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From the beginning of human existence we have wondered how to share power amongst peoples.  As history has developed, we have come to the decision that it is in man’s best interest to develop a democracy, a society where the collective vote of the individual shapes the nature of the government and society.  But the question soon became: who gets to express this vote?

When democracy first began, it was the only the rich males that held any power.  Overtime, however, law and public opinion have decided that every person, no matter their race, religion, creed, or sex could bar them from expressing political power.  To do this, those in power had to distribute the ability for others to join the group; in order for that to work, those in power had to define the characteristics of other people in order that the power bestowed went to the right person.

A key example was when women in the United States were given the same right to vote that men held for many years.  In order to do this, a lawful definition had to be developed to let “women” vote.  While much of society believes that it simply takes a person with an XX chromosome pair to make a woman, there are still many people who don’t take that definition to be entirely fair.  With sexual variants and gender disputes the lines that define a women are more blurred.

Fast forward several years and we see that women continued to fight for lawful and societal equality including equal pay for equal work, abortion rights, and fighting sexism.  Against this entire struggle, a feminist movement arose.  However, for the movement to rise, once again the plight of “women” had to be defined.  Those who took leadership positions thought their opinions were ones that would categorize all women but of course dissent developed.  How can someone express the thoughts and feelings of a people that they think can be boiled down into a singular position?

Thus the tradition of discovering the nature of people continued.  Perhaps it is impossible to categorize people because it is against the nature of people to remain stagnant.  How I feel or who I am today will change.  It may change tomorrow or be a slow, continuous change over time.  To be able to understand my opinion and stance on societal or political issues is possible on a moment’s notice, but to hold to those opinions indefinitely would be irresponsible.  I believe this is the same with all people, and to assume people’s opinions based on general characteristics is irresponsible.

Of course the logical response is to continuously poll people and vote on decisions individually.  However, this will be very complicated due to the sheer number of people; thus, we have developed a represented power system where a group of people is represented by a fewer number.  Those who seek power will tend to take power.  By human nature there are those who wish to dominate and make decisions.  This more “masculine” nature has been associated with men for most of existence, however, this doesn’t mean that only men are able to be dominating; there are also men who don’t hold this personality trait.  Along the same lines, not every woman has a submissive personality—some are driven to dominate as well.  To make things more complicated, people still change and these characteristics will change as well, even on a daily basis.  There are days that, as a “man”, I don’t want to fight, or argue, or debate my position on issues as a person and will take on a more submissive stance on topics or issues that I don’t have either vested interest or energy.  I would be willing to bet that most people can feel the same way.  The bottom line is that every individual is different from other people and even different from themselves as time passes.

–Brian Falatko

Last week, my blog entry came to this conclusion:

“Women” asks for boundaries and a definition like any other term. But how can I define such boundaries when no essence exists?

The answer is you can’t, but people do, and that’s the problem.

After dealing with Butler’s concept of the “heterosexual matrix” and its “intelligible gender”, we turned to Wittig and found ourselves; well at least I did, in a space where lacking essence is no longer the problem. Why worry about something that does not exist? Definitions are the real problem here!

I was well aware that definitions fail reality, and I knew that not every aspect of one category someone else identifies him- or herself with characterizes this person; no one is simply gay or White or male. So, I knew that defining and ascribing terms is highly problematic, especially when general assumptions are applied to the particular case.

This week, in quoting Butler loosely saying, “Leaving one closet to go to another”, Hilary introduced the discussion in “Explaining Sex and Gender Differences” to a notion which I think to be universal. Leaving one category and entering another can be as much restricting as the one had been you just left. Despite the fact that “lesbian” may describes you best, the closet “lesbian” can be uncomfortable indeed.

As a final note, we were asked to think of and describe the situation or relation in which we feel free to be the persons we are. From many answers I gained the feeling that Butler’s statement is familiar. And when I think of the example I had in mind which may has nothing to do with gender, but culture differences based on my recent move to the US, I realized that it is not my home country Germany that makes me feel German, since I almost never feel German when I am actually in Germany, but it is the other, the USA, which defines me, and makes me clash.

Returning to Wittig, who says that through naturalizing categories – and of course, nationality is as much a naturalized category as gender – we make changes within impossible. At this point, Wittig wants us to recognize that my identity is everything but natural. Whatever it means to be German – honestly I don’t know – at the moment, I simply experience what different socialization means, not nature. And though it may help me to embrace my home in the moment of culture clash, I never know when this “closet” will be too small for my needs. So, don’t you lock me in.

Today I may be German; tomorrow I may be Scuba Diver Barbie – who knows.

– franziska krause