I just read an article in the most recent Curve magazine issue (which was themed around the concept of lesbian families) called “Back to School: How to Choose an LGBT-positive school for your child.” This article was mostly written from the perspective of queer parents choosing a school for their child of whatever gender or orientation, based on the priority of finding an environment that is LGBT-affirming. The article suggests approaching potential schools with a checklist of questions such as “do school forms specify ‘parent/guardian’ rather than ‘mother/father’?...Are any teachers out?...How does the school address issues of gender diversity?...Does the school encourage or support gender-diverse expressions and play?”. Obviously, things have changed a lot since I was in elementary school, and I’m glad to see it.
The sun still hasn't set on International Women's Day here in Portland. Here's a brief round-up of some blog reading from around the web celebrating IWD and this year's theme, "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures." Make sure to leave any more recommended readings in the comments!
Discussions around sex and sexuality can sometimes be dignified by being medicalized or being couched in the terms of education. But sometimes that very frankness makes these discussions culturally unacceptable, even alongside completely normalized images of sexualized bodies, themes of promiscuity, and genres of “romance” that serve as thin excuses to repeat a hackneyed story about sexual conquest.
This conception of empiricism—what it means to do “good,” “reliable,” and “valid” science—constrains what work can be done in the future. The exclusions “necessitated” by these models of research aren’t an accident either—broadly speaking, the conception of rationalism underpinning the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment came out of white, Western, bourgeois and aristocratic thought. Also, the scientific and social scientific paradigm that reigns in university research (and in much of the private, state-sanctioned research programs) says that many types of studies require a certain-sized subject population in order to claim statistical validity. So studies about, say, queer people or trans people, or queer trans people, are often thwarted by the comparatively smaller numbers of folks who a) feel comfortable being out to a group of strangers in a clinical environment, b) feel comfortable exploring potentially sensitive issues in the context of their unequal status as a research subject, c) even believe in this type of research, and d) are targeted by researchers’ advertisements or happen to see such adverts.
This post is about exclusion and the ethics of disagreement. Not exclusion by a dominant society of marginalized populations, but rather the selective practices of alliance and exclusion in anti-oppressive political circles. The theme I want to use to think through these questions is one of maintaining family ties (chosen family, birth family, or otherwise). I wonder if the idea of “unconditional care” (not to say this is the actual experience of all or many families!) or the practice of making a distinction between thinking critically and being critical/making ethical judgments versus being judgmental might help to foster an ethics of disagreement within social justice communities prone to being divided by political differences. I’m thinking of examples from school-based groups, to civic community organizations, to online commenter communities like the ever-changing group drawn into conversation by Bitch.
My position right now is that it’s crucial that as we work to produce ourselves and others as people with critical consciousness—especially in schools, and not just in Women’s and Gender Studies classes—and that a feminist consciousness is a vital part of that for people of all genders and sexes. But all learning is a process, so I look forward to you challenging or complicating my views!
The crux of my confusion lies in the way that people who agree on the basic premise that social inequality exists and needs to be addressed sometimes fracture themselves by fighting about how to accomplish this goal, while the seeming majority blithely naturalizes inequalities, perpetuates systemic prejudices, and authorizes the erasure of difference—all while throwing out phrases like "that's gay" with impunity. As an activist, I’m not really sure where I fit into all this, or what my purpose is.
Anyone else have perspectives on these tensions? I have so many more questions than answers.
This is the final post in my "Double Rainbow" guest blog series. I've had a great time with this guest blog, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it. As part of wrapping up the series, I wanted to leave you with something fun. In the spirit of finding autists in popular fiction, I'm going to speculate about a character whom I almost included in my Valentine's Day post, but who I ultimately decided to save until the end.
I'm talking about Elphaba Thropp, as she appears in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked.
Yep. I think the Wicked Witch is a little bit autistic.
If I could time travel without, like, disrupting the space-time continuum, one of the many things I would tell a younger me would be that: It’s not the interest in appearance that’s wrong, it’s how you do it. Fascination with the visual is something as broad as the history of human signing (as well as something that underlies ubiquitous ableism in the social and built environment, since not everyone has the ability to see said visual). Sometimes I like to put it in perspective for myself like this—if I were thinking about non-Western cultural and aesthetic forms, I would be less likely to criticize and more likely to think about these practices as a way of being culturally competent, enjoying shared symbols, and evoking continuity with a cultural history.
Look, I get that Angelina Jolie is thin, and that she also burns the brightest of all of our Bright Hollywood Stars and is therefore subject to more scrutiny than your average woman. However, body snarking of the "eat a sammich, skinny" variety is hardly different from body snarking of the "stop eating sammiches, fatty" variety that we (hopefully) know better than to post in our Facebook feeds. Yet I've seen lots of people across the World Wide Web today—including people I know to be smart, savvy feminists—crack wise about Jolie's arms, legs, and weight as if, because she's beautiful and thin, policing and commenting on her body is more than acceptable.