R A C H E S
Call me your deepest urge toward survival call me and my brothers and sisters in the sharp smell of your refusal call me roach and presumptuous nightmare on your white pillow your itch to destroy the indestructible part of yourself. Call me your own determination in the most detestable shape you can become friend of your image within me I am you in your most deeply cherished nightmare scuttling through the painted cracks you create to admit me into your kitchens into your fearful midnights into your values at noon in your most secret places with hate you learn to honor me by imitation as I alter-although your greedy preoccupations through your kitchen wars and your poisonous refusal-to survive. Audre Lorde
Editorial Team Editors-in-Chief Sanae Ehauleyan Alouazen, Sarah Grace Thomas Deputy Editors Dhouha Djerbi, Gabrielle Guichard Creative Directors Elizabeth McGehee, Sarah Grace Thomas Public Relations Gabriela Motta Student Government Liaison Jasmine Paul Faculty Editor Lissa Lincoln
Printed by Tanghe Printing, Belgium Published by The American University of Paris Edition of 200 Copyright ÂŠ AUP Student Media and Individual Contributors, 2018. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission, in whole or in part, may be made without written permission. Please send all inquiries to email@example.com
Roaches and presumptuous
Spring 2018 The American University of Paris 6, rue du Colonel Combes 75007 Paris, France
Gender, Sexuality, and Society Program
write & resist “The Universal Closet, Belly Dancing Gay Men and Homonationalism” “Identity through the Lens: Performing and Photographing Gender” “Sleep With Me”
Sanae Ehauleyan Alouazen 10
Sarah Grace Thomas 16 Gabrielle Guichard 37
“Women and Development, Finding One’s Role: A Self-Reflective Methodology” “Journée d’étude de l’EHESS #balancetonporc #metoo”
Elizabeth McGehee 47
Sanae Ehauleyan Alouazen 59
“Three Sisters, A Still Life”
Eliza Siegel 70
“A Critical Eye on the Dakota Access Pipeline”
Jasmine Paul 73 “Untitled poem” ruhi parmar amin 80 “Who Say, Per Se?: Intersectional Analysis of Statutory Rape Law”
Bella Matos 83
art & resist Gabriel Motta cover art Elizabeth McGehee 5 Josué Comoe, 9, 46, 82 Ananda Dinato 34-35, 44-45 B Duncan, ruhi parmar amin 36 Sarah Grace Thomas 58 Sabrina Lee 69 Elizabeth McGehee 72, 78 ruhi parmar amin, B Duncan 81 Walker Green 94
The Presumptuous Roach portrait in front of La Sororité (90x60), Le prieur (120 x 60), Le fils sacrifié d’Abla Pokou (100 x 81) Hair (40 x 60) Rose Blessée (116 x 89) this collection was inspired by the Club Kids movement, BEE brings shoes based on the anatomy of men’s feet with the aesthetic of women’s high heels
A body like me, presented at c-1 Gallery in Berlin as the queer collective The Slanted House Marseille Street Art three untitled self-portraits Mia Sage Stevens I and II
Dear India, The Pivot is Complete a part of the big scary tranny collection presented at The Slanted House
Editorial Dear readers, It is with the utmost pleasure that we get to share the inaugural edition of the Gender, Sexuality, and Society journal Roaches. In 1974, Audre Lorde published her poem “The Brown Menace: A survival of the roaches” from her collection New York Head Shop and Museum. The poem was a response to the increasing number of black bodies falling victim to police violence in New York City. In the words of the police department: the city was infested. The brown cockroach, an alienated creature yet still a terrifying nightmare: threatening to resist in resilience and to survive in defiance. A despised creature, infesting the space, crawling into the master’s house. So go ahead, call us roaches. Aching to survive, we awaken to a world that criminalizes brown bodies, queer bodies, and women’s bodies, yet we resist in our own terms. We carve out language for ourselves, through theory, art, and poetry. We scream it out into the vast expanse and infest the air with our noise, our existence and survival. It is our itch to survive that leads us to come out of the sewers, collectively, and into the daylight, attempting to infest dominant spaces with our outrage and resistance. We hope that when you take this publication into your hands, you see some part of yourself reflected. We hope your thoughts are challenged, your heart sings, you feel a collective drive to create a less fucked up world, and that you find beauty in the ugliness of Roaches. Roach On in Solidarity, Sanae and Sarah
JE SUIS JOSUÉ COMOE, ARTISTE PLASTICIEN/ PEINTRE ET MANNEQUIN ET JE TRAVAILLE À LA MISE EN VALEUR DES PROFILS DES AFRO DESCENDANTS, ET DES PROFILS ISSUES DE MINORITÉS, DES FEMMES ET DES HOMMES SOUVENT TRÈS PEU OU MAL REPRÉSENTÉS EN SOCIÉTÉ. EN EFFET DU FAITE D’ÊTRE NOIR JE VIS MOI MÊME UNE ABSENCE DE REPRÉSENTATION QUE CE SOIT DANS LA MODE OU DANS L’ART. JE N’ARRIVE PAS À TRAVAILLER EN TANT QUE MANNEQUIN EN FRANCE. ALORS J’AI DONC DÉCIDÉ DE ME RÉAPPROPRIER MON IMAGE À TRAVERS MA PEINTURE ET DE REPRÉSENTER PAR LA MÊME OCCASION TOUT LES GROUPES TROP PEU REPRÉSENTÉS. J’AI DONC COMMENCÉ À PEINDRE UNE SÉRIE DE TABLEAU IL Y A 2 MOIS QUE J’AI BIENTÔT FINI, JE ME DIRIGE DONC VERS DES MÉDIAS COMME LE VÔTRE SUSCEPTIBLE D’AIMER MA DÉMARCHE ET DE M’AIDER À RENDRE MON ART VISIBLE POUR POUVOIR GROSSIR LA REPRÉSENTATION.
EN ESPÉRANT QUE MON TRAVAIL VOUS PARLE.
The Universal Closet, Belly Dancing Gay Men and Homonationalism Sanae Ehauleyan Alouazen
If you came here looking for the typical much anticipated coming out story of an oppressed queer Arab woman of color; you will be disappointed. But before I let you down, here is a condensed summary of all articles about homosexual life in the “Arab world”, you are welcome: A queer Arab exiled in Paris is writing a self-congratulatory article about the bravery of coming out in a conservative Muslim country. Being gay is difficult in North Africa or the Middle East, it’s all the same, and only difficult in these parts of the world. There is something in the air, or maybe in the water of the region that makes everyone inherently homophobic and patriarchal. This is another testimony by the winning matrix of oppressions: QueerArab-Muslim-Woman-of-Color. A story that panders to orientalist fantasies, caters to Islamophobic stereotypes and glorifies human rights discourses and the need to liberate Arab sexuality. This is a piece catered to and celebrated by the “Gay International.” (Massad 362) It highlights the oppressive cultures of the region and reaches out for supporting the work of non-political non-profit non-religious non-partisan Western NGOs that aim to promote LGBTIQ rights in the region. This is an article co-opted by Western liberals to congratulate themselves on their dedication to save these bodies. This can help Western subjects turn a blind eye to their governments’ military, political and economic interventions in the name of women’s liberations and queer bodies’ preservation. Of course, don’t forget to add a paragraph about belly dancing gay men, secret gay clubs, handjobs in movie theaters, and the repressed lesbian daughter being punished by a moustache-wearing, Coran bearing angry father, and perhaps a brother or two. Then of course, I must conclude with my brave coming out of the closet speech
that made my mother cry and my father pray, right after I go back into the closet to pack my clothes as I decide to leave a country that refuses to accept me. Maybe a sentence or two on the sound of prayer calling on my way to the airport and the naïve sexual awakening that I have experience in Paris. Satisfied? Now let’s get right into it: Who owns Arab queer bodies? We are a battleground of imperialist politics, imprisoned between the West and the Rest. Following the rise of white Western women’s liberation movements in the late 1960s and 1970s, sexual liberation became at the forefront of political struggles. Consequently, what Joseph Massad calls “the Gay International” started gaining terrain. Just as the white feminist movements sought for themselves a colonialist mission by universalizing their claims and homogenizing the category of women around the globe while disregarding the micro-politics of specific contexts and the macro-politics of global asymmetries, so does the internationalization of gay rights. The gay international prescribes ‘coming out’ as a universal measurement of queer emancipation regardless of contextual specificities. The creation of the “International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association” in the 70s was part of the Carter administration’s human rights campaign against the Soviet Union and third world aligned countries. The nature of the missions adopted by these organizations along with the institutions and discourses that produce them, are not independent from imperialist underpinnings. Kobena Mercer has argued that “historically, the European construction of sexuality coincides with the epoch of imperialism and the two interconnect.” (Mercer 106) In The History of Sexuality, Foucault retraces the construction of European sexuality and observes that from the 17th century to the 1970s, during which time a “veritable discursive explosion” occurred in the
discussion of sex. He adds that at the start of the 18th century, there was an emergence of “a political, economic, and technical incitement to talk about sex.” (Foucault 23) Precisely because this epoch coincides with imperialism, the self-appointed Western experts needed to find an “Other”: to establish the West as a prodigy of sexual liberation. Therefore, the Western expert creates an Arab world that is “out there” and “back there” via sexuality. “The Western social Darwinists” perceive modernization and development as a measure of the advancement of the Arab world in a teleological aim going from the underdeveloped, backwards, conservative global south towards the enlightened West of human rights. Then, the Gay International mission is an assimilationist project that creates a mechanism to measure “Arab civilization” in its progress towards the mature stage of development: Western modernity. Sexual liberation becomes a hegemonic disposition that creates the West as an avant-garde in protecting sexual freedoms while positioning the Other, notably the Arab world, as backwards, traditionalist, and oppressive. Equating sexual rights with exemplary Western neoliberal citizenship exacerbates xenophobia, racism and islamophobia. This social and political process is what professor Jasbir K. Puar coined homonationalism. According to Puar, queer incorporation into consumer markets and social recognition in the post–civil rights, late twentieth century marks a historical shift in the construction of queer subjecthood vis-à-vis their relation to nation-states. The politics of recognition make queer bodies recipients of liberal benevolence pandered by discourses on sexual diversity and tolerance, which in turn,creates a homonormativity contingent upon parameters of white racial privilege, consumption capabilities, and nationalist privileges. Therefore “coming out” becomes a tool of homonationalism. For a non-Western queer, it is a rite of passage through which one can prove
their true fidelity to queerness by way of rejecting one’s racial or religious community. By encouraging this assimilationist tactic, the queer community reproduces power and domination moves as practiced by Western states. The closet is universalized. “Coming out” is a visibility regime reproducing the codes of neoliberal politics by prescribing how one must live their queerness in accordance with homonormative norms, kinship systems (i.e marriage) and bodily integrity. Dominated by the orientalist representations of Arab sexualities, the Western discourse is rooted in stereotypes born within imperialist contexts: hypersexualisation of the orient as a land of sin and brute desire while simultaneously fetichizing the secrecy embedded in these closeted societies and the instability of men and women who refuse to identify as homosexuals, bisexuals or lesbians. In “Homosexuality in the Arab and Moslem World” Rex Wockner feels perplexed by these Arab and Iranian men who practice insertive sex but refuse the identification to the gay label: “is this hypocritical or a different world?” Many Arabs who practice same sex do not identify as “gay” or “lesbians”. Only a certain elite does: an increasingly Westernized middle class or a diaspora abroad that has mastered Western codes of sexuality and whose social class allows them to practice, and openly identify as sexually active with no risks. Foucault compares this Western desire and frenzy to talk about sex to the Catholic confession of sins and desires, coming out of the closet is the new confession ritual. Beyond the fetichized closeted non-heterosexuality, even heteronormative sexuality does not respond to the Western regimes of visibility. The Western binary between “private” and “public” spheres and the tactic of open, public declarations of sexuality by the liberal, emancipated “individual” is not a universal truth. Even though white Western subjects construct themselves as objective and unattained by culture, they are products
of neoliberalism and Western modernity. At the same time, racialized queerness is constructed as a victim of its own cultural influences. The racialized queer cannot resist the cultural claims bestowed upon them. Instead of assuming the universality of the “out” method and the epistemologies of homosexuality, we must locate them within the complex social, economic and political processes that gave rise to them. Massad states that by inciting discourse on homosexual rights and identities, the epistemology of gayness is instituted and cemented. Therefore, there could only be two reactions to the claims of universal gayness: support or oppose them without questioning their epistemological underpinnings. He adds that by inciting discourse about homosexuals where none existed before, the gay international is in fact heterosexualizing a world that is being forced to be fixed by a Western binary. This process destroys social configurations of desire, sexualities and intimacy by closeting the world in a fixed binary. Western white scholarship that aims to describe and explain homosexuality in Muslim countries is in fact producing the identity categories of “gay” “homosexual” and “lesbian” while repressing same-sex desire. By implementing gay politics of recognition in the way they have been developed in the West, even good-intending activists and organizations are contributing to the rise of persecution and violence. When a public discourse emerges around same sex practices, using specific codes and politics easily identifiable as Western, it is not the upper-class diaspora that faces social denigration and punitive measures. Who speaks for queers of color? Everywhere I turn, someone wants to write my story: the white academic, the journalist looking for an excitable story, the fact-finder collecting information for an NGO or a religious authority looking for legitimacy. When my well-intending white queer activists ask me: “did you leave your country because it is difficult being gay in your culture?”
or “how was it coming out to your family?” I find myself further alienated from a Western queer resistance that does not see itself from the standpoint of its subjectivity and the processes of its creation. The codes and ethics of sexuality promoted by this community are heavily rooted in Western liberalism and leaves queers of color and non-Western queers at the margins. After the white feminist injunction that dictates my emancipation through islamophobia and racism, white queerness comes with an equally powerful command. I must present my race and religion as an oblation to go through the rite of passage. We are facing a dual struggle: how to resist against heteronormativity and at the same time imperialist politics that recuperate our “oppressions” to create new ones? Instead of adopting and reproducing oppressive mechanisms, the radicality of decolonial queerness imposes a destabilizing resistance. Radical, non-white queer resistance is perhaps our new battleground, inchallah! Bibliography Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. 1986. Massad, Joseph Andoni. Desiring Arabs. University of Chicago Press, 2008. Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. Routledge, 1994.
Identity through the Lens: Gender Performance in Photography
Sarah Grace Thomas
aris, suspended between one international tragedy and another, when Marxist and psychoanalysis discourses were morphing global politics and understandings of the human mind, when an international diversity of avant-garde artists, photographers, and writers were gathered in the French capital, the Paris of this era was undergoing an identity crisis. From a national political position, to an artistic level of what defines art, and to a personal conception of identity, no sense of reality seemed perfectly stable. In a period of investigation and creation, photographers were producing photographs that portrayed some of the most pressing questions of the time. The construction and deconstruction of identity, as an Artist in this milieu, and through expectations of Gender and Sexuality, produced some of the most experimental photographic portraiture of the era. Each photographer analyzed herein captures different performances of non-normative Gender (sometimes referred to as Drag). Each artist is informed by their own personal relationships to the subjects, their community, and their artistic intent. Beginning with the collaboration between photographer Man Ray and Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, who together created the persona of Rrose Sélavy – Duchamp’s Jewish woman alter ego. With this example, the artistic element of Drag as a performance art and photography’s place in the staging and construction of a persona can be examined. Then onto the oeuvre of Claude Cahun, who through a large collection of self-portraiture offers theatrical representations of androgynous gender – neither fully masculine or feminine in appearance. The hidden away queer spaces of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s came to light with the flaneur photography of Brassaï, where he found subversive gender performances happening within gay and lesbian communities. This era in Paris produced a culture where communities of the undervalued and overlooked became a titillating subject for modern photography. The photographic fascination with gender performances exposes how gender is illusionary and elective, but so is identity as a whole. Photography helped compose and expose different non-normative identities to the art world.
The interwar period in Paris saw the development of many movements, such as Dada and Surrealism, which were born out of the questions left in the wake of World War I. After so much needless bloodshed, witnessed first-hand by some artists and others who lost someone of close relation, questions of identity and the construction modern self were explored through many artistic mediums including photography. Photography’s role in the fine arts was not yet defined. Debates were still a-plenty of whether it was purely a technological or also an artistic advancement. Photography granted an assumed objectivity which became highly contested, whether the construction of a photograph represented truth or if it represented a version of a truth (could be a political ‘truth’ meant to persuade the masses into a superfluous war). Dada artists repeatedly exposed these false ‘truths’ that propaganda photography was selling. At the same time, Marxist and Freudian theories were changing academic, political, and artistic discourses. The commodification of photography became a bourgeois practice to affirm themselves as a social class, and so defining sexual difference and sexual desirability via this visual medium (Jones). This is especially apparent in the development of advertising and fashion photography which aimed to sell ideas as well as products. Freudian relation to photography is expressed in the fascination with representing psychology via subconscious desires, sexual deviance or perversion (homosexuality, or inversion, becoming a diagnostic category), and crossdressing. Surrealism draws heavily on Freudian understanding of identity, through explorations into the subconscious and through sexuality. Surrealist writers and artists’ aim was to give the subconscious desires license to be explored in conscious thought so as to have a broader sense of reality outside of the purely rational thought. Marcel Duchamp, the artist who coined the “ready made” a style of Dada art which used everyday objects and witty titles to make art that questioned its very definition, was known under many pseudonyms throughout his career - subverting the ego expectations of artists. One of his alter egos was the elegant Jewish woman by the name of
Sélavy is a pun, the last name meaning “c’est la vie” or that’s life or perhaps “sel à vie” salt of the earth. The first name has many different potential meanings – Rrose meaning pink, rose as in flower, perfume, possibly eros or arroser la vie (sexual – to make wet) (Johnson). Through his carefully crafted titles for his art pieces, Duchamp insisted on taking the ‘piss’ out of the rigid art world by injecting a crass type of humor into each of his works. Madame Sélavy is no exception, she embodies Duchamp’s real fascination in the artist as an identity, instead of the artwork independent from its creator. Duchamp’s famous one-liner, “I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists,” is indicative of how a persona becomes the center of the artistic interrogation. Moreover, the persona’s place in the midst of a community of other artists is of great importance. The name Rose Sélavy first appeared publicly in Francis Picabia’s L’oeil cacodylate, a collage signed by many prominent members of the Paris Dada community in 1921. Duchamp’s choice to sign a not-yet known alias in the middle of all of these recognizable names was characteristic of his playful and subversive nature. According to Amelia Jones, “by ‘existing’ as signatory, yet not really existing at all, Rrose Sélavy emphasizes the ‘fragmentation of names as arbitrary signifiers that, at any moment, can be cut off from their referent - the bearer of the name - and left to their fate, floating in the currents of chance encounters with readers who are free to associate a meaning with a name’” (Jones). Rrose’s signature is riddled throughout the archives of Marcel Duchamp from artistic collaborations, to articles and personal correspondences. Thus, she had her own oeuvre that can be traced within art history, and reveals Duchamp’s ambivalence to existing as a static identity. The Russian-American photographer Man Ray spent the majority of his career under that alias, which disguised his true Jewish Russian immigrant roots that the name Emmanuel Radnitsky reveals. The similarities between Rrose Sélavy and Man Ray, both existing as a ‘living alias’ (Johnson), cannot be ignored because aside from Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray was the second most important person for the construction of Rrose as a persona, choosing to capture
her in his photography. Rrose SĂŠlavy was ironic and subversive in precisely the Duchampian way, but aesthetically was defined by Man Rayâ€™s photographic style, and it allowed Ray an outlet to explore his own constructed artistic identity. What does the construction of a Jewish woman mean to Man Ray, who has chosen to dispose of his own Jewish roots for his artist alias to flourish? The photographs do represent tropes that defined Jewish women as a visually recognizable category -- the pronounced nose and indications of class rely on anti-Semitic stereotypes (Johnson). This collaboration also highlights the important homosocial bonds between Ray and Duchamp. The collaboration in the creation of a persona to unite their friendship with their artistic projects.
Duchamp and Ray took two series of photographs of Rrose Sélavy. The first of which could be the “coming out” of this alias, fashioned with unrefined garb and harsh spotlights which makes the viewer aware that what they are seeing is in fact a farce. One of these photographs became the packaging of a perfume of “Belle Haleine”, again one of Duchamp’s notorious puns, here referencing Helen of Troy whose inherent beauty is juxtaposed by the awkward photograph of Marcel Duchamp as a woman. The subversion of gendered and class expectations of beauty are all a part of the game that Duchamp and Ray offer with their construction of Rrose Sélavy. They exemplify the construction of an identity as an artistic endeavor. This exposes how things like gender can be electively practiced through superficial means like clothes, makeup, or perfume. It also reveals how certain photographic intentions are to serve
consumerism through subconscious messages of gender expectations. It is because Duchamp and Man Ray constructed Rrose Sélavy through photographic conventions that draw directly from cultural codes constructing femininity in relation to commodification that the images can be said to subvert these inexorable effects of the advertisement’s production of femininity (Jones). In contrast, the second series develops Rrose Sélavy so much that she ascends to a higher class. Duchamp disguises his masculine features to let the woman within shine. In this series, the distinction between illusion and reality is blurred which insists that the viewer inspect the photographs closely and with a more refined eye. The softer lighting allows the second series to fit into the style of fashion photography which accentuates the fine apparel that Rrose Sélavy models; her chic hat and fur lined jacket, with the delicately positioned and bejeweled hands all frame the face of Marcel Duchamp. The second photograph series shows how class and gender interact, the greater display of material wealth allows Duchamp a better chance to pass as a woman. Through the performance, it explores our sense of reality - can we trust our eyes to know what we are seeing? Are our expectations of a gender built around ideas of class? Rrose Sélavy was not the alone in Man Ray’s repertoire of gender-bending models. Barbette, the transvestite trapeze artist originally from Texas with the birth name Vander Clyde, amused the Parisian cabaret goers of the 1920s with his combination of acrobatic skills and brilliantly convincing gender transformation. The name Barbette is a pun turning the French word barbe (beard, masculine characteristic), into a feminized name with the suffix “-ette”. Barbette captured the attention of famous poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau who commissioned Man Ray to photograph the circus performer. Ray’s photograph Barbette Dressing displays the contoured body that is definitively male but mixed with feminine flair. Barbette’s doll-like face looks mismatched with the sculpted body – this kind of jarring juxtaposition is characteristic of Surrealism. Barbette’s performance relied on his acrobatic skills, but what really drew intrigue was his transformation from one gender to
another that was revealed at the end of the spectacle when he removed his wig. Not only was the performance about makeup and clothes, but the meticulously measured physicality that betrayed the natural ‘truth’ of his masculine body was the most astonishing feat. This shows viewers that gender is not a static and definite phenomenon but rather an arbitrary way to categorize one group of people from another, “In their eyes, [Barbette]’s sexual indeterminacy was a metaphor for postwar French society’s difficulty dealing with the promise of, and anxiety about, a world without distinct sexes” (Lyford). When the identity of a person’s gender is ambiguous it may call one’s sense of self into question. Men in the audience who perceived Barbette as a sexually desirable woman must confront the instability of gender and sexual desire. Photography is an outlet in which identity is explored, but not solely the identity of the subject or photographer, but the photographs can desta-
bilize the viewersâ€™ sense of self, and according to Surrealism, it should. Claude Cahun, a Surrealist, a writer, and a photographer, blurred lines between masculine and feminine to create something that was maybe a mix of both? Or perhaps she created something else entirely, a third gender, an uncategorizable category? Her pseudonym has an intentionally gender-ambiguous first name, and the surname of her paternal grandmother who raised her after her mother passed away. Her lifelong partner, Suzanne Malherbe, also participated in the gender play with her alias Marcel Moore. Unlike the collaboration between Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, both of these women were in a com-
mitted homosexual relationship. This places authorship and the idea of the subject in a different context. Cahun, with the assistance of her lover Malherbe, is the author and subject of most of her work. Yet her own position as the subject changes from photo to photo, because each subject seems to be an independent dramatized character. By placing herself, or selves, as the subject she doesn’t construct a kind of desirous or affronted gaze for the viewers that Man Ray or Brassaï do. Types of gazes that I’m referring to are first, a gaze that places a feminine subject as an object of desire, and also a gaze that relies on the shock value of non-normative behaviors. Claude Cahun brings attention to contradictions within Surrealism itself – its experimentations in representing sexual desires were not free from society’s homophobia. Cahun’s androgyny and same-sex desire/relationship informs her photography in a way the other photographers in this essay don’t have epistemological access to. She positions herself thusly in a 1921 article from Le gerbe, “Cahun describes same-sex love as her ‘creed,’ her ‘guiding principle,’ as the manifesto’s title ‘L’idée-maîtresse’ suggests. This embrace of homosexuality (for her, the embrace of a “mistress”) flies in the face of the claims that bound Cahun to her gender, her cultural heritage, and her bourgeois family” (Latimer). Her “neuter” gender was as important as her same-sex desires, always evading totalizing definitions of lesbianism or woman, her work speaks beyond these static identities. As mentioned previously, theatricality was central to Cahun’s photographic oeuvre. In Self Portrait (I’m in Training Don’t Kiss Me), the androgynous figure of Cahun sits squarely at the center of the image. Donning a shirt with the script “I’m in Training Don’t Kiss Me” and a face of makeup fit for a circus performer, the character sits with dumbbells across ‘her’ lap. Even as she sits in a highly feminine position and with makeup on her face, the gender of the character alludes the viewer. Refusing to fit neatly into one recognizable gender, it calls into question the visual signs we rely on to classify gender. If her chest were a bit more rounded, would we recognize the character as wholeheartedly woman? In another self-portrait, Cahun stands
next to a mirror and stares into the camera wearing a checkered jacket with the lapels popping outwards. The point-blank expression looking both directly at you and distantly away from you into the mirror represents the possible dualities of a person. For the side of the self you choose to represent, there will always be the other side that is hidden - the mirror helps, but you still donâ€™t see the back of the head. More so, the self is split into fragments of what is seen, what is hidden, what is conscious/subconscious, realized and repressed desires, and so on. We are able to assume that she is likely looking at her partner Marcel Moore behind the camera which gives a much more intimate setting for the portrait. Her stance and her stare can be so
bold because she is with someone she trusts will not denounce her for her androgyny. The audience for these photographs was not wide - she did not make money from her photography during her lifetime. The value of her photographic work was only realized posthumously. In 1930, Cahun published a memoir of sorts under the title Aveux non avenus, the first edition only brought 500 copies to print. The English translation, Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions, reprinted in 2008, where the Introduction makes clear that the text does not follow a normal narrative form, â€œbut it eschews conventional narrative and realism in favor of aphorisms and episodic interludesâ€? (Mundy). The writing style is as inventive as the photomontages that accompany the words. Drawing on motifs from mirrors to masks, the text and visuals all concern themselves with that pernicious question
of identity. She never writes about gender or sexuality explicitly in her memoir, but it is present in her musings on Narcissus and self love. This Greek story was used in many psychoanalytic understandings of homosexuality as a narcissistic endeavor (Mundy). In the second part entitled “Myself (for want of anything better)” she muses: You were able to love yourself among wood spirits and nymphs, flattering or truthful mirrors, unconscious instruments of separate will. And you remained apart because you would have been able, through your divinity, to isolate yourself from the universe, experience your existence, know and love yourself. Can Narcissus die withered, he whose self-love is fulfilled in an egoism for two, for many, for all, in the universal orgy? (Cahun) Cahun’s preoccupation with Narcissus is not surprising considering her own fascination with capturing images of herself and the place of Narcissus in theories of inversion and homosexuality. The lasting effect of Narcissus in ‘self-love fulfilled in an egoism for two, for many, for all, in the universal orgy’ seems to be referencing same-sex desire. The reflective quality of same-sex love makes it so you are perpetually searching for yourself in your partner. Take these words with the photomontage that appears in this chapter and one can see the extent to which Cahun was exploring her own conception of her ‘self ’ through reflections, her face appearing partially masked in a mirror and also in the center of a large eye, surrounded by dismembered legs and arms. There is an incredibly interesting balance and symmetry of forms within the composition, and it is psychologically interesting as well. Again, making allusions to the fragmented self, one that can be broken apart, reflected, hidden, seen, eroticized. The complexity of this self (or selves) isn’t hindered by its lack of conformity to a binary gender, but rather opens up her characters to all potential interpretations. Brassaï – yet another immigrant Parisian photographer who built his career under an alias – dove into the world of alternate sexualities and genders. His photographs of gay and lesbian bars in 1920s -1930s Paris are done within the realist tradition which prioritizes ob-
servation over interpretation. This differentiates the style of Brassaï from Man Ray or Claude Cahun. Where Rrrose Sélavy and Barbette embody male femininity and Cahun offers androgyny, Brassaï’s exploration into Parisian lesbian bars represents some female performances of masculinity. Aside from the differences in photographic style and intent, these photographs don’t focus on individual subjects fashioned in their intentional personas. Rather they showcase the intimacy, community, and liberty that these queer spaces allowed. Once again it becomes about the individual’s place within a community as it did with Sélavy amongst the Dadaists. Brassaï’s photographs show how these spaces accepted and even encouraged gender-play and cross-dressing as a part of the nightlife experience. Yet with Brassaï there is the distance between
the photographer and the subject where the relationship between the two is unknown. Was Brassaï acting as an intrusive voyeur, representing but not participating in the community? What Brassaï did capture but Man Ray missed was the representation of his subjects as desiring beings and not just merely desirable. Brassaï’s subjects have sexual libidos. In Female Couple Brassaï photographs a lesbian couple at le Monocle, a popular lesbian destination in 1920s Paris, described by Brassaï as, “one of the first temples of Sapphic love”. Both women are looking away from the camera, the one closer to Brassaï is in a suit with a ruffled pocket square and short dark hair slicked back, and she has her arms around her partner. The other woman has her head resting on her hand, her face made up for a night out. Brassaï gives the world a glimpse into the underground gay and lesbian scene of the Paris 1920s, it leaves one wondering about these communities and how they allowed people freedom to express alternate identities. These spaces offered safety for intimate displays of non-heterosexual relationships and community. Brassaï was among the only prominent artists of this era to showcase non-heterosexual female desire and gender play in context of their communities. Therefore, these photographs carry an element of documentary quality which preserves the history of these marginalized people. In Brassaï’s photographic memoir The Secret Paris of the 1930s, he describes his impressions of these queer spaces of 1930s Paris. Particularly when he discusses the drag ensembles from The Ball for Inverts at Magic City, “The cream of Parisian inverts was to meet there, without distinction as to class, race or age... every Albert and André – metamorphosed for this great night into Andrée and Albertine”. These gay cabarets offered a space for gender ambiguity and metamorphosis to happen as a collective. Where inversion, perversion, and subversion could be celebrated and elaborated. Although there still wasn’t much tolerance in French society for this to be a largely public affair, Brassaï’s photographs allowed for the circulation of these practices and therefore offered more models of representation for a group of second-class gender-crossing perverts. In Brassaï’s photo-
graphs of these balls he captures the jostling atmosphere of partners dancing, people moving, courting, and loving without restraint. The photographer as voyeur, the watcher of something not meant for your eyes is an integral aspect to Brassaï’s work. The injection of the camera and photographer into hidden socially-taboo spaces was Brassaï’s niche. A tumultuous time of creation and destruction, photography during the interwar period in Paris was an outlet for identity exploration. Gender became an increasingly unstable category, with powerful class and psychoanalytic criticism coming to the forefront of social consciousness. Artists were often already living under a nom de plume, or a new identity that they fabricated for their career. Identity was often seen as a masquerade by the Surrealists, a façade that you can peel away at any given moment. Therefore, it didn’t seem a step
too far away to experiment with different gender identities. In the case of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, the identity of Rrose Sélavy was largely satirical, bringing attention to the superficial class expectations of femininity and how easily it can be performed. Barbette shows the public’s fascination with gender transformations. Claude Cahun provides an autobiographical Surrealist sketch of ‘self ’ through her writings and self-portraits. Her androgynous characters don’t fit neatly into any category of gender, or of Drag, which makes her work unique and incredibly subversive. Brassaï’s wanderings around communities of gay and lesbian bars/cabarets represents gender performances that weren’t intended for photography but rather for a collective practice of gender metamorphosis happening in queer spaces. Themes of gender and sexual desire appearing so critically, parodically, or subversively in photography during this era shows the ways in which fixed rigid notions of these topics were morphing into something new. Gender became something that could be interrogated, and played with even, which with more diverse representations ultimately allows for a more multiplicity and complexity in the formation of identities. Bibliography Brassaï. The Secret Paris of the 30s. Translated by Richard Miller, Random House Inc, 1976. Cahun, Claude, et al. Disavowals Or Cancelled Confessions. Translated by Susan de. Muth, The MIT Press, 2008. Doy, Gen. Claude Cahun: A Sensual Politics of Photography. I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2007. Hacking, Juliet. “The Modern Self.” Photography: the Whole Story, Thames & Hudson, 2017. Johnson, Deborah. “R(r)Ose Sélavy as Man Ray: Reconsidering the Alter Ego of Marcel Duchamp.” Art Journal, vol. 72, no. 1, 2013, pp. 80–94. Jones, Amelia. “The Ambivalence of Rrose Sélavy and the (Male) Artist as ‘Only the Mother of the Work’.” Postmodernism and the
En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp, Cambridge University Press, 2000. Lyford, Amy. Surrealist Masculinities: Gender, Anxiety and the Aesthetics of Post-World War I Reconstruction. University of California Press, 2007. Mundy, Jennifer, editor. Surrealism: Desire Unbound. Princeton University Press, 2001. Saint-Cyr, Agnes Gouvion. Brassaï: Pour L’amour De Paris. Editions Flammarion, 2013. Seigel, Jerrold E. “The Self As Other.” The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp: Desire, Liberation, and the Self in Modern Culture, University of California Press, 1997. Images Image 1: Man Ray, Belle Haleine. (1921). Gelatin silver print. 22.4 × 17.8 cm (8 13/16 × 7 in.). Image 2: Man Ray, Marcel Duchantp as Rrose Sélavy, ca. 1921, gelatin silver print, image and sheet: 8/2 x 6 % in. (21.6 x 17.3 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Samuel S. White 3rd and Vera White Collection Image 3: Man Ray, Barbette Dressing. (1926). Gelatin silver print. 10.5 x 7.5 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection. Image 4: Claude Cahun, Self-portrait (I am in training, Don’t Kiss Me). (1927). Gelatin silver print. Image 5: Clade Cauhun, Self Portrait. (1928-1929). Image 6: Claude Cahun, Untitled (part of Aveux non avenus). 1930. Photomontage. Image 7: Brassaï, Female Couple, (1932). Gelatin silver print, 30.2x22.6 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Sleep With Me
a short story by Gabrielle Guichard
he doesn’t dream, save for flashes of ivory and illusory light; right next to her, she does, flickers of abstract thoughts echoed into images.
Across still walls and double-layered carpets, he dreams, too, always the same one, the same motion picture that won’t be remembered until the following night when it resets. A level above him, she’s numb and down deeper than where dreams impel, chemicals keeping her there, leaking into every cell, poisoning them more and more every night. All of them asleep, all but one conscious silhouette who sits and holds his tongue so as to not disturb the tranquility of nighttime. He sits, arms curled around his legs, propped up against his chest, and patiently waits until morning. He sits, at the base of the door, and tries to picture, to imagine, what hearing the deep unconscious breaths shared by those in suspension all around him would be like. He sits and lets that illusion guide his own breathing in response, a calm and steady pattern, relative and solitary, slowed movements like maybe time would forget him. A fan blows behind a closed door, agitating the air, renewing it in the readapted silence, a constant hum in a predictable sequence that marks the dull passing of time; in the absence of light it becomes maddening on the edges of his mind. Neither sun- nor moonlight bleeds through the shutters, only dusty rays of streetlights flit through. The walls never really seem dark in the calm that has settled into their cracks, leaking down into the floorboards. It’s not menacing with the sounds of humanity, boring and unconscious, droning on behind every distant snore. Even the flowers dotting the wallpaper stay serene, bathed in their eerie textured shadows, as mortal as the plaster and treated polished wood they’re living on. It was the same every night. His head lolled to the side, weighed down by frustration rather than sleep,
his fingers twitching with irritation and impatience. He felt listless from a tiredness that ached down to his bones, to the muscles he had to focus on loosening as his eyes shut while his mind did not. He had every pattern surrounding him memorized; the path every shadow played when it did catch just enough light to form, black against the dark grays of night. He knew what noises would reach him, even the ones he could not predict or time, because he had heard them all. Night after night, like a game’s mystery and allure lost after the player learned how to count cards. Nothing new ever happened within the confines of his various spots across his three rooms. He moved his bed sometimes, pulled it out of his room as much as he could. Other times just his bedding, he tried to sleep between his fridge and his oven, on the ground between them where the temperature evened out. He found that the comforting hum of the fridge kept him warm and that the cold, unused metal planes of the oven chilled the air around it. He tried to sleep beneath each window, hoping the dust playing in the light would work just like the infamous sheep he was supposed to count when sleep didn’t come. But sleep still didn’t come. It never did anymore. He had run out of places to lie down and pretend, places that didn’t bore him. He had run out of patience for anything that could supposedly aid him during his sleepless nights. No novel or artwork or song or visual experience could stop his mind from running away from him. No play of his imagination or his own body could tire him out enough, not even the carefully crafted reveries he’d saved up for years, the ones of strong hands or soft waists, sometimes accompanied by a high voice, other times low gravelly laughter. So when he started to become consciously aware of each of his breaths, each rise and fall of his body as it fought him with every passing minute, consciously aware of each temporary silent moment in his mind that could tip backward into sleep yet never did - that was when he went outside instead.
He left the boundaries of the meticulously imagined narratives he had built for every one of his neighbors. Out into the street, away from the dollhouse his imagination had spun into existence, when his nights had turned into this slow descent into insanity. From this angle, from his place on the sidewalk where the air wasn’t as suffocatingly stagnant, his apartment building looked like it should: devastatingly normal. An unlit, muted copy of the ones around it. A boring facade shrouded in the same darkness that covered the whole street, rows of dark blocks that some consider home. He briefly wondered when that stopped being the case for him as he turned away and started walking, leaving his neighbors’ hypothetical dreams behind. Leaving the burden of their evened breathing that he could no longer replicate to fade into monotony of its surroundings. His body felt heavy under the pulls of deprivation, his limbs weighing him down with every step, but he didn’t feel grounded, didn’t feel safe on the concrete that would surely crack beneath him at any moment. It didn’t, so he kept walking. On the nights he wanted to tire himself out with artificial boredom he couldn’t manufacture at home, he would go right. Settle in at the back of a restaurant that wouldn’t kick him out as long as he ordered something new every few hours. Then, he could stay and observe. He would stay until either the trite goings-on pulled his eyes shut when his consciousness finally gave out, or until the day broke and he was forced to wend his way to work, caffeine and sugar barely keeping him standing. On the nights he wanted to tire himself out with adrenaline and exertion until he reached the point of passing out somewhere uncomfortable, he would go left. If the sun was already starting to rise when he finally gave up, he would head to the gym three blocks down. He would use their pool until he had to ponder the consequences of falling asleep in the water - the only place he didn’t
feel the weight of the world crushing his ribs, his lungs, his heart, as he floated on the surface. He would let his vision blur until the lights above him made his eyes sting, the chlorine and the ache of fatigue accentuating the burn. If the moon was still being outshined by streetlights, he would find a different kind of rush that left him barely drained enough to finally close his eyes. He would trudge his way to the bars, the clubs, abstemiously mix in substances he would continue to feel long after he woke up. He would dance until either the stamp on his hand faded with sweat or someone else’s rhythm altered his. Hands on his hips, or his own around someone’s waist. Fingers in his hair, or his own in someone’s shirt, grip loose and grateful. He would move to the bastardized versions of songs he had learned to love until something - someone - made anticipation curl at the base of his spine, giddy attraction prickling at his skin when a smile seemed just authentic enough, when a laugh resonated just long enough in his sleep-addled mind. Most nights he would enjoy the press of anonymity and companionship to be left on the sticky worn dancefloor, but sometimes, when the shared moments made their way past his steady heartbeats, he would gladly let himself be dragged away, a hand in his or on the back of his neck or in his jean pocket. On some nights it would be for a drink, on others it would be for food, or coffee, or walks, or quick successions of events in small confined spaces that felt like freedom. On others, he would go home with them. A man whose name stayed as a single letter in his memories, laughed against his lips, careful and gentle marks left on his thighs that blurred into his skin before his blood could sober, retraced hours later when the alcohol had long faded from his veins. His heart pounding in different rhythms along his body, a blur between his own and a shared one, throughout the night and well into the next day. A few nights later, a woman that kissed a pill into his mouth, leaving the color of her smile stained on his lips. The same shade he found bitten into the
pillow when the night brightened to day. His throat pleasantly raw and reality clouded in its subdued state with the ephemeral high of falling in love for just a few hours fading away with the artificial one. Weeks later, a man who loved him back during the time they spent together, who told him he was a hurricane, his face open with a tired pull that no longer felt familiar. A man who answered “it’s not” when asked if that was a good thing. The night after that he went home with someone whose face he could never recall, whose name was lost in a yelled conversation leaned across a bar, whose gender was forgotten the moment they were alone. Nothing happened, neither sleep nor passion, in the foreign bed that he slipped out of minutes after the first rays of light mapped out his clothes scattered across dark wooden floorboards. They didn’t creak as he left. The door clicked shut behind him, unnatural and quiet. He wasn’t a hurricane: he was becoming nothing more than a shadow, something fading in the in-between, barely part of the same world anymore. He had found moments of peace in the fleeting connections with those around him, filled his pockets with scraps of paper that contained names and numbers, transferred them carefully into his phone. But they were as much distractions as the nights spent swimming until his muscles burned, as the games and stories he made up in his head about his neighbors, about the customers in the diners and bars he temporarily found refuge in when his own home stopped feeling like one. Realizations started coming when he vaguely considered changing apartments, perhaps changing jobs, in the hopes that it would fix the broken part of him that couldn’t sleep more than two or three hours a night. It was a slow process, delayed by the effects of his own self-destructing body. Change came even slower than that, overlapping with his reflections, one small insignificant thought or event at a time. It was not a path of self-improvement or a conscious growth, just little shifts in his routine.
He started bringing people back to his place rather than trying his luck in a stranger’s bed, and they helped him associate his own with more than just sleepless nights. The same sheets that often felt more like a physical pressure weighing him down and choking him, now warm with someone else’s presence. He started enjoying their presence outside his bed too, padding around his space, between the walls that used to close in on him, now expanding to accommodate more than just him and his anxieties. Some stayed longer than others, he didn’t want or ask for more, perfectly content with what they could offer each other. He didn’t replace his bed, not even his bedding, nor did he redecorate; he simply allowed his home to become just that once again, first through someone’s else’s eyes, then through his own. He started going to the pool more often, sometimes during his lunch break to tire out his body naturally rather than out of desperation. He learned to swim for longer without pushing the limits he usually ignored in the hopes that a break meant sleep; he learned to enjoy the floating sensation as a way to unwind his pleasantly sore muscles instead of a necessity to catch his breath. His eyes stung a little less. He stopped wondering what drowning would feel like if he fell asleep in the water. He started seeking out his reflection in mirrors, enjoyed the irrational reassurance that he wasn’t fading away, that he was still himself even with the dark imprints under his eyes. That was how he noticed that they were starting to fade while he himself stayed intact. He started being able to sleep alone, even if it was in short increments, or often fitful and superficial. He started being able to sleep with someone else’s hand in his. With someone else’s movements that could lull him back to sleep rather than keep him awake until one of their alarms rang. Sometimes he still sits at the base of a door, he still tries to picture how and what his neighbors dream about, but now it has become a comfort. Counting the sheep didn’t work, but this does. He starts picturing his own dreams until they become a reality, until he crawls back to his bed which remains where it should be, and lets them play out in his head while he sleeps.
Sometimes he still watches the sun rise from his place with his head on the pillow, but he will still smile as he lets sleep heavy his eyelids and smooth out his features. It doesn’t happen all at once, months of withheld rest having left its impressions and scars on his life, the effects long-lasting and harsh, accentuated every time he relapses into old patterns. But he has found some peace again. Little by little, as sleep returns to him, he finds himself again. And sometimes, just sometimes, when he himself can’t find the rest he needs, someone stays longer, a heartbeat under his ear, a steady breathing pattern to synchronize to. It doesn’t have to be for forever - just the length of one full night’s sleep.
Women and Development, Finding Oneâ€™s Role: A Self-Reflective Methodology Elizabeth McGehee
here are a myriad of challenges which assert themselves upon the professional and scholarly paths leading to projects and studies of women and development. Whether their work takes place in the field, behind a computer or stack of feminist and development theory readers, or all three, these challenges will gesture an individual towards questioning how their work might be affected by both external influences (time, finances, visa regulations, etc.) as well as internal conflict. Residing in this web of internal conflict is, arguably, the most daunting challenge: a restless uncertainty that comes from within the individual, which appears to lack an explicit formula for resolution. This uncertainty - stealthily seeping out through the calculated cracks of the walls around one’s subconscious - intrudes on individual’s conscious questioning only after they have started down the path of women and development. One begins to call into question the multiplicity of meanings behind the identities which comprise their very own subjecthood. One calls into question their race, ethnicity, gender, class, caste, sexuality, and the degree to which they are privileged because of these identities. One becomes aware of this position, privileged not only by these identities but also by the ability to call them into question and deconstruct their meanings. One begins to confront the faultiness of the ‘universal sisterhood’, itself an oppressive tool employed to blur specificities of identity amongst Western and non-Western women alike, to silence voices speaking from different experiences of domination, to uphold and preserve the hegemonic discourse that is Western feminism. Finally, one asks, “who am I, and what/where is my place here - in this field of work, in this culture which I do not know, in this community of women with whom I do not share an identity outside of gender?” The following text will serve to create a ‘beginner’s toolkit’ - a draft methodology of sorts - which motions the individual who stands idle on the women and development path through several phases of critical self-reflection. Throughout these phases, uncertainties and questions, predominantly, “who am I, and what/where is my place
here?”, will be confronted using both the prescriptive and descriptive theoretical paradigms developed and established by feminist scholars including, but not limited to, Chandra Mohanty, Gayatri Spivak, bell hooks, and Donna Haraway. I intend to suggest that, upon arriving to this point of what is essentially self-doubt bound up in a fear of misrepresenting or appropriating cultural specificity, one should not, in the end, follow down the path that leads back home. Throughout the preliminary phase of this act of conscious questioning, the theoretical framework from Mohanty’s pivotal piece, Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses (1984), will act as the core reference from which one will grow an understanding of what to be relentlessly wary of on this journey of discovering “who am I and what/where is my place here?”. Mohanty’s definition of colonization is a “discursive one, focusing on a certain mode of appropriation and codification of ‘scholarship’ and ‘knowledge’ about women in the third world...” (Mohanty 333). This discursive mode of colonization enlists articulations of Western feminist epistemologies as the referent for the material and historical representation of non-Western or “Third World” women - such a notion of discursively oppressing and misrepresenting subjects will become relevant to one’s own mode of questioning. Mohanty calls into question five texts written by Western feminists and emphasizes three analytic principles which find their roots within Western hegemonic discourse. These principles, and their “inherently political nature” (349), effectively homogenize the identities and reduce the complex and varying experiences of women in the third world. Within the five texts analyzed by Mohanty (problematically ranked as cross-cultural in their own way), their respective Western feminist authors have set up “analytical traps” (336) each with their own “inherently political nature” (349), enumerated below: 1) The analyses embrace and employ the assumed category of women as “an already constituted, coherent group with identical interests and desires, regardless of class, ethnic, or racial location or contra-
dictions”. As a result, it is assumed here that “[the notions] of gender or sexual difference or even patriarchy…[can] be applied universally or cross culturally” (337). 2) The analyses assert an “uncritical use of particular methodologies in providing “proof ” of universality and cross-cultural validity (337). 3) Finally, the five writings exert the assumption of binary oppressor/subordinate categories and their respective power relations which are applied universally to a complex “socio-historical system.” As a result, “discourses of representation are confused with material realities” (349). One can consider these charges made by Mohanty as charges they can make towards themselves upon transposing them from Western feminist writings to their own experiences occurring on the path of women and development. In other words, these three principles can act as a reference point for one’s modes of critical questioning. The ways one discursively shapes their questions is of fundamental importance and must always be accounted for. For example, one must go forth with great caution so as to not evoke a colonialist discourse by positing their own identity in such a way that would “[suppress the] heterogeneity of the subject(s) in question” (333). Should the question “who am I and what/where is my place here?” be uttered, for example, as “who am I, as an educated, Western, middle-class, white woman, to engage with a community comprised of impoverished, battered, sexually oppressed, uneducated insert non-Western race/ethnicity here women?” the purpose of this self-reflection is not only instantly defeated but has harmful repercussions, as the individual will have contributed to constructing the “composite, singular Third World Woman” (334). The assumption is made that this group of women constitute a monolithic, homogenized group identity “prior to their entry into social relations” (350), a danger Mohanty warns us of as it instantly places these women into predetermined categories wherein the notions of patriarchy, oppression, sexuality/sexual difference, etc. are, precisely, articulated as they
are in Western feminist discourse. On the path of women and development, one must be wary not only of themselves, but also of external influences which produce and thus perpetuate the “Third World Difference”, defined by Mohanty as, “that stable, ahistorical something that apparently oppresses most if not all the women in [Third World] countries” (335). One should not assume, however, that this external influence is even conscious of subscribing to and exerting Western feminist hegemony. Yet, we are warned that “there can, of course, be no apolitical scholarship” (334); therefore, whether it be a person, community, institution, project, or body of scholarship, one should assume that Mohanty’s claim has the potential to ring true for all of these, and that each can be evaluated in terms of the degree to which they sustain the “Third World Difference”. Thus, while being constantly vigilant of one’s own actions and words, one must also be conscious (and critical) of, say, a Women’s Empowerment & Development NGO located in India whose philosophy appears to paint the image of the “Third World Woman”. One must call into question the nature of this organization and all of its working parts - its origins, the model used to measure development, its mission statement and philosophy (as they are both written and conceptualized), how the logistical work is performed, the means by which it articulates feminist values, the ways in which the women are represented and their respective struggles analyzed/narrated, their critical understanding of power relations, and so on. Does this NGO assume that “women are [...] a coherent group or category prior to their entry into ‘the development process?’” Does it assume that all of the women in this culture “...have similar problems and needs. [and thus] [...] similar interests and goals?” (344). From Mohanty’s theoretical paradigm and analytical findings, perhaps what appears most significant to the self-reflective individual on the women in development path is the notion of difference, “...the fundamental complexities and conflicts which characterize the lives of women of different classes, religions, cultures, races and castes in [Third
World] countries” (335), and accountability: the act of being aware and holding accountable the colonizing effect - and its source - which occurs should these identities and experiences, as well as the specificity of the cultural context in which they exist, be misrepresented, appropriated, and ultimately homogenized. Thus, an individual might be led to believe that most if not all hope is lost - that they, themselves, simply have no place in this field of women in development, one so laden with accusations of Western feminist universalization appropriating identities/experiences, masking historical specificities, and operating from privilege so as to silence the voice of the necessarily victimized “cultural Other” (349) (regardless of the degree to which these actions are or are not intentional). Even if one is uncompromising in their effort to put into practice Mohanty’s calls to action, because they share essentially no commonality with women of the Third World - because they are, precisely, from the Western world - does there exist a place for them in this field from which meaningful, long-lasting, and informed work can be produced? Just as the path seems to come to a dead end, the end of Mohanty’s analysis illuminates a small trail leading forward. She writes: [My] arguments are not against generalization as much as they are for careful, historically specific complex generalizations. Nor do these arguments deny the necessity of forming strategic political identities and affinities. Thus, while Indian women of different religions, castes, and class might forge a political unity on the basis of organizing against police brutality towards women, any analysis of police brutality must be contextual. Strategic coalitions which construct oppositional political identities for themselves are based on generalization, but the analysis of these group identities cannot be based on universalistic, ahistorical categories. (349) Here, one is reassured of not only the possibility but the necessity for assuming an active role in the professional field of women and development in non-Western countries and/or the Global South. Mohanty briefly exposes the key that at once unlocks and legitimizes this active role in her allusion to the act of forming strategic coalitions. In order
to understand the meanings behind these coalitions and how they are strategic, one must enter the following phase of questioning, which calls for an informed understanding of the theoretical concept of strategic essentialism (Spivak). At this point in the “toolkit” for self-reflection, the individual, no longer idle on the women in development path but gradually moving forward, has been alerted to the dangers of applying universalizing strategies which perpetuate the “Third World Difference” and thus maintain the dichotomous relationship of “the West versus the rest”. It is, therefore, self-evident that any attempt made by the individual to express to the women with whom they are engaging that they “understand and can relate to their oppressions” by means of a shared womanhood is a universalizing method in and of itself - indeed, this would impose a Western understanding of patriarchal oppression, sexuality, as well as suggest that the individual believes they are better equipped to speak about women’s experiences of domination than the women themselves. This does not imply, however, a complete and total lack of a shared experience between the individual and the women which would allow them to forge strategic coalitions - rather, as it will become clear to us, it is precisely from the essentialist school of thought that the strategic coalitions mentioned by Mohanty are able to theorize and subsequently put into practice. The concept of strategic coalitions is at the heart of strategic essentialism, a concept conceived by highly esteemed and ever-controversial Indian literary theorist, feminist critic, and postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak (self-proclaimed to be a “practical deconstructionist feminist Marxist”) (Leitch 2110). Thus far we have been reassured by Mohanty that there exists a position for them in the sphere of working with women in development. Now, one can look to Spivak and her 1988 essay Can the Subaltern Speak (wherein lies the concept of strategic essentialism) for a methodological understanding of how to fulfill this position while always acknowledging (and never romanticizing) cultural and historical specificities. The following text illustrates a
brief but comprehensive understanding of the theoretical composition of strategic essentialism, as well as the nature and effects of its practical applications. Elisabeth Eide provides a condensed understanding of strategic essentialism, as she writes: One may read Spivak as suggesting that the strategic borders on the pragmatic, because, according to her, essentialism has little to do with theory; it rather serves as a definition of a certain political practice. The very concept of strategic essentialism – which [...] Spivak herself disputes – is a path that has been and continues to be explored as a minority strategy for influencing mainstream society. As I see it, strategic essentialism in this sense entails that members of groups, while being highly differentiated internally, may engage in an essentializing and to some extent a standardizing of their public image, thus advancing their group identity in a simplified, collectivized way to achieve certain objectives. (Eide 76) A testimony to this is offered by Dwight McBride in his investigation of Toni Morrison’s Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature, in which he explores the use of strategic essentialism as a rhetorical tool to resist against racial discrimination. McBride explains: It allows us to speak categorically in a discourse that seems to demand and respect labels. It enables us to speak to and about a people whose individual lives may be markedly different, but who nonetheless suffer from a common form of racial hegemony. It permits us to hold up the possibility of a unity, albeit fictitious, that makes our burdens more manageable because the load is shared. (McBride 150) To engage with strategic essentialism means to take part in a political strategy; it also requires that, upon making essentialist claims strategically, one must “[retain] an awareness that [these] claims [are], at best, crude political generalizations” (Leitch 2112). Finally, one must confront and, as Spivak demonstrates, necessarily succumb to the risks inherent in, albeit strategically, making essentialist claims. The following phase of self-reflection entails identifying these risks and, subse-
quently, searching for alternative tactics and theoretical resources which may potentially allow the individual to situate themselves within women and development using strategic essentialism despite its dangers and shortcomings. At first glance, what appears to be an inevitable threat posed by one’s engagement with strategic essentialism is their assumed “adherence to essentialist doctrines” (Grosz 342). Grosz explains, however, that by “...assuming that feminists take on essentialist or universalist assumptions [...] instead of attempting to understand the ways in which essentialism and its cognates can function as strategic terms, this silences and neutralizes [...] feminism’s ability to take up positions ostensibly opposed to feminism and to use them for feminist goals” (343). This claim, expounding upon Spivak’s call to “become vigilant about our own practice and use it as much as we can rather than make the totally counter-productive gesture of repudiating it” (Spivak, 184), steadies the individual on the path, reassuring them that making essentialist claims are not only sanctioned, but necessary when done strategically (recall Mohanty). At the same time, Grosz touches on an idea which might permanently roughen the terrain for the individual on the women and development path: that ever-vexed notion of silencing and voice. Central to the philosophy surrounding women and development is the concept of breaking silences and raising silenced voices of oppressed groups. Spivak explores, with great skepticism, the means by which an individual (whether they be an intellectual, postcolonial scholar, or feminist activist) attempts and/or claims to amplify the voice(s) of the subaltern, and “...worries that even the most benevolent effort merely repeats the very silencing it aims to combat” (Leitch, 2111). This paradox of muting the subaltern in an effort to have their voice heard is impeccably illustrated in bell hooks’ lyrical work Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness. hooks writes:
No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still the colonizer, the speaking subject. and you are now at the center of my talk. (hooks 22) The light on the path ahead appears to dim once again before the individual, and they are sobered by this unforgiving yet undeniable truth that forces the concept of voice-raising and silence-breaking from its romanticized shell. To be on this path, however, is to be determined to find loopholes - small trails that lead one not only to their place in the field of women and development, but to a change in consciousness which holds accountable homogenizing and oppressive epistemologies. Thus, alternative resources and new modes of understanding this concept of silence/silencing are warranted. The following and final phase of this self-reflection calls for one to center their focus on the question of their identities and the privilege innate in these identities. It calls for both disciplinary and deconstructive action throughout two fundamental steps which might help one create their own mode of relating to women in the third world which does not adhere to an ethnocentric paradigm: unlearning and learning. Precisely, one moves forward on the path constantly attempting to unlearn, at once, their own privilege and the language of Western hegemonic discourse. At the same time, they will learn how to “speak to” rather than “speak for,” and they will consciously charge their modes of speech during instances of speaking in the guise of the oppressor’s language (hooks). “The injunction to unlearn,” write Landry and MacLean in The Spivak Reader, “[...] means working critically back through one’s history, prejudices, and learned, but now seemingly instinctual responses” (2). Spivak discusses the recognition of one’s privilege as their loss, referring to how one’s privilege positions them in such a way that they are incapable of accessing and understanding “Other”
knowledges. On the one hand, this recognition not only galvanizes but demands one to learn how to listen to whomever it may be that is closed off from this privilege - in this instance of women and development, women in the third world - and to consciously make the choice not to simply hear what they want to hear, or subvert the narrative they have been told by cramming it into the paradigm of Western hegemonic discourse, retelling it back to the source in a way that re-writes their identity and experiences. This process of unlearning is, arguably, a life-long discipline, and is one that exceeds being practiced within the circle of the Western feminist academic, the privileged Third World feminist theorist, the postcolonial critic, and the women and development student, intern, or NGO founder. This is evidenced in Spivakâ€™s message to those who are silenced, suggesting that they learn that their oppressed and/or colonized identity does not force them into a box of eternal silence - she says in an interview with The Postcolonial Critic: Why not develop a certain degree or rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silence? Then you begin to investigate what it is that silences you, rather than take this very deterministic position--since my skin color is this, since my sex is this, I cannot speak (Landry and MacLean 5). Perhaps the individual on the women and development path can latch onto a similar rage but one that comes from their own experience of deconstructing histories as they have been written according to the colonial referent - one that demands their reaction, criticism, and subsequent refusal to both speaking and listening on behalf of the of colonial discourses and/or hegemonic Western feminisms. hooksâ€™ concept of choosing the margin as a space of radical openness can provide a basis for the idea that throughout this methodology - throughout oneâ€™s act of questioning, remaining skeptical, applying essentialism strategically, unlearning, learning, speaking to, etc. - one learns that what they are doing is not pushing into the site of resistance of the woman in the Third World, nor are they forcefully pulling this woman into their clos-
er-to-the-center margin of resistance. Rather, a space is being created in which fosters a collective consciousness that allows for a group formation in which difference is not diluted for means of political gain, but shared goals constructed through affinities are at the top of the women and development pathfinder’s list. Bibliography Mohanty, Chandra T. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Boundary 2, 12/13, 1984, pp. 333–358. Eide, Elisabeth. “Strategic Essentialism and Ethnification.” Nordicom Review, vol. 31, no. 2, Jan. 2010, p. 76. Spivak, Gayatri C. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, New York: Columbia University Press, Ed. Patrick Williams, Ed. Laura Chrisman, 1994. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. pp. 2110-2112. Hooks, Bell. “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, no. 36, 1989, pp. 15– 23 Spivak, Gayatri, et al. The Spivak Reader Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. London: Routledge, Ed. Donna Landry, Ed. Gerald MacLean, 1996, pp. 4-5. Donna Haraway, “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.
Journée d’étude de l’EHESS
#Balance Ton Porc
uring the winter of 1905, many of the women working for porcelain manufacturers in Limoges took out to the streets in a historical strike that went beyond the demands of the workers movements on low wages and long hours of work, but protested the factory overseer’s sexual violence. Today, #Metoo represents a different kind of mobilization emerging out of women’s mass anger on the systemic violence that women are subject to, and the power dynamics that inscribe themselves on the bodies of women. In the United States, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts with #MeToo have been used tens of millions of times since the hashtag was initially started in October, when actor Alyssa Milano set off the social media storm by posting “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used on Twitter 825,000 times and on Facebook 4.7 million people had used it in 12 million posts. The hashtag started after the sexual abuse allegations made against director Harvey Weinstein and solicited widespread responses online from high-profile celebrities in Hollywood. Media coverage capitalized on the prevalence and the widespread actions in power arenas, high profile industries and pop culture celebrity circles. In an attempt to right the balance, other hashtags have been coined by men who have been complicit or guilty of sexual harassment or assault. The intention is good, but the effect is far more disturbing than salutary. Search hashtags like #IHave or #ItWasMe and you are confronted by story after story of transgressions recounted in a performative first person. Another hashtag had started to gain attention: #IWill, which encourages men to go on the record pledging future awareness and action in support of women and gender equality. However, this is not only a Hollywood driven movement. Beyond the men leveraging on their high power, the people behind #MeToos are of a more familiar scale: friends, lovers, acquaintances, teachers, colleagues, bosses, countless anonymous strangers. The history of #Metoo goes back to over a decade ago. In 2006 Tara-
na Buke, the African-American director of Girls for Gender Equality founded the “Me too movement” to empower young women of color who have been sexually abused, assaulted or exploited and to provide a support network for marginalized communities. Precisely, these marginalized voices of women of color, women in low wage jobs or immigrant women in #Metoo movement in the United States or in #Balancetonporc in France received less coverage from mainstream media and captured less of the public’s attention. This is but a striking reminder of the interconnectedness of discriminations that the women of these communities are subject to, and an illustration of the matrix of patriarchal, racist and classist dominations that impact the lived experiences of women. This is an opportunity for a reflection on the limitations of the speak-out method through which certain voices are louder than others. Tarana Buke asks the question herself: “why is it that the whispers of white women are always louder than Black women’s screams?” and as Kimberlé Crenchaw highlights “The plight of Black women is relegated to a secondary importance.” Sexual harassment and assault is a gendered form of violence designated to point women back to their social position, and this position is defined in a variety of asymmetries: sexist, of course, but also racist and classist. As male harassers and assaulters have been exposed over the last few months, it has largely been confined to the realm of the white-collar worker, particularly in industries with big names familiar to the public. Women with less social capital have yet to see reports of the widespread harassment they experience on the front pages of mainstream newspapers. In other words, blue-collar and pink-collar jobs, traditionally assigned to women of color or immigrant women, are still waiting for their voices heard, empowered and brought to the surface. Many of these women are particularly vulnerable and belong to marginalized groups that are subject to systemic mechanisms of social violence and institutionalized barriers as expressed through sexism, classism and
racism. Because of the invisibilization of the systemic nature of these violences, their victims are muted —or at best if they are able to speak out : they are shamed, disbelieved, and rendered more vulnerable. Fear, power relations, interlocked social, political, and economic obstacles participate in the silencing of the victims along with masking the various mechanisms of violence. A fear of poor treatment might be considered by women before they make an official complaint. Denying the power dynamics that these victims face will inevitably make their claims for justice illegitimate and discredited. These women are facing the dilemma of who gets heard and who doesn’t, and who gets believed and who doesn’t. Paying particular attention to the lived experiences of the social groups dealing with these interlocked subordinations or what Crenshaw calls the margins, is essential in seeing the sexist, racial, and economic power dynamics of the United Statesian society. It is not a coincidence that the media stir and mass coverage is sparked by women in the Hollywood industry; it is rather a reminder of the privilege of speech that is not equally distributed amongst women. Claiming that “the space has been silent” is yet another rhetoric of the powerful to ignore the loud cries of women. Before #Metoo, there was #NotOkay in the United States, #Niunamenos in Latin America against feminicides, the #Notinvisible launched by Native American women or the major uprisings in India following the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder. Before Alyssa Milano or Jennifer Lawrence, we had Nafissatou Diallo and Renya Ramirez. The space has not been silent, but rather it is what sociologist Allan Johnson names a “male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered” system that has been deaf. Caroline Dayer, a doctor in social sciences and specialist in violences and discrimination insists that these testimonials did not just become liberated but it is rather a crystallization of voices that already existed. The real question remains: why weren’t they heard? Nevertheless, the widespread presence of #metoos and #balan-
cetonporc is essential in pointing to the systematic and systemic nature of sexual violence that goes beyond episodic anecdotes of occasional individual stories of harassment or assault but points to the collective social experience of being a woman! #Metoo is sensitizing the public to the prevailing nature of gender discrimination and gender-based violence and creating a catharsis for mass anger and collective action. The flooding number of testimonials shift the focus from the individual to the collective in a long-standing feminist tactic of transforming the personal to the political. This serves to link the micro-politics of women’s everyday experiences to the overarching macro-politics. Feminist activist Jaclyn Friedman said: “We’ve got to stop treating each case that comes to light like a self-contained soap opera that ends when the villain is defeated, and start addressing the systems that have enabled sexual abuse for so long.” The media cacophony over individual cases, hanging on to the portraits of high profile predators, is inscribed in the United Statesian neoliberal individualism targeting structural issues as problems of individuals. Suddenly, sexism is only depicted as a range of scandals, fait-divers and a few aberrant behaviors. As a result, Sexual assault is seen as a gender-neutral assault on individual autonomy. As long as these allegations denounce individual wrong-doers, yet keep the structures perfectly in place, they will be co opted by dominant discourses, institutions and media outlets. The obsession over lists of individual delinquents and whisper networks remains a pushback against a more radical questioning of the existing status-quo, therefore sacrificing few names to satisfy the public as long as the systems of power are left untouched and unquestioned. The authorities in place are dictating “the right way to deal with assault” which is to denounce the predators, go through the judicial systems in place, perhaps leading to punitive measures for the accused and then to “move on with your life.” Women are reminded of the democratic processes put in place allowing for them to pursue justice, and for the systems in place to act on the misconduct of individual men. These so called public lynchings of predators are considered il-
legitimate as they do not follow the judicial protocols and defame the lives of privileged men. If they are in fact illegitimate, then we must think of them as acts of civil disobedience radically challenging not only the claims of gender equality, but also the rule of law and the judicial systems operating from within a broader framework of complex dominions. Sexual violence must be recognized and understood as an important pillar of the patriarchy as a social system in which men disproportionately occupy positions of power and authority and under which central norms and values are associated with manhood and masculinity. We must situate these gendered violences within the context of broader systems of male power, and underline the harm that rape does to women as a group. Interestingly, as soon as the discussion shifts to the systemic nature of violence and to the harm experienced collectively by women as a group, there is an immediate shutdown. Women who question the nature of such violences as specific group-violence are accused of an ideology of victimhood, ridding women of their autonomy, portraying women as “weak” and “fragile.” Suddenly everyone becomes an empowering profeminist and is deeply offended by the misrepresentation of women’s autonomy and independence crying out loudly: “what happened to women’s agency?!” These are hegemonic claims of dominant social groups; including women who have the privileges that enable them to navigate the power structures they inhabit. The most prominent example is that of the claims made by the 100 signatures of Catherine Deneuve’s letter: survivors of assault should not be forever traumatized, women are being infantilized and exposing harassers is creating an outrage over “nonevents.” Or as Condoleezza Rice eloquently puts it: “We must not let metoo turn women into snowflakes.” or “ this makes men think maybe it is better to not have women around.” Here again, we assign to the victims the role of comforting the dominant groups in their plight of having their power questioned. Just as it is the responsibility of people
of color to account for the white man’s cry, it is now the collective responsibility of all women to make men more comfortable in their sexist endeavors. But to quote Kate Rushin’s poem: “I’m sick of seeing and touching Both sides of things Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody…” Another risk with the general focus on only the flagrant rape and sexual abuse incidents committed by men of power ultimately leads to a moralizing framework of “the good guys” vs “ bad guys” or the infamous “not all men” stance. Men can now compare their compliance and sexist transgressions on a scale of one to Weinstein. But men -- all men -- must acknowledge how they perpetuate misogyny and benefit from the existing social order. This is not only a matter of men learning to respect women, it is also a matter of denouncing sexist culture and models of masculinities as vehicled by profoundly misogynistic institutions such as the military, the police, or the porn industry. No woman should feel the pressure to tell painful traumatic stories about being violated but every man should feel a responsibility to question the systems, institutions, behaviors and discourses that promote the subordination of women. We need men to recognize how failing to call out “locker room talk” enables sexual assault and contributes to rape culture. We need more organizations and publications that focus on progressive masculinity rather than toxic and dangerous stereotypes about what constitutes “manliness.” The “not all men” rhetoric does not allow us to focus on the larger continuum of gendered violence and hegemonic masculinities inscribed in the patriarchy and often invisible to men. #Metoos are not about alienated experiences, it is an opportunity to adopt a radical analysis of the violence patriarchy exercises on the bodies of women. This is not a story of deviant individuals presented as an oblation to reassert the triumph of gender equality in Western societies. It is a crushing reminder of the rape culture inscribed within these societies. The only instances when sexism is publicly and politically denounced
in the United States or in Western countries more generally, is often to culturalize it and assign it to a foreign other. Of course, a third world other that is “out there” and “back there” with profoundly misogynistic traditions. Child-brides in Yemen, female genital mutilation, Burqa wearing women in Muslim countries: these are the misogynistic traditions that are attributed not to individual wrongdoers but to cultural practices, beliefs, and even political regimes and systems. When powerful institutions pay attention to women’s subordination and women’s bodies, it is often to mask other forms of injustices or to recuperate women’s rights movements and epistemologies in order to legitimize state violence. Sexism is only seen as a collective issue of power relations when it is othered. Culturalization tends to construct Western subjects as free of cultural influence, while it presents the “others” as victims of their culture, unable to resist its claims upon them. The million of stories that were told —and the many more that were not told, are not those of women who are perceived as “other” being oppressed by men considered as “other.” These are familiar stories of women subject to the violence of sexism even within Western cultural boundaries. These are not stories about moral decadence or sexual misery, but they highlight a political problem and should be treated as such. In addition to the “not all men” reactionary stance, mainstream media in the US qualified the metoo movement as a “witch hunt.”It has been compared to the “holocaust”,“the inquisition”, or a movement of collective vengeance and “reglement de compte.”A male comedy producer calls Hollywood a “reverse Handmaid’s Tales society.” One industry insider told Goodyear, “Men are living as Jews in Germany.” Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson wrote on behalf of former Senator Al Franken who resigned following sexual misconduct allegations: “I firmly believe in due process, which is a cornerstone of our democratic way of living. Whenever in history we abandoned it, we severely damaged ourselves. Just think about the lynching of blacks in the South, the internment of people of Japanese descent in World War II, or the era of McCarthyism when lives were destroyed based solely
on allegations.” This rhetorical device of victimhood is a long-standing tactic of the powerful to treat any questioning of their power as an unjust attack aiming to destabilize the social order. According to these accusations, there is a “witch-hunt” out to get the poor, marginalized and oppressed male sexual predators of the world. Unlike the perpetrators exposed by #metoo – society’s “witches” are never the powerful men with the property, status and advantages of a social order that protects, hides and excuses their crimes. Witch hunts historically involved powerful state and religious agencies identifying then executing vulnerable people, mostly women and other outsiders. The powerful are appropriating rhetoric of oppression in order to fight against accountability. Ironically, we as women must claim back our right to be the witches and for the power structures that suppress and discredit our plight to be our witch hunt. There is witchcraft in our blood and we carry with us the history of resistance. Boaventura De Sousa Santo reminds us that women are the initiators of most emancipatory forms of collective resistances that destabilize classical theories. To honor the past, present and future daily resistance of women everywhere, I leave you with a striking poem by June Jordan:
I am the history of rape I am the history of the rejection of who I am I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of myself
I am the history of battery assault and limitless armies against whatever I want to do with my mind and my body and my soul and whether it’s about walking out at night or whether it’s about the love that I feel or whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or the sanctity of my national boundaries or the sanctity of each and every desire that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic and indisputably single and singular heart I have been raped because I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic the wrong sartorial I I have been the meaning of rape I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name My name is my own my own my own and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this but I can tell you that from now on my resistance my simple and daily and nightly self-determination may very well cost you your life
Bibliography Interview with Tarana Buke: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/me-too-creator-tarana-burke-reminds-us-this-is-aboutblack-and-brown-survivors-20180104 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/us/the-metoo-momentwhats-next.html https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/08/can-hollywoodchange-its-ways The Gender Knot â€œUnraveling Our Patriarchal Legacyâ€? by Allan G. Johnson Epistemologies of the South by Boaventura de Sousa Santos Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color by Kimberle Crenshaw Interview with Caroline Dayer: https://www.rts.ch/play/radio/forum/ audio/le-mouvement-de-protestation-metoo-descend-dans-les-rues-interview-de-caroline-dayer?id=9018936&station=a9e7621504c6959e35c3ecbe7f6bed0446cdf8da Interview with Condoleeza Rice: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=I8eToRjhAb0&t=90s
Three Sisters, a Still Life By Eliza Siegel I The sensual onion discards her coat and underthings, the scent enough to make her lover cry he demands of her a continuous shedding and ridding of the self, he begs her for the unattainable end of vulnerability, until only a pile of broken skins remains II Her sister, the withered pomegranate, a crowned queen, a sun-blushed thing, skin like a scab (the middle child, the daughter of winter, the parenthetical myth) she is a woman of many costumes, works to disguise the pits with rubies, cloaking the small seeds
she is not to be believed it is difficult to say whether she is a coreless orb or an orb with many cores she splits herself, she has too much to lose to lose it all at once; inside, she shields membranes like paper borderlines, harbors too many compartments of the heart III The oregano, the last, the eldest, the wizened sister-flower-spinster shelved and dried by wind and forgotten, the oregano, legs like soft needles, draping her sisters with loverâ€™s tendrils, the oregano, weary of this place, she forgets where dust ends and she begins, she is much too tired, too rigid to bend
s students, we study theory and analytical methodology with the hopes to apply it to events and ideas presented to us and to analyze them with a critical eye. How then, have the struggles of indigenous women who are fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline in the United States and Canada been overlooked in everyday conversation? In 1986 and in 2003 Chandra Mohanty analyzed and advised against the reductionism, misrepresentation, globalism, capitalism, and lack of contextualization in feminist discourse of the developing or “Two-Thirds” World. The Two-Thirds World comes from the idea non-white people in developing countries make the majority of people in the world, in contrast to the common Western assumption that non-white people in non-Western countries are the “minorities” of the world. The majority of the world’s population, whether due to poverty, oppression, discrimination, or other injustices, experience a much different life from what people in the West experience, which becomes problematic when Western discourses prescribe their narrative and the solutions for their problems. The Indigenous American women represent a form of the Two-Thirds World framework because of their struggle for sovereignty, preservation, and spiritual practices which faces Western oppression and destruction. In a brief summary, the Dakota Access Pipeline is a crude oil pipeline which crosses four states in the U.S. (“Dakota Pipeline”). The pipeline runs through regions inhabited by the indigenous Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Sacred sites, burial sites, and essential water sources near the Missouri River were disrupted, disrespected, and destroyed during the construction of the pipe. Two hundred tribes pledged their support against the project, and at the peak of the protests, an estimate of 10,000 supporters joined campsites in the region to show their support. The key relationship between the theoretical framework of the Two-Thirds Woman and the Standing Rock protests is based on the essential role of indigenous women in the tribes. The Native American and Canadian tribes involved in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline have
made their way into international headlines over the course since 2016. Behind the political scandals across news headlines lies the importance of the role that the Native women play in their families, tribes, and societies. Their experiences cannot be left to fall through the cracks of the mainstream discourse which prefers to feature male leaders as the wise, courageous chiefs or other members of the tribe, who are leading the fight against the pipeline. Popular media coverage easily falls into the trope of an indigenous chief leading his people into war, which reduces entire minority groups into a stereotypical, idealized portrayal, and erases the intricacies and histories within the situation. Even worse, several Hollywood celebrities who spent a couple weeks on the reservation were on the front cover of the tabloids as the leading activists. As great as their intentions may be, and as much positive attention as they drew to the cause, their voices cannot and should not replace nor override the voices and experiences of the indigenous activists themselves. In a video published by Latin American television network TeleSUR TV, Lakota women discuss the importance and influence of their roles in their society. One woman explains, “Our people always believe that the women are the backbone and with our warriors back in the day, the women would meet first, then the guys would act on our meeting” (“Women Are ‘Backbone’”). Another woman says she was encouraged to take action because of the half a millennia of “oppression and genocide” against the Indigenous people in North America, and that she has been there on the land “for 500 years through every ancestor who has suffered” (“Women Are ‘Backbone’”). It is clear that indigenous women play an invaluable role in resisting to the breach of their land and rights by the Dakota pipeline. In many ways, the experience of these women exemplifies the levels of oppression faced in the DAPL conflict. First, it is important to understand that the violation of their sacred land can be traced back to the dominating force of globalism and capitalism in the form of a transnational oil cooperation. The imposition of the pipeline is often boiled down to the perpetrating oil companies versus the Native Americans. This simplification, which
may be true but incomplete, is at risk of universalizing the experience of all Native Americans. However, it is arguable and crucial to understand that the experience of a woman, and more specifically, an indigenous woman threatened by the rise of Western domination, will always have a different experience than the generic standard of “the Native Americans”. One issue is the way dominant media portrays Indigenous women. From children’s movies where Native Americans are played as vulnerable, weak pawns who must be rescued and swept off their feet by a white, settler prince charming to modern news broadcasting that portray Indigenous people as uneducated, savage, drug addicts and sex workers, the dominant discourse about the pipeline often skims over the depth and context of the people it affects the most. The DAPL does not only violate claims of sacred land, but it also infringes upon the rights, beliefs, and autonomy of the indigenous women. Indigenous peoples have struggled against the expulsion and colonization, loss of property, culture, and rights. The ignorance, injustice, and discrimination behind the pipeline prove to be another way to perpetuate this colonization. It is important to pay special attention to the specific experiences of women because the micropolitics of context, subjectivity, and struggle are easily overlooked in non-critical settings. By overlooking these nuances, the entire perspective and experience of indigenous women is erased from the discourse. Understanding these nuances within the macropolitics of global economic and political systems and processes paints an even more thorough picture of the conflict. The global economic and political systems of today undoubtedly shape the push for and against the pipeline. In addition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, there is also the Keystone XL Pipeline which runs from Canada to Texas, bypassing the already-existing Pipeline to save time and money. This has led Canadian First Nation or Indigenous peoples to protest and scrutinize the responsible company of TransCanada (Fontaine). In a capitalistic and economic sense, both of these pipelines would extradite oil extraction, shipping, processing, and
selling—benefitting the large oil companies and their investors. In a political context, U.S. President Donald Trump serves as an example of a perfect marriage of oppressive globalist and capitalist forces. The Chief Executive of the Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for building the Dakota Access Pipeline, donated $100,000 to Trump’s presidential election campaign. After his election, Trump sent memos to reconsider the December memo which Obama issued to pause construction. He also expedited reviews on beginning construction for both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL and then ordered a plan for American steel companies to source the materials for the pipelines. The months of protest which gained support from the previous president were almost immediately lost under the new president who had no hesitation in imposing his capitalist objectives over social justice and recognitions. The most vulnerable targets of this capitalist project are indigenous women. Women testified that the law enforcement at the protests as brutal, unjust, and excessive as proterstors were shot with rubber pellets and tackled to the ground (“Dakota Pipeline”). They are also deeply affected by the environmental damages from the pipeline. On November 16, 2017, another section of the Keystone Pipeline by TransCanada spilled 210,000 gallons/5,000 barrels just 200 miles north of Sioux Falls, S.D. (Gonzales). The Indigenous people are deeply in touch with and value the natural world around them, and the giant oil companies completely disregard these cultural and spiritual values. Natural areas recognized as sacred by indigenous and traditional peoples are known as sacred natural sites (SNS) and are natural areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities (“Spiritual Values of Nature”). Many SNSs contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, which makes an inseparable reason for protecting the spiritual connections between people and the Earth and the biodiversity included (“Spiritual Values of Nature”). States are still on hold with their decision to approve or reject the pipeline’s initiation. This spill by the same company shows the risk
that Indigenous people face. If the oil taints the water and the land on the reservation, it will threaten the health and wellbeing of the tribes, especially the women and children who may be more vulnerable to its effects. Women are the caretakers in their families as well as community leaders; they may be more exposed to any pollution, spills, or damage caused by the pipeline in their work around the reservation. This capitalistic, globalistic, hegemonic, and oppressive system has a long and complex history. Developing over centuries, its material effects have intensified, especially in environmental domains, over the past few decades. When discussing the experience of a group, the diverse and particular experience of all members of the group should be considered. When discussing women, the diverse and particular experience of all women from different origins and cultures should be considered. The perspective of the oppressed will reveal the most accurate understanding of the systemic injustices. It is the perspective and experiences of women like the Standing Rock Sioux and Canadian First Nations that will allow us to better understand the institutional wrongdoings and the complexities of the DAPL controversies. The main issue is that the mainstream, dominant discourse does not leave space for their voices to be heard. The lack of space for Indigenous womenâ€™s voices is one side of the problem. The second part is the massive oil companies which seem to have endless resources and unforgiving lobbyists. Economically speaking, the American and Canadian governments liberally allow these enterprises to expand internationally and invest for more efficient expedition, regardless of the human, cultural, and environmental costs. Both democracies pledge to serve their people and protect the rights of their citizens, but the issue is that Indigenous people along with other marginalized people are consistently and systematically overlooked. Globalism and economic liberalism only perpetuate the homogenization of groups of people, specifically minority groups. One way everyone can work toward slowing the globalist movement is by being more aware, more discerning, and more critical of daily events and phenom-
ena. An article published in The Nation suggests ways to fight against the DAPL, starting with cutting the funding for the project. Key actions to join the fight: 1. DEMAND THAT YOUR CITY DIVEST FROM THE PIPELINES 2. CALL YOUR BANK 3. TRANSFER YOUR OWN FUNDS TO A CREDIT UNION OR A “BETTER BANK” 4. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS FIGHTING FOR DIVESTMENT, AGAINST FOSSIL FUELS, AND FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS (Kadirgamar). For more, see: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-fight-against-the-dakota-access-pipeline-is-not-over-heres-how-you-can-join/. Big banks such as Wells Fargo are major investors in the funding of the DAPL, and cities in Washington state, California, and New York have agreed to divest from the project by not dealing directly with the bank (Kadirgamar). By supporting the voices of the women who are the most vulnerable in these oppressive situations and by helping to slow the process of the oppressive forces, the understanding and portrayal of these conflicts will be more accurate and more just. It is necessary to draw attention to conflicts like the DAPL and Keystone XL within the context of feminism and with the awareness of depth and layers of discrimination and oppression.
Bibliography “Dakota Pipeline: What’s behind the controversy?” BBC, 7 Feb. 2017. US & Canada. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017. Fontaine, Tim. “‘A perilous pipeline’: Indigenous groups line up against Keystone XL”. CBC News. 27 March 2017. Accessed 24 Sept. 2017. Gonzales, Richard. “Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill Reported In South Dakota”. National Public Radio, 16 Nov. 2017. Web. Accessed 24 Nov. 2017. Kadirgamar, Skanda. “The Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline Is Not Over. Here’s How You Can Join”. The Nation, 16 June 2017. Web. Accessed 6 April 2018. Mohanty, Chandra. Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. 1984. Mohanty, Chandra. Under Western Eyes” Revisited : Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles. 2003. “Spiritual Values of Nature”. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Governance and Rights. Accessed 6 April 2018. “Women Are ‘Backbone’ of Native Actions Against Dakota Pipeline”. teleSUR, 16 Jan. 2017. Accessed 24 Sept. 2017. https://www.telesurtv. net/english/news/Women-Are-Backbone-of-Native-Actions-AgainstDakota-Pipeline-20170116-0028.html
Here I am researching intimacy. Split words and cracked structures. Whispered secrets underneath each layer of foundation. Hammer hand, I break the form. Make a mess clean it up. Touch the studio space I breathe in where my hands finger plaster and clay. These four walls are not walls. We are in the sky. Space space space all around. Space. Warm blue outside and their alien fingers glide across the screen like atoms bouncing in a plastic arena. Plastic walls are not walls. Like ravenous vultures waiting. Minds whirring, lips melting, hearts sprinting. We get 1⁄2 a g. That white cloud streak, zoom. Climbing higher, peak. We are high high up. But chemical high walls are not walls. Dollops of golden light it across the interior. Like they’re playing hide and seek with me. Skipping around like endless thoughts. Trails. Hiding here, finding me there. Light walls are not walls. I crawl out of my shell. See her wrinkly hands locked together like teeth in skin. I feel that bite rip open my flesh. Lips pursed at me and I pretend not to be affected by her disappointment. On top of that all of India is slapping me across the face. Cultural walls are not walls. Her red skin smooth like a waxy jellyfish. It drips as I crunch, sweet cum walks on my chin. Heat arrives. A seed of hers stuck in my teeth, I caress it with my tongue. One of the reds that get me wet, the room is full of her. Even her red walls are not walls. THEY HAVE NO WALLS and here I was researching intimacy only to find out that walls don’t have walls. Walls are not walls.
y, Pe ho sa
r Se? : Intersectional A
tu Sta Rape Law tory
s ato Bella M
oday statutory rape can be defined as laws which “prohibit sexual intercourse with an unmarried person under the age of consent” (Cocca, 2004). While nationally the age of consent varies by state, historically it varied within a state. How can age, an immutable finite factor, find itself in the midst of such wide variability throughout time? Is age sincerely the “operative category” in the context of statutory rape law (Cocca, 2004)? By applying Kimberle Crenshaw’s theoretical framework of intersectionality found in her publication “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” to Carolyn E. Cocca’s historical analysis of statutory rape laws found in her book Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States, the complex relationship between identity and the law are illuminated. Statutory rape laws embody gender and identity – founded on the basis of male as perpetuator and female as victim; statutory rape was, and in many ways, remains an inherently gendered law. Cocca argues that statutory rape law’s chief concern is not that of age, but instead reveals narratives surrounding cultural scripts of moral character. Through accounting for “interlocking systems of oppression”, Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality can facilitate an extension to Cocca’s application beyond law and into facets of identity: age, race, gender, and class. (Crenshaw, 1991). To what degree can the congruence be gaged between the letter, or rather number, of the law and the spirit of the law in the context of statutory rape? The objective of this paper is to locate age in the prism of statutory rape law and follow its’ reflections to advance an exploration of multiple dimensions driving the spirit of identity as it appears within their historical and cultural context. Crenshaw argues that focusing on only one dimension of identity further marginalizes those who do not belong to the dominant social category of that identity. By locating “multiple grounds of identity”, intersectionality calls for breaking down the illusory mirrors of the socially situated world to reveal the reality of its’ construction (Crenshaw, 1991). Advancing beyond an either/or fashion to identity paves way to appropriately account for the “various ways
in which race and gender interact to shape the multiple dimensions of Black women’s experiences” (Crenshaw, 1991). Although the focus of her analysis is race and gender, Crenshaw notes that additional factors such as “class or sexuality”, are often just as “critical in shaping the experiences” of marginalized persons (Crenshaw, 1991). In a similar fashion to Crenshaw, Cocca situates dominant narratives of interlocking identities as the initiator of statutory rape law. Based off a similar construction of character, Cocca considers statutory rape to be a morality policy governing the “construction of the crime” (Cocca, 2004). Since 1885 the age of consent has varied from seven years old to twenty-one years old, with most states having changed it three times. Given its’ inconsistency, applying age as a singular universalizing variable means that statutory rape law’s relationship with society “cannot be captured wholly” (Crenshaw, 1991). Although age is indeed a dimension of identity, the use of age is moreso a mask to divert attention from underlying cultural issues. Cocca posits that statutory rape laws “reflect, contribute to shaping, and/or constitute cultural narratives of gender and sexuality” (Cocca, 2004). However, not only gender and sexuality are affected by such narratives, and as such they have far-reaching implications. Class and race also play important roles in demonstrating how statutory rape has been “shaped and reshaped to act as a symbol of various American cultural anxieties” (Cocca, 2004). Thus, Crenshaw’s three categories of intersectionality – structural, political, and representational – are particularly advantageous in highlighting statutory rape law’s interrelation with identity. By utilizing Cocca’s historical analysis of statutory rape laws through Crenshaw’s theoretical lens of intersectionality, the ramifications from a failure to account of “interlocking systems of oppression” come to light (Crenshaw, 1994). While the law can be an agent in influencing beneficial social change, it can also play a role in maintaining social hierarchies. Cocca identifies three waves of statutory rape law reform which, throughout its’ construction and reconstructions, have undergone a “number of
incarnations over the past two hundred years” (Cocca, 2004). Each reform reflects a particular cultural climate evident at the time, yet are woven together with the same thread. Throughout this time, the debate surrounding statutory rape laws has been dominated by “individual private morality”, rather than the structural inequalities which render an individual vulnerable to the law’s subjugation (Cocca, 2004). In the United States, statutory rape laws were first introduced in the 1800’s. They were gender-specific (male as predator and female as victim), with an age of consent ranging from seven to twelve years old. Implemented by white male politicians, without consultation from any other population, the concern had less to do with the capacity to consent and was primarily about protecting their hot commodified property: white women’s chastity. White women were viewed as in need of the state’s special protection. Yet, at the same time, Black women were not afforded the same privilege, a notion that can be elucidated by representational intersectionality. Crenshaw describes representational intersectionality as the “cultural construction of women of color” (Crenshaw, 1991). She characterizes representational intersectionality as accounting for both “the ways in which these images are produced” by prevalent narratives as well as recognizing how contemporary critiques of these images further marginalize those affected (Crenshaw, 1991). While all women were subject to statutory rape’s sexism, Black women bore the brunt of its’ sexism in addition to its’ racist ramifications. Crenshaw contends that the devaluation of Black women is intrinsically linked to how they “are represented in cultural imagery” (Crenshaw, 1991). The dominant narrative at the time dictated that “natural” Black female sexuality and “natural” white female sexuality were opposites. White women were subject to the commodification of their value by means of chastity. Chastity perceived as a character virtue established their bodies as partially inaccessible, and thus they were granted a right to sexual consent. In the context of slavery; Black women were literal commodities and sexualized open territory. This devaluation of their
bodies, and subsequent character, disqualified them from legal protection. This intersection between race, gender, and sexuality which established the very foundation of statutory rape law would function as an undercurrent, and come to influence them for the next hundred years. The end of the nineteenth century witnessed a major cultural shift: the abolition of slavery, birth of first wave feminism, as well as urbanization. Consequently, this set the stage for the first wave of statutory rape reform. A rising presence among the working class lead to a destabilization in previously well maintained social mores. Working class culture became “symbols of disorder and moral decay” (Cocca, 2004). And in effort to maintain social order, middle-class women “sought to “uplift” the working girls’ morals so that they might aspire to take on middle-class values” (Cocca, 2004). The principal quest to protect white women did not change. It simply took on a different shape and was molded to fit the first wave feminist ideals. Middle and upper-class feminists ignited the United States’ first moral panic, a mass hysteria surrounding prostitution. They feared of middle-class men kidnapping white working class women and forcing them into a life of servitude. This panic reached working-class men, who joined these feminists in order to protect their group members, and religious conservatives followed suit to protect their ideology. Through their coalition, these groups successfully passed the White Slave Traffic Act as well as reform in statutory rape laws (Cocca, 2004). Cocca notes that while Black women’s groups did “support the idea of a single moral standard”, they were hesitant to support a campaign to reform statutory rape laws (Cocca, 2004). Firstly, they were concerned that stricter reform would unfairly target Black men, who are stereotyped as uncontrollable rapists of white women. Therefore, the reform would justify violence against Black men “in order to protect the white race” (Cocca, 2004). Their second contention involved political intersectionality, as the reform did not address the unique state of violence that Black women suffer. For example, in many states Black people were barred from testifying against white peo-
ple. Had a statutory rape occurred between a white man and a Black woman, she would not be granted rights to a fair trial. Therefore, statutory rape law reform propositions would do little to prevent white male violence against Black women. Finally, they were concerned with structural intersectionality, as the proposed reform failed to account for violence within Black communities. By ensuring little hope to curb this violence, Black women would therefore be reluctant to report a statutory rape to a “mostly white legal establishment (Cocca, 2004). Having willfully ignored these concerns, the predominantly white feminist reformers went forward with reforming statutory rape laws. Their actions represent Crenshaw’s concept of political intersectionality, or “how both feminist and antiracist politics have, paradoxically, often helped marginalize the issue of violence against women of color” (Crenshaw, 1991). Black women are members of “two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agendas” (Crenshaw, 1991). While they were in agreement with white feminists on striving for a universal moral standard, they disagreed that their proposed reform would uplift all women. Instead they were apprehensive that only white women would benefit, on behalf of further oppressing Black women, all the while perpetuating harmful stereotypes about the Black community. Black women were caught between misogyny and racism, or a “dimension of intersectional disempowerment” (Crenshaw, 1991). Having felt none of their concerns were adequately addressed, Black women’s groups ultimately decided that the reform was not worth their support. Instead, they went on to organize “their own program of moral uplift in their communities which included the idea of racial uplift as well” (Cocca, 2004). However, their efforts alone could only take them so far. Without the support from their counterparts, their endeavor would eventually lose traction. Without consideration of Black women’s concern, state by state policies were implemented, ultimately serving as a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. Once the reforms were passed, Black women’s fears quickly became reality. In addition to raising the age of consent, these
laws codified the requirement for the female to be “of previously chaste character” (Cocca, 2004). As racist stereotypes about Black female sexuality dictated they were incapable of chaste character, Black women were further devalued. The first wave reform’s conception of racial relations can be summed by one Kentucky legislator in 1885 “We see at once what a terrible weapon for evil… when placed in the hands of lecherous, sensual, negro woman, who for the sake of blackmail or revenge would not hesitate to bring criminal action even though she had been a prostitute since her eleventh year!” (Cocca, 2004). First wave reformation of statutory rape solidified a notion evident in its’ implementation; that Black women are “undeserving of the law’s protection regardless of her age” (Cocca, 2004). The second wave of statutory rape reform coincided with second wave feminism, as a part of their larger effort for forcible rape reform. Having rejected the patriarchal view evident in sex crime law, these feminists sought to reform forcible rape law so that it encourages more women to report their assaults and better facilitate convictions. When postulating statutory rape reform, second wave feminists took issue with how their foremothers reinforced patriarchal discourses of assumed female victimhood and valued chastity. Their goals involved two provisions: introducing a grace age and altering current law to gender-neutral language. An age span provision required that the partner be a certain number of years older for the offense to qualify as statutory rape. As “age acts as a proxy for a power differential that is suspect of coercion”, this provision was intended to prevent consenting balanced relations from state intervention (Cocca, 2004). The purpose of the gender-neutral language provision was to erase the victimhood status statutory rape law imposed on women. The campaigners in the second wave reform anticipated that their contribution would address their concerns in regards to helping adolescents and women at large. However, unlike law, societal inequalities cannot be changed overnight. Thus, their “gains made have been noteworthy but incomplete” (Cocca, 2004). Furthermore,
even though they contested with feminist first wave reformers, it was only in relation to their legal efforts which materialized into law. The efforts which deteriorated Black women’s concern was not subject to consideration. Thus, they extended feminist first wave reformers focus on gender inequality as opposed to the intersecting structural inequalities at hand. Thus, both first and second wave feminist reformers set the stage for the third wave reform; wherein conservatives co-opted the platform to indirectly target the Black community. As fervor of second wave feminism cooled down in the early 1990’s the third, and final, wave of statutory rape law reform occurred throughout the 1990’s as class concerns prevalent in the first wave resurfaced. Once again, class sanctioned social mores were destabilized by the social justice movements of the 1960’s and 70’s. Paralleling the first wave, third wave reformers responded to these changes by seeking to balance this strife. Alternatively, their aim was not to uplift the morals of the working class. Instead, they sought to penalize the “symbols of disorder and moral decay”, which they projected onto teen pregnancy (Cocca, 2004). Although the third wave initially had some support from feminists, as the campaign took shape they backed away leaving supporters overwhelmingly represented by conservatives. These conservative reformers were concerned with the rising number of non-marital sexual relations and subsequent outof-wedlock births. They perceived teen pregnancy to be a nuisance to society, however only within the context of poverty as the single mothers and their children required public assistance. Ultimately the reformers “aimed at reclaiming “traditional” American economics and morality” (Cocca, 2004). Extending the severity of the punishment for statutory rape was viewed as a viable means to control adolescent sexuality. Therefore, by preventing teenage pregnancy, it would reduce the lower class’ financial reliance on the state. Yet Crenshaw advises against a reductionist legal approach, including assigning poverty as a sole issue. Notably, she describes how
intersectionality can be utilized to illuminate how “diverse structures intersect” such as how the intertwining of class and race can shape Black women’s experiences (Crenshaw, 1991). Indeed, generations of segregation, discrimination, and racism have contributed to Black people representing the highest racial and ethnic group living in poverty (Wimer et al. 2016). The lack of accessibility to resources created by poverty represents the phenomenon wherein “discrimination is reproduced” vis-à-vis race and gender. Therefore, laws targeting class are, by proxy, targeting race as well. Consequently, laws targeting women in poverty are, by proxy, targeting Black women. Representational intersectionality lends to illustrate the justification behind third wave reform. The stereotype behind Black people’s sexuality, wherein Black men are predators and Black women are promiscuous temptresses, lend to a practice of “lax morals” (Cocca, 2004). These dubious social mores are, in the view of the third wave reformers, supposedly responsible for the rising cost of welfare. The framework of the third wave reformers was affirmed by the only statutory rape case heard by the Supreme Court, wherein the “court explicitly linked teen pregnancy, statutory rape, and adolescent sexuality” (Cocca, 2004). Once again a moral condemnation by the highest court by proxy negatively affected people of color: through representational, structural, and political means. In 1996 a Republican controlled congress passed several measures for welfare reform, with provisions specific to curbing the epidemic of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Each state was now required to submit plans and establish quantitative goals to reduce teen pregnancy, as well as provide education on statutory rape. As an effect of the conservative climate, “some states began to dust off their statutory rape laws to target men for the impregnation of young impoverished women” (Cocca, 2004). Many states specifically targeted the older partners of pregnant teenagers. Crenshaw identifies structural intersectionality as “the ways in which the location of women of color at the intersection of race and gender makes [their] actual experiences… qualitatively different
than that of white women” (Crenshaw, 1991). Feminists taking a back seat in the third wave is characteristic of their complicity in failing to address Black women’s concerns a hundred years prior. The third wave reform exemplifies how feminists in the first and second waves demonstrated a failure to interrogate race, which ultimately served to “replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color” (Crenshaw, 1991). After 100 years of feminists contesting statutory rape on the basis of gender inequality, complimented with class issues; race and class had become embedded within its’ context. Black women’s unique social standing between the two fermented the intersectional subordination they would become burdened by from the third wave. Indeed “when reform efforts undertaken on behalf of women neglect” where Black women are situated then they are “less likely to have their needs met than women who are racially privileged” (Crenshaw, 1991). Of course, such subordination “need not be intentionally produced” (Crenshaw, 1991). The welfare reform act had supposedly good intentions as an intervention strategy. Yet intervention and imposition remain within the same realm. By not accounting for the convergence of dominating systems such as race, class, and gender; the third wave’s efforts in the welfare reform act served as “one burden that interacts with preexisting vulnerabilities to create yet another dimension of disempowerment” (Crenshaw, 1991). This disempowerment agitates the root issues in a compounding manner. Educating about and increasing arrests of statutory rape do not adequately address the patterns of subordination that lead to teen pregnancy in the first place. Nor does it provide any resources, such as education or job training, to escape the cycle of poverty. In conclusion, third wave statutory rape reform presents as another case study for the “dynamics of structural intersectionality” (Crenshaw, 1991). The introduction of statutory rape into American politics threaded the needle which continues to weave together central themes and concerns several hundred years later. At the same time, the imprint of the first stitch left its’ mark. Having failed to be addressed in an
intersectional manner, the explicit racism evident in the beginning became intertwined with implicit racism, thereby establishing a textured pattern of negative ramifications for the Black community at large. The purpose of this paper is not to insinuate that statutory rape law is morally erroneous. But rather to call into question wherein lies morality as the object of scrutiny in formulating a sound legal and moral argument in regards to statutory rape law. By disregarding “structural problems, institutional failures, or ideological contradictions” then “blame for societal ills is placed on individuals” (Cocca, 2004). Crenshaw’s framework of intersectionality not only holds potential benefit to curbing this unjust blame, but also aids in serving as an analysis for potential considerations. In theory, statutory rape is unequivocal. However, an intersectional historical analysis calls for interrogation: Is statutory rape inherently per se or a particularity in its’ application? How can, through the intersectional lens, a construct of safety function as a detriment of damage? Only through analyzing interlocking systems of oppression can the margins enter the mainstream to illuminate social reality; and therefore constructively influence politicians’ efforts in statutory rape law’s inevitable future reforms.
Bibliography Cocca, C. E. (2004). Statutory Rape Laws in Historical Context. In Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States (pp. 9-28). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241. doi:10.2307/1229039 Wimer, C., Fox, L., Garfinkel, I., Kaushal, N., & Waldfogel, J. (2016). Progress on Poverty? New Estimates of Historical Trends Using an Anchored Supplemental Poverty Measure. Demography, 53(4), 1207-1218. doi:10.1007/s13524-016-0485-7
To survive. Survive. Audre Lorde
The American University of Paris Gender, Sexuality, and Society Program
A militant zine that connects revolutionary queer, feminist, and race theory with creative activist projects. Through writing, both academi...
Published on Apr 12, 2018
A militant zine that connects revolutionary queer, feminist, and race theory with creative activist projects. Through writing, both academi...