Transnational Marriages

3 Aug
a girl in waiting

Photo Credit: David Lazar. A girl in waiting.

by Preyanka S. Chowdhury

 

I am a citizen of the third world, a member of a nation where men reign supreme and women considered a shadow behind them. I am a woman. I am inferior to man and destined to stay at home, raise children and care for my husband. He is the center of my world after all, and his command is my calling.

This is the life of millions of women in under-developed countries. Denied opportunities and suppressed. Unable to seek self-development and barred from any form of free thinking. But why is it only in the under-developed nations that we see this over-bearing intensity of the patriarchal society? While a woman in the first world seeks equal rights, her counterpart in Bangladesh, seeks the permission of her father or husband to allow her to participate in society. Continue reading

Masculinity is Killing Trans Women

1 Aug

by Anthony J. Williams

1000px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svg

Transgender Pride Flag

Masculinity is killing trans women, and more specifically, trans women of color. The concepts of masculinities and femininities are not themselves killing trans women or gender nonconforming people. It is instead the reproduction of toxic masculinities by folks who feel “threatened” by transgender women. This is not just an observation, but a statement that is proving more and more true with each murder of trans women. However, reported statistics do not accurately reflect the actual number of trans women killed each year.

 

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Book Review: Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis

20 Jul

book review

The question of intersex is one that challenges not only the medical community, but our entire society, encouraging us to see gender and sex (and even sexuality) as more complicated and nuanced than we might regularly imagine. The very existence of intersex bodies demands a decoupling of gender from bodies, and a dismantling of essentialist, binary views. Georgiann Davis’s new book, Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis (2015, NYU Press), explores the role of language, medicine, and gender structures in shaping the experiences of intersex people (alternatively, people diagnosed with disorders—or differences—of sex development, DSD).

In particular, she studies the linguistic shift from ‘intersex’ (or hermaphrodite, and variations of these terms) to the new diagnosis common within medical circles, ‘DSD.’ Her key argument, amply demonstrated by interviews with members of the intersex community, doctors, activists, scholars, and parents, is that the language used to describe intersex bodies has important ramifications for the lived experiences of intersex people.

There are several important findings to support this argument. She shows historically that the medical community was primed to accept this terminological shift, at least in part to reassert their power over intersex bodies. John Money, a doctor famous for his claims that ‘nurture’ would always win over ‘nature’ in gender identity, sullied the medical community’s relationship to ‘intersex.’ Money lost credibility after encouraging parents of a male child to raise him as a girl after a botched circumcision left him mutilated. “She” eventually committed suicide, and the suicide was taken as evidence that his innate male gender could not be replaced by feminine gender socialization. This seemingly mismanaged case of sex-gender identity, along with increasing pressure on the medical community by feminist and intersex activists, meant that doctors’ authority over the diagnosis was publicly questioned. When the new diagnostic term ‘DSD’ was proposed, doctors jumped at the chance for a fresh start.

Allowing the medical community to determine the public understanding of ‘intersex’ or ‘DSD’ has important ramifications. For example, the medical community perpetuates biologized understandings of sex, gender, and the body. These understandings are used to justify medically unnecessary surgeries to “normalize” the genitalia (often at the expense of sexual sensation, and almost always at the expense of the patient’s sense of autonomy and self-determination). When coaching parents on how to raise their intersex child, doctors often encourage enforcing gendered expectations—discouraging girls from tomboy behaviors, and encouraging boys into more vigorous activities. In particularly upsetting passages, Davis exposes doctors’ sexual expectations of intersex women in particular, surgically shaping women’s bodies for penile-vaginal penetration.

Davis also documents that the language shapes intersex individuals’ experiences, beyond surgical intervention. Based on her interviews with intersex people, she finds that those who embrace the ‘DSD’ terminology have a more positive relationship with their doctors and parents—in Davis’s terms, they have better access to biological citizenship than those who use the more politicized term, ‘intersex’—but have a more troubled sense of self. She explains that this is likely due, at least in part, to the stigmatizing effect of seeing oneself as ‘disordered.’ In contrast, those who utilized ‘intersex’ had a more positive sense of self and a better relationship to their gender identity and sexuality, but often found themselves at odds with doctors. The terminology is a source of trouble within the intersex community as well, leading some activists to be at odds with one other over wording, something that concerns Davis because in-fighting may take away from more important battles.

Ultimately, this book is an important read for gender and sexuality scholars, as well as medical sociologists. Davis deftly challenges binary categories and the power of medical diagnoses. Her writing is engaging and, at times, personal—she shares her own experience as an intersex person, describing intimate conversations with her parents, problematic medical episodes, and her activist-academic desires. The book would also work well in advanced undergraduate classes or graduate seminars on gender, sexuality, and bodies, but I would highly recommend implementing it in classes aimed at non-sociology majors. For example, I’d love to see this on syllabi for medical sociology classes, which are frequented by pre-med students, who are an important but likely overlooked audience for this book. As teachers, we can also be activists, shaping the minds of our students who, in this case, will be the next generation of doctors encountering intersex bodies.

 

 

Amanda Kennedy is a contributor and founding editor of Masculinities 101.

If ‘Orange is the New Black’ Upset You, You Need to Know about Real Prisons

11 Jul
A_Southern_chain_gang_c1903-restore

A Southern chain gang (1903)–the racist history of today’s prison conditions (source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

If you’re anything like me, this summer you were counting down the days to Netflix’s release of the new Orange is the New Black season. If you’re anything like me, you devoured the season in two days and have been thinking and reading about it ever since. There has been an awful lot written about this season. If you’re so inclined, check out this piece, and this one, and this one, and this one (these are full of spoilers, fyi). My post, today, will not actually be about the show. There will be no spoilers, so please keep reading. Continue reading

It’s a Man’s World for Talking Dogs

6 Jul

The following is cross-posted from the Vegan Feminist Network. The original can be found here: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/talking_dogs/

Closeup of a collie chewing food and talking from Beneful commercial

Why is it that almost every voice-over for dogs in commercials for flea & tick medication, pet food, or treats is masculine?


First, animals for whom we do not know the sex or gender we often presume to be male by default. Secondly, canines in particular tend to be masculinized. However, the predominance of masculine voices in media is well documented. Human or nonhuman, it really speaks to the patriarchal dominance of public spaces and experiences.1

Feminine voices only seem to be consistently ascribed to Nonhuman Animals on television in dairy commercials featuring farmed cows. These voices are often matronly, as well, likely in an attempt to frame the product as something that is nurturing, healthful, and familial.


One exception can be found in the 2015 Yoplait commercial that gives a masculine French voice to an American female-bodied dairy cow. In fact, cows are frequently represented as male despite being female-bodied.2 This not only demonstrates a general ignorance about the American food system, but it also lends evidence to the male-as-default schema.

Notes:

1. Voice-overs are also white-dominated, with few ethnic intonations represented.

2. Gender and sex are not one in the same of course, but human constructions of gender in the nonhuman world are even less consistent and tend to reflect gender hierarchies.

 

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

“About Gender” Journal Calls for Articles on Current State of Masculinities Studies

1 Jul

AG About Gender, International Journal of Gender Studies, has announced a call for articles for its eleventh issue entitled Masculinities:Trans/forming Men: Changes, Resiliences and Reconfigurations, edited by Krizia Nardini (Universitat Obierta de Catalunya) and Stefano Ciccone (Genoa University). This issue of AboutGender wants to inquire into the current state of affairs in masculinities research: its theoretical specificities (if any), its relations with different currents in gender studies and with different political/activist stands, especially considering the intersections of masculinity research, queer perspectives and LGBTQ studies.

AG About Gender, International Journal of Gender Studies is a peer-reviewed international journal which aims to represent a reference point for scholars, academics and non-academics engaged in research and reflection on gender, with an interdisciplinary view. AG intends to enhance the dialogue between interpretative approaches and different analytical perspectives. AG is published every six months in Italian and English and proposes either theoretical and empirical original articles, essays and papers.

Papers should be between 5000 and 8000 words (excluding bibliography). Please follow the instructions gathered in the Author Guidelines. Contributions should be accompanied by: a brief abstract (maximum length: 150 words); some keywords (from a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 5). Abstract and keywords should be in English. All texts will be transmitted in a format compatible with Windows (.doc or .rtf), following the instructions provided by the Peer Review Process. Please see the Journal’s Authors guidelines.

Contributions must be sent by 15th October 2016.

Read the full call here.

Relational masculinities: The fragility of modern gender categories

29 Jun

Relational MasculinitiesWhat does it mean to be a man? Is masculinity purely biological or is it shaped by social and relational factors? Can a man’s relationship with a romantic partner have the power to legitimize or conceivably challenge his gender identity?
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Vegan Bros: The Way to a Meat-Eater’s Heart is Through His Vagina

22 Jun

The following is cross-posted from the Vegan Feminist Network. You can find the original post here: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/vegan-bros-the-way-to-a-meat-eaters-heart-is-through-his-vagina/

Content Warning: Sexism and trans-antagonismMeme produced by Vegan Bros which reads: "The Way to a Man's Heart is Through His Stomach: Unless He Eats Meat, Then It's Through His Vagina!"

There are a number of things wrong with Vegan Bros (a weight-loss business that banks on sizeism, thin-privilege, and fat-shaming to sell products and programs), but their recently published vagina burger meme really takes the cake.

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Posted on the Vegan Bros Facebook page on November 22nd, 2015, the meme reads:

THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART IS THROUGH HIS STOMACH…UNLESS HE EATS MEAT, THEN IT’S THROUGH HIS VAGINA!

In addition to being extremely misogynistic, the meme is also trans-antagonistic. According to Vegan Bros, to have a vagina is to be lesser and/or to be a man with a vagina is to be lesser.1

The Abolitionist Vegan Society agrees, strongly condemning the message. Vegan Bros responded with pleasure at the offense it caused, citing it as “validation” for their cause:

When the Abolitionist Vegan Society hates on your post you know you’re doing something right.

Recent essays posted on the Vegan Bros website mirror this violent rhetoric. For instance, one post that declares animal ingredients in man-friendly products like beer are actually vegan (as though thousands of vegan-friendly beers were not readily available). Those who disagree with their patriarchal entitlements are referred to as a “piece of shit.”2

Vegan Bros sitting in a bar

As Cheryl Abbate has discussed in an earlier essay with Vegan Feminist Network, the promotion of masculinity and “real manhood” in vegan spaces inevitably upholds violent gender norms and attitudes associated with masculinity and patriarchal rule:

Let us recall what the message of animal liberation entails: one of the goals of the animal liberation movement involves challenging the model of dominance by rethinking why we give privilege to and admire “dominant” or “stronger” beings. Yet, when organizations use bodybuilders to sell the vegan message, they send the opposite, dangerous message: masculinity is preferable to the feminine and there is a hierarchy where the masculine reign and dominate at the top.

Not only does this idea endanger women, but the idea that there is a dichotomy between the masculine and feminine disadvantages animals, since animals are identified as part of “nature”- and nature is in turn identified with the feminine.

Indeed, Vegan Bros bills itself as “[ . . . ] a movement dedicated to raising up an army of fit, sexy vegan soldiers [ . . .], making the language of domination, force, and anti-femininity part of its brand.

I am skeptical that there is room for masculinity in the vegan world we seek. Masculinity relies on hierarchy and violence, and is thus deeply counter-intuitive to our goals.3

In the comments following the publication of the meme, Vegan Bros sought to clarify their intentions and wrote: “Most feminist vegans understand what we are doing with this post.”  Yes. I understand very well. I know bigotry when I see it.

 

Notes:
1. Women and female body parts are regularly used throughout the website to degrade and humiliate a presumably male audience. For example, in a post about Thanksgiving, Vegan Bros infers that being vegan is “badass”: “Extending your circle of empathy and compassion is [not] for pussies.”

2. Ableism is also regularly utilized, with detractors labeled “fucking stupid.

3. Male-identified Professor Gary Francione has chimed in to position my feminist “complaining” as “idiotic”:

"I certainly do not agree with people who complain that anyone who does not think they're just 'awesome" are sexist/racist/evil, etc.; indeed, I think that is very harmful in various ways. And I agree that it is beyond idiotic to claim that the use of "Bros" per se is inherently sexist."

 


Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Nine months of #MasculinitySoFragile

20 Jun

masc so fragile

from hashtag to product, #MasculinitySoFragile can now be worn.

 

Whether you’ve heard of it or not, the hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile is a personal case study in bringing public sociology, activism and twitter together.

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Reflections

17 Jun

by Kyle Ashby

With multiple sources reporting that Omar Mateen frequented Pulse nightclub and suffered from mental illness and internalized homophobia leading up to the shooting, I feel obligated to write a concise history of my queer life so you can understand two things: why I didn’t become Omar and why this shooting has affected me so greatly. Keep in mind so many circumstances and events contributed to me being alive and grieving today as an out queer man that the following can only be presented as a glimpse of the truth, a myopic description of self-determination. I present a monochromatic thread so that you can follow the unraveling edge to its black terminus: today, my third night of almost no sleep and emotional unease. I lay awake knowing that I hate Omar Mateen for the choices he made, for the pain he caused, for the lives he ruined, but learning that he may be part of my queer family means that compassion is redirecting my hate to the conglomerate of American culture that made both of our lives so different.
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