November 3, 2012

5 Mind-Blowing Things You Learn In Gender Studies

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One Is Not Born A Woman (Monique Wittig)

I know you were born with a vagina and everything, and so you think that’s enough to make you a woman. But guess what? No it’s not! Social categories are created and agreed upon way before you even enter the world, so that vag you have makes you a person with a vag but you’re not a woman yet until society has “made” you one. Monique Wittig, a radical lesbian feminist, wrote in a book called The Straight Mind that not only is the category of women created, but women are socialized into women. She even thinks that lesbians are not actual women, because lesbians are fugitives from the categories of “women” and the “political regime” of heterosexuality. That’s some deep ish.

Heterosexuality Was Invented (Michel Foucault)

Does it feel weird knowing, you heterosexual people out there, that what you’re doing was totally invented in the 19th century? That is not very long ago! It’s not that everybody was having sex with everybody because there was no electricity and everybody was just sitting around bored, but that the actual categories of “homosexual” and “heterosexual” were invented to weigh normal sexual behavior against degenerate behavior. It was to say, There might be people out there who are having sex with their same gender, which I think is gross, but I AM HETEROSEXUAL and I’m normal and I’m just like regular people.

Gender Is Not Real; It’s A Performance That Has No Original (Judith Butler)

I don’t think you can graduate college without reading your Judith Butler. I can’t speak for everybody’s college experiences, but Judy B. totally effed me up. First of all, she’s always talking about this “heterosexual matrix” and as an 18 year old I was just like WHAT IS THAT! She’s talking about how sex and gender are both socially constructed categories, and that the art of drag in particular reveals how gender is an instable category that is reproduced without any original. Performing gender is like having a copy of something with no original. Think about that on your lunch break.

The Personal Is Political (Carol Hanisch)

Taken from Carol Hanisch’s essay “The Personal Is Political,” she writes that personal problems are political problems. The essay was written in the 1960s to go against the idea that women’s therapy was merely consciousness raising, that it was not real political action. You know — all talk, no action. During the women’s liberation movement, women got together in therapy circles to talk about their own oppression and Hanisch swoops in to say, Hey look, women’s problems are political problems because they are the result of gendered oppression, particularly as women have fought for equal rights. You can see how important this idea is even today as the extreme right tries to basically take control of vaginas and what is or is not allowed to come out of them.

Race, Class, Gender, And Sexuality Are Inseparable (Everybody)

We live in a world where identity categories are socially constructed, which doesn’t mean that they stop having meaning for people. But nobody is ever just one thing — if you are a white male, well now we’ve already brought up both your race and gender. The basic idea is that our identity categories depend on the other, that you can’t really talk about race without also talking about class, gender and sexuality because are of these things are all intertwined. When we had the discussion about the legality of affirmative action, most of the comments said that we should have class-based affirmative action, that no special preference should be given according to gender or race alone. The thing is, if you’re talking about class, you’re almost certainly talking about race, too. TC mark

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