The Ideal Vs. the Reality

While all of the readings in this class have been interesting to say the least—the writing that sticks with me most is Audre Lorde’s “Age, Race, Sex and Class.” Out of all the authors, Lorde’s background is the one I identify with most. She covered a lot of topics in this publication and criticized society for things I am guilty myself of. Specifically, I am referring to the part of her essay where she suggests that those who are outsiders, typically harbor resentment towards individuals who fall outside of the “mythical norm” in opposite ways. This message stands out to me, and I see this type of behavior throughout the day in life and extensively on social media. From the impoverished people who don’t like gays to the immigrant who says racists things, or the gay guy who looks down on those who are uneducated.  This behavior is unsettling, and as Lorde put it, those who have been oppressed will not escape their status by demeaning other groups of oppressed people.

There as so few people who fit perfectly into these ideal standards—young, straight, educated, white, attractive, financially secure, Christian male. Yet, at some point in everyone’s life it is so tempting to try to align his or herself with them.  While the few individuals who do fit perfectly, or almost perfectly, into these categories he or she is not inherently bad or evil. Still as history has shown us, people who benefit from the oppression of others will do everything in their power to continue to reap the rewards. Truly the oppressors have won by turning minorities against each other—they taught us to hate ourselves and to hate our differences.  The solution to this dilemma is to accept everyone, and together minorities can create an unstoppable force against inequality. As simple as this sounds, I could not imagine in a thousand years that such a thing could ever occur.  Hate is immensely powerful and it’s everywhere, as so is fear and insecurity.  In small groups people can get along, but we have yet to find a way to do so on a large scale.

As pessimistic as I may sound, this is my perspective of society. From incidents I’ve witnessed, and experiences I’ve lived through, and  from reading Audre Lorde’s take on this thirty years ago and realizing how much it still applies to our world now.

Noble’s “Trans. Panic.” and Black liberation

While parsing through this week’s readings I found myself consistently struggling with the complex concepts presented in Noble’s “Trans. Panic.”. Noble begins by introducing basic structures of labor and the role of labor in capitalism, using this as the groundwork for understanding the institutionalizing of women’s studies. They make the important distinction between ‘trans’ in the sense of movement across and ‘trans’ in terms of gender identity, however they are closely linked in understanding the role of gender studies within the larger framework of women’s studies. . The exclusion of trans voices and bodies from women’s studies’ curriculum is denying an essential part of its history. Noble makes the argument that women’s studies cannot progress within the academic framework unless it breaks away from the oppressive and hegemonic forces that influence its teachings. In order to do this there must be a trans-ing of women’s studies.

Noble’s article made me reflect on recent events and their importance to the Black liberation movements. Historically, Black LGBTQ+ folks have been excluded and silenced in Black liberation movements. Black lives Matter, a movement started notably by black women – one of which is queer- presents a new and developing front on how to approach activism. Over time social rights movements have ebbed and waned in terms of their strength, starting off strong and then slowly eking out due to a number of reasons. BLM as a movement presents a new sort of front on activism in its stance on inclusion and the uplifting of LGBTQ+ voices, more importantly recognizing the violence faced by Black trans women. By trans-ing the movement we can hope to see a lasting growth that benefits all black lives and not just a cisheterosexual ones.

The Pressures of Masculinity

In class, we discussed a variety of traits associated with masculinity, as well as the pressures that follow stereotypical ideals of masculinity. The reading, “Reenfleshing the Bright Boys”, is controversial to many for its comparison of oppression between the female and male gender. The article argues that the genders are “symmetric”, men are as equally oppressed as women. While I understand the argument, I refuse to acknowledge that men don’t have a supremest and more authoritative position within society, based on their sex. We live in a patriarchy, where male privilege very much exists. Although men do face pressures to maintain a masculine persona, women have to overcome innumerable obstacles just to achieve the same position as a man. Men are socialized at a young age to be dominant, the primary trait associated with masculinity and success. Meanwhile, women are raised to be passive and submissive. The differential socialization of men and women exhibits a vast asymmetry in the genders and the individualized oppression they face. This reading made me think of a book written by Michael Kimmel, titled “Guyland”. The book focuses on the male perspective of our gendered society, the ‘objective’ perspective and the pressures/influences which motivate young boys to mature into masculinity-obsessive men. As stated previously, men are entitled to feel pressured due to a social obligation to appear masculine, but it is not equal to the oppression women face in the public and private sphere. In class, I hope to further discuss the pressures of institutionalized masculinity and its effect on male behavior towards women (gender aggression/violence).