Precarious and Performative Play
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.
Dancing With The Stars isn't exactly my cup of tea, but both of my younger sisters absolutely love the show. I wouldn't have become aware of Chaz's inclusion on the show if I hadn't heard them talking about it over this break. My sisters have definitely become less prejudiced against LGB people because of my coming out to them, but don't seem to have the same open-mind toward people in the T part of the acronym. Their discomfort is one view along the spectrum of DWTS viewers who think the producers' choice to add Chaz Bono to the cast was/is wrong.
taking advantage of fall break to read extracurricularly, but---so much resonance with our course in egan's novel, including...
opening passage from Proust In Search of Lost Time with echoes of Eli Clare and "memory palaces":
"Poets claim that we recapture for moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years."
(p168-9) a reporter writes about his 40-minute lunch with a celebrity and brings in Karen Barad: "--but the throbbing just beneath that surface is the waiter's hysterical recognition of my subject's fame. And with a simultaneity that can only be explained using principles of quantum mechanics, specifically, the properties of so-called entangled particles, that same pulse of recognition reaches every part of the restaurant at once, even tables so distant from ours that there is simply no way they can see us." (The footnote continues to play with the idea of entangled particles.)
(p234-309) Chapter 12 (written by a 12-year old girl about herself, her autistic13-year old brother, and their parents) is in the mode of powerpoint slides! Particularly interesting to me is the exchange on p253 about the value of using new expressive media:
The video “Nature: What Females Want…and What Males Will Do” featured clichéd, even asinine commentary about animals’ reproductive behavior. The DVD showed heterosexual animal interactions punctuated with quotes from biologists and the narrator such as “Males will do anything they can do copulate with a female – we know that!” In a look a male geladas, whose ability to withstand sub-0 nighttime temperatures is demonstrated by the deep red of their chest patches, were described as “Pretty tough!” Female fireflies that mocked another species’ light patterns in order to eat the males were described as “true femme fatales.” In reference to jumping spiders, a biologist explained, “Females are looking for complex things; they want more and more, so males have evolved these dances.” Red-sided garter snakes that were forcibly inseminated would in a day or so “have another chance at love.” This constant commentary, while meant to be entertaining, was not only distracting but often times offensive because of the way it demonstrated stereotypes about gender and sexuality.
I was fascinated by the concept of “cryptic choice” introduced in the video “Nature: What Females Want…and What Males Will Do.” Female red-sided garter snakes are rendered immobile by males competing to inseminate her. They have, however, evolved a means of defense against forced copulation: they can choose which of the snake’s sperm will fertilize their eggs. Another example of “cryptic choice” is seen in ducks’ reproductive systems: they twist opposite ways to make reproduction more difficult. A third of ducks’ copulations are forced, but they produce only 3% of the young. Explained the narrator, “Evolution has given females the edge.” Last week, my psychology-major roommate sent me an article called “Women’s Avoidance of Rape” which, like the video, acknowledged that “Sexual coercion and rape have been documented in many different species.”
Temple University Student Center: Fri (10/7) starts at 1pm, Sat (10/8) starts at 9 am; Sun (10/9) starts at 9 am. Keynote speakers: Sonia Sanchez, Ifalade Ta'Shia Asanti, Gloria Casarez.
Tickets are necessary. This event is being co-sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium, of which Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges are members. The student price is $20. GPWSC students receive an additional $5 discount, bringing the cost of admission to $15. To receive the discount, students should register for the student rate at http://fertileground.eventbrite.com/ and enter the code "GPWSC" when they check out.
Also, scholarships are available! All you need to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org expressing their desire to attend the conference and their financial need.
For more information: email email@example.com or call 610-297-4282
A chance to hear other scholars discuss the intra-actions among gender, sexuality, and other fields. This Friday, September 30, at UPenn 1:30-6:30 in the Benjamin Franklin Room of Houston Hall.
From their website: The Symposium will examine the fields of feminist and queer studies and their intersections with each other and with topics in race, nationalism, empire, and class. The afternoon will begin with a conversation between Professor Heather Love, University of Pennsylvania, and Professor Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas at Austin. Ann is the author of Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture and Victorian Sensationalism (Rutgers, 1992) and An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Culture (Duke, 2003).
October 2-8 is Mental Health Awareness Week. For more info on events and programs, check out their website http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week
I just received an announcement about this very relevant conference that is being held at Drexel University College of Medicine on Thursday, October 27, 2011 from 9 am - 4 pm. Regisration is free. Please see the website for more information.
I've been thinking, and talking, about our class discussion on Utopia. My thoughts are scattered right now, and this may be a rather dull post, but I have a question I want to ask, dull or not. Is imagining a utopia (and eventually realizing it is impossible) a useful exercise? In one way, maybe. It helps us understand our place in the world to some extent--we have to learn that nothing is perfect and nothing ever will be. After all, what is perfection without imperfection? In another way, the exercise seemed pointless and upsetting to me. How will thinking about utopia--and ultimately giving up (which is how I felt after class)--lead to a better world, or a better understanding among peoples? It seems futile.
I'm reminded of an essay I read in high school, by Tolstoy. He basically says that every person who is well-off (financially) is directly responsible for one person living in poverty. I don't know how this relates to utopia, or to building a utopia, but I keep thinking about it in relation to utopia, probably because of the title of the essay: What Then Must We Do?