This diffraction is not easy for me to write. I think that’s because this class has left me feeling largely confused. When we began the class, I saw myself as someone who loved Gender and Sexuality Studies—not so much the theories behind them as the case studies I read about and saw all around me (as a Biology major, I’ve noticed that I tend to reject the idea that one theory can explain all of gender or all of society—I think this is because in anthropological sense, there is no theory that computes to a scientific law. This is, for me, a weakness and a strength). The first reading by Barad caused me some distress, because I couldn’t understand why we were working so hard to connect physics and gender. In my mind, physics and gender both connect to everything else (indeed, if you get philosophical enough, everything connects to everything else), but that doesn’t mean we should spend our time dissecting the connection.
After Barad, I was further confused by the focus the course took on disability. I think disability is an important topic, and one that merits discussion, but I didn’t feel like our discussions ever had anything to do with gender. Once again, the sheer interdisciplinary-ness of the course had me feeling lost.
As has become my custom, I would like to introduce this web event with a short description of my motives and hopes. I want to tell you how this web event came to be (a long story in this case), what I hope to communicate through this web event, and what future directions are possible.
Allow me to start at the beginning. In the past few weeks, I have found myself increasingly aggravated, confused, and above all inspired. My aggravation stems largely from Haverford’s policies regarding rape and sexual assault, which seem to become more and more inadequate the more that I learn about them (for anyone who hasn’t already done so, I strongly recommend reading AmyMay’s web event Biological Discourse and Rape Culture at Haverford College and jmorgant’s web event “Consent is Sexy” at Haverford: Not Yet). While my belief that the Haverford policies are insufficient was immediately strong and clear, I grew confused about how to effect change. I pondered a variety of questions, including:
I know tonight is our last night of class, and you may no longer be checking the Serendip conversation posts anymore. That being said, there is a post in our conversation that I think really merits more discussion. That post is jmorgant's post "OUT" and the replies it garnered. I think that the conversation about choice that resulted from the original post just kind of dwindled out, which is a huge shame, because it is not only an important conversation for us to have -- it is necessary for us to understand.
I am choosing to post anew rather than to respond to the original post in the hope that more of you will see this and join me in continuing to discuss it.
As far as my perspectives go, I was blown away by the comments made by Christine. Her story highlights the lack of choice faced by survivors as well as the extent to which lack of understanding regarding rape and sexual assault is ingrained in our minds and the system. As a society, we need to strive to gain a better understanding of rape and sexual assault and what survivors are going through. We cannot discount the witness that survivors share. Let's keep talking.
We all know that Little Bee is a work of fiction. Its poetic text, symbolic prose, and beautiful imagery—while stunning—are not describing real people or events. But it is based in reality, and the fact remains that there are thousands upon thousands of refugees around the world. Many of these refugees bear horrific physical and/or emotional scars that we cannot even begin to comprehend. And yet, despite our acknowledged lack of comprehension, it is only natural that we want to help these refugees. We are all human, after all, and the thought of other humans forced to flee their homes (and sometimes forced to lose their conceptions of their bodies as home) is hard to understand and subsequently ignore.
After reading Little Bee, I know there was some conversation in class about what can be done to aid refugees. It is my hope that my web event will serve to further inform and thus continue that conversation. I think that by better understanding the international refugee crisis, how we can help, and hopefully implementing our new knowledge, we can build a right relationship (or at least a better, more just relationship) with the refugees scattered across the globe. Anyway, because I want this web event to continue our in-class conversation, I have written this web event in what I believe is a conversational tone. Finally, I want to mention that this web event is by no means a complete discussion of all that can be done, but it is a start. Thanks for reading.
I am so enjoying Little Bee. We are talking on-its-way-to-becoming-one-of-my-favorite-books enjoying. Part of what I love is how much Chris Cleave elected to leave to our imaginations. I'm not just talking about Little Bee's past (which, at least at the part I'm at, is murky at best). I'm also talking about the way the characters look, their emotions, and their surroundings. At the same time, Cleave provides enough detail to completely blow me away. Seriously, I know this sounds cheesy, but when I really like things, I can feel them sitting in my chest, and reading Little Bee is like having an inflating balloon on top of my breastbone.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about Tuesday's class, and I spent a couple hours last night discussing various issues around rape and sexual assault with a friend (not in the class). Some of the questions we talked about (along with some of the questions I was left with) are listed below:
How can we talk about rape theory in class when, statistically, rape is so much more than a theory for 25% of college women?
Is the "theorization" of rape okay? Or does it do violence to rape and sexual assault survivors?
When even GenSex professors and students (myself included) make elementary mistakes when introducing and discussing rape and sexual assault ideas, where is the hope?
Is it fair for Haverford to ask rape and sexual assault survivors to out themselves to their deans in order to receive adequate support in classes (i.e. extensions and/or exemptions from certain assignments)?
Should I have to change who I am to avoid rape and sexual assault?
How can I tell Haverford or my dean that they are NOT doing a good job at helping students who are dealing with rape and sexual assault?
As some of you may know (and some of you may not), I just posted a rather negative course evaluation. I was nervous about posting it. I talked to another classmate who felt it was "ballsy" that we had been asked to submit non-anonymous mid-semester evaluations. We talked about how we still are getting graded, how we still are regularly interacting with professors and classmates, and how it feels a bit risky to post negative feedback. So, anyway, my heart was racing a little bit while I was writing my evaluation, and posting it was rather scary.
But a song came on my iPod that really encouraged me, and helped me keep going. Weirdly enough, it was the song "Roman's Revenge" by Nicki Minaj, which is an offensive song for a number of reasons. I'm even a little ashamed that it is on my iPod in the first place. You can read the lyrics here (http://www.directlyrics.com/nicki-minaj-romans-revenge-lyrics.html) or listen to the song here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9h_I90M8-M).
Usually when I listen to this song, it makes me uncomfortable. But for some reason, listening to it tonight made me feel stronger. How could this song, which is so offensive, empower me? Make me feel like a stronger woman? Is it the strong beat? Is it the angry tone? The words? I have no idea. I just thought it was interesting that a song that is so offensive, particularly regarding gender and sexuality, could light a fire under me about a gender and sexuality course.
I'm starting this post from a very strange place. I have been thinking a lot this break about why Roughgarden's writing bothers me so much, and I would like to share these thoughts with you. But at the same time, I feel like I am the class whiner, that one kid who always hates everything. I don't hate everything. I love readings about gender and sexuality. And I don't like complaining. But I am struggling so much with Roughgarden that I'm going to do it anyway.
My misgivings with Roughgarden began early, when she stated in the first chapter that living things are impossible to categorize. As far as I know, biologists are almost always able to classify living things into one of several groups: Animal, Plant, Fungi, etc. Second, she states that the science world is torn between a diversity-affirming and a diversity-repressing explanation for sexual reproduction. The Biology Department at Haverford has never said any such thing. Instead, the truth (as I have been taught it) lies in the middle. Sexual selection and the recombinations and mutations it produces both lead to diversity and keep things the same. So I was very distrustful toward Roughgarden from the start.