a gender commentary rather than sexual orientation? Does this again have to do with one of the advantages women have over men in somewhat greater flexibility in gender expression? I mean, we get to wear pants. I think it’s also interesting and problematic how she seems to exclusively use the word “gender” rather than “sex.” I agree with her in that what the children are expressing is the social construction of gender, but she doesn’t really seem to separate the two.
This study also elucidates for me what is wrong with heterosexual relationships today. From the very beginning, males and females are pitted against one another. It’s no wonder with the war of the sexes that couples often cannot get along. We are supposedly so different that we cannot understand each other. But maybe if more teachers did exercises like Porro and Karkau to bridge the gap between boys and girls, heterosexuality would be more successful in areas other than procreation. I really wish teachers would realize their immense power in this situation and do something with it.
I want to also respond briefly to Orah’s comment on the dominant and submissive nature of homosexual relationships, which would be cool to talk about in class at some point. What does it mean to be dominant or submissive in a relationship? Is the more masculine of the pair the dominant one? What if both parties are girly or manly (which happens!)? Why does it seem that this is set? I think it was something in the lesbian feminist movement that tried to push for more equality in their relationships: androgyny and such. And then we can always talk about organized dominance and submission, which is consensual, rather than the implicit dominance and submission in most relationships, and, therefore, in my mind, groovy and hot. On that note…!

Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-04 16:48:52
Link to this Comment: 15984

Definitely Kudos to Thorne. It is pointless to just say: "well sex is biological and gender is socially constructed" and then proceed to to have some type of "intellectual" conversation about how to change the next generation's outcome. Here is a female anthropologist, and lets not forget a mother, who sees this problem...most likely worries because her children are facing these issues, and actually does something about it. Action kids, its all about action. Academia tends to theorize too much...we should act more.

Because Thorne is are programed by adults to "behave" within either a "male" or "female" role...and this is a major issue. Social acceptance...but more importantly social so ingrained in american society that to go against whatever social norm you are currently in is a "sin," right? But we must remember that all kids are not entirely impressionable...and that when they grow up...they will change. Love her anti-Durkheim stance...but...her arguement still assumes the very theory that he claims: Social norm will prvail. Maybe if she were to conduct multiple say one at an arts-geared school, one at a public school, and maybe one at a catholic school....probably one at an inner city school too....then she wouldnt have written from such a one-dimensional viewpoint...that is really the only criticism i have...

Its hard for me to compare her observation to my own cause they vary so much. I went to three different middle schools in the time span of two years. One was catholic, one was public, and the other was a prep-school. Highschool is kinda a blur too...i spent my first two years at a small catholic highschool...where yes, i was a cheerleader...and the last two years at a boarding highschool for the arts...where is wove kimono's on a loom...BIG CHANGE. And now im back here. The methods of gender construction Thorne was talking about definitely shone through to me as a kid...but thats only because i spent my entire grade school years at a Catholic school. See...the problem i have is that she only writes to people to are from middle to upper middle classes....and yes...this is why we get so excited reading her. But if we were less fortunate....lets say like...we didnt go to haverford and bryn mwar and spent out childhoods not in school too much because we had to take care of drunken relatives or something....and when we were in school the teachers didnt care about creating a gendered environment...cause most public schools teachers care more about the kids actually attending...then...yeah...we probably wouldnt understand her as much. But she is right...whatever economic,religious, or ethnic education environment you are in, gender is always a big cloud. And the teachers/administration would be like...the rain. From the cloud.

I guess her work reminded me of the family dinner metaphor...

Thorne's "Gender Play"
Name: Talya
Date: 2005-09-04 16:56:49
Link to this Comment: 15985

I’ve been debating how to express my views on this article. In many ways, I agreed with Thorne: gender is socialized, age is constructed, etc. However, I do also feel that she is creating a world that she wants to see and ignoring vital aspects of reality.

I am all about being an empowered woman, at the same time I ask my Daddy to come kill a spider for me; I am more than willing to do hard physical labor and yet I can not imagine ever proposing to a man: I want him to propose to me. Part of the reason that I am who I am is because I’m a girl. I am more socially conventional than many people in the Bi-Co which is often hard because I am labeled as anti-feminist and so on (which, by the true definition of a feminist is about as far from the truth as possible).

I think that this was a rather silly article because the majority of people who would read this are most likely the choir that she is already preaching to. She made a conscious effort to raise her children in the most gender neutral way, at the same time, might that have given them a heightened sense of the importance of gender and therefore negated the whole process?

I don’t know whether I am writing this as a devil’s advocate, whether I believe it, or whether I don’t really know what I believe. I simply don’t think that it’s as easy as she’s making it. Not all that is going on with children and the idea of gender is negative. I don’t think that the idea of gender is bad if people are aware and able to move fluidly throughout the confines of those specific genders.

My one main question about this article is about children in religious or magnet schools of sorts. Are there different effects and different perspectives depending on where the school is and what kind of school it is?

Thorne's Analysis
Name: Amy Pennin
Date: 2005-09-04 16:56:56
Link to this Comment: 15986

While Thorne's analysis did remind me of some of my own childhood experiences, I found her more brief thoughts on "the fall" which occurs in girls in adolescence and on the dominating role of romantic heterosexual relationships in the lives of college-aged women most relevant to my own life. I would love to read more about "the fall" that she mentions, as it affected me immensely in middle school. Up through fifth grade, I was the kind of girl always crossing the gender lines, standing up for the kids who got teased, and speaking my mind without a second thought. Then I hit sixth grade and became, in hindsight, an almost completely different person. I have wondered a bit about this before, and to what extent I have recovered from that 'fall,' but Thorne's analysis really pinned down a lot of my feelings and thoughts on that time of life. I also realize what a dominant role my romantic relationships used to and still do play in my social life, to the extent that I am still working on developing a group of close female friends--does that mean that I still haven't recovered from that fall? And is it possible to make some kind of compromise between forsaking romantic relationships and submitting completely to them, while still building lasting, deep connections with other women?

I am interested in the extent to which other women in this class feel that what Thorne refers to as "emphasized feminity" on page 170 has an effect on their own behavior and feelings towards themselves. I know it has a huge effect on my life, and I wonder how I got socialized into the perception that women out to work hard to please their men. I remember thinking, when watching shows on tv in like 3rd or 4th grade, and when my friends began dating in seventh, whenever I would see a couple fighting over something, or a woman not doing what a man would want, I would think, "I'll never have that problem, because I'll be a better girlfriend/wife/etc. than that." What led me to conclude as a kid that the evasion of all conflict was the job of a woman in her relationship to men?

In general, I think I found Thorne's analysis of gender asymmetry most interesting. That girls are so unevenly defined as the source of 'contamination' is really interesting, and disturbing. I really agree with Thorne's conclusion that "the culture of heterosexual romance needs fundamental reconstruction so that it no longer overshadows otherpossibilities for intimacy and sexuality." What I want to think about, and hear from others, is how we can go about changing the ways in which this faulty culture pervades our own lives, our behaviors and our self-perceptions.

Thorne Post
Name: Anna
Date: 2005-09-04 17:23:51
Link to this Comment: 15987

Thorne's words bring forth many memories of recess and in-class situations where I was faced with the opposite sex. Chasing games, though mine never ended in a kiss, and classroom activities of "boys-against-the-girls" or "girls-against-the-boys" were common. Though I was always the girl desperate to be playing football with the boys during recess, I can still remeber the sting of being picked last - thinking to myself "I can catch better than some of those guys, how is it I didn't get picked before they did?!"

Through my growing up years, my mother has done a very good job keeping me aware and conscious of everything from gender-based-separation/segregation at recess to sexism in the classroom and everything in between. Though I can recognize with ease Thorne's observations of classroom "happenings" where teachers favor boys over girls, I can't help but take a step back and think about what kind of information these kids are receiving at home. What are the messages their parents are sending them about what it means to be a "boy" or a "girl"?

I was always encouraged to be playing sports, painting, playing dress-up, shaving my barbies' heads, and reading. I'm not the "average" girl (but what BMC/HC woman is - let's get real here!). I grew up assuming I would always be horseback riding AND putting on makeup because it was fun turning my face into a canvas - even if all I was going to do was wash the makeup off and go to sleep.

What stuck out most for me in her writing was at the very end where she draws a line between the teachers and parents of boys and the teachers and parents of girls. "Perhaps because no specter comparable to 'sissy' and 'fag' reins in imagined alternatives for girls, teachers and parents of young children seem far less ambivalent abut encouraging androgynny in their young daughters than in their sons" (169). This sentence comes after a section on "the problems of aggressive masculinity" and how we, as a society, attempt to not only build up the strong elements in males, but also encourage the more sensitive. We do not as easily do this with our females.

Over the summer, I worked at a co-ed, horseback-riding summercamp, teaching lessons. My students all happened to be girls (though I called them "ladies" and told them never to use "guys" as a sexless group term) ranging in age from about 8-13. My biggest frustration was their lack of aggression. I can remember taking riding lessons when I was 8 and feeling hungry, determined, strong, and aggressive. I didn't care about falling off - I wanted to RIDE! Everyday at camp, some girl didn't "want to", they were "scared", they "didn't feel well", their horse was "too big", their horse "had ugly teeth", their horse "was mean" or "looking at [her] funny"...the list never ceased. I couldn't figure out (even after 8 weeks of working there) how to get my girls to be more aggressive - to somehow communicate to them that it was a good thing to be strong. It was even a good thing to fall off and realize you were ok and get back on - that the gritty, scrappy attitude would be what would eventually make them better riders. I didn't get through to all of them, but it's something I think about often and Thorne's words hit me in the face. We don't always raise our girls to be tough. We raise them to be smart, beautiful, delicate beings - but strong isn't always on the list...and it (duh) should be.

So what I came away with was this: if I decide to have children I need to be as awake as possible when I raise them. There can be no naps for the mom who wants her son to be strong and sensitive, smart and funny, intense and relaxed or her daughter to be strong and sensitive, smart and funny, intense and relaxed. I read Thorne's article almost as an advertisement or plea for better parenting - that in order to have wonderful women and men/men and women we need to start with them as thoughts in our brains or ripples in our ovaries (what a concept!). That it's just as important to raise wonderful men as it is to raise wonderful women and it's our job to do just that.

I feel like I could write forever...but I've already written a lot...

Kids Participate Too
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-09-04 23:09:25
Link to this Comment: 15993

I really enjoyed reading Thorne's article. It made me think back to my high school days working in a preschool gifted classroom. The point that I most agreed with was her insistance on children's actively participating in the creating of gender. Most specifically, I remember one of my students having "two mommies." One boy, from a very conservative mother, heard about this and made a comment to the effect of, "That must be cool." Another boy, who was usually very open-minded reacted to the same news negatively. It's hard to predict behaviour, although gender may be a useful tool. Still, the child's individual disposition is definitely a crucial factor.

The Fall
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-09-05 02:04:56
Link to this Comment: 15994

To the other Amy:

The "fall" is a problem of adolescent girls that harkens back to early in the 20th century, though it has been brought more to light in the last ten years. I recommend (when you have free time, ha ha) reading The Body Project and Reviving Ophelia.

images for a differently categorized world
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-05 16:09:34
Link to this Comment: 16006

As promised, I put my and Jen's talking notes for today up on-line @
(you can also find the link now activated @ the 9/5 entry on the course syllabus, @

And here's an addendum:

Following up on Thorne's observation that the painfully sparse language that kids have for relationships between girls and boys...underscores the need for more images of and more experiences with, cross-gender relationships based on friendship and collegiality, as well as Anna's suggestion that we need to start w/ our children as thoughts in our brains or ripples in our ovaries, I asked you all today to describe what concrete images you could call up, as alternatives to "the heterosexual romance": how would you like the world to look, to your children? You answered

different(ly colored/gendered/classed) people paired to work on science projects
home: a house with a red door
playing in the forest
pictures drawn w/ the left hand
taking a hike, with a cairn (a marker, telling you where you are) always in sight
children holding hands in a circle, singing "kumbaya"
San Francisco (=welcoming lots of difference)
safe, in a gated community
lots of differently colored people singing together, as in the Coca-Cola ad, "I'd like to teach the world to sing" (but without the corporate sponsorship)
the southern decadence and pagentry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans
the last scene in Angels in America: flying to San Francisco, while the souls of the dying are fixing the holes in the ozone
a multigenerational/multi-colored picnic in the backyard, with everyone dancing to Otis Redding's "Heard it through the Grapevine"
sitting on a couch on a sunny spring day, being told that you can trust your mother with anything
"following your passions" on Halloween
a home where the mother and dad are like Gretel and Hansel: they treat each other as siblings, as equals
the perfect snow day
a relay race: each child has a sense of her own contribution, and that of others, to "something bigger"
(n.b. limits of this metaphor: the sense of life as a competition with winners and losers)
a bowl of vegan lucky charms
the scene from Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, in which a human and an alien are making their way across thin ice, by pulling and pushing a sledge together

n.b.: it's not about getting out of categories altogether;
it's (just!) about altering the ones we're using/invested in....

a place like San Francisco
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-06 15:03:42
Link to this Comment: 16012

Thought some of you might like this description of heaven from Angels in America: "Like San Francisco ... Big city, overgrown with weeds, but flowering weeds. On every corner a wrecking crew and something new and crooked going up catty-corner to that. Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth, fierce gusts of gritty wind, and a gray high sky full of ravens. ... And everyone in Balenciaga gowns with red corsages, and big dance palaces full of music and lights and racial impurity and gender confusion. And all the deities are creole, mulatto, brown as the mouths of rivers. Race, taste and history finally overcome" (Perestoika, Act 3, Scene 3). It's a description of a city after destruction: structure razed. words are bursted and lie useless, replaced by 'fierce gusts of gritty wind' bellowing out busted windows. and the squawking of prophet birds. reason quakes. "In the new century I think we will all be insane" (Millennium Approaches, Act 3, Scene 4).

Though I ought not to go into it now, I hope we continue to think about "Kids do not flourish when they are perpetually watched and controlled and maybe talk about how we respond to being watched. i was inclined to write: how we as students, as women, and as human beings respond to being watched. but, could it be that we are gendered by the way others watch us: that the watching imposes a gender upon us? rather than the watching penetrating to something within us, it clothes us in a gendered body? it genders (=categorizes=generalizes=noramalizes) our bodies?

so many more thoughts, but maybe some will join me in these ...

Surendip success!
Name: elle endre
Date: 2005-09-07 03:03:57
Link to this Comment: 16016

After a few extra days thinking about Thorne, and class on Monday, and getting to read through all of the massages left by the class I have several comments on Gender and kids.

But first..

Seeing as everyone else had these fantastic gendered stories, I thought I’d add one of my own. I can most definitely recollect being socially defined and molded as a kid by my class mates. While my mother was an avid 2nd wave feminist, dressing me in yellow and green baby jumpers from birth, I remember distinctly learning about my place as a “girl” in Montessori, Brisbane, Australia. I think I must have been all of 5 or 6. I recall never caring about gender, at all, getting around in boys swim trunks with cropped messy hair, until one day someone told me that’s not what girls do. “Well then I’m a boy” I explained. “No you’re not!” some well socialized child argued, pointing to my pants; “you haven’t got a Thing”. Ah. I haven’t got a thing..the boys in the class did seem to have a thing. I know! The next day while walking to the playground to take the annual school photo I found the kid who had called me so deficient. “I’m a boy, see” I said. I had stuck a banana down my pants and had quite the Thing indeed. “No you’ you’re..hey check it out! she's a boy!”

Down to business:
Now, I know there was much discussion in class about whether Thorne went too far, pointing the gender finger at many forms of speech and such, but I have to say I think she’s right. I can asure you, the moment you switch on to gender you cannot switch it off- every form of speech is gendered. However, this article wasn’t about gender being an overly negative force in our society. On the contrary, I think Thorne should have touched more on the harmful cycle of gendered relations that exist in this society. My loaded comment refers to the fact that, while it may not appear to be that offensive to call girls “gossipy”, or to imply that all girls really want to do is have “tea parties,” or boys be “beastly”, these words carry a lot of social weight. It reenforces stereotypes that girls care about trivial social things and boys are just generally unruly. Let’s look at what kind of relationships this encourages in the hetrosexual model. Domestic violence is far more easily justified when you make the assumption that boys are inherently more physical, disobedient or violent..

I think gender is a game, an unfortunately serious game. I know it’s something I like to make fun of, partially because of it’s seriousness, in my choice of dress. I don’t think we need to, nor can level everything and remove categories all together. I don’t even think categorization is bad. What I do see as negative, however, is a lack of willingness in society to let gender be seen for the game that it is, and for the lack of fluidity allowed in looking at gender as a spectrum. Gender has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with clothing, makeup, the way we sit, the way we eat, the way we interact and the rules we pass on to future generations.

meet mister mom
Name: Flo
Date: 2005-09-07 17:43:55
Link to this Comment: 16035

Hi guys,

I plan on watching


tonight at 8pm on NBC and posting about it. I just happened to see it was on and it sounds hugely appropriate after the discussion today.

More to come later,


paper writing reflectionsi
Name: orah minde
Date: 2005-09-07 22:44:12
Link to this Comment: 16048

orah begins her tirades early: on the first day of senior-english-major-seminar Prof. Hedley said that as senior english majors we realize that paper writing is an AGONIZING processes. I would expand that statement to say that as college students we have spent many years in thinking communities and at this point realize the potential agony of thinking that totters on the border between the containment of the classroom and the "personal life." with such a paper topic, thinking explodes into the personal life.

I have thought up two examples of situations in which gender has played a role in my life. I have written the first from childhood: it is semi-trivial (though it has important implications) and is so distanced that i can regard it in a detached manner, i.e. it doesn't bother me. But, i have another example that is closer to the present, that i have managed to stuff away, that i worried a lot about in the situation, but have learned that worrying is not a feeling that i want to feel so stopped. this assignment is asking me to dig beneath a scab. you are asking us to get uncomfortable in our heads . i realize that uncomfortable places are the places in which the most learning takes place. but, does it have to take place in my head? can't the classroom stay outside of me?

so, i wrote a bunch about this more recent gender circumstance. but, want to end my paper on a productive / positive / growth oriented note and am realizing that i have not turned this gender experience into a positive one, but rather, merely buried the experience bc it doesn't feel good to think about. i'm not putting it in my paper, but rather, will put it here in case anyone wants to help muddle through it and change it into a positive experience / observation of the world.

I went on a 40-day backpacking expedition in the Arctic this summer with the National Outdoor Leadership School. Throughout the expedition we took formal classes on leadership theory. One of the classes was taught on a theory that said that there are two types of leaders: those who are goal-oriented and those who are group-oriented, the first focuses on the end result while the second focuses on process.

In our group, strikingly, each of the female students identified herself as filling the more group oriented leadership style, while all the male students placed themselves in the goal oriented leadership style. The instructors emphasized the idea that no leadership style is superior to another. Each style, rather, achieves certain things. The exercise worked toward a heightened self-awareness of one’s own leadership style so as to promote one to incorporate other techniques from other styles. The instructors taught that the most successful leader is one who can be simultaneously goal oriented and group oriented. Each student was encouraged to be aware of the style to which she or he did not gravitate.

For the next three weeks of the expedition I could not stop noticing the male impulse to lead formally and informally in an goal oriented manner, while the female students acted in a group oriented manner. While the instructors had emphasized that the styles did not have an inherent value, I became resentful of the lack of group interest that seemed to be exemplified by the way in which the males participated in the group dynamic. On the last day of the expedition we were able to see our destination in the distance. The two male students, paddling one conue together, seeing the ultimate goal, abandoned the group and reached the destination a full hour before the other three conues arrived.

What are the implication of this? In a male led world where are we going and what are the implications of the way in which we are getting there?

how useful is this thinking?
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-09-12 17:30:22
Link to this Comment: 16110

I found myself thinking so much during the discussion. So much thinking obscured me from participating in the discussion as much as I would have liked. I thought of 2 points.
First, I can remember very clearly discussing the ending of Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, in my creative arts high school. Two of the characters end up disable and three of them end up living miserably together, poor and trapped. My teachers were telling us how tragic, how sad the ending was. I just didn't understand it. I kept asking why they didn't just find a way to make some extra money, selling some knitting or something. My teachers tried to explain to me that they just couldn't. I think I had always had a sort of existentialist view of the world, as I understand it from Anne. I thought that people really could make choices. Reading Ethan Frome was one of the first times I really understood how much situations can contrain us

The second point is much more light-hearted. If anyone reads the onion, they have this great article now about ceo barbie. It's hilarious. However, the actual social critique within the piece is pretty disturbing. Is it ok to lie to girls and tell them they can be anything they can be? It's not really that easy, is it? Of course, I will tell my daughters to try as hard as they can and I know they will succeed. But how can we factor social restraint alongside creating your own world/life?

PS The TV show wasn't really all that exciting. The premise was good, but they backed down from addressing real issues. Those competition shows are always more fun when someone's getting evaluated by a hypercritical expert. At the end of the show, the husbands just get evaluated by their wives. Not tough enough.

escape from freedom
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-13 08:02:39
Link to this Comment: 16114

Interesting to me to see how different ones of us find different levels of analysis "useful"; one of my hopes for this semester is that, amid the wide range of material we'll be covering, each of us find several ways of doing analytic work that really work for us...

Anyhow, I promised you the reference to Erich Fromm's Escape From Freedom (1941) which I find so acute in its description of the "panicky flight from freedom" that each of us engages in once we realize that we really are free to make choices, that those choices will have consequences, that there are no absolute standards against which to "check" those choices, and no guarantees...

Name: Jennifer P
Date: 2005-09-13 09:38:38
Link to this Comment: 16115

In our reading for tomorrow, Michelle Rosaldo critiques her own earlier work on the universal subordination of women (and by association, that of Ortner -- remember their analyses are closely linked -- more on that tomorrow). Essentially (no pun intended), she points to what she has recognized as essentialism and ethnocentrism in those earlier arguments. Yet Alonso defends Rosaldo and makes a very different argument about "essentialism."

What is your understanding of "essentialism?" Was this the main problem with Ortner's original work? And/or do you agree with Alonso about the problems of the "essentialism" label?

more to gender than these readings...
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-13 09:41:31
Link to this Comment: 16116

Our conversation about Ortner’s piece really perplexed me. I only know that I cannot come to grip with her ideas about gender and inequality being there because women are equated to nature (we are oppressed by our holes and all that that implies) and then we went into this conversation about existentialism. I admit I am not up to speed about what this concept meant and I did a Google search to help me define this so that I could perhaps get to this idea in relation to gender. These definitions included:

“the belief that one shapes one's basic nature through the direction of life one chooses to live.” & “A philosophical perspective in which it is believed that humans are totally responsible for their actions”

I do not see how gender, and I will make the distinction of females and males, really have a choice/freedom (these words are so LOADED) in how their gender impacts their lives? Again I question, if existentialists believe that we choose how we live, then, what about society?

Reading Michelle Rosaldo’s work helped me come to some peace with anthropologists and their discourse on gender. Some points in Rosaldo’s piece I wanted to highlight:

Under the heading, “The Problem with Universals” she states, “my reading of the anthropological record leads me to conclude that human cultural and social forms have always been male dominated…I would point to a collection of related facts which seem to argue that in all known human groups—and no matter the prerogatives that women may in fact enjoy—the vast majority of opportunities for public influence and prestige, the ability to forge relationships, determine enmities, speak in public, use or forswear the use of force are all recognized as men’s privilege and right.” (pg. 394.) Also, she states, “For every cultural belief in female weakness, irrationality, or polluting menstrual blood, one can discover others which suggest the tenuousness of male claims and celebrate women for their productive roles, their sexuality or purity, their fertility or perhaps maternal strength.” (pg. 394)

Rosaldo continues with a conversation about biology and I hope that we could consider this a bit more when discussing gender inequalities and where they come from.

Beyond these readings, I want us to consider more deeply where gender inequalities come from. I am thinking to myself several situations and wonder what people’s reactions to these situations will be.

Scenario one, you (woman) are walking alone down a street in a city unknown to you. Two large women are walking in your direction. Do you a) walk past with your head up or looking straight ahead, b) turn into the nearest store and let them pass, c) decide to take your chances. What if the two people were large men?

playing in the mud
Name: em
Date: 2005-09-13 11:27:43
Link to this Comment: 16118

ana maria alonso remarks "i was surprised at the number of students who misinterpreted rosaldo's work and considered it essentialist...for them freedom meant choice, and gender could not be chosen if it was in any way anchored in human biology--particularly in sexual reproduction" (223). i understand that people are bothered by the idea that "anatomy is destiny" (thank you, ms. ozick) or the idea that gender is a "biocultural phenomenon." i myself have been wrestling with my gut-level reactions to a lot of the discussions we've been having. what i've realized is that my moral outrage or indignation or disagreement after reading a piece can sometimes directly contradict outrage i experienced earlier in the week. there is something in me bucking, shying away from what i see as the metal bit offered to me in some of these essays and ideas: anatomy is destiny. no no no. i don't want to be defined by my hole. however--woman as closer to nature, the woman as "producer of culture," visions of motherhood: oh yes, i want children, i want to be the wholesome earthmother, i will revel in my anatomy and i will fulfill the role of mother with pride. it's confusing, and i walk away from our classroom's dinner party feeling hungry--i haven't learned to feed myself yet. i call myself a feminist but--lately i've been feeling like a gigantic poser.
my male friends make fun of me for calling myself a feminist. i wrote a letter to the editor this summer in response to an article, which, in retrospect, could be labeled essentialist: since men are men, and in possession of a rod, they will be defined by that rod in all of their interactions with women... this is an idea that could be equally problematic when applied to men as it is with women. but men are hardly ever solely defined by their ability to reproduce (except for that lovely image of rods squirting up holes, thanks again, ms. ozick)...
i guess what i'm trying to say is that even though i feel like i would prefer to see gender as a free-floating signifier, i am faced with the biocultural phenomenon of gender--which leads to the subordination of women, which leads to questions like the ones ortner and rosaldo find themselves asking--why why why why why?

Name: alex
Date: 2005-09-13 14:47:53
Link to this Comment: 16120

i am perplexed by the use of the words inequality and asymmetry in these readings. there seems to be a serious negative connotation to these words, though i believe that men and women are not symmetrical- we are inherently different, but not based one who is superior to whom. i suppose men and women being "unequal" does seem to suggest that one is better than the other, which i certainly don't agree with, though i do believe that we are not as similar as some seem to think (throughout my life ive heard many women say things like "women can do anything men can do," which simply isnt true, though men cant do everything that women can do either). so thats that.
to completely change gears: i thought what Alonso wrote about how women's public and professional roles are still geared towards their caretaking that used ot be found only in the home was really insightful. when women emerged into the professional scene, they were mostly secretaries, nurses, or elementary school teachers. these jobs have a clear element of motherness in them- from caring for clients, to patients, to young children. she says "a woman's work is trivialized by being 'domesticated,'" which really resonated with me. is a woman's motherliness forever going to overshadow her professional career, even now as women are holding "higher" jobs than the average secretary?
i am more convinced by rosaldo's domestic/public conflict than by ortner's nature/culture concept, perhaps because ortner later goes back and reevaluates herself and completely changes her argument, perhaps because (not considering ortner's reassessment) there was less of a polarity between cultural man and natural woman (since women were sort of culture as well, just not as transcendent as man).
rosaldo mentions lack of aggression as a possible reason that women were/are not considered to be as professional or "go-getter"-esque (my words) as men. is this a hormonal thing, or have women been socialized to be more demure? i think it's a mixture of both- you are taught to "be a lady," which apparently means no yelling or scrapping or perhaps just aggressive professional tactics. yet there are women in the world who are professionally and socially quite aggressive- did they not learn the "lady lesson"? and what about men who are meek?
i would like to talk about alonso's closing statement in class, because i found it to be quite profound, but i didnt fully understand it: "a crippling split has emerged between feminists who believe in women and those who do not."
finally, i would like to apologized for any typos in this write up- im using a mac and the keys are all funny.

let's re-think ortner
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-13 15:33:23
Link to this Comment: 16121

We, as both people and students, so often times decontruct gender into binary oppositions such as "male" vs. "female" or "oppressed" vs. "oppressor," and then use these categories for further analyzation. What I found most interesting about Ortner was that she did not follow this conventional method. Instead, Ortner deconstructed "nature" and "culture" in order to reconstruct women from biological to cultural beings. While her arguments may be problematic, and later self-critique skewed, Ortner proposed a new way to think about gender in terms of "creating," as opposed to gender being "created."

For example, here is a quote from her self-critque:

"even if the nature/culture relationship is a universal structure across cultures, it is not always constructed--as the paper may seem to imply--as a relationship of cultural "dominance" or even "superiority," over nature. Moreover, "nature" can be a category for peace and beauty or of violence and destruction...and of course "culture" will have concomitant variations." (178)

and then later in on the same page:

"That is, nature/culture are used in my essay is not an empirical object that can be found through ethnographic scrutiny; it is an assumption of a relationship that underlies a variety of ethnographic surfaces." (178)

By presenting men in conjucntion with culture and women with nature...and then revealing the complexity and problems behind this generally accepted categorization, Ortner opened up a window for analyzing the meaning of "nature" and "culture" through studying the complexities between male and female "humans." Although she acknowledged her previous claim "male=culture and female=nature is universal" was indeed problematic, she still believed that this dichotomy exists within 1991 western society...and I to an extent agree with this.
Perhaps we can still use her analysis to formulate ideas on what it means to be "natural" or "cultural" in today's (still very much gendered)western society. It would be interesting to use gender as a tool for thinking about, what many would consider "non-gendered" ideas, and then working to correct this misconception through either casual chats or polished publications.

Name: Kathryn Co
Date: 2005-09-13 15:55:34
Link to this Comment: 16122

In high school I was never really exposed to essentialism, but I find the subject incredibly intriguing. When someone mentions an item or a place or a person, immediately you are drawn to associate things with it. If you mention a table, then a flat, square surface with four legs comes to my mind. However, what comes to my mind might not be the same thing that comes into someone elses mind. Imagination and memory account for vast differences in association. Instead of a flat, square surface with four legs, someone else might think of a round surface or one that has only three legs. Also the color or the type of material used to build it or how many people it accomodates or even if the table is big enough to accomodate people at all.

The problem with Ortner is that she neglects to remember her ethnocentric view as a white middle-class woman. When she discusses nature and culture and how they relate to men and women, it seemed to me shes was discussing how nature and culture related (or didn't relate) to HER view of the world. In the critique of her own essay she briefly touches on the Western view of how nature/culture is not universal, and almost overlooks her own participation in ethnocentrism altogether until the very last paragraph when she brings up this fact. Apparently, many people have used this as a critique against her because she ends with saying that a "young, white, middle-class female academic...touched something in many other similarly positioned in that era".

In terms of Alonso, I havent been able to form a full opinion. I am torn about how applicable the "essentialist label" is and whether it is necessarily a bad thing. She brings up the idea that fear is what continues the "natural order" of male dominance but that it is an innate and normal thing to be fearful is something she downplays. She mentions Rosaldo's comment about women having to bear children and being in charge of the domestic duties and agrees that "denying the history of women's oppression will not make it all go away". I;m not so sure that making it all go away is really the point of the essentialist arguement, though. I feel like the intent isn't to make it go away but instead to move beyond it and not dwell on the past. I agree that forgetting about the past would be equivalent to taking a million steps backwards, but focusing on how women are constantly thrust in the domestic sphere and whining about women having to give birth and having to be the primary care givers doesn't seem very productive to me either.

Name: anna
Date: 2005-09-13 16:28:48
Link to this Comment: 16123

I very well may add to this later, but something I'm thinking about right now is in response to Rosaldo's, "The Use and Abuse of Anthropology..." and the need for their to be a "'discovery' of women" (389). It may be a little off-topic, but it's something I think about regularly and have now found a way to incorporate into a post. The one thing I want to quickly touch on is the idea that "male dominance is evidenced, I believe, when we observe that women almost everywhere have daily responsibilities to feed and care for children, spouse, and kind, while men's exonomic obligations tend to be less regular and more bound up with extrafamilial sorts of ties" (394). We started touching on something along these lines slightly during class. Why is the role of a good homemaker - the place where your children (if you have any) are raised - looked down upon? It is quite probably one of the singlemost important jobs and yet we do not smile on it. Instead, we look down at a woman who uses her time to put her energy into making her home a wonderful place as opposed to pulling in lots of money. Men and women could, perhaps, inhabit two different realms of existence - men making money, women making homes - if both jobs were seen as important. Imagine a world where "homemaker" was at the top of the list - where it was the most praised and smilled upon job. I think our views would then be very different.
So then when Rosaldo says, "I know of no political system in which women individually or as a group are expexted to hold more offices or have more political clout than their male counterparts" (395). It's not, in my mind, about MORE - it should be about getting even (in the very literal and not aggressive sense of the word), not winning. If we as women were to have the upperhand...we'd still be in a world reigned by inequality and that I fear would be no better off than what we have now. I think I might have to come back to this later and add on...

Thoughts on Ortner
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-09-13 17:03:10
Link to this Comment: 16124

I'm afraid I'll have to admit that our discussion Monday often lost me. I have never thought about existentialism or essentialism (or Satre, for that matter), so it was difficult for me to wrap my thoughts around what we were talking about.

Now on to Ortner - I would like to say that when I first read Ortner's work, I found myself really drawn into it. It made sense, and I kept nodding and thinking, "Yes. Yes, that's right." Then I read her response to herself, and I was a little thrown. I can understand Ortner's own critique of her work, when she says that she didn't look deep enough, didn't dig enough. As she says, "It is not that these societies lack traces of 'male dominane,' but the elements of the 'male dominance' are fragmentary - they are not woven into a hegemonic order, are not central to some larger and more coherent discource of male superiority, and are not central to some larger network of male-only or male-superior practices" (174). If I'm understanding her correctly, she's saying that while cultures may have many aspects of male dominance, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are male-superior cultures. Just because women are excluded from some activities doesn't mean they are inferior.

Ortner then goes on to say, "I felt that my mistake earlier had been to play up such items too much, to seize upon any indicator of male superiortiy, female 'pollution,' etc, and label the whole culture 'male dominant'" (175). While I understand what she's saying, and while I agree that simple answers are almost never the right ones, I'm also not fully convinced.

It's like our own culture. We now say that women are equal to men. A woman can be president. Women can be independent. A woman doesn't have to marry. And yet a woman HAS NOT been president. And yet there aren't as many women in positions of powers. And yet a woman takes on her husband's name. And yet women earn less. This doesn't mean our culture is anti-woman or woman-hateful, but I think it does make our culture clearly male-dominated.

Anyway, I apologize for getting caught up in Ortner and not discussing Rosaldo, but I think I should quit here before I type too much.

Ignoring sexual asymmetry is fruitless.
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-09-13 17:27:35
Link to this Comment: 16125

I really connected with Rosaldo's ideas in the Domestic/Public as Explanation section of her paper. Her ideas are very much in line with what I had concluded in my paper! She speaks of how we will never understanding the lives that women lead without relating them to men, and I agree.

"...the tendency to ignore imbalances in order to permit a grasp of women's lives has led too many scholars to foget men and women ultimately live together in the world...Ignoring sexual asymmetry strikes me as an essentially romantic move, which only blinds us to the sorts of facts we must attempt to understand and change." (pp. 396)

If we are so concerned with exclusively the so-called women's world, we are living in a fantastical world because (unfortunately) the world is made up of not just women. Also, she later goes on to make a claim that theorists Goerg Simmel and Emile Durkheim spoke in favor of women's increased activity in the social realm, but that she was destined to make a mark on the "feminine arts" as opposed to the "masculine sphere of politics". (pp. 403) For me, that is indicative of acknowledging that strides will be made for women, but if it is just among the women, we'll get "no where". I put "no where" in quotations because clearly we'll get somewhere, but it's just not the "right" direction for women.

I think of it as an adorable hamster (that's the woman) running around in one of those balls. I'm sure you know what those ball things are! It's not a hamster wheel, but it's an enclosed ball that you can put your hamster in and let him/her roll around on the floor but in a way that you, as the human, still have control of where he/she will go. That's what we're going to be if we don't penetrate this "masculine sphere of politics". I don't want to be that hamster--and I'm sure none of you do either. :)

Name: Talya
Date: 2005-09-13 18:28:25
Link to this Comment: 16128

I'm not sure where I stand on any of these readings. I find them interesting but I'm not really sure how to understand and interpret them.

There are, clearly, many different methods of thought. As Kathryn said,

"If you mention a table, then a flat, square surface with four legs comes to my mind. However, what comes to my mind might not be the same thing that comes into someone elses mind."

This is an idea that invades every aspect of our life, gender included. Many of the world's issues stem from miscommunications. I know that many problems that I have had in my life all grow from intention and interpretation which often contradict one another.

I don't really know what the intention was and, therefore, I don't know what my interpretation was. I know that this is very vague, it's all that I can put down on "paper" right now, I'll try to add more later. Perhaps some that actually is understandable.

late thoughts:
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-13 18:40:11
Link to this Comment: 16130 offers a few contrary definitions of "oppression":
"1. The act of oppressing; arbitrary and cruel exercise of power: “There can be no really pervasive system of oppression... without the consent of the oppressed” (Florynce R. Kennedy).
... 3. A feeling of being heavily weighed down in mind or body."

so, in essentialist terms, one may apply definition 3 in two ways: (1) that the essential woman is "heavily weighed down" by the circumstantial, the mundane, the living, breathing, bleeding, secreting woman. OR, (2) the woman of the world, this woman made of clay and dust and breath is pressed deep into this menstral mire by the essential Woman.

I'll backtrack : unpack the text of : Definition 1 describes the act of the oppressor, while defintion 3 describes the oppressed. Is oppression an act or a state of being acted upon? Does definition 3 require that the oppressed is passive? or, may we conjure the image of Atlas carrying the heavy weight of the world on his shoulders or, even better, the image of me carrying a heavy backpack? or, more relevantly, a pregnant woman? None of these, I assert, are passive. atlas surely was oppressed according to both definitions. the world was heavily and cruelly (?) put upon his shoulders. it is questionable, however, if the other two examples intersect with definition 1. Both examples demonstrate an action. In many cases the third example demonstrates one who has chosen to be "heavily weighted down" with child like backpack. (I would assert that one carrying a baby who has been cruelly forced to carry a baby is oppressed according to both definitions.) Is the woman who carries a baby that she wants oppressed ? Definition 3 says yes. what is this weight? is THIS the weight of the essential Woman ?

I am going to follow the notion that women of clay are oppressed by the essential Woman (who, i think it relevant to suggest, is NOT a primordial woman because she never came into being, but rather, exists before the beginning, in the realm of wish before word, thought before command, intent before action.) what is the nature of this oppression? and does it fit under both definitions of oppression? is the existance of the essentialist realm "arbitrary and cruel" ? which signifies design, intent and morality which is always messy and signifies an uncanny being that mediates between realms. or is the essential realm simply a reality, an oppression that coincides only with definition 3: a simple weight, a pressure ? yes, the roles of men and women are asymetrical. and maybe one role weighs heavy on another. but, is the placement of these roles necessaily infused with a morality? and how would you feel if one said that you cannot cast off the pressure of the essential world? that by coming into being you came under that world and your role as a created being is to carry that world? our role as human beings is not to transcend, but to carry through the mud. i am oppressed as a human being and as a woman, but i am not passive. quite the contrary.

Name: Flora
Date: 2005-09-14 16:00:06
Link to this Comment: 16134

Wow. I certainly felt challenged by the discussion in class today. Listening to so many intelligent women debate showed the huge amount of diversity that can be present in such a small room. It reminded me of one of my favorite segments on the Daily Show. While at the Democratic Convention, correspondent Stephen Colbert assembled a panel of attendees at the Democratic Convention together, giving each person a nametag with a category they fit into like "lesbian", "peace-nik", "black-guy", etc. He then began asking them questions about the Democratic agenda. The session culminated with everyone yelling at the same time, trying to debate their points. I thought that piece vividly highlighted that fact that people in huge groups like "feminist" or "Democrat" are not all the same.

Being a scientist, I became increasingly interested in the play between biology and society/culture/gender roles. Let's say that technology eventually evolves to the point that people can make children with the aid of the mother's womb, which I'm sure it will. Given a sperm bank, the man's penis is already unnecessary in conception. Will this final biological separation between women and birth/motherhood knock down the foundations of our society?

While watching the hospital drama House last night, I found this biology/society question coming up again. The characters in the show struggled to define the root of a 4 time murderer's behavior. He had a very unstable childhood and they eventually find that he has always had something wrong with his adrenaline gland, causing him to have uncontrollable outbursts. One character accepted the fact that the man's biology may have had something to do with it, but it was much harder for people to accept that his socialization played a role, instead.

Really, both MUST play a role. It can be just as hard to overcome social/cultural obstacles as physical ones. YES, it is POSSIBLE for a child raised with inadequate schooling and a child with a severe learning disability to attend prestigious college. I'm not saying that these people are helpless. I'm saying that biology can literally opppress, just as society & culture. And I think both should be respected as such. I cannot be a 3rd Generation Feminist. I guess I'm 4th.

third wavish
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-14 19:21:24
Link to this Comment: 16143

Flora, I agree that today’s discussion was quite eye-opening although for me for different reasons. I am looking forward to further discussions on how our ideas of feminism and womanhood evolve, and how each of us defines or redefines ourselves throughout this course. Anne hurriedly discussed first through third wave feminism and I wanted to add re: third wave feminism that from my understanding it also included the idea that women could claim all parts of themselves. Wikipedia’s. definition is closest to what I imagined.

Also, Flora, you stated “Being a scientist, I became increasingly interested in the play between biology and society/culture/gender roles. Let's say that technology eventually evolves to the point that people can make children with the aid of the mother's womb, which I'm sure it will. Given a sperm bank, the man's penis is already unnecessary in conception. Will this final biological separation between women and birth/motherhood knock down the foundations of our society?” I just wanted to say that people already make children without a penis. It’s called artificial insemination, and another form is in vitro fertilization. There are even surrogate mothers. Did you mean that there might be a time when women can use some type of genetically engineered sperm that did not require a man? What did you mean?

Name: fshepher@b
Date: 2005-09-14 22:49:10
Link to this Comment: 16151

Samantha, that's what I was trying to say. Sorry if it was confusing. It just seems that with invitro, artificial insemination and sperm banks, the penis has become unnecessary for fertilization. I think that has serious cultural implications, that women can choose to reproduce without intercourse. This makes conception and the manufacturing of life very distanced from the male.

So, if we could figure out a way to replicate the womb artificially and thus remove the need for the use of a woman's reproductive organs in birth, wouldn't that truly separate women from traditional roles? With all the focus on the body during discussion today, I just thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to envision a society where pregnancy was optional.

Name: fshepher@b
Date: 2005-09-14 22:49:12
Link to this Comment: 16152

Samantha, that's what I was trying to say. Sorry if it was confusing. It just seems that with invitro, artificial insemination and sperm banks, the penis has become unnecessary for fertilization. I think that has serious cultural implications, that women can choose to reproduce without intercourse. This makes conception and the manufacturing of life very distanced from the male.

So, if we could figure out a way to replicate the womb artificially and thus remove the need for the use of a woman's reproductive organs in birth, wouldn't that truly separate women from traditional roles? With all the focus on the body during discussion today, I just thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to envision a society where pregnancy was optional.

turning things inside/out?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-15 16:02:47
Link to this Comment: 16168

For Monday's class, please read the preface and forward to Michael Foucault's The Order of Things, and Diana Fuss's essay "Inside/Out." By Sunday @ 5, post your responses to the readings here. Tell us what makes sense/what puzzles you, in their intersection

Thoughts on words
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-09-15 17:49:01
Link to this Comment: 16169

I really liked one of Foucault’s statements on page xix: "When we establish a considered classification, when we say that a cat and a dog resemble each other less than two greyhounds do, even if both are tame or embalmed, even if both are frenzied, even if both have just broken the water pitcher, what is the ground on which we are able to establish the validity of this classification with complete certainty? On what table, according to what grid of identities, similitudes, analogies have we become accustomed to sort out so many different and similar things?”

I liked this line because it really seemed to speak to our discussion this past Wednesday, when we talked about “believing in women.” I brought up in class the case of Arpollo Vicks, the young transgendered woman – an evacuee of Katrina – who was arrested for using the wrong bathroom. I’m going to repeat briefly what I said in class: I really want to believe in a community of women – I want to believe that there is some connection between me and the other women in the world because we’ve have similarities in our lives just because we were born with certain genitalia, breasts, hips, whatever. (Maybe this is the After School Special side of me talking…) But at the same time, how can I leave out Vicks? She’s a woman, too, but she wasn’t born into this community biologically.

When I mentioned this in class, I started to feel very uncomfortable. I had trouble reconciling these two desires in myself: I want to believe in women, but I don’t want to leave any woman – even one born with a penis – out. I like the Foucault quotation because it shows that this distress in relation to classification is a big problem. Are Vicks and I the dog and the cat, or the two greyhounds? How can I even begin to consider this? As Foucault says, what are my grounds for classifications?

Maybe I like labels because they make things easy for me. I like to be able to say I’m liberal, queer, feminist, a writer, shy, a fan of fantasy novels, etc, etc. But I’m making these labels without thinking about how they were created, on what grounds they were created, and why they were created. Even now, I feel like I’ve run in a circle. Foucault helped me think about what I said last week, but he’s not offered a solution. Maybe I should forget about the labels, but I don’t want to deny that I’m feminist. I’m proud of that.

And because I don’t want to leave Fuss out, I want to quote something she said: “The difference between the hetero and the homo, however, is that the homo becomes identified by the very mechanism necessary to define and defend any sexual border. Homosexuality, in a word, becomes the excluded: it stands in for, paradoxically, that which stands without” (pg 235). I think this quotation also relates to our conversation on Wednesday and the thoughts I’ve mentioned above. Simply put: words have agency. But despite these reading and these thoughts, I don’t think I’m any clearer in figuring out where I stand in relation to words.

Sexism might shorten men's lives
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-09-15 22:09:30
Link to this Comment: 16170

I thought this class might be interested in this link from Yahoo news: Sexism May Shorten Men's Lives: Study

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- In a somewhat unexpected finding, societal male dominance over women -- patriarchy -- may help explain why men have a lower life expectancy than women worldwide.

British researchers analyzed rates of female murders and male death rates from all causes in 51 countries in Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. The prevalence of violence against women was used to indicate the extent of patriarchal control in each of the countries. Socioeconomic factors were also taken into consideration.

The study found that women lived longer than men in all 51 countries. The study also found that those countries with higher rates of female murders (indicating higher levels of patriarchy) also had higher rates for male death and shorter male life expectancies, compared to countries with lower female murder rates, the researchers said.

In fact, statistical analysis showed that variations between countries in rates of violence against women accounted for close to half (49 percent) of the variation in male death rates, the researchers noted.

"Our data suggest that oppression and exploitation harm the oppressors as well as those they oppress," researchers at the University of Liverpool concluded.

They noted that the higher death rate and shorter life expectancy among men is "a preventable social condition, which can potentially be tackled through global social policy."

For example, changes can be made in the way that young males are socialized into patriarchal gender roles, such as the emphasis on risk taking, aggression and suppression of emotions, the researchers said.

I think you can see why this might be relevant to our class. :)

why do we categorize?
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-16 18:41:18
Link to this Comment: 16179

Re-reading Foucault with gender on the brain, I can see why his ideas around categorization and how we decide to name things is a good way to further the discussion on gender. If Foucault is saying we make categories so that we can order things in our world, what does this imply for gender? Some quotes that struck me most:
"The central category of animals "included in the present classifications: with its ezplicit reference to paradoxes we are familiar with, is indication enough that we shall never succeed in defining a stable relation of contained to container between each of these categories and that which include them all." (xix)

Foucault asks us to see that naming something can never fully define what that something is, we as subject...

which seems to me the similar vain of thought that Diana Fuss has in her essay, "Inside/Out" and her discussion of the "philosophical opposition between 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual.' " I wonder if today, more than 10 years after this was written, if society still sees these as polar opposites?
"the notion that any identity is founded relationally, constituted in reference to an exterior or outside that defines the subject's own interior boundaries and corporeal surfaces."

"How do outsides and insides come about?" I think this is a truly loaded and fundamental question. Where do individuals get the notion of outside and inside? George Herbert Mead spoke to this in the collection of his essays on social psychology. The individual learns these things from interaction with the members of their society. Society tells us what is acceptable and not, how to conform and to not...this society includes your family, your friends, your community, your country... I wonder if it is necessary to theorize gender? Must we think in the theoretical in order to understand the real?

frustration and universality
Name: flora
Date: 2005-09-17 14:40:19
Link to this Comment: 16181

These readings certainly left with many more questions than answers.

I found myself frustrated with Fuss’ piece especially. It is frustrating for me to read a piece that enumerates so many interesting points without showing evidence for them. I really missed the anthropological approach in this straight theory essay. I wanted to hear evidence from the queer and hetero communities all over the world, maybe even through history. It was hard for me to focus on the piece because it wasn’t grounded in a specific reality. Was she critiquing just sexuality in America or worldwide? She herself said in the first paragraph that there is an “inevitability of a symbolic order based on the logic of limits, margins, borders, and boundaries.” I don’t think it’s possible to deconstruct the idea of homosexuality or heterosexuality without grounding it in specific evidence, of which she offered little.

Foucault’s piece, on the other hand, was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read. He is an incredible word smith (makes me wish I could speak French and read the original), and sometimes I found myself chuckling over the language itself without paying attention to the meaning. My favorite passage by far was his description of the aphasiacs:

“..and so the sick mind continues to infinity, creating groups then dispersing them again, heaping up diverse similarities, destroying those that seem clearest, splitting up things that are identical, superimposing different criteria, frenziedly beginning all over again, become more and more disturbed, and teetering finally on the brink of anxiety.” Xvii

This mind didn’t sound sick at all to me. It sounded like the mind of a scientist, a housekeeper, really anyone concerned with organizing who becomes overwhelmed with possibilities. I thought it was a disturbingly accurate description of the human condition.

Both writers seemed to suggest that the way to overcome an existing system is by changing it either by questioning its logic (“restoring to our…soil its rifts, its instability…” Foucault, 24) or by wearing out its logic (“…working on the insides of our inherited sexual vocabularies and turning them inside out,” (Fuss, 239). I still found myself longing for a essay promoting real actions one can do to help this, not vague invasions of an unseen system.

thoughts on foucault. maybe some on fuss tomorrow.
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-17 19:05:13
Link to this Comment: 16182

according to discourse is,
1. Verbal expression in speech or writing.
2. Verbal exchange; conversation.
3. A formal, lengthy discussion of a subject, either written or spoken.
4. Archaic. The process or power of reasoning.
The first three of these describe an interactive space between. "Speech or writing" is a process of externalizing an interior. "Conversation" and "discussion" are events that describe a space between that is characterized by a certain level of understanding: segments of plains that intersect, or run parallel for a segment of time. or, we could think about ourselves as bubbles whose outer rims overlap with other bubbles: the overlap is discourse. discourse is a translation of internal language into a universal language. language, according to, is " A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating." (is there such thing, i wonder, as an internal language? is the self so segmented that there is only communication, or, is there a space of pure thought without need of the frame-vehicle of language? I am interested in the fourth definition, the Archaic, that doesn't seem to depend on the movement between internal to external, but, rather, speaks of the act of reasoning as a space between two entities. suggests a basically fragmented self.) communicating is, i think, the act of creating a space between. communication is an "exchange." exchange is an act of trade. trade occurs only when there is a coherence between the two parties i.e. common language: ability to communicate: to hop on that operating table together: to incise into ourselves in eachother's presenses. foucault writes, "what conditions did Linnaecus have to fulfil, not to make his discourse coherent and true in general, but to give it, at the time when it was written and accepted, value and practical application as scientific discourse?" the creation of an coherent intersection in time depends on much more than language. it depends on the conditions of the period, accepting exterior conditions. therefore, foucault suggests, that that which is considered "scientific discrouse" is determined not only by the projected information, but those who receive the information, and, essentially, accept the information. (aside: the self is determined by the way it is accepted just as much as it is determined by the act of projection.)

in order to figure out, therefore, what discourse is, we may consider what discourse is NOT. discourse is NOT incoherence, or misunderstanding, nor is it non-linguistic. it is not thought, or wish, or dream (except maybe for the first dream: let there be light. which is the only instant i can think of in which a recipient was created in the act of projection.) (btw: anyone know anything about the book "einstein's dreams"?) that which is not discrouse is ...

there are, i think, acts (projections) that are incoherent. what do we do with those? how do they effect discourse? where do we put the individuals who generate such anti-order? does the detmination of what discourse is depend on that which is considered NOT discourse? understanding is relative. we are all interiors. with communicating interiors there is a limited amount of coherence. how is level of coherence determined? there must be an ejaculation that is considered absolutely incoherent in order for there to be one considered coherent.

and foucault writes at the end of the preface, "the threshold that separates us from classical thought and constitues our modernity. It was upon this threshold that the strange figure of knowledge called man first appeared." the category of "man," or, "humanity" speaks of a coherence of experience between creatures: a similarity in body structure, for example. This is overlap: a discourse of man. deeper into the bubbles, beyond conversation there is an unprojected space, an unframed space. the self is disciplined, ranked: the framable aspects, the shared space that constitues the "knowledge called man" shared on the rim of the bubble, while the incoherence resides on the interior. we are built on madness, foucault may suggest. Tony Kushner disagrees: he tells a man dying of AIDS, " Deep insdie you, there's a part of you, the most inner part, entirely free of disease. i can see that" (Angels, Millennuim Approaches, Act 1, Scene 7). Not only is the most interior part of the character free of the incoherent disease, but this most interior part is understood by an exterior character. There is no reason for disease. The self seems unpatterned, manic. but, there is a peace within that, so beautifully, becomes apparent only when another overlaps her gaze onto this part. this interpersonal understanding is the purest space.

Date: 2005-09-18 15:36:39
Link to this Comment: 16186

Hi, guys.

I've just been putting together some of my notes for tomorrow, and was reminded, in the process, that when we were talking few weeks ago about "interpellation," I'd promised you some further info re: Althusser and Gramsci.

Louis Althusser (1918-1990) was a French Marxist philosopher who argued that there is no single dominant dialectical force propelling social development (as classic Marxism maintains) but rather that social formation is overdetermined by an intricate dynamic of heterogeneous practices. The word/idea most used from Althusser in contemporary cultural studies is that of interpellation, which is his term for the social formation of the subject that involves a process of being "hailed and recruited." This occurred, for example, in religion: people participated in religious practice (meeting the obligations of Catholicism, for instance), because it enabled them to believe that God hailed and recruited each one of them as an individual. They participated “freely” in the system because of it gave them the belief that they were concrete, individual, distinguishable subjects.

Althusser argues that in the early 20th c. the school began replacing the church as the dominant ideological apparatus, that we all, you all submit to the system all by yourselves, as “free” subjects, (you pay $1000's to come to bi-co, perform educational exercises Jen and I give you, for example), because doing so offers you recognition as individuals— at the expense of conforming to the law-- and so you are “formed” as subjects. Althusser would say “interpellation" is your motivation for doing this.

In cultural studies, the thinking of Althusser is often linked with that of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a Italian Marxist and journalist who spent the last ten years of his life imprisoned by the fascists, analyzing why the revolution had failed to spread. His key term is hegemony: a relationship between 2 political units in which one dominates the other w/ its consent. (Again: this classroom could be an example, with Jen and I wielding authority, and you all consenting to be governed. We said, submit your papers last Friday, and every one of you did. Why?)

The work of both Althusser and Gramsci suggest that you submit because, (not so paradoxically) to do so gives you a sense of agency, of functioning as a subject: we attend to you as intellectuals, individuals trying to make sense of the world, But they both want you to be aware that, preserved behind the veneer of bourgeois social harmony of this classroom, domination is present, that it's naďve to pretend that it isn’t, and that it doesn’t serve us all equally.

(Expect that'll hold you over til tomorrow afternoon--and Foucault, who has a rather liberatory take on these matters--)

foucault/fuss thingy
Name: alex
Date: 2005-09-18 15:48:36
Link to this Comment: 16187

one thing i thought was interesting in the foucault reading was her discussion of aphasiacs (p.xviii), who had a hard time differentiating skeins based on simple differences (color, size, etc). i wonder what would happen if you gave these people a sample of humans and asked them to categorize them. since their categories are so fluid, and they tried to simultaneously sort the skeins by shape and size and hue, only to immediately change their minds after they thought theyd gotten it right, i can only imagine what would happen if you gave them a group of people, mixed gender, color, shape, size, etc...
tying this to fuss's discussion of sexuality... i feel that one's sexuality is as equally fluid to me as it would be if it were simply one category used by an aphasiac. that is, i am straight now, because i like guys, just as someone else may be gay because she likes girls, or bi because she likes both. but that could always change depending on the gender of the next person she dates. the fluidity of this categorization is similar to anything in life that can change (i am young now, but i wont be young forever, etc).
so is gender itself then a fluid category? the transgendered woman who got in trouble in texas seems to prove that yes, it is. the subject of transgender is awkard for me to talk about, mostly because i havent really ever talked about it and i worry that my bluntness will be offensive. but here goes-
i feel that a woman is a woman because of her genitalia (as fuss says, we often define ourselves as the opposite of what we are not- i am a woman because i am not a man). since it is surgically possible to change one's genitalia, i also feel that someone who does so is also a legitimate woman (or man, depending on which direction theyre moving). this seems funny to me upon thinking about it though, because it would seem to say that i believe that only post-op transsexuals are legitimate members of their "new" gender. i dont know how to reconcile that. and ive digressed completely.
as flora says in her post, it seems that to defeat the concept of categories, we need to talk them to death. but i dont even know what that means- these writers seemed to have a very vague and philisophical approach to differentiating and to changing the nature of these differentiations, but i too was frustrated with the lack of concreteness when i feel that they are talking about really important things in a language that is just one step too removed from my frame of reference.

Name: em
Date: 2005-09-18 16:42:56
Link to this Comment: 16188

fuss speaks of the "inside" and the "outside," the "hetero" and the "homo." but as i was reading, i kept on recalling this diagram from "changing bodies, changing lives," a book i received as part of a sex ed. course i took through my church. (i can't ignore the irony of that particular dichotomy: "you learned about sex in church?!")
anyways, this diagram had a line of people, and there was a slanting line drawn across their bodies, and it was a sexuality continuum. the people at the ends were mostly hetero or mostly homo, but all the people in between were some mix of the two. this is why i don't like the inside/outside aspect of fuss's argument: i ascribed to that continuum then and i ascribe to it now--i think rarely anybody is one or the other, and i like the idea of gentle gradation rather than stark contrast.
foucalt suggests that language is "the primary grid of things," xxi, a kind of link with an ability to impose forms of order on objects. yes, i believe he is right, and i believe that if there were more flexible/graded/shaded definitions of sexuality, then there would be a better way to undermine the inside/outside, hetero/homo dichotomy which perpetuates misunderstanding and misreading of the "other."

Insider/Outsider = problematic!
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-09-18 16:57:48
Link to this Comment: 16189

The idea that our thought as something that is "stamped" was something of note to me. Stamping something is a voluntary process in my mind--a choice that you do. It's as if he is saying that we are actively stamping our thoughts with the perspective of our age and geography? In my mind, I would say something more along the lines of our thoughts eing "freckled" or something that we didn't have a choice of placing on our own, but that could shape our thought processes (in theory).

Switching gears, the Lacanian psychoanalysis that Fuss cites is very disconcerting to me. I don't like to think that one's identity is founded on the basis of someone else. I'm not saying that it's not in some ways a valid idea, but it makes me feel like a big fake and I don't like that. Perhaps I can agree with the idea that there are some parts of one's identity that is founded in reference to an outside source, but I don't like the idea of having that outside source define another person's inside.

I am especially intrigued by the questioning of where sexual borders are constructed. FOr me, it would be interesting to figure out why certain sexual positions/acts are more "kinky" than others. Just because they require a bit more flexibility or something along those lines doesn't completely convince me. For sexual identities and politics it seems a bit more straight forward as to how/why they have been constructed--not that it's something I want to keep in tact, but if everyone has sex with different people, how did some things become more "normal" than others? Isn't it supposed to be a intimate action?

"The homo in relation to the hetero, much like the feminine in relation to the masculine, operates as an indispensable interior exclusion- an outside which is inside interiority making the articulation of the latter possible, a transgression of the border which is necessary to constitute the border as such." (Fuss, 235) Right on. I can make the same connection with the disabled/abled connection, although perhaps an argument could be made that it's a bit different but one is only in existence because of the existence of the other. I'd like to mull that over more in my mind.

I always end up coming back to Thorne, but I think it's fascinating to think about this in relation to child's play. Perhaps if "gender" which, one could argue, could be disconstructed, do you think that children would find other categories to put people in? Are categories inescapable? Do you think that is a way to get rid of the insider/outsider mentality? Because, even if gender was gone, do you think the label of inside/outside would still prevail because that seems to be more problematic than the labeling of gender.

Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-18 17:06:03
Link to this Comment: 16190

What brings Foucalt and Fuss together in thier writings is that they both urge thier readers to focus on the lucidness of categories instead of categories' harsh divisions. Both speak from an epistemological view when they urge thier readers to transgess from questions like "what are the defining characteristics of these two groups that differentiate them?" to more important questions like " how are these two groups related so they we can see how they together keep being reinvented over time". For example, Foucalt focuses on scintific discourse (using Broges as an example) to show how its harsh analytic divisions create a construction of culture in a non-productive and de-humanizing manner. When we try to establish "order on things," most often times the meaning of things "things" are lost. Using "episteme" to create his "system of positives," Foucalt is urging the academia of his time period to to anaylze the "catagories and systems" of things they produce in a non-judgemental way--free from pre-disposed assumptions.
He parallels Fuss when he states his goal to "create a history of sameness instead of a history of the other." Fuss, perhaps because she is a follower of Foucalt, wants to define gender cateogories as lucid and interchangeable...not as two categories with set divisions and which we define each one in terms of the "other." But, how can we use the different tools of analysis that each of these readers offer as a productive means to negate/comprehend acadmia's conventional usage of creating binary oppositions?

Fuss claims:

"The fear of the Homo, which continually rubs up against the Hetero, concentrates an codifies the very real possibility and ever-present threat of a collapse of boundaries." (237)

Fuss assumes that heterosexual people are afraid to admit thier lucid identity with homosexuals; and therefore, they position themselves "against" them by creating/forming sharp divisions. For example, people might say: "Im a heterosexual male strictly because I am not sexually aroused by other men; and therefore, i can not (or will not) be labeled homosexual because this is such an obvious difference." I understand this mentality of many people is extremely problematic, but this is in fact the conventional, and quite common, way that people veiw themselves. Adressing Foucalt's idea of creating a "history of sameness," how do we, as the present genderation that will work to "create this sameness" go about this? For example, I am an Asian living in Caucasian household. Because I was adopted at an early age, I am not really concious of this "ethnic divide," however, I know that I am asian because I am NOT caucasian....meaning my skin, hair, and facial features are different than my parents and brothers. Yet, I dont create this concious "boundary" with the intention of seperating myself from my family, i unconciously do is to explain why i dont look like them. So, is it OK if i define myself (asian) in terms of the "other" (caucasian) as long as its not for segregative or judgemental puposes?
In my essay, I defined myself as a female in opposition to my friends (males). yet, this opposition was not to seperate myself from them, in fact, i concously tried to show our two sexes as integrated through our mutual love for flag football. Yet, perhaps i did present the other girls as the "other" because they didnt play the game with us, and i chose to focus on a mean action that they did to me. I guess this is an example of how "messy" the definintion of the "Other" can be because these girls were of my same sex and age. Instead the thing that defined them as the "other" to me was that they did not play flag football. Respecting Foucalt's urge to bring out the "positive unconcious" in thinking about how i created this boundary with the other girls, I guess I didnt think of them as the "other" so much as "the same" but with different interests during recess. Addressing Fuss, I cant really relate her writing to my essay because it did not have any sexual orientation issues in it.

However, the social problem she addresses is true:

"does one compromise oneself by working on the inside, or does one shortchange themself by holding tenaciously to the outside?" (237)

how can we create a culture free from "conciously made" social, ethinic, sexual orientation" differences without loosing the validity of these differences and the boundaries that make them important and special? Because to Identify oneself as bisexual, meaning that she is neither heterosexual or completely homosexual does not necessarily place her in opposition to these two categories. Instead, it marks that she is integrated into them because she is sexually attracted to both sexes. Yet, it is this very definition "bisexual," and more importantly, her labeling of it, that shows the fluid nature of her sexual orientation into the other two......just a quick thought....

Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-09-18 17:13:17
Link to this Comment: 16191

I understand interpellation as working like this: an Other recognizes you as a subject, and then you recognize yourself as a subject, thereby perpetuating whatever ideologies you are acting out. Althusser writes that ideologies “ensure the absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right: Amen—‘so be it’.” (Althusser, Ideological State Apparatuses p.135)

So I read this and then was thinking about Fuss’ discussion of Inside/Out. She asks “How do we know when the homo is contributing to the confirmation of the hetero and when it is disturbing it?” (p 238) I think Althusser would say that both occur at once to the same effect. Whether one is confirming/disturbing the other, the same social structures are being validated. It works like repression: the more one repudiates an ideology, the more one is actually attempting to conceal his place within the ideology (or, maybe, in Fuss’ terms, the more one tries to be outside, the more one is inside). One cannot be a Subject without also being subject to the ideology, so the more one resists, the more effective the ideology is.

I guess it comes back to our discussion of free will, because it would seem that the more one chooses, the more one confirms the static. The implication of Althusser’s words also echo something that someone said in class, that we all take comfort in reaffirming ideologies: 'everything will be all right'.

what do we love?
Name: Kathryn Co
Date: 2005-09-18 17:21:32
Link to this Comment: 16192

I think that Em makes an excellent point concerning the "continuum" of sexuality. I have always believed that no one is entirely gay or entirely straight because then you do not love a person, but instead, their body parts. I understand the whole "but I really don't like girls/guys that way" because for so much of my life that's how I was. While I am primarily attracted to men, which prbably stems far more from nurture than from nature, I am currently in a relationship with a girl. My friends from home ask me all the time if I'm scared about the fact that I'm with a girl or that I'm in love with a girl or that where I'm from, holding hands with someone of the same sex is equivalent to social suicide. My answer is always the same: I am not in love with any old girl, but with a person who is kind and funny and wonderful. If she was a guy but the exact same person, I would be in love with him too. Why must we love the gender and not the person?

Fuss says that "it would be difficult, not to say delusionay, to forget the words "inside" and "outside", "heterosexual" and "homosexual", without also losing...the crucial sense of alterity necessary for constituting any sexed subject...". It is amazing to me how difficult it is to remove sexuality from the equation altogether. It is almost as if we define ourselves by what body parts we are attracted to, and not by what qualities we like in ur mates. Especially at bryn mawr, I feel there is a very strong want to know "what people are". We are asked, either directly or on the sly, if we are gay or bi or straight. And if it isn't asked, then it is as though we feel the need to define it, just to get it out there for whatever reason. A perfct example of this was the first class of the year when we were "categorizing" ourselves. There were 3 or 4 students who mentioned their sexuality as one of the three things to know about them. Interestingly enough, none of the Haverford students mentioned their sexuality. Given there were also at least 5 or 6 bryn mawr students who didn't mention it either, myself included (no psychoanalysis necessary, i went first). But thinking back to that day, I find it intriguing that in a group that claims to be open-minded, we still have that constant need to categorize and define in order to know who is "out" and "in" and all the shades of gray.

I love Foucault...
Name: Amy
Date: 2005-09-18 18:08:45
Link to this Comment: 16194

I thought Foucault's article was absolutely fantastic. I think I highlighted just about the entire article, because I was so in love with what he was saying. This reading articulated so brilliantly the nebulous beginnings of thoughts I've been forming in this and other classes. What I'd like to point out, something I feel like we've been sweeping aside in our more philosophical discussions of identity and existentialism, is Foucault's main point: all of the "science," both hard and soft, which societies conduct, all of the intellectual 'progress' which is made, is formed within strict cultural boundaries. I felt that that great excerpt from Borges demonstrated this so well; the very implication of words, the entire order of reason, is dictated largely by cultural forces. Not only do I think this is an important thing to keep in mind throughout our discussions (I'm such an anthro major); I think this has implications for the ways in which we've been defining individual agency and choice. In discussing existentialism it was argued that one has the ultimate power over choice, and can choose to do anything within the realm of physical possibility. I think Foucault proves that this is not the case: if even the scope of our own imagination and reason is so limited by cultural constraints, so must our actions and choices, and even the ways in which we evaluate choices and define what our choices are, be determined in large part by our culture and socialization.

Name: Talya
Date: 2005-09-18 20:05:45
Link to this Comment: 16198

I was fascinated by something that Foucault mentioned and that we spoke about in class: how one defines and explains categories. Categories are defined by their opposite.

Something is something if it is not the opposite of the something's stereotypes.

This is somewhat of a tongue twister and sort of confusing. It's really interesting to make a category based on another category that may not exist yet however, basing it on that category creates 2 new categories, or at least more definitive categories.

Fuss, in an incredibly long-winded and rather wordy manner, made many statements without anything to truly back them up. I am also curious to find out about how she relates to what she says, on a personal level. I find it fascinating that she has determined that one thing is the inside for EVERYONE and one thing is the outside for EVERYONE. It is not as easy as she seems to think in terms of sexuality and self-definition.

Categories create judgements and I, ask almost anyone, am an incredibly judgemental person. Actually, most people think that I am more judgemental than most, I simply think that I'm more vocal about it. I base my judgments on my beliefs and ideas about the world. I am aware though, of how little I actually know. Which would suggest that I really shouldn't make some of the judgments that I do make.

I had a conversation with my sister this weekend (not about this). She said that people who said that they were "open-minded" pissed her off. She thinks that the people who define themselves as open-minded are really just the opposite, because for the most part, those are the people who are open-minded and accepting as long as others are the same. I'm not sure how this relates but I feel like it's important to mention because those of us who try to decategorize often reject seeing ourselves as the ones who categorize the "others". Again, it comes back to black vs white, there is no gray. Black is the opposite of white and white is the opposite of black.

oh my
Name: anna - tho
Date: 2005-09-18 21:26:33
Link to this Comment: 16201

ok, in all honesty, i've been trying to come up with something to write all afternoon and foucault has been so confused i'm going to wait until after discussion tomorrow to post my thoughts! i just thought i'd post the fact that i'm royally confussed...way to go, anna... :-) hopefully tomorrow will clear things up for me.

The Essentialists
Date: 2005-09-19 16:47:26
Link to this Comment: 16218

Now I’m going to take us back a class to Rosaldo/Alonso, because that’s how far I am right now.
First, when I sat through class on Wednesday, I completely misinterpreted what was going on. I went into the reading thinking that Rosaldo was anti-essentialist and Alonso was criticizing her because she herself was essentialist. All through the Rosaldo reading I was trying to figure out how Rosaldo was anti-essentialist and it just wasn’t working, and then Alonso kept praising Rosaldo, and I was like, wtf?
So then I finally figured out that they are both essentialists, which is slightly less confusing.
I really liked the point Rosaldo made when she said “Just as we have no apparent cause to look for physiological facts when we attempt to understand the more familiar inequalities in human social life--such things as leadership, racial prejudice, prestige or social class—so it seems that we would do well to think of biological sex, like biological race, as an excuse rather than a cause for any sexism we observe” (p 400). Look! We are reading a feminist who references race as more than an afterthought. Here we are applying race theory to feminist theory. As far as I know biologist have determined that race is not a real biological category, but a social construction. Gender too is a social construction. On the other hand, Alonso casually refers to “those who deny any connection between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” (p 223), and I interpret this as her seeing that there is a connection between sex and gender. Do essentialists see a connection between female and woman? I would think so. If we choose to define woman as one having female genetalia and menstruation and giving birth to children, these are all embodied female attributes rather than how I see the construction of woman, as linked to their position in society, their social roles etc. But really how different are these? Rosaldo explains that the reason that women have a certain place in society is linked to their bodies. Women are in the home because their bodies are what enable the making of children, which need to stay at home for a period of time. My big question is, why are some feminists so afraid of saying that their oppression is due to biology? If it’s because of Freud’s quote “biology is destiny,” then why can’t we just throw that out the window, and say, no, like Rosaldo does, that biology is NOT destiny, and even though our bodies are a certain way, we do not have to be tied to that!? And as Alonso asks, why is it so bad to be "essentialists"? I think I understand the larger implications, but I think we should be able to look at the gender problem from many aspects and be able to take what we like/need from each.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-09-19 16:48:29
Link to this Comment: 16219

That last comment about the essentialists was mine. Sorry I forgot to put in my info :P

web papers up
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-19 17:11:47
Link to this Comment: 16220

I'm delighted to announce that your first set of papers, on gender play,
have now been published on the web. See
Many thanks to Ann Dixon for her help w/ this
(and she extends thanks, in return, to you all for getting it "less wrong" this first time 'round!)

some thoughts about class and foucault
Name: Orah Mind
Date: 2005-09-19 18:14:58
Link to this Comment: 16221

much to say!

1. samantha: am I right in interpruting your critique of foucault ? : foucault seems to be arguing that identities are not true to the self but are, rather, imposed upon us by society. Samatha, however, argues that while this may be true it is not a useful way to live, because even if we refuse identity we are going to be placed into identities by society. we may as well take control of our lives and identify ourselves, rather than society do it for us. either way we are going to be categorized. as you were speaking, samantha, i was thinking that what you were saying was a perfect example of the penopticon that anne talked about. the question is: do you identify yourself as latina because that's what society demands? or, does society see you as latina because that's what you say you are? foucault, i think, would agree with the former. society see you, gazes at you as latina, and you, subsequently, internalize that gaze and see yourself as latina. latina is the operating table. who comes to this table? and what happens when the table is taken away? what holds these people together?

2. maybe a useful thought about operating tables : in the evolit class em and I took with anne and paul grobstein we learned about entropy. (while I've read complaints about using scientific theories at metaphores, i can't help myself here.) entropy is that which pulls all outward. entropy disallows relation. entroy is always at work. order is in constant decay. there is not criterion of relation if everything is in constant motion outward. we must, there, place things in containers in order to speak about relation. that is why the operating table is necessary. we create operating tables to defy entropy: we impose order. "“The monstrous quality…consists…in the fact that the common ground on which such meetings are possible has itself been destroyed. What is impossible is not the propinquity of the things listed, but the very site on which their propinquity would be possible.” the operating table is "monstrous" because it is so very false: it is the opitome of a construction. let's imagine the world without operating tables? ....... scary, i think. do we really want freedom?

3. to what extent does the penopticon provide a comforting imprisonment? ..... i am thinking back to Thorne's statement: "Kids do not flourish when they are perpetually watched and controlled" and I wonder, again, how do we respond to being watched? do we thrive under gaze? is the gaze pinning or liberating or both and what determines its effects on us? do we control what the gaze does to us, or, does it impose itself unflinchingly?

3. (running out of steam here:) and the end of class made me think of "from the singular imperialism that compels everyone to transform their sexuality into a perpetual discourse" (Hist. of Sex. p.33) ... we are demanded to fit ourselves into the discourse of sexuality. whether we identify as lesbian or straight or 55% lesbian or 5% straight: all of these are in the discourse of sexuality. we are obligated to come into word: to imprison ourselves in word. society copells us to present ourselves in the language of the discourse. both terms heterosexual and homosexual are spoken in the language of the discourse. even though one is considered deviant, or, Other: they are coherent to each other. ((think about a few classes back when we talked about the permanent roles in an oppression dynamic.)) neither resists the discourse. does silence, i wonder? "there is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses" (27). so silence is a part of discourse, too. how do we hop off the operating table? get out of the gaze? exorcise the gaze? what does resistence look like?

Tempted to use a bad Fuss pun, but restraining mys
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-09-19 19:11:41
Link to this Comment: 16222

The Fuss reading is extremely relevant to my coursework last semester in the sociology of deviance. We learned that society (the inside) allows deviance (the outside) because society needs deviance. It needs deviance to demonstrate what is wrong, thereby showing what is right, or acceptable behavior. Fuss goes along these lines when she says that the homosexual outside defines the heterosexual inside.
Judith Levine in Harmful to Minors explains that we castigate the other (in this case, the “pedophile”) because there is something in ourselves that we are afraid of, or do not like, and therefore project it onto someone else and create the “other.” Fuss highlights this same thing by explaining “the homosexual as the abject, as the contaminated and expurgated insides of the heterosexual subject” (p 235). As we talked about in class, there is something of the other inside the inside.
I feel like the question of theoretical application, or irrelevance thereof, is a multidimensional problem. The problem with adopting a Foucauldian philosophy is that we are not in the 1880’s and we do have established categories of sexual orientation. For political agency, we must rally together under these labels that were created long before we were born to create change in our favor. The problem is, while we are pushing for positive change, at the same time we are leaving in our wake a stronger divide between inside sexual identity and outside sexual identity. It is a double edged sword, and seems as though there is no way to win. The post modern feminism that we talked about in class that is pushing towards a more free-floating existence perhaps has taken Foucault literally. As Anne told me today, he is a historian, not a sociologist!

foucault outline-- is this helpful to anyone?
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-19 21:56:28
Link to this Comment: 16223

Hi Everyone! Im not going to be able to attend Wednesday's class, but I got the impression that we were really grappling with Foucault today. I have studied him in previous courses for the past two years....and I, too, often get really confused when reading his work. I thought part of my outline might help some people....sometimes it may be easier to understand what he is saying in more of an organized fashion...Im sorry if it doesnt make too much sense....I just typed it out of my own personal notes....

Foucault: “The History of Sexuality”

Section 1:

I.Foucault Background:- Taught by a famous Structuralist Theorist (much influenced by Structuralism)

“A History of Sexuality”—a post-structuralist theoretical work
( He is basically “writing” history in order to “destroy” it)

A. Object of Study:

1. Historical: Repressive Hypothesis—the relationship between and power and subjectivity

2. Power Relations : converge through sex and Sexuality
Attacks historical writings and its theories
Politics—sex as the “truth”

B. Victorian Section: we continue to be dominated by Victorian regimes

1837-1941—social environment of moral restraint and “prudence”
17th century—sexuality more fluent (ironic, huh?)
Rise of the Middle Class—sexuality confined to the home and silenced publicly
Result—non-reproductive sex repressed in society “Repressive Hypothesis”

II.Repressive Hypothesis:

A. Power—worked through prohibition, denial, and censorship “a force individuals repressed”
B. “Sex as Truth”—Foucault tends to have an obsession to discuss sex and reveal truth of all humans
(An attempt to discover the truth of our being through representation)

III.Aim of Foucault:

A.Historical—interrogate facts people use for categorizing Sexuality

1.Question—is it really a fact that sexual repression emerged in the Victorian Era?
2.Foucault states that from the 19th Century we have an obsession to discuss sex
Example: (Catholic Confessionals, psychiatry, psycho-analysis, etc---a sexual discourse is channeled through these components

B.Historic-Theoretical—does power really work through prohibition? (I think not)

1.Popular Concern—the 18th Century brought on a need for power
Birth rates, contraception, marriage age—these all affected population size

2.The Power Over Life—began in the 17th Century
Power functioned in the power of death (king had the power to kill subjects)

3.Connection—there was a shift of power in the 17th century (death) to the power of the 18th century (life)

4.Power of Life—evolved in two-folds

Power centered around the body as a machine—used to maximize capabilities for capitalistic services
Power centered around the body as a species of life—biological processes had to be monitored to research functions (health and biology)

5.Bio-Power—made possible to expose sexuality and create a concern for the welfare of the community

C.Historic-Political—Sexual Libertarianism (1970’s and the 1960’s)

1.Sexual Libertarians—states that society was repressive about sexuality and wanted to free sex (relied on the Repressive Hypothesis)

2.Foucault—states that they relied on the Repressive Model in which they renounced---he basically thought that their sexuality was a product of their repression
Sexuality is not an innate force and society does not rely on repressed Sexuality

IV.The Construction of Sexuality:

A.Discourse as power, knowledge, and truth—idea that all are interconnected
Truth—medium which power mediates; power produces a discourse and discourse produces knowledge

B.Myth of Innate Sexuality—sexuality is not an innate force—he wants to know how sexuality functions for individuals and society
Sexuality is a product of an Economical Discourse (science) and was invented in order to control and categorize humans

C.Bio-power and the Invention of Sexuality—“Body as a machine” and “Body as a species”

19th Century—these two poles came together; prior to the 19th century, Christianity ruled sexuality—now we have doctors in “confessional style” trying to extract sexuality from their patients (psycho-analysis)
Transformation from a Religious to a Scientific Discourse—immoral sex now seen as abnormal and must be “treated”

D.Sex and a Mechanism of Knowledge/Power—

Categories--“Hysterical woman, masturbating child, reproductive couple, perverse adult”
These four figures were the poles for “bio-power”

V.Method: Genealogical Analysis:

A.Historical analysis of power—genealogy is the decent of power relations
Conventional historical analysis states that specific groups produced change (reject)

1.De-centering the Human Subject—“Discourse and the Power of Humans
Both produce change—we are born into a certain power/class
Repressive Hypothesis is now a product of Bio-power

2.Contemporary Political Motivation—traces a line of decent from “present” to “past” in order to trace theories and undercut present political debates

VI.Society and Normalization:

A. Subjectification—with the emergence of “Bio-power” in the 17th Century, capitalism (which need healthy bodies) fueled “normalization”

Result—people are products of sexual discourse

1.Two Components:
a.As humans, we are subjected to discourse and therefore we have constraints
b.How we negotiate with discourse in order to become subjects
c.(Basically we are subjected to categories and are therefore limited by them)

B. Power and Resistance—both are equally inherent to each other

1. Power relies upon resistance—we exercise power through discourse and knowledge

2. Power ties us to our identities—power involves some type of movement or negotiation, not pure force

Ex. Homosexual—an invention for the discourse of science (did not exist before the 1800’s)

Section 2: Analysis

I.2 Factors Foucault was limited on:
1.sexuality was created in the 18th century
2.many feminist writers criticize him to be both “gender” and “racially” blind

II.Historical Context:

A.Urbanization and the Bourgeois Family:

Social problems and poverty existed
Prostitution and pornography flourished
Concerns of decay of the Roman Empire

Bourgeois Family—seen as a “guard” against all of these “decays”

Men out in the world vs. women at home
Training ground for male and female sex roles
Poor Families—many shared one room (sexual impropriety did in fact occur)

B. Sex and Reproduction:

“family oriented”- economic reasons: contraception and abortion allowed sex to be non-reproductive

“love and courtship”- intimacy an aspect of marriage, so, leisure time allowed for this intimacy

C.Gender Specific Sexualities:

Woman- moral guardian of the family—idealized as having inherent sexual purity
Men- thought to have natural sexual urges—middle class distinguished by rising above lower class status

D.Same-Sex Relationships:

Idealization of separate male and female spheres --“cult of friendship”

E.Commercial/Public “Vice and Disease”

Urbanization—greater demand for prostitution
Unemployment and poverty
A necessary evil against “animal” or “non-reproductive” sex of people
Huge social anxiety—no cures for U. D’s
Prostitution reflected anxiety over urbanization
Unless they would be saved, “fallen women” would “fall to their death”
Working-class women were de-feminized (because how could they afford to be bourgeois?)

F. Sexual Purity and Reform:

Middle class reformers feared this would “infect” the world
Campaigned against the double standard of male and female Sexuality

Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-19 23:36:01
Link to this Comment: 16224

From this point on, we have been analyzing readings concerning sex/gender and its construction/identity/placement from women's perspectives. Now, we are faced with a new layer: two male perspectives. As women, regardless of our personal variations/opinions, how do we interpret these two "male" readings? Do we have a natural bias against thier messages simply because they are male? And if so, what are the consequences to this "judgement process"?

Embarassingly, I had not even noticed that Thomas Laqueur's reading was actually writtn by a "man" until page (14) when he began to speak of his personal history as a "son" and "male." I know this makes me sound really stupid (Since his name is right there on the front page) but I guess I just did not bother to look. I conciously try not to "gender" people, especially the authors of my assigned readings, but for some reason...i unconciously did in this case.

When I looked back on my margin notes, I found that there was a clear difference in the tone I used before I found out he was a man vs. after page 14. Before page 14, my notes are a combination of "markers" keeping track of his dialouge, and "markers" of my own in response to how he is constructing gender, etc.....just my usual scribble.

However, after I "discovered" this writer was male, I immediately went back to my notes, trying to find out if my perception of this writer (Who i had previously assumed female)had changed...which it did not but this is irrelavent...

The point that I am trying (with difficulty) is that: gender does lead to "gendering," and it is this personal error that bleeds into our future writing/speech/and interaction...which is scary. We all make assumptions, perhaps to be more crass, judgements; however, we also conciously try to keep these "judgements" in check because they often disappear over time. But more importantly, we try to be concious of these "judgements" because they tend to block our path to more important opening up to people, or being more accpeting to new ideas...

What bothers me is that "how" I interpreted/read/created assuptions of this writer changed immediately when i found out he was a "man." Even though i read/write/and speak against "gendering" and "creating assuptions based on gender"....i myself did this exact thing... which is bothersome....

Considering that the readings we have been assigned up to this point focus on liquifying gender boundaries/categories/and is embarassing for me to admit this personal blunder...especially on the world wide web. This categorizing/judging that we, as people, do may suck...but it is ( as talia commented) inevitable. But it is still frustrating because we work so hard to fight it...

What is the solution to this problem? should there even be a solution? because to create a concrete solution would be too simplistic... or should we take the foucault stand of letting human nature "ride out" as long as we work to be concious of our faults as humans and "categorizers" and our inevitable "morphing" ?

How do we, as college students (still optomistic), work against gender/racial/social/sexual orientaton prejudice if we, as flawed people, still hold on to these prejudices...Whether they are concious of not?

im going to stop now.

quick response to Orah
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-21 09:24:27
Link to this Comment: 16232

Orah, you ask very good questions, and the truth is I do not discount what Foucault is saying. What is troublesome for me is that the theory as we have read it does not seem to provide examples or ways for us to live otherwise. The question of how I came to my identity at first seems obvious to me, that I somehow chose the categories, but as I have learned, these were chosen for me. The operating table, is it society? Is the table literally like an operating table, the space where one is dissected?

the transgender table
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-21 11:50:02
Link to this Comment: 16238

Here's some more on-the-ground data about hopping onto (or is it, in Foucauldian terms, off of?) the operating table: Trans Generation: Four College Students Switching More Than Their Majors.

"What is Sex?"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-21 18:49:51
Link to this Comment: 16247

I wanted to spend a little more time w/ the idea that Flora and Em were working on in class today--what I'm calling (my terms, not theirs) the biological sexual imperative. I'm going to evoke a book I like a lot, which I used in the Thinking Sex class a few years ago; it's What Is Sex? by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (New York: Nevraumont, 1997). They say, in part, that way before discourse,

Sentient life is attracted to sex and food because, by loving and devouring, life maintains and increases is...part of a natural tendency to mix things up, to randomize, to lose discrete identity due to the tendency of material systems to reach more probable states. But, in us, sex is intricately tied to reproduction, and as such, it takes on a different aspect, one that has as much to do with preserving identity as with destroying it. Ultimately, sexual reproduction is the fundmanetal biological proces of maintaining and reproducing identity....

Sex is the beginning and end of that metacycle of carbon chemistry we recognize as an "I"--our own individual identity despite the imperfect repetition of our form in the generational mirror of our similar-but-not-identical offspring. In experiencing sexual temptation or pleasure, we enact a cosmic breakdown more primordial than life itself, one mandated in the very meaning of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. We help the sun to spend itself, enhancing the degradation of energy as heat into space--not just by sweating in the bedroom but by giving the universe a chance, as best it can, to repeat our form....

sexual reproduction is a byproduct of thermodynamic dissipation....There is nothing predestined or intrinsicaly 'natural' about the linkage of sex to reproduction. It is a byproduct of the contingent history of protoctists, seasonally stressed beings whose survival depended on locked cycles of fusion and meiosis...Sex appears to be pleasurable to us because, linked to our reproduction, it is the way that we stave off thermodynamic equilibrium...

In the short run--in our individual lifetimes--we produce entropy by maintaining our identity, which necessarily entails the elimination of liquids, gases, and solids through our orifices. In the long run we ensure the prodution of entropy by mating, which produces new organisms like us that continue the special form of dissipation known as life in the next gereration. But the Second Law of Thermodynamics, rather than sex itself, is the physical basis of our evolutionary focus on copulation and other sexual acts. The linkage between sex and reproduction, in other words, is contingent. If other dissipative processes are available to replace it, it can come undone....

Well, there's lots more. Go read it...Margulis' and Sagan's description of sex--as an expression of the random exploring nature and novelty generation of the universe--goes way beyond heterosexuality....

And there will be more on this upcoming in a few weeks...

dangerous dangerous foucault
Name: orah Mind
Date: 2005-09-21 20:37:21
Link to this Comment: 16250

I came here to post some ideas I've been mulling over since class, but .... wow, Anne! that quite a quotation! i'll try to get these ideas out. I am, however, distracted.

In the past, the mixing of foucault and 'real' life (and the wasteland) has launched me into a state of emotional catatonia. I have, however, been able to discipline his activity in my mind. I find the real life implications of his thoery terribly disturbing. and, oh, so very convincing. I think he is simply right. and to a certain extent foucault has shaped the reflexivity I try to enact in life. and i;ve found that i must pick and choose (as I must do with all theory) what is useful and helpful to my life and must disregard that which puts me into catatonic states.

allow me to unpack:
Anne has said that she finds foucault freeing. I wonder, Anne, if you ever found him absolutely imprisoning? ...if so, maybe someday I will learn to find him freeing. what I read foucault as doing is finding the polars at the end of every binary and stretching them to the rims of existence. we do not embody interiory, rather, we are the interior. existence is the interior. foucault might even demotlish the final binary of existence and non-existence and say that there is only extistense and in so saying destroy any hope of escape into non-existence. the imagination has power only when it can move from frame. but, i don't think foucault beleives in frame.

the panopticon is always watching. i guess the only hope is to escape the gaze. but, the gaze is our own: all interior is replaced by the panopticon's gaze. we are squeezed between an external gaze and an internal gaze. even worse! there never was an interior. the panopticon is always present. the only moment of hope, MAYBE, is the moment of conception. what is the nature of that which is conceived? is it puddy? material to be molded? or, is it pure identity that from that moment on is chained and created by a gaze? i guess the only hope is existensial: TRANSCEND! move outside of the gaze means to move beyond the self: away from external oppression AND internal projection. i don't think, however, that foucault's world veiw allows for transcendance.

I find foucault's system to be an absolutely closed system: any utterance is a part of discourse and any silence is a part of discourse ... aren't those the polar extremes of the spectrum of articulation? foucault says that resistance is the only way out. BUT, what is resistence that is not silence or word ? his thoery permeates all the senses ... what is there outside of seeing (projection, articulation) and blindness (silence)? we can only imagine. maybe a creation of an interior by curling inward: severing all connection with the exterior. but even that is part of the discourse, because it is contained. though possibly bothersome, it works WITHIN discourse.

I watched the video Anne posted about the trans. students. simply: my first reaction is: if the discourse is the space between male and female, aren't these students simply changing there position in the discourse. yes, it stretches discourse, but it remains within. we are still stretched between the binary of male and female. and they have even been discipined into the category of "trans". i can't conceive of what is beyond this binary. is a hermaphrodite within or without? i guess we'll chat next week about that.

anyways, (i run out of steam a lot faster than I have in past years) ... i am interested in the idea of the power of sight. why didn't butler show those slides? because our seeing them would have impaired our ability to hear her words. the panopticon's power is based in the power of sight. sight might emphasize our physicality more than any other sense. ..... i intend to think and unpack this more ..... thanks all for such great thinking together!

psych gender study
Name: flora
Date: 2005-09-21 21:50:53
Link to this Comment: 16254

check this out.
gender study

Name: Jen Patico
Date: 2005-09-22 08:42:16
Link to this Comment: 16264

On p. 20 of Middlesex, Cal tells us that "...despite my androgenized brain, there is an innate feminine circularity in the story I have to tell. In any genetic history. I'm the final clause in a periodic sentence, and that sentence begins a long time ago, in another language, and you have to read it from the beginning to get to the end, which is my arrival."

Thus the story of Cal begins with the story of Cal's grandparents and parents. Continuing our conversation from last (this) week about biology, sex, and pleasure: Why do they do the things they do? How do their selves, their desires, take form? (Genetics? Choice?) What does this (maybe) tell us about how Calliope becomes Cal?

Middlesex musings..
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-09-24 16:21:24
Link to this Comment: 16279

Wow! This book is ...something! I don't know how to define it just yet. I've only gotten through Book One, but I have enough on my mind that I wanted to post.

It's so interesting because this novel feels like it's coming from the voice of a woman. I think it's because it makes references to the readers and the voice has a playful element to it. I totally feel that "innate feminine circularity in the story" (pp. 20)-- Jen refers to that in her post.

He says that, "When Calliope surfaces, she does so like a childhood speech impediment. Suddenly there she is again, doing a hair flip, or checking her nails. It's a little like being possessed." (pp. 41) He speaks of Calliope as an entity almost, but that confuses me because it seems like Calliope is controlling the nature of this whole novel. If he claims that he operates in society as a man, does that mean that this novel is where he is able to run free as a woman? Does that mean that society forces him to play up this image of "male" and that through language he is able to be one with his true self...which is a woman? Or if he is "innately feminine", how can he operate as a male in society? Because he's learned all that one needs to do to be seen as a male in society? I don't know...hmm..

Also, just for pure entertainment, did anyone else laugh outloud when reading this sequence between Desdemona and Lefty when she is undressing:
"Why are you so quiet?"
"I'm reading."
"What are you reading?"
"The Bible." (pp. 48)

Oh my! I laughed to myself in the library. That was too funny.

Also, I'm just putting this out there, but doesn't Lefty/Desdemona's relationship kind of signify a relationship that has transcended the boundaries of categories in some ways? If we are able to forget, just as Lefty tries to forget that the breasts he sees are his sisters, then aren't we enabling ourselves to be free from the restraints of categories? Or are some categories good? "It was just a body; it could have been anyone's.." (pp. 48).

Name: Orah Mind
Date: 2005-09-24 18:02:38
Link to this Comment: 16280

Thus far, at the end of part 2, Eugenides' story is an archeology of Cal. His thoery, however, diverges from Foucault in that he pinpoints an origin: "The thread began on a day two hundred and fifty years ago, when the biology gods, for their own amusement, monkeyed with a gene on a baby's fifth chromosome" (210). and an end: the conception of a hermaphrodite. Foucault's archeology has a beginning because it is not possible to fit all of history into bound word. so, he locates the rift of the vicotrian age and begins: acknowledgeing that it an artificle beginning (that all beginnings are artificle.) Eugenides, in contrast, locates a beginning. though is seems to be referring to "the biology gods" in jest, it is significant that he explains biological phenomenon as a result of intentional action. a biologist might disagree and say that the formation of that fifth chromosome was pure chance. or, like foucault, a biologist might embark on further excavation in order to find a prominent rift from where to grow explanation.

Eugenides' makes me wonder if all stories of beginnings and ends include the "monkeying," the penetration of forces external to our worldly experience. how are things that ARE NOT come into being? the scientific explanation of "chance" seems weak to me ... but so does the personification of "the gods" ... it seems that human history might be traced by the quest for this origin: how did existence come into being from being not ? even the bible doesn't start where we want it to ... "In the beginning ..." : this is not an explanation of how the beginning began: this opening line starts AMIDST ("in") the beginning ... the bible starts with illumination: bf all is darkness and chaos. a beginning imposes order : it is order that allows us to hear and tell. but, there is always a bf order, an unillumined time that cannot be touched by human mind. we are meaning making machines and therefore live in constant frustration bc we cannot understand the basic binary of the world: order and disorder, the meaningful and the meaningless. we live on the ground between beginnings and ends. beyond, however, we sense a 'before the beginning' and an 'after the end.' and we are uneased.

Middle Sex
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-24 19:51:59
Link to this Comment: 16281

Its interesting to see how much we allow science and its "concise" language to infiltrate into the "complicated" dialouge of social categories. As we have discovered through the past weeks previous readings, both academia and society locate gender categorizations based on scientific analysis and research...oten times, creating the illusion of concrete sexual identities. America tends to recognize only three gender categories (male, female, and hermaphrodite) and only three sexual orienation categories (homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual); and based on these categories, we proceed to align "male" to "heterosexual" or "male" to "bisexual," ...and thus, creating a gender "identity" for him.

However, Eugenides complicates this practical method by creating a character who is neither completely male, female, or hermaphrodite...and whom is also neither concretely homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Similar to Cal's self-proclaimed "inbred" family, Cal gender identity is also inbred. He proclaims himself as the "ultimate hermaphrodite," and then proceeds to satirize the "scientific reasoning" behind this phenomena. However, although Cal states that he has a male brain, and operates in society as a "man," he does not deny the female qualities he had previously presented before puberty. In fact, Cal seems to embrace both qualities (masculine and feminine), and refuses to label himself as either strictly female, male, or even, hermaphrodite (although he addresses that other people do). Throughout the novel, Cal presents all three of these qualities as equally important to his gender identity, and thus, deliniates gender categorization by refusing to align himself with a single one.
We so often times gets so wrapped up in creating categories based on logic (often defused unconciously from science) that we tend to limit our understanding of "people" and the relationships that they form with one another. I think it is this need to "prove" people's idenities that Eugenides is trying to make us get away from. Cal satires science and its "scientific" excuses for constructing gender and its "exuses" for him being an "error." It is only when we study gender without cateogorizations that people are allowed to become human. It is only by complicating gender and its pre-constructed connotations that we are allowed to really interact with individuals as people--not categorizations--because its is this complexity that makes them colorful and interesting. And yet, we (including myself) continue to place people into gender cateogizations because it makes analysis "logical." How can we dilineate gender while still using categories and logic as tools for anaylsis/discussion? I think it is possible...and Eugenides presents two (very complex) metaphors for doing so within his first book. Im sorry I have simplified them so much...

Metaphor One:

cocoon= Body (body-the container of feelings)
silkworm = mind (the weaver/creator of feelings)
thread = society (the social pressure it exerts-contoller of mind and body)

"As she put it on (corset), she felt like she was spinning her own cocoon, awaiting metaphosis." (36)

Look at the role of the corset and how its function changes throughout the story.

Metaphor Two:

How does the author align Desdemona and Lefty's relationship (and thier marginalized sexual preference)with the political evolution between the Turkish and Greek Army?

Also, how does the author align thier individual identity to that of a particular ethnicity?

(39) The "Greek" army was in full "retreat" of invading "Turks."

(53) On September 7, 1922, everyone was trying to "pass" as Turks.

Cal uses military language to articulate Desdemona's individual agency in her socially constructed environment: "with no idea of the army inside her, carrying out its military orders, or one of the soldiers who disobeyed..." (38)

To complicate this idea even more, It was only through transatlantic travel (to Europe and then America) that they could re-invent thier relationship from brother/sister to husband/wife in society (67)

(68) Europe and Asia Minor are dead--America was now thier future.

There is way to much to say about this one not even going to go into it.

Name: alex
Date: 2005-09-25 13:03:18
Link to this Comment: 16285

my underlining of this book started at the very first sentence: "i was born twice." i knew more or less what this book was about, though the plot is slightly different than i was expecting, yet for some reason that line really struck me. i guess this suggests that the making of gender is also the making of you- that if you are born a girl, you must be reborn if you want to become a boy. this makes it seem to me that gender is not as fluid a thing as the continuum we were discussing in class, or as easy to change as your hair color (which i think we already determined in class).
in reading this book in thix context, i am drawn to the gendered comments more. for example, on page 76 desdemonda's reaction to the statue of liberty really struck me ("ive seen enough torches to last the rest of my life... At least it's a woman... Maybe here people won't be killing each other every single day.") had i not been looking for anything related to gender, i would have just passed by this comment without blinking. another example, one that i found to be quite funny: "'whoever named it morning sickness was a man,' lina declared. 'he was just home in the mornig to notice.'"
the fact that desdemona is a very traditional greek woman makes gender categorization all the more apparent. on pgs 99-100 when Zizmo is complaining about his wife acting too masculine (or is it too american?), he says to lefty, "your wife understands. do you see her in thesala showing her legs and listening to the radio?" so what is the base root in zizmo's problem with his wife? is it that she isnt acting like a "lady," or is it that she's acting like an american lady? cultural differences in the expectation of women are really striking to me.
it's interesting to think of pregnancy as a maze, and zizmo does on 113. women like to think of pregnancy as a power, the ability to give life obviously an impressive feat. and tho the uncomfort that comes with trying to sleep when youre six months pregnant is surely a bit overpowering, the idea of men using it as a control mechanism kind of freaks me out. granted i doubt i will ever be shipped off somewhere else to marry someone who picked me out of a catalogue, but all the same...
also, the discussion of the "loneliness of fatherhood" (130) really struck me. we've spent so much time talking about various aspects of being a woman, and a mother, so hearing about parenthood from a man's perspective (albeit it from a novel) was refreshing.

thoughts on Middlesex
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-25 13:49:06
Link to this Comment: 16286

Many of the previous posts unpack Middlesex in interesting ways, because, I have been reading this book and noting all of Eugenide’s examples of gender roles as he sees them as part of American culture and perhaps to a degree Greek culture as well. This has been helpful to me because it feels like once I read what roles have been assigned I can begin to think about when in time this might have come to be. This story sheds an interesting light on gender roles and deviations from social norms, and how individuals deal with these deviations. I missed the conversation in class about the gender spectrum but so far in my reading of this text I have not found an affirmation of this continuum.

Orah, in one post you inquired about sight and how seeing things informs us—I have been thinking about this because of many reasons. One is the idea that for instance, sexuality is not something you can see, but our questioning of gender makes me think could there be a point when we say gender is not something that we see? Perhaps I am rambling, but the other thing I thought about is how people assume gender by colors. What I mean is this—newborn clothing is colored in such a way that male children and female children are assigned colors and people will look at the colors a baby wears to identify it “accordingly.” My son has a purple and pink pacifier someone gave him and you would not believe how many people are thrown off by this.

To begin an answer to our prompt, the characters selves and desires seem to take form by making choices that do not conform to their culture/society/religious upbringing, giving in to what seems “natural” to them, by the deep unnamed feelings with but doing this secretively. It appears to lie somewhere within biology and choice. Eugenides throws in these questions as well. (pg. 37) "Was it love or reprduction? Chance or destiny? Crime or nature at work? Maybe the gene contained an override, ensuring its expression..."

selecting one's own destiny: can we bump foucalt f
Name: em
Date: 2005-09-25 17:04:32
Link to this Comment: 16289

what i'm intrigued by more than anything is the fact that cal is narrating the book as a man. clearly, at some point in his/her life, she/he has made the choice to live according to biology (that recessive gene his grandparents' union has pushed to the forefront of the family makeup....).
what does this say about biology? is it really destiny, as freud then says? because calliope does not seem to be dissatisfied being calliope. sure, she's interested in other girls and all, but i don't see why it doesn't mean that she couldn't just as easily "choose" to live as a girl...
yet the narrative is a male. so maybe it's not a "choice"?

Name: Kathryn Co
Date: 2005-09-25 17:32:23
Link to this Comment: 16290

I have mixed feelings about Middlesex thus far. Having only gotten through Book One and a little bit of Book Two, I don't know that I've read enough to make a decision one way or the other.

One part that really intrigued me was Lefty's experience with the whore. It is clear long before Irini ever says her name that Lefty has a thing for his sister, just from the description of the whore he chooses in the village. Desdemona's attempts to create the "perfect wife" for his brother are intended in a genuine way, mainly out of respect for their dead parents. Interestingly enough, she seems incredibly intent on ignoring the "feeling" she can never quite identify in hopes that if her brother is not available, she will be content to just be by herself. She knows immediately when he comes home empty handed that she wants to be that which he hasn't found. One thing I couldn't quite decipher was the real reason why she felt worse than he did about being with him. Was it because she really did feel guilty about the incest or was it that, as a woman she was taught not to be sexual? Is it a combination of the two? Lefty doesn't seem to mind much about the fact that Desdemona is his sister; in fact, he seems to think that all the years they spent sharing a bedroom was just foreplay to the inevitable finale of sex and marriage.

Middlesex post
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-09-26 00:08:50
Link to this Comment: 16301

Sorry this is a little late. I got carried away with reading and forgot that I was supposed to post as well!

Let me first say that I love this book so far. (I'm only halfway through). I thought Orah made a really neat point when she said that the first part of the book was the "archeology" of Cal. Eugenides made a good choice when he decided to start the story at the very beginning (with Desdemona and Lefty); Cal's story depends on all the events that lead up to her birth, even events that occur almost forty years before conception. (I suppose that puts a point on the biology side for the biology/environment argument). Without this explanation, Cal and Calliope come out of nowhere with no explanation. Yet, at the same time, maybe we're not really getting the full story - we aren't told about the time that the mutated chromosome came into existence. But how could Eugenides tell the full story - is there a such thing as the full story?

This fuzziness - trying to tell the full story while leaving the "real" beginning out, Cal's unclear sex at birth, the boundaries between Lefty and Desdemona as siblings and lovers - saturates the entire story. I found it interesting that a few people brought up the gender of the narrator. I actually had a lot of trouble identifying a gender for the narrator. Cal/Calliope seemed intertwined while s/he told the story, neither male nor female, or maybe a little of both, and so the fuzziness of category lines was only amplified by the story telling. I'm not saying Cal isn't a man - certainly he is! - but enough of Calliope is alive from Cal's childhood that they work together to tell Middlesex.

I guess that while I believe gender is a social construct, I can't deny that biology plays some role, somewhere, somehow. I don't think that biology has anything to do with me liking baby bunnies and hair thingies (or sports and action movies, for that matter), but biology has to be there somewhere. I liked Flora's comments on class on Wednesday. She talked about the moment when thought stops and we just act - and if we didn't have those hormones and parts in our bodies, then our species would have faltered pretty quickly. Perhaps I should just say I argue that biology shouldn't rule our lives? It's present and we should work this it? If that makes any sense?

speaking in moral terms: the proximity of heaven a
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-26 17:21:18
Link to this Comment: 16322

I am interested in the "good" project of deconstructing restrictive binaries upon which societies are built. society is the space between people and is concerned with the space of relation between individuals. it is important, therefore, that the points of connection (individuals) are in a form that can be connected with the rest of society's web. foucault says that society holds the power to create the individual in a form that is most useful to the whole. we free ourselves from our creation, sever ourselve from our maker, by resistance: an unmaking of sorts.

to what extent, however, is this unmaking "good?" as Patricia asks, "Or are some categories good?" We become addicted to repetitive action: pulling things apart, offsetting earthquakes ... but are there any natural or "good" binaries ? I'll suggest that the "bad" binaries are those that society imploses in order to discipline people through relation: the binaries that imprison. imprisonment is unnatural. it adds weight to a life. it's an external pressure that disallows a person from experiencing life as herself, but rather, forces her to experience life as herself+this weight. our coding, the pole to which we are tethered, contrarily, is NOT a prison, it is, rather, that which experiences. when we transcend we remain in relation to this code. this code is not something to escape ((sex change operations would be an interesting idea to unpack here)). transcendance is the act of creating meaning for the code. but it is ALWAYS in relation to the code. when the unmaking of the world becomes an attempt to unmake the code, to untether ourselves, to float without reference, i suggest, this is when un-binarying becomes "bad."

kushner's "heaven" is a place where pure race melts. he suggests an apocalyptic end: heaven comes in destruction. but, i am suggesting, that some form must remain: heaven is about floating through frame, open spaces: Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth . we enter a "bad" place when all frame is dissolved and there is no where to stand.

I'll cut to the chase: i think the binary of brother and sister is one that need not be deconstructed. i think that the sexual relationship between siblings is unfastening from the code of who we are as human beings. everyone in the class (except em) seemed fine with it: would you be fine if it was a relation between a father and a daughter? a mother and a son?

My list of things to think about:
-the power dynamic of vision: seeing and being seen

Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-09-26 22:34:30
Link to this Comment: 16325

Orah. in your posting you say
"i think the binary of brother and sister is one that need not be deconstructed. i think that the sexual relationship between siblings is unfastening from the code of who we are as human beings. everyone in the class (except em) seemed fine with it: would you be fine if it was a relation between a father and a daughter? a mother and a son?"

and I think there is something further to your question, that is, what about desire? Should we then talk about where the root of desire comes from? I don't think we were all fine with the relationship between Lefty and Desdemona, but in relation to the story Eugenides wants to write, it was an explanation for Cal's being; it was a way to draw us in to the secret, the secret of our selves as we become unravelled by the truth of our genes.

about your list, your fragmented questions need explanation.

"My list of things to think about
-the power dynamic of vision: seeing and being seen

what about seeing? are you questioning whether actual sight (the sense) is needed to understand a sense of self? Or, are you questioning the power of our selves as visual statements of who we might be?

and what about drag?

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-09-27 03:26:36
Link to this Comment: 16328

I wasn't going to say it. I thought that it was too much information, and you guys didn't need to know. But after talking to Anne, I've decided to open myself up. The personal is political!

I thought that the incest between Lefty and Desdemona was hot.

I think this is important to share because it's the opposite end of the reaction of disgust (which maybe some of us had, but didn't share). Or is it? Perhaps disgust and desire are linked. Which came first, the desire for incest or the disgust/taboo? Do we desire it because it is forbidden, or is it forbidden because we desire it?

Anne asked me this question, and I still am hesitant to answer it. I feel personally that it's desirable because it's forbidden. I would say that the way the author portrayed it, it was desired despite being forbidden. Perhaps though, this is because the story is a "real life" situation. Without speaking from much personal experience, no matter how hot in theory I may think incest is, when faced with actually doing it, shame and guilt would probably override my theory. But then again, why else would I do it?

The question that Orah asks is perhaps one of consent vs non-consent. With parent/child incest, even if the child is of age, there is a power dynamic inherent in the relationship that would be difficult to override. Then again, is this prejudice against sexual relations between two people of much different ages? However, I feel like the question of consent is an important one. If two people are consenting, what's the problem? If we want to prevent "mutated" children, just use birth control.

Which brings me to my last point. I want to discuss the nature of being intersexed. In class today I casually referred to interesexuality as a "mutation." This was entirely satirical. For me, intersexuality points to the social construction of sex (as opposed to the much talked about construction of gender). Even if interesexuality isn't extremely common, it still exists, probably more than we think. Is nature full of mutations, or perhaps these are not terrible mistakes, but the range of possibilities. In this society, we have a set diagnosis for what is male and what is female. Is this an exact science? Theories with holes in them usually stand for long enough, until a new theory is thought up that can explain the holes. Is there something besides inbreeding that can explain intersexuality? Is it possible for someone to be intersexed without a history full of taboo breakers?

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I greatly apologize if anyone has experienced incest in a negative way, and my theoretical ramblings show the insensitivity bestowed on the ignorant and priviledged.

Name: talya
Date: 2005-09-27 17:27:03
Link to this Comment: 16334

I wasn’t in class last Wednesday so I may be completely off in my interpretation of this question; however, I do feel that the value extracted from this story is multilayered.
Throughout the story, Cal reminds the reader of the genetic disorder on the 5th chromosome that travels through the many generations of his family. “…All this nonsense comes from the Dark Ages. We know that most birth deformities result from the consanguinity of the parents…from families intermarrying…causes all kinds of problems. Imbecility. Hemophilia. Look the Romanovs. Look at any royal family. Mutants, all of them.” (Pg. 116) Upon hearing this, Desdemona begins to regret her decisions: marrying her brother and procreating no longer seem optimal.
However much we battle incest we all admit and encourage love to develop in the heart, not the brain. As I’m sure many of us know, falling in love is often simply desire translated into emotions stronger than one’s brain can truly contemplate, it is not something that can be understood or qualified. It may be besheret (the Jewish equivalent of a soul-mate — meant to be). Now, in my mind, there is still minimal choice in desire. I don’t see the option of falling in love with my family members which translates quickly and easily into a lack of desire.
Granted, even when there isn’t the desire, love still often develops. In Middlesex it seems as if there is a desire for an understanding of one’s partner. The need for marriage within cultures is a tradition, and often a requirement, implemented throughout the story. There is clearly a level of comfort with one who has an innate understanding of one’s history and life than one who always lived in close proximity. (Family members seem to fit that requirement).
I think that part of Cal’s discomfort comes from a feeling of isolation from his family, but mainly from himself.

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-27 17:37:54
Link to this Comment: 16335

yeh, i'm bothered by what i wrote yesterday: allow me to revise? ... the sibling binary is not one that i think needs deconstruction. i don't think the sibling binary restricts or imprisons or oppresses. the stong language i used (i.e. against what it means to be a human being) was used to insight conversation and disagreement. here's the revision: i don't think existance comes from a unit. i think there are basic binaries. there is, i think (at this moment), an order at base. having said this, i don't care what siblings decide to do. no, i'm not disgusted, or even bothered, by lefty and desdemona. why put value judgements on things that do not effect me? i guess it comes down to the fact that i'm not attached to the characters ... don't really care about them ... i don't know what i would say if i did care about them ...

desire. that's a trickier subject, i think. amy, i'll venture out onto a limb with you ... (hope i don't plummet us!) when say that sex between siblings is unnatural to our code as human beings i am not saying that desire between siblings is unnatural. the tautness of the space between binaries can vary. never will i suggest that sexual tension between siblings is "bad." tension is a part of existence. maybe even what it means to live: stretched between life and death: (what happens when death is imminent and the stretch is most aparent? high tension). but there is a crucial difference between desire and action.

okay. DRAG! i don't like how eugenides writes of the gene as a Truth. ambiguous as Cal's Truth is, i don't like the idea that we possess a Truth (maybe i am more foucaultian than i thought: though i think i do beleive in interiors: just empty interiors, or changing interiors, or interiors with open windows and rustling, lace curtains) ... it's too simple, to solvable. so, drag. drag messes with the idea of gene-truth. if the gene is the most basic code (however ambiguous) than the most comfortable place for someone who is genetically male should be as a male (not necessarily what society says is male, but, more basically, he should be comfortable with the physical makeup of maleness). drag queens (sry. i'm not as aware of the female side of drag ... i wonder why), however, feel more comfortable by covering that which their genes dictate. which inplies that there is something more basic, more interior, than genes.

to protract the idea farther: there is an uncanny pleasure, i think, in the act of disguise. why don't drag queens simply get sex changes? there is a sense of trickery. a giggling pleasure of hiding and the squeeling of being found. but even more: there is a TENSION that need not be overcome when one does not feel at home in one's own skin: when one makes it a constant occupation to dress and redress and arrange and disarrange and oraganize and disorganize one's own self: there is a sense of being able to create one's own self: a sense of power over nature.

womens rugby league
Name: Martine
Date: 2005-09-27 17:44:51
Link to this Comment: 16336

I am wanting to send this letter off what do you think?

Dear sir or madam,
I am writing to you to complain about something that happens in my school. I am a girl, 15 years of age, Year 10 and this year I was allowed to choose the subject that I wanted to study for physical education. I haven’t taken G.C.S.E P.E so I only have a lesson once a week. I have chosen rugby because I am passionate about the game. I was put with the boys which is not an issue as I regularly play rugby with boys anyway. I have always played full contact rugby for many years with boys. I am annoyed because I am in the lesson but yet do not get to fully partake, not through any choice of my own. Every week I arrive with the correct equipment (gum shield). One of my arguments is that some of the boys in my group are a lot smaller and less physically developed than me and regularly complain about being in pain even at non contact points of the lesson therefore I feel that they are at as much risk as I am. This makes me feel very isolated and victimised because of my gender which as I understand means that people aren't living in equality which surely does not comply with the equal opportunities act. I think that if they would prefer girls to do the sport separate from boys, then rugby should be introduced into the curriculum for girls. So then girls can experience what rugby is like and then decide for there selves whether or not the sport is for them, after all football is in the curriculum so why shouldn’t rugby be introduced? I am not blaming my school for the issue as I know they are complying with the rules that have been given to them but I am wanting to achieve something and even if I don’t get to study rugby at school then maybe future students will.

quick response to class
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-28 15:05:01
Link to this Comment: 16343

This is an exerpt from a paper I wrote a few years ago comparing the biologically male kabuki actors of Japan to the biologically male Hijras of India....neither of these categories are intersexed or "hermaprodites"...both are biological men who some form of intersex (both through theatrical performance and social/indiviual identity). This exerpt is just to give you guys some background information. In class, (except for elle) we seemed to speak from a female/western/but also conciously liberal viewpoint. This is normal...we are women living in America who all go to small liberal schools. However, what are your reactions to my questions posed after reading piece from my paper? Do they change?

Similar to the onnagata actors of Japan, the Hijras of India are also what Western academia would define as "transsexual men" who play a crucial role to Asian culture. To Indians, however, the Hijras represent not a homosexual or transvestite male, but that of an entirely seperate "third" gender because they are niether entirely female nor male, but contain crucial elements of both (Meyer, p. 89). When a young man wished to join the Hijra community, he must participate in an initaiation ritual performed by his annointed guru where he is formally castrated and recieved a female name (Nanda 1986, p.36). However, it is essenatial that he formally "give up" all sexual activity in respect for the Hijra's mother god Bahuchara Mata. After this initiation process is complete, the new Hijra (chela) joins his guru's home where he and his new "sisters" reside (Nanda 1986, p.36). Seven of these "houses" form the main Hijra community in Bombay where seperate gurus are a mother figure (Nanda 1986, p.37).

Because Hijras are physically unable to reproduce children, they are not considered men by Hindu standards because this ability is essential to the religion's conept of masculinity (Nanda 1986, p.37). However, although the Hijras adopt feminine mannerisms, dress, and vocabulary, they are not thought of as female because thier course speech and crass actions contradict the Hindu ideal of restrained femininity (Nanda, p.37). Thus, it is logical that Indian culture accepts Hijras as a "third sex" because they are a combination of both masculine and feminine qualities. These people are not coined "transsexuals" or "transvestites" as Western terminology would define them; instead, the term "Hijras" is translated into a "eunich" or "hermaphrodite" (Nanda 1992, p.135) because sexual activity or preference is absent from thier traditional culture.

Similar to Buddhism and Confucianism in Japan, Hinuism and Islam are what Bulllough calls "sex positive" religions because both allow for the tolerance of a wider range of sexual expression than exists within Western culture with its restrictive Judeo-Christian influence (Bullough, p. 172). Hijras are vital to Islamic and Hindu ritual because they are believed to contain the power of tapas; a power reulting from ascetic practice and sexual abstinence that is an essential feature in creation processes (Nanda1986, p.39). Like the onnagata actors of Japan, Hijras are respected performers and are often asked to dance at weddings and birth ceremonies because thier presence encourages male fertility (Nanda 1986, p.40). This idea of a powerful "third gender" is deeply rooted in Indian religious narrative:

"In one version of the Hindu creation myth, Siva carries out an extreme, but legitimate fowm of tapasya, that of self-castration. Because the act of creation he was about to undertake had already been accomplished by Brahma, Siva breaks off his linga (phallus), saying, "there is no use for this linga..." and throws it into the earth. His act results in the fertility cult of linga-worship, which expresses the paradoxal theme of creative asceticism" (O'Flaherty, p.278)

Indian cultre in general along with Hindu philosophy help to coordinate a society that not only tolerates, but readily embraces a third gender category. Indian mythology contains numberous examples of androgynes, impersonators of the opposite sex, and also examples of both dieties and humans with sex changes (O'Flaherty, p.89). Sivabhaktis (worshippers of Siva) give Hijras special respect because one of the forms that is Siva is Ardhanarisvara "the lord who is half woman" (Nanda 1986, p. 50). Also in the worship of Krishna, male worshipers may identify with Radha by imagining themselves as female and dressing in feminine attire; and thus, many Hijras identify themselves as Krishna's wives in rituals performed in south India (Nanda 1986, p. 50). Hence, it is through India's sexually tolerent mythology and religion that the complex Hijra gender is able to maneuver itself from social rejection.

Because the Hijras worship the Bahuchara Mata, a god who forbids sexual activity, and thier religious powers are only legitimate if they remain celebate, the Hijras are banned from all sexual accounters (Nanda 1986, p39); however, many Hijras still engage in homosexual activity including prostitution and marriages. These "imposter" Hijras are banned from living in one of the formal houses and are often ostracized from the Hijra community in general. Yet, there remains conflicting data on whether or not these restrictions are completely enforced. Serena Nanda, an anthropologist on the Hijra community, claims that this conflict between sexual activity is really a conflict between the older and younger Hijras (Nanda 1986, p. 37-49). Since the older Hijras have lost thier sex drive, they tend to blame the younger ones who retain an active libido simply because they are jealous. Therefore, while rules againt sexual activity are severely voice, they are rarely ever enforced. Regardless, Hijras are never considered homosexual or transsexual simply because, unlike Wesern cultures, in India sexual object choice alone does not define gender. While in parts of northern India the term for effeminate males who play the passive role in homosexual relations is zenanas (woman); by becoming a Hijra, one removes himself from this category (Lynton, p.75). Likewise, there are recognized homosexual subcultres that exist in India; however, these are never confused with Hijras because they have no religious affiliation with Hinduism (Anderson, p.25).

Like Japan, India contains a much more open perspective on homosexual activity than the Chrisitan dominated West. Simliar to Buddhism and Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam do not strictly forbid homosexual behavior; the religions simply emphasize the importance of procreation and male offspring. However, while Japan legalized homosexual activity and actively displays homoerotic material, India remains less blantant on the issue. Similar to the "dont ask dont tell" approach to homosexuals in the U.S. military under president Clinton, Indian officials rarely get involved in homoerotic liasons unless it is blatantly publicised. Although sodomy is technically illegal, the government rarely punishes offenders:

''The rules of penal procedure are extremely strict. Only oral testimony by eye witnesses is admitted. Four trustworthy men must testify that they have seen "the key entering the hole" or the culprit must confess four times. Since there is severe punishment for unproven accusation, the punishment is rarely carried out" (Murray, p. 15).

As earlier noted, Indian society does not affiliate one's sexuality or gender based on his sexual activity. In the case of homosexual behavior amoung men, a person's "shame" is based upon whether or not he takes the subservient position in the act. In other words, sexulaity is not distinguished between "homosexual" and "heterosexual" but between taking pleasure and submitting to someone or taking pleasure and dominating someone. Hence, similar to the samuri in ancient Japanese culture (Mcgregor, p.215), it was very common for Sultans to keep young "pretty" boys on hand to perform sodomic acts for not only sexual pleasure, but also as an affirmation of thier power (Murray, p.17). Unlike Western society who labels any person who has sex with someone of the same biological sex a homosexual, Asian cultures only label those who enjoy being in the submissive position truly "gay."

Question 1:

Elle--You expressed passionate disapproval to parents pre-determining thier children's biological sex. How do you feel about these 12-14 year old boys going through bascially the same procedure (having thier penis removed)? It does make a difference because they are teenagers as opposed to the babies or unborn children we were discussing in class?

all-- Simliar to some liberal heterosexual Americans view, although India (some parts of it) conciously recognize a third sex category as "normal"...they still impose the female gender and male gender as "preferred." (Hijras are still very marginalized). I guess what I am trying to say is....although we may see the Hijran Culture (more importantly its acceptance) in India as an indicator of it being less gendered than America...there still exists the same social pressures that we contain in our society to be either "male" or "female." Although on the surface "India" seems to not contain "concrete gender boundaries between male and female...."Indians" do. How is this comparable to "America" and "Americans"?

ill try to write more about this later.....i have to catch the blue bus in like 3 minutes...........see you all in class or out this weekend

Name: Jen
Date: 2005-09-28 15:12:49
Link to this Comment: 16344

For this week's postings, please tell us something about your paper due Friday, 10/7:
What is your motivating question/argument?
What are the 3 texts from the class you intend to use to explore this question?
Include a draft of the opening paragraph of the paper.

We'll give each other feedback in small groups in class on Monday.

Looking forward to seeing your works-in-progress!

images of christ and emtpy chambers
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-28 16:00:05
Link to this Comment: 16346

the high ceilings of the greek churches create a wide open space beneath. interesting that the walls are so ornate and yet the pictured spaces seemed so empty. is the jesus of the greek orthodox church more divine than human? more johnine than markian? there seemed to be a human absence in those pictures. jesus is not a three dimentional bleeding statue: he is flat and elevated and all-seeing. i am interested in the empty space that the divine leaves behind: the space christ leaves when he ascends to ceilings: i am facinated by empty pews. do we fill this space? or do the high ceilings make the church ever-empty? what is the nature of a place that once held God? eliot writes of the empty tomb, "there is the empty chapel, only the wind's home. It has no windows, and the door swings ... " (NA Poetry, 1355). and do we feel abandoned? ... the space of the empty church seems so similar to the place i imagine as the human's interior. according to eliot, the nature of the world changes when christ leaves. there is a constant "murmur of maternal lamentation" (1354) that becomes the under-hush of existence. the wailing of His absence becomes nature. and while this absence creates the constant sensation of loss and the hollow inside disables me from grasping myself, there is a comfort in the sound of a mother crying ... a sad loving that IS the world.

and what does it mean equate Cal with Christ?

word play! the word "interior" comes from the latin "inter" which means: between. interesting! anyone else want to play with that?

ok...a little bit more explanation...
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-09-29 02:12:30
Link to this Comment: 16367

Im going to try to elaborarte a little bit more on what i was trying to address in my previous posting after class.

I found the comments between Elle and Talya/Orah/Ann concerning the pre-determination of a child's gender interesting. I had just spent a semester in Australia studying both queer theory and other classes that dealt with various gender I understood where Elle was coming from. However, I have also been raised in the United States as a both a biological and gendered "female," and therefore, am concious of the social consequences (in the States) if my future children are born intersexed or as "hermaphrodites"...and therefore, sympathize with the concerns that some of you were addressing concerning your theoretical "intersexed" children's acceptance/discrimination. Although I personally hope that I would never alter my child's sex if I were to find out he/she was a hermaphrodite (while still in the womb)...It is impossible to me to make a concrete judgement now. The idealistic view would be to say that I would not opt to physically create a "gender" for my baby...that I would let my child grow up and make his or her own decision concerning the physical altering of its physical sex as it got older. However, I would also be concious of the potential ostrcization of this child...both by other children and adults who are either ignorantly or conciously cruel...and therefore, try to do anything in my power to prevent my child from experiencing pain.

Ive lost three very close friends to AIDS in the past two was my dance partner, the other two were close friends I had kept in touch with since middle/high school. None of them died from the AIDS...they died because of shame...shame that has been imposed onto them since childhood for being "gay," and shame for admitting that they had AIDS to thier family. It was because of this "shame" that they did not acknowlede thier illness (until it was too late), and it was because of this shame that they did not seek treatment in time. It was shame and uneccessary denial that was thier murderer, not the virus. Their AIDS virus may have been cured within thier lifetime...the intolerant virus of racial/sexual orientation/gender discrimination in America today can not.

I plan on living in America, and therefore, raising my children here. But because of my past experiences, I am also very concious...more specifically, guarded against...both the silent and blatant discrimination that exits in this country...more specifically...the prejudice of certain social groups towards people who are not heterosexual,middle/upper class, or Caucasian.

I was raised/adopted into a Caucasian "upper-class" family and attended private "Caucasian/Catholic/upper-class" schools (until 11th grade). Although, for the most part, I was accepted because of my family, I have always been aware of the "silent" racism/ and or ignorance of other people towards my being Asian. I am Korean...but I have been affiliated with (or placed into the category of) everything from the "Chinese eyes" as a child--- to "Oh! Your Herbert's grandaughter? Ummm, I didnt realize...So that's why your so smart!.."---to now, "are you South or North Korean?...did you hear about what those damn Communists are planning now?...did you see that guy's hair???" (because of the current political turmoil, i guess) I have experienced fact, a lot of it, simply because of my biological race...

Through my friends, I have seen the affects of more "blatant" prejudice exiting in this society. Like me, they came from "socially acceptable" backgrounds...but in reality, they as individuals were also marginalized, and therefore, experienced prejuedice...but I will not even attempt to compare thier pain to my past "uncomfort."

I guess the point I am trying to get to...(be patient, its after 1:00 in the morning) that "prejudice" ...any form of something I don't want my children to go through...whether is be racial or sexually this child were to be born a hermaphrodite (intersexed)... (and I were to discover this before its birth)...I honestly can not predict how i will act...

However, I do know that prejudice, and this trend of people to "categorize," exists everywhere and in ALL cultures...especially, in the terms of gender. When I was at Interlochen, I had a friend who labeled himself a "Hijra" ...he was a theatre major (ironically)...and cooked the best "Mac and Cheese" I have ever tasted. So, being at a VERY liberal boarding school...away from my family/friends/community...I got excited about this concept of a third sex. I began to form very strong views against America, and our society as a whole, because it did not formally recognize a "third sex"--and then proceeded to research/write papers trying prove (to myself) that because the majority of Americans are Christian-orientated and Caucasian...this is the reason as to why there is so much discrimination against minorities and homosexuals "here" and not "there." So, I wrote some papers, made some arguments against, and researched America in terms of the "discrimatory Other," in juxtaposition against the "non-discrimitory countries" (in this case, India)...simply because we we have a strong Christian influence and only formally recognize "masculine and feminine" categories in both the English language and historical culture.

I think this same line of thinking is what some of you are ammending least from my personal interaction/chats with you outside of class. We tend to look "up to" non-western countries and thier cultures because they seem to not have as definite gender boundaries as we do...but they do...just in different ways. The German's contain a masculine, feminine, and "neuter" dialect in thier language...the Japanese revere Kabuki onnagata actors (biological men who perform female roles) as essential to both thier historical and modern artistic culture, and Indians accept/formally recognize Hijras...but, each of these countries (more specifically...the majority of individuals living within them) share the same "gender construction," in terms of female and male, that we "American's" tend to do. I am not saying this is wrong/right or good/ is just a connection that I think we should be concious of...because gender cateogorization is universal...not local. And, what will happen to our discussion/comments in class if we recognize this universal "fact"? I think some of you had something to say about this...but did not get the chance...

For example, In India, Hijra's are usually biologically male...not intersexed. Yet, they undergo the same castration procedure that we were criticizing in order to become physically "non-sexed." I thought this was interested because this idea is very contradictory to the notion of what we were posing/working "unborn" hermaphrodite (intersexed)embryo pre-determined to be either female or male. On the surface, these cases are quite different in terms of indiviudal agency...the Hijra determines his own castration...the unborn emryo does not, the Hijra is accepted as a religious power figure...the American hermaphrodite contains no formally recognized religious significance. But yet, both are assumed to experience similar physical alterations to thier body...and both live in a country/culture that marginalized thier innate/naturally physical appearance...what connections/dis-connections can we make from these two examples?

im going to bed...its after 2 am....elle-- ill give you that book this weekend or durig next class...linsday...ill see you tomarrow morning...

here goes...
Name: em
Date: 2005-09-29 10:43:03
Link to this Comment: 16377

first, in response to orah's empty spaces: not to belabor a point, but i've been thinking a lot about "resonance" lately again, and i see this church interior as a beautiful space for that kind of activity--whether the resonance of music, or people's voices, or thoughts...also, the church has always seemed to me like a maternal space, the sanctuary offered by the sanctuary kind of like a womb.

second...ok, i don't think that the issues i've been having lately really have to do with incest, so let me elaborate. i was extremely frustrated yesterday, having come up against a line of reasoning that i was unable to think around or out of. while i may still maintain that i think nothing good has ever or will ever come out of incest, the fact remains that it was frightening to realize that this was not only what i thought, but what i FELT. i could feel my reaction to my question in my gut, just as the writer said, and i realized that in some basic, unchanging way, i could think about (insert issue here) as much as i wanted, but that i would have a damn hard time changing that initial gut feeling.

feeling myself in the position of the one who judges in such a primal and unavoidable way was extremely uncomfortable, because a lot of the thinking i've been doing these past months has been from the role of the one who is seen and judged: since last spring, i've been in a relationship with a man who is older than i am. i felt that hearing about foucalt's panopticon was at first exciting--perhaps i had escaped the gaze of the panopticon because this summer i was able to go against what i thought family and friends might think of me and pursue this love, centered in the heart. but the panopticon was present this summer, despite efforts otherwise (on our first real "date," he turned to me, held out his hand and said, "well, are we ready for the public?" "are they ready for us?" was my answer.). ideally, the way i could feel about the situation is "screw what anyone else thinks, i'm happy and safe and glad, and that's enough." and for the most part, that is what i think and feel. family and friends have been supportive because they have also seen this, and accepted the challenge of stretching to accomodate this new definition of me and relationships. however, there are still times when we're out in public and i see that flicker behind someone's eyes, or a funny glance from someone who does not know us at all, and i can try to laugh it off, but i resent their judgement. yesterday in class i was thinking, "is this the gut reaction those people have to my relationship? am i no different than them?" this was very difficult, and i appreciate you all for letting me get emotional about this. i don't think i'll ever need to do quite that again in class, but i do have a lot more thinking to do about this topic in my life, as it has and will continue to be a presence. this is also the reason i don't want foucalt in the bedroom...i feel eyes so many other places in the relationship, i want to preserve some spaces as sacred, safe, sanctuary.

good (?) from incest:
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-09-29 15:58:07
Link to this Comment: 16381

Genesis ch. 19: Lot and his two daughters are the only three who escape to destruction of Sodom and Gemora. "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father. ... thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The first born bore a son, and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and named him ben-ammi (son of my friend) ; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day." .... way way later .... "Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth." Ruth has a child Obeh who "became the father of Jesse, and the father of (king) David." In jewish tradition the messiah will come from the house of david and in christian tradition : "david was the father of solomon .... and jacob the father of joseph the husband of mary, of whom jesus was born, who is called the messiah." humm ...
also: the first family: adam, eve, cain, able, seth ... from where does human kind come? according to gnostic myth there was a sister in the family: norea. norea and seth are said to be the progenitors of humankind.
the world is not as simple as "good" or "bad," "okay" or "not-okay."

the church has always seemed to me like a maternal space, the sanctuary offered by the sanctuary kind of like a womb.

so what is the music of the empty womb? maybe eliot is right. what is the that sound high in the air? the world sings a lullaby of loss. it's more complicated than "sad." it the greatest love song. don't we wish that we had realized in life how much we loved those we have lost? love is greatest for those we are not here: a mother for a child who is no longer within her. when we crawl back into the womb on sunday mornings do we reenter into that perfectharmony for which we are always seeking to return to?

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-09-29 21:31:51
Link to this Comment: 16386

After reading "As Nature Made Him: The boy who was raised a girl" last year, I have been against infant genital reconstruction. This was a book about a boy who had a botch circumcision, and therefore raised as a girl. I didn't always agree with the gender stereotyping in this book, but I felt that it evidenced that the shame and confusion that children feel is as bad as any peer torment.

I would also like to draw to attention the language used for the surgery. I said "infant genital reconstruction." I don't know if that's the accepted term for such a procedure, but I want to point out that it is very sterilized, and therefore seems acceptable. But on the other hand, I feel that many of us would be against FGM: female genital mutilation. I believe these to be very similar. The difference between FGM and surgery for hemaphroditic children is in concept similar: they are both surgery in order to make children fit into society. Just because we use sterilized, shiney tools to do it doesn't make it right.

I would like to note, that while I have no discomfort discussing intersexuality and incest, when Anne brought up the Christian references in Middlesex, I became uncomfortable. Interesting.

Also, why is the main character's brother referred to as Chapter 11?

the shadow side of simone de beauvoir?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-01 08:56:38
Link to this Comment: 16402

...wanted to call your all's attention to a claim, made by a woman of my own generation, in an adjacent Serendip forum on "Science and Spirit," that it is when a woman takes off all of her adornments that she is most female. Comments? Thoughts?

thinking (and writing) towards your papers
Name: Anne and J
Date: 2005-10-01 17:38:36
Link to this Comment: 16408

Name: Jen (
Date: 09/28/2005 15:12
Link to this Comment: 16344

For this week's postings, please tell us something about your paper due Friday, 10/7:
What is your motivating question/argument?
What are the 3 texts from the class you intend to use to explore this question?
Include a draft of the opening paragraph of the paper.

We'll give each other feedback in small groups in class on Monday.

Looking forward to seeing your works-in-progress!

is female to male as homo is to hetero?
Name: em
Date: 2005-10-01 21:19:36
Link to this Comment: 16409

i'd like to propose a theory about chapter 11's name...i think it refers to the 11th chapter of james joyce's "ulysses," the sirens chapter. i thought this might be apt, given how chapter 11 succumbs to the songs of the sirens throughout the novel.

anyways, in my paper, i want to think about bodiedness--have we indeed incorrectly settled on the body as the fixed locus for inherent sexuality (as foucault proposes), and how can this mindset be challenged? in order to address this, i'm going to be using the ozick piece that we read, and fuss's "inside/out."

and here is my first paragraph draft...henry james called the form of a novel "a loose and baggy monster" steal his words, this is a loose and baggy intro right now, but there are so many threads i want to tie in!

Under the Covers with Foucalt, Ozick, and Fuss: The Nightmare of a Common Language

A young woman sits cross-legged on the floor of her room. She faces her bed, which is covered with a batik blanket. On the bed sit three figures: a bald man with his hands over his eyes, an older woman with her hands over her ears, and a woman with short dark hair, hands covering her mouth. A dictionary lies open on the young woman’s lap.

As I define these terms: man, woman, heterosexual, homosexual, I claim power. Does it give me pleasure to name these terms? To categorize and pigeon-hole? No. I undertake this task with a growing sense of confusion: Foucalt whispers into my ear that “Homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior adrogyny, a hermaphrodism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species” (Foucalt 43). If I subscribe to Foucalt’s viewpoint that this transposition was a negative one, moving against the truth that human bodies have no inherent interiority, I must effectively rewrite the way I think about my own body and sexuality. What of the markers of my femaleness, the delicate genitalia covered by the arching pages of the very dictionary I seek refuge in? Ozick arches an eyebrow at me and undercuts her address with all kinds of irony: “Dazzlingly influential hole!...From this hole everything follows logically; first the baby, then the placenta, then, for years and years and years until death, a way of life” (Ozick 252). According to Cynthia, as much as I identify as a heterosexual woman because of my hole and my hole’s attraction to rods, this hole dictates nothing about me other than my ability to give birth at some point in my life. Could it be that Ozick and Foucalt support each other? I imagine them exchanging knowing looks as Fuss lifts a hand from her mouth to advise me further: “Sexual identity may be less a function of knowledge than performance...” (Fuss 238). There is the gauntlet, thrown down before me: how does my performance of my gender and sexuality reflect my own assumed interiorities? And how can my examination of this performance influence my future efforts in definition and power?

Paper Outline
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-10-02 12:30:13
Link to this Comment: 16410


The majority of academia prefers to define gender in biological terms limited to male and female. Although we embrace variations of sexuality that include bisexuality, homosexuality, and transexuality, our intuition remains focused on constructing gender on a male or female biological platform. Although Eugenides presents the complexity behind assembling gender and sexuality identities based on one’s aesthetic biological sex, his trans gendered character remains read as either “female” or “male” although she is biologically inter-sexed. Calliope is aware that her gender and sexual desire differences oppose conventional heterosexual biological women; however, this person is still defined as a woman and her persona in feminine terms. All human beings are biologically gendered within the context of their social environment, so to focus on whether or not sex and gender categories are a biological or cultural phenomenon is irrelevant. What is more important is to look at how we categorize people based on our own ingrained assumptions, and then, seek to delineate these innate preconceptions. It is only when we complicate the ideas that we automatically contain concerning both sex and gender that we become more open to alternative constructions of human gender identity; and thus, grow to accept people as “people” and not gendered biological beings.

Three Readings:

1. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middle Sex. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002

2. Michelle Rosaldo. “The Use and Abuse of Anthropology: Reflections of Feminism and Cross-Cultural Understanding.” 389-417.

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

Application to Authors:

Jeffrey Eugenides:

In presenting a biologically inter sexed character in his novel, who also articulates very “inter sexed” or mixed emotions concerning both sexual attraction and gender identity, Eugenides constructively complicates his reader’s pre-conceptions of “man vs. woman” and “feminine vs. masculine,” and more specifically, “Sex vs. Gender.” Calliope Stephananides is not just male or female, neither is this character strictly masculine or feminine. Calliope embodies all of these categorizations; and thus, transcends these simplifications. Calliope presents a consciously gendered narrative within a complex biology. In creating a character free from being both a concrete “male” or “female” gender and biological sex, Eugenides consciously urges us to erase our innate impulse to categorize characters in novels as either male/female, or masculine/feminine, and instead, interact with, and learn from, Calliope without gendered bias.

Michelle Rosaldo:

Rosaldo addresses the complexity behind placing biological men and women into gender categories. By gendering people, we assume them to be something that perhaps they are not. However, since we can not get past biology and its constructs, we should work within it to see how and why gender is so often created by biology. We need to look at both human history and how gender boundaries are created through social systems (patriarchal) instead of just focusing on why people are different/oppressed through or because of biology.

Diana Fuss:

Like Rosaldo, Fuss is not so keen on gender divisions or categories. Sexual identities are rarely secure, people change all the time. She says that the function of Inside/Out it to define the “other” by what we are not…but she really only addresses the dichotomy between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Calliope helps to enhance her reading.

Analysis of Making and Breaking Gender Categories:

Creating sex and gender categories are similar to playing with blocks. As children, we used blocks to create something visual, for example, a tower. But, as people, we use “sex and gender” blocks to create one big “category” tower.

We go thought the process of organizing these blocks, studying them to see which ones fit together and which ones don’t, or more importantly, which ones stabilize each other and which ones don’t. (Remember, this tower can’t fall down.)

So, after we are done playing with these sex and gender blocks, we get really excited because we have just created one big tower. This tower generates a new understanding of sex and gender relations; and therefore, new connections are made and new ideas form.

However, in creating these new magnificent towers, we forget that the ultimate constructor of this tower is ourselves. We consciously choose to fit certain blocks with others because their combination is logical to this tower.

But as we get older, we don’t want to build towers anymore; now we want to build mansions. So, what happens to our previous tower that we, as children, worked so hard to build? We break it apart, combining our old blocks with new ones to build this more complex mansion. But, over time, perhaps this mansion will no longer be good enough; maybe we will want to build a castle. So, again, we repeat the process of tearing down our various structures (or categories) in order to create more complex ones.

The point I am trying to make is that this process of building structures, or creating categories, is never ending and our ideas always changing as we get older. Although it is important that we keep building these structures, it is also important that we keep breaking them apart in order to expand our understanding of sex and gender relationships. The smashing of our previous towers not only de-simplifies them, it is also fun to do.

We need to do less building of our own towers, and focus more on dissembling other peoples “intolerant” towers. By not focusing so much on fitting blocks (people) into our own sex/gender categories, perhaps this will allow more energy for figuring out how all these different categories that we as a diverse world create. Then, we can work collectively to break down all of our structures so that we as people don’t have to be labeled as individual “sex” blocks who are connected to specific “gender” blocks, simply because it makes sense to the tower.

Personally, I think it would be neat that if some day there were no individual towers, mansions, or castles. Just to have a plain bare carpet with all these blocked piled on top of each other is more of a comfortable feeling.

paper ramblings- rougher than the roughest of draf
Name: alex
Date: 2005-10-02 14:41:54
Link to this Comment: 16415

i was thinking the other day about the popular childhood game (or is it a holiday?) "opposite day"--if i were to say, "i like your sweater," on opposite day, when everything is opposite, this means that in fact i dont like your sweater. im sure you could have figured that out on your own. but even when i was an observer/player of this holiday/game, something always bothered me- what constitutes opposite? in my over literal, over analytial 7 year old head, i would say to myself, "i like your sweater; not-i doesnt like not-your not-sweater," proving to myself that opposite day, much like opposites themselves, are more complicated than they seem- what is a not-sweater? more interestingly, what is not-you? some could say that not-you is me, but then what is not-he? she? and then we look at cal(liope) stephanides... not-he, not-she: what is the opposite of cal?
the world is wrought with binaries, which seem to be opposing weights on the scale of reality, trying to balance it out. but is there really any balance at all? especially considering my growing difficulty coming to terms with the binary way of life my society has established for me. the more i study concepts of sex and gender, the less i understand- if sex and gender cannot/should not be defined as pairs of opposites, why have ortner (nature vs. culture) and rosaldo (domestic vs. public) suggested more concrete binary opposites for men and women? man is not longer not-woman, and woman is no longer not-man; man is "culture" which is the opposite of "nature" which is what woman is, and woman is "domestic" which is the opposite of "public" which is that which defines man.
laqueur then discusses the retired opinion that a woman's genitals are just that of a man turned outside in (which makes me think of fuss's inside/outside dichotomy, that i may or may not choose to talk about in my paper). from this perspective, cal's genitals are those of a man's who did not fully exit their inside position. dr. luce says in the novel, "we're going to do an operation to finish your genitalia. they're not quite finished yet and we want to finish them (433)." so there are two opposing concepts (jeeze, opposition really is everywhere): the penis is the opposite of the vagina vs. the penis and vagina form each other either through moving inside or extending outside. though it is now considered bunk to assume that male and female genitalia are the same things just put in OPPOSING places, there comes a point in fetal development when a male child and a female child diverge and form opposing(?) genitalia. so when luce wants to "finish" cal's genitals, he wants to complete this biological step that cal's chromosomes prevented him from completing. with just one small problem- luce can only "finish" the aesthetics of cal's genitalia, which is really only a small part of forming gender indentity (look at the people who are born with fully formed male or female genitals but identify with the other gender, or even consider how in the end cal chose to forgoe surgery and live as a man rather than continue as a woman).

so there are a whole bunch of thoughts and questions im hoping to explore in my paper, using middlesex, bits of ortner and rosaldo, and most likely some fuss, depending on how the thing develops as im writing it.

Second Paper
Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-10-02 15:37:03
Link to this Comment: 16416

I don’t think there is such a thing as free will. Whether this is true or not, I’m going to assume there is no free will when I write my paper. Foucault and Fuss say that there is no interiority to the Subject, that we need language to create a sense of what is inside or out. Our sex presents us with an absolute Otherness; we also cannot navigate that relationship without the language of inside/out. Here’s what inspired my paper: the word Interior is defined (among other things) as “the part furthest from the edge.” In Middlesex, Cal is the edge. So why isn’t she falling off? What is he clinging to? What is necessarily altered in the clumsy act of performing one gender or the other?

This is the most powerful act I will ever do as a human being. I could have children, I could become a world leader, I could join the army and end the life of another human. Writing this paper would be more powerful than any of those other things, because I am exerting more freedom of choice in doing it than in any other act. I don’t have a choice over which of my chromosomes fuse with someone else’s and make an entirely new person. I have written ninety-one words so far: for every word, a choice. But I could name that person, I could label that amalgamation of mine and another’s DNA: I could call it boy or girl, John or Sarah. I could call it Blair or Lee and then I might have caused you for a moment to wonder about the sex of my baby. That’s power, too, but it’s just one small choice.

That’s my first paragraph. It is at once a declaration of power and illusory work of fiction. Maybe that’s because the language gives the illusion of power. Maybe power is an illusion…we’ll have to see where that takes me.

Texts for Paper # 2:

Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middle Sex. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

Foucault, Michel. Foreword and Preface to The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books, 1966.

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

Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-10-02 15:48:28
Link to this Comment: 16417

Our readings and discussions so far in this course have at times perplexed me and at other times frustrated me. On the one hand, the idea that we construct gender (roles) seems obvious—my sociology background so far has taught me that humans are socialized by their interactions in society so it makes sense that our gender roles are learned or transmitted to us via implicit and explicit symbols. The authors have all undertaken lofty ambitions of explaining gender to us through this idea of categories and each has complicated the discussion as well. Whether it is Foucault and his debunking of all categories as limited, or Fuss talking about the spectrum of possibilities left out of the inside/out paradigm, or Eugenides and his character Cal who has chosen one of the prescribed genders versus maintaining an intersexed category. I am most interested in these categorizations as they pertain to the socialization process, so my questions deal mostly with imposed gender and sex roles, whether these are constant in all societies, how people learn to deviate from gender roles and the process by which this can/does happen. I would probably reflect again on Foucault’s work, Lesnick’s article on sex and gender roles and work, and Eugenides’ Middlesex.

paper attempt - ideas
Name: talya
Date: 2005-10-02 16:44:30
Link to this Comment: 16418

Can the labels and categories that we cast alter the lives of those we affect? When is it appropriate to categorize? How does biology fit into categorizing? Can one truly avoid groupings? In ones own decision making? In fitting in? Can biology effect a person greater than categories / labels?

Thorne, Gender Play
Eugenides, Middlesex
Fuss, Inside/Out

This is a VERY ROUGH attempt…
Throughout the class’ first day of reflection on Middlesex, the conversation was focused on how to refer to Calliope/Callie/Cal throughout the book. There was discontentment through the non-uniformity of the classes pronoun use. The following class there was also a heated discussion about the choice that a parent makes to surgically alter a child’s sex/genitals at birth. I am not a mother, as far as I know most people in the class aren’t either, which makes it incredibly difficult for me to debate the merits of surgery or not. I am also not a child who experienced “abnormal sex differences.” I know that it is difficult to grow up in general, kids are mean. Do the kids who have biological “sex differences” feel more like outcasts than those who are “normal”? What about kids who are biologically “normal” but differ in gender identity? Does the biology really create more of an issue than the self-definition / identity?

Paper Proposal
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-02 16:44:40
Link to this Comment: 16419

I'd like to write my paper about something that has been bothering me since the classes in which we discussed Foucault, Fuss, and Laquer. In class, we talked about this idea that once we put things into words, we open up the possibility for policing of these thoughts/ideas/abstract feelings. We talked about the danger of declaring oneself: the moment we cry, "I am this," or, "I am that," we give power to the the one who opposes this declaration - we give him or her something to oppose. As Fuss says, "Homosexuality, in a word, becomes the excluded: it stands in for, paradoxically, that which stands without" (235). (And this reminds me of Laquer's paper: the idea that women are what men aren't). I suppose I'm going back to this inside/outside argument.

Anyway, what's been bothering me is this ... oh, I think half my paper will be me just trying to figure out how to best express this. To put it simply, I feel like these arguments are being made against labels. Because homosexuality has been constructed as not-heterosexuality, because the woman is the not-man, I feel there's this desire to run away from using words like "homo," "hetero," "man," or "woman." And while I understand this desire, the idea of deserting these words really troubles me. I feel like I'd be denying women who fought for my right to vote if I refuse to believe in women (to call up an idea presented by Alonso). How can I deny the activists who fought so that I can proclaim the word "dyke" proudly?

At the same time, I understand the point Fuss and Laquer (and Foucault) are making; I used the word proclaim a moment ago - and if I proclaim "Dyke!" wherever I go, there are going to be some pretty upset people, some people who now even more want to fight for "family values" or "traditional morals."

I want to use Laquer, Fuss, and Eugenides. I like the idea of combining these theorists with a novel that really is about proclaiming oneself: sibling or lover, male or female, lesbian woman or straight man (i.e. Object and Callie's relationship)?

I'm very hesitant to write this first paragraph because I write papers in an intertwined way. I wish I had the opportunity to write the full paper; only then could I feel comfortable in presenting this beginning! Ah, well, let me try:


In a pivitol scene from Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex, our young protagonist Callie discovers the truth in her body and why she has felt so different her entire life - her chromosomes declare her biologically male. Callie runs away and leaves only a note for her parents, a note that declares, "I am not a girl. I'm a boy. That's what I found out today" (439). Although this note was forged in emotional turmoil, scribbled by an angry and confused fourteen year old, the sentence structure of Callie's proclaimation presents an interesting dichotomy: she is not a girl, and therefore she is a boy. There is no room for grey space here; she is one thing or the other. What do we, the reader, do with these two spaces? Are male and female so separate that the two can never meet? And, similarly, are heterosexuality and homosexuality too far away for reconciliation? In a PC world, there is a strong desire to vanquish these opposites, to proclaim them not opposite, and to melt the labels that separate these words, all for the love of harmony. After all, labels are only words. But what do we lose when we destroy words? After all, isn't the destruction of words and all that follows them - the history, the people and the battles - just as dangerous as a strict adherence to words and regulations? There must be a way to form a middle ground.

Are(n't) we all some kind of dichotomy?
Name: Kathryn Co
Date: 2005-10-02 16:46:49
Link to this Comment: 16420

Allow me to preface this by saying I realize I am trying to tackle too many topics at once but this is just a first draft and I Is anyone entirely male or female? If we must put people into gender categories, as society has convinced us is necessary, whose right is it to suggest that "doing this" or "looking like that" makes you male or female. And what about the emergence of the metrosexual? Straight men who care about personal hygiene, know how to cook and are aware that Dolce and Gabbana is not a type of sweet are not criticized for these qualities. Instead, they are revered among society (straight women especially) for being the "perfect strain of male". However, women who prefer sporty clothes and short hair must be gay. Since categorizing is essential to our ability to decode our surroundings, we feel that putting men and women into these black and white boxes will make it easier. But easier to what? Easier to determine their sexuality? To figure out "the reason" why they dress or act or speak or cut their hair "like that"? Fuss' discussions of inside/outside will be used in hopes of finding an answer to why we feel the need to put people in these categories. In the same vein of what "makes" a girl or a boy, Lesnick's discussion of "hardworking girls" and Ortner's comments on women and their menstruation should provide interesting, if not contradictory, perspectives on whether people should be judged as entirely female or male and if the answer is yes, who decides what makes them so. After all, are(n't) we all some kind of dichotomy?

Corporealizing category making: do the same rules
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-10-02 16:51:39
Link to this Comment: 16421

You’re three years old and you know you’re not supposed to wake the baby. Jacob is sleeping in his playpen on his dinosaur blanket. You hear him softly suck his thumb. But you are bored. It’s no fun to throw the beach ball at the wall anymore. Justin is still in the bathroom and you have no one to play with. You want to play. You throw the beach ball at the baby. But he doesn’t catch it. He cries and Mrs. Hill sends you home.

Retreating from the sun of the soccer fields, you join the girls in the courtyard playing wallball. Wallball is a new middle school game: you throw and catch tennis balls and if someone misses they have to run across the wall and not get hit by the ball. But it is boring to throw and catch the ball. Everyone starts throwing harder at the girls running across the wall. You scream and giggle when the ball pelts you in the thigh, feeling the spot sting. You run back out and throw the ball as hard as you can. It hits Amanda in the head; her glasses break; they cut her face. Coach Jane blows her whistle and wallball is canceled for a week.

And now you’re listening to others talk in your Gender and Sexuality Class. You try to flesh out your ideas, play with categories. But you realize pushing too hard will hurt someone’s feelings. You remember Amanda’s bleeding face and the bitter walk home from Justin’s house. Why did you choose to play this game without rules? You know pushing games too far will often end in tears.

Playing means taking risks, pushing boundaries, reversing the expected and entering dangerous places. You start throwing harder, running faster and jumping higher. But what can childhood experiences of play, described by Thorne, teach me about adult experiences of “playing” with categories, as Foucault and Laqueur describes them? In childhood, we play with our bodies. If we fall off the slide while trying to go down it backwards, we can see the scrapes on our neck. In this class, we play with ideas. We cannot see casts over broken ideologies or braces for twisted perspectives. How does childhood play apply to these adult discussions both in this class and in the intellectual world at large?

Rough 1st paragraph
Name: Patricia F
Date: 2005-10-02 16:54:32
Link to this Comment: 16422

Interiority, identity, gender; oh my! The discussions that we’ve had so far have only led to more questions about categories. Is there any way to escape being categorized? I thought that Foucault was on the right track. But, after some more thinking, even if there is no deep interiority as he suggests, that does not prevent people from categorizing. Regardless of an interiority or not, gender still exists, and as a result people are going to make identifications with gender. That brings me back to Thorne. If gender is always going to exist in some way, then I think that the real question we should be asking is how do we alter the associations to and with gender? Thorne’s quote from Heather, age eleven, discussing her experience at school, “It’s like girls and boys are on different sides,” is the exact dichotomy that I want to break-down. I want to break down the binary. I think that Elle brought up an enlightening and very relevant point—just because it hasn’t been done, does not mean that we should shy away from trying it. That is exactly what I feel about gender dynamics. If the associations of gender is dealt with in a different way at a young age when children’s identities are being formed, then I do believe that there could be less emphasis on gender as a social construction, and rather on taking the statement, “I’m going to the girl’s room,” and not have it mean so many other things than just peeing. I don’t think that we can “un-make” gender, but I do think that we can alter the meanings of gender to have it unmade so that it encompasses just the biology.


Barrie Thorne, Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1994.

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

Sherry Ortner. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Sherry Ortner. “So, Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

some rough ideas about the paper (sorry i'm late a
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-02 17:53:15
Link to this Comment: 16423

Body Hate
Foucault writes in his chapter concerning ‘Docile Bodies,’ that the “methods which made possible the meticulous control of the operations of the body, which assured the constant subjection of its forces and imposed upon them a relation of docility-utility, might be called ‘disciplines’ … The human body was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it” (Discipline and Punish, 137-138). The economic success of a society, according to Foucault, is hinged on its ability to control the bodies of its citizens. The human body is born into a matrix of disciplines before the individual learns his own body. Before the individual learns to use the body as an expression of the self, society has already colonized it: shaping it as an expression of society. While the individual experiences his body as different from everything else, society’s success depends on its ability to fit the body into a disciplined repeating pattern. The individual is born into the pattern of society. There is tension between the individual’s experience of the body and society’s use of the body. The struggle for domination over the body imagines, however, the body to be a docile object. Not only does society view the ideal body as a docile object, but that individual, too, attempts to achieve an unchanging, constant expression of bodied selfhood. Society and the individual orient themselves around a bodied goal and advance in teleological movement. While domination over the body seems to be a point of constant struggle between society and the individual, the external force of body decay works against both impulses. This external power trumps both the power of the individual and society. It is invisible, unconquerable, residing in an unknowable realm outside of bodied experience. It is only apparent in the affects it has on the body. Both society and the individual experience this power only in relation to the body. The body, therefore, becomes a symbol of this unconquerable force. The hate the both the individual and society feel for the unconquerable power, therefore, is focused on the body.

-Drag as a disguise. Hiding the body as an expression of the body. Hate for real body. ("Messing with the Idyllic: The Performance of Femininity in Kusher's 'Angels in America' by Natalie Meisner ...about the Drag Queen's hate for the biologically feminie body) Excerpt from Angels “One wants to move through life with elegance and grace, blossoming infrequently but with exquiite taste, and perfect timing, like a rare bloom, a zebra orchid … One wants. … But one so seldom gets what one wants, does one? No. One does not. One gets fucked. Over. One … dies at thirty, robbed of … decades of majesty. Fuck this shit. Fuck this shit. (He almost crumbles; he pulls himself together; he studies his handiwork in the mirror) I look like a corpse. A corpsette. Of my queen; you know you’ve hit rock-bottom when even drag is a drag.
-Eugenides on “Adolescence implies being confused about identity.” “I figured the story was pretty much over … Where Cal ended up” … Eugenides writes of an arrival at stable ground in relation to the body: a found peace. I’m arguing that while a bodied peace may be found between the individual and society, there is always the war with decay.
-Bartky, Sandra Lee The Politics of Women’s Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance, and Behavior excerpt to use from ch. 3 Foucault, Femininity and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power

sexing the body human
Name: elle
Date: 2005-10-03 04:33:55
Link to this Comment: 16428


To "Sex"- 1. sex 2. to give meaning to one's genitalia through gender

"Human"- 1.a whole entity. 2. Something decent.

To "Sex Human"- 1. social rules that dictate combinations of gender, sex, and morality. 2. a framework of catagories and opposites.

working backwards: Eugenides himself tries to define what it means for there to be a "gray area" between the two sexes and genders. The supposed "opposites" of "male" and "female" that he argues restrictive of any "other" is contradictory to his story. Simply the fact that he uses the pronoun "He" to define himself against "She" is a contradiction to this notion of "middlesex". Callie runs away at fourteen. she writes that she is not a girl, therefore a boy. HE takes HIS interiority and tears it from the subject, using language to navigate HIS own sex and gender identity. HE creates HIS own inside and out (Fuss and Foucault) by defining HIMself against language defining "girl".

My questions then, are about gender and sex deviance- transexuality, transgender, drag, genderqueer, and androgeny. I want to question the idea that it is socially deviant to jump into different genders. To deviate from opposites is to acknowlege them and give them meaning, much in the same way language can give catagories meaning through opposition. Therefore a "gray" area seems redundant- but can we live without it? Do we need that "gray area" as simply another form of opposition to the base of "male" and "female"? Do we lose something if we work towards the goal of creating nutral language- is it just as conformist to deconstruct the words as it is to abide by them?

Date: 2005-10-03 18:20:50
Link to this Comment: 16437

sarah's paper topic brings up some issues that i think about a lot. society functions through disciplining the individual. part of this discipline includes labeling and ranking. refusing to write one's own name tag enables society to write one for us. getting naked enables society to clothe us. refusing to speak enables society to interprut our silence into words. so, realizing the inevitability of labels, some say that it is better to exercise the choice we have bf society chooses for us. i am reminded of a friday-afternoon-diversity-talk some time last year regarding sexual orientation. I remember saying that i don't even know what it means to be "sexually oriented." why must we be sexually oriented? why can't we just be sexual? it was explained to me that whether or not i orient myself on the sexuality spectrum, i'm going to be placed onto that spectrum according to what i do in life: i'm going to be normalized as straight or gay or bi etc. instead of allowing society to commit the violence against me, i can step onto the spectrum of my own volition. ... i don't know, sarah. i don't see much of a difference between the two. both hurt a lot. and one seems to be asking me to sell my soul. i guess i want to hear more from people about what is GOOD about labels. i don't think everyone who embraces the spectrum has sold their soul ... how can i join the spectrum wthout selling myself? foucault would say i'm already sold. but, what is an appropriote form of resistance?

Gender Genie
Date: 2005-10-03 23:28:37
Link to this Comment: 16439

Has anyone seen this before? Apparantly someone has come up with a way to figure out the gender of an author using math.

my favorite foucault quote
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-04 14:42:51
Link to this Comment: 16442

(since you asked):

Thought is freedom in relation to what one does, the motion by which one detaches oneself from it, establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem.

Intersex Essay
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-10-04 20:16:37
Link to this Comment: 16445

An interesting article I found which may be of interest to some of you--especially after the intense discussion about the fixing the Intersexed. It's by Sumi Colligan and its called "Why the Intersexed Shouldn't Be Fixed: Insights from Queer Theory and Disability Studies"

Tomorrow's Lecture
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-05 01:14:29
Link to this Comment: 16448

I must admit that I am apprehensive about tomorrows lecture. While it is obvious to me that there are differences in the sexes, it is a frightening thought to learn that there may be more difference than I think. I was reassured by the articles I read for tomorrow purporting that difference does not equal one is superior over the other, and that science is more about exploration and discovery rather than absolute truth. I guess it's more of a matter of being afraid of people percieving science as the end all be all, and therefore sex differences are more solid. Isn't that what Cal is referring to when he talks about how in the 70s people wanted to be andro, and then science stepped in and told us we are all different? Then we end up with crap books like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." I guess also that the sociologist in me says that it's more socialization than biology. That does seem to be supported by some of our reasons. But then Cal has to run off and switch genders on us when he learns he is biologically male, rather than keeping with his socialized gender. On the other hand, he fits better into the catagory of man: he looks more masculine and if he's a man, he's straight. So maybe it's not that he finds out that he's a man, and therefore wants to be one, but that he's learned the social definitions of male and female and that's why he transitions.
Maybe this should be my paper topic, because it keeps me flipping back and forth.
Is sex nature and gender cultural?

Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-10-05 14:55:57
Link to this Comment: 16452

It seemed that Paul was defending Biology against those who label individual people a certain gender based on what they perceieve thier "biological constuct" to be; and therefore, we are not biologically sexed beings by others....but we are in fact biologically sexed beings ourselves.

But...i have a problem with the "16" sexes.....we we all have 16 sexes? or is it just Jenny who has 16 sexes? because she was the original "box" that we were looking at, right? and its was from her box that we created this calculation....

and...if culture/gender/and sex are all within our biologically material body....then isnt it this "biology" that creates gender division into two ccategories?

scary bio
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-05 19:31:29
Link to this Comment: 16460

thx, paul, for class today.

if the body contains the self, than what possesses the body? When i say "I" i am not only refering to the self, but to a sense of a possession over the body and the nervous system that hold my self. possession of the body is the self's experience of body, but another's experience of my body may lead to another's experience of ownership of my body. since there is nothing outside individual experience than another's claim on my body is equally valid to my own claim on my body. there is nothing inherently mine about my body.

even scarier: there is nothing inherently mine about my nervous system. it's scary enough thinking that something can be done to my body without impinging on the self, but the idea that something can impinge on my nervous system and cause my body to react: that implies that my body can do things that are not Me. liability is out the window.

i guess the "spark" that em spoke of as missing from the biologist's story translates, for me, as a lack of fundamental Truth i.e. that my experience of my body and nervous system is fundamentally different than yr experience of my body. so, according to a biologist (?), morals are an imagination generated by the experiencing self. since there are no truths, except those that the self tells about experience, than an act that touches the body or nervous system, but is not experienced by the self, is not essentially moral or immoral. foucault would aggree.

i don't know if i'm ready to give up morals. if i can beleive that my gut reaction to rape is a human reaction: that all human selves pin an immoral label on rape, than i think i am okay with the idea that rape is fundalmentally immoral. but, if the immorality of rape is socially constructed, than i am pretty scared about giving up the idea that it is inherently constructions topple.

Date: 2005-10-05 19:36:04
Link to this Comment: 16462

i really typeed that one! ... i meant:

"than i think i am okay with the idea that rape is NOT fundalmentally immoral. but, if the immorality of rape is socially constructed, than i am pretty scared about giving up the idea that RAPE IS NOT inherently wrong"

well that wasn't soooo bad
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-06 03:20:35
Link to this Comment: 16475

kelsey: paul is not arguing that we ALL have 16 sexes. he is saying that at LEAST 16 sexes exist rather than two.

i have a problem with this theory, as i commented at the end of class. i just wanted to reiterate here. i don't veiw the construct of sexual preference (orientation) and the construct of sex to have anything to do with each other. however, i realize that may just be the discourse that the lgbt community has created in contrast to the discourse of the straight mainstream. i understand that paul put that in there because mainstream society views sexual preference and sex as linked. but what about someone like me who has a different paradigm in my 'self'? do i have different sex options than Paul?

i'm really happy though with the assessment that sex is a social contruct as well. yes, it has a biological basis, but it's interpreted through culture and that is the lense that we view it through.

right now i'm struggling with whether or not to believe in constructs. some people say fuck gender, and go genderqueer or whatever. but what does that really look like? to me, it's still a mix of male and female, woman and man. is it worth it to mix it? mightn't i just as well stay the way i am? and what is that? if we are concious about our gender construction does that make it better if we do it, than those who subconsiously participate?

what is my ultimate gender expression?

and just to let you guys know about an event:
Kate Bornstein is performing "On Men, Women and the Rest of Us" at Muhlenberg College in Allentown on 10/10 at 8 pm.
I'm going to be in Allentown all day so I won't be able to give people rides up, but I can give a ride home. It should be kick ass.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-06 03:33:21
Link to this Comment: 16476

and Orah:
First I would like to preface this with the statement that I am not in any way condoning rape, nor do I think the act is inconsequential. I personally see it as a terrible occurance and extend my sympathy to all victims of sexual assualt.

That being said.

I would argue that the question of rape is a moral one. The very idea that the body is our own is based on morality. From my teachings of Christianity at least, the body is our temple, and a little bit of God is in our bodies. Therefore, we need to keep our bodies pure so that God has a pure place to live. However, the Bible (and laws) also taught me that a woman's body is the property of her father and then her husband. Therefore, the notion that our bodies were our own entities to decide what happens to them is not so old. At one time, women's bodies were allowed to be used in whatever way the owner (not us, but our husbands) wished. Rape occured when someone used the female body against the will of the owner. Thanks to the feminist movement, we can now claim this entity as our own; we now have ownership. Therefore we can be raped by anyone.

The notion that rape is immoral is a quesiton of ownership. The idea of ownership is a social construct (not going to go into that mini-history right now). Therefore, rape is a social construct. The act itself only has the meaning we give it.

But just because something is based on morals doesn't mean that it shouldn't exist.

still trying to find some morals
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-06 17:21:15
Link to this Comment: 16484

yeh, foucault would agree. just as the "human" is a rift-notion, so, too, rape is a notion created by history. "it is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to thing that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form" (order of things, xxiii). does that preclude morality? maybe there is no unchanging set of morals that exists in an essentail realm, but can there be a changing set of morals that exists WITHIN history? that change with us? a biologist would still say no because there is no realm outside of bodied experience? i am suggesting a realm outside of bodied experience, but not outside of history. today there is a moral law outside of individual bodies that says that rape is immoral. hundreds of years ago this moral did not exist (?) ... this idea does not assuage the fear imbeded in the notion that there is no essential moral realm: it's scary to think that hundreds of years ago a man could feel entitled to rape his wife: it negates the humanist thoery that there is an internal set of morals that EVERY human embodies and relates to as an individual ... but does the idea of evolving morals outside of bodied experience work?

Chasing my tail...
Name: Amy Pennin
Date: 2005-10-17 01:13:29
Link to this Comment: 16520

I loved Paul's lecture, and actually wrote my paper on it; however, I am still having a bit of a conceptual problem with the 'story' he told us, which makes me feel like I'm going in circles. I really like and agree with his view that all experience is embodied and encultured, and thus all human experience is mediated and affected by both the physical body and the culture in which that body developed and resides. Paul also seemed to be arguing that there is no such thing as 'truth' in the absolute, floating-outside-of-subjective-experience sense, which makes a lot of sense to me. In a reading for a class on culture, I found a quote from Max Weber: "Man is a creature suspended in webs of significance which he himself has spun" (this may not be the exact quote, apologies). Thus, if we are suspended in these webs of culture as created by our embodied selves, Paul seems to be saying that these webs hang in a vacuum: there is nothing free-floating outside the web. The one problem this leaves me with is that Paul claims that even all this theory is merely a story. Where are we left if there is no truth? How can we establish ground upon which to build our understandings of the world--assuming that truth is not a valid ground upon which to stand? Could we instead, perhaps, define 'truth' as a variable social construct, and then build on our truths while recognizing their constructedness? I hope I'm making some sense. If anyone has a reply or an idea, that would be great.

questions for Paul re: the biology of sex and gend
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-17 12:30:03
Link to this Comment: 16523

Join Amy here in questions you have for Paul, or that you'd like us to wrestle with as a group once he's been and gone again (we return to biological embodiment this Wednesday...) My own curiosities have to do with

Any others?

My questions for Paul -- culture? biology? what el
Name: Jennifer P
Date: 2005-10-18 10:00:50
Link to this Comment: 16532

Hi all,

I really liked Paul's lecture about the body and culture, and his move to show how embodiment and sociocultural interaction are interdependent rather than separate forces.

In his model, everything we "know" comes to our "self" through the body, i.e. through the brain which is the medium of consciousness. That seems indisputable. When he talked about the case of Jenny and her feeling "from inside" that she was not who her genitals and childhood socialization indicated she was, Paul tried to make sense of this situation by naming a number of different "signals" that inform a person's sense of sex/gender identity. These included the body (which Paul said in this case would be the genitals), social norms/expectations, and a few others that were more hypothetical but must be in there, since they don't seem cleanly attributable to either socialization or genitals: sexual preference (I agree with Amy that this one would not be central to the question of sex/gender identity per se) and something like "image preference."

I have a couple of related questions about this:

Is "body" really only genitals? How do hormones or something else about brain chemistry that might be "telling" people who they "are" fit in to this model? I assume that they do, but I don't know much about the biology of this.

In the model, while all signals come to the "self" via the body, it seems clear that some originate within/as part of the body, while others are the product of interaction with other bodies, i.e. social experience. Does Paul have a hypthesis about where those vaguer signals like "image preference" originate? Maybe pushing for an "origin" is besides the point -- it probably is -- but if we are trying to think about biology-culture as a kind of dynamic feedback loop, I'm trying to better understand where/how these seemingly mysterious "preferences" are supposed to come into play.

For example, in the documentary on hermaphrodites we watched yesterday, the participants were pretty universally insistent on the fact that intersexed babies who have their genitals (and sometimes hormones) changed early in life later experience a kind of "broken" sense of identity, while those who are not surgically altered can expect to face negative reactions from others, but to retain a whole and coherent sense of self. This, despite the fact that the cultural scripts for intersexed people are barely existant in their societies. As an anthropologist, I am always loathe to attribute much of anything about people's experience to biology in any strict sense -- I tend to think of the pre-cultured body more as a set of potentials and constraints than as a direct determinant of any *particular* sense of identity -- but it is difficult to deny that people's bodies seem to be "telling" them something from the "inside" about their sex/gender. Yet this seems to go far beyond genitals. we have any clues about where these "messages" come from?

Thanks, Paul!

Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-18 16:24:44
Link to this Comment: 16536

I really liked Paul's lecture. It was weird to be thinking scientifically again. (I am such an English major...)

Okay, here's what I was really confused about. I was trying to explain to someone the 16 sex theory ... which I liked and I understood when we were talking in class. But I stepped out of the classroom, and my understanding fled as well.

I'm looking at my notes from class now. Okay. So we say there are 16 sexes because four signals make up sex: body, social standards, interaction preference (i.e. mate), and image preference. Okay, I get the body thing. Penis or vagina (or something else). Yup, makes sense. I get the image preference - I see myself as a woman. Sure, that makes sense. Social standards still sorta make sense. You're raised as a boy or a girl in this society. (So this signal depends on another? Hmm...)

But this is the one I really don't get: interaction preference. Maybe this is me needing to blur the lines between sexuality and sex, but if a guy likes guys, we say he's gay man, not a straight woman. I mean, I guess I understand where this shaky - for example, a guy who likes guy may still see himself as a woman but ... I guess I don't understand why interaction preference is a signal that dictates my sex. I see my interaction preference as a part of sexuality, which is not necessarily related to sex. Does this make sense? What am I not understanding? Can someone please explain this? When I was trying to explain this to a friend, this detail was the one I couldn't defend. I just don't see why interaction preference is a signal for sex.

Bio, but not...
Name: talya
Date: 2005-10-18 19:55:39
Link to this Comment: 16537

I wasn't there for Paul's first lecture so I am greatly looking forward to tomorrow's.

Through the lecture, I hope to continue what I am doing in my other classes: examining the relationship between biology/psychology or/and society/culture and sex/gender. I'm looking forward to another perspective.

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-18 21:47:27
Link to this Comment: 16540

i already posted about paul's class bf break ... but i feel like thinking outloud for a bit (relevantly, of course!)

I am serious when I ask in class about those who do not like words at all. i recognize what amy proposed: single words fail, so we sharpen our statements by combining words into sentances and paragraphs and essays and disserations ... i wonder, however, about the opposite reaction to the realization that words don't work. or, rather, when we realize that a category doesn't work and we, therefore, make the category more and more specific, and finally find ourselves alone in the category ...("I'm the REAL hermaphrodite!") ... have we returned to a space bf the initial categorization? how are we different after wording ourselves out of category?

it struck me in the video how everything that was said was so community-oriented/community-obsessed. in foucautian tradition i wonder about WHAT WAS NOT SAID: namely, the lack of community, the fissions in the group, the absolute difference of experience, the negation of word that this difference creates. i guess this statement uncovers my not-so-secret-anymore animostity of words. words create community: the word 'tree' gathers us together around this ornate centerpeice notion of "Tree." In actuality, however, the tree that i conjure is different from all the trees that you conjure. the centerpeice, upon examination, is tacky at best: so cheap that it crumbles in the midst of our dinner party. i am interested in the crucial moment after the crumbling: the moment when we put down our forks bc there's soot on our food. what does this moment sound like?

in continuing thoughts about foucault i recognize silence as a part of discourse: the unspoken parts of sentances (punctuation) do hold some power in relation to the spoken words. is there any resistance-quality to silence? is there a refusal to weild power? if i refuse to be present am i resisting the space provided? or, am i creating an inert space that defines my absence and used to the advantage of the spoken, present word? even in the post-enlightenment demand to speak EVERYTHING there is silence. when postmodern theory seems to negate itself: when nothing said is valid: when any articulation is a violence, i wonder, if the post-postmodern phase is a movement toward silence: a negation of "Tree?" a desire to be a mute ... the glorification of the subalter ... a reverse capitalism .... the postmodern world lets us scramble for the tippity-top when we get there and realize how terribly lonely we are, i wonder what the reaction will be ... as silence is inevitable, i wonder if word, too, is inevitable. and when we realize our post-postmodern state, i wonder about the words that will emerge from the sea of silence.

Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-10-18 22:48:18
Link to this Comment: 16541

Oh my--biology! Thank you, Paul, for a very interesting lecture. I look forward to tomorrow's lecture as well. As for some sort of resolution, however, that is something I've not come to just yet.

I do grasp the idea that everything we "know" comes to our "self" through the body--through the brain as it acts as medium of consciousness--but what I feel problematic is the notion of disabilty. I apologize for always going back that idea, but it's just something I find very interesting and extremely relevant to gender studies as well. If Paul's "story" is stipulating that the brain dictates everything we know about our self, then is he also saying that the condition that the brain is in will dictate the kind of self--as to claim that if someone is mentally disabled, their "self" would constructed out of that disability and, rather, constrained by the disabled mind. Does that ultimately lead to a disabling view of self? Is it possible to have a non-disabled self from a disabled mind? Also, how about in terms of mental illness, are those afflicted with that sort of illness still able to find their "self" through their brain--or does that make them "ineligible" of some sort? Does one's version of "self" have to coincide with reality? I don't know..hmm.

bio bio bio
Name: anna
Date: 2005-10-18 23:39:51
Link to this Comment: 16542

i really found myself hanging on pauls every word - not in that i was signed, sealed, deliverd but that i was sooo interested in what he had to say! i really am excited about tomorrows class - it will be nice to get past the boxes within boxes within boxes (which got dizzying! though mostly made sense)!!! i am loving the fact that this course is giving me lots and lots of information without making me marry or believe any one set of thoughts. looking at gender/sexuality from a biological standpoint is fascinating and i am very curious to hear how this all wraps up tomorrow!

so the 16 sex theory...
Name: alex
Date: 2005-10-19 00:52:06
Link to this Comment: 16544

i dont understand how all four of the categories paul presented can hold equal weight when determining sex. i feel like there should be some extra weight in the "body" category- that is, your sex organs. i know, intersex people pose a problem in that, and what about transgered people who identify more with the gender that is not dictated by their sex organ (i hope im using all these terms correctly...) anyways, yea- maybe its just that in all four categories he presented, my personal vote went to heterosexual female (as in, that was my response to all 4 categories), making all four quarters of me "girl", and that easy, clear cut "biological" definition of my sex is clouding idea of someone being 3/4, or 1/2... who knows. hopefully tomorrow things will become a little bit more concrete with all the boxes and whatnot.

Name: em
Date: 2005-10-19 09:23:58
Link to this Comment: 16545

i, too, spent time over break thinking about boxes, and trying to communicate this theory to others. what i found is that "brain-boxes" becomes too confining. i had this thought about dropping rocks into water (all that rain over break, i guess)...and each rock makes its own set of ripples, right? so, i started thinking about the brain as a series of circles within each other, and these circles cause more circles (ripples) which then intersect with other circle-ripples, causing feedback and interference and growth. i like this image, too, because it is both more musical and more feminine than the idea of boxes. there is more continuity and acceptance in circles. it also begs the idea: what starts the circles? what is the rock that drops into our consciousnesses and triggers it all? who/what drops that rock? that's where i find the space for spirit in all of this.

what you thought of the story he told...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-19 18:08:33
Link to this Comment: 16549

Thanks again to Paul for his generosity in offering us two sessions about "what biology has to contribute to thinking about sex and gender." I've put up links to both his talks on our web page of discussion notes:
First Session
Second Session

At the end of the second of these, you'll see Paul's afterthoughts, as well as an invitation to let him know what you think of the story he told, "have you assail it and/or contribute to its further development. One last set of thoughts in the on-line forum, please?"

And while I'm here...a reminder that we'll meet @ the Wilma this Saturday, for the 2 p.m. performance of "I Am My Own Wife." Also: readings for next week are the Scott and Ortner pieces for Monday, and just the Chapkis for Wednesday (realizing, in consultation, that we've over-ambitious, we've decided to make Butler and Rubin optional).

See you Saturday afternoon--

thoughts on today
Name: Jen
Date: 2005-10-19 22:39:31
Link to this Comment: 16556

One of the moments I most appreciated today was Paul's clear discussion of social constructs and why they are inherently a misrepresentation of human diversity (even if they are necessary in order that we be able to grasp anything "out there" and talk about it on anything other than the most micro of levels). This helps us make sense, perhaps, of why saying that genes strongly influence sexual identity/preference is not really the same thing as saying that the identity we call "homosexuality" is determined by one bit of DNA or another. Part of what I take from his model is the idea that what we think of as a "self" is a kind of nexus of multiple influences (all mediated by the brain). We know something about what some of those influences are and how they are likely to work, but each self is the product of a unique combination of biological-cultural events.

I absolutely agree with Paul that, "The sense of missing things, of words being inadequate, holds both for 'social constructions' and for the words (and even before them) the ideas that are involved in personal story construction." He also writes after our meeting today that, "It really IS important from biology that the 'innate' exists, ie that there IS structure inside before and independent of any engagement with culture." I think I'd like to know more about those "structures" and to what extent any (or many) of them are "finished" before a person enters the cultural world. In the meantime, I guess I want to withhold judgment about what Jenny Boylan's sense of "always knowing it, from the inside" really means. Could it be that this "inside" is the best construct Jenny has for talking about something for which there is little other available language? What does the fact that she makes sense of this as her "inside" really tell us about where the most important signals come from? Can we tell?

I was real skeptical...
Name: elle
Date: 2005-10-20 01:47:29
Link to this Comment: 16561

so, in my mind..

biology has been used to back many discriminatory opinions and decisions, and in my mind, before Paul's talk, seemed only to be a constrictive counter-part to social construction. Biology is much more tangible than ideas- it's genes, body parts, hypotheses and explanations as to why things are the way they are. Biology is science, and scientific information is believed to be correct, whereas the idea world is merely theory. there's something incredibly freeing in being able to throw out ideas and discuss them, coming to no concrete conclusions. science however, is a multi-stage thought process- in order to get one thing you have to acknowledge another, prior in a sequence of events. You have to agree. I usually don't, thus I’ve effectively avoided Park for almost all of my college career.

That being said..
I think Paul's got a point. If we're going to talk about all the different variables that create a person, then biology needs to be in there. we are born with genes, we do instinctively move our heads towards the nipple as babies..but I don't think we have mate preference hardwired. I think things get iffy for me when we try and decide what's nature, and what's nature, and how much of each in each. yet, there are people who are born into societies that condemn “homosexuality”, are not surrounded by "homosexual" influences of any kind (and I mean mentors, figures in the media, ECT), that still find themselves drawn to the "wrong" sex. what do we make of that? There’s got to be something there, right? Or have they had an experience they don’t feel relevant enough to mention that had an impact on their mate preference (really liking a person growing up, having a negative experience with a particular person that embodies a sex for them..). bare in mind however, that who you’re sleeping with isn’t what you are. For example, if I sleep with women, I am not a “lesbian”. I am doing something that we identify as lesbianic. I know that’s a big statement right there, because people fought hard for that word. But I still attest to the idea that naming sexual preference is narrow and confining. Our desires which are shaped by our experiences which are shaped by our genes which are shaped by hormones, the experience of the mother, which are shaped by ect ect, are always interacting with what’s inside and out. Therefore I see everything as in-flux.

My main point of contention with Paul surrounded the oversimplification of the model, but after giving him a word in edgeways, I think he cleared that up. I think 16 is sort of a stupid number, though I saw how he got it and I saw the point. the point about variables, how there are endless variables that all interact with one another that go into making up a person- also dependant on nature, nature, chance and will. that makes sense to me. I can understand sexuality in that context. It begins explain transgender, although I think there's a lot more to unpack in that one.

"I’m a man inside". I...just don't know how to buy it. and it goes against everything I’ve ever worked for to say that. Because inside there is no man. man is something we've created on the outside. it's something people identify with, but cannot be. you cannot be a man or a woman, you can act like one, dress like one, and the part I don't like about some science says that you can think like one. It's a rod and a hole. the strongest person I know is a woman, the most sympathetic, a man. these are qualities that go with gender that generally seem to stick to what we think are two sides, when in fact, I believe, it's because we are believing them into existence. Can a rod give birth to a baby? no (but boy it would be great). does that matter? only when you give what follows it a social meaning.

and so much more. thanks paul.

in a quandary of my own limitations...
Name: kat
Date: 2005-10-20 13:56:04
Link to this Comment: 16572

i think it was great having paul come and speak to us. he offered a different perspective on this problem we've been having with categories. however, i think that his explanantion may have only served to hinder us. By saying no two people have the same genes, which is a known scientific fact, that means there really is no way to categorize anyone, which confuses me more every time i think about it. if there are no set biological standards for what makes a man or a woman or any of the other multitude of unnamed categories then is it even fair to call them categories? [i feel like im not making any sense and im only confusing myself further so consider this a stream of consciousness rather than an essay.]

although i hate the limitations that exist in my mind and i try very hard to get beyond them, categories and categorizing the world around me is so deeply entrenched that maybe it isnt such a bad thing i need to escape from. society has clearly convinced us that we need language and categories, however limiting they might be, in order to communicate and survive in this world. if that is the way we function, then it would follow that it is necessary to have categories and we shouldnt fight them, perhaps just attempt to expand on them bit by bit. the problem is that paul's explanation leads me to believe there is no way to categorize accurately because people are all so innately different. so how am i supposed to get along in this world until we create new words or new categories for me to put people into? I clearly cannot avoid categorizing people, no matter how much i detest my own limits. i mean i even tried to put hermaphrodites into male/female categories (who does that?)! so if i go along with the societal way of understanding the world then i expect something, be it words or actions or more categories to help me describe the differences and similarities between these millions of different beings. im so frustrated because i dont know how to reconcile the two but i need an answer in order to get along in the world!

biology versus psychology
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-10-21 23:03:23
Link to this Comment: 16581

I found it a little unsettling to hear some of the comments made in class last wednesday during Dr. Grobstein's lecture. I felt that some of the questions were geared towards arguement instead of inquiry. Although it is important to always question critiques and ideas proposed in both academia and in "real life," sometimes this may impeed on our understanding of a person's actual message.

Dr. Grobstein was simply trying to defend biology and its "percieved" constructs against those who deem this area of academic study to be the cause or "perpetrator" of gendering in society. If this professor was a female transvestite, or a female lesbion, would our reactions have been different?

We are engaging in a class thats purpose is to learn about different types of gendering/sexing/categorizing in order to see beyond these social constructs. I think that some of us gendered this professor...and also perhaps secretly judged "him"...and therefore, did not fully respect what he was trying to say.

Did any of you feel like you "gendered" this professor, and therefore, argued against what he was really trying to say? Are we, as women...more importantly...very conciously "gendered" women...subject to gendering men and thier ideas simply because they are male? Is this a defense tatic...or, is it human nature?

Biology is just as fundemental to spirituality, sexuality, and gender psychology as any other liberal arts is a science that seeks to question rather that dictate; and therefore, a science that should be both respected and closely analyzed. Yes, there are "misled" writers, professors, and academics in every field of academia that seek to judge, criticize, and create prejudice against certain sects of people/cultures while using thier thematic/academic discipline as a tool for "proving" thier theories. However, it is important that we recognize these types of people...and eliminate order to not me dissuaged by thier pollution.

I may not fully understand what Dr. Grobstein was trying to lecture on...i have and always will suck at the natural sciences. However, I do know that he was not creating a dialouge based on scientific discrimination and/or complication regarding sex and gender categories; and therefore, proposing no concrete "evidence" or "scientific proof" against those who are not convention sex/genders determined by our convention American society. Perhaps we can learn from how some of us immediately "gendered" this person...have we gendered him? and if so, how did this lead to our "gendering" of his ideas? Again, I pose this question: Would our thoughts/comments/reactions to his lecture have been different is this professor were female and "homosexual" or "trans-sexual"?

thinking about the play
Name: Jen
Date: 2005-10-22 17:40:36
Link to this Comment: 16583

So...what did you think of the play?
More specifically, you might consider...

What was the line/scene/moment that struck you most, and why?

Elle noted in the group discussion that this wasn't a play "about"
gender/sexuality as much as about a number of other issues of history and identity. Do you agree? What is being said here, if anything, about the nature of transvestism?

more thoughts on Paul, and, I Am My Own Wife
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-10-22 21:21:35
Link to this Comment: 16584

Kelsey, you stated, “We are engaging in a class that’s purpose is to learn about different types of gendering/sexing/categorizing in order to see beyond these social constructs. I think that some of us gendered this professor...and also perhaps secretly judged "him"...and therefore, did not fully respect what he was trying to say.” It was not clear to me that this happened in class. It is my belief that we should always question the information or ideas that are presented to us especially with regard to a subject that is so complex, and whether it is a “man” or “woman” espousing their ideas is irrelevant.

To me, it was interesting that Paul gave the caveat in the beginning of his lectures that says this is a story he tells via biology about gender and sex and sexual orientationand identity...He is making strong statements that have consequences with regard to social constructs... from my knowledge of science and how it is used in society, it still feels dangerous to think biology, genetics, or some scientific method can explain gender/sex/sexual orientation/identity. I appreciated Prof. Grobstein’s lecture, because it proved to me that once again the “stories” being told are not the ones I want to tell about sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. As I reflect on the lecture given by Anthony Appiah last Thursday, I recall this idea that resonated in my mind, that academics and others are so ready to follow a “scientism” that is not natural to human societies. Societies have many ways of explaining themselves that include such discussions as a human spirit, an essence (and yes I will go there) that is not necessarily just a biological function in some nether region of the brain mass. I digress…so, I can agree that genetics can provide information about parts of me, but not about who I will become, I do not believe that the Self that arises is bound by genetics…

Re: I am My Own Wife—I do believe Elle was correct in her assertion that this play was not about gender/sexuality. While I do feel the play was well acted and interesting as a “historical” piece, it really shied away from making a strong statement about “transvestism”. I guess I was expecting some type of angst on the part of Charlotte over his choice to live as a woman, and unlike Jenny Boylan’s story we do not have a sense of alienation on the part of Charlotte. So Berlin was not homophobic and people just let the “tranny granny” be. Perhaps the social construction of gender was more flexible during this era.

The scene in which Charlotte describes dressing in woman’s clothing as a child and being discovered by his aunt struck me. If his aunt had responded more negatively it would have made for quite a different story. It was also interesting to note that he seemed free to dress as a woman and yet I suspect his aunt did not have the same freedom to dress as a man…

Thoughts about the play
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-10-23 12:48:56
Link to this Comment: 16588

I think that the beauty of the play came from how gender was such a non-issue and that relates to us in that we've been so frustrated with trying to get gender less emphasized and possibly thrown away...and the play presents us with a circumstance where that is pretty much the case. As Elle pointed out, gender did seem to take a very back seat to the play, but I think that is very noteworthy. A transvestite being overlooked in Berlin? How could that be? Could that ever be the case for us now? I don't know.

The moment that struck me the most was the part about Alfred--specifically the scene where Charlotte is rubbing his sweater in such an affectionate way. I thought it was very moving, but also kind of disturbing. She made him that sweater while he was in jail, but, just like Floyd King pointed out after the show, it was in a sort of attempt to make up for letting the truth about him slip out and, by doing so, land him in jail. It was just so interesting to be privy to a character where it was hard to place whether or not she was a "monster" or good person. I connected that to when I was watching the film about hermaphrodites and trying to place them as female or male. Can we not take characters/people for their "face value"--do we have to try and identify their core identity?

It's interesting to think about how, connecting back to Paul's lecture, Charlotte was affected by her "female spirit that was trapped within a male body"--that inside feeling of female--as well as some sort of outside force--i.e. her Aunt and her rejection of the feminine identity even though she was a female.

Thinking about how it must have been portrayed by only one person blows my mind! I really do think that Wright's idea that we are all many different characters is a good one, but I do feel as though there was a separation that ensued having the two actors and that it was a positive effect. I really did get the sense that it was a love story by having Kevin Bergen play Doug Wright.

One more thing--do you think that Charlotte could ever be played by a woman?? I don't know...but I was thinking about it.

Name: elle
Date: 2005-10-23 14:20:13
Link to this Comment: 16589

Patritia's question of whether Charlotte could ever be played by a woman made me think. my first impulse was to respond witht: if you had no idea about the gender of Floyd, the actor, and Floyd hadn't come out afterwards, and you didn't know that the play was about a transvestite (although i don't know if she ever got surgary, which technically makes her transgender, it's so technical after a while that it's no wonder we want to do away with catagories) if you HADN'T known all that, would you nessesarily been able to "spot the trannie?" Would it have made a difference if we'd known the character was "actually" female? hell, how would we even know if Floyd was "actually" male? or intersex? or trans?But...we did know a lot. We knew that the actor identified as male. We knew that Charlotte is supposed to also be played as very masculine looking ("hands of a man")..that the play was about a transvestite. so it's a bit silly to try and remove the context.

The beauty of the play for me, was that it put all these catagories that we're trying to brake down, expand, simplify, brake down, and build up again in perspective. it's gender. it's not being a spy..but maybe i've gone too far in saying that. gender is very voyeristic, afterall. my point is that berlin didn't sweat the small stuff, it didn't discriminate (except for a lifetime, that she's mentioned in other documentries and in her book). Sure catagories still existed around her, but the fact that she didn't fit into them didn't matter. GREAT! so let's stop freaking out about people's identities and way they tranverse catagories and look at the places from where they stem.

I Am My Own Wife comments
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-23 15:02:50
Link to this Comment: 16591

You know, I really enjoyed the play. I liked how the writer negotiated the distance between making the play "about" transvestitism and history. I liked how the main character (and reason for the story) was a transvestite, and that certainly played a role, but the history, the moral implications, the world of Soviet Russia, what it means to be human, etc, etc all had just as important roles in the play. I think that's great when this happens: it makes a sexuality/gender/etc that the regular world sees as "atypical" something that simply exists. The play didn't feel the need to say, "Look she's a transvestite, isn't that awesome, look at this, look at this." Instead, dealt with a transvestite. Coolbeans.

And then we went to the discussion. And, man, here's where I had a problem. Because ... it seemed to take away from the power of the play. When the play was finished, I felt great. I felt like a story had been told. I felt a sense of completion. But I left the discussion feeling really perturbed. This is because of several things that the people discussing said - and I could be acting overly-sensative here. I know that, and I'll apologize right now. But, I remain troubled, so let me try to explain why.

The minute those people got on stage and transvestitism came up, I thought, "Oh, no, it's going to happen." What's "it"? Well, in every single movie/book/whatever that deals with issues not considered in the mainstream, it seems you hear, at some point, the author/director/starring actor/etc utter the phrase, "Well, this play wasn't really about ___, it was about human loneliness." Or, "This book wasn't about ___, it was about love." It seems like the director of a more mainstream gay movie always comes out (ha ha! pun!) at some point and says, "Well, this movie wasn't about homosexuality, it was about how humans interact."

And, sure enough, one of the actors said, "[This play]'s not about her sexuality, per se."

Remember my first paragraph up there? I spent it talking about all the things this play could be about. I noticed that this play wasn't a simple things myself, that transvestitism played a role, but so did history, humans, friendship, love, etc. What bothers me is this desire to deny: to say, "Well, it wasn't really about ___." If the statement had been made, "This play is about a lot of things, not only ___" I could deal with it better. But I admit it: it bugs the hell out of me when you hear that statement, when you hear the words, "This play wasn't really about __."

A contemporary example: I assume you've been hearing a lot about 'Brokeback Mountain.' This is that infamous "gay cowboy" movie. And I've been reading a lot of reviews about it, and comments made by the director. And sure enough, I've read, "Well, this movie isn't about homosexuality. It's about two men who find each other and etc etc." And, I'm sorry, but that bothers me. I know that if I were Foucault, I'd find a way to move around these words, and that'd be great. But I'm not Foucault, and if this were a straight movie in Hollywood, no one would be saying, "It's not about straight sex, it's about blah blah."

I guess I'm saying that I'd be okay if I had heard, "This play is about many things. And the star just happens to be transvestite." But I didn't hear that. I heard a denial instead. And so instead of leaving the theater thinking about the play and the wonderful things that happened, I was thinking about that denial. And that bothers me.

So, again, I could be acting in an overly sensative manner. And I apologize. I hope this above rambling made sense.

Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-10-23 15:24:44
Link to this Comment: 16593

Sarah, I also left the play feeling a combination of satisfaction from watching a well-acted play, and then the terrible feeling of the denial that I keep seeing when gay/lesbian/transgender/anyone other than heterosexuals feel the need to qualify their creative piece while denying the importance of it being produced by a queer person about a "non-heterosexual", in this case, a gender-bender. I've learned in ethics for example, philosophers would say this is because “homosexuality” (I’ll use this term to describe all those that are not heterosexual) are systematically made invisible through compulsory heterosexuality, through criminalization, through denying of our existence. Society constantly wants us to fit a particular role (think Will and Grace) but anything else should be suppressed. I really think the panelist who said "[This play]'s not about her sexuality, per se." did this because then the play would not be seen as a “gay play” and rather something that was “acceptable” for all audiences. I don’t think you need to apologize for being troubled. It is very troubling indeed.

Date: 2005-10-23 16:52:34
Link to this Comment: 16595

However, part of what we do as category-makers is to label things such and such: a gay play, a trans man etc etc. it is what sarah points out (no one would comment on a straight movie) that is where the friction comes in. hardly anyone labels anything a "straight play" or a "straight man." maybe it's where we don't categorize that really shows what's up. it's like white males being defaults for the "universal reader." bull. shit. i kind of kept thinking about virginia woolf's essay about anonymous, and her theory that all writings by anonymous were about women. in the case of the play, it could be seen as a very male play--i argue, since both actors are male. we have a glimpse of the answer to patricia's question from the movie "victor/victoria"...julie andrews plays a woman playing a man playing a woman. whoah. and the scene of discovery? in the bathroom. she's naked and the man who is pursuing him/her (rather confusedly) sees her body. the body. i kept on thinking about the body at the play, especially after floyd said that he had "inhabited" this character for so long...

splits and fragments
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-23 17:01:07
Link to this Comment: 16596

as em and I scurried back to suburban under the shelter of a little black unbrella on saturday, we talked about the deliberate number of actors in the play. the fragmenting of the single actor demonstrates the non-cohesive nature of the parts that make up what we perceive to be a unit: a self: an individual. what inclines us to perceive others (and ourselves?) as units? i have been inclined all semester to say that the body is that which holds contradictions. (the singular nature of the verb "holds" is significant.) i am not making an argment meant to weaken the concept of self as unit, but rather, asking what it means that the SOLE unifier of the self is the body: there is no coherence to self other than body.

in past semesters i've played with the idea of existing without body as pure energy. i was inclined to this path of thought bc i felt that embodyment restricted the mind. but now i am not thinking of the body as an inert container, but rather, as that which makes a certain sense which is the self. the body orders fragments WITHIN : the body-order does not heirarchize, but interiorizes fragments. the body is the operating table. it doesn't matter how random the objects brought to the table are: the table coheres them into a unit : the body coheres fragments into a self. anything interior has a certain sense. sense dissipates as the limits of interiors disintegrate.

one may say that this weakens the argument for a coherent self. but the body has never (?) failed at making a sense that is self ((((ooohhh! i don't think i aggree with that statement, (maybe! as we decay (wither through age or sickness) we loose coherence: but simultaneously the world outside individual experience is experienced in a way that the able-body cannot experience: any words of wisdom from those versed in disability studies?) but, never mind that for now ... i'm going to keep going with the initial argument)))). so, we can agonize, like the playwrite, over the fragmentary nature of the self, or, we can allow the body to do its job and accept that we are ambiguous beings and WRITE as this playwrite eventaully does.

so, what is the artistic significance of the actor's body as a place that embodies multiple selves. if the function of the body is to cohere a self, what are the implications of using the body to cohere multiple selves? that blows my mind: it's schizophrenia: an actor is he who plays with the body's unification function. the actor's body still unifies, but it unifies multiple selves. while we perceive the body as ordering us into unit, the actor's body unifies a multiplicity. but that's what our bodies are doing, too!!!! i'll try this: the unified self is a physical object; we sense, however, (and fear) an incoherence of spirit (how would paul translate that?) and try to emit harmonious sounds from the body. the actor, in trying to decipher (disorder) the multiplicity within the body, makes the body sound a cacophony of voices. the actor lives a strange coherence.

anyways, to cut this short: if the play displayed the fragments held in the actor's single bodies: i think it is quite demonstrative to fragment the whole play between two fragmented actors. The body of the actor in the one-actor production takes centerstage. The centerstage of the two-actor play is empty: split between two bodies.

an interlude?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-10-23 18:32:38
Link to this Comment: 16598

Don't want to interrupt the discussion of the play, but did want to say thanks for our two sessions together, and the thoughts that have stayed in my mind from them. And maybe its relevant to the play in one way or another.

"always knowing it from the inside" and "I'm a man inside" ARE an interesting problem, both conceptually and politically. And I think they relate to "a quandry of my own limitations", as well as to "there IS structure inside before and independent of any engagement with culture" and not all "conflict" can/should be attributed to individual/culture interactions. There is plenty of opportunity/room for conflict existence/noticing to occur ".

Yes, the biology says that male/female categories are inadequate. And yes, if you come right down to it, everyone is different from everyone else, so there not only sixteen but millions of different "categories". But ... at any given time there are benefits to be gained from using categories (two? sixteen? millions? different numbers for different purposes?). The trick isn't to give up categories but rather to bear in mind, when using them, that they are being used for a particular purpose and not as assertions that they (or the criteria used to create them) are "real".

In this regard its important to keep in mind that categories are not ONLY "cultural constructions"; they are individual ones as well. And can/should be used with the same caveats in individual cases as cultural ones. Jenny Boylan was dealing with a conflict, at least conceivably one "inside" rather than one reflecting an individual/culture interaction. And one which, by her story, was evident very early in her life (hence conceivably related to pre-existing "structure inside". That is NOT however to see that the pre-existing structure was (in her case) "female". Jenny used words (categories) to try and describe to others what the conflict was, words that helped her make sense of it to herself but not necessarily reflecting in the deepest sense what the conflict was about (either at the time or as she remembers/describes it).

Can we escape from the problems of categories as not only agents of cultural oppression but also as constrainers of our own stories and options? I think we can at least lessen the problem, if not escape it altogether. To do so, we need to be willing/able to allow/encourage individuals to be themselves and, in so doing, to both make use of and ignore categories, as appropriate in different contexts. Perhaps a key to doing this is looking inward, at our own uses of categories, both for ourselves and for others? And perhaps that's relevant to the play? Anyhow, my thanks again for your thoughts.

Name: alex
Date: 2005-10-23 19:51:01
Link to this Comment: 16599

just to lay it out there- i really liked the play. their accents were fun to listen to and made the action more engaging. otherwise, i feel like it may have been too much like 2 people reading a book outloud. but taht doesnt have anything to do with this class.
just looking at charlotte from the info presented in the play, she seemed to really get by and not really have any qualms about her gender identity. one thing that i thought was weird is that everyone whos talked about this play (and even the playwright himself) mentions how incredible it is that she lived as a transvestite through 2 of the mnost oppressive times in history. tho according to the timeline she didnt become charlotte till the 1970s, long after the nazis lost and after the homophobia and closemindedness of the soviets had sort of calmeed down a little bit. my guess is that if she had openly cross dressed during wwII she would have been sent to a concentration camp.
i thought the description of charlotte as a boy with the two tigers was really powerful- taking what could hurt her with a brave/careless grin seemed to be a key element in her life, and having it embodied in a photograph of her before she changed was cool.
i feel like most of the stuff we've read about intersex people describes them as sufferers, who are confused and feel "guilty" about the way they are. it seemed that charlotte never had any shame about the way she felt, which may have been due to the approval from her aunt, or the fact that there were more pressing political matters while she was growing up than what clothes she was wearing. at any rate, charlotte's fearlessness was evident from all her anecdotes in the play.

I am my own wife
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-10-23 22:36:39
Link to this Comment: 16604

hey guys---sorry to get this up here so late...i just got back from the city with my grandma...

What struck me so much concerning the play (which...i will use my grandmother's words was "absolutely fabulous!") was that...we, as an audience, did not view this character as a transvesite. Instead, the creator of this play chose to present Charlotte as a person...a person who survived WWII, a person who had an abusive childhood, a person who became famous and experienced the same cynicism as every other famous person does. "I am my own Wife" sucessfully humanized a transvesite instead of de-humanizing her as a "spectical" by presenting a transgendered character through a performance that focused on her history as a female survivor of war as well as a survivor of gendered prejudice.

I wish my grandmother knew how to use a computer...because she would have written a much more articulate and insightful posting than i am going to borrow her words (from what I remember she had said) concerning the play and her ideas petaining to it:

"I dont understand how even today we care whether a person is gay, strait, black, white, german, jewish, or poka dot. Ive been through the depression, three wars, and 75 years of watching the world evolve ...and still, i see the same damn idiots and their prejudices today that I saw growing up in the segrated 50's. That Russion man was right (I dont know if he was Russion...I guess she thought so), you kids do need to start changing the world. I wont be around much longer hunny, but at least I can peacefully go to my demise (I dont know why she uses that word) knowing that perhaps youngsters like your class will work to change it."

After that...she went on to yell at me about my smoking...but what she said hit me pretty hard. Yes, we are humans and live in a world that has...and unfortunately...always will be prejudice to some degree to certain sects of people, whether it be towards ethnicity, religion, sexual orienation, or class. We think that as single individuals we can not change this "huge" problem...but we can. Perhaps we can not stop prejudice on a global level...but we do have the option of not letting it infiltrate into our own individual worlds that we create for ouselves and family. Prejudice grows through indifference and ignorance. Although it breathes through many different forms around us, we seek to kill it's poison (my grandmother said "its' shit," which is more fitting) by being aware of it...which I honestly believe is the first step. Through education, whether it be our class/this play we just saw/or talking to elders around us who have lived through politicized prejudice eras that we now study in history books...we continue to be more "aware"...and through this self-conciousness...we become more understanding...and through this "understanding" we are able to reach out to others and make concrete political movements.

So, I would like to make this proposal to anyone who is actually reading this:

Every year there is this festival in philadelphia called "out weekend" usually takes place around South Street and feeds through old city. The last one was two weekends ago...but it is just this cool shin dig celebration that has food/drinks/music/entertainment....where you celebrate all sexualities. If anyone wants to hear more about it just ask really is a good time and i would be happy to take anyone who wants to go. You learn more from these type of festivities than any classroom evnironment (i am not at all criticizing school) and it is a lot of just laid back fun.

Also, (for anyone who is 21 or over) I would like to make a field trip --excluding the profs just cause i can see this as problematic--to a bar called Bump. Its' in center city...some call it a "gay" bar...but it really has all sorts of different people. We can go either this weekend or next...friday and saturday nights are the best times to go....but I think it would be a fun thing to do...what do you guys think?

i am my own wife
Name: anna
Date: 2005-10-24 09:59:13
Link to this Comment: 16611

wow. i dont even know where to begin. the play was really something else. its funny, when i think of nazi germany the first (or tenth) thing that comes to mind is not a transvestite...the play was a real eye-opener for me. it got me thinking about the world in a way that was more thoroughly diverse than just the dichotomies i have been taught. so for example, in nazi germany the boring dichotomy (if i can call it that) i would think of is soldiers and then civilians. civilians usually "look like" battered women, starving children, physically disabled men...soldiers are always men.

something interesting that i thought about was why there was a very clear choice to only have two people in the show - i wasnt able to attend the meet n greet on saturday but i would have loved an explanation for that. i actually really liked only having two people to keep track of though i could see where the reporter being 7 other people at times could get potentially confusing...i didnt find myself confused however, so i enjoyed the play thoroughly.

the playbill was also pretty touching in that there was a short article and some pictures of charlotta during her life.

just as an aside, my friend who i "dragged" with me also loved the play.

Name: Amy Pennin
Date: 2005-10-24 12:16:08
Link to this Comment: 16615

I think it's really interesting how our class seems divided between seeing the assertion that this play "wasn't about transvestitism" as denial and seeing it as a positive recognition of the fact that the play was about a human being, who was a transvestite, amongst many other things. I perceived the actor's comment in the latter sense, and understood him to be saying that neither the play nor Charlotte's life was solely about transvetitism as 'an issue,' but that instead both the play and her life were far more complicated than that. I can see both sides, however, and I think this issue would be really good for us to discuss in class.

I also think it's interesting that some of us got from the play that Berlin was/is a place that was accepting of Charlotte's transvestitism. I, personally, would disagree; Charlotte was certainly discriminated against, in that she had the only meeting place for homosexuals in her basement, in that she was 'forced' into spying in part to avoid the punishment she would otherwise receive for her lifestyle. However, in celebrating the ways in which Charlotte was able to navigate two different periods of tyrannical dictatorship as a transvestite, perhaps the play does not focus quite enough on the fact that it was only by her clever navigation that she was able to survive and express herself?

On a sidenote, about Brokeback Mountain: isn't it interesting (and HOT!) that we are finally getting a movie in which two highly attractive gay characters make out? I'm excited about that, in and of itself: it's been acceptable for movies to portray attractive lesbian characters making out to draw a male audience for quite a while now (remember Wild Things? that was 1998) but this seems to be the first time in mainstream movie history that a movie is portraying two male sex-symbols kissing in order to draw a female audience. I'm definetly going to go see it!

i am my own wife
Name: kat
Date: 2005-10-24 12:21:13
Link to this Comment: 16616

i really liked the play even though it was different than my preconcieved notions. i thought the play would be a lot more about a transvestite and a lot less about history but i think it was a good blend. i think the actor who played Charlotte made an excellent point after the play in the discussion when he said "do we really need another play about homosexual trauma?" while on the one hand i think it is important to include a discussion of sexuality when transvestites are present, on the other hand i think it is ridiculous because we dont include a discussion of sexuality if there are all straight characters. This is somethign that does frustrate me though. The lack of discussion about heterosexuality and the incredibly immense amount of discussion about homosexuality and transsexuality dont add up. There should be an equal discussion or lack of discussion about the different types of sexuality. i thought it was good that the play didnt focus much on Charlotte as a transvestite and more on Charlotte as a museum curator and an informer and a friend.

Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-10-24 22:17:19
Link to this Comment: 16626

Because there was some erroneous information posted on this forum, I wanted to make sure to clear up the misconceptions about Philadelphia’s Outfest and to strongly voice concern about a proposal put to the class about the field trip to Bump. I have no doubt in my mind that the intention was meant to be-harmless- a way to learn about a community, but I would like you to consider this proposal as offensive to those who would not want their “space” infiltrated in this way.

Kelsey, you posted“So, I would like to make this proposal to anyone who is actually reading this:

Every year there is this festival in philadelphia called "out weekend"

It is not called “out weekend” but OutFest and it is situated in the the Gayborhood. in Philadelphia.

You also state,“it is just this cool shin dig celebration that has food/drinks/music/entertainment....where you celebrate all sexualities.”

I am afraid if you are describing this as a cool shin dig you are really off-base about the significance of the event. OutFest is a celebration commemorating National Coming Out Day.. I would strongly encourage you to read about it so that you can become more informed about its importance to the LGBT community.

And lastly you propose,“Also, (for anyone who is 21 or over) I would like to make a field trip --excluding the profs just cause i can see this as problematic--to a bar called Bump. Its' in center city...some call it a "gay" bar...but it really has all sorts of different people. We can go either this weekend or next...friday and saturday nights are the best times to go....but I think it would be a fun thing to do...what do you guys think?”

Bump is a bar frequented mostly by homosexuals, therefore, it is a gay bar. Do you intend to sit in a gay bar as a “field trip”? Bump is not a zoo…What would be your intent in doing this? While I will not say that straight people are not welcomed in gay bars, I think what has been suggested here is voyeuristic and problematic.

Perhaps a better suggestion for folks who would like to learn more about queer issues or about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community would be to read a book or two, or watch a movie.

yeah, we may be mammals, but we're not doing it on
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-26 03:16:45
Link to this Comment: 16630

I agree with Sam. And by the way, we already missed OutFest anyway, since it was October 9th. I frequent the gay spaces in Philly, because, well, I am gay. It's not that there aren't straight people there, we usually bring along a straight friend. I think it's more about the WAY you phrased your proposition than necessarily what it was. Referring to it as a feild trip is problematic, because it does bring up images of a zoo. And why a gay club, why not a straight club? That's a good place to look at sexuality and gender expression too. Sorry to seem all politically correct, but I would be pissed if a bunch of 'nova students dropped into Rainbow Alliance to see what a gay college club is like.

is there a forum for this week's reading that I missed? because i'm ready soon to talk about sex work.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-26 05:49:07
Link to this Comment: 16631

i don't know if this is the right place for this, but i just had to vent about this. i just finished ch 1 of live sex acts. i generally liked the article and appreciated a more in depth overview of varying feminist positions on sex.

but the very last bit by Ariane Amsberg got me violently upset. i disagree with everything that she had to say. it makes me so angry and sad that she wrote this and had it published. i feel like she is perpetuating every stereotype about prostitutes possible. i can't wrap my mind around it.

a story
Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-10-26 16:29:10
Link to this Comment: 16636

I am frustrated with myself for not having taken a stance on the prostitution issue, and I didn’t say much in class today. The truth is I have spent a lot of time thinking about sex work, from my first semester freshman year in the class Anne mentioned, in various classes since then, living in Amsterdam fall semester of last year, and here I am again and haven’t seemed to make any progress. I’ll tell a story that I think illustrates my ambivalence about the exchange of sex for money…

Some background: I lived about 4 blocks from the main red-light district in Amsterdam when I studied there. Amsterdam doesn’t have brothels so much as windows are rented as workspace by individual women. Last year fifty euros paid for fifteen minutes of service, so yes, time was sold and not a body or even an act. You can be arrested for taking a photo of a prostitute on the job, even if you have not enlisted her services. Sex workers all must be registered and tested for STI’s every two weeks. So the idea is for the industry to be as open and regulated as possible. (This isn’t to say there aren’t non-registered and trafficked prostitutes in the Netherlands). Yes, the Dutch people are very tolerant but certainly no one is proud of the prevalence of sex work in their country (except for some members of the tourist industry). And there are limits to the open-mindedness of the culture: the nineties saw a movement of male sex workers trying to use the windows for their business which was met with severe disapproval, criticism and abuse.

The tourist-frequented red-light is mainly just one street in the oldest part of town, at the very center, but there are other smaller ones around the city. So whether I walked or biked anywhere, I would pass quite a few windows of women working. During hours of daylight, I felt very positive about the sex-work scene in Amsterdam. Their buildings are historic, reminiscent of the days when it was strictly for sailors, and beautiful. The streets weren’t so crowded, I’d look at a window and see the same woman I’d seen the day before, maybe we’d acknowledge each other.

At night, the few narrow streets fill up with male tourists and it’s almost impossible to ride your bike through the crowd. Any woman walking through this crowd, as I experienced, is met with the same treatment by some of these men as the prostitutes themselves. Being in such close proximity to women in windows put me in a position of being watched, which both disgusted and annoyed me. So while during the day I could appreciate the proximity of the sex worker to myself, to contemplate the agency we each took in our daily activities, at night this proximity became undesirable and uncomfortable. And on foot I didn’t even have a window to stand behind: a sex worker in Oude Zijde Amsterdam does have the right to refuse a man’s patronage.

Maybe that’s why I laughed when I read Ariane Amsburg’s narrative: “Once money enters into it, that changes things. It makes it unfree.” (Chapkis 40) I don’t feel free being made a spectacle. Money only makes the spectacle symbolically unfree. And, “It’s so fake, I don’t know how they do it. How can they play that little piece of theater for men and their pricks? What happened to those girls? Where’s their self-respect?” (38) I love the theater allusion: maybe Amsburg has never dressed up and put on make-up to impress a man. Maybe she’s completely silent in bed. There is a reason why they call sex an “act.”

After all this, I can’t say if sex work is right or wrong, but if it is wrong then we are implicating a lot more women than just the girls in windows. (Is that why they say prostitution is the oldest profession?) The other problem is that walking by a window, I can’t tell how a woman got there. I’m sure there are happy prostitutes, but I’m also sure that for every happy one there are at least two who are only there because they have to be. And since we can’t tell, I think the more regulation, the better. The more visible we allow sex work to be, the safer it is for everyone.

Anna, I agree with you that the pleasure principle was severely lacking in the Chapkis reading. But I also think there is an economy to it, that each individual has at the root of any action the personal goal of relieving tension (or so says Freud), so no one enters a sexual union without the intention of both giving and gaining. If by saying this I am putting myself in the same category as a prostitute, then I’m fine with that. I don’t think that’s a bad place to be.

Thought this might be interesting...
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-27 02:22:32
Link to this Comment: 16651

Thought people might find this neat: the Transamerica trailer.

This is the plot according to IMDB:

A pre-operative male-to-female transsexual takes an unexpected journey when she learns that she fathered a son, now a teenage runaway hustling on the streets of New York.

Anyway, this seems up our alley. Check out the trailer. It's interesting. Also, we have a female actor playing a man transitioning to a woman. Very interesting.

women in leadership
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-10-27 18:02:53
Link to this Comment: 16668

I just attended the Women in Leadership Forum and it was so invigorating and informative. After listening to so many women speak about real world issues, I couldn't help but think about so many discussions we have had in class. One thing that really struck me was how most women on the panel argued that dressing "to fit in" can be so important to your career. I found myself easily dismissing theoretical arguments in favor of real life stories of women working in their fields. Where does theory fit in?

Women in Leadership=awesome
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-10-27 20:36:52
Link to this Comment: 16673

I am going to add on to Flora's comment about Women in Leadership forum--totally motivating! The idea of dressing not to "distract" was one that struck me as well. But, I liked the comment Marjoie Margolies said about feeling comfortable "in your own skin"--and how to never let other people see if you are uncomfortable in that skin. Why did she say skin though? Did she bring in the biology of it all? It seemed as though the judge was emphasizing on how it is important to "blend in with everyone else" at the beginning of your career. I understood what she was saying, but at the same time it hurt inside to hear that. Not that I would actually wear my favorite disney princess shirt to a law firm interview, but that she said that we really could not was what bothered me. That my actions--thereby being assigned as so exceedingly feminine--would discredit me in some way. I don't many things to think about! I love it.

Name: k
Date: 2005-10-28 04:04:23
Link to this Comment: 16676

I believe the reason as to why it is difficult for us to address and discuss the sex industry and sex workers is due to that fact that we live in a very anti-sex country. Since Christianity, the nuclear family, and modest behavior are values that are held to such a high standard in this country, Americans (outside of BMC and HC students) tend to view the act of sex as equivalent to love, pleasure, and commitment. The notion of sex as a marketable trade and economic exchange is unsettling due to its "de-humanizing" notion towards sexual intercourse. This way of viewing “sex” goes against America's innate intuition with regards to sexual morality. Our own private sexual orientation, liberal beliefs, and social rendering are irrelevant: All of us (excluding Elle) are influenced in some way by this American notion of sex and sex workers. The primary public image of a sex worker offered in this country is that of the typical "hooker": A drug-addicted trashy street worker who sells her body for the chief goal of money, drugs, and sex. My goal in this posting is to delineate this image of the sex worker in order to make clear that this perceived "prostitute" image is truly quite analogous to any mainstream job based on heterosexual fetishization. In order to do this, I will propose a very personal aspect of my life in the anticipation that this application will help you all to understand the social dynamics behind sex work; and thus, realize that the idea of “sex as a marketable commodity” is not quite as alien as we might believe it to be.

I work as a full time model for VHM Modeling Agency. A few of you know this, some of you don’t. The reason why I do not offer this information to others is because of the categories that people tend to place me into after hearing this information. What are the immediate images of a “model” that enter our minds? Cocaine addict, anorexic, conceited, and not intelligent…right? To be honest, these were the immediate visions that entered my mind concerning someone who labeled themselves as a “model” before I entered this industry. These stereotypes are complicated to discuss since many of them are advertised as true; however, it is imperative that we try to suppress these imposed assumptions in order to formulate new ways of thinking about, (in this case, models and sex workers), in order to not judge these women as a packaged product. Each industry require manual and emotional labor from its employess, and thus, both modeling and sex work must be viewed as comparable to more conventional types of employment.

In order reveal the connections between these two categories of women, I will to try to draw a paradigm between modeling and sex work. Both industries are based on fetish: each depends on the consumer to be enraptured by a particular aesthetic image that its actor presents; and also, each chooses to advertise their employee as a “beautiful” marketable product. These two industries are often both promoted and economically sustained by men; and therefore, cater to both a male audience, and also a female audience that wishes to be aesethetically admired. Both industries are historically created by men and for men, and thus, place the female employee as both a contributor and sustainer to this clandestine ideology. These women are situated into a hybrid dynamic of power: Both models and sex workers economically benefit from these male-instituted notions of beauty; however, both must also suffer the consequences by physically and emotionally catering to this image in order to reap economical benefits.

Why is it that a model who advertises her body and aesthetic image for money is more readily accepted in this society as opposed to a female sex worker who also commercializes her image in a complementary method? Both groups of women experience similar discrepancies pertaining to their perceived individual morals, work ethic, and societal values. These two variations of employment also comprise a similar structure, emotional and physical labor, and economical gain. However, for some reason, we have problems defining modeling as a juxtaposition to sex work. Both fashion models and sex workers sell their body to forms of commercial advertising; and therefore, the presentation of potential sex is made a commodity and fetish its vehicle for transaction.

My goal in this post is not to lecture, but to raise questions concerning women and feminine identity. I understand that the ideas I am proposing challenge some people’s personal views, and I am truly sorry if anything I have written offends you. However, I strongly believe that it is when we place “people,” whether they are female/male/heterosexual/homosexual/transvestite/trans-gendered/sex workers/non-sex workers/etc, into categorizations inherent to our cultural perceptions, a complete understanding and acceptance of these people as individuals become obscured. To place this ideology into a more personal narrative I ask this question: What would your immediate intuition be if I introduced myself as a biologically inter-sexed person who presented a trans-sexual image, and whom also worked as both a professional fashion model and sex-worker? On the surface, these self-definitions embody extremely dissimilar connotations when placed into opposition to each other; however, each also contain similar networks of ambiguity and the social “other.” What happens to our loose categorizations and interconnections of sex and gender when they are placed into the actual context of sexual acts and its gendered interaction?

About I Am My Own Wife
Name: Walter Bil
Date: 2005-10-29 13:17:39
Link to this Comment: 16683

I am the Dramaturg at the Wilma Theater, and was onstage at the post-show discussion last Saturday. Anne Dalke invited me to join in this conversation. It's taken me until now because we've been starting rehearsals for our next production, which has taken most of my time, and because the discussion was so far along by the time I managed to look at the discussion thread that, as I wrote Anne, I needed to find a sizeable period of time to digest and determine my response.

I think there are a lot of fascinating points made in the discussion and am glad to see it. I've tried to respond below to some specific points, either because they caught my interest or because I felt some clarification was necessary. From the points made, I think that many of the students would find the plays by Caryl Churchill that we're presenting in the spring very interesting: Cloud 9, which examines gender roles in the context of colonialism and post-colonialism, and A Number, which, I think, examines the question of just what determines our individuality, our "personhood" -- genetics, environment, something else?

Doug Wright never intended I Am My Own Wife to be a "definitive" account of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Its full title includes the subtitle "Studies for a Play about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf," and Doug has said that he hopes it functions as a stimulus to more academic and historical studies. I would also encourage anyone interested in Charlotte to read her autobiography, translated into English as "I Am My Own Woman," and see the film by the German director Rosa von Praunheim (also a gay man), with the same title in English. It is, I think, important to note that both of these were released before the revelations of Charlotte being an informer came to light.

Notes for response to Bryn Mawr/Haverford responses:

Samantha: the play’s “comment about ‘transvestism’” does seem to be to treat it matter-of-factly, to “normalize” it. Charlotte claimed to have had a very strong support system within her family, with the exception of her father. Doug Wright seems to have found something very useful for his own identity as a gay man in meeting someone so comfortable in their gay identity, without any angst. According to Charlotte, her aunt lived her entire life from the age of 15 in men’s clothing. The fact that she was running a farm in rural East Prussia (now Poland) may have made this easier.

Patricia: I am a firm believer than any role can potentially be played well by anyone. Years ago, I saw a great piece of theater called "Belle Reprieve." This was essentially an adaptation of "A Streetcar Named Desire" done as a collaboration between the lesbian theater company Split Britches and the British gay drag company Bloolips. Stanley was played by a very butch woman; Blanche by a femme man in drag. Stella was a femme woman, but Mitch was played by a male actor from Bloolips, complicated because it was the first time he had ever performed in "male drag," as his bio put it. It’s unlikely that I Am My Own Wife will be performed by a woman in the professional theater in the near future, however, because it would require a director or actress with the same sort of relationship with Doug that Blanka Zizka has, someone Doug trust implicitly, and who’s able to argue powerfully for the case in order to get Doug’s permission. Perhaps a college production in the future. I would hope that when this production occurs, it is done first with a single performer, to maximally “queer” the performances.

Sarah: I appreciate your point about the distinction between saying “It’s not about –“ and “It’s not only about –“, and will probably try to use it occasionally in discussion. However, I tend to be loathe (and both Blanka Zizka and Jiri Zizka share this feeling with me, which is a reason why the Wilma does not have "Director's Notes" in the program)describing plays as being "about" anything. This seems to me to be more of a response for literary or sociological criticism; it leads to judgmental and often moralistic responses. I find it's often not of use in preparing a play for production. My equivalent to "What is it about?" is "What questions does the play ask?" And the plays I like the best pose the most questions and make it the most difficult to answer those questions. This is also a question of age, I think, in the same way that manifestos are rarely written by the middle-aged -- which doesn't make it unimportant to write manifestos.

And, after working on the play for months, I was surprised to find how little Charlotte’s transvestism seemed to be a focus of the play, rather than a condition (just as cloning is not a focus of A Number, but a condition that sets the play in motion), and the most “normal” thing about her – much less odd to me than her informing or even her obsession with early phonographs or the Grunderzeit, which kat points out are more at the center of the play. The play itself comments on this, especially when Charlotte greets the visitors to her museum: "Some people come to look at me. Ich bin Transvestite. But soon they look at the furniture." It was her collecting, much more than her sexuality, that prevented her from leaving East Berlin and apparently also forced her into becoming an informer. And Charlotte’s sexuality is almost absent from the play aside from two offhand references to her interest in S/M (which, while underplayed is also “normalized” in this fashion) – much less of a focus even than in her autobiography or von Praunheim’s film. This is a decision Doug Wright, the playwright, chose to make, for whatever reasons, and has nothing to do with making the play “acceptable” to an audience, although I agree that in many cases "it's not about -" is meant for that purpose.

Alex: Charlotte did not become Charlotte “full-time” until the 70s. She wore women’s clothing publicly going back to her early teens, as well as wearing her hair very long for male fashions, and never seems to have made a secret of her gay identity. I’m sorry if this wasn’t clearer from the program and the play.

Amy: the ending of the play, I think, is meant precisely to open up the possibility “that it was only by her clever navigation that she was able to survive and express herself,” without claiming an authority that Doug Wright does not feel he possesses to pass judgment on Charlotte. Blanka Zizka feels, from growing up behind the Iron Curtain in a country forcibly re-occupied by Soviet troops in her youth and from her reading of Holocaust literature, feels quite strongly that immoral environments can force people into actions that would be immoral in other situations: he should appreciate more strongly the courage of those who can resist this, but do not have the authority to judge people for their actions in situations we ourselves have not experienced. (I would also suggest taking a look at NPR correspondent Scott Simon’s novel Pretty Birds, for its account of teenaged snipers during the siege of Sarajevo in the 90s on this topic.)

I missed the question of whether Charlotte was a transsexual (pre-or post-operative) as I was reviewing the comments for my response, but: Charlotte was physically male, and insisted that she had no interest in being a woman. In her mind, she was a homosexual man who liked having sex as a man but wanted to live her life (I know the pronouns become tricky here) in women’s clothing.

I hope this contribution is useful.

Sex work musings
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-10-29 14:05:12
Link to this Comment: 16685

Sex work is a very hard topic for me to speak about since it, in my mind, plays around with the idea of consent/no consent and that relates back to me in being a sexual assault survivor. I run this support group at Haverford called SOAPS (Sexual Offense, Assault, Prevention and Support) which is opened to survivors as well as concerned community members, and the main theme that I hear from people's stories revolve around these ideas that the perpetrator thought that "she wanted it" (I apologize for putting she, but that has just been my experience within the support group) or that even if she didn't say that she wanted it, there was other cues that the person took to mean that she wanted it. I find it hard to separate these preconceived notions that these people have about women in regards to performing sexual acts from the act of prostitution. Please don't think that I am BLAMING the prostitutes, because I'm not, but I'm saying that I feel there is a link between this idea that these people force sex upon women and then justify it by saying that they were wearing something scandalous..or flirting with them...or whatever. Aren't those things that prostitutes do as work?

Oh wow, I really do not want to come off as some prude or "down with sex" feminist because I'm really not, but coming from the perspective that I'm coming from, it's hard for me to see something as empowering that has set a precedent for assaulters to think it's ok to demand sex on women..even if there is not money involved. I don't like Paglia's idea of assuming that just because I can't deal with pornography, then I'm a prude or censor. I'm not censoring anything. I have no power over what another woman does with her own body! I'm just saying that perhaps there is a LITTLE tiny bit of merit in Ariane Ambserg's comments--maybe I do think it is "bad for women" even though I'm not sure I'm totally sure what that means. I do know that I think that prostitution perpetuates an idea of women, REGARDLESS of how empowering the woman takes it to be herself, to the outside world that IS harmful to the whole idea of woman. Unlike Amsberg, I'm not saying that prostitution is responsible for sexual assault/rape, but I'm asking if anyone else sees the harmful connection?

I like sex and I'm definitely not afraid of my sexuality...but if the world was made up entirely of ambitious and thoughtful women like our class is, then I wouldn't be worrying about the implications of prostitution. But, who are the people that are going to prostitutes? Are they leaving saying, "Wow! that woman was empowered!" I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet that is not what is going through their head. I can't accept that prostitution is an empowering institution--yes, in certain instances it can be for specific people, but what is it saying as a whole? I'm not saying that Nina Hartley is a bad person, but that is what I found her trying to fight against--being labeled one. It's irrelevant to me that she goes to see her Grandma and is kind to animals, just because she is a prostitute does not mean that I'm labeling her as a sinful person, but I just feel as though there needs to be a realistic recognition of what her part plays into the whole of prostitution and how that relates to how the world sees women? I know that perhaps we should not be so concerned about the way people see us, but isn't that something we've been talking about this whole time? Being formed by this "gaze"? I mean, how come there aren't huge amounts of male prostitutes? Do you think that would change things? I do! At least it would be a fair game. I just think that prostitution is a one-sided game where the women are, ultimately, always losing.

Name: Jen Patico
Date: 2005-10-29 15:11:39
Link to this Comment: 16687

Willis shows us that for working class boys in 1970s Britain, as for the 1990s sex workers Chapkis discusses, the question of whether they "choose" their fates and what this means is not a simple one. For the lads, clearly they DO choose it; but Willis still sees their position as one of class domination, a matter worthy of consideration/change/political action.

You will be working on ideas for your "political" papers this week, so let's take this as a case study. Willis meticulously shows us how the lads end up where they do, due to a combination of factors (peer culture, treatment by school officials, etc.). So where can we go from here? Based on what you know of the situation from Willis, what should the agenda for change be? Where is the crucial point of intervention?

labor organizing
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-29 16:48:32
Link to this Comment: 16692

Any of you interested in interventions into the conditions of sex work (as well as further commentary on the "shame factor") might want to take a look at a videorecording Lindsay and I watched for the course on Thinking Sex. It's called Live Nude Girls Unite! Dir. Julia Query and Vicky Funari. First Run/Icarus Films, 2000 (70 min.) It's about stripteasers unionizing, and Swarthmore owns a copy of the film, which you can request through interlibrary loan.

changing the institution
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-10-29 20:10:25
Link to this Comment: 16695

I do not know how to solve all of the many problems that willis outlines. I found myself most interested in the passage on pgs. 27-29. Willis writes, "Quite as much as the school buildings the institution IS the syllabus."

The "lads" approach to life is philsophically opposed to the institution's. The lads focus on a "preservation of personal mobility." "time is something they want to claim for themselves..." Whereas the school's approach is that "Time, like money, is valuable and not to be squandered." So, perhaps the institution needs to be changed? to be less rigid? Why do you have to sacrifie "personal mobility" to be sucessful in the institution.

Is the answer to open the institution? To widen the definition of being a sucessful student?

I know that at Bryn Mawr, I often feel like I have to eliminate some of my "personal mobility" in order to suceed. How many times do we say "I can't do X because I have to do work." Doing anything else besides work or dealing with a family emergency is not considered a valid excuse by most professors. I don't know how to change my school to be better. I would like to know.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-30 00:13:27
Link to this Comment: 16696

I'm still very much caught up in the Chapkis chapter. I knew about branches of feminism that were very much against prostitution and pornography, but I hadn't give much thought to those against sex.

From the perspective of anti-sex feminists, there is nothing sexual to recover or reclaim because the very meaning of sex is male domination (17)

I was trying to wrap my head around this idea. My first thought was, "How literally do I take this? Are they really against all sex?" And I guess I don't understand how this works. If the idea of feminism is, at its most simple, about achieving equality for women, how can we deny women something so basic? And if we look at what humans need to be content and well-balanced people, it seems to me that sexual equality is something to consider. Maybe I'm being naive, but I really don't understand the argument behind anti-sex feminism.

At the risk of being a little TMI-ish, I was thinking about the few times in class someone's said, "That's heterosexual," in relation to a penetrative act. And to some degree I understand that - I understand the argument. I've heard about the sword representing the penis and penetrating = domination a lot. But are we trying to say that penetrative acts are bad? 'cause I'm sorry, but what if you like that? Are you therefore anti-feminist? I really don't buy that. Aren't we designed to like that? And liking it doesn't mean we're going to give up our careers and stand bare-foot over stoves with a baby on the hip for the rest of our lives.

I don't know. I'm trying to understand this. Anyone want to enlighten me?

Name: em
Date: 2005-10-30 17:46:21
Link to this Comment: 16700

can i bring foucault back into the mix? i think foucault's idea of the panopticon works very well with willis's observations about self-imposed (as well as societally imposed) modes of functioning.
some of the boys that willis talks to (and i found myself amazed at the candidness they displayed with him...since their lack of respect for other members of adult society was so pronounced...) speak of dissatisfaction with teachers. there are teachers that they will not mess with, because these teachers will "laff" with them. however, they also criticize teachers for not being strict enough, or not enforcing rules in their classrooms with other students. these are the very same teachers that they dislike because of what they see as their strictness.
these boys chafe under authority, yet they point out how the authority could be more, well, authoritative. while they rebel, they also do show up at school every day, sometimes simply for the pleasure of cutting out. there is something in them that is drawn to the building. there is something in them that relishes this struggle against the "institution." sometimes i think that all my protestations: about foucault, about what kind of feminist i am, or about the patriarchy (see: my issues with Harold Bloom's theory about the anxiety of influence...canonicity...women poets)...stem from the fact that i, like these boys, am continually drawn back to the "institution." i need a patriarchy, or i need an "issue," to keep criticizing and cutting out of. whoah. since when did the contours of my body and mind become something so completely defined by what i dislike? why am i only now understanding this?
back to the boys--or not...those who rebel against the system are in a peculiarly powerful position to dismantle it...however, they don't take this power. they continue to function as members of a society, even at the outcast or liminal's because there is no real way to dismantle it. we NEED it...
the same way we need milkmen and auto workers and supreme court judges.
i think this is coming off a little disjointed and i apologize. i'll think about it tonight and try to explain it a little better tomorrow if need be.

Delayed response
Name: talya
Date: 2005-10-30 19:18:14
Link to this Comment: 16702

This response is tremendously delayed considering how in depth our conversation was this past week.

I've been thinking about the play and the readings and trying to figure out how I felt about them and how I felt that they played a role in my life.

I was somewhat torn: I wanted to see the play for the plain and simple "story of a woman's life". It didn't really matter to me how she became a woman, only what she did after she discovered her identity.

I am a firm believer that one shouldn't be in a relationship until one knows who they are by themselves. I think that she embodies this idea and truly encourages it in her own way. She does what she thinks is right and she is who she is, despite the positive or negative response that she received. It isn't important to story that she was in a committed relationship for 23 years, so it isn't brought up. And honestly, what was between her legs wasn't overwhelmingly important to the plot either. I think that it was only truly important to us because that is what we were supposed to be looking at. We are spending a semester studying the role that gender and sexuality play in our lives and in the lives of others. Thankfully, in my mind, it was an aspect of her life but it was not her life.

As a class, there was very harsh judgement and criticism because we felt the the possiblity/ records that she was a spy were horrifying. Basically, we didn't understand how someone could be a spy for the Soviet Union. At least, that's what I understood about what we were saying in class. I, however, don't understand how any of us could pass judgement on something that someone did when their own life was threatened. Others didn't all respond the way that she did, but more not, they did.

In retrospect I'm actually quite taken back by the judgements that we have made in a class at a liberal school in the 21st century. My own judgements included.

i disgress
Name: orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-30 19:52:03
Link to this Comment: 16705

not too disjointed, em. why do the lads go to school every day? bc the define themselves as rebels, but one cannot be a rebel unless there is something to rebel against. counterculture depends on culture. interior depends on exterior. the lads participate as the resistance in the school-discourse, bc they wouldn't exist if they didn't. resistence and silence are both WITHIN discourse.

(1) "labor power is an important pivot of all this because it is the main mode of active connection with the world: a way par excellence of articulating the innermost self with external reality. it is in fact the dialectic of the self to the self through the concrete world" (2).

(2) "we may say that there is an element of self-damnation in the taking on of subordinate roles in Western capitalism" (3).

our perception of reality is heirarcharized: we construct the world around us through the lens of our concepts. as academics we see ourselves as inhabiting the most privaledged place in culture. we talk about deconstruction, eliminating boundaries, dissolving categories. our vision of the world after this apocalypse is one in which everyone inhabits our privaledged peak. but, subordination is relative. (or is there a Truth, an omnisient veiw that trumps all lenses, a god-lens?) i am struck by these seemingly contrasting quotation from Willis' introduction. the aloofness from the physical world that characterizes academia (or, at least, the not-physical-science disciplines) causes me problems. it goes back to the enlightenment's parcing of the disciplines from each other: trecherous dualism: the extraction of my mind from my body: the idealization of the umbodied mind: an unacheivable ideal: the dooming of me to a life of fleshy failure: why are we always scrambling from the body? bc we are told that bodies contain our potential: she who can best escape the body succeeds: so, we in academia, gaze down upon our brothers and sisters trapped in strong bodies, and pity.

but how i wish i could have an "active connection to the world": move my body across landscapes and seascapes. who placed these lenses on my eyes that make me see the land beneath my feet, my head in the sky? i want to turn cartwheels. dive into ocean depths, feel the pressure of knowledge on my lungs as sink deep. maybe i am in love with whitman tonight.

there is a strain. the mind allows access to beautiful places that the body cannot go. but, the imagination is not bodyless. "style has a dialectical relationship to physical reality. the body is the Real. Style is Theater. The raw materials are reworked into illusion ... one's audience must be made aware of the degree of transcendence, of triumph: must see both the triumph and that over which the triumph has been made. In this the magic of the fabulous is precisely the magic of the theater. the wires show. the illusion is always incomplete, inadequate, the work behind the magic is meant to be appreciated" (kushner, kenyon reveiw, summer/fall 1997, vol. 19, iss. 3-4).

so, I join you, em, is the theshold that unjoints! i revel in the metonym! i am ambivalent about articulating the lads into damnation. i do not consider myself damned from the body and cannot consider them damned to it. to seek for a place between: a fabulous place: a place where the body and mind are not disjointed, but rather, where the relation between the two is graceful: a pureified movement: a subtle gesture that tells the perfect story of the soul.

Date: 2005-10-30 19:58:42
Link to this Comment: 16707

humm ... i do, however, realize that Marx negates everything i just wrote ... alas

working class lads and education
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-10-30 20:18:04
Link to this Comment: 16708

Reading Willis’ piece was difficult for me, mostly because I continually had to push myself to read about an issue I feel is in some way about me- that is the discussion of working-class and whether or not people CHOOSE their fates. It was interesting to read this older piece in contrast to newer books written that discuss the impact of unequal educational experiences and how this affects the poor (ie. Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities. as well as other eloquent ethnographic personal essays on growing up working class such as the book Without a Net. edited by Michelle Tea.

As with the sex workers, I did not fully buy into the idea that people CHOOSE to continue being working-class lads. Let me explain. The discussion of sex work is difficult because there are many assumptions as to why women or anyone “chooses” to sell their body in this way. I believe that this is never an easy decision, that people have to be in desperate, dire straits to choose this line of work, not only because it is dangerous, but because it has become the “de facto” job women can do to survive. Yes I know “some” people will say, “Oh, I’d like to become a sex worker,” but I think those folks are rare. When society fails to provide resources (job training, housing, day care, financial aid for school, and much needed social supports in under-served communities,) women do what is necessary to live. Although there are certainly more layers to this, I do think sex work is one response to the LACK of CHOICES for women.

My thoughts too are somewhat disjointed as others have posted, but these are some of my thoughts.

This ethnography by Willis about the young men is interesting. The lads did not have to go to school to be “deviants” but chose it anyway. There was a sense that they were making choices as to the jobs they would go for, and they accepted the situations as such because it had been this way for so long. But I think this is an example of an entrenched system of oppression. Yes, these lads were “deviant” in their society and played the role as society wanted them to. The educators constantly enforced sanctions against this group of boys, as if they were the totally responsible. What about meeting with parents and community members? What has been the relationship of the school with this community?

The choices these boys made I think were a result of a system set up to keep them in their place. It made me think of addiction, that addiction is a cycle that is very difficult to break from. An addict not only needs to see that what they are doing is "bad" for them, but need support to help break whatever cycle that keeps them addicted is. So, these lads are not shown in their culture or society another perhaps more positive way to live, to choose middle class-ness. But then again who says economic mobility is the only goal to have in life? Ah, I think I will keep going in circles about this....

Date: 2005-10-30 21:50:24
Link to this Comment: 16710

i love the discussion about smoking on page 18. smoking is universally seen as a way for the counter culture to stick it to society- whether that be because it's against the rules of the institution you are part of, or because it is common knowledge that smoking is bad for you. the highschool i went to in france had ridiculous smoking policies- the front gate smokers brought up in this reading are really reminiscent of my companions in school. i agree with orah that the lads only exist because of their rebellion within the school system. i feel like they would be more "outside of society" if they jsut refused to show up for school and ran away to become the new lost boys or something. but this has nothing to do with the reading.
i think being in control of your own time is a great way to show your own autonomy- when someone tells you youre wasting time, it's basically them telling you that your time is not just your own to spend how you like, and that the choices you made are bad, or that you dont really have any choice at all. this is one of the biggest problems i have with being in school, and i am not in any way as rebellious and out of control as the lads- i just hate feeling like i cant do what i want with my own time.
but i wonder about these boys- do they act the way they do just for the sake of pissing everybody off around them? and how can they constantly get pleasure from that? and does their misbehaviour really have much to do with their social standing? i feel like rich kids can act rude spoiled and snobby and their actions may be similar to the drinking, smoking, graffiti-ing actions of these working class boys. so whats the difference?

Name: alex
Date: 2005-10-30 21:51:04
Link to this Comment: 16711

oops i totally forgot to fill in the rest of the blanks on the post i just made. so that was me up there, the post that starts out about the smoking.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-10-31 02:41:41
Link to this Comment: 16719

i put down sex work as one of the catagories that i am interested in in gender and sexuality studies. but it is what i am most passionate about right now. so that is what i'm going to talk about.

i'm a big margeret cho fan. she does this great sketch where she talks about feeling like a really underpaid prostituted when she's in a heterosexual relationship. paraphrase: do i have to lick your ass, to get you to take out the trash?? lol but really, it's a good point. so often in heterosexual relationships, women use sex as a bargaining chip to get everything else they need and want. this is something that is really bothering me lately. how did this happen? i think we read something about it in history of sexuality, that women became at some point the keepers of morality, needing to keep men in check, because they were unable to control themselves. that way, women gain the key to sex, and men are the ones that are chasing after it all the time. but honestly, it is so unfair and awful. not that women should have sex when they don't want to, that's not what i'm saying. what i'm saying is that is this all that women really have to bargain with? and where does that put female pleasure? it makes women deny this pleasure, because if she liked it, she wouldn't be able to hold out, and then would have nothing to bargain with.

also, i think that some people might not realize, but there is a lot of unwanted sex that happens in marriage. i would like to think that in this day and age, that isn't true, but i think it still happens a lot. this summer, i tried to read Lust by Jelinek. it was just page after page describing marital rape. it was so difficult to get through reading.

this ties into sex work, because i'd much rather have a man pay a woman to have sex with him than raping (or coercing) his wife, and have the exchange be direct than have sex be used to get something else. then again, i've realized that this might be a capitalistic statement, putting such a high value on the exchange of money.

some more TMI perhaps: and yes, sara, last time i checked there were women who enjoyed penetration, and it doesn't have to be a heterosexual or patriarchal thing; may i remind everyone of the wonderfulness of fingers, hands and toys? hello lesbian obsession with fisting! :) the fact that the g-spot is an over-talked about and under-utilized pleasure zone is a whole other issue....

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-31 18:51:47
Link to this Comment: 16742

there was a lot of talk today about "performance." i hear the word being used to connote a trickery of sorts: a surface mask that protects a precious core. a performance can be battered and the core remain safe. performance is a self-defense. we talked about dress as a performance: a masking of the body to get where one wants to be. clothing works with the notion of performance as a separation between core and mask. but, can't we think of the body in the same way. when one walks into an interveiw isn't one's body just as vital to the crucial first impression as the clothes on the body? what do certain clothes tell an interveiwer about the identity within them? and can't we substitute the word body for clothes? the parallel of clothes to body, however, skews when the notion of performance is introduced. while i can see how clothes can mask, haven't we learned that the body is a part of the core-self: the body is naked, a part of the tender core, and, therefore, cannot be used as a mask. there is no performance of body. no hiddeness. bodies are blunt. they define. bodies can be rejected. do we shape them, therefore, to 'get the job' ? our bodies are a vital part of the system. to what extent do we allow the system to define our bodies? or, more crucially, to what extent does the system determine what we think of our bodies? and, oh god!, to what extent does the system determine how we SEE and FEEL and TOUCH our bodies? if one looks in a mirror and SEES imperfect, and one moves as if in an imperfect vehicle ... if touch of one's own body is a survaillence whose criterion are dictated by the interveiwer ... if the body is experienced as an imperfection what makes this body anything BUT an imperfection? and, of course, foucault, would say that the body is carved by discourse. a body is fat not bc of fat molecules, but rather, fat is an placeholder whose limits are articulated (or not) by discourse: in this way our bodies are not text, but pure context: we are defined by our placement: we are where we are. i have liked to say that "bodies articulate," but i am, now, thinking that bodies are textless. text is word relation. word has depth: synonyms, connotations, geneology, archeology. but there is no such thing as body performance. the body is depthless.

tamer of the gods
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-10-31 20:19:02
Link to this Comment: 16744

obviously, foucault depresses me. he is, oh, so seductive! (right, em?) I don't think there are any arguments that can stand against foucault's. BUT there is a desperate feeling that is repulsed by foucault, and while i will always be the one to invite the unwanted guest to our dinner parties ... i will never wear the name as a tail.

i work at the preschool on campus with 3 year old. after class today i told anne about this boy who does not listen: he WILL NOT sit on the rug. during music time i have to physically hold him on that blue rug. he struggles for the entire 30 minutes. but i hold him there. it's a physical battle. (anyone ever read that william carlos williams story? about cramming the throat-culture-stick down that little girl's throat?) so, all semester, foucault has made me second guess myself: am i just an valve of power, pressing the system into this boy's conscience, literally killing his instict and replacing it with automated actions, teaching his body to perform, obliterating all self-generated movement?

i will suggest differently. we are NOT by NATURE social beings. bf the age of 3 there is no reason not to grab something from another child. bf the age of 3 there is no reason not to kick another kid. other's pain has no meaning bf the age of 3. it is at this age that we begin to LEARN to be social. we must LEARN to inhabit social context. the world-context is contrary to our individualist natures: we are surrounded by others and a part of learning to live in the world is learning that the self is bounded by others. while foucault says that the individual is ushered into being by context: i'll assert that the world is not so peaceful: there is a nature that does not want to be fit into being, that does not want to be in the world, that want to remain the god of the womb-universe. when they enter into the world they must be taught the concept of otherness. this entails limiting the physical space one inhabits bc there are others who need physical space. this entails sitting on rugs. i am not a killer of selves ... i am a tamer of the gods.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-01 23:50:35
Link to this Comment: 16756

Goodness. Yesterday's discussion was so full that I have so much in my head about it that i didn't get a chance to get out.

I feel that the problem of sex work boils down to the fact of morality. If sex had nothing to do with morals, people would not object so much to sex work. When we think of other work that unskilled (read: no training neccessary) work women do, we may not like the conditions that they work in, but do not object to them holding these jobs. waitresses, cleaning ladies, babysitters, etc. When one throws morals into the mix, things get muddied. There was a time when women working outside the home was immoral. You may balk at my comparisons, but I feel they are perfectly valid. You may not see yourself as able to use your body for sex work, but have you ever held a shit-job? Well, I have; I waitressed during my year off and I hated it. In that case, morality was brought into the issue, because i was serving non-vegan food, and that was a part of it. I will also note that there is a big difference in holding this type of job as extra money and as the only means of your living. It's probably a psychological thing or something. Anyway, everything is relative. What works for one person doesn't work for another. The notion of whether the work is or is not acceptable in itself, I feel, can be removed from the system in which exists, at which point we can evaluate whether or not it is oppression etc. We need to first look at sex work seperate from all the things are attached to it, before we can begin to ask if it's an ok thing to do.

Regarding sexual assault. I have never experienced this, and am very greatful for that. Therefore, I speak from no experience, and may need to be guided in my thinking. However, I have read that there are a lot of sex workers who have experienced sexual assault. I don't mean in their work, but prior to it. Many infer that sex work is a viable option for them, and in some ways theraputic. It may not be the best form of therapy, but from what I understand, it gives them a forum for conducting sexual acts on their own terms, rather than someone elses. I don't think that there are more women who have been sexually assaulted in sex work, than any other line of work, because statistics are very unreliable in this catagory, but does it matter? I don't know.

On the sociology of why the lads don't aspire to be "more." In sociology, one of the cornerstones of understanding this topic is "Ain't No Makin' It." (correct me if I'm a little off, it's been a bit since i've read it.) This is an excellent ethnography of two groups of kids in the projects. one group has no aspirations to leave, and the other is full of aspirations. it's hard to boil down why in just a little time, but it seems to me that it has a lot to do with socialization by parents and teachers. if someone tells you you can't accomplish something, why should you try? and if all you see is other people not making it out, why should you try? it's the sociology of lowering expectations (i think there is a term for it, but can't remember). people lower their own expectations so they won't be disappointed.

and in my mind, no one is worse than a guidance counselor. they seemed like the most incompetent staff members in my high school. anyone else experience this?

response to samatha's post
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-01 23:59:04
Link to this Comment: 16757

i do think that choosing sex work does have to do with the lack of choices for women, BUT when you say: "The discussion of sex work is difficult because there are many assumptions as to why women or anyone “chooses” to sell their body in this way." you are adding a value judgement to sex work. why do women or anyone "choose" to sell their body to do any type of labor? it's those damn capitalists again, with their notions of selling....

i do think that it has a lot to do with the class that the women are occupying as to whether it is a choice or not. and this is where the oppression comes in.

another note. i don't think prostitution should be legalized, but decriminalized. if it's legalized there would be too many damn laws that would make the government one big pimp. if prostitution were fully destigmatized, there would also be a dramatic decrease in the payment prostitutes receive. they are not only being paid for their services, but for their stigmatization.

Comments after 11/2 class
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-02 14:53:22
Link to this Comment: 16765

I was thinking about today's discussion on the way back to my dorm after class. Since I have lots of space to babble here, I want to address a few things I said or didn't say.

In class, I said I looked straight, and I want to go into that more. I'm from Ohio. Country Ohio. Like, tractors drive down our street Ohio. A lot of people in my area have accents (I've got a touch of the twang, myself). And I've never once felt unsafe there. We have one of the fiercest anti-gay marriage ban, and the area I'm from is pretty conservative, but I know I'm safe. Why? Because I can pass.

I bring my girlfriend home with me over fall breaks. She's not a big bull dyke, but she's pretty androgenous and I think she triggers a lot of people's gaydar. She gets stared at a lot in Ohio. I worry about her when I bring her with me to my home. Sure, to some extent I'm being alarmist, but I come from a small, good-ol-boys town. I worry - but not for myself, only her.

On the way back to my dorm, I thought about my gf more. She's half-Chinese, and she's noticed that if she goes to Chinatown alone, they give her chopsticks, but if I'm with her, we both get forks. If she goes by herself into town, sometimes people will stare, but men leave her alone. If she's out with me, we get the doors held open for us a lot. I wonder about my own invisibility when I'm feeling particularly melancholic - I look white and straight, but that says nothing of my Slovak grandparents and lesbian tendancies. Maybe this is why I like the word dyke so much - I this word lets me say, "Look, I am more than I appear. This is me." But am I being selfish? My gf "appearance" or "identity" changes depending on who she's with. When she's with me, she's whiter or straighter. I have the ability (and luxury?) to make claims. I can say, "I'm a dyke," and most days I feel like a dyke and think like a dyke, but I've never once been bashed. I've never had people yell at me in school or paintball my car.

Perhaps that is where I was going with my Adrienne Rich comment. There's this luxury in being able to say, "Ah, look! I am more than I appear," just as Rich's poems are more than just love poems: they are lesbian love poems. But what about people like Moraga and my gf who don't have the luxury in making these claims - their appearance and identity is dictated by who they are with.

I don't know if I made anything clearer now. This was just what I was thinking about on the way from English House to my dorm.

Me, Myself, and I
Name: talya
Date: 2005-11-02 19:00:32
Link to this Comment: 16773

I am who I am. I define myself. I define my actions. I can't define my skin color in any real way. I'm white. I'm Caucasian. I'm Western European. I'm.... It all makes me white. And that's all people see. Well, the people who want to see only my "whiteness".

I can't do anything about others' impressions of my skin color. The only things that I can control are my own impressions and interpretations of others.

I walk down the street and I don't see colors, the world is much more uniform than that. But I do still see poeple and lump them into other categories, so I have to work on that.

Will it ever be possible for me to think outside the box in this way? I don't think so and I hope not, at least on some level.

I don't know if I'm making any sense because I am a little fuzzy on my own feelings toward this anyway.

call for your prospectuses
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-03 13:19:18
Link to this Comment: 16800

By 5 p.m. tomorrow (11/4), post in this space a 100-word prospectus addressing these questions:

Name: talya
Date: 2005-11-03 19:57:27
Link to this Comment: 16805

Women and men are inherently different; whether for biological or sociological reasons doesn’t really matter in this context. The main point is the case either way: men and women are different. But here’s my question and a real point of contention throughout many societies today: why do we want men and women to be the same?

How does our understanding of the categorical titles that separate us from one another affect our understanding of ourselves and “the other”?

I’m not sure how I yet plan to research this topic. I do know that I would like for it to involve the problem with classifying and describing oneself because intentions and interpretations are never the same.

Name: alex
Date: 2005-11-03 21:20:00
Link to this Comment: 16806

i want to do a paper on birth control accessibility and sex education for teenagers, particularly girls. i want to look into aspects of teen pregnancy and power dynamics between teenage fathers and the girls they have impregnated (i dont really know if ill be able to find any specific info on this aspect, but i have some ideas of my own that i feel this paper could be a good forum for). i feel that pregnancy in older women is seen as empowering, or at least a manifestation of womanhood, which subdivides the category of woman into smaller groupings- being a pregnant teen also subcategorizes you, but in a negative way. hmm... i also feel that there is a general opinion that men have sexual power because they do not have to deal with the "burden" of (unwanted) pregnancy. i think it is interesting to consider that perhaps the woman is in a position of higher power, because if she does get pregnant (and it was unplanned), she can choose to have an abortion, or to keep the baby and legally bind the man to help her take care of it. so clearly public policy on child support and abortion rights will play into this paper as well. im way over my 100 word limit, but i didnt know how else to go about this prospectus without just giving some specific examples of things im hoping to explore, so there you have it.

Plan B
Name: flora
Date: 2005-11-03 22:28:20
Link to this Comment: 16807

I am discussing pharmicists’ rights to refuse to distribute Plan B emergency contraception. I will explore recent cases to try to get a better understanding of both sides of the argument. I want to understand why/how a private company (including Wal-mart) chooses to refuse to stock a legal medicine. I will need to read more on feminist medical ethics, research the position of anti-ECers more thoroughly and especially obtain a clear biological description of what Plan B does (from what I understand, its mechanisms are quite dissimilar to any abortion). I want my paper to figure out where we can go from here. The main categories I find useful to discuss here include:

church/idealogy/self vs state/job demands; Women, slut, mother, father, murderer, catholic, pro-choice, feminist, baby-killer, sinner, public/private, and others

politics of bmc
Name: anna
Date: 2005-11-04 00:16:01
Link to this Comment: 16808

The politics of Bryn Mawr College
For this upcoming paper I want to be dealing with the homemaker, stay-at-home mom, working-mom…something along the “mom” line of thought. I think what I’d like to deal with is how the mother’s were received by their jobs – if they had any – when they were pregnant. What it was like trying to get a job with the plans to become pregnant, the bias against working mothers, the push for women not to even bother getting pregnant and just concentrate on their jobs (if these pressures exist). I remember feeling really shocked that hardly any (except maybe one) headmistresses off Bryn Mawr were married – that it was part of the culture of Bryn Mawr to keep this image of unmarried women going. Maybe the paper could even be more specific and deal with the political culture of Bryn Mawr?? That’s honestly something that JUST this second occurred to me, so it’s clearly not very well thought out. But I mean, our traditions have a lot to do with marriage and women…(obviously, we’re a women’s institution). For example lantern night: we all watch those lanterns, hoping ours isn’t the first to go out (because that means we’re the first to marry). We are supposed to want our PhD first, before anything else…I don’t know if that is too narrow, but perhaps in looking at the female teachers of Bryn Mawr we can learn something about their private lives and see how the institution pressured them – if at all – to be working rather than mothering…

Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-04 02:45:52
Link to this Comment: 16809

Our current federal hate crime law was passed in 1968. This law allows for federal investigation and prosecution for crimes committed because of race, religion, or national origin. Crimes committed because of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability are NOT included. (This information is all available on the HRC’s website).

In May 2005, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act was introduced to Congress. The LLEEA is unique because it includes a clause to protect transgendered people. The LLEEA passed in the House (by 223-199) in September. The Senate has yet to vote.

Hate crime legislation that protects people for sexual orientation has repeatedly failed in the Senate in recent years. Because hate crimes have been in the news a lot recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about hate crime laws. Are they fair? Aren’t all crimes created out of hate – so why should hate crimes laws exist? I come down on the side of hate crime laws. I think they are a good idea, and I’d like to use this paper to explore past attempts to include gays in hate crime legislation and to defend this hate crime legislation.

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-04 02:59:22
Link to this Comment: 16810

What does it mean to be transgender? Is anyone who does not fit into stereotypical gender roles transgender? If you are transgender, are you part of the opposite sex or a third sex or your biological sex?

Gender currently is a binary system, with people who do not live in the binary. Extreme gender violations make some people uncomfortable, and others celebrate these transgressions.

In my utopia, I would like for people to grow up without an assigned gender. I don’t know if I would still like gender to exist, and for people to choose, or to abolish the concept and just let people be.

Gender, sex, girl, boy, woman, man, transgender, transsexual, butch, femme, queen, boi. They all need to be reexamined.

Think about your gendered choices; how you behave, look, dress, speak, dream, etc. Ask yourself if they are really who you are, or are you just playing the part you think you are supposed to play?

A starting place:
PoMoSexuals ed. Carol Queen etc.
Transliberation by Leslie Feinberg
Femme/Butch ed Michelle Gibson etc.
Sex Changes by Pat Califa
Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam
Brazen Femme ed Chloe Brushwood Rose etc.
Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein

Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-11-04 13:16:10
Link to this Comment: 16811

For some reason, the idea of Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” comes to my mind. Is it possible for us to create this separate world/pleasure-dome/uncategorized place that seemed to exist in “I Am my Own Wife”? The idea of choice really interests me the most about the current politics of sex and gender. If we are creating these meta-worlds within the big world that we are living within, then there needs to be consistency. There are too many sectors! If Moraga wants us all to “reclaim” our one definitive identity, then maybe the whole institution of prostitution would be better off if they all reclaimed their work as something they want to do for themselves rather than this vacillation between unfortunate victims and empowered Amazon women. Moraga writes,

“How do you know that?” she asks. “You are white.”
And I look over to Myrtha whose watery eyes have held the woman’s for over an hour. We smile, sadly. “She’s right,” I say later. “In her world, I’m just white.”

That resonates with me with how we are viewed from the outside. It does not matter what boxes you check off on application sheets--there is a real judgment that takes place every moment someone else sees you. Maybe, like Moraga, I can connect that to sex work. I want the sex workers to either make a claim that they are sex workers, or not claim to be and therefore not do it. Perhaps if we actually take hold of our identities—even if they are narrowly defined—then maybe the outside world will see more of what we want them to see. We either make the claim that we want to be inside the “pleasure-dome” or we don’t.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face
Name: Kat
Date: 2005-11-04 16:36:53
Link to this Comment: 16813

I want to do my paper on how sexual interactions between people are viewed by both anti-sex feminists such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin and pro-positive feminists like Kathleen Barry.
I am incredibly offended by the idea that even if I am in a committed, loving, heterosexual relationship and I decide all by myself that I want to engage in some kind of sex act with my boyfriend/fiancee/husband, that I am becoming his property. The fact that I would deny myself the possibility of pleasure just so he wouldn't get the privilege of penetrating my space seems like I am cutting off my nose to spite my face. While I see the overall point they are trying to make, there are too many things not taken into account, such as a woman's pleasure, sex acts that don't involve penetration and why we continue to make sex into something bad when its original intent was to produce life, something we quantify as good. I would also like to include a section on sex work and how that enters into the power dynamic.

paper proposal
Name: k
Date: 2005-11-04 16:38:48
Link to this Comment: 16814

The current politics of the sex industry and how it is able to survive throughout these years is very interesting to me because sex itself remains a traditionally un-conventional, and yet, very marketable commodity. Personally, it is difficult for me to accept sex work as a progressive form of female action since I do so much research on human trafficking and other forms of illegal sex enslavement of women. However, I do believe that there is a distinct division between the “sex slave trade” and the “sex industry,” and thus, we as objective students must address these two forms of prostitution in a separate context.

Currently, there is much debate over the de-criminalizing of brothels and sex work in Australia and in many other western nations. Each city in Australia has its own distinct laws concerning prostitution, and therefore, in many areas sex work remains illegal. If I must take a stand, then I argue that sex workers who seek employment completely out of free will and on their own accord must have the right to do so. Also, it is both the states and the federal government’s responsibility to allow these women to work in clean and safe environment. If sex as a legitimate form of work is be addressed, then sex workers themselves must be considered as employees who deserve all the legal rights and privileges that other personnel enjoy.

Also, I will attempt to argue if feminism is "pro-women," then we must be respectful towards ALL women...not just those who go against conventional feminist theory. In order to write this paper, I will have to do some farther research on the sex industry in western nations, and also literature concerning women who chose to be sex workers.

Name: elle
Date: 2005-11-04 16:40:15
Link to this Comment: 16815

I am facinated by the sex-negative stance politics takes in the United States, and what I see as an entrenched fear of sex. I would like to link it to a fear of the matriach..or what I feel may be, at least, in part, a result of, or in connection with a fear of women, the power inherant in creating life, and the stong bonds of motherhood. I'm still working on which resources I will use from the assigned reading..I think that sex-work needs to be in there. Sherry Ortner's peice also. And I would love to get some Carol Queen in there- probably Real Live Nude Girls. This isn't about a policy change, but it is about policy- the lack of comprehensive safe-sex education in the US is a classic example of sex-negative politics, I'm currently looking for more.

Date: 2005-11-04 16:55:22
Link to this Comment: 16816

i can't seem to post to the right sight. i'm going to keep trying, but for the sake of being on time:

Politics scare me. While I rationalize my impulse toward meta-theory by saying that it seems to transcend the mundane, "really matter," the real reason is that I am prone to regret. Politics, the sphere that imposes form into people’s lives, requires one to act: to impose oneself, to define a stance, to assert, to cause affect. One of the reasons I am so ambivalent toward language is that I feel like any assertion can be a violence against another. Anything definitive can be violent. Body definition can be violent. Even when it is not aimed, its defined form implements it into other's spheres. If my body and my language are going to effect other's lives I don't want them to cause unintended results. I, however, do not have control over the affects of my body and my language inside of you. I resent, sometimes, being bodied. I bring myself to silence, sometimes, because this feeling that upon release I loose control of what I originate. Not only does self-definition put YOU in danger, but defined form itself is vulnerable. .... But, thx to the pea-pushers in the room, I have to write something ...

In "Ethics; subjectivity and truth" Foucault writes, "it is the prospect that gays will create as yet unforeseen kinds of relationships that many people cannot tolerate" (153). He continues, "We live in a relational world that institutions have considerably impoverished. Society and the institutions which frame it have limited the possibility of relationships because a rich relational world would be very complex to manage we should fight against the impoverishment of the relational fabric" (158). Foucault goes on to writes that the current innovative struggle is no longer the fight to off-throw oppression, but rather, the diversification of possibility. Foucault writes of the "homosexual imagination" as the current origin of the most innovative diversification of relational possibility. I am reminded of Patricia's question of whether it is "possible for us to create this separate world/pleasure-dome/uncategorized place." I am interested in studying the imagination as an unbounded place and, therefore, the place from where our politics should be originated. I am interested in the diversification of the possibilities of pleasure. What are different pleasure-natures? What is permited pleasure? What is the nature of pleasure derived from the self verses the pleasure derived from others? And how does the categorization of a relation restrict and define the pleasure that is derived from this relation? While the move from the imagination to the political scares me, I am interested in the transformation from the realm of the imagined into the physical realm. Or, have we realized, that that imagination, along with the mind, is fundamentally bodied? Or, is the imagination that which transcends body? And if the imagination can transcend body, what are the effects of bringing an image into body? What is lost? And why is it important that the sacrifice of image into body and politics occur? What is the original nature of that which comes into body? And what is the nature of the place from where it came? … And it would be lovely to think with Patricia about Kubla Kahn.

The Sex Kitten
Name: Amy Pennin
Date: 2005-11-04 16:57:50
Link to this Comment: 16817

"A lot of women now want to be Maxim babes as much as men want Maxim babes. So women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it. 'I have been surprised,' Maxim's editor, Ed Needham, confessed to me, 'to find that a lot of women would want to be somehow validated as a Maxim girl type, that they'd like to be thought of as hot and would like their boyfriends to take pictures of them or make comments about them that mirror the Maxim representation of a woman, the Pamela Anderson sort of brand. That, to me, is kind of extraordinary.' The luscious babes on the cover of Maxim were supposed to be men's fantasy guilty pleasures, after all, not their real life-affirming girlfriends."

This excerpt from an article by Maureen Dowd describes the phenomenon of sex and gender politics which I plan to explore: the “sex kitten.” I will explore the power of the ‘sex kitten’ as an archetypal female figure in popular media as it has grown and waned in the decades since the Sexual Revolution. I feel that since childhood I was powerfully impressed with this ‘ultimate ideal’ of femininity, and that it has governed my relations with myself and others in ways I am only beginning to recognize. Thus, I ask: in what particular media forms has this ideal been glorified and juxtaposed to all other female archetypes (the bitchy boss, the angry, sexless feminist)? What are the causes and results of the saturation of youth-directed media with these ideals? And how and why do women continue to participate in and reproduce these unhealthy images?

Though the above constitutes my official prospectus, I wanted to answer more directly the questions posed by Anne, so here they are:

• What aspect of the current politics of sex and gender most interests you?
o The sex kitten as a media archetype and role-model
• What is your understanding of its current state?
o This archetype is dangerously powerful at this point in time, as the opposing archetypes of the past have increasingly lost their influence/have been defined as dry, boring, prude, old-fashioned, and un-sexy
• How do you imagine an alternative to what now exists?
o I would like women to take back the media, for magazines like Maxim to be stupid male fodder again, instead of its ideals being mirrored in media aimed at young women
• What categories are salient for this issue?
o The sex kitten, the feminist bitch, the powerful female as bitch, the ‘cool’ guy and/or girl
• Which need re-thinking?
o The ways in which the media glorifies the sex kitten as the ultimate female ideal, in juxtaposition to all other female archetypes.
• What reading might be useful for you to do, in light of what you know, want to know and do?
o I plan to read various popular magazines and critical writings about such media. I would especially like to consider the media of the mid-90’s till present, as this has most influenced my personal experiences with this issue.
• How might you act, or encourage others to act, to alter the current state of things?
o I would like to burn every Cosmo and Maxim and FHM in sight, and then help young women to realize how deeply influenced their own identity and personal relationships have been by this ludicrous ‘ideal.’ I want more young women to feel the outrage to which they have a right, outrage over the ways they’ve been taught to behave and think through certain forms of media, media which is marketed especially to their age range.

Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-04 17:22:23
Link to this Comment: 16818

I want to explore how new reproductive technologies are impacting women’s lives and how conservative laws and other social programs try to define real mothers and who can become one. Women’s choices are continually diminished when it comes to issues of choosing motherhood or not by institutions such as religious organizations and government programs that continue to influence the politics of our country and continue to devalue women as "free" agents that can control their body. These institutions see women as less than capable of making choices about motherhood, or about utilizing technologies available to them to either produce a child or terminate a pregnancy. I want to argue that with the devaluation of feminist ideology has given way to repressive stances against women and that a new wave of feminist need to fight back and take back our bodies.

Name: em
Date: 2005-11-04 17:23:45
Link to this Comment: 16819

sorry this is late. i fell asleep intending to post when i woke up, and i turned out to be less like sleeping beauty and more like rip van winkle. that said:
in my paper, i'd like to examine the phenomenon of women acting like men. not in the sense of female-to-male transvestites or drag kings, but more in the sense of women in the workplace. just as women's actions in the home sphere are seemingly downplayed or devalued, why are women's actions in the workplace downplayed or devalued unless they are more like men's actions?
a rather whimsical starting point could be the shoulder pads of the eighties and those foofy little neck-tie things (not quite a tie, not quite a bow, who are they supposed to intimidate? impress? what are they supposed to show?)...but i'd like to draw concrete connections to current states of affairs, including info from articles such as the one recently brought to our attention about women hiding their crying, and president bush's descriptions of harriet miers as "a pitbull in size six shoes."
there is another sphere of this that i think intersects in an interesting way, and that is the sphere of the bedroom. there has been an emerging terminology (thanks, canada) for older women who invert the typical way age differences go and purposely date younger men. these women are called "cougars," which began as a derogatory term, but has now been claimed by those it tries to inscribe and is a proud statement of identity. what does it mean for these women to take the role of the "older" person in a relationship, one which societally usually goes the other way around?

pushing those peas
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-04 19:14:53
Link to this Comment: 16820

In: the absence of pea-pusher #1 (who is away @ a conference)
To: our class of sleeping princesses
From: their pea-placer #2

Here are your “book group” assignments (the titles are shorthand explanations of how I grouped you as I did. As you go about identifying both the overlap and range among your projects, I’ll be sorely disappointed if you find yourself bound by my initial categories!)

For some examples of what your introductions (which are due by 5 p.m. Sunday, November 13), might look like, see last year’s selection @

Book One: Reproductive Choices
Alex: birth control accessibility and sex ed for teenagers
Flora: pharmacists rights to refuse to distribute Plan B emergency contraception
Samantha: new reproductive technologies and the devaluation of feminist ideology

Book Two: Cultural Male and Cultural Female: What’s the Difference?
Talya: the problem w/ classifying and describing oneself
(the difference between intentions and interpretations)
Anna: how the political culture of BMC deals w/ working moms
EmJ: women “acting like men,” in the workplace and the bedroom

Book Three: Unsettling the Categories of Pleasure
Amy Phillips: what does it mean to be transgendered?
Patricia: inside the pleasure-dome: taking hold of our identities
Orah: unbounded imagination as the source of our politics
Amy Pennington: sex kitten as media archetype and role-model

Book Four: Sex Pro and Con
Sarah: including gays in hate crime legislation
Kat: anti-sex and sex-positive feminism
K: sex industry and sex slave trade
Elle: sex-negative U.S. politics

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-06 08:36:09
Link to this Comment: 16824

I finished Jimmy Corrigan yesterday in one sitting. not only was the book not 'put down' for that span of morning/afternoon, but my late-twentieth-century attention span seemed to become boundless, or else, 'Jimmy' fooled it into thinking that its wanderings were limited to the space of an airplane destined for the other side of the earth. and when i closed the back cover it was as if 'Jimmy' had vaccuumed me into him, and i was, now, hollowed. i'm am wondering other examples of books that have 'hollowed' me ... 'hollowing' is a very specific book-reaction, i think. i mean, i refer to most of my favorite books as "residing deep within me;" or, "being in love" with characters; or, a book being "my bible" for a spell of time. all of these reactions suggest an INTERACTION with a text. but "Jimmy" stole me away. i don't feel like he entered me, but rather, i entered him, and, now, have just barely escaped from his cover-to-cover body.

why this reaction? humm ... "Jimmy" accosts your senses. he stretches word and incises his silences between. THIS IS DISCOURSE. this is discourse purified: while we tend to emphasize the word ejections in discourse, 'Jimmy' equally weighs worded-frames with silent-frames, and in so doing emphasizes gesture: he purifies bodies into significant movement.

and, i guess, discourse is about realizing that you are not OUTSIDE of it: discourse is the concept that says that when you say, when you eject a statement, "there is a cat," included in that discourse is, "there is not a black cat;" or, "there is no dog;" or, "my dog died;" or, "i had a hotdog for lunch;" or, "where is my mommy?" discourse is the conscious (that which is ejected) AND the unconscious (the in-between frames, the gestures, the blank stares).

sick at heart
Name: em
Date: 2005-11-06 16:15:36
Link to this Comment: 16828

reading this comic book also thoroughly unsettled me, but for different reasons than orah's. i found i could not read the book in one sitting. first of all, and this may be just me, but there are certain kinds of smells that books have that make me sick to my stomach, and for some reason, jimmy had that smell. so i reached the space of the page already biased. and then i found i disliked jimmy so much, and his father so much, and his mother so much, that the book did much more distancing than vacuuming. the most interesting character to me was the grandfather, whose only semi-submerged racism was food for thought. and i know we were supposed to be thinking about male identity in terms of jimmy, but when i got to thinking about that, i was once again profoundly distubed for two reasons: one being that men in the novel didn't really think of women in terms of self-definition. two being that when they did, these women were depicted as knocked-up servants, cowardly tomboys with sexual "issues," or subjects of perverted sexual fantasies. after reading so much theory in which women and men grapple with the subject of the other gender in terms of self-definition, it was disconcerting to be confronted by a text which did little of that work, preferring to navel gaze. that said, i thought that the drawings and the spatial layouts were really intriguing, indicating some kind of alternative mind-space.

pity for Jimmy?
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-11-06 17:34:23
Link to this Comment: 16829

This is the second time I've had to read Jimmy Corrigan--I took a class last semester "International Graphic Novels"--and it has, yet again, left me with that "sick of heart" feeling that Em spoke about. Maybe it's just me in a pms state, but did anyone else start crying when the kids brought back his tin horse? Oh my--that was upsetting. I felt for him there--finally feeling like part of a family and then humiliation.

It's interesting the way this graphic novel is laid makes me think about the way people see you in a way that not necessarily coincides with how you are seeing the situation. You could be sure that things are one way, and then things change...which, as Orah points out, are situated in a very distinct discourse. For example...on the page where he gets the tin horse back from his "friends"...he does not realize/notice that they are makes me very hesitant to trust any kind of feeling. But then, kind on the opposite way, someone could see you in a more "positive" way than you actually see yourself...which also happens during the interaction with James and his Dad in the doctor's office...there are no page numbers, but it is on the page where there is that scary Mickey Mouse...the Dad is assuming that James has a girlfriend when, as you see from a flashback on the page with the interaction with Peggy in his office, that is not the case.

Is this what this book is about? The atrophy of feeling? Or how feeling is vulnerable to misconstrual through discourse??!

As for racial undertones, I think it is interesting that the taunting the "friends" do involve "Mick" and such since his irish background..although apparent to me (a 100% irish girl) just from his very irish name...did not seem to be such a big factor through the novel.

Do we come away from this book feeling sorry for James (Jimmy) Corrigan?? How do we feel when he is crying to his grandpa and Amy about how it's all his fault? For me, as sick as I felt from him and the novel, I still felt for him. I felt sorry for James Corrigan. Also--James Corrigan--> J.C. I feel as though the Jesus Christ connection must have been planned in some way. How do we feel for a "hero"--> wearing the Superman shirt--> to be seen crying and not portrayed in a "heroic" way. Does that upset us? I don't know.

Also, what about the violence that happens in the novel? Why is that Amy pushes James off the chair right after they hear their father is dead? And then we see earlier in the novel Miss McGinty beat up James...but then he hits her's interesting how she tells James that she isn't really a girl. Where does gender play a role in this novel? Does it? I don't know.

the see-saw
Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-11-06 20:13:24
Link to this Comment: 16836

My sincerest apologies for this being so darn late...hope I fit into a category ;)

In education there have been recent discussions of boys being left behind in the classroom, mostly due to our (society’s) neglect of male self-esteem problems. I see statistics such as “fifty-nine percent of all master’s degree candidates are now women” (Pollack) and cheer. But then I think, are we bound to fall into this closed economy of championing one sex only to hurt the other? Are we on a proverbial see-saw when it comes to ensuring the best possible future for boys and girls, or can we collapse this gender gap to make learning equally accessible to both groups? William Pollacks “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood” will be very useful to me, as well as my experiences as Teacher’s Assistant and PRAXIS work in the classroom.

not a fan
Date: 2005-11-06 23:19:14
Link to this Comment: 16841

I've read a little over half of jimmy. i was looking forward to reading it, because i was fooled by the nature of this book: the comic. now i am not looking forward to finishing it. i am not a fan of the drawings, the non-linear story-telling, or the characters. i guess i just don't need a depressing book in my life right now. in some ways it felt theraputic to experience jimmy's grandmother's death with him (at least as far as i can tell that's who she was) but in other ways it was very painful.

i suppose from other people's posts that part of the point of this story is to be depressing, but is that what manhood is about, or the lack thereof? i see how some people may view jimmy corrigan as a wimp, but would we see a woman as the same if in the same story as jimmy? how would we view her?

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-06 23:19:41
Link to this Comment: 16842

the post above was by me. sorry.

father-son ambivalence in a beautiful package
Name: Lindsay
Date: 2005-11-07 01:16:18
Link to this Comment: 16845

I was listening to the Forrest Gump Soundtrack as I finished Jimmy Corrigan and couldn’t help comparing the two—they’re both physically and socially impaired, overly-mommied and generally unloved. Clearly, there’s nothing like a completely helpless protagonist when it comes to breaking my heart.

A son is supposed to be ambivalent towards his father and Ware breaks this news to us with beautiful and not-so-gentle pictures: on one hand, son loves and identifies with father, yet he also hates his father for setting limits (for Freud this is sex with mom), which also shapes the son’s identity. Jimmy’s great-grandfather kind of sets the precedent for this kind of relationship: he blames his son for the death of his wife in childbirth, and the elder Jimmy, like the younger one, internalizes that hatred. Self-loathing is inherited along with the proclivity toward sniffling in each subsequent Corrigan. I found it interesting with Jimmy that his father did not need to be present for ambivalent thoughts to arise: the imagined scenes that are played out before actual events are telling of the gap between what a father should be/might be/is. (Is he a hero or a bastard?) The question of heroism also demonstrates this ambivalence--In Jimmy’s mind, Superman commits suicide--the one person with the power to leap tall buildings in a single bound instead jumps off the building to his death. You might say that a father has all the power in the world when it comes to his son, so when #1 Dad chooses to be absent from his son’s life, we see that choice reflected over and over in Jimmy’s face. Again, it broke my heart.

can't help myself
Name: flora
Date: 2005-11-07 14:51:58
Link to this Comment: 16854

for some interesting gender education reading, click here

reaction to the article
Name: elle
Date: 2005-11-07 18:36:53
Link to this Comment: 16864

I went and read the article (about boys and girls learning differently), thanks Flora, and wow. It's interesting trying to unpack this girl and boy thing in the classroom. And while I totally agree, girls need to be getting better educated in primary education institutions, and that the teaching is often more directed at boys than girls, I think that a large part of that needs to be less boy oriented in the first place..But then, I guess that's saying the same thing..That boys and girls have different learning styles. I think what I mean to say is that "girls" and "boys" often have different learning styles because of all the initial "teaching" of girls and boys get growing up, and in the classroom. I think a comment that describes female learning style as "more verbal and emotive", and therefore better of "sitting still and taking notes", sounds an awful lot like training girls for jobs as secretary’s. "It's a better fit for girls"? Hmm..

This brings me back to the class discussion about what it means to be going to a women's institution, and third wave feminism's argument for education of females separate from males as being beneficial. I don't know about you, but I never thought of Bryn Mawr as having a different teaching style than another college; a style that suits a woman's brain more than a man's. I was attracted to a women's school because it focused on educating women. Because it allowed women's learning to take the limelight for a while, so that I could get a great education without being shadowed by men. But this is college, not primary education, and we're in a self-selected school. Should little girls be taught in all girls schools? Will that make things better? That’s not what I’m saying either..But education could certainly be more equal- I think catering to an oppressed groups education needs is a great idea, but it gets a little trickier when you talk about a brain that's already been channeled in a certain direction, and how you can cater to that pre-carved direction. Am I making sense?

Montana sunsets
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-07 20:41:39
Link to this Comment: 16867

fitgerald: via mathew j. Bruccoli: "the main function of the plot is to provide a framework for character." how, i am wondering, is the graphic-novel-frame different from the novel frame, in is provision of a stage-frame-container for a character? the graphic novel is more body-oriented? body-aware? body-sensitive? the graphic novel acknowledges an inability of language to fully portray the subtlty of the body. and while drawing, too, obviously fails (or, else we might think it was a photograph, or, a two dimentional living person), there is a compliance to this failure in the graphic novel.

also, this is something i don't think i have ever admitted bc such a confression, i think, might doom me to the fate of the "Unimaginative Reader" and there is no fate i would more rather escape. so, here, i admit ((and procede to flee my doom. i take to sea abord cargo ships!)) when i read novels i do not imagine in physical form. i do not like watching films of novels i love (will NEVER watch a film of Moby Dick!), but not for the same reason as Anne. novels do not expand into physical forms in my head. i don't know what they do in my head, but holden caulfield is not walking around up there. he's up there. but he's not bodied. and he's not tangible. he's a name. and i hold associations with that name. and i love what that name represents to me. but, crucially, he is not bodied.

Then what is my pleasure of reading? last night i read the line, "The Montana sunset lay between two mountains like a gigantic bruise from which dark arteries spread themselves over a poisoned sky" (fitzgerald, the diamond as ig as the ritz). the pleasure i get from that line is not of an blazing sunset-image. no. but my body reacts to those words. not the image of those words: not the postcast of a montana sunset. but the perfection of a worded-image. (i don't even know what that means)

and the Word comes into flesh and lives among us. what does it mean to leave the unbodied-mind-heaven? is this beautiful place (the place where i get cozy with sunsets and names and name-associations... whatever THAT means) the imagination? or, would you say that imagination is a different place? and what is the process of coming into flesh from There called? politics? real (ization)?

so we are "not fans" . i realize that we all read for different reasons. what are those different reasons? i guess, the "favorite artistic genre" question should illuminate a certain aspect of the diversity in our classroom. and, i think, we should be reflexive about the different reasons that we approach art. and how these reasons effect the art with which we interact. and how these reasons are shaped in the process of absorbing the art. i obstain from graphity-ing art with neon-green-spraypaint labels of "Good" or "Bad" and i don't limit myself to the position of "Fan" or "not-Fan." I am more complex than that and i assume a certain complexity to the other, the artist, and you.

concerning the end of class: Moraga's words (DO NOT CALL ME SISTER) speak to a rejection of the "Women" community. while some of us are inclined to see our classroom as homogenous, and emphasize the lack of diversity: the absence of "Men" ... why is our first inclination to notice the absence of men, rahter than the presence of our diversity. we've whitewash ourselves into thinking that we are first the same (women). we are the practitioners of a sexist discourse. i think the end of class was very telling. and i think we should think about it. you are NOT my sisters.

((is that insulting? were you stung while reading that? why is it insulting to label someone as Other from oneself? by acknowledging difference are we sucumbing to a lack of language? why is it hurtful to acknowledge distance between? and is it our project to lessen that difference? (not a rhetorical question.))

oh Jimmy...
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-07 21:07:31
Link to this Comment: 16868

I bumped into a friend of mine after class, and showed her our book, and she looked through it and said, "Oh this is written by a man." I asked her how do you know? and she, being an artist and a psych major...said that "men draw with bold lines and their point of view is different, it's all over the place, and women, we focus in on things, we want to know all the nooks and crannies, the nuances in a person's expression."

This was intriguing to well, I was not convinced that the story Chris Ware was presenting to us about the "myth" of masculinity was new/unique. Perhaps I am tired of reading novels/stories/comic books about how terrible it has been to be raised by a single mom, how women continuously destroy manhood--even though I see that Chris Ware is also commenting on absent fathers. I wonder why this theme reappears in men's stories about not feeling masculine? Are men solely socialized to be "men" in the home/womb? Do social interactions have anything to add to men's understanding of masculinity? Do women perpetuate masculinity or do we destroy it?

Back to mothers raising sons...there is an army commercial on tv that shows a single mom and her son talking about his choice to join the army, to become "the man of the house..." is the army and all that that implies the model for "manhood?"

response to Jimmy
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-11-07 23:48:01
Link to this Comment: 16873

I remain very conflicted over this graphic novel. I really do love the presentation and interactive nature that this book offers, yet, I feel that I do not have a right to appreciate it since women are not depicted as equal figures. However, I do feel that this piece is extremely crucial to our class “Gender and Sexualities” because it focuses on a typical average Joe male who is a marginalized person. In all of our readings, the focus is on people who are marginalized in some social form due to either their gender, sexuality, or physicality. How is this person different in these terms?

I do not read Jimmy as a “looser” who deserves his pathetic life because of his racist comments and fetishized view towards women. Instead, I think it is sad that his upbringing and “un-masculine” appearance has placed him into this perpetual cycle of defeat, and it is this automatic sympathy for Jimmy that the author creates for his readers that mark a potential political danger behind this work. If you look closely at only the graphic images in this text, minorities and women are drawn in very racist and sexist imagery. Jimmy’s half sister is shown with very “thick lips,” and his ideal women are overtly sexualized and rude. He uses words like “chink, bitch, nigger, etc,” and yet, this language is made “excusable” since he is a product of his both father’s and grandfather’s mentality. We, as the readers, are offered to excuse racism and sexism if it is being presented through a sympathetic socially inept character. If we start to think of this novel in ethnic and gendered political terms, more specifically, the potentially political dialogue it can perpetuate, then this writing is extremely problematic. Literally, it is a book that is taught in classrooms, highly read and distributed through the ordinary populace, and most likely admired and appreciated due to its creativity. Since this book is fun and interesting, racism and sexism is placed into the foreground, and sympathy towards the average Joe made more apparent. It represents a genre for heterosexual men by heterosexual men that sends a hidden message that women as a gender should not engage in it because it is demeaning and crude.

Name: anna
Date: 2005-11-08 00:26:46
Link to this Comment: 16874

i must agree with kelsey in that i am fairly conflicted in my feelings towards/about the graphic novel. i can't decide if the novel completely confused me or if i thought it was fun to read. i didnt mind reading it, but i felt that while i was in the process of disecting this book, i was NEVER going to find meaning anywhere.

i will say that i didnt like how women were portrayed. not a single one was worth anything - though, really, not a single man was worth much either. i did feel that the women were portrayed worse though...the body parts that were drawn (breasts, lips, butt, legs) were all closeups, never was a full woman shown - is this some statement about the parts of the body that are most important to men? i couldnt tell if this book was supposed to be the author's sweeping generalization, or if that conclusion was mine and mine alone...

Name: alex
Date: 2005-11-08 20:15:08
Link to this Comment: 16887

we keep talking about the big political(?) statements this book makes about men and masculinity. but i feel like the book itself doesnt really address these things, rather the concept of the book being a comic book with creepy characters and weird close up drawings is what we are gathering meaning from. anna mentioned that while she was dissecting this book she lost herself and the opportunity to gather meaning from it, and i really agree. i think i would understand the discussion we had in class on monday better had i never opened the book.
rather than see this comic as a demonstration of emasculation, i see this book as a demonstration of general human misery. this book is absolutely miserable- no joyful parts at all. i feel like women arent so much marginalized (the close ups of breasts and hips are, to me, what jimmy sees/ focuses in on when he sees a woman, and represents his preoccupation with women as sexual objects that he never manages to obtain) but are just simply ignored. this is a story of suffering passed down from father to son, which is uber depressing, to say the least.

Tide, Purex, All, Seventh Generation, Acme Brand
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-08 20:53:29
Link to this Comment: 16888

but the perfection of a worded-image. (i don't even know what that means)

here's an idea to answer this person's question: while the graphic novel purifies discourse: does not,(as may written art) emphasize the spoken part of discourse, but rather, balances itself between frames of silence and frames of speech, and in so doing purifies discourse through a seive that realizes an equalibrium between silence and speech; written art, contrarily, purifies image. written art is a lot more (how shall i characterize it) ascetic? no. the written art moves beyond the coming into flesh and seaks to re-side (i.e. re-inhabit, re-enter) a pre-physical realm. crucially, however, written art is cyclical: it is the desire to enter into a non-physical place FROM a physical world: written art does not demonize the agents of The Fall, but rather, all written art finds its origin in That Bite. the imagination CREATES the place that we RE-enter ...

written art attempts to cleans THROUGH word. art, i will assert, is that which attempts to cleans experience. does this work? and, if so, how is this graphic novel the cleansing of this experience? could the implementing of meaning into experience be an act of cleansing ? and, if so, how does this graphic novel make jimmy meaningful? (and i think i'm looking for something a little more complex than immortalizing him ... bc why immortalize that which is of low-quality? i don't think jimmy would assert that his life is of high quality ... and, for that matter, who would assert such? or, is it only through art that we realize the quality to our lives? or, is it only through art that we CREATE the quality of our lives?) hum-de-dum la-la-la.

Post on Jimmy
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-08 21:16:46
Link to this Comment: 16889

In regard to our last class - we had a small discussion as to whether this graphic novel could have been done in novel form. And my answer is a definitive no. Sure, a novel could have been done that got the same message across and told the same story, but I think it's important that when we consider the graphic novel we look at the whole deal. A graphic novel is not just a written story. Neither is just a bunch of pictures. The pictures and written words work together to make it what it is. That's why the graphic novel is such a unique medium; it mixes literature and drawn art together for a final goal. Personally, this is why I like the graphic novel. (And, actually, this is why I like the poem as well - both are so unique!)

And in relation to Jimmy being a loser - I couldn't look at him and see someone who deserved what he got. We made a big deal that female faces weren't shown, but then again, neither were male face. Consider the doctor, the guy who talks to Jimmy in the airport terminal, and the guy who calls Jimmy Jimbo at work in the very beginning. We are only shown regularly the faces of Jimmy's family (although, interestingly enough, not his mother). But Amy and her mother's faces are shown. I didn't see this as a sexist statement as much as a statement of ... maybe Jimmy's alienation? We only see the faces of those who interact in his life in such a way that changes it.

Also, I gotta admit that I felt for Jimmy. I mean, sure, he hasn't done anything to help his position with women, but I don't think this is because we're dealing with a misogynistic misanthrope. We're dealing with a character who is very much set aside from the rest of humanity. And I have trouble blaming him for his issues. It feels like blaming the shy kid for not being more outgoing. Jimmy lives in his own little world, probably because his mother dictated his entire life, and his only freedom seems to be in the things he does in his head. I just can't blame the guy for that. If anything, I want to take him to therapy and convince him to join a social group or something.

I don't know. I'm probably projecting on the poor guy - I'll admit that. But the scene when he cries and says he just wants people to like him? Well, no wonder he seems to devoid of personality and agency when we talks to others. He has let his terror of gaining the hatred of others take charge of his every action. He's just a scared guy.

Not THAT bad anymore
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-09 06:02:49
Link to this Comment: 16890

ah ha! I've finished it. now i sort of know what all the hallaballoo is about. and i disagree with it.

first off, it was much more satisfying to read jimmy in my pajamas while eating cereal rather than on a late train. i was trying to cheer up the book by giving it more of a saturday morning cartoons type of thing. didn't work, but oh well.

anyway, my main interest was to find out about these sexual fantasies that jimmy kept having. to my surprise, the second half of the book contain nothing more odd than the first half, which contained nothing odd at all. i'm sorry, but i have to disagree with people. i don't think that jimmy had any weird sexual fantasies at all. he had fantasies, but they weren't weird. i mean, i know i'm a pervert, but i don't think fantasizing about the nurse was that weird. i agree with sarah in that yes, some of the women didn't have faces, but neither did all of the men. i don't think this was misogynistic.

as for the racism...the terminology and attitude that people used and had was temporally accurate. i'm not saying that it was OK, i'm just saying that that was the way it was back then. in the story jimmy's grandpa told, he used an italian slur, but also had a irish slur said to him. it was a common thing. i don't feel the characters were unlikeable due to their racism. i feel like the characters were unlikeable for their meanness, patheticness etc.

i do see the ending as hopeful. i would like to think that he became attached to the woman he met at work. it was a bitter sweet ending though, with her talking about how beautiful the snow was, because his dad had just died because of the snow.

Name: Talya
Date: 2005-11-11 10:46:01
Link to this Comment: 16930

I'm so late in posting because I've been trying to figure out how I feel about Jimmy Corrigan. I still haven't really figured it our because I feel like I haven't had a chance to truly understand what the author's objective and meaning was.

While reading, I didn't view the book as discriminatory or racist (more appropriately I didn't see Jimmy as such) I simply saw it as a story about a pathetic character who really had nothing going on in his life. He was basically an individual who even the most socially inept of people can't match. I don't think that he was aware of what he was doing and how it would affect people. I also don't know if he was supposed to be aware of it. I'm not sure if he's a character that we are supposed to dislike; by we I mean the readers, not just women. Perhaps we (as members of fairly liberal communities) are hyperaware of womens' issues and the importance of the female character throughout literature. Simply to play the devil's advocate, what if this really had nothing to do with women and women's issues and by focusing on that aspect of the book we are ignoring what the author was trying to encourage the audience to learn through Jimmy's failures and successes.

I wasn't interested in this book to begin with because I don't particularly like graphic novels, comic books or anything in between. I like to imagine the story and the characters as I see them. I wonder whether we would have had different impressions of the book if it hadn't been illustrated for us. Would Jimmy have had a different role in the story?

Name: flora
Date: 2005-11-12 09:50:16
Link to this Comment: 16935

another look at ivy league stay at home moms

Introducing your books
Name: Anne and J
Date: 2005-11-12 16:43:57
Link to this Comment: 16939

By 5 p.m. Sun, write collaboratively with your group a 3-pp. introduction to your "book," and post it here. Your introductions will be the topic of our class discussion on Monday, so think also about--and plan together--how you want to present them to the rest of us--as a panel? a conversation? a debate? an argument? Also: please read everyone else's intro before coming to class. See you there/then--
Anne and Jen

some afterthoughts
Name: em
Date: 2005-11-13 16:01:59
Link to this Comment: 16948

because i was interested in getting a male's perspective on jimmy corrigan, i asked my boyfriend to read it and let me know what he thought.
after stumbling out of a test yesterday a.m., i came upon him curled up in an armchair, three quarters of the way through the novel. he looked up at me with pain in his eyes and slowly closed the book. he said "please quote me on this: superman was my favorite character because he did me a favor as a reader and jumped off a building within the first twenty pages." he wasn't being quite serious, because this was his actual criticism: "jimmy corrigan bothered me because of the juxtaposition of the title ("smartest kid in the world") with the way he was portrayed. as i read, i seriously wondered if he was borderline mentally retarded. having worked with a lot of students who have learning issues and developmental issues, i felt that the way he was portrayed was not helpful or illuminating, and sometimes i felt that the author was making fun of jimmy and his mental issues..." so, to continue our discussion of diverse perspectives and interests, i thought i'd get a male's perspective, but instead i found myself more absorbed by a teacher's perspective, especially one who has had experience with the developmentally challenged.

Social Structures, Science, Agency: The Impact of
Name: Flora
Date: 2005-11-13 16:02:49
Link to this Comment: 16949

Choice in reproduction and reproductive rights has been on the forefront of American’s minds since the first wave of feminists demanded autonomy from patriarchal systems that oppressed or diminished women’s agency with regard to reproduction. Abortion, birth control, family planning, and other reproductive technologies have had a constant battle in the public sphere. Although women and men both are affected by all of these issues, women bear a heavier burden in the public sphere because of the constant battle for our rights to choose what to do with our bodies and biological products. Religious and secular institutions impose sanctions that make these choices illegal or negatively sanctioned in the public sphere. The following chapters discuss three different topics in reproductive choices and technologies and corresponding political actions and interventions in America.

Advances in reproductive technologies have provided opportunities for producing children to a greater number of Americans, particularly wealthy Americans and those whom have health insurance to cover these procedures. These include couples where one person or both are infertile; same-sex partners; single women; single men; and women who have delayed parenthood past “traditional” child-bearing years. Currently, very little legislation is in place that regulates agencies that provide services to these people (ie. fertility clinics which provide in vitro fertilization, or, egg and sperm donation centers.) Other highly controversial reproductive technologies such as pre-implantation diagnosis and stem cell technologies meet with more vehement opposition similar in degree to the ongoing opposition to abortion.

Should there be instances where some technologies are withheld from people because they are not in a traditional family structure? Should state governments impose definitions of motherhood to those who wish to use reproductive technologies? What about using the Internet to post your DNA strand in hopes of finding your birth parent that initially chose to remain anonymous?

I raise these questions to illustrate the many dilemmas presented with the use of reproductive technologies and to emphasize how the social structures in our society continuously impose greater sanctions and impose strict rules of what to do with women’s bodies. While many advances have been made in equalizing the playing field for men and women particularly in education and employment opportunities, the assumed roles for men and women remain fairly constant—women are to be married to men, men are to be the breadwinners and women are to bear children and raise families at home. Decisions about what women should and should not do with their bodies and their biological products are continuously decided in legal and medical establishments. These systems are steeped in patriarchal ideology. They impose their rules on women in particular, with assumptions made of their sexuality. They espouse heteronormative conceptions of family structures. These social facts persevere in spite of the different waves of feminism that have fought for equality, autonomy, and social justice for all oppressed groups. In this essay, I hope to illustrate the notion that while many might think feminism has done its duty, society still struggles to allow individuals to do what they want with their bodies, and this is especially vivid in a discussion of reproductive technologies.

Recently, pharmacists, citing moral objections, have to refuse to dispense emergency contraception to patients with a doctors’ prescription. Plan B Emergency contraception must be taken within three days after unprotected intercourse. The drug works by preventing ovulation, preventing the sperm from uniting with the egg and may prevent an embryo from attaching to the uterus, although this part is still under much scientific debate. Some professional pharmacists believe that life begins at conception and do not want to dispense legal drugs that they believe can cause the abortion of a day-old 100 cell embryo. pharmacist Erik McKlave cites Mark 9:42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."

The Plannned Parenthood family planning organization states that “Pharmacists, physicians, and other medical clinicians have professional and ethical responsibilities to their patients. Health-related decisions made between a provider and patient should be based on the personal welfare and health-care needs of the patient — not the morals or beliefs of the caregivers.” However, pharmacist Peggy Page claims that in pharmacy school, “a patient’s individual expectations, because they can be incorrect or unrealistic, was never held out as the model by which we practice. Now, however, it seems that this has become a new standard, and must include that we do whatever the patient wants.”

Many states have now added a “referral clause.” This means that pharmacists are allowed to refuse to dispense the medication as long as they refer the patient to another pharmacy that will. But, as the drug is time sensitive and pharmacies can be scarce or hard to travel to in some areas, this is not a permanent solution. The solution that I propose to defend in this paper is to make emergency contraception available over the counter. An FDA panel recently approved safety of the action in a decision of twenty-three to four. By removing pharmacists from the transaction, emergency contraception will be made available to every woman who visits a store that stocks it or could even be ordered online. Making the drug more accessible will mitigate the stigma associated with it.

Sex education for children is a provocative and controversial issue. The one thing everyone seems able to agree on is that it should exist, though when to start it and how to go about doing it vary across a huge spectrum. There is a currently a bill in Congress proposing a $500 million plan to reduce public sex education from a comprehensive look—enforcing contraception and safety while also discussing general issues of sexuality—to one that strictly discusses the “social, psychological, and health gains” of abstinence for unmarried people (Sternberg, 1). Advocates of such a conservative form of sex education argue that education about safer sex is not going to prevent disease and unplanned pregnancies. These people claim that only through abstinence education will teenagers learn how to protect themselves from STDs and unplanned pregnancy. Yet perhaps they have not heard that 26% of women who claim to practice abstinence get pregnant each year (Singer, 2). This inconsistency between education, public policy, and actual behavior, along with the increasingly strict regulations on abortion and birth control accessibility, is sending young women mixed messages, and then denying them the opportunity to fix their mistakes.

There is a problem in the fact that many insurance policies cover Viagra but do not cover birth control pills. This is not the only way that public agencies are limiting women’s autonomy: rumors are circulating that legislature is being drawn up to require women to ask the permission of the father before she can receive an abortion—should a rape victim really be required to ask such permission of her rapist? Should a woman who made one bad decision be forced to carry a child for nine months and care for it emotionally and financially against her will? These issues and others will be addressed in this paper, starting with the root of the problem: shoddy sex education for children and teenagers.

Works Cited
Friedman, Deborah. Refusal Clauses: A Threat to Reproductive Rights. Planned
Parenthood Federation of America Website.
McClave, Erik A. A Catholic Pharmacist's Struggle.
Page, Peggy. June 2, 2005 Testimony.

collabrative introduction
Date: 2005-11-13 16:24:42
Link to this Comment: 16951

Kelsey G.
Kathryn Corbin
Sarah Halter

Sex-positive feminism, most often referred to as pre-sex, sex-radical, or liberal feminism formed in the early 1980’s. Sex-positive feminism is centered around the notion that sexual freedom is an essential component of feminism or nay other institution. They embrace sexual minority groups, endorsing the value of coalition-building with members of groups targeted by sex negativity. On September 14, 2005, the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This act would expand on our current hate crime legislation (which only protects people from crimes motivated by race, religion and national origin) to protect gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. There is little doubt that the Senate will veto this act since this move has been vetoed twice by the House to expand hate crime legislation.
Still, this new act is important because of what it stands for: for the first time, the federal government has expressed an interest in protecting people who are of not a conventional sexual orientation. The very fact that this is the third attempt to pass such an act speaks highly of those in the House who want to protect the LGBTQ community. However, it would be a mistake to deny that hate crime legislation is problematic. This legislation has to be careful not to tread on the First Amendment and to stay away from prosecuting “thought crimes.” Also, an argument can be made that all crimes are motivated by hate, so what makes a precious few more special? Perhaps most dangerously, hate crime legislation demands labels – in order to protect gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the legislation must define them as such.
The multiple variations within the history of feminist discourse had proved to be both limiting and encouraging to women who engage in sexual activity. On one hand, there are “sex positive” feminist such as Wendy Chapkis and Carol Queen who advocate female sexuality and also women’s participation in the sex industry. Yet, on the flip side, there are “anti-sex” feminists involving Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin who argue that any type of situation that sexually objectifies the female is offensive.
According to these feminist interpretations, the act of sex denotes a language of power, usually that of a male over a female, and enforces a notion of patriarchal authority. Apart from traditional theory which claims heterosexual sex as an act of male dominance, male-controlled media including literature, television, and film construct a representation of the female prostitute as a submissive object. Whilst her image ranges from a promiscuous goddess to a sexual slave, so does her misrepresentation by social standards; and thus, the media perjures the female prostitute by refuting to present her agency over both the industry and its male clientele.
Our argument is centred on disproving the popular theory that female prostitution is strictly related to exclusive phallic pleasure where women are made victims to male sexuality. In female heterosexual prostitution, it is possible for women who willingly engage in commercial sex to view themselves as a exerting feminine power. Although some feminists view prostitute women as the powerless victims of male sexual demands, and female prostitution as perpetuating this notion of phallic dominance over women, we argue this type of ideology to be the ultimate form of misogyny. Here, women are classified as asexual beings that hold no control over their sex acts, nor do they possess any feeling for sexual desire. Men who seek sex are identified as sexual predators who desire control over women through heterosexual sex acts. However, it is plausible for commercial sex to be a complete role reversal where women are in the position of power and men are made subservient to them. As seekers of the female body, male clients are placed at the mercy of these woman's demands. It is the prostitute, and not the client, who sets the price, outlines the pretences under which the act takes place, and ultimately determines what the male client can and cannot do to her body.
The conviction of heterosexual sex as a gender issue that negates the power of women is indeed widespread; however, we argue that the commercialization of the sex industry in some first-world nations may be a source of female empowerment, and thus, must be respected as a legitimate construct to contemporary feminism. In this paper, we want to propose that despite our societies’ moral standards against both prostitutes and homosexuality, hate crime legislation is a necessity because of both the historical conduct of the United States and also our contemporary political climate. If it were to pass such all-inclusive hate crime legislation, the government would be making a powerful statement of its intent to protect and serve all of its citizens.

our intro
Date: 2005-11-13 16:27:23
Link to this Comment: 16952

The Talents to Balance or the Struggle to Juggle

Lindsay Updegrove, Talya Gates-Monasch, Emily Madsen, Anna Mazzariello

The life of a woman is a curious balancing act. There is always the struggle to make things fair and equal: between male and female coworkers, mothers and fathers, and young girls and boys in the classroom. It’s not only a struggle because of the different identities that are constructed for women and men but also because of the ways these differences are manifested in societal interactions and institutions of work and learning.
Subject to the demands of these systems, the modern woman becomes a juggler. This compilation seeks to explore the ways in which women balance their lives and why this is necessary. It also hopes to explore the limitations of the figure of the juggler, and find a different sort of balance in the process.

Anna’s exploration of women’s lives at Bryn Mawr focuses on the ways in which the institution sets up a space for women to study like men. However, the face of the matter is we’re not men, so should we have to behave or study like men? Through a specific examination of Bryn Mawr’s professors, both mothers and scholars, the article attempts to shed light on the ways in which our women have juggled mothering and working. Physically, women are less able to have a family and then walk away from it (by returning to work), in the same way men can. Is there a push for the PhD over family or can a balance be reached?

Women are required to deal with gendered issues such as these in the business world as well as in the academic world. Whether it is women acting like men, or men marrying their secretaries, gender roles in the office have become an increasingly fraught territory since the onset of the women’s liberation movement and the institution of the shoulder pad. Emily examines this phenomenon, and not just in the form of the "power suit," but in the complicated forms which women must assume in order to do “valuable work” and become equals in the boardroom and the bedroom. One main contemporary concern she explores and responds to is the idea that men are threatened and damaged by women's successes.

Lindsay's essay questions whether the sentiment that one sex is hurt by the other's accomplishment begins in the classroom. By encouraging one sex to thrive in the educational system, we need to ensure that we aren’t crippling the other. Like any other arena, problems of gender in the classroom are rooted in the divergence of ideals for men and for women. Culturally, we encourage the sexes in different ways, providing different incentives for classroom success for girls and boys. The anxiety has developed recently that because the societal ideal for a boy is not strong academically but physically, boys are falling behind in grade school. In addition, the onset of increased numbers of ADD diagnoses for boys has led to the belief that they are marginalized for their inability to focus. However, increased focus on “troublemakers” leaves dutiful girl students
with less time to learn. Children don’t leave their see-saw on the playground, and classroom becomes a closed economy, for which a teacher (male or female) must act as fulcrum. Must progress for one gender always be made at the expense of the other?

This friction between genders can be translated into the single category of woman itself. Conflict between intention and interpretation creates multiple readings of actions. Because of this multiplicity, Talya feels that women especially have come to feel a need to “explain themselves.” Yet these explanations or testimonies are also interpreted. For example, a young woman interviewing for a job may be hampered by a new marriage. If, for instance, those responsible for hiring her assume that, as newly married woman, she intends to have children right away, they ascribe to her a definition that could conflict completely with her own. Not only those hiring her make those assumptions, society as well writes her out of a self-definition, whether it is the same or completely different. At what point do we stop listening to each other and start making damaging assumptions? And what are we listening to in the first place?

Women are the ones who will be on the phone with teachers, driving kids around, cleaning and cooking, struggling to achieve workplace equality, and trying to decide what it means to be a woman. Can a woman be feminine and still be a feminist? Can she wear pink and still kick someone’s ass? Women are always juggling time, commitments, and definitions. However, the figure of the juggler is limiting because the juggler works alone. To take an image from Lindsay’s paper, the definition of modern woman needs to be expanded to that of a participant in a see-saw game. Men should not be exempt from this drive towards self-definition and balance. No woman is an island, and if women are going to continue this drive towards balance, men must be included too, as see-saw partners and willing participants in this struggle to juggle.

Our Intro
Name: Patricia,
Date: 2005-11-13 16:56:59
Link to this Comment: 16953

Patricia, Orah, Amy Ph, & Amy Pe.

We are all trying to figure out how to realize individual pleasure. Since the present discourse seems to be that which blocks us from our pleasure, resistance is the key to the realization of this pleasure. Each of our papers deals with different forms of resistance to the present discourse.

Amy Phillips is thinking about resistance to the discourse of gender. In the present discourse, gender is in a binary system of man and woman. Two genders are problematic for everyone, because no one really fits perfectly. Thus, people exist within the discourse of gender, while at the same time resisting it. People whose resistance is extreme are labeled as or take the label of transgendered. Phillips sees transsexuals who conform to their new gender’s stereotypical roles working within the discourse, rather than working against it. Even though they do not conform to their biological sex’s gender, they do conform to one of the two genders, thus upholding the dichotomy. This resistance is questionable, because it remains within the discourse rather than rejecting it. Those who identify as genderqueer or a third gender, also stay within the discourse of gender, because they position themselves in opposition to the established discourse of gender, however, they are working towards a redefinition of gender. Phillips is uncertain as to whether this type of resistance actually accomplishes anything, because it still remains in the discourse of gender, however, in the gendered world we live in, it may be impossible
to hold discourse without the context of gender. Phillips is thinking about the developing language of the transsexual as a reforming, a reorganization, of the discourse language to form a new resistance-language.

Amy Pennington, similarly to Phillips, is also invested in the limitations of the current discourse but specifically in dealing with how the current language affects the creation of the image of the sexual woman. She sees a move from the second wave feminists who actively refuse the given male-created language of female heterosexuality. Now, however, the resistance seems to be against the initial movement of resistance: there seems to be a move to comply with the dominant discourse: a spreading of the given language and a refusal to imagine the possibility of other languages of sexuality. The only language through which one can articulate her sexuality is the language that men use to form female sexuality. This limits one to the sexual experiences that can be articulated through this language. By refusing to expand the language, this new wave of feminists is limiting its own possibilities of pleasure to a language that is controlled by men. The demanded pleasure is, therefore, only in relation to men because the language is created only in relation to men.

Patricia, contrarily, is writing about how the utilization of the given language can be an expression of control: by using the language one disallows another from controlling her. While Phillips is suggesting a reformation of the language as an act of control, Patricia is suggesting the utilization of the language as the act of control. Through incorporating Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan”, she is constructing an ideal utopia: a “pleasure-dome” which only allows people that have used language as a means to control by claiming themselves as something through the language to enter. Coleridge’s lines, “Could I revive within me/ Her symphony and song,/To such a deep delight 'twould win me,/That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air,/That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !” (ln. 42-47) are especially poignant and relevant. They are playing with the notion of one’s own ability to find that language and subsequently take it upon themselves to create this pleasure-dome. This idea of taking hold of one’s own self through language resonates with Moraga ideology as well. Moraga, however, differentiates between being called something that sets her apart from others like “trash” or “dyke”, and being called something that assumes she is someone else’s; she will not accept being called “sister” unless she does it herself. She wants identity to be declared, but only in a way that allows for her own personal declaration. Moraga says in her essay The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind, “But people can’t read your mind, they read your color, they read your womanhood, they read the women you’re with. They read your walk and talk. And then the privileges begin to wane and the choices become more limited, more evident.” (pp. 236) Patricia, like Moraga, feels that by utilizing language to claim your identity, the waning and limiting of privileges would be lessened. Patricia stipulates that by claiming and controlling one’s identity through language will not necessarily prevent being called other names, but the outside name calling will not affect one’s identity since it has already been claimed. This active claiming of oneself through language is integral because it creates the pleasure-dome. We must claim something about ourselves rather than allow, even incidentally, ourselves to be claimed by the gaze of others—the power and control lies within this claiming of oneself through language.

Rather than claiming oneself through one universal language, Orah alternately suggests the diversification of languages. Orah works with Foucault’s Ethics in which he suggests that the “homosexual imagination” is the place where we may imagine relational possibilities. If different forms of pleasure are derived from different relations, new pleasures become possible when the range of relational possibilities expands. Similarly, in her essay The Technology of Gender, Teresa De Lauretis allows for the “possibility of agency and self-determination at the subjective and even individual level of micropolitical and everyday practices” (Lauretis, 9). This agency is granted by the conception that ideology is not the only active participant in its dynamic with individual representation; simultaneously, the individual affects ideology. In her essay The Psychic Life of Power, Judith Butler writes that the failure of the individual to reproduce a perfect image of ideology reshapes ideology: the act of failing to become the model presented by ideology is the agency of the individual. These three writers, Orah suggests, portray that resistance exists in the “micropolitical” form: the diversification of languages enables the individual to speak as an individual: to speak in the language of his own experience. The “homosexual imagination” is the interaction with difference. Our experience is our reality, the placeholder for other experience must be allowed in the imagination.

In our papers, we are all suggesting alternate ways to resist the discourse which is actively preventing access to our pleasure. Although different suggestions as to how the resistance should be implemented, there is an overriding acknowledgement that change in the discourse is a necessary means to an end; an end where the pleasure can be realized and negotiated.

Which Feminist Icon are You?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-14 21:26:31
Link to this Comment: 16985

Before Wednesday's class, please take the survey to determine Which Feminist Icon You Are. Tell us here what you discovered (about yourself, about our feminist foremothers, about the usefulness of survey-taking...) as well as reporting in on your initial thinking about which feminist (of these, of those in the packet, of others you may have found) might best help you think through the issues you'll be addressing in your next paper.

cool beans
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-15 03:45:00
Link to this Comment: 16992

I am Emma Goldman! I've taken this test about a million times since the beginning of this semester! :) Sometimes it is difficult to answer, because there are so many choices that I agree with and others that I wish I could add in. I gotta say, it's good to be the woman with the sexy glasses. I can relate to the anarchist/communist thing. It makes me think that maybe I'm not as much a part of the third wave of feminism. I feel like there is so much to accomplish that the second wave hasn't finished, that it's hard to move on. At the same time, I do incorporate some queer theory into my veiws. I guess this applies to political action rather than theory. I'd never heard of some of the women on the list, which felt humbling. I read a little bit about Kathleen Hanna and it totally makes me want to check out her stuff. Also, after seeing Judith Butler's picture, I looked at some others of her online. Wow, she was like, hot! lol It also makes me want to suffer through Dworkin and MacKinnon to know what I'm talking about before I diss them.

Not sure who I will use in my paper yet. Will hopefully post on that later :)

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-15 11:30:37
Link to this Comment: 16994

A couple of more resources I promised you guys: Flora, Alex and Samantha, who are thinking about autonomy and reproductive choice: look @ the summary of Scott Gilbert's talk here, last spring, on Fictions and Fetuses. Lindsay, Talya, Emily and Anna, who are re-thinking varieties of ways to "see-saw," look @ Re-presenting Parenting, as well as some follow-up on-line discussion about how to "have it all"

Oral Sex Workshop
Name: patricia
Date: 2005-11-15 11:45:07
Link to this Comment: 16995

Oral Sex Workshop
When: Today: Tuesday Nov.15 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Where: Campus Center 313
What: Molly McClure from the Mazzoni Center will be leading a workshop in oral sex—both cunnilingus and felatio—for people to get together and learn about something that is sometimes stigmatized, sometimes celebrated, and very often misunderstood. People of all experiences and backgrounds will benefit greatly from this workshop.
For more information:

Dominatrix Workshop
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-11-15 11:45:56
Link to this Comment: 16996

Dominatrix Workshop!
When: Thursday, November 17, 2005, 8:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Where: Campus Center 313
What: Come meet Veronica Bound and learn about dominance/submission, S&M, kink and fetish from a professional dominatrix. Come just to understand more about expressions of sexuality or to learn specific tips and practices for your own sex life. Check out for more information.

love and politics.
Name: orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-15 14:14:10
Link to this Comment: 16999

according to the survey, Angela Davis is my foremother. That is surprising. did she kick physical ass? she was a protonent of violence. which, right now, i'm not. though i may one day come to the realization that in a world that holds everything between binaries (good/bad, effective/uneffective), violence may be the closest to effective/good we're going to get. but not now. when i think of politics i am distressed, immobile. (angela davis might kick MY ass.) so i don't think about politics. i think of the individuals. i think of human ambiguity. i think of myself. i am trying to learn to understand what it means to be an ambiguous person: to accept my ambiguity as what i am. stop trying to define myself into blunt form. allow myself to be amorphos. undulating. (angela davis WOULD kick my ass, and so would Moraga ... and while the pee-pushers would loose thier jobs if they kicked my ass, they might be inclined to poke me.)

for the first two questions of the survey i answered that people don't know my sexual orientation and people don't know my political povs. i don't know if these options were intended for those who HIDE aspects of themselves, or, for those who don't ascribe to the notion that the self is something that cannot be oriented. i picked these choices for the latter reason. i last two questions i found harder, especially in their reference to men. I don't feel comfortable making such generalizations about men. men are complicated human beings. manhood is a complicated state of being. such generalizations deny such ambiguity. i realize, however, that in order to take a political stance we must deny (?) this ambiguity(?) moraga seems to be the strong voice of this denial. its fine to be internally complicated (we all are), but when it comes to action we must be blunt. that's the nature of the body. action is that which translates the internal into the body. the body acts bluntly no matter if the intent is blunt. (one might substitute the word "purposeful" in for blunt(?), perhaps.)

but, i continue to have problems: not only is manhood a complicated state for an individual to inhabit, but mankind is just as ambiguous. there are important men in my life who need to learn to shut up and listen (for god's sake!), and there are important men in my life who i consider my closest partners (though i don't know what 'the pain game' is) and some of those men who can't listen are my closest partners ... sometimes i prefer the company of men, but it depends on WHICH men. i don't want to live my life in relation to an empty form: Man. Manhood. Mankind. The men I love are so complicated. and my relations with these men are even more complicated because i am complicated. love is the space between complicated people and, therefore, maybe the only strong ground cohabited by such people. maybe politics can be generated from this ground. politics need ground and since we aren't going to find that ground within the individual (my lack of orientation, the seas within me) maybe politics can only be generated from the solid ground of relation. what is the interaction between love and politics? what prevents me from being solipsistic in my love?

Simone de Beauvoir!
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-11-15 17:58:42
Link to this Comment: 17000

Simone de Beauvoir is my feminist icon! Reading her excerpt from "Second Sex" I can definitely see why I was deemed "Simone de Beauvoir" status. One of my main facets that I base my feminism on is this idea that we must stop defining ourselves in relation to the "other" which seems to be right in line with Simone's thinking. Simone de Beauvoir's ideas about how women only receive and don't ever take is extremely interesting tome. SHe says, "They have gained only what men have been willing to grant.." (pp. 678)

Through reading The Second Sex, one of her points seems to be that only only are the woman the "Other" but women is very well pleased with her role as the "Other".

It was interesting to hear that conservative men actually do dread female competition. She cites a male student who wrote in the Hebdo-Latin, "Every woman student who goes into medicine or law robs us of a job." (pp. 684) She goes even further, though, to say that even in light of that statement, he never questioned his rights in this world. She says that even the most humble men are MADE to feel superior. "The most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women." And, if you really want to get angry, you look at this quote by Claude Mauriac, "We listen on a tone of polite the most brilliant among them, well knowing that her wit reflects more of less luminously idea that come from us."

Simone points out a struggle that women are facing because it is true that many men will affirm that women are the equals of man while at the same time they will say that women can never be equals of man.

Another reason why I see why I was connected to Simone, is because she states that we must get out of the "rut" by quarreling about whether or not woman is superior/inferior or equal to man. I have felt that very strongly--women need to stop fighting with each other, and start listening to each other. She says,"...we must discard the vague notions of superiority, inferiority, equality which have hitherto corrupted every discussion of the subject and start afresh." (pp. 686) I love this passage:
Some say that, having been created after Adam, she is evidently a secondary being; others say contrary that Adam was only a rough draft and that God succedded in producing the human being in perfection when He created Eve. Woman's brain in smaller; yes, but it is relatively larger. CHrist was made a man; yes, but perhaps for his greater humility. Each argument at once suggests the opposite, and both are often fallacious.

It seems to me that Simone de Beauvoir is suggesting that there will always be differences between men and women. The way to "free" women is through rejecting this idea of only allowing her to confine her to the relations she bears to man. She says,"...let her have her idependent existence and she will continue none the less to exist for him also: mutually recognizing each other as subject, each will remain for the other an other." (pp. 704)

Name: Kat
Date: 2005-11-15 18:12:55
Link to this Comment: 17004

i am supposedly Frida Kahlo meaning I am an "artistic, passionate, vulnerable person, with openly bisexual tendancies and were the first womyn to have her own gallery show in Mexico. You slept with ... Trotsky?"
This is incredibly interesting to me. i love Kahlo's work and always knew she was openly bisexual but i dont consider myself artistic or vulnerable, though i am passionate at times. i guess i never considered that we would have a lot in common.

for the first question, i answered that i was married young and divorced which is something i dont intend to do (get married young that is, no one intends to divorce). but i chose it because i believed more in freedom and pursuing sexual realtionships with whomever, regardless of sex. i strongly believe that abortion is a woman's decision and the government should not have the right to be "fucking with my body" as it is so eloquently put. i dont think there is one feminist issue that is importnat over all the others and that one was hard for me. and in terms of men, i have mixed feelings about the past and the future.

i have to admit that there was part of me that was a bit resentful of having to choose specific answers that weren't quite mine, along with the fact that i could only choose one. in every case except the abortion one there were at least 2 statements i could have combined and removed and flipped or somehow altered to fit me. while i realize this is to see which feminist icon i am MOST like and not which one i actually am, it was still kind of ironic that we were choosing categories to put ourselves into when i thought one of the objectives of our class was to try to break out of them. perhaps, that isnt one of our objectives though...maybe this was just a lesson in realizing the total entrenchment of our culture in these categories.

one thing about this quiz that really frustrated me: i hate the word wymyn. i like to think of myself as a feminist in many senses of the word and perhaps wanting those of us who have genitalia associated with not being male or a hermaphrodite to continue to go by a name that is the essence of anti-feminism is wrong. however, there is something about having to create an entirely new identit for ourselves simply to avoid having men in us in any way that makes me really angry. why do we have to change the way we most commonly describe ourselves just because it contains the word "men". i realize that womEn will always have to be the ones making more of an effort to change but im so tired of changing my life and doing or not doing things to further myself. isn't anyone else tired of it either?

My Western Feminist
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-11-15 18:58:32
Link to this Comment: 17007

The Western Feminist I was coupled with is Frida Kahlo who is described as :

"Artistic, passionate, and a vulnerable person with openly bi-sexual tendencies and who was the first woman to have her own gallery show in Mexico. (She also slept with Trotsky?)

It is ironic that I was assigned to her considering that Frida was one of my icons in art school. She has always been a female figure whom I admire. Her passion for vibrancy, life, and love show through within each of her paintings...her style and technique is truly amazing. Like her relationship with men (especially her husband), each color she used created a bold contrast that accentuated the emotion that she tried to capture in her framework. She was both an amazing artist and female figure, and I am honored that somehow I was connected to her through that survey.

Results to quiz
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-15 20:12:26
Link to this Comment: 17008

Ha ha! I got Judith Butler! Yeah, I wish. I've read a few of her essays for class, and that is one smart lady. After I played around with the results, I got Virginia Woolf and Simone De Beauvoir. I've decided that this means I am old skool (yes, with the "k" and no "c"). (However the Butler result does strenghten my resolve in my grad school plans...)

I've decided to like my results because I've been trying to situate myself in the waves of feminism. I think I'm somewhere between second and third. I've spent a lot of time reading works by second wave feminists, and Adrienne Rich's dream for a common language really intrigues me, but I understand the necessity to approach theory in the way the third waves-ers do.

I've been having fun lately by playing on Wikipedia and typing in "Radical Feminism" or "Second Wave Feminism." Wikipedia may not be the most scholarly search engine out there, but it's a good way to generate names and look at "our feminist foremothers."

quiz results
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-15 20:55:57
Link to this Comment: 17010

and the roulette says...Audre Lorde "You are Audre Lorde! You were one of the first wymyn to write love poems to other wymyn, long before it was safe OR cool. You put the "rad" in radical feminism, but somehow still managed to create a cult following in people who would never identify as radical themselves."

I can live with this--originally I took this quiz in the beginning of the semester and I was pegged closest to Judith Butler. I was a bit worried about this b/c I heard JB speak at BMC last semester and though I think she is incredibly intelligent and I found the topic fascinating, I really couldn't understand her--too much theoretical language. I felt that b/c of this she was a bit out of most people's leagues.

Some words by Audre Lorde:
"For difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways to actively 'be' in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters...
[also] community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist." from The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's Home, in This Bridge Called My Back.

quiz results
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-15 20:56:40
Link to this Comment: 17011

and the roulette says...Audre Lorde "You are Audre Lorde! You were one of the first wymyn to write love poems to other wymyn, long before it was safe OR cool. You put the "rad" in radical feminism, but somehow still managed to create a cult following in people who would never identify as radical themselves."

I can live with this--originally I took this quiz in the beginning of the semester and I was pegged closest to Judith Butler. I was a bit worried about this b/c I heard JB speak at BMC last semester and though I think she is incredibly intelligent and I found the topic fascinating, I really couldn't understand her--too much theoretical language. I felt that b/c of this she was a bit out of most people's leagues.

Some words by Audre Lorde:
"For difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways to actively 'be' in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters...
[also] community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist." from The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's Home, in This Bridge Called My Back.

feminist foremother
Date: 2005-11-16 10:02:56
Link to this Comment: 17015

You are Simone de Beauvoir! You spent years with Sarte, who was more famous than you at the time, but came into your own as you got older. Your seminal feminist work "The Second Sex" is a book that is still controversial, but many of us can't figure out why. You kicked the early 20th century's ass, though!
simone lived from 1908-1986, she was a french existentialist, writer, and social essayist. "Her major thrust into philosophical analysis was due to her life-long friendship with Sartre. Using some of the ideas she worked with in Ethics and a few of the underpinnings of existentialism as described by Sartre, she went on to produce her famous work, The Second Sex. Working with the idea that women are the "other," and another statement: "that women is not born, but made," De Beauvoir delves deep into the history of women's oppression. This was the definitive declaration of woman's independence". cool.
i found the test a little difficult to swallow though...a LOT of the options sounded like things i would say or feel...i didn't think some of the choices were extreme enough for me to fairly choose. i dont know if anyone else felt this way. i'm not unhappy with my results though, i mean, simone seems like a smart, tough, woman...the test just stumped me sometimes!

Date: 2005-11-16 10:08:47
Link to this Comment: 17016

hello again - i just looked up the introduction to the other sex online and thought to post it since it has some really nice language and thoughts:

"FOR a long time I have hesitated to write a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially to women; and it is not new. Enough ink has been spilled in quarrelling over feminism, and perhaps we should say no more about it. It is still talked about, however, for the voluminous nonsense uttered during the last century seems to have done little to illuminate the problem. After all, is there a problem? And if so, what is it? Are there women, really? Most assuredly the theory of the eternal feminine still has its adherents who will whisper in your ear: ‘Even in Russia women still are women’; and other erudite persons – sometimes the very same – say with a sigh: ‘Woman is losing her way, woman is lost.’ One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should, what place they occupy in this world, what their place should be. ‘What has become of women?’ was asked recently in an ephemeral magazine".

she continues by asking "what is woman"...well...what do you think? Simone goes on about how "woman" is a social construct...can we stomach that thought? I have mixed feelings about that - if we are created, then are we then not genuine? or - are we not AS genuine as men?

Up Coming Events
Name: kelsey
Date: 2005-11-16 14:49:19
Link to this Comment: 17018

I thought this might be is a list of upcoming events sponsered by the Women's Center at Haverford...kelsey

Women in Academia Dinner
We have invited two fabulous professors to dine with us this Wednesday,
November 16th in the Bryn Mawr room of the dining center (to the back on
the side with the long tables) at 5:45. These dinners are a really fun
informal way to get to know some of the female faculty members. Feel free
to join us even if you've never been to a meeting! Email us if you need a
meal ticket.
The profs who will be joining us on Wednesday are Martha Easton from the
History of Art Department at Bryn Mawr who teaches amazing classes on
women in the history of art, and Marianne Tettlebaum, the Humanities
Center's Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow who teaches comparative literature,
philosophy and music and organizes the Dialogues on Art program that's
recently started on campus. Please please come hang out with these
awesome women! (I've enclosed their official bios at the bottom of this
email if you want to read more about them beforehand.)

Movie Screening
We're showing Boys Don't Cry in the Women's Center Next Sunday, November
20th at 10pm. Invite your friends and take a break from work to join us
for a great female acting performance and a fascinating look at gender roles.

So, email us (kphillip or sadland) if you're off the meal plan and need a
meal ticket for Wednesday and we'll get you one for free. Also, we still
have a couple of tickets left for the Pig Iron Theater performance at
Bryn Mawr on December 2nd. Email if you want one! (The description of
this event is also at the bottom of this email). Thanks for bearing with
the long email. See you Wednesday!
Kate and Sara

Martha Easton's research interests include medieval illuminated
manuscripts, gender and hagiography, the history of collecting medieval
art, and feminist theory. She is presently at work on a publication
examining both medieval artistic representations and textual accounts of
women who cross dress as men for various spiritual and social ends. In
addition, she is working on a project based on her dissertation dealing
with representations of the tortures of male and female martyrs and the
complicated meanings these images had for late medieval society.
At Bryn Mawr she teaches "Women, Feminism, and the History of Art,"
"Introduction to Western Medieval Art," "Gender Issues in the Art of the
Later Middle Ages," "History of Illuminated Manuscripts," "The Cult of
Saints and Medieval Art," "Late Gothic Painting in Northern Europe,"
"Gothic Manuscripts," and "Women in Medieval Art." In the fall of 2004
she will offer "Topics in Japanese Art," another interest cultivated
during the six years she lived and worked in Japan.

MARIANNE TETTLEBAUM joined the Humanities Center as Mellon Post-Doctoral
Fellow this year, with a joint appointment as Visiting Assistant
Professor of Comparative Literature and Music. She received her Ph.D. in
music from Cornell University with a dissertation titled, "Kant's Noisy
Neighbors: The Experience of Music and Community in the Critique of
Judgment." In addition to Mozart, Kant, and music aesthetics, her
research interests include the culture of eighteenth-century Vienna,
North German Pietism and the work of Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann
Friedrich Reichardt, and the aesthetics and philosophy of Theodor Adorno.
This year, Marianne will present a symposium. “Art on the Edge: Aesthetic
Encounters at the Limits of Representation, March 31-April 2, 2006. She
is also teaching two 200-level courses: “Music and the ‘Origin of
Language’ in the Eighteenth Century” in the fall and “Art and Aesthetic
Theory” in the spring.

Pig Iron Theatre Company
A play without words. Sort of.
Friday and Saturday,
December 2 and 3
7 & 9:30 p.m., Goodhart Hall

When a series of comic disasters imperils life on Earth, three unlikely
heroines must race against time to save the world. Flop features three of
Philadelphia’s finest and funniest performers: Nichole Canuso of Headlong
Dance Theater, founding member of New Paradise Laboratories Lee Etzold,
and Pig Iron’s own Parisian clown/cabaret singer Emmanuelle
Delpech-Ramey. With Flop the Obie-winning Pig Iron Theatre Company turns
its focus to the kind of new vaudeville that Bill Irwin, David Shiner and
Cirque du Soleil made famous.

"From start to finish this show is a delight."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Euphoric ... a comic juggernaut!"
— Philadelphia Weekly

Name: alex
Date: 2005-11-16 20:48:31
Link to this Comment: 17024

so the online quiz thing told me i was emma goldman, but im not sure that communism and the labor movement is going to help me with my paper. i read through the other results on the quiz, but none of them seemed to take a strong stance on choice rights or birth control... im not sure if this is too specific of a subject to find a foremother on, but if anyone knows of a feminist i could talk about, that would be awesome. and anne ill definitely take a look at the notes you posted from that talk last year to see if theyll help me at all- thanks!

Name: Flora
Date: 2005-11-16 21:28:17
Link to this Comment: 17029

another take on womens college feminism

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-16 21:31:49
Link to this Comment: 17030

For the record: my icon is Emma Goldman, too; and Jen's (first one) was Virginia Woolf. (Interestingly oblique, since Jen's the one studying a socialist country, and I'm the one who idolizes Virginia Woolf...)

Whatever. What I actually came here to say was that, in telling you so much of our personal trajectories into feminist work, Jen and I may not have modeled--as clearly today as we had intended--how you might frame your papers w/ your own feminist foremothers. As you go searching into your family tree, think about the last portion of each of our talks.

Jen spoke, for instance, of how Mohanty's idea of "women’s shared contexts of struggle” gave her greater insight, in her ethnographic study of Russian-American matchmaking, both into the agency of the women involved (why do their choices make sense to them?) and into the factors that shape and constrain them. Abu-Lughod's discussion of “The Romance of Resistance"--“If the systems of power are multiple, then resisting at one level may catch people up at other levels"--likewise gave Jen some insight into the possibility that her “'Russian ladies' are, similarly, both freeing themselves and catching themselves up." I spoke, similarly, of how the work of Bordo and Young (and though, alas! there was no time to say so! of Woolf) helped direct what I have been doing for the past few years, in my published work, in my classroom work, and in working groups around campus.

Feel free to ask us for further suggestions for your own work. Alex--I'd recommend that you look (for questions of choice) @ Kollantai and (for birth control) at Margaret Sanger; you might also try to contact Paula Viterbo (I'll send you her e-mail), who taught History of Science here for the past two years, and was just delivering a talk @ Penn yesterday which (if I got it right) suggested that the birth control/abortion debate is staged between two extremes, when most of the people in this country situate themselves in the very messy and complicated middle.

My Foremother
Name: Kelsey
Date: 2005-11-16 23:04:07
Link to this Comment: 17035

It is interesting that feminism today is becoming increasingly accepting to different sexualities and gender identities; yet, we generally are not quite as open to the idea of women as sexual beings who might engage is some form of organized industry that involves heterosexual sex. For example, if a woman were to enter a feminist dialogue claiming to be an erotic dancer at a gay club, it is quite possible that her vocation would be more accepted than if she were to state that she was a waitress at Hooters. Why is it that we are much more accepting and sympathetic towards the homosexual/transsexual/ and transvestite men in “Paris is Burning” as opposed to female heterosexual models, pop-stars, actresses, etc.? All of these people thrive upon the image of beauty and opulence, so what makes them different? Why is it that we, as the new generation of feminists, are becoming less and less accepting towards women who actively seek sex with men as opposed to those who actively seek sex with their same gender or both?

I have always found this phenomenon interesting. I will confess that, I myself, would be less likely to judge a lesbian or bi-sexual stripper than a heterosexual one, and I am not quite sure as to why I feel this way. Both women engages her body in a sexual manner and displays it publicly; their only difference is sexual orientation. If feminism is the advocation of women and women’s rights, then shouldn’t our studies include all women regardless if they are gay/strait, exotic dancer/housewife, activist/ pacifist, etc.?

Perhaps this is the reason as to why I have chosen Gayle Rubin as my feminist foremother. In her piece “Thinking Sex,” this feminist writer groups together homosexuals with prostitutes, lesbian feminists with priests, and porn stars with, and feminist anti-pornography to sadomasochism. Quoting Julia Penelope, Rubin writes: “considering anyone in a lustful way makes that person a sexual object rather than a human being worth of dignity” (33). Why is sexual objectification permissible if it is not based on heterosexual patriarchy?

I am not an advocator of feminism, nor do I endorse masculinism; however, I do believe in the academic study of both men and women. How can we work towards equality for women if we label ourselves in a gendered preference? Rubin states:

“Nevertheless, I want to challenge the assumption that feminism is or should be the privileged site of a theory of sexuality. Feminism is the theory of gender opposition. To automatically assume that this makes it the theory of sexual oppression is to fail to distinguish between gender, on one hand, and erotic desire, on the other” (41).

In high school, I always considered myself a strong believer in feminist theory and feminism. However, in college, I am beginning to question the validity behind these two terms. In aligning myself with one gender, and working to promote its voice and power, am I not also being a hypocrite to our cause? The whole idea behind feminism is to combat patriarchy; yet, in this endeavor, are we not endorsing a matriarchy that devalues men? Sexism can not be fought with sexism, nor can homophobia be combated by heterophobia. We need to strike a balance…and I do sincerely believe that it will be our generation (or wave) of gender and sexuality scholars that will accomplish this.

sources--and a challenge!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-17 13:11:25
Link to this Comment: 17049

I e-talked w/ Paula Viterbo today. She's not ready to circulate her paper, but did provide references for a couple of articles that point in the same direction as the talk she just gave--as well as a challenge to you all to come up with comparisons between them and the current abortion situation that would elicit lessons and ideas for action. Here are the references:

Fisher, Kate, and Simon Szreter. ""They Prefer Withdrawal": The Choice of Birth Control in Britain, 1918-1950." Journal of Interdisicplinary History 34, no. 2 (2003).

Rapp, Rayna. "Refusing Prenatal Diagnosis: The Meanings of Bioscience in a Multicultural World." Science, Technology, & Human Values 23, no. 1 (1998): 45-70.

more for Alex et al.
Name: Jen
Date: 2005-11-17 15:26:01
Link to this Comment: 17054

Following up Anne's resources above -- it didn't occur to me to recommend some anthropologists who have worked on issues of reproduction and reproductive technologies. You might look through the articles themselves and/or see who *their* foremothers are by checking there citations...a good place to start is:

Conceiving the new world order : the global politics of reproduction / edited by Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp
Publisher Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, c1995
Descript xii, 450 p. ; 24 cm

B Canaday HQ766 .C574 1995 AVAILABLE

My intro students just turned in their kinship charts for a project. I guess you all are doing your own version of a kinship chart this weekend -- hope you find some meaningful bonds,

that is just..too funny
Name: elle
Date: 2005-11-17 18:49:25
Link to this Comment: 17055

Kathleen Hanna
You are Kathleen Hanna! Poster child of the riot
grrls, you've grown up a little in the last few
years. You've brought rape, feminism,
sexuality, and wymyn surviving hard shit into
the mainstream through art, music, and
spokenword. You're PUNKROCK! But, like, for

Which Western feminist icon are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise right? But man, tough quiz. I could harp on it's limitations but then we'd come full circle wouldn't we..

though radical she might have been..
Name: elle
Date: 2005-11-18 21:19:07
Link to this Comment: 17071

interestingly, I retook the quiz and picked answers that were slightly less ra-ra i'm a post-post modern feminist (see the "I don't believe in this gender construct question"), and I got judith butler.

even more interesting, I retook the quiz and tried to pick the antithesis of my values and got non other than elizabeth cady stanton. woo! there goes using her for my feminist formother..

i dig margaret sanger
Name: alex
Date: 2005-11-19 16:52:02
Link to this Comment: 17076

so lets talk about her on monday. she is basically a pioneer in the "fight(?)" to get birth control out to women, starting the american birth control league in 1921 to fit women for diaphragms, lobbying for birth control legislation, and saying things like "that woman can never call herself free until she is mistress of her own body," in 1918, long before "my body, my choice" became a popular slogan. she also was involved in early planned parenthood programming, and the birth control federation of america, which was planned parenthood before they changed the name. nyu runs a website called the margaret sangers paper project, which has a database of info on the action she took and the papers she wrote and speeches she made about the subject.
sanger worked as a nurse in low-income areas of new york cities where she saw families living off of 18 dollars a week with 6 kids (the family capped off at 11 kids), and saw a problem in this. though her arugments for birth control are based in family settings, they are also applicable in modern day settings where birth control is not only used in family planning, but in family prevention.

Feminist Foremother
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-11-19 17:04:50
Link to this Comment: 17077

Although the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" deems her work to be far from a call for feminist action, I do find myself very much in line with Simone de Beauvoir's ideology and most definitely feel as though she very much a feminist foremother for me.

As the proud feminist that I am, I would say that one of the most fundamental aspects of my own grapplings with forming my political stance on feminism has to do with this call for silence in a way--a silencing of the cacophony of too many quarreling womens' voices. Simone speaks of this "quarrel" when she says, "People have tirelessly sought to prove that woman is superior, inferior, or equal to man. Some say that, having been created after Adam, she is evidently a secondary being; others say on the contrary that Adam was only a rough draft...If we are to gain understanding, we must get out of these ruts; we must discard the vague notions of superiority, inferiority, equality which have hitherto corrupted every discussion of the subject and start afresh." (pp. 686)

A facet of Simone de Beauvoir's ideas that are very grounding for me is in regards to her ideas about how a woman's independence be truly sought when she is in a state of dependency. She feels as though that the situation of woman is that she, even in light of being an autonomous human being, finds herself living in a world of the Other. She has been relegated and objectified there by men. She says, "Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man...thus she is called 'the sex,' by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being...She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute--she is the Other." (pp. 676) Like Simone, it is important that we free ourselves from this confines of relating ourselves to/against men, and rather focus on a way in which female identity can be formed in a new and "full" way.

Simone de Beauvoir also presents a resolution to the problematic idea of how women are merely second-class citizens because of their place as the Other. She says, "..if we imagine...a society in which the equality of the sexes would be concretely realized, this equality would find new expressioin in each individual." (pp.699) She feels as though if little girls were brought up with the same demands, severity, rewards and whatnot as her brothers, the castration complex would be very strongly modified and the child would perceive an androgynous world rather than a masculine one. She goes on to say in reference to the little girl's love for her father, "her love for him would be tinged with a will to emulation and not a feeling of powerlessness; she would not be oriented toward passivity. " (ibid) I have always been a very strong advocate of Ortner's ideas revolving around working with children and their attitudes about gender, and so it is not surprising that I strongly relate and agree with de Beauvoir's ideas about raising like the girl just like a boy to accomplish a true formation of an identity rather than this relegation to the exclusively maternal realm.

I am very much motivated and feel a lot more grounded in my ideas after reading Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex".

The foremother I plan to use in my paper
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-19 22:05:16
Link to this Comment: 17080

So I did some reading (thanks to Jen and Kelsey), and I've decided that Gayle Rubin will be my feminist foremother ... at least for this project. (I'm so fickle!)

Rubin was the obvious choice because "Thinking Sex" looks not only at laws regarding sex and the body, but at the history behind these laws. I already wrote a rough draft for my paper (hate crime legislation), and I found myself drifting using more historical backgrounding than I originally planned.

Also, I'll admit that I love to read theory by people who make me want to, I don't know, get out on the streets and march. I like Rubin's essay because it gets me enraged, gets me thinking.

I liked this line a lot: "Disputes over sexual behavior often become the vehicles for displacing social anxieties, and discharging their attendant emotional intensity" (3). Wow. I mean, I know this essay was written in 1984, but that really rings true today.I know a lot of people think that the gay marriage thing was used for political gain this most recent election year.

Oh, how about this one: "For over a century, no tactic for stirring up erotic hysteria has been more reliable as the appeal to protect children" (7). Sound familiar? I can't help but to think about the boy scouts issue, that thing about Buster the Bunny visiting a lesbian couple on TV last year, and book banning.

So, yes, I like Rubin because she helps me get my head wrapped around the bigger issue surrounding hate crime legislation. When I wrote the paper originally, I knew there was other stuff going on - like, hate crime legislation makes labels necessary because the govt. can't really say they'll protect gay people if they don't define gays and lesbians (and now transgendered people). Also, I knew that historical background played a role, but I wasn't quite sure if I was going in the right direction with how I addressed it. Rubin helped because she showed me one way to go about presenting sex laws and all the stories around it.

diego on my mind
Name: em
Date: 2005-11-20 11:59:29
Link to this Comment: 17093

i also received the label of frida kahlo, which resonates for me as it seems to for kelsey--i have no less than three reproductions of kahlo paintings in my room at home, plus a photograph of the woman herself, who i find fascinating.
i can understand the artistic part and all (though how that was manifested in my answers still remains unclear), however, there is much about frida kahlo that does not jive with my outlook on life. namely, the way she viewed her relationship with her husband, diego, which, besides her crippling bus accident earlier on in her life, was the worst thing to happen to her.
while frida and diego's relationship seems fraught with complex sexual escapades and affairs, and has more of a battleground feel (though both were very supportive of each other's creative work, in all fairness), i find myself returning to my thoughts from earlier in the year that the bed should not be a battlefield. and, similarly, that the work place should not be either.
for my feminist foremother, i find myself turning to naomi wolf, especially her book "the beauty myth" and especially the chapter "work." wolf illustrates the fact that "beauty," from dress codes to hiring processes, has come to define a woman's experience in the work world. she suggests that this preoccupation with beauty is something foisted upon women by a society which causes women to look at themselves as others would look at them--bosses, husbands, lovers. there is always an inherent dissatisfaction with appearance, a viewpoint that "if i just lost 5 pounds..." because women's self worth has become tied up in dress and appearance (which manifests itself in myriad ways, rather than the male "business uniform" of the suit), women consistently undervalue themselves, and are in turn undervalued, stuck in pink-collar ghettos, fired if they reach a certain age, or lose their "bunny image." as gloria steinem famously said, "we are all bunnies." to extend wolf's work, i'd like to argue that, while beauty has indeed become a nebulous and insidious force in the work place, this has sbegun to work hand in hand with the idea of women's intelligence.
the stereotype of the vapid beauty, the dumb blond, she can't cook or type worth a damn but boy is she pretty...once beauty and intelligence became uncoupled, and the image of the small-chested and hairy feminist was raised by the media, it became #1 a liability to be beautiful in the work place, #2 a liability to be ugly in the work place, #3 a liability to be beautiful and intelligent in the work place, and #4 a liability to be ugly and intelligent in the work place. the intelligence factor, i guess i'll call it for now.
careful not to appear too smart, your boss might not like it. careful not to be pretty and smart--your boss might not like it and other women will hate you. actually, don't be smart and act dumb, either. no one likes a cardboard cut-out. and careful not to be ugly--"come on, give us a smile, girl." it's more than shoulder-pads, ladies. the shoulder pad might have been for intimidation purposes, but given wolf's analysis, it should just have well have been a protective garment, shielding women's shoulders from the eyes of men and the criticisms of co-workers...a faux tie becomes a noose. high heels? the better to chase you down when you're wearing them, my dear.
this seems to have taken a very grimm turn...and i apologize, but my feminist dander is up...

Feminist Foremother
Name: Kat
Date: 2005-11-20 14:03:15
Link to this Comment: 17096

After taking the quiz about 10 times and looking through countless essays, I decided to use Gloria Steinem as my Feminist Foremother. The juxtaposition of her sucess as a founder of the modern feminist movement and her work as a playboy bunny in the seventies, as well as her views on sex (which indirectly declare her as a sex-positive feminist) will all be huge contributions to my argument. In an interview with Cynthia Gorey, she said "So we'd be sitting there on bar stools and going out and propositioning sailors and Boy Scouts, and so on. That was my defiant, glorious vision." Her contributions to the feminist movement are mostly (if unpurposefully) related to her vision of women as sexual beings and that we should not allow ourselves to be judged solely as "bunnies" but as also out for our own pleasure.

Audre Lorde
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-20 14:59:44
Link to this Comment: 17097

The "Who is your feminist foremother" quiz came up with Audre Lorde. and although my paper will not necessarily use her exact words, she still influences my desire to speak about issues that concern me as a woman of color and as a feminist. Who was Audre Lorde? She was a black activist, feminist poet mother warrior whose words inspired and moved a generation of women, especially lesbians of color. One of my first introductions to her work was as a contributor to the phenomenal anthology, “This Bridge Called My Back, Writings By Radical Women of Color”. and her essay, “The Masters Tool Will Never Dismantle The Masters House” still informs and inspires me as a feminist. In fact, many of the voices represented in this anthology really speak to the need to think about how your lived experience informs you and shapes you and your community. This book vividly talks about how racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia has oppressed/oppresses women (and our choices) and as far as I can tell this cause is not over...

In thinking about how reproductive technologies affect our world today, I want to make sure to keep the voices of the people, in particular the women whose lives are affected by these technologies, in the forefront.

From the essay:
“In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action. The failure of the academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. Divide and conquer, in our world must become define and empower.”
Audre Lorde, from This Bridge Called my Back” Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, 1983

Feminist and Foremother
Name: talya
Date: 2005-11-20 16:15:21
Link to this Comment: 17099

When I took the quiz i was:

You are Kathleen Hanna! Poster child of the riot grrls, you've grown up a little in the last few years. You've brought rape, feminism, sexuality, and wymyn surviving hard shit into the mainstream through art, music, and spokenword. You're PUNKROCK! But, like, for real.

Yes, so....

I chose to read about Sojourner Truth and her speeches made mid 1800s. She was a woman who believed that she had worked as hard as men and therefore deseverved every oportunity that they deserved, no more, no less...

some sunday afternoon trailblazing
Name: Lindsay Up
Date: 2005-11-20 17:12:18
Link to this Comment: 17100

The quiz designates my feminist foremother as Simone de Beauvoir, but for the purposes of my upcoming essay I chose to read Helene CixousˇŻ The Laugh of the Medusa. You can see the influence of The Second Sex in her essay, so I suppose de Beauvoir is really my feminist grand-mere!

One really interesting, fantastic thing about Cixous that speaks to my essay topic is that she did not want to be called a feminist. Apparently, she shares my apprehensions about perpetuating the structure of opposition between the sexes. Using Lacan as a jump-off, she explodes phallogocentric language in her own language, calling for a writing of the female body in an ecriture feminine. She calls for a defetishizing of language: men have used it to assuage castration anxiety. But since women have nothing to lose, in womenˇŻs writing the economy is destroyed, the pattern is broken.

The woman as the recipient of blame is a nauseating trope in the book IˇŻm reading about how boys are falling behind in education (Christina Hoff SommersˇŻ ˇ°The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming our Young Menˇ±). Cixous says that woman needs to become TAKER of speech, writing, political action, instead of having the role of the Guilty One imposed upon her. She concludes:

ˇ°Opposition, hierarchizing exchange, the struggle for mastery which can end only in at least one death (one masterˇŞone slave, or two nonmasters ˇŮ two dead)ˇŞall that comes from a period in time governed by phallocentric values. The fact that this period extends into the present doesnˇŻt prevent woman from starting the history of life somewhere else. Elsewhere, she givesˇ­This is an ˇ°economyˇ± that can no longer be put in economic terms.ˇ±

There is such a thing as sexual difference, but to accept the see-saw is to remain static. Women and men still have everything to discover and to write.

ˇ°In one another we will never be lacking.ˇ±

love and politics.
Name: orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-20 19:57:56
Link to this Comment: 17101

Both bell hooks and Judith Butler condemn Jennie Linvingston for failing to be aware of herself as taking on the role of "insider on excursion into the dark realms of the forest culture" in her film 'paris is burning.' Butler critisizes hooks for restricting "her remarks to black men in the film" ignoring the fact that "the 'houses' are organized in part along ethinic lines" (Butler, 134). hook's indirect critisism of Livingston was her desire to be innocent. hooks writes, "livingston assumes a priviledged location of "innocence"" (hooks, 151). hooks continues, "the supposedly 'outsider' position is primarily located in the experience of whiteness" (hooks, 152). the observer, according to hooks, is never innocent. "The laughter was never innocent" (hooks, 154). in the Big Picture Sceme it is only the one who inhabits the dominant Inside who can venture as voyeur into the Outside. the Outsider is not, however, welcomed to innocently observe the inside. the ability to exercise certain action speaks not only to one's ability, but, crucially, to another's inability. Livingston's mobility indirectly references another's immobility. when it gets down to life off screen, when life is no longer spectacle, i wonder where people go? where is home? while livingston provides a home on-screen for these people what happens when this frame is gone? what is the structure of their home?

it seems, however, that not only is the subject doomed to an existence that is its failure to reinstate ideology: not only is the subject doomed to imperfect movement: of never being good enough; but hooks seems, too, to say that the subject comes into existence not through simple failure, but a failure that harms others: a guilty failure. while butler writes in "the psychic life of power" that the subject comes into a melancholic existence, hooks might say that the this melancholy is not the result of a solely self-reflexive gaze, but the result of an awareness of how one has harmed another: it's the result of realizing one's relation to another as harmful to the other.

i can deal with the idea of being that which consistently fails. i may even (some day) learn to shape my failure into art. i cannot, however, deal with the idea that i am because i hurt others. the better to not be. i understand the implications of hooks saying, "the laughter was never innocent." and when we layer each other in criticism, when butler condemns hooks for not being self-reflexive enough to write about ethic diversities in the film ... we are created in the moment that we trespass into another's space, in the moment we violate another's being. that is the moment of birth. a rape of sorts.

i don't know what to do with that. i don't like politics bc i dont want the guilt that inscribes by soul in every single movement of self-reflexion. i'd rather be oblivious.

new choice
Name: Kat
Date: 2005-11-22 20:50:54
Link to this Comment: 17150

After hours of searching for useful information, I have decided to jump on the book bandwagon and use Gayle Rubin as my feminist foremother. Her piece, Thinking Sex, alone contains more useful information than three hours of researching Gloria Steinem produced. I know its kind of last minute but just a head's up.

bright blots and striving spirits
Name: orah minde
Date: 2005-11-23 07:31:03
Link to this Comment: 17152

This sonnet has always seemed relevant to Foucault. and now it also seems relevant to hooks (butler is a little more hopeful (i think?)?)

"Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,--behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it--he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not" P.B. Shelly

have wonderful thanksgivings, friends.

my paper
Name: anna
Date: 2005-11-23 08:36:19
Link to this Comment: 17153

PhDs or Families Both?

“The first thing senior counselors will ask you is, ‘What are your plans for grad-school?’ it’s the most annoying thing ever” said one senior. She went on to say, “I remember in French class, we were all going around the room using the new vocabulary to say what we were going to do after graduation…this one girl said she was going to be a stay-at-home mom…there was a collective gasp that went through the room”.
Does Bryn Mawr set us up, as students, to value our possible PhDs more than our future families? And if so, where do these pressures come from or originate from? It is quite possible that it is Bryn Mawr’s history that squeezes us into this routine where we cheer on the academics and loose sight of the domestics. Our traditions, our past and present heads of school, our honor code, all of these facets of Bryn-Mawr-life highlight our “need” for PhDs before families. Prospective families may very well be optional to the Bryn Mawr graduate, but here, a PhD is not held in quite the same regard.
The first major tradition we encounter as new, timid freshwomen is Lantern Night. We rehearse, arrive in costume, sing and stand superstitiously in perfect rows, impatiently awaiting our very own lanterns – the very symbol of our acceptance into the “club”. All three-hundred-plus lanterns arrive behind their owners, glowing with life. When the festivities within the Cloisters have ended, some flames are already out. For those students whose lanterns still burn – either brightly or dimly – there may be a sensation of anticipation as we sit and watch. Whichever lantern dies out first indicates that its owner will be the first to get married. The last lantern “standing” indicates that its owner will be the first to obtain her PhD. No one hopes for her lantern to blow out first. We all sit, waiting and watching, hoping that ours lasts the longest – while trying to remember it’s only a silly tradition. Being someone whose lantern went out first amongst my group of friends, I knew it was not a good thing. Upperclasswomen laughed, pitied me, and shook their heads jokingly commenting on “what a waste – marriage”. It is instilled from the very traditions that we practice that wanting a family as our main goal is nothing to brag about. We are supposed to stay in school as long as possible: be fierce, scholarly, and single.
Apparently, being single is a tradition even the majority of our presidents try to uphold. Not all succeed, but it is 2005 and as of now, our president, Nancy J. Vickers, is single. She received her bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke in 1967 and then both her master's and doctorate in philosophy degrees from Yale University in 1971 and 1976, respectively. She was a determined scholar and avid learner – a true Bryn Mawr woman at heart. Vickers represents Bryn Mawr College and she is a woman who went “all the way” in her schooling and has remained single to this day. She is clearly a believer in single-sex education, supporting the founding principles of Bryn Mawr: to have an institution where young women would be able to study like men.
M. Carey Thomas was the second president in Bryn Mawr College history. In 1901 she was recorded saying in her article “Should the Higher Education of Women Differ from That of Men?”
"Women while in college ought to have the broadest possible education. This college education should be the same as men's, not only because there is but one best education, but because men's and women's effectiveness and happiness and the welfare of the generation to come after them will be vastly increased if their college education has given them the same intellectual training and the same scholarly and moral ideals."

M. Carey Thomas, who was a ferocious fighter against suggestions that a woman’s mind was “as unlike [a man’s] as their bodies,” sparked a controversy of her own when she was reported to have said, “Only our failures wed.” The important work of caring for homes and children, work that Vickers adds is still “disproportionately assigned to women”, should not be undervalued because of the academic world. However, women should not have to forego marriage and motherhood in order to succeed in academia. Thomas apparently later corrected her statement by saying, “Our failures only wed” meaning that when a woman graduates from Bryn Mawr and does nothing more than mother, she is a failure. One sophomore commented, “Afterwards you are supposed to do something with what you have been given [here at Bryn Marw]…I think there is a pressure to not just be a Sally Homemaker but a Sally Homemaker and more”. So now the expectation is to graduate and either a) get a PhD and remain single in the “man’s academic world” or, b) get a PhD and marry, maintain a family, care for them, and simultaneously remain in the “man’s academic world”. Does Bryn Mawr allow women (both students and professors) to view family-life as a viable option?
In a rather unofficial way, I have been asking women (students) here how they feel about attending Bryn Mawr and if they feel there are pressures. One girl thought hard about where the pressures of Bryn Mawr were coming from – because she definitely felt pressures – and concluded that it was the long-standing, academic reputation that added so much pressure. “Maybe the academic expectations…since [Bryn Mawr expects] so much of us academically, and that it’s that notion of ‘we know you have it in you, just do it’...that if we were to do anything different, anything less – anything having to do with housewifery – it would be unacceptable”.
So perhaps the history of Bryn Mawr never stays firmly behind us (or, another way of looking at it is that the history is both behind us and what pushes us). Perhaps it is then better to say, “Perhaps the history of Bryn Mawr never stays firmly buried behind us”. M. Carey Thomas’ presence still inhabits this campus. This is evident because Vickers is still, as recently as March 2005, dealing with Thomas’ comments regarding graduates getting “wed”.
Conceivably it is what Bryn Mawr stands for within each of us (its students) that drives or pushes us to want our PhDs or value them over our want for families. We are confronted with society's ever-present, daily view that a housewife is nothing more than a "typical woman" – we might even go so far as to make assumptions about her intelligence or perseverance because she deals with babies and band aids instead of doctors and surgical tape. I certainly feel that as Bryn Mawr women, we "should" be fighting to get out of the mold that is “housewife”, and strive to be the specialty that is “doctor” but I do not believe grad school to be the only road to take.
The truth is: we came to Bryn Mawr for a reason. Right now, in a sense, school is like having a full-time job. When asked where she thought the pressures for the PhD were coming from, one young woman remarked, “I think it’s all the hype about Bryn Mawr. I think we make the stress ourselves”. With the institution of an honor code, we instill within ourselves the need to strive and succeed – it is a personal competition in which anxieties internally run high.
These thoughts make me circle back in thinking that it is the history of Bryn Mawr, the foundation of this institution, which acts as the leading specter here on campus. We are haunted by our history which then jumps in the driver’s seat in order to “better” guide our determination; determination which is resolute – to obtain PhDs post-graduation rather than husbands, wives or babies.

Name: gina smith
Date: 2005-11-27 16:14:03
Link to this Comment: 17170

male to female
Name: gina smith
Date: 2005-11-27 16:29:00
Link to this Comment: 17171

mstart to dress as a girl at 5 dress in my mums clouthes .my brother moslet me in hiding i started wearing make up now i still do it . right now i am wear a mini skirt can you tell where to go thank you gina smith

Virginia Woolf
Name: Kelsey
Date: 2005-11-27 20:00:27
Link to this Comment: 17174

Although Virginia Woolf offers a very interesting critique of gender politics, I find it disturbing to follow her arguments. She opens with a very loaded question: "How, in your opinion, are we to prevent war?" Although she knows that this questions is "doomed to failure," since "when before has an educated man asked a woman how in her opinion war can be prevented?" What concerns me is that the critiques Woolf raises through her questions such as this remain true today. Men continue to be seen as the promoters of war, and women the advocators of peace. More importantly, the “educated” seem to advocate peace much more than the “non-educated.” For example, if one were to take a survey on advocators of war from a college campus (like Haverford) versus a working-class high-school educated community (like Waco, TX), who do you think would be the more likely to be against warfare?

However, here is where the paradox lies. The majority of soldiers and volunteers in the armed forces are non-college graduates. They are the ones who have been, and continue to, go to war for our country. Very few of the educated elite, who strive to protect “culture and intellectual liberty,” would ever dream of enlisting into the armed forces. Although I do not agree with warfare, especially the one we are in now, I also believe that it is hypocritical to criticize those who fight for the country that we benefit from living in. Woolf claims:

“The majority of men today favor war in spite of being educated. This leads to the question "what sort of education will teach the young to hate war?" Unfortunately education of the young has focused on teaching them how to use rather than how to abhor the use of force. Since all the money has been going primarily to men's colleges, maybe it's time to support women's colleges, but only if they are rebuilt versions of men's colleges.”

The women’s colleges have become slightly “re-built” male colleges, and within these elite structures, anti-war sentiment has vastly increased from the 1930’s. In a way, the vision that Virginia Woolf spoke of in “Three Guineas” is becoming more of a reality. However, the egalitarian society that she promotes will always be tied to class more than gender. One, whether they are male or female, rarely attends an “elite” college with the intention of becoming a soldier. I think the more complicated question is: How do we support our troops without supporting war? Woolf speaks of a bridge between culture and intellectual liberty and the death and ruins of war. Although I want to agree with Woolf that we must work to prevent war and promote justice and liberty for both men and women, I remain uncertain as to if there is a concrete way to execute these very idealistic ideologies.

Woolf musings
Name: Patricia F
Date: 2005-11-27 20:50:42
Link to this Comment: 17175

I felt some ideas that Woolf presents resonated with Simone de Beauvoir--for instance, her ideas about the "infantile fixation" and how this is problematic being that it leads to the fathers asserting ideas that she lists as such..."Homes are the real place of the women....Let them go back to their homes....Women must not rule over men....Let them learn to cook our dinners....Women have failed." (pp. 141) De Beauvoir speaks of trying to get away with the castration complex/Oedipal complex because of the severe backlash it has on women.

Also, in line with the book me and my fellow authors are writing, I felt that she presents an interesting idea about resistance to discourse. "But as a result the answer to your question must be that we can best help you prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods. We can best help you to prevent war not by joining your society but by remaining outside your society but in co-operation with its aim." (pp. 143) She seems to be suggesting a "pleasure-dome" of sorts--perhaps not by utilizing the current discourse, but by introducing a new discourse and constructing a "dome" of her own--but still maintaining good relations with the existing "dome".

I found Woolf's sense of humor extremely amusing. It was hard to definitely know what was supposed to be sarcastic and what was not supposed to be, but I very much enjoyed the part about beauty in regards to how the "Society of Outsiders" would deal with it. " will be one of their aims to increase private beauty; the beauty of spring, summer, autumn; the beauty of flowers, silks, clothes; the beauty which not only ever field and wood but every barrow in Oxford Street..." (pp. 114)

I felt as though this book was written in a way that exuded confidence in a way that felt like it was coming from a man, even though I always knew it wasn't. Even the lack of paragraphs--no real stops between ideas--but it was like a contained and more "logical" version of Molly's chapter in "Ulysses". There was something powerful--even "masculine" about her writing--that I feel as though she planned in some way.

your two cents
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-28 11:36:46
Link to this Comment: 17182

Kelsey and Patricia have initiated this week's forum: what do you find useful, what problematic, in the sort of feminist action Virginia Woolf advocates in Three Guineas?

Name: Kelsey
Date: 2005-11-28 14:51:45
Link to this Comment: 17192

All I ask is this:

Does anyone in this class honestly strive for poverty, chastity, derision, freedon from "real" loyalties in the context that Virginia Woolf proposes?

And if so, how useful and practical is this stance to political action within a western dialogue?

Name: alex
Date: 2005-11-28 15:05:05
Link to this Comment: 17193

i am perplexed by our discussion today. woolf says that women can help find an answer to the question of war through our differences from men- but how? i agree that women are socialized differently, and are different, from men, but i owuld like a concrete idea of how that difference helps us to "cure" war. of is woolf simply saying that women are not inclined towards war because of our differences?
more on what i said about her plan not sounding like any fun- her version of poverty seems to be really dependant on how much the individual feels he/she/it needs to sustain that "modicum of health, leisure, and knowledge.. needed for the full development of body and mind." to some, that may mean enough money for a summer house in europe that gives them the opportunity to learn new language and culture. for others, that may mean enough money to pay the electric bill each month. so this inconsistency on what it means to be "poverty" stricken may mean that some "poverty stricken" people are actually quite poor and others are very upper class.
her version of chastity and of derision do not appeal to me because i feel like my reasons for a lot of my actions involve monetary compensation or reception of praise. this is how humans work- this is how all organisms work: if you teach a dog a trick and dont reward it afterward, it wont see the point in doing the trick just because you say so. so although woolf's high minded opinion on rewards, monetary or otherwise, may help to reduce the incidence of war, it goes against the nature of (most) humans. perhaps i do not have enough faith in humanity. perhaps i am just lazy and cynical and everyone else in the world would offer up her knowledge and skills without being rewarded in any way. but i doubt it.
and as for woolf's notion of freedom from unreal loyalties, i think ill leave that one to kat. i like what amy was saying about the difference from general pride and pride in that which benefits you at the extent of others- that does seem kind of cruel. without this pride, people would not have a reason to defend intrinsic elements of their identities, which seems bad to me. but perhaps woolf is suggesting that this defense is the problem, and that if you remove the pride, you remove the defense, and you therefore remove the problem. if i have no pride in my being american, i am much less likely to fight a war for the american nation. that makes sense. but i do have a certain element of pride for america, mostly due to my gratefulness for the opportunities my family has had here, but i still would not pick up arms in its defense. tho i am proud of being american, i am not so proud that i am willing to die for this sense of pride. perhaps that is the difference between men and women- the manifestation of pride as a route through which you must prove your honorable-ness (if youre a man) or as something that can be discarded as soon as the discussion becomes one of life and death (if youre me- i dont want to speak for other women).

womb perfume
Name: orah minde
Date: 2005-11-28 16:57:19
Link to this Comment: 17202

can we make a distinction between "outside space" and "margins" ? i think of margins as bound to a relation with text: always in reference to. outside space seems to imply a new environment around which we may create our own limits. and yet the term "outside" is referential to interior space. i wrote in my last essay about an essay called "The Technology of Gender" by Teresa De Lauretis in which she writes that resistance is the habitation of the "off-space," unfilmed, implied space: margin space. This is a form of resistence bc its movement directly forms interior space. is woolf less concerned with the form of interior/masculine space? maybe not. but she seems less concerned than lauretis about the reformation of interior space. she writes, "we, remaining outside, will experiemnt not with public means in public but with private means in private. those experiments will not be merely critical but creative" (113). Lauretis suggests a critical reformation. Woolf is more radical, i think, she suggests a creative critique.

woolf finally writes, "we can best help you to prevent war not by joining your society but by remaining outside your society but in co-operation with its aim. that aim is the same for us both." as much as she emphasizes the chasm of different experience that seperates, her punchline is that we are gazing in the same direction. and maybe the difference will be beneficial in our search : if we all stood on the same ground : if there was no diveristy of experience, and there was still war, then the effort for peace would repeatedly fail. we stand, however, apart. There is margin-ground and text-ground and an unbreechable chasm between. the nature of land effects the voice: the internal harmony of the body connects the feet to the legs to the torso to the mind to the voice box. the feet feel the ground. BUT, the eyes see distant lands. sight-lines cast from text-space see the same distant lands as the lines cast from margin-space. and that vision is brought into body. all bodies. we speak a common language-vision of peace tinged with homeland accents. OR, we stumble through two-language conversation : understanding nothing except the FEW common words : "Peace," "War," "Death," "Life" ... this chasm is so wide that we cannot see across; instead, we cast transparent lifelines loosely woven with word. ...

it is the hem of virginia's text that makes me so digress. maybe she is my feminist foremother. i, too, am inclined to feed "feminism" to the word-shredder. i do not know what the word means to me. am not inclined to think about it. would rather leave it in a ditch and move on. we stick ourselves to words so easily. they are worthless, we must remember, detached from what they represent. when the space between the word and the world fills with fog we must reconsider our attachment to the word.

so, i proceed to contemplate the design of the womb-interior that holds me curled as i grow. we are our mothers after all. OR, we discover our mothers in our inclinations. ... maybe more later.

Comment on Woolf
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-11-29 19:41:13
Link to this Comment: 17215

I can't stop thinking about the discussion we had about separating ourselves from poverty, chastity, derision, and unreal loyalties.

I understand what she's saying - really, I do. And in some ideal world, her ideas just might work. But I'm uncomfortable with following her directions in regards to my life. I can't help but to feel that if we refuse to praise those with extraordinary minds or refuse to work to achieve access to a lauded university, we will all linger in some smoothering pool of mediocrity.

This may be because of my background experience in private schools, and please feel free to call me on that, but I worked hard in middle school so I could go to a good high school. Then I worked hard again to make it to Bryn Mawr. And I understand what Woolf is saying - that this isn't a real loyalty. Bryn Mawr is just a name and it should be an entity of learning, and only that. But in many ways it's not just a name. It's a place built out of a reputation in learning and challenging its students. It also has a bit of a bad reputation in some ways - we can't just forget that M. Carey Thomas was only interested in educating the white and privileged. And we still have a long way to go. But just because there are some negative clouds around Bryn Mawr, I'm not willing to dismiss my school pride. Perhaps this is shallow; but I feel good knowing that I worked hard to go here. I feel good knowing that when I apply to grad school, people will know that I must have worked hard in college because I went to BMC. More than just an "unreal loyalty," Bryn Mawr is a way for me to say that I'm willing to work my ass off in academia. It's a way for me to say that I'm willing to dedicate myself to higher learning.

Also, I don't think preventing war is as easy as repudiating poverty, chastity, derision, and unreal loyalties. No matter what you do, humans will find a way to find. That sounds incredibly cynical, but I really think it's true.

Who Knows?
Name: Talya
Date: 2005-11-29 19:44:12
Link to this Comment: 17216

I am still struggling to try to understand all of the connections that Woolf makes. I would like to say that I see her point and agree with what she says because I think that she is making good statements and points but I don't really see the relevance that she does.

I don't understand why she suggests that one must be influenced by poverty, chastity, derision, and freedom from unreal loyalties. I don't think that they are all necessary or even desirable. I don't think that there is an individual who has the ability to hold all of these principles equally.

Kat made a very good point in class on Monday: having pride in something doesn't necessarily mean that you think that it's better than something else it just means that you can be proud of it for itself. Whatever creates the pride can be pure without any connection to another something.

I'm still trying to figure out why she connects war, women's colleges, and women's prof. work orgs. because I don't see the relationship. I see that an educated woman can help create a prof org. and then that org can have influence over issues such as war, but I don't think that they are intertwined.

stepping back
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-11-29 22:19:21
Link to this Comment: 17220

It's interesting to me how folks are so torn about Woolf's proposal and whether or not they can do as she asks in their lives. From my vantage point, not coming from any of the places Woolf talks about, not having a history in establishments such as Bryn Mawr...makes me at once disagree about her points about "pride"...because I MUST believe in the prestige of Bryn Mawr to help me somehow have better chances in this world. But I can also extrapolate from her the idea that perhaps as humans we have not always been warmongers, that societies had once lived a peaceful existence with only what they could grow or get from the sea. It is for want of material goods, it is the imperialism of conquest she wants us to move away from. It seems that the cynicism people have is from only thinking in terms of a western, dominant, capitalist idea of what society can be.

Dismissing my school pride would dismiss the main reason why I chose to come to Bryn Mawr...

I am SO frustrated
Name: Kat
Date: 2005-11-29 22:54:34
Link to this Comment: 17221

I am so frustrated with this book. Actually, I'm just frustrated with the author. No matter how much I tried to move past the pride section, it remained with me til the end. I think it's incredibly ridiculous for her to say we should move away from our pride in the things we do because those are the things that make up who we are. I'm sure there is some kind of philosophical argument we could get into that would go somethign along the lines of "the things you do don't make you who you are, its the way you help the world" or some other corny line like that. But, against the spirit of this class and some of my own hesitations, I have to draw the line here. I am what I do. The things that I do are representative of who I am because it follows what I enjoy, am good at or believe. The actions I take are all representative of who I am because they are choice that I MYSELF have made. And while I think conceit is a very unattractive characteristic, I see no problem with having a little pride in one's own accomplishments. If no one ever accomplished anything, where would we be? There certainly wouldn't be places like Bryn Mawr, and if there were, it definitely wouldn't have the reputation it does.

I don't care that most people here have earned more praise than God in the Bible belt...thats what made me want to come here in the first place! And since I'm already in a radical statement mode I'm just going to say this: I love that I attend and will graduate from an institution whose reputation alone puts my resume above others in the pile; that it makes people go "oh wow, thats a really good school". I didn't work my ass off in high school to coast along in mediocrity. Do you think I or anyone else at Bryn Mawr got in because we didn't possess something that makes us attractive to the academic community? Not a chance. Judge me if you will but I have pride in my accoladed accomplishments because it has gotten me where I am now. Sure there have been times when I thought I deserved a speech award and someone else got it or I wanted to dance with THAT boy but he picked some other girl instead or I wanted to start in a field hockey game but someone else got my spot. But after I got over it, it was ammunition to do something better, to push harder so that I didn't get squeezed out again. I feel that pride in yourself is a survival tactic because if everything you do, no matter how good or bad, just rolls off and isn't acknowledged, how are you supposed to determine anything about your own caliber? And perhaps this is an allusion to the hierarchal system Woolf so negatively described. The problem with this idealistic, "don't-be-proud-of-unreal-things" is that it is exactly that: idealistic and incredibly unrealistic. If we are to live in a capitalist society, there is always going to be a hierarchy. I am not saying poverty is necessary, nor is it good but at this point, it is what it is and not taking pride in your own accomplishments doesn't make the wealth gap in this country diminish.

Name: em
Date: 2005-11-30 09:35:25
Link to this Comment: 17225

reading three guineas has come at an interesting time for me, because i've pretty much committed myself to going to grad school (if they'll have me) and becoming a professor. so when anne was asking on monday if this was discouraging anyone from entering academia, i kept on wanting to smack the table with my hand and say "no! we need woolf now more than ever!"
i feel that what woolf elucidates at the end of her well-thought-out argument is exactly the kind of life-theory i have been working towards for a long time now. i understand this is not a lifestyle that everyone is interested in or should be interested in... but i think that social mavericks will always have value. i'm not saying i've achieved or will achieve all of the things that woolf lays out, but i definitely find them useful to think about.
1. poverty. i am a small person. i want a small space of my own in which to read and cook and raise children. i want enough money to get by comfortably, with enough left over to donate to charity. i want a beat up old car that's safe and dependable and i'll tell anyone who visits my house who is cold to put on a sweater. i'll pack food in tupperware, and grow a lot of what my family eats.
2. chastity. throughout my life i've worked towards becoming a better person. i think that part of being a good person is having an uncompromising outlook on the value of the mind, no matter what the leadership of this country is telling citizens at the moment. i don't believe them--i believe that intellectuals doing good hard work on current issues are not subversives, but extremely important facets of society.
3. derision. i will not lie and say i am not proud of some of my accomplishments, and that i love bryn mawr. however, i think this one can still be useful, especially if applied to academia: tenure. unfortunately, the struggle for tenure can come to define academics' careers, and i don't think this struggle will be absent in my future. however (and i forgot to mention this because i was so intrigued about sharing my gender-queer story from break), i had an awesome conversation with a professor from rutgers over break who specializes in poverty policy. she was talking about her path to tenure, and how she had two children along the way. we were discussing the difficulties inherent in the tenure process for women, and she expressed hope that more women would begin having children as they sought tenure. "we need more big, pregnant women visible in the academic world. we need to do this hard work of attaining our goals AND having a family so that the women who come after us have an easier time of it," she said. so to look long and hard at tenure and academic awards and realize what they represent, and, even if those awards must be achieved, to maintain chastity and truthfulness to oneself in the process of achieving them.
4. freedom... this one is also tricky. certainly we have pride for our families and all, but i think we're all safe. we've seen what excessive pride in religion and country can do across the world--fundamentalism is the example that's coming to mind here... of which i believe the U.S. is both a victim and a perpetuant. there needs to be love and support of families and values, i just think woolf is condemning the ways in which this turns to excessive pride and inflicts harm upon others.
this is my little thought-essay for a wednesday morning. call me up in five years and ask me if i'm using tupperware.

Name: elle
Date: 2005-11-30 12:26:17
Link to this Comment: 17226

I wanted to reiterate the reason I feel I can really empathize with Woolf’s argument. Even after Paul's talk, I still believe that gender is a social construction. It is upon this principle that Woolf lays out her argument. She does not argue that men are born naturally seeking war, or with qualitites like bravado or superiority complexes. She starts from a base understanding of the constructions within which men gain these traits, which ultimately lead to competition and war:"Here, immediately, are three reasons which lead your sex to fight; war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement; and it is also an outlet for manly qualities, without which men would deteriorate. But...these feelings and opinions are by no means universally held by your sex". These "Manly qualities are the ones taught, without which there would be no such thing as "man" in her society. The category itself would disappear if there was no collective audience of people to fit the bill.

I agree that the way these traits are perpetuated come from the idea that "it is better to kill than to be killed". The superiority that stems from having the power to kill first breeds nationalism, and patriotism. However, the "pride" that is nationalism that I think Woolf is against is not the same as the feelings of happiness that come with a less weighted accomplishment. I think she is talking about what male pride looks like, and how it leads to war:"Has she been ‘greatly blessed’ in England? History and biography when questioned would seem to show that her position in the home of freedom has been different from her brother’s; and psychology would seem to hint that history is not without its effect upon mind and body. Therefore her interpretation of the word ‘patriotism’ may well differ from his".

It does make sense. We're not talking about the child that gets congratulated for doing well on a test, we're talking about the measure of the test itself. What is it trying to prove, how is this what we call education. What are we telling this child when we congratulate them and not others. it's not just about the "you are better than them", it's "this is what good looks like". That's what creates superiority.

And on a side note, I feel like this is a classic example of how far we haven’t really come:
"The first fact was that the income of the W.S.P.U. upon which Mr Joad has based his estimate of their wealth was (in the year 1912 at the height of their activity) Ł42,000.[5] The second fact was that: ‘To earn Ł250 a year is quite an achievement even for a highly qualified woman with years of experience".
Now it's 73 cents to the dollar. Woolf may be dated, but she's not THAT dated. We're still playing the boy's game. If that game is "I’m better than you", "equality" within that is a myth.

deaf speakers
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2005-11-30 15:50:11
Link to this Comment: 17234

as class/self evaluation time comes near i thought i'd make some observations public.

One of the reasons that i am such a bad talker is because my father is such a good one. i wonder if other's share the experience of never having learned how to translate interiority into exterior space. my father's excessive articulation skills enabled me, i think, to go through a long period without learning to articulate. the problem with that, however, is that despite the fact that he seemed to be able to articulate for me, he does not have access to my interior. as interiors become more complex, his ability to guess, or infer my interior becomes less possible. therefore, as I grow inarticulateness becomes more and more problematic: interior space becomes isolated. i must learn to build bridges between spaces.

to get something in 'edgewise' means that the space into which it must fit is not wide enough and it, therefore, must be turned on its narrow (edge) side in order to fit. in terms of conversation this means that the silence between speakers is not very wide. realizing this we dart our pin-words in quick to ensure that they get in. we must be competant word-formers, or else the act of transfering from interior to exterior will not occur. we must, therefore, be time-efficient: we begin formation BEFORE silence so that when the silence comes we can project precisely. and the silence shrinks and shrinks until we are darting words into the tails of other's sentances.

in learning how to articulate ourselves have we lost the ability to listen. OR, through experience, have we learned that the only way to be heard is not to hear? is the only way to build bridges to knock down other's?

of my classes this semester this is the only class in which conversation seems to be determined by this type of overlap. two of my other classes are co-ed classes. i have found that the male students in my classes respond to what has been said, while our conversation seems to be a semi-messy pile of interiors. why do i find male students to be better listeners? i have spent my whole life NOT getting words in edgewise. and am now having to learn how to get words in. and its hard to simultaneously work on the important skill of listening. women are famous for being good listeners. but maybe being forced into the listener position by over-articulate men has reversed our roles: women are bad listeners because we are always trying to make up for a never-learned skill, and men, contrarily, are good listeners because they can put effort into developing that skill.

Genital Female Operations
Name: Kelsey
Date: 2005-11-30 22:04:14
Link to this Comment: 17248

Concerning international politics, the term “culture” and what it means to be culturally identifiable to a particular society is becoming increasingly complicated. The defining of “authentic cultural practices” is a phenomenon that persists to be a practical tool for defining ownership over a particular historical custom or form of property, and thus, the unacknowledged “common thread” that Woody speaks of linking critics and relativists of female gender operations hold true within the language of many research analysis studying international practices, especially those of third world nations.

The reason as to why one’s “authentic cultural identity” is so hard to define and label is because it simply does not exist. Authenticity, culture, and identity are all synthetic terms that are used to locate and describe a certain type of people or society for practical purposes; and it is within this practicality that the actual people and their societies become over-simplified and stereotyped. The goal of anthropology is to delineate these typecasts. People and their societies can not be placed into a neat structural box where they are made to be static artifacts of modern interpretation. This constraining tactic holds fixed an imagined illustration that only serves to simplify categories of people for those who seek to assume ownership over them; and thus, her critique of unintentionally defining “us” versus “them” is valid.

I appreciate that Woody called attention to the problematic discourse labeling female genital operations as a “cultural ritual,” and therefore, a practice that is rooted in a “non-modern/non-Western” tradition that “we,” as the much more “educated and knowledgeable scholars” hold more worth in out analytic critique than those women who actually experience clitoridectomy and infibuiation.

And yet, although we are automatically disgusted that our Western culture is infiltrating (and/or colonizing) other nations, this remains an inevitable fact. Woody addresses this problem when reviewing the essays of the girls:

“These students argued that the practice was “bad” because it was forbidden by President Moi and by Christianity…one female student states that it was a way of “destroying female bodies”…Were (these) objections based on Christian teaching “authentic,” or was this simply another way their voices has been colonized?” (Woody, 411)

Interestingly, on the flip side, four of the girls used the English term “custom” to defend circumcision ceremonies: ‘The four young women assured me that their “custom,” as it was called in English, was good” (Woody, 411). It is interesting that in order to communicate their thoughts towards female genital operations to a “Western” anthropologist, both groups of women felt that they had to incorporate Western language in order to defend their stance.

Like the unconscious mergence of these women’s language accommodating Western conceptions of female genital operations as a “third world concept,” we too are unconscious of our mergence with potentially dangerous alliances in today’s feminist dialogue, which is think Woody articulates beautifully:

“And ust, as the young women in Kikhorne might have strategically merged their “voices” with more powerful others such as Church and State, so too can we ask how those of us participating in these international controversies are strageically merging our “voices” with one or more of the powerful discourses of feminism, cultural nationalism, relativism, humanism, and to be blunt, racism?” ( Woody, 430)

Woody’s call to be skeptic of complete alignment with those groups who are more powerful is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s critique of maintaining, what Dr. Patico defines as “critical distance”…and her argument has helped me appreciate Woolf much more than I had when first reading The Three Guineas. Perhaps, I also can go to bed with her.

Woolf is my feminist grand-foremother
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-11-30 22:26:18
Link to this Comment: 17250

so maybe darwin is right and animals really only strive for survival and life is a competition, based on who is best. however, this analysis is coming from a western point of view. should we resign ourselves to the way "nature made us"? is this idea of nature just a construction in itself? there are other ways to think about how we and other animals are and how we could be. i do not think this question of competition is as simple as it's the way we are and the way it is good for us to be. i was really surprised by the comment about us not all being equal and some of us are better than others at different things (i'm not sure who said that). while i think that individuals have different talents, i think that this is a really scary statement. i mean, why is it that some of us are better? do we all have an equal opportunity to explore our talents, or are some of us stunted due to social conditions? how do I know that I'm smarter than the guy next to me on the R100...because i'm going to have a degree from bryn mawr and he's asking me for 60 cents for a transfer? and what about the different things that people are better at? we place greater or lesser values on different talents. thank you capitalism.

samantha explains that this line of thinking exists in western capitalism. yeah, i think that capitalism creates this mindset, because it's all about competition. kelsey sees getting rid of this as unrealistic, because it is part of the world we live in. well, what if i don't want to live in that kind of world? is it unrealistic of me to work in my life towards socialism? and speaking of socialism and offense talya, but i am so sick of people saying that communism doesn't work. first of all, because in the places that it has been tried were not post-industrial countries, and therefore did not have the conditions in existance that marx talked about. and secondly, what makes people think that capitalism works so well? i mean look at the state our country is in. i don't think we are a success. we have a rediculous wealth gap, a terrible health care system, a messed up education system, and tons of other crap going on. no thank you. "you may say i'm a dreamer..."

About being at Bryn Mawr. Over the summer I really enjoyed telling people that I went to Bryn Mawr. I felt the pride of going to an elite institution for the first time in my life and I was taking advantage of it as much as I could. I think this had a lot to do with having broken up with a boyfriend who was always critical of college and big name institutions, and finally being able to express the pride that i had bottled up. i would like to point out that being at bryn mawr can mean very many different things to people. for some it may mean being at a distiguished liberal arts college, for others it signifies academic excellence, others it symbolizes woman power, etc. one of the problems with being so loyal to bryn mawr though, is that it undermines our feelings about other institutions. i know that bryn mawr will always hold a special place in my heart and mind, this place may be very deranged and ambivalent, but it's there. does that place preclude me valuing other institutions, even for example, a community college? not necessarily. but really, how do you feel about them?

Also about being at Bryn Mawr. I think being at a women's college is an invaluable experience. the question of whether or not it prepares us for the real world is one that has always baffled me, yet it is a prevalent question. prepares us for the real world? what is that supposed to mean anyway? like being in an environment of all women is so sheltering that when i get out into the "real world" i'll be shaking in my vegan shoes because of the big scary male execs walking by. whatever. the other thing is, i'd like this to be my "real world" when i get out. well, not exactly like bryn mawr, but i'd like to be in an enviroment that is somewhat seperatist. call me a man-hating lesbian.

today there was a woman from the democratic party bashing cheney outside the post office. she was collecting money to campaign to get him outed out of office. i thought about virginia woolf and her three guineas, and whether she would give this woman a guinea. i thought about where i put my guineas in our exercise and if i would rather give my money to other organizations. i figured that this group was probably in the peace organizations container, so i did give her a guinea. i wondered too, why it was a woman out there, and not a man. are women still doing a lot of extra work for the peace movement? i also wondered why those other organizations that i would donate to were not also sitting outside the post office asking for donations.

but serioiusly, why do so many of us think that woolf's argument is about pride in the manner that we did, and why are we so adamant about not letting that go? think about it and check that priviledge.

woolf as... jesus?
Name: em
Date: 2005-12-01 00:01:41
Link to this Comment: 17252

i've been reading this month's harper's, and there's an article entitled "jesus without the miracles: thomas jefferson's bible and the gospel of thomas," and the writer, erik reece, looks at what happened when thomas jefferson excised all the miracles etc. from jesus's life and put together what is known today as the jefferson bible. reece summarizes jesus's teachings as emphasized by thomas jefferson as follows:
-be just; justice comes from virtue, which comes from the heart.
-treat people the way we want them to treat us.
-always work for peaceful resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with compassion.
-consider valuable the things that have no material value.
-do not judge others.
-do not bear grudges.
-be modest and unpretentious.
-give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.

this seems to have some really interesting resonances with woolf's four directives. and it also makes me really intrigued by the idea of jesus being an extreme radical for his time... and woolf's time... and this time... ?

Name: anna
Date: 2005-12-01 00:25:20
Link to this Comment: 17253

i didnt have time to post before class today, (wednesday) but i think i made my points heard in class anyway. i read woolfs words as a reminder for us to remain humble. pride is a form of hierarchy which therefore does not make me happy. in my own imagination i thought rather than comparing each others accomplishments and achievements, to use our varrying intellect to come to the aid of others. i dont know. her writing was very smart. no yelling from a high horse...she knew her audience very well (which, in the letter, was directed to a wealthy, educated, older man) and played her cards well. woolf never came off as being "smarter" than her correspondant - though her sarcasm may or may not have gone unnoticed - she remained humble and careful throughout the piece. i was impressed by her witty and intellectually stimulating language and found myself ready to jump on board with her!

the west and the rest
Name: alex
Date: 2005-12-01 22:36:07
Link to this Comment: 17269

while reading the article on female genital modifications, i experienced a mixture of utter horror at the idea of having that done to my body and confusion as to why so many women in the third world go along with it. i like what the author says that using tradition as an excuse for such procedures is illegitimate, because the weight of this tradition wipes out any chance women may have to make their own decisions about whether or not to be "modified." i think i agree with this- at first i considered cultural relativism to be a defense for fgm, in my attempts to be worldly and to think outside of what my socialization process has told me is appropriate. but when i get right down to it, i think fgm is real messed up and i pity women who think it's ok because it's part of their "culture" and they need to maintain that. culture is not static- just because a culture practiced fgm in pre colonial times doesnt mean it should still be done today. the author mentions this point on page 420 ("the discourse on genital operations understands culture as ahistorical "customs" or "traditions.").
i am conflicted however, because i hate the idea of the modern american 1st world trying to tell "the rest" of humanity what is and what is not acceptable. part of me wants to say that everyone should keep to his/her own business and allow the matters of others (other people, villages, cultures, countries, whatever) to remain within the realm of those others. but that isnt really practical on a larger scale. so does it actually help to have american feminist screaming from rooftops about the horrors of fgm? are the women of the third world going to see that they have been brainwashed into thinking that they could not say no to a clitoridectomy? or are these women willing to sacrifice their genitals to maintain their culture's unique identity?

last question!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-12-03 15:13:30
Link to this Comment: 17283

How does our last reading, Walley's essay on "Searching for Voices," contribute to the on-going conversation we've been having about "categories"? Did you agree with her conclusions about the uses and abuses of "culture" in political struggles? Do you think she successfully walks the line between "cultural imperialism" and apathy?

no more trust in words
Name: Patricia
Date: 2005-12-04 11:53:02
Link to this Comment: 17287

How does our last reading, Walley's essay on "Searching for Voices," contribute to the on-going conversation we've been having about "categories"? Did you agree with her conclusions about the uses and abuses of "culture" in political struggles? Do you think she successfully walks the line between "cultural imperialism" and apathy?

Hmmm...I did not know that taking this class would cause me to not place too much trust in words--but that is what I've been feeling! Most definitely in this article. I think that, like Wolff and her desire to be rid fo the word "feminism", perhaps the word "culture" is extremely problematic for feminists all over the world today. I think that I've become so fixated on language and the power that is embedded within language that it has really kept on my desire to create Coleridge's "pleasure-dome"--just so that there could be a place where words did not have meaning so deeply embedded within them. If anyone has read Kristeva, the literary critic, she argues that linguistics has this underlying drive--that there is this "choric" voice that is unable to be explicitly defined, but allows for this idea that a word is not just a word--there are drives/meanings/feelings deeply embedded within that word. I really do feel as though that is true and resonates very much with Walley's ideas about "culture" and "tradition".

It may seem like daunting idea--to reinvent words without meanings/notions attached to them, but I think that by bringing Judith Butler into the article Walley creates an idea. For Butler, she does not identity politics because they specify a definitions of some sort for something that is very complex--a "static essence" such as human experiences and identities. There is a link that Walley tries to make between Butler's negative view about identity politics and the concept of "culture" that is very interesting to me. She says, "While historically, the concept of "culture" provided a space that allowed for respect and understanding of differences, "identity politics" has similarly provided dominated groups with an arena for organizing and demanding rights...Hardened conceptions of "culture" can suggest both insurmountable barriers between "us" and "them" and a predertermined "authenticity" to which individuals are pressured to conform." (pp. 429) How do we free words like "culture" from the grasps of deep-seeded American notions? Are we entitled to make judgment calls on what women in Kenya do with their bodies if we are not even speaking the same "language"--not literally, but their "culture" is a completely different word to us as it is to them.

Walley notes
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-12-04 12:32:23
Link to this Comment: 17288

At first, I thought this essay would be difficult to read because of the nature of the topic, female genital mutilation, or as Walley writes, “female genital operations.” Because I can imagine the pain this practice might inflict, it had been difficult to imagine how I could “validate” this practice in cultures outside of my own. However, in thinking about this and in reading Walley’s essay, I realize the assumptions I make with little to go on other than accounts by Westerners that have been clearly biased by American values. Walley has added another layer of consideration in thinking about how we categorize and how it can be problematic when making assumptions about practices outside of our culture.

Walley challenges us as women and “feminists”(for those who feel comfortable with this title) “to encourage feminists of whatever national origins, race, or gender to work against those assumptions being made in Western-oriented media accounts of female genital operations that reproduce colonial and neocolonial ideologies. Walley, 430)” I take her to be pushing to move away from either/or scenarios because they only serve to propagate divisions between “us” and “them” rather than focusing on the issue at hand. She uses FGM/FGO as an example to begin to phrase the kinds of questions that might help elucidate the practices (Walley, 429)
I am not sure if she walks a line between “cultural imperialism” and “apathy” because I don’t think she advocates a dichotomy (either/or).

Several quotes from this essay I think warrant highlighting:

“Colonial representations that reified male domination as ‘traditional’ throught the Third World [sic] ignored the ways in which colonialism, and the economic transformation that accompanied it, systematically oppressed both colonized women and men.”

“Modern medical discourse may in fact perform the dual role of using the “objective language” of science to construct the issue as outside of ‘culture,’ while simultaneously offering a sanitized way of continuing the preoccupation with the genitalia and sexuality of African women.”

“Euro-American institutions and values are depicted as exemplars of culture-free reason and rationality, as represented in particularly Western medicine. This binary distinction between a rational West and an overly traditional and cultured “rest” has been underscored in the oppositional literature by emphatic attention to the health problems associated with such practices.”

[all of these quotes are from Walley’s essay, Searching for “Voices”: Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debate over Female Genital Operations]

Name: Kat
Date: 2005-12-04 14:16:12
Link to this Comment: 17289

Every time I hear about fgm, I literally tense up because I am so horrified. It sounds like some kind of medieval torture intended to get secrets out of you, not a praised cultural practice. Part of me struggles with "First World (see American) guilt" because I don't think it is our business to change the culture of another country or ethnicity. But the part of me that is a woman is enraged. I understand cultures are incredibly revered, especially in Third World countries but when do we hit the point where culture intersects with cruelty and there's no way around it? Circumcision performed on men is an entirely different entity than when it is performed on women. Cutting off the better part of a man's penis is equivalent to slicing a woman's clitoris so to say that "both boys and girls have it done so its ok" is total bullshit. I am frustrated by this relativist perspective Walley mentions because I equate it with apathy. Any woman who has ever been controlled by a man, which I would venture to guess is almost every woman at one point or another, should understand at some level how frightening that is and how difficult it is to get out of. I am not trying to impose the "sister" category that Cherrie Moraga so decidedly goes against; I am not naive enough to think all women should all relate perfectly because we are women. Instead, it is a feeling of fear or anger or sadness or excitement brought on because some man listened to society when it taught that women are not to be left to their own devices. That feeling should be enough to kill the cultural relativist apathy so many women feel toward fgm. Would you do that to your daughter? Your sister? Your granddaughter?

I do think it's incredibly interesting that the best way men can come up with to control women is to cut off the most direct way to orgasm. This leads me to believe that female sexuality is more powerful than men can handle and therefore is a real threat to male power.

response to reading
Name: em
Date: 2005-12-04 16:43:10
Link to this Comment: 17290

there is a point in the article where the author cites another paper which details some of the reasons for fgm. one of the arguments is that it is beneficial because it leaves women less enslaved to their sexual desires than men, and therefore less impulsive.
if this is really the goal of fgm, then couldn't this just be done societally, as it is in the US, where girls are taught that men's sexuality makes them much more impulsive and hard to control, and women's sexuality is seen as more repressed and chaste?

Name: anna
Date: 2005-12-04 19:36:27
Link to this Comment: 17291

ahhh female genital mutilation...what a tricky tricky subject. it makes my toes curl. the power of female sexuality is impressive though, no? i mean - men have to cut "it" off in order to feel dominant. sometimes i try and think about female genital mutilation in steps...for example, every religion has ways to make sure some people are dominant and some are subordinate. veils are a fairly well-known religious subordination of women (and whether or not it's subordination is an argument for another time...just take it as an example). chassidic jewish communities have married women shave their heads in order to be less appealing to other men (and then they wear a wig). fgm seems like it follows suit...i just have trouble wrapping my brain around the disease, infection, and pain that's nauseating. the truth is though, it's not really the US's job to monitor the rest of the world. as a woman i feel outraged that something so horrible is happening to other women, but i often feel as though my hands are tied because no one elected us the world supervisor!

im left frustrated...which is...well, not unusual for a post-fem-gen-reading!

power re-distribution?
Name: orah minde
Date: 2005-12-04 19:38:39
Link to this Comment: 17292

it seems a nice sentiment for Dawit and Mekuria to write, "Neither Alice Walker nor any of us here can speak for them; but if we have the power and resources, we can create the room for them to speak, and to speak with us as well" (Walley, 428). I learned in my last post about the danger of being spoken for; i wonder, however, about the danger of speaking in a space created by another. while foucault says that power in always in relation: there is, at any given moment, a dominator and dominated, it is important that this relation is always in flux, never static. there seems not to be much of a power re-distribution in the shift from speaking for another and creating a space for another.

Name: talya
Date: 2005-12-04 21:25:19
Link to this Comment: 17294

Please excuse the randomness of this post. There was an attempt to keep some order yet this is a topic that I am incredibly passionate about so...

I should preface this by saying that one of my favorite books, and has been since I was in 7th grade, is "The Temple of My Familiar" by Alice Walker. Because of this, I looked into reading many more books by Walker including "Possessing the Secret of Joy".

I have always been very much about "forward thinking" in a feminist sense, except when it comes to levels of convention, at least for me. I have always been very much against all forms of female circumcision, in my mind it is a way of hurting women, often too young to know any other way.

On the other hand, if I have a baby boy I fully plan on having him circumcised when he is 8 days old. Now, I see the hypocritical nature of this but my beliefs did enable me to understand what Walley was expressing; well, at least what I got from what she was saying.

Both my culture and religion tell me that male circumcision is okay; it has also become accepted, even common, in the modern 1st world aka America. I can understand why many people would suggest that it is torture and mutilation and completely unacceptable; particularly because it is being done to a child who can’t, under any circumstances, speak up for himself one way or another. However, despite all of that, it will still happen to my child.

I spent this summer doing community services for an organization that stressed the importance of responding to the community’s needs when acting: it wasn’t about what we thought was important and necessary for them, it was about what they needed for their community. Since we didn’t live there or like them, our needs were on a completely different playing field than theirs were. We didn’t understand how they lived or why certain things where important to them. Goodness knows they didn’t understand some of the many things that are important to us that are totally superfluous.

Now, I thought that I would begin this post and express my dismay at the entire practice and idea of female circumcision. But I can’t. I don’t think that it’s humane and don’t think that it should be done in the settings in which it is done if it continues (rusty metal, glass, etc) but I can’t say that I don’t, on some level, understand. Which, in and of itself frightens me because it is something that I have always been taught is horrifying and completely unacceptable.

Walley is right in her description of the conflict between tradition and culture and feminism. Feminism is a Western construct (as said by my neighbor) and therefore has no place in something like this. There is definitely an issue when it comes to our society because there is automatically a huge conflict.

I’m not saying that it should be ignored, I don’t think that it should. I also don’t think that the reasons are valid (limiting a woman’s sexual excitability) and I don’t think that it is safe. But I also truly can’t say the idea isn’t perhaps stemming from something with entirely good intentions that has gone astray.

There is clearly some sort of importance in these ceremonies. They mean something to both the men and women involved, otherwise, I think that there would be a mainstream complaint heard and understood by all, not simply those who read Alice Walker or Walley.

I knew that I wasn’t sure where this would lead me, and I’m still not sure where it did lead me. All I know is that I don’t feel the right to judge, which would be exactly what I was doing, something that I don’t understand. I can’t write it off because it’s different and it’s not a part of my life.

I’m still as confused as I was, and I’d like to have a specific answer and conclusion but I don’t. I’d like to talk to someone who has been a part of the culture where it is an integral aspect of maturity. Even then, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a decision.

Name: talya
Date: 2005-12-04 21:28:39
Link to this Comment: 17295

i just want to point out that women don't have to shave their heads in chassidic judaism and they don't have to wear wigs, they simply have to have it short and covered after they're married. Considering that they would not be showing their hair to anyone for modesty's sake the length and cut are not to keep men away. It partially has to do with a woman's desired relationship with g-d.

just wanted to add that...

Post about FGM
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-12-05 05:00:26
Link to this Comment: 17298

The first time I heard about female genital operations was during my Anthropology 102 course last semester. We read an article by Corinne Kratz called "Circumcision, Pluralism and Dilemmas of Cultural Relativism." This was our first reading, and Prof. Woodhouse-Beyer used it as a way for us to talk about cultural relativism.

I remember talking about that reading with my two roommates that night. One was of the opinion that FGM was abhorrent and there was no excuse for it, and the other one spent a great deal of time trying to convince her that it was a cultural practice that we had no right judging.

I have this desire to bow out of our discussion because I am completely and utterly inable to look at the practice with a gaze of cultural relativism. I am aware I speak from a middle class, white perspective, and yet I can't get myself that worked up over my bias. Usually, I try hard to look at both sides of the story and when I can't, I feel upset with my own limitations. But I can't be upset with myself here because I can't look at both sides of the story, even with Walley's careful warnings. Of course I don't believe that we can tell other cultures what to do, but I think about the chronic pain, infections, and control exerted by a few simple cuts, and I can't find the words or desire to say that this practice is "okay" - and now I cringe at that word because where the heck do I find the authority to make a judgement call like that?

I think it was the section on page 423 that really cemented my feelings for me. Walley says, "The colonial discourse on female genital operations in Africa resembles that on other practices such as sari (widow-burning) in India, foot-binding in China, and veiling in Muslim societies." And I thought, What makes FGM any different from sari? Why should we stand for hurting bodies but not murder? And if we don't stand for it, what can we do anyway, since we shouldn't push our way into another country's practices?

I don't know. I can clearly say how I feel about the practice and I can't bring myself to think with the careful cultural relativism that Walley does. I have no idea what we Americans should say about this or what we have a right to say. I can only speak for my own feelings, not for actions I "should" or "shouldn't" take. What about countries where women can be killed for rape because it's consider adultery? Or countries where gays can still be imprisoned and beaten? Since chastity and heterosexuality can be considered part of a culture, where do these practices stand? And what do we say, or what should we have a right to say? I don't know.

Name: elle
Date: 2005-12-05 11:39:35
Link to this Comment: 17304

It's interesting that the two names for this procedure are female "circumcision", and Female Genital Mutilation. There really isn't a space for it- it's either the woman's version of what a man could have "down there", you know....where it's..female (?)(even though it's totally different to circumcision), or, it's Female Genital Mutilation- the key word being mutilation. It's all categories and cultural relativism; either we are defining things in opposition to each other (male/female), or we are defining cultures's against one another (we call it a procedure, you call it mutilation). While I can criticize the choices made by these definitions, I don't feel, however, like I have a better suggestion. How could I come up with a new category for this "thing", the cutting/slicing/removal/mutilation/medical without defining it in relation to something else? It wouldn't make sense. But if we can't, then the default are the biased words, set is stone by practices that are so defined by men or in opposition or relation to men that I want to scream. It feels so hopeless- it really is a mans world. Is the only way around this to flip it so that everything is in relation to/ defined by "woman"? What is the point of fighting for "women's" rights? "women's rights" is set in opposition to the current state of the world- men rule (Will changing the semantics change the way we treat people?) I fight for women's rights within a mans world, how far is that going to get us? How "reclaiming" is the word feminist if all of our discussions are within a structure that does not belong to us, it belongs to men? All action seems so dwarfed by the structure within which it's trying to rebel against.

So what then, is my point, and what am I fighting for? I'm not going to role over and give up..but what do I do?

And what happens when these questions cross borders and get asked of different cultures of women, different individuals? Cultural sensitivity is a serious issue- I have no right to tell another country what to do, right? But "FGM" doesn't seem too have rave reviews from too many of the women "receiving" it.

I feel so pressed to find a place where my "voice" is heard, but right now it's feels unrealistic. I think what I’m feeling right now is that I don't know if I like who's "listening" (or not, as the case may be for those representing my feelings toward "FGM" worldwide). I feel like the kid who stole the Microphone at the wedding party and told them all about how unfairly treated me and my buddies have been treated: "aw, that's cute, look at her being all defiant. I think she needs a nap".

Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-12-07 23:34:20
Link to this Comment: 17344

When I was in Soc 225: Women In Society, we watched a video on the subject. Women from the US went to villages in Africa where women were against the practice, and did these workshops to empower the women. It was pretty cool. Until there was a section on an 8 year old girl getting the surgery done. They didn't show her genitalia, but you could see her face and hear her screams. After seeing that, it's difficult to be theoretically opposed to intervening. Something should be done. Not because these people have primitive practices and are barbaric, but because FGM hurts.

I totally agree with the idea that we need to take out the log from our own eye though, before we remove someone else's splinter. I feel we can do this concurrently. I feel that people are trying to work on this, but it seems that we may have slowed down. There is only so much groups can do while the fashion industry and the rest of the media contines to portray "perfection".

Name: elle
Date: 2005-12-08 22:28:00
Link to this Comment: 17355

i agree with amy, but it's this intervention that i feel poses a risk. Who would interven? and how? who is we? If you were to go into a country that practices FGM, what would you do or say?

Jimmy Corrigan
Name: Kat
Date: 2005-12-12 11:22:01
Link to this Comment: 17374

i didnt like Jimmy Corrigan, mainly because of the way the book was set up. I'm not a fan of graphic novels and nor am I a fan of women as body parts. The images of legs and lips and breasts standing in for human beings is incredibly frustrating and sad because it shows how little ground we have really covered. While I can see how this is one view of masculinity I would suggest that if Jimmy Corrigan is to be kept on the syllabus perhaps there could also be another view of masculinity, perhaps a more pro-women selection, so that both sides were visible.

Name: Kat
Date: 2005-12-12 12:17:33
Link to this Comment: 17375

After going through this course, I went back and re-read Barrie Thorne's essay to see if my original thoughts still rang true. I think gender is a construct of culture and is reinforced daily by every aspect of society. Families know that their sons should not like pink and should want to play with trucks, not dolls. They know that they should put their daughters in dresses and teach them the importance of being lady like. I think its incredibly interesting how this reinforcement of gender roles exists blatantly in elementary schools, my own included. While I went through a rather extended phase of not wanting to wear anythign but dresses or skirts, I also always loved sports and hated pink. Ironically, now that I hardly wear dresses and skirts, I love pink. I have yet to decide whether this is a coincidence or a great case for psychoanalysis. Regardless, my experiences in elementary school were very gendered, especially considering the effort my teachers made to bring boys and girls together. It was a very together but inequal environment, except the girls were the ones who were more empowered. Looking back, I was never made to feel like I was less because I was a girl but instead, I was made to feel like I was more because I was a girl. The boys were usually blamed or in trouble or generally just called on less which may have been a product of true inadequacy or perhaps overcompensation for years of discrimination. While this situation worked very well for me (and apparently went against the grain) I wonder what effect it had on the more capable boys. I was never conditioned to not speak because I was a girl, which has carried through all the way from first grade (and sometimes got me in trouble). However, I wonder if that act of empowerment might become a disservice later in life, seeing as the "real world" doesnt function that way. I would like to think that I am better prepared because I have no fear about expressing my views but maybe I'm just being too hopeful.

Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2006-10-05 12:27:14
Link to this Comment: 20617

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