After discussing Valentine’s issue with categorizing “transgender” folks, we discussed ways to explain “transgender” and “Gender Studies” to outsiders . This made me begin to think as to why this was so difficult; I started to rack my brain to find a cookie-cutter solution to this issue. However, every explanation required my use of Gender Studies’s jargon or entailed a long-winded response. This made me think: Who are we, really? Yes, we have the jargon, the feeling of community, and the willingness to explore others who are different from us, but what does that really mean if it cannot be applied? Are we so inclusive that our ideas, beliefs, and knowledge can only related to by each other and others who can understand the terms which we discuss? This only seems to be a portion of the battle for a structure which allows equality, understanding, and change. This brings me back to one of my original questions: Where can Gender Studies actually be applied? Especially to those individuals who Valentine encountered. Are we also guilty of creating a structure and culture which speaks in terms of the categorical? Can we relate successfully with people from other cultures, classes, and society? I don’t really know, but in this blog I will seek to create a solution to the question, “Who are we?”. This, however, is only my interpretation.

 

For one, we are department which speaks to “society” in defense of the “Queer”. The queer who needs to be recognized in this one-track minded society in order to gain equal status and legitimacy. Equality and acceptance are at the top of the agenda which makes our target the “big, bad wolf”, society. A society which gives unearned privileges to some and discriminates against others. We swear that those who have these unearned privileges are to blame, yet within our logic, we grant privilege to the most queer and leave those who can fend for themselves, to do exactly that. Now, this is not to say that we queer folks have no agency, that would be a sin to imply. But, is our way to counteract society by asserting our knowledges to be truth any better? Now, take a deep breath, we must remind ourselves that we are “the good guy”. Even though we have good intentions, will our knowledge ever help those who need it most? Will it really make things better in our society? I think its too soon to tell. This may seem like a pessimistic approach to a subject which we all love and identify with, but I am only attempting to be critical of our approaches.

I think that we are even we are obsessed with power, even though, we try to balance it out, it’s really one of the main subjects we explore in Gender Studies. At this point, are we any better than the big bad wolf? In this search, I am constantly thinking about Foucault’s revelation that “we are the Victorian prude”. Just as people during the Sexual Revolution thought that they were freed from the Victorian prude sexuality, are we Gender Studies folk freed from a society which is obsessed with power? Now, I dont mean to be offensive by any means, I just wonder if an education, which denotes power, is even necessary to be considered a Gender Studies major? If we believe what I think most of us do, why do we consider ourselves the masters, the innovators, the activists? Really, I think Gender Studies needs to be from the ground up; it’s everywhere and this is why it is so difficult to describe. Experience and “street smarts” need to be incorporated into Gender Studies. The transgendered identity has offered us a starting place to see experience equal to knowledge, but in the world I’m imagining, Gender Studies needs to be more like a lab, where we are constantly in touch with those who may have different knowledge to offer us and our understandings. We cannot isolate them from the classroom, we must bring the classroom to them and let each body of knowledge  be incorporated into a flow chart of understanding, for if we only take our knowledge from what is on the paper we read, we are no better than the “power prude” of modern society.

Now, this is all to be taken with a grain of salt, for I cannot speak for everyone and their experiences and knowledge; some may even consider themselves to be doing what I have described. But, all I am saying is that who we are, is not just a funded program at a university who answers to an institution; we are people who have the potential to exceed the education we receive, if only we truly acknowledged those who are not “us”, queer or not, educated or not.

This is more of a call to begin a conversation than a well thought out solution, I must add; to me it makes sense, but I may be getting ahead of myself. I just wonder what will become of us in years to come. Will we be looked at as people within society who were obsessed with identity and power? I certainly hope not…. Now, I have to go wash my mouth out.

-Katie Schaffer

Advertisements