Archives for posts with tag: equality

Throughout his book, “Imagining Transgender,” David Valentine takes the reader on his journey to find the meaning of the word “transgender.” Whether one enjoys his style of doing so, his attempt to understand a category is interesting. While it makes sense to further explore a category such as “transgender” because there are various institutional benefits and implications, it would nonetheless be just as fruitful a pursuit to begin to “imagine heterosexuality.”

Of course, the “heterosexual culture” is, in a way, being constantly studied since it almost exclusively appears in the media and in pop culture. But, using Valentine’s lens on this phenomenon too could be informative, and is certain to be entertaining.

As soon as he realizes that “transgender” needs to be examined as a category, Valentine goes to various queer-populated places. Now, where could one go to do the same research on straight people? Hmmm… anywhere really. But I guess people don’t really do this research since it’s too easy; they’re not riding their bike all over the sketchy parts of NYC.

While talking to some of the women Valentine feels would fit the category “transgender,” they quickly make it clear to him that his own status as a gay man doesn’t automatically make him fit in with them even though they identify as gay too. If there ever were such a thing as an official heterosexual support group (keeping in mind that most of the U.S. is one big hetero support group in itself), I doubt anyone who had been divorced, was single, or had children out of wedlock would be denied participation. That’s not to say that everyone would have everything in common, but nobody would be shunned because their sexual orientation manifested itself in variant ways.

One of Valentine’s underlying missions is to better understand the category “transgender” so that he (and in turn the social services agencies with which he is affiliated) can provide better support for them. In essence, he’s trying to come up with ways to alleviate the problems they face. So, what heterosexual problems could we fix if we thought about things a little differently? (Now, I know this is hard to think about since being straight, married, and living in the burbs is of course everyone’s ideal existence, but just work with me here.)

Maybe we could do something about the 50+% divorce rate in the U.S. Or, what if millions of children didn’t go hungry every night because their single working class mother couldn’t feed them adequately? Wouldn’t it be nice if all men took responsibility for the children they fathered?

Obviously heterosexuality isn’t the sole culprit in any of these problems, but phenomena like these just make one wonder how different things would be if we didn’t just study the categories on the fringes of society and took a closer look at the ones in the center.

-Mika Baugh

In “One is Not Born a Woman,” Wittig writes about the social construction of the category woman, and how this category has become hidden through naturalization. I find it very interesting because of the use of unchangeable things, such as having a vagina or being able to birth children, to classify women and therefore give the impression that women are not even included as its own class because of these natural visible differences. She believes in order to reject this classification of inferiority, one must abolish the category man, for “…there are no slaves without masters” (Wittig, 15). 

            This is the most interesting to me because of the way we as humans place values on things that are visible, whether they really have meaning or not. One could also see how value was placed on skin color, the fairer the better. Because this has been the way things are for at least a couple hundred years, we take this as inherent, men thinking of women as weak and people desiring lighter skin or other European features. Those of us not white males and heterosexual for that matter, feel this placement of inferiority through lowered self-esteem, showing that this has become so inherent that we internalize this belief and accept its negative effects as just something wrong with us. I do agree that in order for us to move forward, there will be some restructuring of classifications that need to be done, in my opinion not eliminating differences, but showing uniqueness as different but none the less equal.

One point that she makes in her writing that I completely disagree on is the idea of equality in difference being illogical because of the belief that women are considered inferior through their differences with the male sex. As I have written in past blogs, because there are so many movements for equality from each oppressed minority (women, LGBTQ, different racial minorities, etc.), they could all get together and form one large wave. Also, because all of these groups contain those oppressed in more ways than one (e.g. black lesbian feminists), ignoring differences could exclude minority subgroups goals for equality for what is thought to be the greater good for majority subgroups. This is just again perpetuating inequality through difference, which is what these groups are trying to abolish from society.

-Jay Luther

As a gender studies major, I have read a good share of scholarly articles/excerpts in which the writer suggests that all minority groups join together for one main cause: to overthrow the dominant society and to create true equality between all people, no matter what their race, sex, sexuality, class, or any other marginalizing characteristics.  My question has always been, well if this is the answer, why is it so hard to group all these people together and also when they are grouped why can’t there be any main focus that can be agreed upon?  The answer that I am starting to come up with after the few weeks of class along with Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, is maybe instead of trying to come together as one for one main goal, we should try to recognize differences amongst ourselves, as these differences create varying life experiences.  Instead of doing this, when trying to group up a minority, say feminist groups, there is further grouping of a minority and majority within this big group of minorities.

In the example from above, there could be a separation in what should be strived for between black and white feminists, or even between lesbian and straight feminists. . I believe this is because of the way that society has been constructed to keep the minority populations exactly where they are through language, culture, and politics. This is when Butler mentions the heterosexual matrix, in which the combination of heterosexuality, whiteness, male masculinity, and wealth equals dominance and superiority. This and only this combination receives high status, and this system of human worth is created through things in history such as stereotypes, science, cultural customs of what is appropriate for what type of person, and many other things that we now have been born into and assume that is just the natural order of things.

Butler argues that since this is such an ancient form of social construction that it would be impossible to make any difference from outside of this system. For instance, the word woman has multiple meanings other than just biological reasons. Woman also denotes a certain inferiority or submissiveness because of the dichotomy of male and female and their supposed opposite traits. And because of this, there is a transcendence of this system into other parts of the human experience, such as through politics or even the workplace. For the longest time, and sometimes even in the present, because of their given inferiority women were unable to actively participate in politics or excel in the workplace. 

I honestly feel that because these systems of social control have been ingrained in the fibers of our society that it is impossible to reverse the effects that they have had. However, this does not mean change is impossible, as history has shown us. While the overthrow of the dominant population is in dire need I believe that the effects they have had on who we are as a people will only be erased with time. We have seen this with women’s suffrage, African American civil rights, and in our generation LGBTQ rights. While we slowly move away from our Catholic conservative roots, the more accepting we are of other groups of people. Once we are able to get past stigmas placed on others based on traits we cannot change, we are able to see that even with many differences we are all still relatable. Through relation to others comes empathy and through empathy comes a certain unity  between all of us who can relate to being the other.

-Jay Luther