Today, I watched the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with friends who enjoy the “innocence” and apple spice of Christmas just as much as I do. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched any of these specials, but I knew I was avoiding these shows for a reason…(drum roll)……… gender studies (cue dramatic secret-has-been-revealed music). For these Christmas specials and other things I used to enjoy as a young and ignorant adult, gender studies has crushed. But don’t worry, I’m still in love with hir.

This week, in the crushing realities a gender studies major has learned and applied to media, is the subject of the inappropriate/d. In Donna Haraway’s text, “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others”, the subject of non-normative people and beings is discussed. Currently, and for most of written history, the “other” has become one that needs to be fixed and/or completely erased from society. Haraway shows that society replicates itself, and therefore never changes; no difference is visible. The differences that an “unintelligible” person may possess should be seen as differences, and not as problems, according to Haraway. Because these people are not intelligible, they become inappropriated within the context that they exist. She argues against the stasis of existence within a society, and instead suggests that the focus and acceptance of difference be introduced.

In Rudolph, the main character Rudolph, his friend Hermey the elf who wants to be a dentist, and The Island of Misfit Toys are viewed in the common theme of the misfit. Rudolph’s red nose makes him stand out. Even though it is only a cosmetic difference between himself and the other reindeer, they still wouldn’t let him play in any reindeer games (like Monopoly, lolz).  His father even attempted to cover the bright nose by placing a fake black one over it, but once the others discovered it, Rudolph decided to run away from the reindeer who could not read him. Hermey becomes inappropriated by the other elves when he announces his desires to become a dentist instead of a toy-maker. The head elf scolds him, and this prompts Hermey to run away as well. Rudolph and Hermey find each other, and decide to become unintelligible together, when they run into Yukon Cornelius, the greedy prospector who claims to own the North Pole. They all run away from the Abominable Snowman and find the Island of Misfit Toys. Rudolph and Hermey learn of all these others who have become unintelligble and therefore useless to their societies, and come to the only place where they can be understood. Their differences are recognized, and they bond through this.

There’s more plot and blah blah blah, and now we are at the moment. One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say (ho ho ho), “Rudolph, with your inappropriated nose so bright, won’t you put yourself to use now and guide my sleigh tonight, even though I was an asshole before I needed you?” And everyone cheers; Hermey is allowed to become a dentist, and the misfit toys find homes. Although everyone is recognized and accepted for their differences, as Haraway suggests should happen in societies, the misfits are only still intelligible when the context has changed. Rudolph is only intelligible and appropriated once there is a use for his bright red nose, and the rest of the misfits’ “acceptance” follows only because of the guideline the story must follow to be successful with audiences. Rudolph went down in history, as an example of the inappropriated other who only becomes intelligible when put to good use. If only Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen had taken Gender Studies 101 instead of reindeer games.

-Eleanor Stevenson

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When we read and discussed Donna Haraway’s The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropraite/d Others and discussed it I was very much interested in the idea of inappropriated others.  It is very clear how this term relates to gender because a not being heterosexual or dis-identifying with the gender they are “supposed” to identify with makes some people uncomfortable.  Therefore, people who are not seen as “normal” are considered others who cannot fit into society.  This lack of acceptance is incredibly common and is something that it seems we all must deal with because that is how people are.  But as I thought about it more I realized that if people are taught at a young age to be more accepting than this idea of an “inapropriated other” would be less prominent.

 

            When I was in middle school my parents had me attend a tiny private Quaker school in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina.  I didn’t enjoy this school when I went there, but looking back on my time there I realize that there were a few amazing things about this school that other schools just didn’t have. 

 

Let me explain.

 

            During my 6th grade year a boy named Spencer visited the school for a day to see if he would like to attend the next year.  This at first seemed to have no meaning because several kids visited our school each year, and most were eventually forgotten about.  Spencer was one of these kids.  For my 7th grade year a few new students came to the school, including a 6th grade girl named Spencer.  Because my middle school was so small, everyone knew everyone, and everyone noticed when someone was not there.  One day Spencer did not show up to school, and on that same day the entire school was called for a meeting.  The teacher sat the students in a large room and told us that Spencer was not at school that day because she wanted the teachers to tell us something.  She wanted us to know that she was transgendered.  The teachers reminded us of the boy Spencer that visited the school the previous year and how she told her parents that she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.  One student asked why Spencer wanted the teachers to tell us this, and one responded by saying that Spencer didn’t want to lie and did not want someone to find out and be surprised.  Another teacher responded to that by saying “and I think that’s very cool.”  We were then told that we should try to make Spencer as comfortable as possible, and that some changes would be made in order to do so.  One of the boy’s bathrooms at school was changed to a unisex bathroom and the teachers asked everyone to try to use that restroom sometimes to make Spencer more comfortable.

 

            Based on how cruel I’ve seen people be about others being transgendered, I would have thought that the kids in my school would have shown Spencer the same cruelty, but we all immediately accepted her just like our teachers had hoped me would.  Almost all of the students used the unisex bathroom, people started calling Spencer “Spencie” because she thought it sounded more like a girl’s name, and the girls in her grade always invited her to all girls sleepovers.  Spencie was one of the girls despite her genitalia.

 

            This story makes me realized that intolerance is something we are taught by people that have already been taught to be intolerant themselves.  As people we really can be quite accepting.  We just need to start early.

 

Megan Taub

ImageAfter watching the Vandana Shiva video shown in class and reading Donna Haraway’s piece, “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate(d) Others”,  I understand the separation between nature and society Haraway talks about.

In the video, Vandana Shiva explains how she grows seeds on an organic farm and keeps them alive through the changing environment. She compares this to the industrial agriculture methods used by major corporations.  In my Human Biology class this semester, we have learned a lot about food production by major corporations and genetically modified foods, GMI’s.

My personal opinion on GMI foods is that they are unnecessary and that the natural environment supplies us with enough diversity in food, that we do not need to mess with the genes of our crops to produce new variations of them.  This idea relates to Haraway’s separation of nature and society.  Nature is all that is natural and not man-made.  Society is everything brought on by industry….buildings, cars, clothing, and all society has created.  Although the two, nature and society are not working in opposition to each other, they are clearly distinct, separate things. Thinking of the two this way, does one work for the other?

Does nature exist for society to build on?  In the video, Shiva argues that there is enough variety on earth, no other plants need to be created, but does that mean that although humans have evolved enough intelligence to create new crops that they shouldn’t? What are the boundaries? Is nature here for society, people, to work with and use to their advantage, or should people know when to stop and allow nature to be what it is and work with what it provides?

Maybe people should shift their focus from growth of the environment to interaction with the environment.  Instead of trying to change nature and develop new things such as GMI’s, we should learn to work with nature and explore all it has to offer.

Alexandra Fath

We as society look at people who are different than the norm as monsters.  We have created a society where people feel obligated to get surgeries or take drugs to change their appearance to better fit society.

In the article, Haraway says that we, as a societal whole, feel the entitlement to be able to act like God in certain situations. For example, parents may choose, without insight into their newborn child’s best interests, to determine the sex of their naturally intersex child at the time of birth, without giving the child a chance to decide for him or herself. It is not a parental right, or a human right, to be able to disregard the will of the Creator and natural genetics and choose the sex of a child without regard to the intersex individual’s interest. These intersex individuals may also face being looked upon by society as monstrous inappropriated others.

Haraway felt that we look at “inappropriated others” as monsters or different as well.  We also think that they live in different worlds and cannot possibly live the same life we do.  But in all reality, they are just like us and there is not anything wrong with them. They are not deficient, nor do they deserve being put into a separate class in society.

 

Jessica Plunkitt

After reading the Donna Haraway article “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropraite/d Others” and talking about it in class I started to think about how we have started to try to be Gods. By we I am meaning society. We come up with all kinds of medicines to prolong life which has more side effects then you want to know. We have flu shots that seem to always make me sick after getting but is to help prevent the flu. The worse is all these drugs we end up getting immuned to and need more powerful drugs to help. For instance I have a really bad asthma and to keep me alive I must have an albuterol inhaler. Well since I have been taking this sine I was an infant I am now immuned and I have to also take a preventative that has steroids in it every day just to help make the albuterol to work and who knows what they will do once I get immuned to that medicine. So with medicine we are constantly trying to make new medicine to help the other medicine. After thinking about this I started to think about how not only are we acting like Gods in the fact we make medicine to keep us alive but we also act like Gods when it comes to having children.

When I was 18 I was told I had Endometriosis and that there is a chance down the road if not taken care of I may not be able to have children. They told me that it was ok though because there were other options like adopting or in vitro fertilization. Since then I will thank about what if I can’t get pregnant and while sitting in class I thought about how easy it is for doctors to sit there and give you the option of in vitro fertilization, I mean yes it sound amazing to be able to have kids to have an option if I can’t, but in order to go through this process you have to stick yourself with needles and take medication to try to have the baby and pregnancy itself is hard lets add drugs to it to help you feel more like crap. Then there is the chance of having multiples that you may not be able to afford. Not every going through this process I decided to look up peoples experiences and I ran across a video blog that this woman made about her pregnancy. She talked about how happy she was to lower some of the medication she was taking and I was thinking man what happened to a normal birth, one where you didn’t have to take all kinds of medications one that was natural. This women sits her and talks about morning sickness which is normal but then starts talking about medication she has to take and the side effects and the fear of her not having the baby in the end. To think all the power of you having a child is not in the hands of nature but the hands of science. Even up to when you actually deliver you’re in a hospital with IVs, hospital noises, and equipment. What happened to the natural birth that my grandma had one where you had a midwife who stayed by your side and made it a stress free time in your own home?

As a side note the best part of this whole video is when the women takes you to the babies room where she shows you the baby cloths and she bought both blue and pink clothing cause she doesn’t know what sex it is. All of what we talked about in this class about gender popped in my head at this point and it made me think wait until they can choose the gender for you so you don’t have this dilemma.

~Kielly Perkins~

As we talked about in class, pansexual means people who are attracted to other people regardless of their gender. This was something I personally never knew the word for or knew existed. I started to research more about the specific terms we would talk about or briefly touch and was very interested in this one. So, I decided to try something new and I put pansexual in the search bar on google to see what I would come up with.

Of course it the first things it came up with were definitions from Wikipedia and other dictionaries about what the word meant. Wikipedia stated “Pansexuality (also referred to as omnisexuality or polysexuality) refers to the potential of sexual attractions, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction, towards people of all gender identities and biological sexes. Self-identified pansexuals may refer to themselves as gender blind- that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to other.” This definition is very much the same as the one we went over in class and what students considered to be pansexual.

There was also a website that popped up about Pansexual Pride, and it was for those who are pansexual to blog about themselves and their experiences. It was actually created three hours ago it said and there is a picture of a bigger man wearing a short red dress with a pair of boots with heels on them. Below the picture is the person sharing their views and letting off some steam about being pansexual and why they choose to identify with pansexual over bisexual and transgender.

Another interesting link that came up was the pansexual flag. I really had no idea there was such thing, or that pansexual was a big deal. I always think of the Gay Pride flags and the colors they are, but never did I see a pansexual flag until now. The flag is bright pink, yellow, and blue and has a big P on it with the gender symbol, but that symbol does not recognize to be female or male, but both.  There is also evidence of the history of making this flag as there are sites that help decide the color of the flag and what people think it should look like. This signifies the big community of pansexual people there are and that it is just as much of a big deal as Gay Pride and the other gender and sexual preferences. The flag is shown below…

What I learned about Pansexual is that there are many groups and a lot of people that are pansexual that like to show their pride. There is a large pansexual community and people with a lot of pansexual pride. I am happy we briefly discussed this in class because I researched on my own and now have more awareness and information on pansexuality I never would have had.

It is the time of the year when everyone is jolly and full of love and happiness – holidays are coming!

Well, not everyone is happy, and I imagine, people are especially miserable when it comes to shopping for gifts. At least, I am. And this year it is even worse, because I have to do it way ahead of time to be able to send it all the way back home in time…

So, this week I was trying to find something for my 4-year-old cousin. Making young family members a gift is always a risky business, since what is in and what is out in kindergarten changes daily. To be honest I did not have the slightest clue what to get her, so I hoped for inspiration while browsing the toy’s section.

Pretty soon I realized that this would not be as simple as I had wished it to be. It actually put me in quite a dilemma. There I was looking at the shelves which could not have made me feel more offended.

Not only were the shelves decorated in pink and dark blue, but the clear influence of the binary system could be easily transferred from the shelves’ “content”: Girls are interested in family, dolls, pets, the household (preparing food), and jewelry. And boys like to play with action figures, cars, weapons, and tools.

At first I was annoyed, because I did not want to give in to this. But still in need for a gift, I had to look at the shelves over and over again. “So, then let’s buy her a toy Porsche and I’m out,” is what I thought to myself – I mean, I wanto to be good role model!

But wait!

I realized that the more interesting thing is that I read the shelves exactly in this binary fashion and that a simple let’s get her a “boy’s gift” would not make too much of a difference. The dilemma was bigger than this gift.

Almost every part of Western world socialization is based on implementing this one great division: male and female. However, understanding the errors in the binary system was not my problem – I feel I have been over that for quite some time now and know what to think of this institution – I was in this dilemma, because this system is still in place and working quite well.

But most importantly, what if my cousin likes Barbies? Is she supporting standard gender roles throughthat? Does this make her a victim of Western mainstream thinking? Is it in the end one big vicious cycle – born, identified as a girl, raised as such –> girly girl desires – to which I have to surrender, because she would hate my for giving her the Porsche? Or could it be true that she simply likes the idea of family and this is what she connects with a doll?

The more I thought about it, I realized I will never know the exact reasons for my cousin’s preferences. Especially, since, as discussed in class, desire is created from an outside source which has not much to do with my cousin. But what I do know now, is no matter what, Barbie or Porsche, the simplest way out of my dilemma is to not ask for those reasons or may even go so far as judging them.

My cousin needs me to support every kind of preference or desire she has, and most importantly, she needs to know that nothing and no one should be limiting her, and it is my responsibility to teach her that.

Oh well, in the end I bought a “Tinker Bell” figure, because I remembered how much she liked her when we watched “Peter Pan”. I sincerly hope she likes the gift – if not, I fear, there are many holidays to come…

– franziska krause

I first watched the film XXY in my Sexual Politics class my freshman year. I was still discovering all of the complexities that the Gender Studies field had to offer and then I was faced with the topic of intersex conditions. This was all new to me and never before this had I discussed such a topic of which I felt I couldn’t relate whatsoever. After watching the film XXY, I was taken back. Not only for it’s brillant cinematography in general, but because of how the film outlined the fragile yet powerful disposition of a young girl named Alex, a 15 year old suffering from an intersex condition in Uruguay. The film focuses on Alex’s struggle to deal with discrimination from both her community and family concerning her gender identity, while she internally struggles with her own sexuality.

The film really made me start to realize something I must have always believed in, yet didn’t really know how to say until I entered the field of Gender Studies. It made me realize that not everything is so cookie-cutter in our society, despite what we as a culture have all been socialized to think. There are concepts that go beyond binaries. After watching this film, I remember my teacher asking our entire 80 person lecture hall how many of us have been genetically tested to confirm whether or not we are the sex we identify as. Not a single person raised their hand. This posed a very interesting range of thoughts running through my mind. How do I really know if I am a female? Was this chosen for me? How is sex determined?… to name a few.

Vernon A. Rosario’s “Quantum Sex: Intersex and The Molecular Deconstruction of Sex” argues “for an analytics of gender and sexuality that takes the social and the biological seriously by acknowledging the complexity and depth of both influences” (268). In XXY, Alex’s parents left the decision to her in terms of what gender she wishes to identify with. Because of this, Alex has both sexual organs but is still raised as a girl. Alex’s community has a lot to do with how her and her family cope with her intersex condition. They live in an isolated fishing village in which they rarely interact with others in the community. Imagining a life without a definitive gender is one unfathomable to those who aren’t living it themselves, making constant judging and scrutiny from one’s community to be a sad reminder of the societal pressure and constructions that those with intersex conditions face. To complicate things further, Alex grows very close to another 15 year old boy named Alvaro, the son of the doctor who is supposed to perform surgery on Alex’s genitals. The relationship between the two is fascinatingly innocent, while it also possesses intense sexual tension. Alex and Alvaro eventually have intercourse, where Alex has anal sex with Alvaro in a very passionate scene. I knew that this would completely change how Alex felt about herself, how she felt about Alvaro, and how Alvaro viewed his own sexuality in relation to Alex. Both Alex and Alvaro complicate all common sense notions of what it is to be male/female and the sexualities that are associated with each, proving that there are a range of identities within sexuality.

I think because this film felt so foreign to me, it really allowed me to let my guard down and explore concepts that have only recently been discussed. Thanks to the work of such writers like Rosario, Chase, Butler, and Fausto-Sterling to name a few, our culture slowly comes closer to a more open understanding of concepts that are not as abnormal as we may think. With this comes tolerance and acceptance, two things our culture desperately really needs in relation to the range of concepts associated with sex, gender, and sexuality within our culture.

– Sophie Reynolds

I dont know what everyone else was taught in school, but I was given several basic principles. First off, I was taught that there were boys and girls, they each had their own bathrooms, and there was no crossover between those two titles. Obviously that was wrong. Not only was it wrong but it assumes that gender is an easily assigned attribute to a body. Even biological sex is sometimes ambiguous and I was never taught to be sensitive to these issues. I was taught all people fall under one of two categories, boy or girl.

While this may be a generic understanding of people, it completely ignores the many ambiguities that bodies offer up as “sex” or “gender”. What is the point of seperating the biological sexes of children that are all gay for example? While this scenerio seems unlikely, the point that spereation is an odd concept remains.

Beyond the myth of only two genders or body types there was another lie I was taught in school, the XX and XY lie. While it is true that the XX and XY chromosomes seem to have a strong correlation with the biological sex of a person, it is also true that they are not the only factors. I was given the understanding that biological sex was purely based upon these two choromosomes, and until recently I believed that to be true. Now I have learned that the 11th chromosome may be responsible for the development of a penis. Also, the SRY gene seems to be responsible for many gendered characteristics. Obviously there is more to the body of a person than their XX or XY gene.

Finally, in lies I was told, I was taught that attraction is innate and caused by an evolutionary process that requires boys to be attracted to girls and girls to be attracted to boys. Attraction is the result of the evolutionary drive to propagate and promote the survival of thier genes. As a self identifying gay man I can tell every person that this is not true. I am attrated to members of my own biological sex and realize that there is no “natural” way for me and another man to have a child together but that does not meant that my attraction is a “choice”. If anything it shows that my attraction is not a choice. If biology told me to like girls, would I really have a choice? obviously not because my body would respond regardless of my wishes.

While this blog post touches on the issue of boy vs. girl, I haven’t yet writtne about the transgendered issue. With all of the people who identify as sexualities and genders outside of the typical binary norm, it is remarkable that people are still able to convince themselves that the binary understanding of sexuality and gender is accurate.

-Ashland

This article is about a female condom type gadget that was given to women in South Africa during the World Cup to prevent rape. Very interesting, just wanted to share.

http://gizmodo.com/5569537/condoms-with-teeth-fight-rape-in-south-africa

-Jennifer Peper