The Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality Volume I, Issue II Fall 2012
Staff Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor
Ilka Felsen Rachel Bangle
Editors Rachel Bangle Susan Mo Ryan O’Rourke Alex Stepanenko
Graphic Designers Rachel Bangle Ilka Felsen Ryan O’Rourke Alex Stepanenko
© 2011 Copyright in each individual article is held by the respective author(s); copyright in the issue as a whole is held by Unzipped, the Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality under 17 U.S.C. 201(c).
The Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality Unzipped, the Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality is a radically interdisciplinary space for celebrating the best student work in the study of gender and sexuality across all the humanities, social sciences, and biological sciences. Staff editors review and select from among works submitted by Duke students twice yearly, beginning in Spring 2011. Unzipped was founded in Fall of 2010. The publication is chartered by the university and co-sponsored by the Program in Womenâ€™s Studies, Womenâ€™s Center, Center for LGBT Life, and program in the study of sexualities.
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firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your feedback!
The Joy of Not Fitting Categories When I proudly announced that I’m leading this journal, my mom asked if this was a coy way I’ve devised to tell her “something.” Her inquiry implied two things: 1) my “something” could not be explained over the phone—it needed an even better disguise in order to reveal itself, and 2) that only individuals who share this “something” in common would be interested in Unzipped. My mother may have been more comfortable when I was leading the undergraduate research publication; after all, science is grounded in facts and data, and human error is tantamount to crime. Unzipped is of a different nature. In the whirlwind of scholarship, literature, and analysis, Unzipped demands provocative thought—in essence, the human aspect of any endeavor. I challenge you to forge connections as you read: links between your personal life and these essays, links among the essays, links among the words you read and your peers, and other links you can come up with, as our authors and I have done in working on this publication. I do not identify myself as LGBTQ, a Women’s Studies or Sexualities major, or a Feminist, categories that instantly come to mind for many who see only the front cover of our journal. I am simply myself, struggling each day with a mountain of work, and connecting the dots of my interests.
For me, Unzipped represents many phases of my undergraduate experience: garnering interest in something I believe in, working with a group to compile a meaningful product, provoking charged discussions, telling the world what I think, making a deadline, and best of all, starting something new. This journal is more than words on a page —what will it mean for you? Unzipped was created last spring to recognize excellent work in gender and sexuality, and to provide a space for us to read and comment on each other’s work. Among my many requests, I ask just one last thing: please do not throw away this issue casually, as the words you see printed represent many conquered battles.
HAVE SOME COMMENTS? If you have responses to any of the articles featured in this journal, you are welcome to email them to email@example.com for potential publication in the next issue.
PLAY EQUALS GAY? Lesbian Stereotypes of Female Athletes
Medicine and the gender patterns of specialization Choices
Medicine, Women’s Studies
LOVE AND MARRIAGE: THE CONTRACTED FUTURE
What Female Sexuality Means to John Locke on Restoration Stage Political Philosophy, Literature
The Burqa of the Western World Psychology
transgressing the confines of victim-centered cinematic narratives
Thomas Allen Harris’ Vintage: Families of Value Women’s Studies, Cinema
Trafficking in Human and Animal Sexualities Evolutionary Biology, Posthumanist Studies
The Public’s Reconciliation of Gay Children in the Media Women’s Studies
PLAY EQUALS GAY? Lesbian Stereotypes of Female Athletes
Laurel Burk â€˜13 Psychology
Although female athletic participation is on the rise in the United States, women and girls who play sports still face negative stereotypes. While a womanâ€™s traditional role as wife and mother requires such attributes as nurturance and warmth, female athletes display opposing, and arguably male, characteristics such as assertiveness and aggression when competing in their sports. Stereotypes about women athletes help to preserve male societal dominance by punishing gendertransgressive behavior. One of the most pervasive stereotypes is the assumption that all female athletes must be lesbians. This perception persists despite empirical evidence that participation in sports does not make women gay. Several studies have examined the impact this widespread stereotype has on female collegiate athletes, both gay and straight. Heterosexual athletes tend to employ a range of coping mechanisms from emphasizing their femininity to distancing themselves from their sporting identities. Lesbian athletes may fear homophobia from their team or institution and hide their sexual identities. The lesbian stereotype is psychologically detrimental for all female athletes, regardless of sexual orientation.
EVERY JANUARY at Duke University, students pitch tents and brave the elements in order to secure a coveted spot at the men’s basketball home game against UNC. When it is the women’s team’s turn to take on their archrival, the atmosphere is quite different: There is no line, much less a tent city; Despite promotions and advertising, some seats remain empty. This local phenomenon reflects a larger national trend. Female athletes receive far less media coverage than their male counterparts (Hall, 2008), and it seems standard for televised women’s games to be relegated to obscure cable networks or ESPN2, rather than airing on premier channels. Women now participate in sports in record numbers (Hall, 2008), but public opinion of women’s sports remains inconsistent at best and hostile at worst. While many issues factor into the disparity in support for women’s as opposed to men’s athletics, it is safe to say that there is a certain amount of societal discomfort with the idea of female athletes. They can be difficult to classify, because their behavior as athletes challenges a traditional, dichotomous conception of gender. Strength, assertiveness, competition, aggression —these are words that describe successful athletes, but they are also characteristics that gel better with stereotypical masculinity than femininity. From this perspective, “female athlete” can seem like a contradiction in terms and women who participate in sports may be viewed as gender deviants. Those who do not conform to traditional gender stereotypes often must deal with negative reactions to their behavior, termed “backlash” (Rudman & Glick, 2008, p. 144). A perceived mismatch between the supposedly male nature of athletics and the participation of women in these activities has led to a particularly damaging and pervasive form of backlash: the widespread assumption that female athletes are all lesbians. Women in sports employ a variety of strategies to cope with this label, many of which ultimately prove detrimental to heterosexual and lesbian athletes alike. There are, however, possibilities for moving beyond the stereotype
The “Image Problem” Content of the Stereotype. In an interview with New York Magazine, tennis player Martina Navratilova spelled out the sexual orientation speculation that hangs over women in sports: “The thing in sport that really pisses me off is that women athletes have to prove to the world that they are not lesbians” (Kasindorf, 1993, p. 35). Even though Navratilova is gay herself, she saw the generalization as oppressive and unwarranted. Researchers investigating this issue have termed the stereotype the “image problem” (Knight & Giuliano, 2003), suggesting it may be related to limited public acceptance of female athletes. Origins. Theories of gender development, traditional conceptions of female attributes and activities, and the drive to preserve male societal dominance provide potential mechanisms by which the female-athlete-as-lesbian stereotype may have formed. The Traditional Female. Historically, women have faced restrictions on the extent of their physical activity. Two centuries ago, too much activity or strain was thought to negatively impact female fertility (Scott, 2006). This is a prime example of a woman’s prescribed role as wife and mother superseding her other potential functions. These familial roles require nurturance, rather than the aggressive qualities prized by athletes, as well as men in general. Especially conflicting with the traditional 8
PLAY EQUALS GAY?
feminine gender role are highly physical, ‘indelicate’ sports involving body contact rather than grace of movement (Scott, 2006). Childhood Gender Development. As children gender-segregate in elementary school, some girls may successfully cross over into a boys’ group, becoming “so-called tomboys…tolerated as ‘one of the guys’” (Rudman & Glick, 2008, p. 58). In order to be accepted, these athletic girls must cease being girls in the eyes of their male playmates, who insist they cannot stand the other gender. Tomboys are not candidates for cross-sex attraction, but rather conceptualized basically as boys. The vast majority of female athletes begin sports participation before the age of ten (Scott, 2008), so they are likely to have been these childhood tomboys. This combination of factors may lead to a general cognitive association between elementary school participation in sports (mostly associated with boys) and later sexual attraction to females (the normative male pattern). Male Dominance. Sports draw on traditionally masculine attributes and have historically served as ‘macho’ proving grounds for men (Zipp, 2011). Women’s success in this traditionally male domain has the potential to disrupt male societal dominance. The “lesbian” label functions as a form of punishment for transgressive behavior, implying that athletes “cannot be ‘real’ women” (read: straight women) (Blinde & Taub, 1992, p. 522), and must be abnormal in other respects, in addition to their gender-deviant sports participation. Accuracy. Athletes and researchers agree that the lesbian stereotype is out there, and numerous theories offer plausible explanations for how it developed. Another seemingly obvious question is often overlooked: is the stereotype actually warranted? Are female athletes, especially those in the most physical sports, actually more likely to be lesbians? The short answer is “no.” Using data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Zipp (2011) concluded that overall, “there is no real evidence…that same-sex sexuality girls are more given to playing contact sports.” (p. 24). When the researchers analyzed data by gradelevel, they found that homosexual girls were somewhat more likely to participate in football, volleyball, and swimming (Zipp, 2011). However, this phenomenon did not hold across the board for all sports, and there was no statistically significant effect of sexual orientation on participation in several sports popularly thought to be lesbian havens: basketball, softball, and ice hockey (Zipp, 2011). With general sports participation increasing recently for girls, and the low incidence of homosexuality within the population as a whole, it makes logical sense that the lesbian stereotype would have little basis in fact (Zipp, 2011). The lesbian label may be unwarranted and unsupported by empirical evidence, but it continues to persist, impacting the lives of female athletes.
Dealing with the Label: The Athlete Experience In order to get a first-hand athlete’s perspective on the “image problem,” two different sets of researchers (Blinde & Taub, 1992; Kauer & Krane, 2006) conducted phone interviews with Division I female collegiate athletes. Participants came from a variety of sports, and although the two studies were separated by fourteen years, both yielded similar findings.
Awareness. Both studies confirm that athletes are aware of the lesbian label. All but one of Blinde and Taub’s (1992) participants communicated “strong familiarity with this association” (p. 523), while Kauer and Krane (2006) observed it to be “the first stereotype recognized by the women in [their] study” (p. 46). Athletes participating in physical sports more often characterized as masculine displayed particular exasperation with the stereotype, making statements such as “it’s always about the softball team” and “basketball and lesbian is [sic] always in the same sentence” (emphasis in original, Kauer & Krane, 2006, p. 46). They also alluded to the foundations underlying the popular perception, pointing to unfeminine aspects of appearance or behavior—having short hair or wearing sweats—as possible explanations (Kauer & Krane, 2006). Responses and Coping Behaviors. Heterosexual female athletes employ various ‘coping’ strategies in order to avoid being labeled as lesbian. Sexual-minority women athletes necessarily have different responses, hoping to distance themselves from derogatory aspects of the stereotype. Heterosexual athletes. Two primary strategies emerged for straight women in both studies: disidentification and accentuation of femininity. Disidentification is the process by which athletes distance themselves from their athletic identities, in order to avoid a lesbian label that may be popularly associated with their sport or team. This may occur through choice of clothing, for example, not wearing a letter jacket or team sweatshirt (Kauer & Krane, 2006). Some also look to supplement or overshadow their athletic identities with academic ones, for example, by applying themselves especially hard in the classroom (Blinde & Taub, 1992). As a complement to or extension of disidentification, many athletes play up their heterosexuality. They favor traditionally feminine dress, apply make-up on a regular basis, and make a point of mentioning or appearing with a boyfriend in public (Blinde & Taub, 1992; Kauer & Krane, 2006). The sports media uses the same tactic, highlighting the physical appearance and family roles of female athletes. This is done in hopes of ‘reassuring’ the reader or viewer of the athlete’s heterosexuality, and this approach is commonly referred to in Felshin’s (1974) terminology, as “the feminine apologetic” (as cited in Knight & Giuliano, 2003; Zipp, 2011). Lesbian and Bisexual Athletes. Female athletes who actually are lesbian or bisexual have different motivations for avoiding the stereotype. First, there is a sexual predator component of the lesbian stereotype—the belief that they are out to convert or ‘hit on’ straight women (Hall, 2008). Also, some players’ teammates are openly homophobic, exhibiting an attitude often used a means of disidentification with lesbians (Kauer & Krane, 2006). As a result of these conditions, lesbian players often pretend to be heterosexual, perhaps by indicating that a passing male is attractive or claiming to have a boyfriend, though some are ‘out’ to their teammates (Kauer & Krane, 2006).
PLAY EQUALS GAY?
Overreactions and Consequences The coping mechanisms used by hetero- and homosexual female athletes negatively impact the social and athletic lives of individual women, while also perpetuating institutional discrimination. When lesbians hide their sexuality and straight women devalue their athlete status, both groups are engaging in the psychologically unhealthy practice of denying an important aspect of their identities (Blinde & Taub, 1992). On an organizational level, fear of being labeled homosexual can engender homophobia and give rise to discriminatory policies. For example, under Coach Rene Portland the Penn State women’s basketball program employed a tacit no-lesbians policy, and fear of lesbians has been used as a recruiting tactic in college sports (Hall, 2008).
Conclusion: Lifting the Stigma Gender roles, male dominance, and homophobia combine to create a prevailing stereotype of female athletes as lesbians. The if-she-plays-she-must-begay maxim leads athletes to employ a variety of coping strategies, most of which have psychologically damaging effects. Although women in sports have a host of negative experiences related to the lesbian stereotype, most continue to view their athletic experiences as extremely valuable and worthwhile (Blinde & Taub, 1992; Kauer & Krane, 2006). Many experience important lessons of diversity and acceptance through their interactions with lesbian teammates. Participants in the phone interviews credited these experiences with making them “less judgmental and more…respectful of dissimilar others” (Blinde & Taub, 1992, p. 531) or “more comfortable with [homosexuality]” (Kauer & Krane, 2006, p. 51). Rebranding athletics as gender-neutral, physically healthy activities may help to decrease the prevalence of the lesbian label. Convincing the the public to conceptualize sports as compatible with femininity will be important in lifting the stigma. Replication and media coverage of empirical findings from Zipp’s (2011) research could aid in the effort to undermine the stereotype. Even if this pesky stereotype persists, forming relationships with lesbian athletes can help to reduce personal and institutional homophobic attitudes in athletics.
References Blinde, E. M., & Taub, D. E. (1992). Women athletes as falsely accused deviants: Managing the lesbian stigma. The Sociological Quarterly, 33, 521-533. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.1992.tb00141.x. Hall, R. L. (2008). Sweating it out: The good news and the bad news about women and sport. In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golden & P. D. Rozee (Eds.) Lectures on the psychology of women (4th ed., pp. 96-115). Boston: McGraw-Hill. Kasindorf, J. R. (1993, May 10). Lesbian chic: The bold, brave new world of gay women. New York, 30-37. Kauer, K. J, & Krane V. (2006). “Scary dykes” and “Feminine queens”: Stereotypes and female collegiate athletes. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 15, 42- 55. Retrieved from http://www.aahperd.org/nagws/ publications/wspaj/. Knight, J. L., & Giuliano, T. A. (2003). Blood, sweat, and jeers: The impact of the media’s heterosexist portrayals on perceptions of male and female athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 26, 272-284. Retrieved from asu.edu. Rudman, L. A. & Glick, P. (2008). The social psychology of gender: How power and intimacy shape gender relations. New York: Guilford. Scott, B. (2006). In a woman’s body. In M. Crawford (Ed.), Transformations: Women, gender & psychology (1st ed. pp. 199-236). Boston: McGraw-Hill. Zipp, J. F. (2011). Sport and sexuality: Athlete participation by sexual minority and sexual majority adolescents in the U.S. Sex Roles, 64, 19-31. doi:10.1007/ s11199-010-9865-4.
PLAY EQUALS GAY?
Medicine and the gender patterns of specialization choices
Ellie Proussaloglou â€˜12 Medicine, Womenâ€™s Studies
The presence of women in the field of medicine has come a long way since 1849, when Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from an American medical school. Women are graduating from medical school in record numbers. Women represent more than 30% of active doctors in the West, and over 50% of physicians younger than the age of 30 are women (Risberg et al., 2003). Despite this rapid increase in the number of female physicians entering the medical field, however, there are still existing gender-specific problems in medicine. Female physicians remain greatly underrepresented in certain subspecialties. The reasons for this disparity in male and female specialization and the consequences of this system are complex but vitally important to the field of medicine.
The Problem: Gender Differences in Specialty Choice The classification of certain specialties as female-dominated or maledominated has evolved over time, but general trends in many specialties have remained constant. A 1986 Public Health Report on the status of women in medicine described specialization trends that remain strikingly similar in 2011. The report states that “female physicians tend to cluster in… the five ‘P’ specialties more frequently than men physicians- pediatrics, psychiatry, pathology, preventative medicine (public health), and physical medicine and rehabilitation” (Bowman et al, 1986). The same holds true in all Western countries; women in Sweden tend to cluster in fields related to children and women’s health or fields with high levels of patient contact such as family medicine and psychiatry (Risberg et al., 2003). In addition to the aforementioned specialties, women are oftentimes found in specialties such as pathology, which have favorable working hours despite lack of patient contact (Gjerberg, 2001). It is important to note that the proportion of women in these specialties varies slightly in different countries depending on the number of required on-call hours and flexibility of work schedules. Explanations for this pattern of specialization include the more flexible hours of these specialties as well as high numbers of female mentors as reasons that women tend to be drawn into these fields. However, female physicians are noticeably absent from surgery and less likely to be found in internal medicine worldwide. In 2000 only 10% of practicing surgeons in the US were female. Furthermore, the great increase over the past few decades in the number of female physicians has not made much of an impact on the percentage of women in male-dominated specialties. In Sweden, the percentage of women in surgery increased only 1% from 1992 to 2002, from 11% to 12%. Over the same decade, women in family medicine increased from 35% to 41%, closely reflecting the increase in the total number of female Swedish physicians (Risberg et al., 2003). Even within specialties, male and female physicians tend to be concentrated in different areas of practice. According to a study by the American College of Cardiology (ACC), 17% of female cardiologists are pediatric cardiologists, compared to 7% of men. Female cardiologists are also more likely to be part-time or not practicing cardiology, 8% and 1.5% respectively, as compared to the 3% of part-time males and .9% of non-practicing male cardiologists (Limacher et al., 1998). Women physicians are also involved with fewer medical organizations and are less likely to be in highranking positions within their medical institution or affiliated associations. When interviewed, they cite reasons such as lack of time, competing family obligations, and lack of opportunity to join, all factors that tend to hold women back in the medical field (Bowman et al., 1986). Existing Theories and Explanations Various theories have been proposed to explain the continued gender divide in medical specialties worldwide. The lower proportion of women in certain subspecialties can potentially be explained at three key points in a female physician’s career. Women might be initially choosing certain subspecialties less often than men, women might be compelled or forced to leave education and join the work force before completing specialty training, or women might be less likely than men to respecialize in surgery or internal medicine later in their career (Gjerberg, 2002). Of these options, a study of Norwegian doctors authorized from 1980 to 1983 14
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showed that men and women had very similar choices of ideal medical career. For their first specialization choice, 8.1% of female physicians entered surgery, compared to 9.8% of male physicians. 9.1% of female physicians and 10.2% of male physicians initially selected the field of internal medicine. Gjerberg states that “these results clearly contradict the belief that the proportion of women in male dominated areas of medicine… is so low because women are not attracted to these specialties. At the beginning of their careers, they are now recruited nearly as often as men” (Gjerberg, 2002, p595). Interestingly, upon examination of this same cohort of Norwegian doctors and their second full-time position in medical practice, the proportion of women in surgery drops from 8.1% to 6% while the percentage of male surgeons grows from 9.8% to 13%. Internal medicine shows the same pattern, dropping to 7% of female clinicians but growing to 12% of male doctors. Opposite trends are seen in obstetrics and gynecology, where only 2% of all male clinicians are employed, compared to 7% of all female doctors (Gjerberg, 2002). Surgery and internal medicine seem to lack job continuity for female physicians; only 20% of the women initially involved in surgery went on to specialize in the field, compared to 48% of males in the specialty. Many of the women leaving surgery did so in conjunction with having children; in survey responses, these female physicians emphasized the difficulty of combining the duty requirements of surgery or internal medicine with having young children (Gjerberg, 2002). The individual-oriented model of specialty choice claims that specialization differences are a result of individual education and career choices. Within the individual-oriented model, two subcategories exist for explaining why people pick the sub-specializations that they do. First, gender-specific interests might explain why women are traditionally found in specialties with high patient contact. Women are oftentimes described as nurturing, caring individuals who enjoy careers that emphasize interactions with other people. As a result, this sub-theory states that specialties like pediatrics, which have high levels of patient contact, might be better suited for women. Second, the human capital sub-theory claims that women invest less in education and training, usually as a consequence of making priority judgments about time devoted to family and home. As a result of lower human capital, women are less likely to specialize in the more lucrative and prestigious areas of surgery or internal medicine (Gjerberg, 2002). However, the individual-oriented model cannot explain all of the observed gender differences in specialization, indicating that other forces must be responsible. The second model, called the structural-oriented model, offers a more realistic explanation of the gender differences in medicine due to the structural conditions in work and society. Specifically, this model emphasizes that the amount of time that must be devoted to different specialties, barriers to the establishment of parttime positions, and other institutional structures prevent the entry of women to nontraditional specialties (Gjerberg, 2002). The limits of the success of women in medicine illustrate horizontal and vertical segregation. Horizontal segregation is the pattern described earlier, in which females are disproportionally represented in some specialties and virtually absent from others. The vertical segregation, or ‘glass ceiling’, effect describes the underrepresentation of women in top levels of academic medicine. In the year 2007-2008, women represented 34% of the faculty, 12% of the chairs, and only Ellie Proussaloglou
10% of the deans at American medical schools. Furthermore, in 2008, none of the top 25 American medical schools had a female chair of the Department of Internal Medicine (Carnes et al., 2008). Various justifications have been offered to explain the absence of female physicians in the highest levels of academic medicine leadership. The pipeline argument states that women have not been in the medical field long enough to build their way to top positions. Dr. Molly Carnes, MD, MS, a doctor who has done extensive research on the female physician experience, states that the pipeline argument is not a valid explanation. In fact, there are enough women entering the medical field to fill an increased percentage of upper level positions. Carnes argues that the gender differences are due to institutional and professional biases. Other researchers claim that family reasons prevent women from competing for leadership positions or that women do not have the necessary leadership skills (Carnes et al., 2008). However, various studies have proven that “female” leadership styles such as compromise, encouragement, and team building are just as effective, if not more, than the leadership styles typical of male physicians. Carnes concludes that “the failure of academic medical centers to advantage women is in large measure due to the systematic disadvantage women experience daily and at each evaluation point in an academic career” (Carnes et al., 2008). It is important to note that similar glass ceilings exist in all other areas that exert significant influence over the practice of medicine, research, and health policy. Women also experience similar difficulties in all areas of basic scientific research. In 2006, only 20% of the centers at the National Institutes of Health were headed by women, the American Medical Association board of trustees was only 19% female, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) had still never had a female president in its 130 year history. Furthermore, there is a gender gap in the authorship of papers accepted by academic medical journals, which may be related to the low number of women on the editorial boards of the top three medical journals. The Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Annals of Internal Medicine have 6%, 19%, and 19% women on their respective editorial boards (Carnes et al., 2008). Mentorship Beyond female physicians’ direct choice of subspecialties, the availability and types of mentors they choose can have long-lasting impacts on their career success. The “sticky floor” argument states that women in academic medicine are given fewer institutional resources at the start of their careers, adversely affecting their future success (Carnes et al., 2008). In general, high ranking male mentors tend to offer more career sponsorship, while female mentors give more personal advice and allow female mentees to maintain autonomy in the relationship (Koso, 2002). Many physicians cite their mentors as one of the main motivations for entering a certain specialty. A study examining the choice of pediatrics as a subspecialty for women in the United Kingdom emphasized the availability of positive female role models and mentors in this specialty. Specifically, respondents stated that mentorship in medicine oftentimes acts as an “old boy network” which excludes young women: few female mentors exist and those that do tend to be concentrated in female-dominated specialties such as pediatrics (Moorkamp, 2005). In this way, it seems that mentorship 16
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acts like a feedback loop, emphasizing gender differences in subspecialties. A lack of mentors in male-dominated fields encourages women to seek out mentors in traditionally female specialties, which further increases the number of women in these fields and, long-term, contributes to the lack of female mentors in maledominated specialties. Interviews with ten female leaders in academic surgery, including chairs, center directors, surgeons-in-chief, and program directors, cited the lack of mentors as the top obstacle to progressing in the field of surgery. One surgeon emphasized the sticky-floor argument, stating:
“Never trust they’re looking out for you, because they’re looking out for themselves. They’re not going to tell me you need to join the AAS [Association for Academic Surgery]; they never told me to join anything… they don’t look out for you and I think they especially don’t look out for women. You have to go out there on your own, and don’t be afraid to do that” (Kass et al, 2006, p181).
Specialties, Families, and Children Another factor impacting specialization choices of female physicians is their personal lives, specifically having a spouse and children. In the aforementioned ACC study, 90% of the male cardiologists were married compared to 71% of female cardiologists. Of the cardiologists with children, 55% of male cardiologists responded that their spouse provided child care, while only 8% of female cardiologists responded the same way. Furthermore, 43% of female cardiologists responded that family responsibilities “specifically impeded their ability to travel for continuing medical education, committees, and professional advancement,” compared to 29% of males. Lastly, 39% of women, compared to 25% of men, stated that “family responsibilities hindered their ability to do professional work” (Limacher et al, 1998). The feeling that childcare and family responsibilities overwhelm work responsibilities can be explained by the number of hours that male and female physicians spend working and parenting weekly. A study of surgeons showed that women work an average of 64 hours a week and parent for an additional 50 hours weekly, while men work for a similar 69 hours per week but spend half the time (25 hours) in the parenting role (Mayer et al, 2001). This phenomenon is not limited to cardiology. The Women Physician’s Health Study in 1994 found that “women who did choose specialties with greater and irregular time demands were less likely to be married and less likely to have children or had fewer children than women in other specialties” (Limacher et al, 1998). Physician mothers are more likely to be in primary care, are less likely to be specialized, and are underrepresented in surgical fields (Buddeberg-Fischer et al., 2010). This is supported by a study finding that only 45% of female specialists had three or more children. In contrast, 68% of non-specialists had three or more children. Reasons for this are complex but may be related to the requirements of sub-specialization. Sub-specialization requires more training, might require moving to be close to a university or large regional hospital, and takes place later in a physician’s career when many women are already married with children and might be reluctant to move their families to pursue a career opportunity (Gjerberg, 2001). Ellie Proussaloglou
25% of female physicians are childless compared to only 9% of male physicians. Female physicians without children are more likely to be in surgery and work full time and less likely to be in primary care (Hery, 2005). Over 50% of female physicians have their first child during residency and continue working until their due date, and the physical stress of residency oftentimes causes complications in the pregnancy and birth. Dr. Glese Verlander, herself a physician and a single mother of four, states that “the difficulties of balancing family and medicine affect women’s choice of specialty, advancement in academic medicine, health, and decisions regarding whether to have children” (Verlander, 2004). The decision to have a child while practicing is a difficult choice for many female physicians, considering that the best time biologically to become a mother coincides with the time of most intense career and training requirements. In addition, physician-mothers oftentimes bear the resentment of their colleagues, who might feel like they are taking on additional work and responsibility to support the family choices of a female physician. There is also a large discrepancy between the maternity leave recommendations of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the choices made by most female physicians (Verlander, 2004). The ACP advises taking maternity leave two weeks prior to the baby’s due date and keeping one parent as the infant’s primary caregiver for at least four months. In contrast to these recommendations, most American female physicians use less than their allotted 6 weeks of paid maternity leave, further exacerbating the conflict between work and family obligations. Discrimination Unfortunately, discrimination against female physicians is still a prevalent part of many male-dominated medical specialties. In a study of Canadian female surgeons, nearly 51% reported discrimination from male attending staff, and 41% reported discrimination from nursing staff (Koso, 2002). Competition and discrimination against female physicians also comes from female administrative support staff. In a reflection on her experience as a medical student, physician Silvia Koso notes that “sexual harassment is common in medical practice and may be even more prevalent in academic medicine. It is perpetuated by traditional power relationships between male doctors and female nurses” (Koso, 2002, p159). A study of 1064 American cardiologists revealed that 71% of female cardiologists report having experienced discrimination throughout their career, 81% of which was due to their gender. Only 21% of men reported discrimination, most of which was due to racial, religious, or foreign medical graduate status (Limacher et al., 1998). Today, most of the discrimination against female physicians is very subtle. In the words of Dr. Molly Carnes,
“Cognitive distortions at both the individual and institutional level conspire to reduce women’s full participation in the academic STEMM [science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine] enterprise. The subtlety of these distortions enables bias against women to enter decision-making processes without being overt” (Carnes, 2009).
Many female surgeons continue to acknowledge the existence of sex discrimination in their specialty. Even during early training, many women mention that the attitude and teaching methods of general medicine doctors and surgeons during medical school is off-putting. Male exclusionary practices during surgical training 18
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are often cited, with females being passed over for promotions and appointments, experiencing a lack of opportunities for surgical experiences, and being ridiculed by and excluded from the general “male chauvinist culture” (Moorkamp, 2005). In fact, 80% of the females surveyed by Kass et al. reported overt sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or prejudice against them due to their gender, and 40% said that they felt that they received fewer or less prestigious job opportunities as a result of their gender.
“It’s very difficult, particularly when I was younger, to be taken seriously by fellows. You know, even as a resident, as a junior faculty member, I really had to prove myself . . . almost every single day . . . in ways that I don’t think men have to” (Kass et al., 2006, p182). “The obvious one is gender prejudice. I am [petite] . . . and I was pretty good looking when I was a young woman and those actually counted against me, eliciting comments like ‘oh you are too cute to be a surgeon’, ‘you got your husband, why don’t you quit now’, ‘you just are taking a place that should be occupied by a man’, and ‘you are too little’, ‘you are not strong enough’ etc. There was inappropriate touching and inappropriate comments in the operating room which I still have a hard time talking about” (Kass et al., 2006, p182).
Positive Developments and Future Solutions A 2001 study by Gjerberg et al. argues that horizontal segregation in medicine is declining. Gjerberg compared two cohorts of Norwegian doctors who completed their medical training from 1970-1973 and from 1980-1983 in order to examine their specialization patterns over time. Overall, Gjerberg found evidence for a reduction in horizontal segregation. In 1973, female physicians could be found in 27 out of 43 specialties; this number had increased to 34 out of 43 specialties by 1983 (Gjerberg, 2001). However despite this improvement, it is clear that divisions still exist. Women were missing from some specialties and continued to avoid these specialties even when re-specializing later in their careers. Only 1 out of the 13 women surveyed upon re-specialized went into general medicine, surgery, or the related subspecialties. More than half, however, went into psychiatry. In contrast, almost half of the 35 men who re-specialized later in their career went into general medicine, surgery, or the related subspecialties (Gjerberg, 2001). As mentioned above, female physicians share a disproportionally large portion of household and parenting responsibilities compared to their male counterparts. The amount of hours required for female physicians’ coinciding duties at home and at their respective hospital or clinic has a negative impact on their productivity and availability for or dedication to their medical work. Potential solutions include creating more positions with flexible hours, part-time positions, or shared responsibilities. However, while this solution seems attractive in theory, a myriad of issues exist. Increasing the availability of part time positions presents a need to train more physicians and an increased burden on already stressed hospital administration systems (Mayer, 2001). Furthermore, there is no existing consensus on the number of hours that constitute appropriate part-time medical work. Female physicians attempting to use flexible hours might encounter increased discrimination and difficulties from conservative department members disapproving of that option. In addition, most academic centers do not offer tenure Ellie Proussaloglou
for part-time physicians, though they continue to offer promotion and other benefits (Hery, 2005). The impact of part-time work on tenure and future career possibilities is an effective block to the use of these policies by many female physicians. Once again, it seems that female physicians must make the choice between prioritizing family or career at the expense of the other. 85% of female physicians, compared to only 35% of male physicians, report making career changes for the benefit of their family and children (Verlander, 2004). Alternative work options are increasing in availability, but few physicians take advantage of them. In fact, from 1997 to 2001, the number of residents in part-time or shared positions dropped from 1% to .8% (Verlander, 2004). The ACP recently recommended a more flexible tenure timeline and requirements for promotion to accommodate the joint work and family requirements of many physicians. However, despite this encouraging step, there must first be a de-stigmatization of physicians who choose to take part-time or slower tenure-track options.
“To attract more female physicians to academic medicine, and retain them as academicians, women furthermore need stronger support from the medical community, including increased availability of childcare in academic settings, flexibility at work, strong mentors, and decreased ‘good old boy’ cronyism” (Verlander, 2004, p334).
Other solutions include emphasizing the gender-specific advantages of being a female physician. Within the field of surgery, survey respondents identified women as having advantages in both technical skills such as gentler tissue handling and leadership skills such as better team work, improved communication skills, and more effective multitasking (Kass et al., 2006).
“The field of surgery will benefit from having more gender balance. Women surgeons are perceived as less intimidating, easier to talk to and easier to work with in many respects... Having more women in the field I think really will help to break that stereotype” (Kass et al., 2006, p182). “We bring a different perspective to the field in terms of patient care. Women spend more time with patients and with their families, are much more compassionate at the bedside, and you see that difference with the vast majority of women, whether they be in surgery or . . . some other medical specialty” (Kass et al., 2006, p182).
Reducing gender bias, while clearly driven by the desire for gender equity, also has distinct benefits. Employee satisfaction in gender mixed groups is generally higher, reduced gender bias will prevent the waste of human capital (over half of PhDs and clinical doctorates in biomedical and behavioral sciences go to women), and career advancement of female physicians has been tied to advancements in women’s health (Carnes, 2009). In 1996, the American Association of Medical Colleges was charged with writing a report on the changing role and presence of women in academic medicine. The preliminary report, coupled with a report published in 2002, highlighted the same gender issues as mentioned in earlier sections of this paper. Specifically, despite comprising nearly half of medical school students, female physicians continue to be greatly underrepresented in high-ranking leadership positions. In some specialties, the number of female professors has actually declined. From 1995 to 2001, women professors in emergency medicine, otolaryngology, and orthopedic surgery declined 20
MEDICINE AND THE GENDER PATTERNS OF SPECIALIZATION CHOICES
from 11% to 6%, from 8% to 7%, and from 2% to 1% respectively (Bickel et al, 2002). The AAMC 2002 Report emphasizes that solutions to equalize numbers of female physicians have very limited results. Instead, efforts should focus on changing aspects of the medical culture to allow for greater success of female physicians in all specialties. The report urges all medical schools to appoint AAMC Women Liaison Officers and to supply appropriate support and funding for this role. The AAMC also developed an extensive list of recommendations to address existing institutional and cultural gender problems in medicine. Each AAMC recommendation fulfills one of three main objectives, namely to: 1. Develop and monitor women faculty, administrators, residents, and students 2. Improve pathways to leadership and leadership development 3. Foster readiness to change (Bickel, 2002, p1056) Specific recommendations are wide-ranging and include responsibilities for academic medical leaders, medical institutions, and the AAMC. Some notable recommendations include the creation of official mentorship programs at hospitals focused on the needs and concerns of women faculty. Representation of women at senior-level positions in medical institutions should also be monitored and recorded regularly. Lastly, search committees should renew their focus on identifying qualified women candidates, hospitals should improve their child care resources, and department chairs should establish flexible work hours and training schedules (Bickel, 2002). Conclusion Dr. Valian, author of the book Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women, which examines the progress of women in science, academia, and professions, noted that “even when you control for productivity, men still advance more rapidly than women” (Angier, 1998). She is a proponent of the theory that an accumulation of small nicks, rather than one big factor, is responsible for the lagging progress of women in the medical profession. Specifically, implicit gender stereotypes “create small sex differences in characteristics, behaviors, perceptions and evaluations of men and women. Those small imbalances accumulate to the advantage of men and the disadvantage of women” (Rodoski, 2010). As detailed in this paper, the accumulation of various institutional slights against women in the field of medicine contributes to the drastic differences in specialization choices among male and female physicians. According to a study by Reskin and Roos in 1990, there are three ways for women to move into male-dominated areas of employment. The first is the path of true integration, where women and men become accepted equally in the same field of work, with same tasks and career possibilities. The second is the creation of ghettos, which “occurs when women and men with the same professional title work in different fields in the same profession, for example, when there is a systematic difference in work organization affecting which jobs they have, or when they carry out different tasks in the same field” (Gjerberg, 2001, p334). This has been highlighted by researchers such as Hery in the identification of the “pink Ellie Proussaloglou
collar tier” of medicine. This tier, which includes all female physicians, is valued less than the super-powerful, high ranking male doctors and valued slightly more than the nurses and other hospital staff (Hery, 2005). The final path is re-segregation, which occurs when a profession that was first dominated by men becomes dominated by women, as has occurred in the field of gynecology and obstetrics. Moving forward, the field of medicine should strive for true integration in all specialties. Implementing the recommendations of the AAMC is the first step towards accomplishing this goal. As detailed in this paper, the absence of women from certain medical specialties such as surgery and internal medicine is due to existing institutional barriers. Specifically, issues exist with the availability and attractiveness of flex-time options, the lack of female mentors, and the persistence of sexual discrimination, both in subtle forms and as overt sexual harassment. Moving forward, medical institutions, international organizations, and physicians, both male and female, must commit themselves to enacting the AAMC recommendations. Without a concerted effort from all involved parties to improve the existing inequalities in medical specialization, current problems will continue to persist and true gender equality in medicine will remain out of reach. References Angier, N (1998). A Conversation: With Virginia Valian; Exploring the Gender Gap and the Absence of Equality. The New York Times. Bickel J, Wara D, Atkinson B, et al (2002). Increasing Women’s Leadership in Academic Medicine: Report of the AAMC Project Implementation Committee. Academic Medicine 77 (10): 1043-1061. Bowman M, Gross M. (1986) Overview of Research on Women in Medicine- Issues for Public Policymakers. Public Health Reports 101 (5): 513-521. Carnes, M. (2009). Gender Issues in Academic Medicine, Science, and Engineering. http://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/ docs/Present_Iowa_2009.pdf Carnes M, Morrissey C, Geller S. (2008) Women’s Health and Women’s Leadership in Academic Medicine: Hitting the Same Glass Ceiling? Journal of Women’s Health 17 (9): 1453-1462. Gjerberg, E. (2002). Gender similarities in doctors’ preferences — and gender differences in final specialisation. Social Science & Medicine, 54(4), 591-605. Gjerberg E. (2001) Medical women-towards full integration? An analysis of the specialty choices made by two cohorts of Norwegian doctors. Social Science and Medicine 52: 331-343. Hery A. (2005) Pink-Collar Medicine: Women and the Future of Medicine. Gender Issues 22(1): 20-34. Kass R, Souba W, Thorndyke L. (2006) Challenges Confronting Female Surgical Leaders: Overcoming the Barriers. Journal of Surgical Research 132: 179-187. Koso, S. (2002) Promoting gender equality in the medical profession: A physician’s reflection on her experiences as a medical student. Journal of Health Management, 4(2), 153-166. Limacher M, Zaher C, Walsh M, et al. (1998) ACC Committee Report- The ACC Professional Life Survey: Career Decisions of Women and Men in Cardiology. JACC, 32 (3): 827-835. Mayer K, Ho H, Goodnight J. (2001) Childbearing and Child Care in Surgery. Arch Surg, 136: 649-655. Moorkamp, M. (2005). Women paediatricians: What made them choose their career? Journal of Health Organization and Management, 19(6), 478. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docvi ew/197382690?accountid=10598 Risberg, G., Hamberg, K., & Johansson, E. (2003). Gender awareness among physicians - the effect of specialty and gender. A study of teachers at a Swedish medical school. BMC Medical Education, 3(1), 8. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6920/3/8 Rodoski, K (2010). ‘A Day with Virginia Valian’ to explore underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Inside SU. Verlander, G. (2004). Female Physicians: Balancing Career and Family. Academic Psychiatry, 28 (4), 331-336.
MEDICINE AND THE GENDER PATTERNS OF SPECIALIZATION CHOICES
LOVE AND MARRIAGE: THE CONTRACTED FUTURE— What Female Sexuality Means to John Locke on Restoration Stage
Susan Mo ‘14 Political Philosophy, Literature
In Restoration comedies, marriage is the romantic climax that intertwines the theme of money, desire and love. However, instead of perpetuating love, the bliss of matrimony disrupts it. From Hobbes onwards, secular contracts began to emerge: the conception of authority was no longer understood as divine right but rather as originating in the needs of individuals (Staves, 1). Yet Hobbes differed from Locke in his reliance upon compulsion in the formation of contract. Although Locke was ambivalent toward hierarchical sovereignty within families that subordinates wives to husbands, the implications of his theory of free-born individuals transformed the social role of wife from the patriarchal notion of property to a partner with whom legal contract is to be negotiated. Locke’s theory of true liberalism necessitates women’s equal standing with men, but women were still defined in their relationship to others both on stage and in real life and they were compelled to maximize their capacity of power through reserving
their romantic favors and masking their sexual desires. In consequence, instead of closing the gap between refuting the traditional value of women as possession, Lockean theory exaggerates the inherent paradox the social practice of contracted marriage exaggerates during Restoration period. Female lack of legal access to property in marriage and the eventual deterioration of physical beauty of women inevitably result in the loss of female liberty. Therefore, Lockean contract theory neither enhances women’s status nor frees women from patriarchal rule. The term “contract” indicates a treaty of marriage that settles property and money matters (Alleman, 6). Lockean contract theory of government supplanted the capricious and tyrannical authority with the form of the legal contract (Hughes, 138). Through unanimous consent, people enter into a social contract with the government that guarantees the protection of citizens’ life, liberty, and property. Rather than excluding power to paternalistic rule, Locke proposed many types of powers and social relations, among which was the conjugal relationship, described as follows: Conjugal Society is made by a voluntary Compact between Men and Women: tho’ it consist chiefly in such a Communion and Right in one another’s Bodies, as is necessary to its chief End, Procreation; yet it draws with it mutual Support and Assistance, and a Communion of Interest too, as necessary not only to unite their Care, and Affection, but also necessary to their common Off-spring. (Locke, 83)
The definition of “conjugal society” grows out of the necessity of procreation, the burden of which is born by women. According to Locke, natural differences of women suffering the frequency of pregnancy and men being “abler and stronger” accounted for the traditional patriarchal rule. Conjugal contract guarantees the rights of women which are liable to be removed due to the loss of power inherent in the trouble of childbearing. In the play The Way of The World, William Congreve demonstrates the negotiation process through which women attempt to bargain for equal power with men. In the wedding proviso scene, Millamant, the fiancée of Mirabell, asserts her equal rights and commands her power sphere over the tea-table, the wardrobe, the guests and the friends: As liberty to pay and receive visits to and from whom I please; to write and receive letters, without interrogatories or wry faces on your part; to wear what I please, and choose conversation with regard only to my own taste; to have no obligation upon me to converse with wits that I don’t like, because they are your acquaintances, or to be intimate with fools, because they may be your relations. Come to dinner when I please, dine in my dressing-room when I’m out of humour, without giving a reason. To have my closet inviolate; to be sole empress of my tea-table, which you must never presume to approach without first asking leave. And lastly, wherever I am, you shall always knock at the door before you come in. These articles subscribed, if I continue to endure you a little longer, I may by degrees dwindle into a wife. (McMillin, 297)
Thomas Hobbes’ contract theory contrasts with Locke’s in that men acquire illusory control over their “continual fear” and “the danger of violent death” through the covenant (Hobbes, 146). In Leviathan, Hobbes argues that passion of fear is the locus of legitimate compulsion that provides a motive for entering into a covenant (Kahn, 96). He bases his argument of the paradoxical coexistence of consent and coercion on the assertion that “fear and liberty are consistent,” as exemplified in a man’s “willingness to throw goods into the sea for fear the ship should sink” (Hobbes, 158). Hobbes describes the process of reaching a contractual relationship: “when men 24
LOVE AND MARRIAGE: THE CONTRACTED FUTURE
that think themselves wiser than all others, clamor and demand right Reason for judge; yet seek no more, but that things should be determined, by no other mens reason but their own” (Hobbes, 230). He recognizes the means by which social contract collapses into incoherence: the trumpeting of one’ own interest and desires (Gauthier, 152). Marriage in The Man of Mode symbolizes the power of a tyrant. Dorimant’s proposal of marrying Harriet is motivated by greed and characterized by falsehood. His libertine struggle for winning power drives him to reconcile his libertine ideology with his uncontrollable fear of loss. His refusal to acknowledge the worth of females when he articulates his purpose of marriage—“you [Young Bellair] wed a woman, I a good estate,”—demonstrates his dread toward women’s acquisition of liberty and his fear of falling in love (Act 4, Scene 2, 148). For Hobbes, contract based upon fear is predetermined by fear, which eventually invalidates the covenant, because “no man can transfer or lay down his right to save himself from death” (Hobbes, 106). In contrast to the futility of Hobbes’ covenant based upon fear, Lockean contract theory seems to empower women, freeing them from the purposeless desperation of power seeking after marriage. However, the inherent inequality in the marriage structure surrenders female liberty to a “private tyranny”1 in law and tradition. Lockean contract does not protect women as they become undesirable and lose the grip of love. Since marriage excludes inheritance and descent from female control, wives are incapable of securing property for themselves. In The Way of The World, Millamant confesses that she might be “a lost thing”, foreshadowing the dark possibility of her ruin as power transfers from wives to husbands after marriage. Marriage contract not only denies women of their access to property but also restrains them from fulfilling selfhood. The similarities between Lady Wishfort and Millamant indicate the fantastical impossibility of women rising in social status as a result of Lockean contract. The women are bonded by their kinship as niece and aunt—lady Wishfort’s desperate searching for a husband is laughable only because of her decaying age. In Mrs. Fainall’s exclamation—“female frailty! We must all come to it, if we live to be old and feel the craving of a false appetite when the true is decayed”—, Congreve captures the vulnerability of female power (Act 2, Scene 2, 272). Women’s self-worth equals physical beauty. As beauty fade away, female power is stripped bare. By marrying Millamant, Mirabell voluntarily chooses to submit his potential libertine power associated with his virile masculinity. Had he chosen not to do so, Millamant would have experienced the same wish-for-it fate as Lady Wishfort, whose vision of marriage reduces her to ridicule. Even in the wedding proviso scene, usually considered as a moment of female empowerment, Millamant’s connubial stipulates to no more than personal privacy, domestic decorum, and feminine refinement. Mirabell’s setting of conditions to Millamant’s autonomous rule of her tea table, which restrains her to “native and simple teatable drinks [and conversations]”, shatters the last straw of liberty Millamant could possess as a married woman. Women in The Way of The World still live in the masquerade age, since A term coined by James E. Evans in Resisting a Private Tyranny in Two Humane Comedies. 1
appearance, beauty, and physical wealth constitute female self, labeled with a price tag by men. Women do not even own their beauty—rather, it is “the lover’s gift [who] bestow you [women] charm” (Act 2, Scene 2, 274). In order to secure power, both Millamant and Lady Wishfort practice extreme affectation and coquetry. Millamant’s declaration of “only [using] verses” to pin up her hair and her denial to be called “wife” and “be seen together [in public with Mirabell]” go beyond Lady Wishfort’s obsessive use of powder and paint to “repair [her] peeled wall” (Act 3, Scene 3, 280). Apart from her carefully groomed reputation of virtue, Millamant’s witty remarks seem only to be a price that adds up to her value as a female commodity while she deceives herself into the illusion of maintaining power. Her feigned cruelty toward Mirabell in order to gain power over Mirabell only turns ridiculous after the loss of her sexual attractiveness when she turns “old and ugly.” When Lady Wishfort refers to death in terms of the tactics to keep her love, she says, “tenderness becomes me best, a sort of a dyingness” (Act 3, Scene 3, 280). She comes to terms with her sentimental desperation that ultimately denies her of free will and personhood. Millamant and Lady Wishfort’s lack of self-worth is caused by their few life choices. As one scholar aptly describes, women in Restoration comedies wind up either as a hated wife or an abandoned mistress. Mirabell uses the metaphor of love as a “chase”; the moment when the man secures the woman signals the death of love. In spite of its playful tone of love as a poetic “fly” and “solicitation”, there is an element of tragedy in the inevitable dissatisfaction and unhappiness on the part of women. After crossing the threshold of matrimony, the search for love by Mirabell is doomed to end. The “darling contemplation” and “faithful solitude” have enabled Millamant to enjoy freedom before marriage. However, they stand in pragmatic opposition to female sexual desire and go against conventional expectations of women’s role in society. Her unwillingness to kiss Mirabell even after their promised engagement goes beyond withholding her romantics favors by keeping men in flirtations. It exposes her insecurity toward the future of marriage contract. As a female neo-libertine, Millamant seems to suggest that the only way to escape from the slavish bondage of marriage and the Hobbesian chaos of libertine behaviors, is to disengage from society and the political and domestic contracts it is based upon. This new understanding of human nature and of social and political organization sparked by John Locke challenged the patriarchal theory that legitimized the absolute authority of king and husband. Although Lock theoretically freed women from subjection to men, women continued to be defined by their physicality and their relationship to men. The right of divorce was still inconceivable for women of that time, neither was submission to unconditional love. Because the Restoration society was yet to accept the social implications of Lockean consensus theory, women had to play out the double standard of virtuous and mysterious (sexually-desirable) feminine ideal set by the patriarchal authority. In The Man of Mode, women have to participate in the social game and gamble upon marriage. In The Way of The World, they have to find the equilibrium in a precarious future between natural passions and social demands of a hardened society while avoiding the dangerous liaisons of falling prey either to their own desire or to the desire of men. The contractual marriage does not successfully provide a safety net for true love or a moral code against licentious behaviors; libertine ideology of hopeless frustration toward (physical) love corrupts the contractual harmony. Therefore, neither men nor women are free to fall in love 26
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without risking their reputation, physical possessions and future. The common wisdom of marriage that “[dwindles women] into wife” and pushes them further apart from their “dear liberty” indicates the lingering, pervasive paradigm of marriage as a transfer of power from wife to husband. Indeed, it never goes away. References Alleman, Gellert Spencer. Matrimonial Law and the Materials of Restoration Comedy. Wallingford, PA. 1942. 1-30. Print. Birdsall, Virginia Ogden. Wild Civility. Bloomington: Indiana University. 1970. 228-250. Print. Bulter, Melissa A. “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism: John Locke and the Attack on Patriarchy.” The American Political Science Review, Vol. 72, No. 1 (Mar., 1978): 135-150. Electronic Resource. Ellehauge, Martin. English Restoration Drama, Its Relation to Past English and Past and Contemporary French Drama. Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard. 1933. 120-169. Print. Fisk, Deborah Payne. Companion to English Restoration Theatre. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2000. 129-143. Print. Gauthier, David. “The Social Contract as Ideology.” Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter, 1977): 130-164. Electronic Resource. Gill, Pat. “The Way of the Word: Telling Differences in Congreve’s Way of the World.” Broken Boundaries: Women & Feminism in Restoration Drama. Ed. Katherine M. Quinsey. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky.1996. 164191. Print. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. England: Penguin Books. 1968. 9-209. Print. Hughes, Derek. “Restoration and Settlement: 1660 and 1688.” The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre. Ed. Deborah Payne Fisk. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 2000. 127-141. Print. Kahn, Victoria. “’The Duty to Love’: Passion and Obligation in Early Modern Political Theory.” Representations, No. 68 (Autumn, 1999): 84-107. Electronic Resource. Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government: and a Letter Concerning Toleration. New Haven: Conn. 2003. 80-192. Print. McMillin, Scott, ed. Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: A Norton Critical Edition. 2nd ed. New York and London: Norton, 1997. Schneider, Ben Ross. The Ethos of Restoration Comedy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1971. 120-139. Print. Staves, Susan. Players’ Scepters: Fictions of Authority in the Restoration. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1979. 1-49. Print.
Make-Up: The Burqa of the Western World
Gracie Willert â€˜14 Psychology
Make-up: The Burqa of the Western World? The clash between the Western and Islamic worlds is among the most poignant features of modern international relations. With the advances of the early twenty-first century, cultural discrepancies between the increasingly secularized West and the Islamic Middle East have become only more pronounced. It takes but a click of a remote or a turn of a newspaper page to observe the contrariety of these differences. Too often, though, such juxtaposition obscures the West and Eastâ€™s considerable common ground and cultural parallels. The Western stigmatization and condemnation of the Islamic veil is one such misleading juxtaposition. Deeper and less ethnocentric reflection reveals considerable parallels between the Islamic veil and the Western use of make-up. One logically begins with an examination of the veil in Islamic culture: its origin, its modern-day use, and its role as an agent of the subjugation of women. In continuing, one should explore the entrenchment of make-up in Western culture, the cunning of the beauty industry, and the detrimental physical and psychological effects of explicitly following this gender norm should be explored. Finally, a critical comparison of these two cultural practices, an unearthing of their commonalities, and a discussion of their universal implications is in order.
The Islamic Veil as an Obstruction Prior to the establishment of Islam, the veil was a fixture of ancient societies ranging from Assyria to India to Greece (Reese, n.d.). The veiling of women, then, is an adopted tradition taken up by early Muslims. In the centuries since, the veil has become an icon of Middle Eastern culture and, most especially, of the Islamic faith. Originally a sign of status and wealth, the connotation of the veil has morphed considerably since its inception in Islamic tradition. Today, the veil is arguably the single most controversial garment in the world. It is a complex symbol, laced with political, religious, and cultural nuances. It is only through an appreciation of its intricacy that the veil can be fairly appraised. According to Billaud (2009), the purity of females is tied to the namus or the dignity of the men in her family. The donning of veils, then, has become the means by which an Islamic woman can hedge inappropriate interaction with men and preserve the honor of her family. The question then becomes why is it that men do not join in the cultural tradition of veiling? Why aren’t men’s bodies just as determinative of the honor or shame brought upon their families? No cultural practice with such a benevolently sexist foundation can be dismissed as harmless tradition. The concept of namus undeniably has considerable patriarchal undertones, as its purpose is to preserve honor by “control[ling] women and restrict[ing] their movements outside of the household” by limiting female sexuality (Billaud, 2009, p. 123). The physical cloth, then, is so much more than interwoven threads; it is a tapestry of the misogynistic Islamic culture. Veils are extensions of the walls of the home: “mobile prisons” (Billaud, 2009, pg. 121) of sorts. The overt control over a women’s sexuality that the veil exerts cannot help but extend to other aspects of her life. Control of one’s sexuality is inextricably linked with one’s sense of autonomy. Consider, for instance, the freedom afforded to women with the advent of birth control. According to Cohen (2005), “Controlling contraception meant women could embrace their sexuality like never before. Without fear of pregnancy, women had more latitude to choose partners and determine the timing and frequency of sex. That kind of female autonomy was unprecedented.” The ability to choose, in any context, is empowering. And so, the problem of the veil transcends its role as a physical barrier or even its function as an icon of multi-faceted gender segregation. It is the deprivation of free will that is disempowering. Refusal to conform is often accompanied by brutality, running the gamut from unwelcomed male sexual advances to assault with “knives or guns” (Jeffreys, 2005, p. 38). The veil, then, is a vital means of protection against male violence. A “properly” clothed and concealed woman cannot be as easily blamed for violence as one who has failed to conform. And so, the vicious cycle ensues. Many Islamic women adhere to socially prescribed veiling as a means of self-preservation and safety, and the tradition continues to be defended by this benevolently sexist notion that veiling maintains honor and ensures protection. Violence endures as men and the social system condone veiling. Although often defended as a tradition mandated by religion, sacred Islamic texts give no direct mention of full body veiling as a requirement. The Quran 24:31 Gracie Willert
(as cited in Jafri, n.d.) reads, “And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and be modest, and to display of their adornments only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms”. Because of the ambiguity of such texts, female veiling is more aptly described as an interpretation, rather than a prescription of hijab, the traditional Islamic modest veil and garments for females. The dearth of substantial textual evidence delineating the necessity of the veil rules out the religious argument as a viable defense. Make-up as a Mask Halfway around the world, double standards of appearance are propagated by the billion-dollar beauty industry and manifested in the accompanying cultural practice of using make-up. The critique of feminists in the 1970s, make-up became the object of renewed enthusiasm among feminists in the 1990s with the emergence of the so-called “natural look”. The “natural look” trend portrayed make-up as a means of accentuating women’s attributes, of bringing out their own god-given beauty. The controversy in the feminist community became whether this was a step in the right direction or merely an advertising ploy by the make-up industry. (Black, 2004, p. 39). Today, however, make-up has maintained (and, it seems, secured) its place at the heart of Western culture. Images of flawless, airbrushed women plaster billboards and stream across television screens to the brink of omnipresence. This constant bombardment has bred a culture obsessed with body image, appearance, and perfection. This notion of perfection is a most lucrative one. The inherent flawed nature of mankind ensures that once consumers buy into the idea that they are flawed and in need of alteration, the pursuit of perfection will be continuous and a demand for corrective products will surface and endure. Enter America’s beauty industry. Makeup is marketed as the answer to women’s shortcomings, a way for women to feel beautiful and empowered. What it doesn’t say on the bottle is that wearing makeup opens the door to a myriad of serious health issues. Most fundamentally, makeup may potentially be of detriment to women’s bodies. Often unregulated by federal agencies, make-up may contain toxic substances, ranging from lead and coal tar in hair coloring to formaldehyde in nail polishes (Jeffreys, 2005). According to Erickson and Farrow (2002) (as cited in Jeffreys, 2005), women who wear make-up expose themselves to hundreds of chemicals everyday. Women absorb approximately “3 to 4.5 kilos in a lifetime’s use” in lipstick alone (p. 107). The purview of make-up far transcends the physical, however, branching its tendrils into the female psyche. For instance, excess in make-up application is strongly correlated with excess in concern over body image or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (Jeffreys, 2005). Ridden with preoccupation about perceived flaws, anxiety, and often depression, women with BDD struggle to reconcile their own body image with that of the media-constructed ideal. Intriguingly, “the only distinction between women’s ordinary concern with appearance and that which leads to a diagnosis of Body Dysmorphic Disorder does seems to be the extremity of the symptoms” (Jeffrey, 2005, p. 109). It is only in the most drastic cases that our society considers worry over appearance to be an issue. In essence, the diagnostic process of BDD and other body disorders seems to imply that a certain level of body discomfort and even disdain is 30
normative, a true testament to our culture’s worship of self-image. Particularly troubling is the beauty industry’s response to criticism as promoting unattainable ideals with promotion of the “natural look”. Clinique’s refurbishment of advertising included a newfound emphasis on portraying makeup “not as a beauty product but as a scientifically endorsed method of maintaining cleanliness and grooming” (Black, 2004, p. 39). The success of the make-up brand bareMinerals provides yet another salient example of this transition in the beauty industry. One holiday advertisement on their website reads “everything you need to get started with bareMinerals foundation-for a 100% natural, no-makeup look and feel” (“bareMinerals”, n.d.). Its heading, “The Total Package”, emblazons the top with make-up brushes, powders and ribbons scattered playfully in the background. The brand’s claim that their products will provide women with a “no-makeup” and “100% natural” look uncovers a most bitter irony. Use of words like “bare”, “minerals”, and “natural” imply that the traits afforded by their products are ones which women should naturally possess. It suggests that women ought to already have blushing cheeks, even-toned skin, and long, dark lashes (“bareMinerals”, n.d.). This “natural look” marketing is but a mere “repackaging” (Black, 2004, 38), a deft advertising maneuver by the beauty industry to mitigate the criticism and appeal to the feminist contingent. One and the Same? Separate analysis of the veil of Islam and the make-up of the West illustrates their unique societal implications and considerable negative influence on the women that use them. With make-up aiming to excite men’s sexual urges and the veil trying to suppress them, each cultural practice plays into a dichotomy between women as perfect, chaste beings and objects of sexual desire. It is this duality that fuels narrow cultural prescriptions of femininity. Pigeonholing women into two rigid categories constrains their roles to ones that cater to the various sexual “needs” of men. No matter to which part of this dualism a society prescribes, misogyny is perpetuated. The veil and make-up alike implicitly ascribe much of the value of a woman to her appearance. Moreover, deeming these cultural practices choices overlooks the multifaceted and immense pressures placed on women to conform. Failure to adhere to the mandate of hijab and veil in public is “punishable by 74 lashes” (Jeffreys, 2005, p. 38) in the country of Iran. Although Western enforcement of beauty maintenance is far less physically violent, more subversive brutality lurks beneath the surface and compells women to comply. Whereas the veil can be conceptualized as the agent of imposed modesty, make-up is similarly the conduit of “imposed femininity” (Chapkis, 1988, p. 131). Those women who choose to venture into the world barefaced and unadorned are subjected to judgment, ridicule or unwelcome comments. They may be deemed ugly or their heterosexuality may be questioned. The argument that women abiding by these cultural norms have a decision disregards the blatant compromise of free will.
Whether concealing their bodies behind cloth or slathering themselves with pastes and powders, women disclose or alter their true identity so as to be acceptable in the eyes of the world. These social prescriptions suggest that the female body is something in need of alteration, branding women as the subservient other, the inferior sex. “Makeup, like the veil, ensures that they are masked and not having the effrontery to show themselves as real and equal citizens that they should be in theory” (Jeffreys, 2005, p. 38). Make-up, then, is a mask, a veil, the burqa of the Western world.
References bareMinerals: The total package. (n.d.) Retrieved December 7, 2010, from http://www.bareescentuals.com/ Billaud, J. (2009). Visible under the veil: Dissimulation, performance and agency in an Islamic public space. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 11, 120134. Retrieved from http://www.bridgew.edu/soas/jiws/ Black, P. (2004). The beauty industry: Gender, culture, pleasure. London: Routledge. Chapkis, W. (1988). Beauty secrets: Women and the politics of appearance. Boston: South End Press. Cohen, S. (2005). Birth control pills helped empower women, changed the world. Copley News Service. Retrieved from http://www.religiousconsultation.org/ index.html Jafri, M. (n.d.). The Islamic concept of veil. Retrieved from http://www.irfi.org/ articles/articles_151_200/islamic_concept_of_veil.htm Jeffreys, S. (2005). Beauty and misogyny: Harmful cultural practices in the west. London: Routledge. Reese, C. (n.d.). Historical perspectives on Islamic dress. Retrieved from http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/essay-01.html
TRansgressing the Confines of Victim-Centered Cinematic Narratives: Thomas Allen Harris’ Vintage: Families of Value
Diana Ruiz ‘13 Women’s Studies, History
I. Introduction and Overview of Argument
In recent years, film and television documentaries have received attention for both
depicting issues of sexual violence and for portraying liberating, healing roles for the victims in the films. For example, a season of PBS’ Independent lens series includes two documentaries centered on sexual violence: Sentencing the Victim and The Day My God Died. Popular television shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil,” “Dateline NBC,” and among many others, “20/20” host a plethora of episodes with their respective hosts interviewing survivors of sexual violence. However, there remains a question of the extent to which such documentaries can have an emancipatory effect for sexual violence survivors if their experience is ultimately being narrated and represented by someone else (such as an actor, editor, or filmmaker). To this end, emerging filmmakers have engaged in productive exercises that open the possibility for alternatives. I find that among the many alternatives, perhaps the most important involves the possibility of restoring the agency to victims of sexual violence, since all acts of sexual violence strip the victim of his or her sense of power, or agency.
Taking cues from historical events such as the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, speaking out about one’s encounters with sexual violence and one’s voice being “heard” is considered liberating or transformative. Leading feminist scholars Linda Alcoff and Laura Gray posit that the act of speaking out about one’s experiences with sexual violence “serves to educate the society at large about the dimensions of sexual violence and misogyny, to reposition the problem from the individual psyche to the social sphere…and to empower victims” (261). When survivors of sexual violence speak out as the subjects of documentaries, they rarely have the right to construct their own representation. Interviews between journalists/directors/talk show hosts and the survivor may be hours long, but production budgets, commercial break time, or a specific angle on a survivor’s experience may result in selecting only the most pertinent parts of the interview that aligns with the director’s point of view. Often times, this process exploits the survivor because only moments of high vulnerability, emotional outbursts, or graphic detail are selected without their original context or provocation by the setting in which the survivor speaks. Thus, the exclusions of footage with survivors are equally significant as the included cuts. Ultimately, the documentary’s point of view is not wholly that of the victim(s), but is shaped by the director’s perspective and subsequent editorial cuts. Traditionally, the structure of a documentary is based on three acts built around a subject that must overcome difficult obstacles to achieve a goal and come to a satisfactory ending. When dealing with survivors of sexual violence, however, the three-act structure of documentaries may not be flexible enough to depict a fair portrait of the survivor’s experiences. Contrasting the rigid limitations of traditional documentaries, experimental documentaries have many more open, adjustable structures in their frameworks. The lack of popularity for experimental documentaries often stems from the non-linear nature of their narratives or filmic structures—the audience is not necessarily “safely guided” through the documentary. As the leaps and bounds of technology allow more access to recording equipment and venues for expression, documentary as a genre benefits from a multitude of voices articulating various facets of sexual violence. I will focus specifically on Thomas Allen Harris’ Vintage: Families of Value. II. Sexual violence, victimhood, and Thomas Allen Harris’ Vintage: Families of Value Influenced by experimental filmmakers such as Marlon Riggs and Isaac Julien, contemporary filmmaker and multimedia artist Thomas Allen Harris has significantly contributed to widening the margins of the documentary as a genre, simultaneously working to open the possibility of restoring agency to victims of sexual violence with his 1995 feature film, Vintage: Families of Value. His subsequent film, 2001 feature documentary, E Minha Cara (That’s My Face) earned seven international awards and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel and ARTE. Thomas Allen Harris’ most recent documentary, The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005) won five international awards and was broadcast on PBS’ POV/The American Documentary Series. His work aims to “create a sense of community and self-integration that exults in shared experience and wisdom, find[ing] a deeper truth in the joy of being ‘human’” (Chimpanzee Productions). Harris’ experimental documentary work complicates the 34
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traditional structure of sexual violence survivor documentaries as seen ontelevised films and documentary-style television shows. Growing up in the Bronx, New York and Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania and graduating from Harvard University, Thomas Allen Harris refined his filmmaking skills in his 1992 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He began his media career with six years in public television journalism, gaining two Emmy award nominations. The experiences of television journalism made him keenly “aware of the power of the camera and the intervention of the film as a constructive or conversely destructive force.” This awareness led him to harness the possibilities of the camera’s power and “create a better familial space for families to understand themselves and each other, [a space] that as Black families [collaborators of Vintage] had never really been given before” (Harris 280). Vintage: Families of Value offers spaces and possibilities for typically marginalized experiences and identities. The film begins with the following voice-over narrative: In 1990, I wanted to celebrate the intensity of my relationship with my brother Lyle. I was 28 years old and just beginning to explore feelings of ambivalence, fear, and hope regarding my family. I recruited two other groups of siblings, members of my community who were also queer, to join me in taking a critical look at their own families. This film is a family album created over the course of 5 years. Harris’ innovative film combines traditional documentary style, such as “talking head” interviews with fantasy and archival footage in his 1995 film, Vintage: Families of Value. The basic elements of the film revolve around three groups of queer siblings: Thomas Allen and Lyle Ashton Harris; Paul and Vanessa Eaddy; and Adrian Jones, Anita Jones, and Anni Cammett. As family albums may sometimes be themed, the point of departure for Vintage is queer sexualities in relationship to family dynamics. The family album captures moments precipitated from this theme, but the scope of sub-narratives that emerge are uniquely dependent on the relationships between siblings. The trajectory of the film is intimately bound to the relationships depicted on screen. Vintage’s sub-narratives range from dealing with HIV, familial history, parental acceptance, “coming out of the closet,” gender stereotypes, and among other topics, sexual violence. I am focusing on sexual violence, particularly incest, because a memorable scene among the three sisters is allotted a significant amount of time out of the film’s total running time. I am also focusing on this group discussion and fantasy scene because I find it works to undo the traditional documentary approach of treating sexual violence survivors on screen. Description of Key Scene: The sequence combines cinema vérité and fantasy scenes. Adrian Jones, Anita Jones, and Anni Cammett sit facing one another in a comfortable living room. The viewer enters the conversation already in progress as Anita urges Adrian to forgive “him.” The camera crosses the 180-degree line, causing a break in continuity editing that traditional documentary has accustomed us to. The viewer suffers a brief moment of disorientation and thus enters the sibling conversation Diana Ruiz
with a sense of confusion. As is the case with kinship dynamics when sexual violence occurs within a family unit, the socially constructed way to interact with one another (the camera angle and the viewer, the sisters with each other) is fragmented. Anita continues to implore that Adrian forgive their step-father, clarifying that she “didn’t say love,” but Adrian’s emphasis on “no way” overrides Anita’s persistence. The conversation shifts when Anni, who had been listening for the majority of the dialogue, posits that Adrian should not forgive her stepfather, but instead take responsibility in healing herself through therapy. As Anni begins to contribute to the conversation, the camera shakes a little and Thomas Allen Harris as a cameraman is visible in a peripheral mirror of the room. His brief, almost accidental presence once again departs the scene from traditional documentaries in which the director or interviewer are either shown asking questions or completely invisible to the shot. The first close up of the scene zooms into Adrian’s face as she exclaims over her siblings that forgiving her stepfather is “like closing the door that this shit ain’t going on and the shit is still going on. Listen to me. Listen to me. Listen to me. I’m not just talking about my experience; I’m talking about others. This shit is still going on…” As Adrian makes her point verbally, the film shifts to Anni’s black and white graveyard fantasy scene. Strong guitar strumming echoes Anni’s movements jumping out from behind monuments in a graveyard. She runs among the burial grounds using a blanket as a cape, covering and revealing herself to the camera as she chooses. She finally kneels down into the ground covering herself entirely. The sequence format becomes more familiar as Anni discusses Adrian’s emotional baggage and vulnerability in traditional documentary “talking head” fashion. The familiarity is only fleeting, as Anni’s words voice-over Adrian’s fantasy scene of shopping for jewelry in a department store. At the end of Anni’s thought, the film audio matches Adrian’s fantasy scene as she asks the sales clerk adjusting her pearl choker, “Can we try without this thing?” Adrian’s fantasy footage responds to Anni’s commentary and her history of incest. The film cuts back to the three sisters in the living room having seamlessly woven in an imaginary, psychic dimension of their relationships to one another. Anni attempts to convince Adrian that she needs to take more control of her “healing, ” to which Adrian meets with some hesitation, adding, “I’m alright.” Enunciating the presence of the camera, Anni replies, “If you watch this tape you’re going to see that you’re not alright...you may not like the way I go about healing myself…but I take responsibility for it.” The film cuts to a lush, green landscape with Adrian in voiceover: “that’s where I think the stigma comes from. Every time I put it down and get ready to have a nervous breakdown, there ain’t nothing to hold it—ah!” Adrian’s scream fades into the sounds of birds chirping against the image of a peaceful forest canopy. III. Vintage and Cinematic Authorship Differentiating Vintage from the mono-perspective of traditional documentaries, each of the participants was given his or her own camera to document the interactions within his or her respective family. The siblings were also involved in reviewing the footage and piecing their on-screen representation together with Thomas Allen Harris. In an interview with Assistant Professor of English and Black Studies at Pitzer College, Laura Harris (no relation), Thomas Allen Harris explains that “the biggest risk in 36
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[his] making Vintage was “opening up the editing process to the siblings….I was giving up authorial control—something filmmakers are taught not to relinquish” (Harris 282). Harris’ role as director bleeds into his roles as interviewer, participant and the primary figure the viewer identifies with. The viewer may certainly align or commiserate strongly (or not) with some sibling collaborators over others, but Harris ultimately acts as the sinew connecting three families together in a family album. The documentary form and technique in Vintage allow the film to go beyond the orthodox process of compartmentalizing subject and author as mutually exclusive. By blending genres and giving editorial access to the collaborators, Vintage challenges the traditional three-act documentary structure. In the sisters’ discussion and fantasy sequence, Vintage especially disrupts the “safely guided” relationship between filmmaker and audience through its lack of context, explanation, or professional validation. Many documentaries make use of an “expert” for dealing with survivors of sexual violence because the “mediation of a coolly disposed expert” acts as a “mechanism for displacing identification with the victims to reduce the emotional power of the survivor presence” (Alcoff and Gray 278). There is no need for an outside professional or expert on family dynamics, queer lifestyles, or sexual violence because of the authorial position the collaborators exercise. The collaborators are not only aware of their filmic representation, but they are also participating in its construction through the open editing process and fantasy scenes. The fantasy scenes are critical to the sisters’ sequence because they do not conform to any prescribed way of dealing with sexual violence. Explaining his decision to use such scenes, Thomas Allen Harris describes his “interest in explor[ing] fantasy space…because of the freedom it allowed us in terms of transgressing socially imposed boundaries.” He uses the pronoun “us,” solidifying that the fantasy scenes were collaborative, communal constructions. Harris never speaks for any of the participants—they reveal or conceal as much or as little as they would like. This control is critical, as it empowers the participants’ agency. After temporarily losing her agency in her history of incest, Adrian has the ability to reengage her voice, her command, her questions—or not at all. Akin to speaking out about one’s experiences with sexual violence, the “therapeutic/workshop/collaborative nature of the production of Vintage has its foot in feminist practices of self-empowerment” (Harris 281). As one of the participants being interviewed by a sibling as well, Harris experienced the “therapeutic value of [the interviewing, filming, editing] process” (Harris 280). By participating in the process himself, Harris and his filmmaking open the potential for Adrian and other survivors to develop their own ability to become experts on their own experience. IV. Conclusion: Towards New Narrative Possibilities for Victims of Sexual Violence The discursive transgressions Vintage makes within the documentary genre allow for a multiplicity of viewpoints to consider and articulate victimhood in more liberating ways. Vintage does not pander to the “safely guided” documentary approach when addressing incest, for in fact the speech of incest survivors has been “especially restricted on the grounds that it is too disgusting and disturbing to the listeners’ constructed sensibilities, which often continue to receive deferential preference”(Alcoff and Gray 266). The alienation of heinous sexual violence survivors operates on a hierarchy of power that relegates survivors and their experiences as hysterical, mad, illogical, or silent. This hierarchy also averts men’s Diana Ruiz
accountability for rape and other sexual violence by meeting survivor’s articulated experiences with pity, shame, and suspicion (Plummer 60). Vintage works outside of such a structure of domination and allows for a multiplicity of self-authoring voices, which subvert the silencing methods used to allow survivors to perhaps speak, but not construct their holistic representation. Vintage does not follow a linear structure in time, space, or continuity editing because linearity relies on logical reasoning for the order of things—sexual violence is not logical. In the same vein, the sisters’ discussion and fantasy sequence does not bring the viewer to a “satisfactory ending” because, as Adrian articulates, “I’m not just talking about my experience; I’m talking about others. This shit is still going on.” There is no possible ending, much less a “satisfactory” ending for survivors of sexual violence—there can only be healing and transgression, if at all. Vintage’s flexible structure transforms relationships of survivors speaking out and experts theorizing experience to an autonomous role for the survivor, enabling his or her agency. None of the collaborators are sensationalized or marked by their experience in the way that traditional documentaries treat survivors as ‘other;’ Vintage’s collaborative efforts allow its speakers to act as the experts of their own experiences, giving rise to the possibility of empowerment and a shift in social structures.
References Alcoff, Linda, and Laura Gray. “Survivor Discourse: Transgression or Recuperation?” Signs 18.2 (1993): 260-90. Print. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990. Chimpanzee Productions. Web. 20 July 2011. <http://www.chimpanzeeproductions. com>. Everett, Karen. “Dramatic Nonfiction: Squeezing Reality Into Three Acts.” Release Print: The Magazine of Film Arts Foundation Mar.-Apr. 2006: 35-47. Print. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. New York: Pantheon, 1978. Print. Harris, Laura A. “Black Feminism and Queer Families: A Conversation with Thomas Allen Harris.” African American Review 36.2 (2002): 273-82. Harris, Thomas Allen. Plummer, Kenneth. Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social Worlds. London: Routledge, 1995. Rubin, Gayle. Vintage: Families of Value. Dir. Thomas Allen Harris. Third World Newsreel, 1995.
TRANSGRESSING THE CONFINES OF THE VICTIM-CENTERED CINEMATIC NARRATIVES
“Pure” Science: Trafficking in Human and Animal Sexualities
Trent Serwetz ‘11 Evolutionary Biology, Posthumanist Studies
This paper intends to question the notion of “pure” science, or science free from politics, on several levels. It begins by discussing the predominant “selfish gene” theories in evolutionary biology used to interpret evolutionary processes in both animals and humans. On what assumptions about evolution do these theories rely, and what relationship between human and animal do they endorse? What understandings of sex do they produce? The paper turns next to theories within evolutionary biology which challenge the predominant discourse. What blind spots in the “selfish gene” hypothesis do these alternative theories reveal? What are the limitations of “selfish gene” theory on our understanding of human and animal sexualities, understood by these alternative biologists? Finally, the paper turns to the human. Evolutionary theories are vastly influential in the science of sex, especially homosexuality. In what way do the dominant theories both produce and borrow from certain understandings of human sexuality? Where, in all this, is there anything but politics?
Introduction In the June 1995 issue of Time magazine, an article dubbed the “Search for a Gay Gene” unveiled laboratory data concerning homosexual behavior in fruit flies.1 After transplanting a single gene into male fruit flies, or Drosophila, biologists Ward Oldenwald and Shang-Ding Zhang observed the flies exhibiting frenzied, orgiastic behavior. Ignoring the female flies, the males rubbed genitals in a kind of gay “conga line [sic].”2 The scene, as queer theorist Jennifer Terry notes, smacked of “queer disco culture,” or perhaps of the promiscuity of gay baths.3 In other words, the fruit flies behaved a lot like gay humans. Or perhaps, to the Darwinian, gay humans behave a lot like the fruit flies. This uncertain interchange, what Donna Haraway calls the congested traffic between “nature” and “culture” defined as such, forms the terrain on which contemporary evolutionary biology is fought.4 Animals have been seen as reliable sources of knowledge about human behavior since even before Darwin. Given that “God is dead,” biological science is increasingly entrusted to resolve human mysteries, sexuality chief among them.5 Looking “to the sexual behavior of animals to give meaning to human social relations,” the animal has been produced as a kind of “biological substrate” with which to isolate nature from the nature/nurture problem. 6 In the process, the animal has been instrumentalized as a tool with which to “reaffirm” our most contemporary beliefs about human, animal, and “what kind of planet the earth can be.”7 Human social behavior is first projected onto the animal, then renaturalized as biologically immanent with the help of evolutionary biology. Within this unstable “traffic in meanings,” biologists draw diverse conclusions according to their own political investments and their relationship to the dominant “selfish gene” discourse.8 In this paper, I will explore the ways in which understandings of human and animal sexualities participate in each other’s production, especially within the discourse of evolutionary biology. In the first section, I will conduct an exegesis of evolutionary biology’s ubiquitous trouble with sex. Next, in the second section, I will uncover this problematic as it is involved in the production of human and animal sexualities. In the third section, I will discuss other biologists who have proposed alternative hypotheses which do not rely on a man/animal binary for coherence. Finally, in the fourth section, I will discuss the discourse of evolutionary biology as it grapples with the figure of the queer and its implications for science as a whole. _________________________ 1 Thompson, Larry. “Search for a Gay Gene.” Time, 12 June 1995, p. 60. Accessed at http://www.time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,983027,00.html 2 Ibid. 3 Terry, Jennifer. “’Unnatural Acts’ in Nature: The Scientific Fascination with Queer Animals.” GLQ 6:2 2000, pp. 151-193. (P. 167) 4 Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991, pp. 149-181. 5 Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. 1882. (§108) 6 Terry, Jennifer. Ibid. (P. 152) 7 Haraway, Donna. Quoted in Jennifer, Terry. Ibid. (P. 151) 8 Ibid.
Disciplinary debates within evolutionary biology Within the discipline of evolutionary biology, the dominant theory most narrowly derived from Darwin’s work is Richard Dawkins’ “selfish gene” hypothesis.9 Dawkins imports Darwin’s notion of evolution, modifying it such that the smallest unit of natural selection becomes not the individual but the gene. In Dawkins’ argumentation, animals always act selfishly, even to the detriment of other members of their species. Emperor penguins, for example, will stand over a body of water but selfishly hesitate to jump in, since the pioneer member of the group involuntarily tests the waters for the presence of predators.10 Even apparently altruistic behavior, for Dawkins, always ultimately traces back to the selfish agency of individual genes. Worker bees, to use another example, launch kamikaze attacks against intruders to their hive, often dying in the process. Dawkins explains this phenomenon by essentializing the bees’ nature; the sacrifice is a biologically predetermined act designed to maximize the bees’ genetic fitness.11 Likewise, sexual selection within this model functions as a kind of selfish intraspecies competition; male peacocks develop fantastic plumage, despite its liabilities, in order to outcompete each other for female mates. Thus virtually all animal behavior, under the “selfish gene” hypothesis, results from hardwired pressures to protect themselves and their genetic relatives. Problematically, this approach downplays the role of environmental factors and thus flirts with biological determinism, especially when taken up by Dawkins’ contemporaries. Evolutionary processes take place on two distinct levels, one microscopic and the other macroscopic. Minute selection takes place within single species; some Labrador Retrievers have black fur, for example, while others have golden coats. These diverse characteristics, which form the focus of “selfish gene” biology, change over time according to intra-species competition and natural selection mechanisms. Within one population, a natural preference may emerge for animals of one color or another, one nose shape over the other, etc. But at this high resolution macroevolution, an equally crucial ecological process, becomes drowned out and forgotten. Macroevolution is especially crucial to understanding sexual selection, since long-term evolutionary processes represent the reason why most species reproduce sexually, and since competition does not occur in a vacuum but is always influenced by these long-term processes. Sexual reproduction enables greater intra-species diversity than asexual reproduction, serving to continually rebalance a population’s “genetic portfolio,” as biologist Joan Roughgarden puts it.12 In other words, sex equips a species with the diversity to withstand changing environmental factors. Asexually (clonally) reproducing species like bacteria reproduce far faster than their sexual counterparts, but with no room for genetic variation. If a bacterium’s environment changes 5 degrees in temperature and ______________________ 9 Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 10 Ibid. (P. 5) 11 Ibid. (P. 6) 12 Roughgarden, Joan. Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. Los Angeles: Univ. California Press, 2004. (P. 18)
the bacterium can no longer survive, its genetic homogeneity has put the entire species at risk. On the other hand, if the environment of a pack of wild dogs increases in temperature, some dogs will likely have the genetic equipment to tolerate the change, while others will not. Under Darwinism, then, sexual reproduction exists to prepare a population for unforeseen environmental changes. The macroscopic approach focuses less on individual genes and more on the precipitating environmental and ecological (inter-species) factors which influence a population’s evolutionary development. Selfish gene biologists typically understand long-term evolution by generalizing from the micro-competition model, rather than addressing its interplay with macroevolutionary processes. The result is an ahistorization of the animals in question. What is forgotten by disregarding these two interrelated evolutionary scopes is the tension between natural selection as fitness and sexual selection as fitness. Success, in evolutionary terms, is constituted by the ability to pass on one’s genetic material in the form of offspring. Natural selection represents the way an animal uses its inherent tools in order to outcompete other animals for resources and survival. Sexual selection, on the other hand, refers to practices aimed at attracting a mate. As with the peacock, the strategies employed by these two facets of evolutionary biology are often paradoxically oppositional; the tools for sexual success may be liabilities in the world of predator and prey. Additionally, the relationship of each form of selection to genetic variation is fraught. Under any given set of conditions, there is likely to be a normative model; in other words, natural selection is always being pushed in a certain direction depending on what is most beneficial to a species in a given time and place. Similar normativity exists in sexual selection; female peacocks have certain hardwired aesthetic tastes, for example, and in their eyes not all plumages are equally valuable. Thus, sex in nature both relies on and suppresses genetic diversity. Its very ambivalence allows sex to be taken up by a variety of differently intended research projects in order to further their own political goals. Sex, understood as an evolutionary process, becomes a cornerstone of theories which stress its innateness and immutability as well as theories which insist on sex’s social and relational qualities. The Red Queen: are animals humans or are humans animals? Without proper regard for the interplay between micro and macroevolutionary processes, the conclusion to be drawn from these disciplinary quandaries is a nihilistic one. Taking the selfish gene hypothesis to its logical extreme, competition becomes so fierce that it totally eclipses environmental factors. Sex, which Darwin envisioned as a way to preempt environmental change, no longer has anything to do with “adapting to the inanimate world,” but rather “is all about combating the enemy that fights back,” as biologist Matt Ridley puts it.13 The result is a theory dubbed the “Red Queen” after Alice in Wonderland: because predator and prey work in dialectic, “there is change but not progress” in evolution.14 Selection
___________________ 13 Ridley, Matt. The Red Queen. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1993. (P. 65) 14 Ibid. (P. 65)
becomes a kind of ahistorical “chess game” where pieces move about the board and some are lost entirely but none ever change from their core essence.15 The telos of “selfish gene” biology, therefore, seems to be an importation of animal sexuality in order to essentialize the human. Since in this model environment, culture, and the conscious decisions of individual animals do not hold evolutionary weight, “inside the skull of a modern city dweller there resides a brain designed for hunting and gathering…on the African savanna.”16 This logic justifies the worst stereotypes about human sociality, wielding evolutionary biology as a way to justify allegedly “natural” behavior.17 Heterosexual sex becomes a kind of evolutionary “trade: male power and resources for female reproductive potential.”18 Underlying this animalized notion of human sexuality is a portrayal of men as “opportunists-polygamists at heart,” and a complimentary notion of women who, because of their greater investment in child rearing, long for “stable intimacy,” although they may also be unfaithful at times.19 Not only are male and female essentialized into a dull active/passive dichotomy in Ridley’s work, the human itself is essentialized through analogy to the monogamous gibbon and the jealous chimpanzee. No matter what Dawkins may claim, evolutionary biology has become an apparatus for naturalizing human behavior via solidarity with the “natural” world and the overwhelming force of the ever-ambitious gene. Bringing environment back into the analysis Championing the role of environment and especially macroevolutionary processes, Niles Eldredge proposes an alternative to the selfish gene hypothesis. Ridley’s analysis is far too deterministic, he argues; evolutionary success, a product of natural selection and sexual selection, takes place during real lifetimes and on a massive scale. Competition takes place not only within populations but also between them. To suggest that each individual gene has some kind of agency is to reduce the entire equation of evolutionary success to “genes doing their best to push one another aside in the race to reach the next generation.”20 Not only does the selfish gene hypothesis grossly downplay the importance of environment, its ahistoricity whitewashes the real animals which participate in evolution. As Roughgarden puts it, we should not discuss selfish genes but rather “genial genes” which do not compete against each other but cooperatively formulate the evolutionary fitness of one individual animal.21 In other words, selfish gene biology grossly overestimates the importance of sex while underestimating the corporeal vehicles in which genes reside. Far more important to a discussion of sexuality are the economic/ecological conditions ______________________ Ibid. (P. 183) Ibid. (P. 189) 17 Ibid. Interior quotation marks omitted. (P. 189) 18 Ibid. (P. 197) 19 Ibid. (Pp. 214, 183) 20 Eldredge, Niles. Why We Do It: Rethinking Sex and the Selfish Gene. New York: Norton, 2004. (P. 18) 21 Roughgarden, Joan. Ibid. (P. 7) 15 16
which precipitate and normalize sexual activity, rather than the intraspecies competition which facilitates it. Thus, the crucial role of culture finally enters the evolutionary scene. Rather than borrowing from human and animal sexualities to interpret each other, the “rainbow” of diversity present in human and non-human animals must be acknowledged.22 Even among the great apes, some animals are monogamous while others practice promiscuous or even coercive sex. More distantly related animals have entirely different systems of reproduction; some plants are hermaphroditic and sexually reproduce by themselves, for example, while other species like sea horses practice male gestation. The fascinating relationship between environmental factors and a species’ sexual equipment takes place on a massive scale and therefore cannot be boiled down to the agency of individual genes. Selfish gene biology cannot explain why certain forms of sex become normalized within specific animal cultures. For scientists who are ultimately interested in understanding human behavior, selfish gene biology is frighteningly inadequate. Within the dominant discourse, “all forms of sexual behavior” are just “side effects…of the urge to make babies.”23 Animal sexualities boil down to pure reproduction because next to their genes, the animals themselves have no agency in their own behavior. Nonreproductive but socially significant behavior, in great apes for example, is reduced to either instinct gone haywire or understood only within the rubric of the human: bonobos practice “oral sex” while vervet monkeys have a propensity for “sexual harassment.”24 Thus, the traffic between human and animal sexualities when addressing normative sexual behavior is thick. Within selfish gene discourse, animal sexualities only become coherent via analogy to human sexuality, and vice versa. Queering the intersection of human and animal sexualities Given science’s role as an excavator of truth, evolutionary biology’s ability to grapple with normative sexual behavior is less interesting than its ability to explain the mysteries of queer sexualities. Within selfish gene courtship, human courtship is understood using the model of the peacock, with its showboating males and choosy females. Likewise, ape and other sexualities are understood by importing a “modern Western juridical framework.”25 But ultimately, people turn to evolutionary biology not to explain why most humans are reproductive, which popular science can explain, but how in the world some humans are not. Since selfish gene biology posits animals as genetically programmed automatons, they represent an ideal terrain for understanding the role of biology as distinct from culture. The inevitable outcome is an essentialization and subsequent pathologization of the queer which is packed with traffic in meanings. Because animals are boiled down to genes, they can only have reproductive and therefore evolutionarily driven sex. Two male octopuses copulating exhibit “same-sex octopus reproductive behavior” which is reproductive because it derives from the natural instinct to reproduce.26 ____________________ Ibid. (P. 13) Eldredge, Niles. Ibid. (P. 129) 24 Terry, Jennifer. Ibid. (P. 157) 25 Ibid. (P. 157) 26 Ibid. (P. 153) 22 23
Within this circular logic which decidedly does not borrow from the human to provide meaning, there are no such things as “gay octopuses” or any other animals because animals do not have social behavior.27 Rather, gay humans “reveal the male sexual appetite in its nakedness,” acting promiscuously in order to satisfy their male instincts “unfettered by those of women.”28 Likewise, in this model, humans have no social behavior which is not biologically driven. Since selfish gene biology describes all characteristics as biologically inherent, its treatment of homosexuality is unequivocally identitarian. Relying on a collapse of sex into reproduction in order to sidestep animal homosexuality, the dominant discourse also pathologizes it in humans. Even as the animal is instrumentalized in order to produce a naturalistic notion of the human, human dilemma is superimposed onto the animal. In Oldenwald and Zhang’s fruit fly experiment, a gene transplant allegedly turned the flies “gay.”29 But identitarian explanations of homosexuality are no more sensical when applied to Drosophila than when applied to humans. For one, the mutated flies did not “cease heterosexual relations altogether” but only shifted in their preferred object of choice, copulating with primarily males.30 Additionally, the control flies engaged in primarily heterosexual behavior but also “acted gay” within a few hours of observation.31 Thus, the disciplinary pressures of selfish gene biology have superimposed the human problem of status versus conduct onto the (homosexual) fruit fly. Crucially, there is no political neutrality in this discussion of the origins of human sexual behavior, especially homosexual behavior. Scientists like Oldenwald and Zhang, operating under federal grants, experience pressure to endorse the “common understanding of homosexuality as a medical aberration.”32 Dependent on selfish gene discourse to give coherency to their claims, researchers are virtually obligated to take a polemical position. Right-leaning researchers on the one hand may treat homosexual activity as a “genetic defect,” envisioning evolutionary biology as part of a gay-exterminating project whose justification resides in a notion of gene-driven behaviorism.33 On the other hand, LGBT-identified researchers who question Darwin’s preeminence may be indicted as having self-serving political motives, as if the former did not. Roughgarden, with her post-modernist turn towards an increased attentiveness to culture and environment, cannot help but have her own investments in affirming diversity as a transgendered person. In other words, as Jennifer Terry puts it, our understanding of animal sexuality is necessarily influenced by the “social, historical, and disciplinary context” in which it emerges.34 Especially when interpreting behavior which ____________________ Ibid. (P. 153) Ridley, Matt. Ibid. (Pp. 181, 182) 29 Terry, Jennifer. Ibid. (P. 167) 30 Ibid. (P. 170) 31 Ibid. Internal quotation marks omitted. (P. 170) 32 Ibid. (P. 171) 33 Ibid. (P. 170) 34 Ibid. (P. 153) 27 28
seemingly contradicts the dominant selfish gene hypothesis, biologists are liable to produce an understanding of animal sexuality which relies on a half-baked understanding of human sexuality. Participating in evolutionary biology’s disciplinarity, these researchers inadvertently essentialize human sexualities by importing the previously produced notion of animal sexuality. The result is a kind of circular logic which relies on naturalist fallacies on both sides of its transspecial analysis. On the other hand, gay-affirmative researchers risk a similar exchange of meaning between animal and human in their attempts to valorize homosexuality as evolutionarily compatible behavior, in order to “account for such a huge population that doesn’t match the template science teaches as normal.”35 Foregrounding these disciplinary debates is the fact that even the most “pure” science is always underscored by the nuances of human political investments.36
References Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Eldredge, Niles. Why We Do It: Rethinking Sex and the Selfish Gene. New York: Norton, 2004. Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist- Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991, pp. 149- 181. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. 1882. Ridley, Matt. The Red Queen. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1993. Roughgarden, Joan. Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. Los Angeles: Univ. California Press, 2004. Terry, Jennifer. “’Unnatural Acts’ in Nature: The Scientific Fascination with Queer Animals.” In GLQ, 6:2 2000, pp. 151-193. Thompson, Larry. “Search for a Gay Gene.” In Time, 12 June 1995, p. 60. Accessed at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ article/0,9171,983027,00.html. _____________________ Roughgarden, Joan. Ibid. (P. 1) Terry, Jennifer. Ibid. (P. 171)
Pedicure Panic! The Public’s Reconciliation of Gay Children in the Media
Sofia Wilson ‘11 Women’s Studies
What heterenormative assumptions are at play when the public reconciles the idea of a gay child? In an advertisement e-mailed to J. Crew customers, a mother is shown painting the toenails of her five-year old son (see appendix). The advertisement sparked heated debate in the media, prompting analysis on how to ‘deal’ with the effeminate boys. Responses from doctors, parents, and LGBT activist link and delink a child’s gender performance from his sexuality. Social conservatives form connections, arguing that effeminate boys will lead to gay boys. Liberal respondents argue that effeminate behavior is not a precursor to homosexuality. Regardless, imbedded in both sides of the debate is the assumption that homosexuality is what is at stake. A queer theoretical analysis uncovers five hetereonormative assumptions at play in the public’s response to gay children. First, a gay child is written about as a deviance, the unwanted outcome. Second, though gayness among girls is discouraged, this is much less severe than the stigma against an effeminate boy. Third, only adults can understand their sexualities. Fourth, because a child should be separated from questions regarding sexuality, parents are faulted for encouraging a child’s ‘gay development.’ Fifth, the public’s homosexual panic is always disguised as concern over Gender Identity Disorder.
The Story: Pink Nail Polish Panic J. Crew President and Executive Creative Director, Jenna Lyons, caused uproar in her “Saturday with Jenna” online promotional piece. The feature is e-mailed to subscribed customers as a way to promote new store items.1 The top designer is featured with her five-year old son, Beckett, in a photo meant to exemplify carefree weekend leisure and “off-duty fashion staples” in J. Crew style. In the photo, Lyons lovingly holds Beckett’s feet, painted in neon pink nail polish. The caption reads, “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”2 As of April 11, 2011, Margot Fooshee, J. Crew spokeswoman, and Jenna Lyons refused to comment on the advertisement.
Caption: “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” _________________________ Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. Macedo, Diane, “J.Crew Ad Showing Boy with Pink Nail Polish Sparks Debate on Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 1
The Public’s Response: ‘Dealing’ with the Gay Child The Parents Lisa Belkin, author of “Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting” in The New York Times asks the parenting community three questions concerning J. Crew’s advertisement:3 First, does painting a boy’s toenails pink make him gay or transgendered? Second, is Jenna Lyons being an irresponsible mother by exposing her son to ridicule with the nail polish celebration? Third, is our problem that we do not celebrate kids “in all their varieties” enough? Reviewing the average reader’s response to Belkin’s post in the The New York Times provides insight on how the public reconciles the concept of a gay child. Most comments from readers answer Belkin’s first question, which links the topic of gender performance to sexuality. For example, one reader from California writes, “Pink is a color, not a biological or sexual determinant. Liking or not liking it doesn’t necessarily say anything about a child’s gender or sexuality.”4 Many of of the readers of the parenting blog share the sentiment that color preference is not a determinant of sexual orientation, each detailing his or her own personal story about how their child crossed gender norms only to become a well-integrated adult. The reader explains that her son also likes the color pink, but nonetheless plays with construction toys in the dirt. The reader asks the social conservatives to lay off Lyons’s parenting skills, “let kids be kids”5 —it is, after all, very normal that boys go through a pink phase. However, the basis of Harper’s argument, the reason why we should give Lyons a break, is because Beckett’s color choice will not lead to homosexuality. Different comments from the parenting blog illustrate the public’s view that a child cannot know his or her sexuality. In other words, there is no such thing as a gay child. This reader also argues that questions of sexuality should not concern children. She says, “we need to let kids be kids and release them from this pressure to conform to and choose from gender ‘appropriate’ colors/toys/activities. It’s just one more way of commodifying [sic] gender and sexuality—which really should be no part of a child’s life.”6 A different reader from Chicago speculates, “When he’s 15 if he’s wearing pink nail polish perhaps we might discuss if he’s transgendered. But good grief! He’s only five. Let him have some fun.”7 Why does Beckett get a get-out-of-jail-fee-card for his pink preference? Beckett’s innocence is due to his age, which pardons the feminine implications of his color choice. The fun should stop, however, when the child grows up. Mothers everywhere should worry about their son’s effeminate behavior once he tiptoes past adolescence, where sexualities become real. The public sounds this warning in reference to unwanted bullying, _____________________ Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. Harper, Lisa Catherine as quoted in Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. 5 Harper, Lisa Catherine as quoted in Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. 6 Harper, Lisa Catherine as quoted in Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. 7 ST Chicago as quoted in Belkin, Lisa, “In Praise of Pink Polish,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011. 3 4
masking their sentiment for the unwanted gay child: “While having his toenails painted pink may not make him gay or transgendered it will almost certainly cause himto receive wedgies and teasing. Gee thanks mom.”8 Moms are the main culprits in sustaining the unnecessary outburst of a gender-crossing child.
Medical ‘Experts’ Dr. Keith Albow, “one of America’s leading psychiatrists,” graduated from Brown University and John Hopkins School of Medicine with a specialty in adult, adolescent and forensic psychiatry.9 A Fox News Contributor and social conservative, Dr. Albow writes a scathing critique of J. Crew’s advertisement and Jenna Lyon’s parenting skills. He laments that in our “technology-driven world,” things “real and true” are dishonored and deemed unfashionable.10 Dr. Albow explains that dressing young girls like adults and young boys like girls are example offenses of things real and true. Thus, it seems that of upmost importance to Dr. Albow is definitive age, when it concerns girls, and gender categories, when it concerns boys. He calls Lyon’s parenting “psychological sterilization,” which ‘homogenizes’ males and females and erases a child’s notion of gender identity.11 Most important for gender definitions, however, is the appropriation of masculine traits for boys. He asks the reader, “If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress?”12 He encourages images of ‘gender violations’ in the hopes that the reader thoroughly grasps the danger inherent in painting a boy’s nails pink. He quickly covers his bases, however, in case his invocation sounds a tad bit too homophobic. Dr. Albow assures the public that his deepest concern is that “encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into a real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts.”13 Yet again, psychiatrists argue that what could result from early blurring of gender lines is a gender troubled child, never a gay child. Interestingly, Dean Spade, legal activist and theorist, also analyzes the implications of ‘going under the knife.’ In “Mutilating Gender,” Spade argues against the mutilation of bodies for the goal of gender reassignment. He argues that the transsexual aim of “successfully” passing as their new gender category—being called “he” when the subject was formally female—upholds the normative gender expressions which produce discrimination.14 Spade explains that the desire to physically represent ‘the other gender’ is a goal deeply rooted in heteronormative assumptions of gender categories. Thus, Dr. Albow, a social conservative doctor, and Dean Spade, a queer theorist, both show concern over the grotesque process of mutilating bodies for gender reassignment. Though these concerns over medical transformation are grounded in entirely _______________________ Woods as quoted in Francisca Ortega, Mom Houston, 13 April 2011. Dr. Keith Albow, http://keithablow.com/ 10 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 22 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 23 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 13 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 14 Spade, Dean, “Mutilating Gender,” 322. 8 9
different projects—one homophobic, the other anti-homophobic—my worry is that a conservative discourse masks homosexual panic15 by echoing the sentiment of queer theorists. Conservative depictions of gay children often disguise homosexual panic by claiming concern over gender identity.16 Dr. Albow suggests Lyons save some money for psychotherapy, referring to Beckett’s inevitable diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) of Childhood.17 In “How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay,” Sedgwick explains how the medical profession reassures the public that the treatment given to effeminate boys with GID is never about the subject’s sexuality, but about feeling secure with one’s ‘proper’ gender.18 Indeed, medical experts convince parents that their “hatred” and “rage” of their child’s sexuality is not only a permissible feeling, but the only appropriate feeling to exhibit when dealing with effeminate boys.19 Mothers are especially criticized for displaying “any tolerance to their sons’ cross-gender behavior.”20 Thus, Lyons commits the ultimate offense—she not only tolerates her son’s effeminate behavior, but she administers the polish. Dr. Albow castigates her behavior as selfish, ill-informed, and childish: “Maybe we’ll all have shiny, colored lips, though…and mommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons through the streets in costume.”21 He criminalizes Lyons further, arguing that she knows exactly what she’s doing to her son. The real victim, he argues, is Beckett, who will be raised by a mother who is “hostile to the gender distinctions” that “sustain the human race.”22 Dr. Albow is actually concerned over Beckett’s ability to procreate. Pink nail polish leads to effeminate boys, which leads to a gay child, which leads to gay sex, which does not produce children and, thus, when magnified, endangers the human race. Albow claims that while pink polish “may seem like no big deal,” Lyons should know that she is raising a gay child that will lack motivation “to rank creating a family above having great sex forever.”23 Not once did Dr. Albow say the words “gay” or “homosexual” in his critique. The exclusion of these key terms rids Dr. Albow from appearing homophobic in his discourse. Dr. Jack Drescher, psychiatrist and member of the American Psychiatric Association sits on the other side of the debate. His paper titled “Queer Diagnoses” addresses sexual and identity disorder for the psychiatry’s encyclopedia of behavioral diagnoses.24 As quoted in James’ article from ABC News, Dr. Drescher _____________________ Homosexual panic is a term used to describe the fear or, either within the public at large or a single individual, of unwanted advances from a homosexual. Queer theorists argue that homosexual panic is used as a legal defense for the violence inflicted upon homosexuals. 16 Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 20. 17 Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 20. 18 Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 24. 19 Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 25. 20 Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 25. 21 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 22 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 13 Albow, Keith, “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity,” Fox News, 11 April 2011. 24 James, Susan Donaldson, “J. Crew Ad With Boy’s Pink Toenails Creates Stir,” ABC News, 13 April 2011. 15
assures the public that there is not need to worry about the pink nail polish: “I can say with 100 percent certainty that a mother painting her children’s toe nails pink does not cause transgenderism or homosexuality.” Dr. Drescher argues that Dr. Albow’s fears are completely unfounded, because the scientific community does not know what causes transgenderism. He explains that the “feminist notion” that gender is a social construction is also erroneous, claiming that if given a Barbie, boys would probably use it like a gun.25 Parents have little to do with a child’s gender selection. Of importance is the implicit connection between gender selection and sex-object desire. Dr. Drescher gives mothers everywhere an out: “The idea that a parent is indulging a child’s interest in unconventional gender behavior does something to the child has no scientific basis.” Is heterosexual desire an undoing of sexuality? Regardless, mothers have been given a medical out—nurturing does nothing to a child’s sexuality. The LGBT Community Wayne Besen of the “Truth Wins Out” campaign, a project aimed at fighting ‘anti-gay lies,’ speaks out against the homophobic sentiment that exploded following the release of J. Crew’s advertisement.26 He deconstructs Dr. Albow’s argument by explaining that homosexual orientation has nothing to do with gender performance. More specifically, he argues that gay boys do not have to be effeminate. In high school, Wayne Besen was good at sports: “I grew up playing basketball, football, and baseball. The entire time I was playing—and at times excelling—I knew I was gay.”27 The argument is as follows: Besen is a masculine boy who is gay, so there is no rational connection between feminine boys and homosexual boys. He argues that painting a young boys toenails pink will have absolutely no influence on his sexual orientation, echoing the beliefs of Dr. Dresher and many of the parenting blog readers. The message is that effeminate nature is not the precursor to homosexuality. However, one cannot help the feeling that Besen wishes for a non-gay outcome for Beckett. Are effeminate boys giving adult homosexual men a bad wrap? Besen created a petition in support of J. Crew Pink Toenails Advertisement, asking allies and equality seekers to “stand up to irrational homophobic attacks”.28 Despite Besen’s best intentions, his logic shackles those he desires to release. He rallies supports to fight back against “irrational homophobic” onslaughts—and by irrational he means Dr. Albow’s argument that effeminate behavior leads to the development of homosexuality in boys. His logic mirrors what Sedgwick explains is a “conceptual need of the gay movement to interrupt a long tradition of viewing gender and sexuality as continuous and collapsible categories.”29 For Besen, desiring _____________________ James, Susan Donaldson, “J. Crew Ad With Boy’s Pink Toenails Creates Stir,” ABC News, 13 April 2011. 26 Besen, Wayne, “Sign TWO Petition in Support of J. Crew Pink Toenails Ad,” Truth Wins Out, 13 April 2011. 27 Besen, Wayne, “Sign TWO Petition in Support of J. Crew Pink Toenails Ad,” Truth Wins Out, 13 April 2011. 28 Besen, Wayne, “Sign TWO Petition in Support of J. Crew Pink Toenails Ad,” Truth Wins Out, 13 April 2011. 25
a man does not mean he wants to act like a woman—indeed, he is proud of his masculine, athletic background. Bessen’s logic begs the question—is there such thing as rational homophobia? Is homophobia rational when, unlike, Besen, the homosexual subject is not a well-integrated, masculine adult?30 Are the beliefs of homophobic people flawed only due to their ignorant belief that pink means gay? LGBT activist may want to dismiss the petty arguments of social conservatives as blown out of proportion, but the dismissal may solidify the fear of homosexual development in boys. When gay activist argue that pink does not equal gay, and thus people should not worry, activist still do not address the bigger problem of the public’s desire for a non-gay outcome.
What’s at Stake: Heteronormative Assumptions in The Public’s Response Issue 1: Gay children are deviants, a problem that needs fixing: When the public addresses the effeminate boy, the mind instantly flashes to the gay child. Social conservatives portray feminine gender performance in boys as the precursor to homosexuality, while liberal and LGTB spokespeople dismiss the connection as ignorant and irrational. But even the left forgets to address the homophobic desire to eliminate gay people. Both strategies ground the assumption that homosexuality itself is the unwanted outcome. Issue 2: Tomboys are bad, but not as bad as effeminate boys: The medical professionals’ definition of Gender Identity Disorder is more forgiving for a girl who displays masculine behavior. A girl has to clearly state that she ‘desires a penis’ instead of her female anatomy for the subject to be classified with GID. On the other hand, a boy has to merely show interest in feminine traits and behavior such as color and clothing choice for the GID classification. The tendency for medical professionals to more harshly classify boys with GID implies a sexist preference for the masculine gender.31 Issue 3: You must be an adult to know your sexuality: To fully know oneself, one must understand his gender, which expresses his ‘true’ sex and sexuality. Thus, a boy’s effeminate behavior is simple fun until he grows up. A child cannot possibly understand his sexuality, and gender expressions that fall outside the heteronormative matrix are dismissed as ‘outbursts.’ Children should be separated from the questions of sexuality, and allowing effeminate behavior in boys sexualizes them. Issue 4: Parents are at fault for not steering children in away from homosexuality: However, most at fault is the mother who encourages the blurring _____________________ Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 20. Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 19. 31 Segwick How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 19-20. The literature on gay children is overwhelmingly about boys and that girls must try harder to get diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood by asserting that she physically has or wants a penis. A boy is treated with GID if he displays feminine behaviors in dress or language. 29 30
of gender roles for her own amusement. Liberal respondents defend her, arguing that her parenting has nothing to do with the outcome of her child’s homosexuality, though they still perceive this outcome as unfortunate. Issue 5: Homosexual panic is masked by public’s concern over gender identity disorder: Psychiatrists argue that blurring gender roles causes instability in children, and Gender Identity Disorder should be of primary concern for parents. However, as Sedgwick argues, these psychiatrists support “a train of squalid lies” based on nothing more than the doctor’s “disavowed desire for a non-gay outcome.”32
Conclusion The public reconciles Beckett’s pink toenails by separating his gender performance from his sexuality. By delinking feminine colors from male homosexuality, the public delicately dismisses the threat of gay development. A reconciliation process that paints the innocence of Beckett’s color choice as a non-threat to the development of same-sex desire uncovers the true threat to society—the gay subject. Critical analysis reveals society’s chilling desire to prevent homosexuality.33
References Ablow, Dr. Keith. “J. Crew Plants the Seeds for Gender Identity - FoxNews.com.” Fox News. 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011 /04/11/jcrew-plants-seeds-gender-identity/>. Belkin, Lisa. “In Praise of Pink Polish.” Parenting, Children and Parents – Motherlode Blog - NYTimes.com. The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/pink-nail-polish/>. Besen, Wayne. “Sign TWO Petition in Support of J. Crew Pink Toenails Ad.” Truth Wins Out. 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 01 May 2011. <http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressreleases/2011/04/15958/>. Cox, Tony, Judy Chiasson, and Eliza Byard. “What’s Life Like For Gay Kids In Public Schools? : NPR.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. 17 June 2010. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127908216>. “Dr. Keith Albow.” Web. 01 May 2011. <http://keithablow.com/>. Harper, Lisa Catherine. Readers’ Comments 11 from ““In Praise of Pink Polish.” Parenting, Children and Parents - Motherlode Blog - NYTimes.com. The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/pink-nail-polish/>. James, Susan Donaldson. “J. Crew Ad With Boy Painting Toenails Pink Stirs Up Transgender Debate - ABC News.” ABC News. 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 01 May 2011. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/crew-ad-boy-painting-toenails-pink-stirs transgender/story?id=13358903>. LGBT Weekly. “Fox News Commentators, Liberal Activists Debate Impact of ‘Gender Bending’ J. Crew Ad.” San Diego LGBT Weekly. 18 Apr. 2011. Web. 1 May 2011. ___________________ Sedgwick, How To Bring Your Kids Up Gay, 24.
http://lgbtweekly.com/2011/04/18/fox-news-commentators-liberal- activists-debate-impact-of-“gender-bending”-j-crew-ad/. Macedo, Diane. “J.Crew Ad Showing Boy With Pink Nail Polish Sparks Debate on Gender Identity - FoxNews.com.” Fox News. 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/04/11/jcrew-ad-showing-boy- pink-nail-polish-sparks-debate-gender-identity/>. Ortega, Francisca. “J.Crew and Nail Polish Turning Kids Gay, a Roundup | Mom Houston | a Chron.com Blog.” Mom Houston. Chron.com, 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 01 May 2011. <http://blog.chron.com/ momhouston/2011/04/j-crew-and-nail-polish-turning-kids-gay-a- roundup/>. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text 29 (1991): 1827. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/466296>. Spade, Dean. “Mutilating Gender.” Ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. The Transgender Studies Reader: 315-32. Print.
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Published on Feb 1, 2012