Notes Towards Day Five: The Continuum
I. Sign Ins–still a little unsettled who’s here/need to know for sure,
II. For writing groups: will just split you alphabetically, post list soon
III. First 3-pp. paper due a week from Friday;
Your writing teacher happy to talk w/ you about it beforehand
Only specifics are: 3 pp. exploring ways in which technology has been used to construct, de-construct and/or re-construct gender
Review general guidelines @
IV. Monday readings
Choose between Bernice Housman and Sandy Stone (95/98 essays) and guests.
Your posting could/should? take the form, this week, of questions for our visitors–so they have a heads up abt. what they are “walking” (sic) into
V. Introductions: Today Marwa, Melanie Ruth. Monday: George, Natasha, Hillary. Wednesday: Cat, Solomon, Sugar Spice.
Negotiating the Contiuum: A Visual Exercise with Post-its
Where do we draw lines?
What’s at stake?
How do we feel?
On the board are a collection of procedures and/or activities that can be used to shape our bodies to conform or not conform to gender norms. You have a collection of post-its of various colors. Silently, everyone come up to the board and place your post-its next to the procedure according to the following scheme:
RED I am disturbed by this, would not do it to myself and would be disturbed if friends or family had this done.
PURPLE I’m somewhat disturbed and probably wouldn’t do this myself, but would be okay if friends or family did it, but I still feel pretty squeamish about it.
TEAL I feel completely neutral about this or don’t know how I feel. It might depend on the situation.
BLUE I feel okay with this and might even consider it for myself, but there would have to be a good reason. I’d probably support friends and family who chose to do this and would not feel weird about them for choosing to do so.
GREEN I am completely okay with this and either have done this myself or would do it myself.
Let’s see what the patterns are and think about the way these procedures shape gender.
Turning to Parens and Is it a boy or a girl?
As for those parents who believe that by letting their children be of age to make their own decisions before having the surgery performed, they are in for a rude awakening. There is this paradox: If the parents do decide to have the surgery done when they are children, they risk the child losing out on experiences that could have been wonderful and the parents themselves will be chastised by others such as Parens and Feder for not letting their children be individuals. However, if those parents wait for the child to decide, that child may in turn resent his or her (or both) parents for not having the surgery done to save them from the torment they receive at school and the psychological pain that inflicts.
From Parens: “What are the costs to the child when the surgery’s primary purpose is not to make the child feel better, but to make others feel better about the child?”
But I believe the juxtaposition between Cheryl and her pets really highlights an important point: she has been through so much emotional and psychological torment because of her gender assignment and its subsequent numerous surgeries. These surgeries occurred because for statistical purposes,(one interviewee on the video said that gender categorization and assignment is necessary because “our culture demands it.”) and perhaps just for the sake of comfort and understanding, she could not have existed as a hermaphrodite, holding the identity of both male and female. The process of “feminizing” her genitalia was painful and in many ways ostracized her.
A paradox occurs to me: While we applaud Harraway and Halberstam for working to find new territory to contemplate gender, to break binaries, etc., when we get to the physical manifestation of that, i.e. cosmetic surgery or not, we become uncomfortable. We’re not willing to wait, or put our children through waiting, for norms to change. In other words, it seems there are some situations where we are willing to buck the norm because the cost isn’t too high, but when the cost is high (losing a job, not leading a “normal” life, life expectancy cut short), we’re more likely to conform (probably not universal, but that is the sense I’m getting).
Anne on Intersex
VII. Phila Inquirer article re: male on campus
“Merriam… possesses something that no other student
living on campus has: a Y chromosome.”
A Goat responded, saying: “I doubt that.
where’s the love for intersex and genetic sex disorders?”
VIII. My stories re: Katie’s androgyn insensitivity
IX. My meeting w/ Cheryl Chase re: no use for gender theorists:
“this is not about the gender system; it’s an endicrine disorder!”