Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cracking India

This week we discussed the novel Cracking India
I think what bothered me the most about the book and the movie was the fact that before the British, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs lived together in relative peace. It was only after the British pulled out, and divided the country up that the fierce fighting and slaughter began.

It's scary, a lot of people in the United States don't even know that Pakistan and India used to be the same country, and the partition happened less than 100 years ago. It shows an extreme sense of ethnocentrism on the part of America. But then again, many Americans don't keep up on many global political events. Many Americans don't know about the IMF or the World Bank, and if they do, they often don't understand how structural adjustment programs end up putting nations further into debt rather than helping the country build the necessary infrastructures they need.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Century Project

On Monday I went to see the Century Project for class. If you ever have a chance to see this exhibit, you should. Basically, it's naked portraits of women from birth to 100. The exhibit starts with a photograph of a baby girl's head crowning as she's being born, and then goes chronologically through different women's photos. Each photo also has a written statement by or about the woman.

One of the first thoughts the exhibit invoked in me was the sheer resilience of women and women's bodies. Women go through a lot of shit in life. Sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse, disconnection from their bodies, eating disorders, etc. But even so, women are resilient. In some ways the exhibit was saddening because of all of the women who had been abused and hurt, but in other ways, I found a lot of the portraits to be reclamations of their selves, their dignity.

One interesting point that was brought up in class was whether the portraits were nude or naked. Amanda pointed out that nudes tend to be docile, art for consumption by the "male gaze" while naked implies action and self-ownership. In Chandra Mohanty's article, she talks about the fact that in order to build something new, we first need to deconstruct the old. In this light, I think Frank Cordelle's photos are doing both. They are helping to deconstruct and show that the view of women in media and art has been false and doesn't tell the whole story or let women be their imperfect but beautiful selves. And the photos also build something new, a new way of viewing women, a new way of women having agency in their bodies.

I also think that the photography relates well to how Mohanty criticizes Western feminism for collapsing all women's experience into one larger experience. Clearly, from the Century Project we see that even in the United States, women have many different experiences that can't be reduced to one description of "women's experience."

Unrelated to the Century Project, I think that Mohanty is right when she criticizes Western feminists for placing boxes around "non-Western women" and assuming that they live under oppression, and that they don't know how to theorize about their oppression. So what do we do. What do I do as a white, Western, feminist tranny? What can I say or do that will help and not harm, something that will attempt to heal, or at least to acknowledge and to break down the bullshit surrounding colonialism and empire. And this is where I'm stuck. Right now, I think all I can do is keep educating those around me about colonialism, to try and make my friends and family realize that "those people" aren't less intelligent or less human than us, to show how the economic policies of the West have shaped the global context in a not so nice way. To continue with the border metaphor, to push the borders of understanding of the people around me.

magical gay powers!

Magical gay earthquake powers!
WTF. That's all I'm saying.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

burning bridges

I really struggled with Max Valerio's article from This Bridge We Call Home. To start with, the article hits close to home for me. I also identify as trans, though in a very different way than Max does. Max identifies very much as a man , and a heterosexual man at that. Max's obsession with masculinity seems to be an obsession with hegemonic masculinity.

And this type of masculinity, and his embodiment of masculinity honestly scares me. And maybe it's partially because I haven't taken testosterone yet. Maybe it's because I don't know what the physical changes actually feel like. I feel like Max went from one end of a spectrum to another, and I'm worried that I would do the same.

It's actually one of my biggest fears about transitioning, losing some of the aspects of myself that I like. But then again, maybe I've read his experience wrong. I understand the difficulty of letting go of a prior identity, of letting going of being dyke, lesbian, whatever you want to call it. As Max wrote, "the transition from female to male completely and entirely changed not only my physical body, but also my most closely held values and deepest perceptions." I don't think anyone would be able to approach an experience that will potentially change their "most closely held values and deepest perceptions."

Another aspect of the article that I found challenging was the fact that transsexuality itself shows the bridge (to use Anzaldua's metaphor) between female and male, yet after he's transitioned, Max almost disregards that bridge. He also doesn't really talk about having privilege. He does, but he also sidesteps when talking about privilege. I understand that trans-people completely lose their privilege when they get discovered, but when you pass for most of the time, even if you are freaking out about being discovered, you are still passing, which means you've got privilege.

Even so, I also don't want to disregard Max's experience. This is his life, and how he experiences it and how he interprets it is valid, I have no bearing on its validity. Just because I'm uncomfortable about parts of it doesn't mean it's not right or true. And who knows, it's entirely possible that testosterone will completely change how I see the world as well. And while that is a really scary proposition right now, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

queer bashing in middle school

So apparently a 14 year old kid was shot in the head and neck by a classmate. Great. I can't even really write about this right now, it's severely upsetting. When I hear about events like this, I feel powerless in the face of all the hatred in the world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A few things that have frustrated me today:

I didn't sleep very soundly. Shuba was very fidgety last night, and extremely gassy. That might sound funny, but it was bad enough to wake me up last night. I didn't know it was possible to be woken up in the middle of the night by farts. Nonetheless, I didn't get nearly enough sleep.

I got to my 8am class a little late because getting up at 6:15 apparently isn't early enough to let Shuba out, get him set for the day, and get to campus when it's snowing.

It's difficult to shuttle all of my books and assorted academic paraphernalia between the house I'm dog sitting at and school. This is mainly a problem in the afternoon/evening when I'm trying to get my homework done, and want to make sure Shuba doesn't go completely crazy as well.

Today was not the greatest day to be in my body. It just wasn't comfortable. It wasn't the worst it could be though, so that's good.

One of the other student senate members made a ridiculous proposal at the meeting last week that I didn't get a copy of until today. I had skipped Senate to go to the lecture on Queer Theology, which was completely worth it. A little background on this jerk from Senate before I tell you about his proposal. Last semester he wrote an article for the Luther Review about Islam. His article was rather poorly written. He didn't cite any of the "facts" he quoted. He implied that Islam was an inherently violent religion, and stated that wherever there is Islam, there is terror. As you might expect, after this article was published there was a bit of an uproar on campus about it. Several Letters to the Editor were sent to Chips, and it was a common topic of discussion. Apparently this student feels like that was an unfair attack on him because this semester he submitted a "religious speech resolution" to Senate. Basically, he wants Senate to back this resolution, asking Luther student publications to "respect the freedom of student writers to criticize religion" because "speech that criticizes a faith tradition should be embraced as a contribution to the competition of ideas and our common academic goal, 'to seek truth.'" Specifically, he wants to add the following sentence to the Inappropriate Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy: "...toleration of a diversity of ideas, including those ideas that vigorously criticize faith traditions."
This is problematic to me for several reasons. For one thing, he was not being attacked for his article. No one submitted a letter saying it shouldn't have been published, or that he couldn't hold those horrendous beliefs about Islam. Students that responded to his article were trying to open discussion with him on why he thought that, and tried to point out where his arguments were flawed. On a technical level, his resolution wasn't written very well. To me, it seems that he is suffering from white, wealthy, heterosexual man syndrome. He was criticized, and feels like he has been unduly attacked. If he's going to write an incendiary article like that, he should know that other students will disagree with him.

On the upside, it's almost Wednesday, which means the week is almost half over. I know that I will have an excellent weekend. And Pride is getting off to a good start, which is relieving.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

crazy weather we're having..

Right now I'm dog and house sitting for one of my friends. Basically I hang out at her house, sleep here, and let the dog out in the morning and the evening and make sure he has food and water. The dog, Shuba, has been generally well behaved and good on our walks which I really appreciate. Last week there was some really lovely winter weather. Not too cold or windy, clear skies, sun, it was joyous. Then yesterday the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Letting Shuba out became a trek across the arctic tundra. And of course, when it's blustery and completely frigid out, that's when Shuba decides to be a little naughty, jumping on me, trying to bite my butt and elbows. Thanks Shuba.

I realized I haven't blogged in a while. It's not that blog-worthy things haven't happened, I've just been busy. I went up to the cities last weekend, and got to see the movie Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi about her childhood in Iran and decision to move to France. It was beautiful, if you have a chance to see it you should. We are actually watching another Iranian film called "Children of Heaven" in my women and gender studies senior seminar. It's about a brother and a sister who have to share the same pair of tennis shoes because the brother accidentally loses his sisters shoes, eventually he enters a footrace where he has to come in third because the third place prize is a pair of shoes. We watched the first half on Thursday, and we'll finish it this coming Tuesday.

We had a pride party last night, and that was wonderful. We played "circle of death" and "never have I ever," two of my favorite drinking games I must say. There was drinking, but there was also a lot of bonding. I am so relieved that pride is a lot less clique-y than in the past. We all seem to get along, there's not a lot of drama between group members, no gaytriarchy issues, or people complaining that the lesbians took over. I'm just happy the group will survive and keep going strong.

I'll leave you with a few clips from flight of the conchords, because I think they're hilarious.