GEND 3046 Webnotes

Scroll down for more webnotes for Queer Media.

November 24 2016
Closet cases: Bullies and Blackmail

Sidebar: Cultivating generativity in Toronto’s queer communities: http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/show/the-youth-elders-project/

TODAY:

  1. Overview of article
  2. Questions about the essay? Quick tips: refer to authors, not article or book titles; provide specific examples of dialogue or narrative to support your claims; and you are welcome to copy and paste sections of this assignment into your final paper.
  3. What to watch next week?
  4. Course evaluations
  5. Return papers

Your thoughts on the article? Questions? Comments? Critiques?

I had to cut this out of the final article, but I believe it may be helpful here:

A universalizing discourse frames all sexualities as fluid, unpredictable, and changing. In contrast, a minoritizing discourse suggests that there is a distinct population of persons who are “really gay” (Sedgwick 1990: 85). Sedgwick contrasts “a universalizing discourse of acts” with “a minoritizing discourse of identities.”[i] Within a universalizing discourse, sexual acts do not make you a kind of person (i.e., gay, lesbian, straight) and it is presumed that “everyone may experience some measure of same-sex or opposite-sex desire in relative degrees at different times.”[ii] Relatedly, sexes—as in the categories of male and female—are not characterized as inherent to bodies but socially constructed categories used to organize bodies.[iii] It is not that one is male or female, girl or boy, man or woman, but that bodies are organized into these powerful discourses and subjects come to see themselves through them. In turn, all discourses—even queer ones—are regarded as inherently regulatory. Susan Driver characterizes such a Foucauldian assumption in the following way: “subjects are no more and no less free now than ever; they are merely subjected to different ideas and practices.”[iv]

[i] Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 86.

[ii] William Stacy Johnson, A Time to Embrace: Same-sex Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012), 297.

[iii] Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 85.

[iv] Susan Driver, Queer Youth Cultures (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 17.

I had to cut sections on the different thresholds of hetero / closet / homo for cis-male characters and cis-female characters, so that is published here: http://www.flowjournal.org/2016/03/contours-of-the-closet/

I had to cut sections on the post-closet characters, so that is published here: http://www.flowjournal.org/2015/10/teen-tvs-post-closet-and-postracial-fictions/

I had to cut sections on how the victim and bully eventually formed romantic relationships, so I published that here: http://www.flowjournal.org/2016/01/victim-bully-love/

cmce-bullies-and-blackmail

Questions about the essay?

What to watch next week? 

I had my heart set on Moonlight (2016) but I cannot get my hands on it.

Paris is Burning (1990)

The Danish Girl (2015)

Carol (2015)

Course evaluations!

Return papers!

November 17 2016
Gay for You: Redefining Heterosexual Masculinities

What did you think about the movie, The Kids Are All Right?

What did you talk about with Sal?

To start, what do you make of Becker’s argument? Or claims?

Becker runs us through many of the topics that we have already covered:
the shift from sexuality as relating to acts to identities;
the invention and entrenchment of “gay” identities and the gay / straight binary;
the way the language of “same-sex” marriage or “same-sex” anything is premised on mutually exclusive “male” and “female” bodies with little to no room for trans or intersex people;
the mainstream insistence on sexuality as innate;
the spike in gay TV representation in the 1990s;
how these images still sought to target “the most lucrative consumers … [who] still demand stories that speak to their existence” (126);
the assimilationist politics of mainstream gay and lesbian civil rights movements;
and the desexualisation of gay men in favour of “gay” as a consumer “lifestyle.”

Becker’s work examines a shifting and relational constellation of cisgender male masculinities on US television, specifically representations of straight men, gay men and closeted men.

In terms of his argument, Becker is suggesting that American TV is featuring more and more representations of heterosexual men expressing affection and love for each other.

“Guy Love:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL4L4Uv5rf0&t=2s

These relationships between men usually involve a clear assertion of their heterosexuality along with a declaration that “it’s okay to be gay.”

Becker says that there seems to be increasing space on television for heterosexual men to: verbally express desire for other men; to be “un-defensive” if someone misreads them as gay; and to express love in ways that have shifted away from the casual or drunk “I love you man” to more sincere and sober declarations of love and affection. Becker says that some of these are examples of a “queer straight masculinity.”

Does Becker consider ideas about sexuality to be fixed for all time or does he consider them ever-changing?

What does Becker say about the binary of straight / gay (hetero / homo)?

“This taxonomy, however, would gradually and unevenly be replaced by a gay / straight binary that divided men not on the basis of their gender identity but rather on the basis of sexual object choice” (122-123). What does this mean? What is sexual object choice?

“By the 1970s, most people considered any man (no matter how masculine) who had any kind of sex with men (no matter what role he played in the sexual encounter) to be gay” (123).

“For men who identify as straight, the idea of any sexual contact with another guy became taboo – a fact that likely altered many men’s sexual activities and erotic imaginations” (123). What do you think Becker means when he says that the new gay / straight binary “likely altered many men’s sexual activities and erotic imaginations”?

What does androgyny do to gay / straight?

10-dsc_0629-x750_3

Screenshot from instagram, yesterday:

 

According to Becker, the categories of straight and gay are interdependent.

Becker begins by outlining two popular 20th century Western beliefs about cisgender male homosexuality that influenced cisgender male heterosexuality. Specifically, these were the beliefs that:

  1. Homosexuality could be hidden.
  2. Same sex desires could emerge at any time. 

Since hetero / homo are relational, these ideas about homosexuality influenced ideas about heterosexuality. Some scholars have said that these ideas made men’s heterosexuality fragile. How so?

“Since the nineteenth century, Sedgwick asserts, Anglo-American men have found themselves in a double bind rooted in the fuzzy line between homosexuality and homosociality” (123).”

What is homosociality?

“On the one hand, with the psychiatric ‘discovery’ of ‘the homosexual,’ same-sex behavior became an utterly stigmatized perversity, socially prohibited and definitionally incompatible with the newly emerging construction of a heterosexual masculine identity. On the other hand, access to the benefits of patriarchal privilege required men to participate in a range of same-sex relationships (e.g. ‘male friendship, mentorship, admiring identification, bureaucratic subordination, and heterosexual rivalry) that forced ‘men into the arbitrarily mapped, self-contradictory, and anathema-riddled quicksands [meaning fraught with or full of something you hate] of the middle distance of male homosocial desire’” (123). What does this mean?

Sedgwick writes: “To put it in twentieth-century American terms, the fact that what goes on at football games, in fraternities, at the Bohemian Grove, and at climactic moments in war novels can look, with only a slight shift of optic, quite startlingly ‘homosexual’” (Epistemology of the Closet, 89-90).

These authors are suggesting that homosociality requires men to interact in ways that from one angle looks like heterosexual bonding or fraternizing, but at other times can look – in Sedgwick’s words – quite startlingly homosexual.

Below 50 cent highlights the “fuzzy line between homosexuality and homosociality” (123).”

Becker’s point is that if you take these different kinds of male-bonding and add in the 20th century beliefs that homosexuality can be hidden or might appear at any time, then heterosexuality and homosocial bonding are always suspect. Homosexuality is never entirely ruled out.

In order to ward off queer readings, how might a man perform heterosexuality in order to make it clear and convincing? What are some strategies for asserting heterosexuality?

Becker writes, “…a virulent homophobia directed both outward and inward – became a defining characteristic of an always insecure heterosexual masculinity…” (123).

Becker is arguing that men displaying homophobia in order to ward off being perceived as gay is increasingly regarded as outdated, unappealing and passé. What do you think about that claim? 

Becker is trying to track this shift from men performing homophobia to “prove” their heterosexuality to straight men performing anti- or post-homophobia.

Returning to this constellation of masculinities—straight, gay, closeted—Becker is connecting the dots here. He is saying that the straight side of the binary is shifting, so if these categories are relational, then what is happening on the “gay” side of the binary? 

According to Becker, how are gay men represented on post-closet television in the 2000s?

Becker writes, “TV’s openly gay guys shore up confidence that the distinction between gay men and straight men is self-evident and stable – an anxious issue if one believes that homophobia (long a structuring principle of heterosexual masculinity) is politically regressive or simply passé. By way of a comforting slippage, the naïve, liberal belief that gay men can be out becomes the reassuring assumption that they are out. In other words, the banal ubiquity of television’s openly gay guys supports the illusion of a post-closet world where all men who are gay are out, and any man who isn’t out is obviously (and securely) straight – otherwise they’d be out” (p. 127).

Remember the ideas about homosexuality that Becker outlined from the 20th century. There was the concern that homosexuality was:

  1. always “closetable” – but now there’s no need because all gay men are out.
  2. could emerge at any time – but now it’s (supposedly) biological and unchanging.

Becker asserts that “gay rights discourse has helped establish a widespread, if not dominant, construction of (homo)sexuality as genetically determined rather than a choice – a discourse that works in important ways to clarify and stabilize the relationship between gay and straight” (p. 124).

Returning to this shifting constellation of beliefs about straight men (they are—ostensibly—no longer homophobic at least on television) and gay men (they are all “out” or “post-closet” on TV because homophobia no longer exists) then Becker says what do you do then with “the closet?”

Becker says that closeted characters continue to appear on television but why are they in the closet? Why represent the closet in the present if homophobia is depicted as in the past? How does the closet make any sense in a post-homophobia ethos?

“For what might be called post-closet TV, gay men who are not out – who fail to identify with the label waiting for them, who refuse to accept the straight world’s tolerance, who expose the gaping hole in this post-civil-rights logic – are a real problem” (127).

What was the mainstream characterization of Brokeback Mountain and what is Becker’s critique of it?

What happens to the closeted characters on Hack? Who is held violently responsible for gay-bashing on Hack? What is depicted as a risky sex practice on Hack? How does the family respond when their deceased son is revealed to be gay on Hack?

How is the closet represented in the “down-low” episode of Law & Order: SVU? What does the closet lead men to do?

As Becker writes, “the closet becomes a violent place constructed by the pathetic and ultimately senseless fear of gay men rather than by the fear/hatred of homophobic straight men or by a heteronormative social order” (128).

Returning to Becker, he says that ideas about “male” sexualities – particularly closeted, gay and straight – are changing incrementally and relationally.

Let’s watch a few videos and see what we make of these different examples:

Superbad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23ZWuWe2riY

Is this “queer straight masculinity”?

Flight of the Conchords “Bret, you got it goin’ on”

Your thoughts? Queer straight masculinity? If not, how would you describe this?

How do these “queer straight masculinities” self-consciously navigate homophobia?

“Bromance” music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJVt8kUAm9Q

What do you make of the words? The ending?

The rules of engagement

Some final thoughts on Becker and the gendered contours of heterosexuality: http://www.flowjournal.org/2016/03/contours-of-the-closet/

Remember: Due today ASSIGNMENT THREE: Identify two or three key terms / concepts / approaches in the course readings that you intend to use in your final essay. Drawing on the readings, define each term clearly, identify how each one is useful in analyzing the media text that you have chosen, and explain how your final essay will contribute to the ongoing academic conversation about “queer media.” Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value: 19%

Really curious to see what you make of my article next week!

November 3 2016
Comedy and Anxious Displacements

TODAY:

  1. the structure of this article (useful modeling for your final papers)
  2. the argument and evidence
  3. links to prior readings and links to next week’s material
  4. Important change to syllabus: You may submit “short assignment three” next week, November 10, or the following week, November 17, depending on where you are at with your final paper. Next week might be a bit too soon for some of you because the short assignment is based on the subject of your final assignment. Just keep in mind that it will take me one week to mark and return your paper.
  5. return assignments

I’m interested in Cavalcante’s argument and I also want us to discuss the structure of this article. We are into the home stretch of Queer Media (broken heart emoji) and it’s time for all of us to be thinking about final papers. This article models for you key elements that should probably appear in your final essays.

Please pull up the article on your computer or get our your paper copy.

We are going to look closely at the introduction and by this I mean page 455 to midway down 456. Everything that opens this article prior to the first heading is considered the introduction.

In groups of 2-4, identify the text in Cavalcante’s article that correlates to the outline below. In other words, focusing only on the introduction, identify the following elements in Cavalcante’s article in the following order:

  1. hook the reader with a great example drawn from or about the object of study
  1. the argument stated succinctly
  1. brief definition of central concept
  1. some LGBTQ representational history (i.e. How is this a shift? Or a continuity?)
  1. allude to relevant academic lit (i.e. other scholars have investigated and argued…)
    [above two points—4 and 5—are mini lit review to signal that we are in conversation with other scholars.]
  1. however, this is what “I” am arguing / doing that is slightly different
    [Note how this is done respectfully. This is a conversation amongst scholars and the in this case the previous work is essential and sometimes written by famous people in our field.]
  1. “My” object of study / media text is doing “this” but also this “this.”
    [Note how Cavalcante complicates the prior literature: The objects of study are not only doing x, they are also doing y.)

Homonormativity in review: King writes, “Lisa Duggan (2003) uses the term ‘homonormativity’ to describe the mainstreaming of lesbian and gay politics over the past two decades and the rise of an agenda in which equality is understood as ‘access to the institutions of domestic privacy, the ‘free’ market, and patriotism’” (179).

Further, she explains that “Scholarship on homonormativity reveals that while marketability, visibility, marriage, and the military have become priorities for the mainstream movement, platforms that make visible differences among queer subjects, that challenge the entrenchment of the transparent White subject at the heart of lesbian and gay politics, or that tackle broader social forces like poverty or militarism, have been squeezed out of the picture” (Eng, Halberstam, & Munoz, 2005; Murphy, Ruiz, & Serlin, 2008)” (p. 274).

Any questions or comments on these elements before moving on to the argument and evidence?

  1. the argument and evidence

Cavalcante outlines gay parenting—which is his focus—in its cultural context. In this cultural context, how has so-called “gay parenting” been characterized?

Sitcoms that appear on network television tend to deal with “cultural controversies” in very specific ways:

“From its early days, television has trafficked in the discourses of cultural controversy (Gray 2005). The medium taps into the fiery ethos of the culture wars and frames, for example, racial tensions, gender inequalities, and class divisions in specific ways. Network television in particular is an ideologically cautious space, and as such, it typically raises contemporary debates like gay parenting only to reconcile them with prevailing, liberal frameworks. In sitcoms, this process of reconciliation occurs through the work of anxious displacement” (bold added, 457).

Key concept—anxious displacement—and how it manifests in media.

According to Cavalcante what are “anxious displacements” in relation to the gay characters he analyzes?

Anxious displacement refers to a cultural process whereby negatively codified social differences get displaced away from LGBT characters and relationships, and projected (in the Freudian sense) elsewhere in a narrative world—typically onto other individuals and relationships in their orbit” (457). What does this mean?

“With respect to anxious displacement, not only are social differences projected onto others, but they are also frequently overloaded— as figures and relationships outside the gay character(s) ultimately bear the burden of symbolic excess. Moreover, the displacements are anxious in that they respond to culturally ‘emergent’ (Williams 1973) tensions, political questions, and social pressure points within a specific historical moment” (457). What does this mean?

In turn, Cavalcante places this key concept in context by outlining how this strategy of “anxious displacements” fits in with “the LGBT rights movement” insofar as the mainstream movement has tended to foreground white, wealthy, family-friendly, gay men and to a lesser extent white, affluent, lesbians within an assimilationist agenda. As such Cam, Mitchell, Bryan and David conform to the “ideal type” that mirrors this approach (458).

Cavalcante then places anxious displacements into an institutional context in which television is pushing at the boundaries of “ideal” parenting and trying to make space for “gay dads.” These series are challenging because they show gay men as good fathers and this has been culturally taboo for a long time.

To do so, Cavalcante suggests that these representations are subject to the normalizing processes of the sitcom genre and network television:

“For example, although portrayals of gay parenting can fall victim to the homogenizing force of normalization, this process is never fully successful, for Modern Family and The New Normal also undermine homophobia and endorse gay masculinities. In many ways, this is as far as the shows can go, for the formal conventions of a sitcom—such as comedic sensibility, predictability, general alignment with mainstream values, and conflict resolution in twenty-two minutes—formally restrict its subversive potential. Thus, within the popular sitcom genre, anxious displacement reproduces established orders and simultaneously compensates by advancing glimmers of social rearrangement” (bold text added, 458).

Cavalcante also places his work in the context of viewers’ “edgy” tastes—this should be familiar to you by now—and also shifting views on LGBTQ+ people and parents. The audience changes over time and so does the content that is designed to interest and attract those viewers: “The political sensibilities of the prized eighteen- to forty-nine-year-old demographics are liberalizing. In responding to this changing social climate, television programs interject LGBT storylines that generally align with popular gay rights sensibilities to appear relevant and contemporary” (459).

In this cultural moment gay characters get coded as “modern,” “relevant,” “adding texture” and newness. They are a trendy and mainstream selling feature.

As Cavalcante writes, “Anxious displacement helps network television writers and creators to, on the one hand, produce socially relevant programming that attracts white, cosmopolitan [meaning a “citizen of the world”], liberal viewers, and on the other, avoid pushing the representational envelope too far by projecting more culturally risky attributes away from gay parents” (459).

In turn Cavalcante quotes the creators of the series who reiterate these points by saying that they emphasize how the gay parents are the “same” as the viewer. They try to balance the “emergent with the traditional” (460).

“[…W]hile the show attempts to proffer something new in the form of gay parenting, it must also manage the anxiety social difference generates. It achieves this by depicting queerness within the symbolically palatable and comfortable. According to Executive Producer Dante Di Loreto, ‘they [Bryan and David] are a couple that you would want as your next-door neighbors’ (Bernstein 2013). Echoing this sentiment, Murphy explains that the show is intended to present ‘difficult, sometimes controversial topics wrapped up in a very loving arena’ (Snarker 2012)” (460).

Finally, Cavalcante reminds us again that the genre and the medium matter: “As a comedic genre, the sitcom franchises a limited spectrum of emotions and affect including humor, levity, and happiness. As a result, anxious displacements are largely manifested in and through articulations of comedy. Jokes, hyperbole, farce, incongruity, and sarcasm act as conduits that carry various iterations of social differences, anxieties, and excesses away from LGBT characters toward others” (460).

Contrast with the multivocality of youtube.

The following sections in the article outline different kinds of “anxious displacements.” In the first one he explains to the reader how Mitch, Cam, Bryan and David are presented in these series as wealthy, educated, successful, enlightened and “good” in contrast to those who are working-class and culturally naïve, unsophisticated, and have “bad” taste.

Example / evidence:

The New Normal’s narrative universe is defined by an upper crust Los Angeles sensibility and lifestyle. Living in a palatial home, Bryan and David are central figures in this privileged world. When describing his and Bryan’s social location, David announces, “We are two educated, successful, enlightened gay men!” (“Obama Mama,” The New Normal, 2012). By contrast, their surrogate, Goldie, bears the burden of difference and is subjected to anxious displacements of deficit. Lacking a well-paying job and a robust savings account, Goldie and her daughter, Shania, are under financial stress and experience a tenuous housing situation. Initially living in Bryan and David’s backyard guesthouse, they eventually move into a small and cramped apartment. Hailing from the Midwest, Goldie’s character also embodies popular stereotypes about the region. Routinely struggling with cultural naïveté, Goldie lacks the kind of sophistication, culture, and cosmopolitanism that define Bryan and David’s lifestyle. Whereas Bryan and David dine on organic foods and frequent trendy eateries, Goldie consumes fast-food and splurges on Italian restaurants that serve ‘real ranch dressing-breadsticks’” (461).

What is the evidence of class status / cultural capital that is provided?

And which characters are positioned as having “good taste” and which are articulated as having “bad taste”?

How does this relate to anxious displacements?

How does this relate to assimilation?

This section also addresses a Latino gardener and you will see this character / caricature turn up in the film next week. I encourage you to pay attention to how people of colour are figured in the film The Kids Are Alright that you will be watching in class next week.

The gay parents’ whiteness is unmarked in contrast to a character nearby—Lily and Rocky—whose non-whiteness is played up, noted and performed in many episodes. In contrast to the racialized characters, the gay parents are revealed to be rational, normal, orderly and well-intentioned.

Cavalcante says that even sexuality gets displaced onto the characters surrounding the gay parents. Can you think of any examples that Cavalcante provides?

Cavalcante observes that as part of assimilationist texts, the gay characters are often desexualized, apolitical (“Are we political now?”) and domestic. These are also characteristics of sitcoms, generally.

Finally, the author singles out one character on each series who really seems to bear the brunt of the anxious displacement: Lily and Nana. How do these characters serve as displacements for disorder and monstrosity?

The conclusion offers a summary of the argument with some new insights thrown in. This makes for a good conclusion, btw; Always throw in a fresh point that you do not reveal in your intro, but support through your argument.

Do you find yourself compelled by this argument? Why or why not?

I would like to complicate and extend one aspect of Cavalcante’s closing argument: “Moreover, anxious displacement also frequently reproduces unexpected characterizations by complicating and adding dimensions to more secondary characters. In soaking up and re-distributing a range of culturally risky dynamics, anxious displacement adds texture and contributes something new and progressive to character development. For example, in the The New Normal, the anxious displacement of queerness onto Shania constructed her as a creatively bold and eccentric character” (468). Contrast with Rocky and Goldie.

Overall, I think this is an intriguing argument. Comments? Thoughts?

  1. links to prior readings and links to next week’s material

Can you think of some of the ways in which this links to other concepts we have been discussing?

  1. Important change to syllabus: You may submit “short assignment three” next week or the following week, November 10 or November 17 depending on where you are at with your final paper. Next week might be a bit too soon for some of you because the short assignment is based on the subject of your final assignment.

ASSIGNMENT THREE: Identify two or three key terms / concepts / approaches in the course readings that you intend to use in your final essay. Drawing on the readings, define each term clearly, identify how each one is useful in analyzing the media text that you have chosen, and explain how your final essay will contribute to the ongoing academic conversation about “queer media.” Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value: 19% // If you submit your paper next week, Sal will give your assignments to me.

I will be away next week, November 10 2016, and Dr. Sal Renshaw will be teaching the class. Show up prepared to watch a feature film, The Kids Are Alright, about lesbian parents and discuss it in relation to the assigned short film reviews by scholars.

Screening: The Kids are All Right (2010), 106 minutes

See you in two weeks!! Email me with questions.

5. Return assignments!

October 27 2016
Writer and Storyteller: Ivan Coyote

Ivan Coyote will be in our class today from 12:30-2:00 for a talk and Q&A.

Coyote, I. E. (2012). One in Every Crowd. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Sidenote: Wendys are the bullies in Ivan’s world. What do you think about that?

Receiving messages of resistance vs. messages of acceptance from family // What harm does the gender non-normative child cause? What harm do the messages of resistance cause?

108 / 154 – concerns about recruiting (relates to Goltz)

158-159 – gay camp for teens is still a pretty radical idea (relates to Goltz and predation / recruitment)

125—searching for born this way “proof”—“He is living proof that I was just born this way.” (relates to King)

138 – Ivan’s stakes in being “born this way” (relates to King)

Notions of queer futurity are everywhere in this book, from suicides to offering stories of hope. (relates to Goltz)

131 – generativity – role models for Francis and other queer youth. We both sides of this vividly! We see what Ivan gets out of it and we get a sense of what queer kids and youth get from Ivan. (relates to Goltz)

137 – interesting exceptions to heteronormativity – “No one, no matter what gender they mistake me for, ever mistakes me for straight.”

139 – link between residential schools and “memories of same-sex touches that left shame and scars and secrets.”

140-141 – loving gender normative and gender non-normative Francis (relates to King and fluidity / changing identities)

152-153 “I am not here to change the minds of the many. I am here for the kids who think they are alone.” Really?

176 “What will it take for school administrators to realize that providing a safe environment for all is more important than catering to the bigotry of a few.”

180 – understanding why some people do not come out

181 – It Gets Better

186 – “Make and keep long-term friendships… This is one of the most important things you will do in your life.”

186 – “Wherever possible, be polite. In the long run, your good manners will serve you better than even your most righteous rage.”

Would you say that Ivan’s stories (independent media) offer a different perspective on queer lives than corporate / mainstream media? (relates to Peters) How so / why not? What about in relation to social media? (relates to Goltz)

October 20 2016
Queer Futurity and Multivocality

*Please attend Ivan Coyote’s public talk on the evening of Wednesday, October 26. Who is Ivan Coyote? Good question.
To learn more visit: http://www.ivancoyote.com/

TODAY:

  1. queer futurity and Edelman’s No Future (2004)
  2. It Gets Better you-tube campaign
  3. Queer critiques of IGB
  4. Goltz’s argument (will be intertwined with point 3 above)
  5. Ivan Coyote’s visit next week
  6. ASSIGNMENT TWO due next week
  7. Return assignments

1. queer futurity and Edelman’s No Future (2004)

Goltz’s article outlines something that is often called “queer futurity.” Many scholars have addressed:

“heteronormative time” – marriage, children, inheritance

In contrast to:

“queer futurity” – what does a queer future look like?

“No Future” — no marriage (only recently granted), no children (not true, but often said to be true), no relationship to family of origin (all changing though not entirely in the past)

Many scholars have expressed concern that there has been an overwhelming tendency to regard queers as having “no future.” Examples:

Historical context and contemporary examples:

The Celluloid Closet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAidhQI0UGw (10:08)

“Bury Your Gays”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3YWz8SDRhE (6:58)

Goltz provides us with this media context in which a queer future has been characterized by… What?

Goltz says that it is into this queer futurity—as in “No Future”—that the It Gets Better campaign seeks to reach out to queer youth who may be in a state of isolation and despair to communicate that “you” have a future.

According to Goltz, the online campaign enables a small degree of intergenerational communication between queers, but also at a “safe” distance that can protect itself from charges of recruiting and predation. Do you understand what he’s saying there?

2. It Gets Better you-tube campaign

In response to increasing media coverage of “queer youth suicides,” Dan Savage initiated a youtube-based anti-suicide campaign aimed at queer youth in crisis. Dan and his partner Terry made one video and invited others to post their own:

Dan and Terry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IcVyvg2Qlo
2,113,350 views on October 19 2016

What were some of the diverse reactions to this initial video?

Goltz asserts that there has been a tendency to be either “pro-IGB” or “anti-IGB.” Goltz calls this a “tragic framing.”

“tragic framing” – “relies on good / bad or right / wrong polarities in critique;” “focuses intently on condemnation and absence, what IGB is not doing or is doing wrong, while bypassing IGB’s potentials and shared investments;” “Rather than fostering dialogue, it impedes it” (137).

in contrast…

“critical frustration”—“upsets and complicates under an ethic of fallibility, understanding that all accounts and all critiques are partial, flawed, and reductive” (137)

In his article, Goltz engages with IGB and queer critiques of IGB to come to a rather unique argument that “invests in the potentials of IGB while simultaneously engaging and working with critiques of the project” (137).

3. Queer critiques of IGB and 4. Goltz’s argument

I want to go through the “queer critiques” and Goltz’s engagement with them in the order that he does. I’m going to follow the sub-headings of the article and then move between the critiques and Goltz’s engagement with them:

a. A Magical ‘‘Better,’’ Hope, and Other ‘‘Betters’’

In this critique, the allegations levelled against It Gets Better—simplified here—include that for many queers “it doesn’t get better” after high school. The video is critiqued for saying: “you’ll move to an urban gay enclave, meet the man of your dreams, and have a wonderful, sparkly, magical life.”

Goltz points out that online reactions to such critiques tended to take up a very polarizing “tragic framing” response, saying—for example—“What are you proposing to tell people? That being a homo means a life of unremitting misery and torment, so you might as well top yourself now to save time? (Architecton, 2010)” (137).

Goltz writes:
The word ‘‘better’’ has no fixed definition, for its meaning is continually pushed and expanded through the contradictory multivocality of over a hundred voices. Queering ‘‘better’’ emerges as a creative and participatory process that deepens, extends, and contradicts the term as additional voices continue to enter the discussion. For some, ‘‘better’’ remains tied to normative systems of spouse, children, and career (Savage &Miller, 2011, p. 252). However, differing voices within the project articulate ‘‘better’’ as the cultivation of strength (p. 45), the forwarding of pro-LGBTQ legislation (p. 122), finding community (p. 209), creating community (p. 106), serving openly in the military (p. 63), and accumulating knowledge (pp. 168, 258). ‘‘Better’’ is realizing you aren’t alone (p. 51), talking to someone (p. 95), finding role models (p. 206), freedom (p. 126), seeing bullies change their ways of thinking (p. 115), feeling and giving love (p. 49), cultivating consciousness of multiple oppressions (pp. 24, 89), and living through hardship (pp. 45, 214). Rather than reducing IGB to Savage and Miller’s singular video, their one ‘‘better,’’ embracing the contradictory multivocality of IGB opens a space to continually queer what ‘‘better’’ is or might be. (138)

What is he saying here?

Example of Gabby Rivera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr5ix1UUnPI
33,451 views on October 19 2016

What is Gabby’s “better”?

Goltz asserts that both of these videos can both be held within the IGB archive and can illustrate the diversity of queer lives and futures. Both, arguably, are hopeful and encouraging. Both affirm a queer future that is livable.

Goltz writes, “IGB becomes more than a project of remapping distant futures, but a narration of an unfolding present commenting upon the campaign itself as it grows and expands. As we dialogue, share, listen, and process—as IGB develops—it gets better. With this shift of temporal emphasis, the IGB campaign offers a mediated form of queer intergenerational dialogue that radically shifts the ways queer aging, future, and hope circulate in discourse” (140).

Any thoughts on this?

b. Passivity and the Potentials of Mediated Generativity

Another critique that was frequently levelled at IGB was that it ostensibly did nothing to make things better for queer youth in the present. It was critiqued for being “too passive” and for being a very easy form of armchair activism: post a video, stay at home and watch as the view count rises or doesn’t.

Example of Put This On the Map: http://putthisonthemap.org/education/reteaching-gender-and-sexuality/

How does the video challenge IGB?

Goltz writes—and I think that this is important for us to remember when we analyze or critique a media text or campaign—“IGB does not, nor can it, address every dimension of social inequality. Yet, to only mark what IGB is not doing, fixating solely on absence as the logic for outright dismissal, suggests critical tragedy. A model of critical frustration approaches these critiques as vital to IGB’s multivocality, continually extending, frustrating, and innovating the project, without vilifying or erasing where IGB’s offers practical and radical interventions” (141).

What do you understand Goltz to be saying?

Thoughts? Questions?

In this section Goltz also introduces the concept of generativity. He writes, “Erikson’s concept of generativity (Kimmel, 2004) explains the satisfaction aging members of a community experience through mentoring, offering a part of themselves to younger generations. In procreative heteronormative relationships, generativity is normalized (via parenting, grand parenting, etc. . . .), yet generative opportunities in LGBTQ communities are often inhibited. Adult queers are often stigmatized as predatory ‘‘recruiters’’ who threaten the safety and sanctity of the (always assumed straight) youth. While restricted generativity between ‘‘older’’ and ‘‘younger’’ LGBTQ generations has negative impacts on aging LGBTQ communities (Goltz, 2009, 2010), this absence has reciprocal negative influences on queer youth—specifically restricted access to role models, future scripts, and experiences to counter oppressive cultural mythologies and the limitations of mainstream LGBTQ representation” (141). What do you understand Goltz to be saying here? What do you make of these claims?

IGB may offer a chance at “mediated generativity” where role models can offer “tools for generating / imagining possible lives, futures, and images of self” (141).

Thoughts? Comments?

c. Wrestling with Privilege: Critical Tragedy in IGB

This critique levelled against IGB is that  Dan and Terry’s video narrates such a privileged trajectory: “Critics tragically label Savage as an ‘‘A-gay,’’ a ‘‘narcissistic/meglomania (sic.) filled media whore,’’ part of the ‘‘marriage-hungry gay elites’’ (Web log comments to Blaze, 2011), and a white cis male with ‘‘uncritically assumed privilege‘‘ who claims ‘‘to speak for the entire LGBTQ community’’ (Nair, 2010). Critics write about IGB as falsely constructing a unified and normalized gay community for straight consumption, erasing rural, bisexual and transgendered experiences, while supporters argue that ‘‘[…] Oppressed Queer Studies Majors Process ‘It Gets Better’ To Death’’ (Lauri, 2010)” (142).

He writes, “While theories of privilege and normativity can be productively applied to Savage’s video, Savage (nor any other person) is not merely the embodiment of privilege” (143).

As GrrrlRomeo writes in response to such dismissals:

“Tyler Clemente was white. All his white cis privilege did not save him, nor made it easier for him apparently, because now he is dead. You’re alive, and that’s a privilege. So own your privilege. Tyler Clemente is getting buried with his” (143).

Goltz writes, “Savage (nor any other person) is not merely the embodiment of privilege. It bears reminder that no person is homonormative, but rather homonormativity is one way we can try to understand and label systems of personal/political investments” (143).

He writes, “While Savage is tied to IGB, reducing IGB to Savage undercuts the contradiction and multivocality of the project. Whatever Savage imagines / remembers needing to hear as a queer teen in crisis, which is what his video puts forth, will surely not resonate or connect to all LGBTQ youth (or adults who audience the project). The needs of LGBTQ youth are as diverse as the recounted experiences of LGBTQ teens, adults, and allies, and this is why diverse voices across raced, gendered, dis/abled, classed, and religious experiences are central to the project’s potential” (144).

“The power of IGB emerges through the ongoing multivocality and contradictions of its many stories, perspectives, and positionalities” (145).

He cautions us not to get stuck in a “critical tragedy” that “narrates a false binary of avid non-reflexive supporters or dismissive queer critics” of IGB (145).

In conclusion, Goltz writes, “Rejecting the existence of a singular and a definitive point to be missed, critical engagement will always, inescapably miss a point—actually, many points—as critique is always a choice and a reduction. Critical tragedy claims a point, a truth, wherein critical frustration navigates and dialogues across the complex systems of power, social location, and relation of the ‘many many centers’” (147). In this class we want to aim for critical frustration. We won’t always get there, but we want to open up dialogue and complexity rather than closing it down.

5. Next week, we will have a rather different class because we have a guest, Ivan Coyote. I structured the class to read Goltz this week and then next week we read Ivan’s own “It Gets Better” anthology. The introduction is a letter that adult Ivan writes to young Ivan. I think this anthology is aiming at generativity.

The GESJ majors have also been invited from 12:30-2:00 when Ivan is here, so we may have a few extra people next week. Come with questions and be ready to learn. The plan is that Ivan will leave us at 2:00. We will take a break and then reconvene for a discussion.

6. ASSIGNMENT TWO: Write a short essay on Coyote’s anthology One in Every Crowd that addresses how the stories reflect and / or challenge claims made about representations of queerness, futurity, fixity, homonormativity, sexuality, gender, race, class, media and cultural production as discussed in the course readings so far. Draw on the course readings and put them in conversation with Coyote’s work. Additionally, you can reflect on what Coyote’s writing taught you, what you struggled with and / or enjoyed. Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value: 18%

7. Return assignments

WC = word choice
CS = comma splice
SS = sentence structure
T = typo
SP = spelling
PUNC = punctuation
-Italicize titles of books, movies and television series
-Chapters and episodes are in quotation marks and not italicized
-“gay lifestyle” and “alternative lifestyle” are colloquial and not generally used in academic papers, unless the author is quoting colloquial use
-be cautious of providing more description of your media text than is necessary for your argument
-direct quotations must have page numbers in the citation
-those of you assessing representations as “positive,” “negative,” “unrealistic,” “realistic,” “accurate,” “true,” “false” or “believable” need to re-read Hilton-Morrow and Battles.
-be cautious of praising characters for being “respectable” or “classy”
If you want to discuss your paper or grade, please contact me after you have had time to reflect on the feedback.

October 6 2016
“Homonormativity and the politics of race”

Due today in class
ASSIGNMENT ONE:
 Select a media text—film, character, series, meme, tumblr, ad/s, etc—and draw on the first four readings in the course to write one short essay that considers the relationship between visibility and sexual identities in your chosen media text. You can write about the media text that you plan to analyze in your final paper. Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value 18%

Samantha King analyzes the media coverage of Sheryl Swoopes “coming out.” What are some of the main points she is making?

_1

Swoopes is quoted in People as explaining:

“I had a boyfriend, and the thought of it never crossed my mind. I always had gay friends and we were cool. We hung out. But I didn’t think about women that way. My marriage was beautiful, but we were both young, and we both grew up and went our separate ways.”

In Essence:

“I don’t call myself a bisexual. I enjoyed the sex I had with my ex- husband, yet I can’t picture myself ever sleeping with a man again. There’s something about being with another woman that makes me feel complete. Because I’ve been intimate with a man and, now, a woman, I know the difference. Many would say that people are born gay. For me, being gay is a choice. Before and during my marriage, I never once thought of being with a woman.”

How do you interpret what she is saying?

“Swoopes says she discovered only later in her life that she was gay.”

Is this what you understand Swoopes to be saying? Why or why not?

“What persuaded her to come aboard? It’s best expressed in Olivia’s slogan, she says: ‘Feel free.’“

Again, is this what you understand Swoopes to be saying? Why or why not? 

What is the difference?

As King writes, Swoopes “highlights the changing nature of her desire, and does so without claiming that the lesbian version is somehow more authentic than the straight version, as conventional accounts tend to do” (p. 277). What does it mean to say that she is not claiming that her lesbian identity is more authentic than her previous straight identity?

From ESPN (July 1, 2011):

“Swoopes didn’t seem to want to have — for lack of a better way to put it — a “coming out as straight again” interview. She wasn’t renouncing homosexuality or saying she wished she hadn’t said what she did in 2005. But the fact remained that she was no longer in a same-sex relationship.

Did this surprise me? Honestly, no. There were things Swoopes said in her initial interview with Granderson that had made me think her relationship then was about what kind of person Scott was and how their lives meshed together, regardless of whether Scott was male or female.

One of the things I wrote back then was this: The concept that sexuality is not just two polar opposites — heterosexual and homosexual — but lies on a spectrum, is a theory that has always been grasped to some degree. It came more to the forefront in American culture with Alfred Kinsey’s reports in the late 1940s and 1950s, when he introduced the zero-to-six “scale” and the then-shocking concept that not all people actually know where they are on the scale. Nor does everyone always stay in the same place.

I felt that in 2005, Swoopes was relating her own personal experience, not trying to represent a “universal” gay or lesbian experience. Because there is no such thing.

Last fall, though, I wasn’t certain what to write about Swoopes’ personal life, or how much she even wanted to discuss it. Once she got engaged to her fiancé, Chris, and returned to the WNBA, it seemed it was time to address it.

“If Chris and I had not gotten together, I’m not sure I’d be playing today,” Swoopes told me recently. “I know he has a lot to do with where I am in my life now.

“There is nothing I’ve been through in my life that I regret, or that I would go back and change. I feel like everything that happened — personally and professionally — I went through for a reason, and I learned from those things.”

There are sure to be gay people who are annoyed at and disappointed with Swoopes. Who feel she has co-opted and trivialized what for many is a sacred, soul-searching, life-altering experience of coming out.

I understand that sentiment. But if Swoopes was being true to what she felt in 2005, and she’s also being true to what she feels now … that just sounds like “life happens” to me. In retrospect, maybe she should not have felt compelled to label herself “gay” in 2005. But clearly she felt that was the right thing to do then.”

How would you characterize that response?

Swoopes believes that her sexuality is a choice. What does King contrast the discourse of sexuality as a choice with?

Letter to the editor in the gay magazine The Advocate:

“’How can you headline Sheryl Swoopes as a champion when she’s made numerous public statements that her sexuality was a choice? Coming out is a personal process, and maybe she’s still coming to grips with being a lesbian. But for God’s sake don’t grab the microphone to come out and then say it’s a choice. She just alienated a nice big chunk of her fan base, not to mention throwing more fuel on the antigay fire that’s sweeping our legislatures. If you’re going to be out, be proud; otherwise, please just shut up’ (Lauer, 2005, p. 10)” (p. 278).

What do you make of such a letter?

Here is a commentary from Outsports that gets at questions of choice and identity from another perspective, by Cherri Moore:

“It is amazing to me that after all the HOOPLA surrounding Sheryl Swoopes ‘coming out’ …. her recent marriage to a MAN get’s virtually no attention. Is she now UN-GAY?… Why is the fact that this woman went through a period of “trial” in her life NOT getting any press? It is obvious that the woman just like every other gay or lesbian man or woman in the world had at that time made a CHOICE to entertain the idea of being with someone of the same gender. Sheryl is just more proof that no one is born gay, it is a learned behavior brought on by experiences and circumstances in ones life. I am very happy for Sheryl – but the “gay agenda” driven PRESS can bite it. It is MORE than obvious the press is nothing but a bunch of HYPOCRITES more than willing to make a HUGE story out of someone supposedly being gay but having absolutely NOTHING to say when that same individual realizes it was NOTHING more than just a phase in their lives.”

How would you characterize Moore’s understanding of Swoopes’ sexuality? 

Going back to the question of whether sexuality is innate or a choice, how does the argument that specifically gay or lesbian sexualities are biological go?

Here is one brief example:

What is the evidence? What is the argument? What are the contradictions?

Why is that such an appealing argument?  

King on the choice / innate debate:

a.) The biological argument typically only leaves room for hetero and homo. Any fluid sexualities – likes Swoopes’ – are erased. Anyone who has sexual desires and love for both males and females in their lifetimes are confounding this idea that one is naturally and biologically hetero or homo.

b.) “Categorizing same-sex desire as innate and hence beyond individual control does not lead automatically to safety from discrimination or greater sexual freedom, although it does further entrench such desire as requiring explanation and hence pathological” (p. 278). What does she mean?

What do you make of her claims?

Race, class and gender as constituting factors in constructions of sexuality.

King discusses how Swoopes and Byears were represented very differently within the media. What does King write about the ways in which these two women were depicted in starkly different ways?

Byears is written about in the following ways: “Byears has tattoos and cornrows and gold teeth, and when she was growing up, she says she wanted to be a pimp,” wrote Quinn, Red, and O’Keeffe (2005, 6). “She isn’t the lipstick lesbian that some of the American public find palatable; she was the league thug, a tough rebounder who was known as the Dennis Rodman of the WNBA” (Quinn, Red, & O’Keeffe, 2005, 6).

 

Just as it is important to analyze the ways in which gay and lesbian identities get whitened in popular culture, King is also pointing out how we can also do intra-race analyses as well. We should always take note of gender and class-stratification within gay and lesbian representation.

King also says that when pro tennis star Martina Navratilova came out in 1981 she “was spurned by her sponsors not only because she was a lesbian, but because of Cold War ideologies that shaped her depiction as an emotionally cold, masculine, Czechoslovakian lesbian, and hence not properly American and not quite a woman” (p. 281).

MartinaNavratilova225

According to King how is homophobia depicted in the U.S. sports media?  

In the coverage of Swoopes’ coming out who had she already told about her relationship with Scott and who was supportive of her?  

ANOTHER EXAMPLE – not about homophobia, but transphobia

How would you analyze this video in relation to media claims about Black American communities?  

First off, what is heteronormativity?

In contrast, what is homonormativity?

“Lisa Duggan (2003) uses the term ‘homonormativity’ to describe the mainstreaming of lesbian and gay politics over the past two decades and the rise of an agenda in which equality is understood as ‘access to the institutions of domestic privacy, the ‘free’ market, and patriotism’” (p. 179).

Example: the following blog post

“Personally as a gay man, I don’t see the need for gay men to walk around the streets of Dublin wearing things and leather straps. That’s not something anyone should be subjected to! Straight men don’t do it? SO why do gay men need to! I don’t believe in gay pride at all and would certainly never go to one!

The only thing that really bothers me about the pride parade is the whole tight clothes/scantily clad aspect of it. Encouraging acceptance of other sexual orientations should not be used to promote a specific fetish which a small minority of people (gay or straight) have, and pushes a stereotype of limp-wristed, sex-obsessed screamers which isn’t representative of gay people at all. To me that’s just exhibitionists having the time of their lives. And that’s fine, but get your own fucking parade, lads.”

What is “homonormative” about this blog post?

One example of a discourse that generally does not have a lot of currency or power at the present time is from a group called “Gay Shame:”

“GAY SHAME is a Virus in the System.  We are committed to a queer extravaganza that brings direct action to astounding levels of theatricality.  We will not be satisfied with a commercialized gay identity that denies the intrinsic links between queer struggle and challenging power. We seek nothing less than a new queer activism that foregrounds race, class, gender, and sexuality, to counter the self-serving ‘values’ of gay consumerism and the increasingly hypocritical left.  We are dedicated to fighting the rabid assimilationist monster with a devastating mobilization of queer brilliance.  GAY SHAME is a celebration of resistance: all are welcome” (Weiss 90).

How does this political statement provide a contrast to homonormativity?

King writes, “Scholarship on homonormativity reveals that while marketability, visibility, marriage, and the military have become priorities for the mainstream movement, platforms that make visible differences among queer subjects, that challenge the entrenchment of the transparent White subject at the heart of lesbian and gay politics, or that tackle broader social forces like poverty or militarism, have been squeezed out of the picture” (Eng, Halberstam, & Mun ̃oz, 2005; Murphy, Ruiz, & Serlin, 2008)” (p. 274). What do you think she is telling us about homonormativity? And what gets erased through claims to homonormativity?

Have a great Fall Break and see you in two weeks. No office hours next week.

September 29 2016
The warm embrace of capitalism: The political economy of assimilationist images and the politics of visibility

Sidebar: If you are interested in local, Canadian and international films, the North Bay Film Festival starts today: http://www.northbayfilmfestival.ca/. A student pass for all films from Thursday to Sunday is $35.

Silkscreening pics here.

TODAY:
1. Discuss Reading 12:30-1:40
BREAK
2. Watch Transgender Parents 2:00-2:45
3. Group work: Do the upcoming assignment in relation to TP 2:45-3:05
4. Share group work

Why do profs put their own articles on syllabi? We are told to.

Do profs make money when they put their journal articles on a syllabus? No. Publishing articles is part of our paid work.

Can I critique the reading? YES! Of course.

To start, any comments on the reading? Thoughts? Reflections? Questions? Critiques?

The reading for today looks at a series called Queer As Folk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIavR_pk__E

BTW, all five seasons of Queer As Folk are available at the university library: http://cat.nucc.ca/uhtbin/cgisirsi/?ps=fON37w7LF3/CAN-NU-ECL/124810024/9

Based on the article, how was this series different than preceding representations of gays and lesbians?

Based on the article, how was this series similar to preceding representations of gays and lesbians?

My article aims to connect up:

  1. political economy of production / institutional context
  2. textual analysis
  3. audience reception with a specific focus on identity building / formation

We will discuss each of these points:

1. political economy of production / institutional context

a. Channel 4 (UK) – government-initiated affirmative action mandate [explain]

Showtime – profits, valuable viewers, capitalism

Channel 4 tests the series – Showtime capitalizes.

Without Channel 4’s mandate this show might never have happened. Gov’t regulations and affirmative action mandate made this happen and when it fit with capitalist motives it came to the U.S.

b. mainstream viewers with “edgy” tastes (Showcase ads) and less important is the “pink dollar” / the “pink dollar hoax” – What is the pink dollar? What is the pink dollar hoax?

See for example: http://www.gayadnetwork.com/files/nielsen2015.pdf

http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/us-lgbt-shoppers-make-more-trips-spend-more-than-average.html

c. vertical and horizontal integration = synergy
What is synergy?

How does synergy privilege mainstream media over independent media?

A show like QAF will be seen by millions more viewers than the independent doc Transgender Parents that we will watch later in class.

“While entering popular culture is undeniably an important political objective for a marginalized group in terms of visibility, it also marks a moment of commodification: identities have the potential to create profits for large media conglomerates such as Viacom, which owns niche market television networks including Showtime, LOGO for ‘‘LGBT viewers,’’ and Black Entertainment Television” (194).”

d. valued viewers = white, middle-class / affluent, cisgender, heterosexual

2. the text / textual analysis

The characters on QAF are largely white, affluent, gender normative, cisgender (just like the target demo).

Gay men:
tumblr_m60e21gvwm1qbopvjo1_500 hqdefault-1 qaf1 queer-as-folk-bathhouse

 

Lesbians:

How are these representations in keeping with mainstream ideas about sex and gender?

The series is pushing at boundaries and playing it safe at the very same time.

Racist–Katsuo, Emmett’s “boyfriend”

Classist – Michael’s mom

3. audience reception

What audience reception is (actual viewer responses) and what it isn’t (speculation!).

40 participants: surveys / focus groups / interviews
Outline the strengths and weaknesses of each research method.

What are some of the findings?

“They illustrate Kellner’s point that popular cultural texts ‘‘provide materials out of which we forge our very identities’’ as well as Fejes’s (2000) suggestion that ‘‘people ‘coming out’ search the … media environment to understand their feelings and sense of difference’’ (p. 115)” (202).

This echoes Foucault from last week: “While Lucas and Leo will have had access to discourses concerning gay sexuality and identities outside of QAF, their comments suggest that QAF offered knowledge that, in turn, was accepted as a form of self-knowledge to which these viewers eventually subscribed. To subscribe in this context is first to subscribe to cable in order to view QAF, and to subscribe to a dominant version of sexuality as a salient and meaningful identity, which in the case of non-heterosexual identities must be claimed and cultivated. Lucas’s statement that QAF ‘‘was just part of [his] whole personal identification as a gay man’’ suggests that QAF provided some of the resource material in producing Lucas as a specific kind of modern sexual subject—a gay man”(204). Explain.

 “Watching QAF was not strictly a solitary practice used in the production of individual gay identities. Viewers’ use of QAF to cultivate and validate gay identities extended to a desire to enjoy queer community together with other QAF viewers” (204).

“Again, it becomes clear how important this rare depiction of gay life is to some of the gay men who watch the series. For Ian and Jack, as well as two other white, middle-class, gay men in this study, going to Woody’s facilitated gay personal identity building and maintenance, added a queer community dimension to watching QAF, as well as a further privatized class-based dimension” (205).

QAF, Woody’s, and Toronto’s Church Street offer opportunities for queer identification, role modeling, and community building, and they are—at least in part—for profit and privatized consumption” (205).

What might be an issue with have queer identity formation in these privatized spaces?

Who was in the best position to produce their identity in relation to QAF?

ANALYSIS:

a. Mainstream media has tended to produce reps that over-represent privileged queers. Their only difference from the valued viewer is that they are gay.

Even on a series like OITNB our protagonist is still the person who is closest in identity to the valued viewer. She is white, middle-class, cisgender and gender normative.

b. Issues of privatization

Money driven operations tend to privilege those with race, class and male privilege.

Link to M v. H – privatization of costs leads to gay marriage in Canada

When given a choice between the state supporting M., or offloading that expense onto H., an individual Canadian citizen, what did the court decide? Why might that be? 

“Cossman suggests that while all previous cases seeking equal marital rights for gays and lesbians were unsuccessful—including access to private bereavement leave and public pension benefits for same-sex spouses—when faced with the prospect of the state supporting M. or off-loading this expense onto a private citizen, H., the Supreme Court opted in favor of privatizing the expense. She quotes the Supreme Court decision as ‘alleviating the burden on the public purse by shifting the obligation to provide support for needy persons to those parents and spouses who have the capacity to provide support to these individuals’ (M. v. H. at para. 93. See also at para. 106)’’ (p. 490)” (207).

Privatized gaybourhoods

What tends to happen when mainstream representations and legal rights are accorded on the basis of privatizing expenses?

“… [M]arginalized groups are invited, or forced in the case of M. v. H., to literally buy their way into the power structure. It is not that we do not need these images or rights, but rather we must be wary of normative structures that use profits and the off-loading of government expenses as the bottom line for offering recognition, representation, and rights to marginalized groups. These capitalist and neoliberal principles impose class based advancement—which implicitly favors those with race and sex privilege—and leaves many marginalized groups and individuals with little access” (207). Explain.

“[…[A]s long as there is a televisual paucity of American and Canadian representations of queers, queer diversity, and queer communities, and existing representations favor those with privilege, this research points to the ways in which gays, lesbians, and queers who fall outside of demographics assessed as ‘valuable’ may continue to be excluded from popular representation and the apparently validating experience of consuming commodified versions of ‘oneself’ on television” (205-206).

In this class, we will look at mainstream and independent media to see if they are different at all. If yes, how and why? If no, how are they similar?

Transgender Parents http://www.transgenderparentsdoc.com/

DUE NEXT WEEK – ASSIGNMENT ONE: Select a media text—film, character, series, meme, tumblr, ad/s, etc—and draw on the first four readings in the course to write one short essay that considers the relationship between visibility and sexual identities in your chosen media text. You can write about the media text that you plan to analyze in your final paper. Further details for the short assignments can be found in the Assignments section of the syllabus. Value 18%

Watch Transgender Parents and then—in groups—draw parallels or comparisons to concepts in the first four readings in the course. How does this film challenge or illustrate claims or observations made in the readings.

September 22 2016
Visibility

Screen-printing tomorrow. Details here! All welcome.

 

NUFA Bursaries!

The Nipissing University Faculty Union is offering its annual Textbook Bursary. The application deadline for the fall term is November 15th, and students can receive anywhere from $50 to $100 to cover the cost of textbooks. You are required to submit receipts and here is the link to the application form: 

http://www.nufa.ca/cms-assets/documents/148670-532873.textbook-bursary-revised-oct-2013.pdf

Learning Opportunity Awards are also available to students to support projects, learning experiences, and research that is self-initiated. The learning opportunity must also be supported by a faculty member and not related to coursework / credit. The maximum award is $800 per student within an academic year. Here is a link to the application form: 

http://www.nufa.ca/cms-assets/documents/226324-954174.loa-revised-application-2015.pdf

For those of you looking to publish papers: http://www.freireproject.org/sprinkle/

GEM elections today (I think)

Today’s reading takes us through some of the ways that scholars engage in media analysis. We’re going to talk more about “stereotypes,” “positive and negative” representations, as well as the “work” that images do. This conflict between politics that privilege assimilation versus those that privilege sexual liberation and deconstruction is also a theme that is going to persist throughout the entire course. The early weeks give us shared language and concepts. Then we will move along to specific examples that will use this language of queer theory, assimilation, fixed identities, fluid identities and the “work” that queer representations accomplish.

Any comments on the reading? Anything of particular interest? Disagreement? Questions? Observations?

I want to start today by offering some historical context that helps us to understand “the birth of the modern homosexual.”

In the three volumes of the History of Sexuality philosopher and historian Michel Foucault traces a Western history of sexuality.

Ancient Greeks: focus on excess

Post-Enlightenment: sinful acts

Ascetics influence: concerned not only with sexual transgressions of the flesh, but also of the mind—sinful desires

Confession in ever greater detail. Even desires that have never been acted upon are to be noted, controlled and disciplined. Subjects should feel bad about them, confess them and root them out.

Sexuality becomes a moral issue.

Sexuality becomes a source of self-knowledge that supposedly tells us something essential about who we are.

In making sexuality a moral issue, sexuality became increasingly regulated / policed by the Church, by law and through science and medicine.

Influenced by these confessions sexologists began cataloging these perversions.

Example: Psychopathia sexualis (1886). A detailed taxonomy of sexual deviance.

The back cover of the 1965 paperback version reads: “FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE: This is one of the books that shook the world. It brought about a total reevaluation of European and American thinking about sex. For almost eighty years this famous work of Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing was hidden from the masses by a cloak of medical jargon. At last the shroud of ignorance has been cast aside so this ‘forbidden’ book can now be of use to those who feel that only through knowledge of sexual disturbances can we fully cope with the dangers they present.”

These “perversions” are not detailed to simply comprehend human desire and sexual interests, but they are explicitly about attempting to prevent a wide range of sexual activities from ever emerging and to restrain anyone who desires or is already actively engaged in “perverse” activities. Foucault’s claim is that this field of study reflects “a stubborn will to nonknowledge” which seeks “not to state the truth but prevent its very emergence” (Wilchins, 2011).

Foucault identifies shifts from:

acts to thoughts;

external discipline to internal discipline; and

sexuality saying little about us as people to saying a lot.

Within these shifts there is the emergence of the belief that certain types of sexual desires make you a certain kind of person.

In these shifts we find the “birth of the modern homosexual” where men having sex with men no longer means that you are simply a man who has sex with men, it now means that you are a particular type of person – a homosexual. Foucault says that we have a new sexual “species.”

Sidebar: the muted discourse of lesbianism

Discourses produce identities / subjectivities.

Denaturalizing the Western discourse. Example: MSM

Foucault is not saying that we should give up our sexual identities, but he just wants to point out that sexual identities such as gay and straight “scarcely existed 200 years ago, but which today forms the core of one’s identity. He wants us to ask how such identities are created, what effects they have on us, and whose ends they serve” (Wilchins, 2011, 57). Any thoughts on this?

In terms of discourses producing identities, Foucault argues that discourses about homosexuality emerged out of science and medicine with the goal of stigmatizing homosexuality, marking it as deviant and perverse, in order to control and limit it. But in creating the discourse about the apparent existence of homosexuality, those who sought to control it inadvertently placed homosexuality in the realm of discourse and knowledge.

This “made possible the formation of a ‘reverse’ discourse: homosexuality began to speak on its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or ‘naturality’ be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified” (Foucault, 1976, 180).

A discourse meant to regulate and prevent “perverts,” now becomes a prized identity. In turn, how is this new claimed identity a new way of regulating desires, identities and practices?

Foucault argues that all discourses come with their own terms of regulation.

So why is this important to queer media? we want to examine these representations and ask how are these also new forms of regulation? What effects do these identities have on us? Whose ends do they serve? Do they serve the status quo if we are just inserting queer people into the existing system? Do they upset the status quo? Do these representations challenge the form of sexuality or just the content? To put that another way, do the reps simply substitute straight for gay and trans for cis? Or do these representations unravel sex / gender / sexuality binaries?

The authors chart two factors that led to the rapid growth in representations of lesbians and gay men in media starting in the 1990s. What are the two factors that they outline?

Prior to this sudden explosion of representation media scholars published papers on the “symbolic annihilation” of non-straight people. What does “symbolic annihilation” refer to?  

This still does completely answer the question of why queer visibility matters. What are some of the reasons that they gave?

Foucault observed that the stigmatizing discourse of homosexuality enabled people to claim homosexual as a positive identity simply because the idea suddenly existed in the realm of accepted knowledge. Similarly, the chapter that we read for today says: “If it exists as a publicly acknowledged reality, people have the opportunity to identify with it” (79).

As the authors write, “The fact that many people might not know GLBTQ individuals in their daily life gives media images an extra weight” (79).

The authors outline “stereotype” analysis. What is it?

So what do organizations like GLAAD say about stereotypes? See for yourself: http://www.glaad.org/ and http://www.glaad.org/whereweareontv15

In contrast what do they advocate for?

And what are some of the limits of such an approach?

A new 2016 publication tackles this subject: http://www.mqup.ca/making-out-in-the-mainstream-products-9780773546783.php

What are the politics of respectability?

What is a misrepresentation?

As discussed in last week’s reading, Critical Cultural studies considers:
Production + The text = encoding
Text + Readers / viewers = decoding

“[M]eaning making is understood as a shared process between the encoders and decoders” (28).

Hall does not believe that we can take any meaning from a text. Rather we are working with shared cultural meanings. We encode and decode in roughly similar ways.

Example of stereotype from reading: “representation of Black men as poor and lazy”

Critical cultural studies seeks an analysis that asks what does the image do? What does it accomplish?

Rather than stereotype, you are more likely to encounter the language of ideology or discourse in critical media studies. Discuss.

If time allows, we will discuss hegemony.

According to Lisa Duggan, homonormativity “is a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions — such as marriage, and its call for monogamy and reproduction — but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (96). What do you think this means?

There is an ongoing debate / divide about whether it is desirable to seek full integration into the systems as they exist or if queers want to trouble and transform it. That is a debate we will track through the entire course.

Next week, Sheryl Swoopes.

September 15, 2016

Remember: Silkscreening next week Friday from 1-4 at the Monastery! Bring shirts! Or tote bags! Or whatever fabric you want to print on!

When we talk about “sexuality” what are we generally referring to?

Would you say that sexualities are innate? Learned? Both? Does it feel like people just are whatever they are?

Up first, some basic and not-so-basic terminology that comes up in relation to sexuality and sexual minorities.

What does sexual orientation” refer to?

What does sexual identity refer to?

What does gender identity refer to?

What does heterosexual refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?

Heterosexuality tends to be “unmarked” and universalized.” What does this mean?

The reading suggests that not all heterosexuals are valued equally. What do you think about the “Charmed Circle” diagram on page 15?

 

What do you think that the heterosexuality questionnaire is trying to get at / illuminate?

“While everyone has a sexual identity, sexual identities matter in a different way to those with marginalized ones” (8). What do you think they mean by this?

What do you think about that assertion?

What does homosexual refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?

What does gay refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?  

What does lesbian refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?

What does bisexuality refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?

What does pansexual refer to?

What does asexual refer to?
Where might people who identify as asexual fit in relation to queer identities?

What is the history of the colloquial term “straight”?

What does transgender refer to?

What does transsexual refer to? 

What does Trans* refer to?

What do ze and hir refer to?

A recent mass email that I received uses this language: “Leslie Feinberg worked up to a few days before hir death in November 2014 to ready the 20th anniversary Author’s Edition of *Stone Butch Blues*, to make it available to all, in free-download and at-cost-print editions. This action was one part of hir entire life work as a revolutionary communist to change the world in the struggle for justice and liberation from oppression. Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of “transgender liberation” in hir theoretical nonfiction book, Transgender Warriors: Making History.”

“They” as a singular gender neutral pronoun: http://www.americandialect.org/2015-word-of-the-year-is-singular-they

What does cisgender refer to?

What does queer refer to? What is its history? Is it in common use today?

As Hilton-Morrow and Battles write, queer “rejects gay rights politics rooted in identity categories” and is “anti-assimilationist (13). What do you think that means?

What does genderqueer refer to?

What does intersexed refer to?

Any thoughts or questions about these definitions or additions that you would like to make?  

Essentialist or Social Constructionist (16)

What is an essentialist understanding of sexuality?

What is a social constructionist understanding of sexuality?

What do you think about these perspectives? Questions?

What questions would you have for people who hold them? Can we answer these questions?  

GAY VS QUEER POLITICS

Gay politics:

What does identity politics refer to?

What does it mean to say that identity politics are assimilationist?

What are they assimilating into?

Queer politics:

Implicit in Queer Theory is a deconstruction of the gender and sexuality binaries like male / female; masculine feminine; hetero / homo. What does that mean?

Hilton-Morrow and Battles assert that in each case one side of the binary is privileged and universalized while the “Other” is devalued and marginalized.

In the three volumes of the History of Sexuality philosopher and historian Michel Foucault traces a Western history of sexuality.

Ancient Greeks: focus on excess

Post-Enlightenment: sinful acts

Ascetics influence: concerned not only with sexual transgressions of the flesh, but also of the mind—sinful desires

Confession in ever greater detail. Even desires that have never been acted upon are to be noted, controlled and disciplined. Subjects should feel bad about them, confess them and root them out.

Sexuality becomes a moral issue.

Sexuality becomes a source of self-knowledge that supposedly tells us something essential about who we are.

In making sexuality a moral issue, sexuality became increasingly regulated / policed by the Church, by law and through science and medicine.

Influenced by these confessions sexologists began cataloging these perversions.

Example: Psychopathia sexualis (1886). A detailed taxonomy of sexual deviance.

The back cover of the 1965 paperback version reads: “FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE: This is one of the books that shook the world. It brought about a total reevaluation of European and American thinking about sex. For almost eighty years this famous work of Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing was hidden from the masses by a cloak of medical jargon. At last the shroud of ignorance has been cast aside so this ‘forbidden’ book can now be of use to those who feel that only through knowledge of sexual disturbances can we fully cope with the dangers they present.”

These “perversions” are not detailed to simply comprehend human desire and sexual interests, but they are explicitly about attempting to prevent a wide range of sexual activities from ever emerging and to restrain anyone who desires or is already actively engaged in “perverse” activities. Foucault’s claim is that this field of study reflects “a stubborn will to nonknowledge” which seeks “not to state the truth but prevent its very emergence” (Wilchins, 2011).

Foucault identifies shifts from:

acts to thoughts;

external discipline to internal discipline; and

sexuality saying little about us as people to saying a lot.

Within these shifts there is the emergence of the belief that certain types of sexual desires make you a certain kind of person.

In these shifts we find the “birth of the modern homosexual” where men having sex with men no longer means that you are simply a man who has sex with men, it now means that you are a particular type of person – a homosexual. Foucault says that we have a new sexual “species.”

Sidebar: the muted discourse of lesbianism

Discourses produce identities / subjectivities.

Denaturalizing the Western discourse. Example: MSM

Foucault is not saying that we should give up our sexual identities, but he just wants to point out that sexual identities such as gay and straight “scarcely existed 200 years ago, but which today forms the core of one’s identity. He wants us to ask how such identities are created, what effects they have on us, and whose ends they serve” (Wilchins, 2011, 57). Any thoughts on this?

In terms of discourses producing identities, Foucault argues that discourses about homosexuality emerged out of science and medicine with the goal of stigmatizing homosexuality, marking it as deviant and perverse, in order to control and limit it. But in creating the discourse about the apparent existence of homosexuality, those who sought to control it inadvertently placed homosexuality in the realm of discourse and knowledge.

This “made possible the formation of a ‘reverse’ discourse: homosexuality began to speak on its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or ‘naturality’ be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified” (Foucault, 1976, 180).

A discourse meant to regulate and prevent “perverts,” now becomes a prized identity. In turn, how is this new claimed identity a new way of regulating desires, identities and practices?

Foucault argues that all discourses come with their own terms of regulation.

In this class we are also asking questions “upstream” of those categories and asking “what is this discourse about “being gay”? Or “being straight”?

Heteronormativity is also integral to queer theory: “It describes the way in which heterosexual privilege is woven into the fabric of society” (20).

Analyzing media and identity

Social scientific approach: Identity Prior to Media (26)

Within this approach, “[I]dentity categories are treated as generally stable, identifiable, and self-evident” (25). Meaning?

Presume that there are “positive” and “negative” images, and “misrepresentations.”

Questions of “accuracy” (27).

Hypodermic needle approach. This is generally regarded as a perspective held by “very few scholars” (27).

Questions of identity construction are left off the table.

Critical / Cultural Approach: Media Prior to Identity (27)

Media discourses produce identity: “In this view, we do not come with our identities pre-formed, but, rather, we continually negotiate our ideas about others and ourselves in conversation with the media” (29).

This approach is more overtly tied to social justice and does not strive to be objective. Critical / Cultural Studies assumes that social inequalities are mirrored in media and that changing media can be one way of trying to bring about greater social equality.

Critical Cultural studies considers:
Production + The text = encoding
Text + Readers / viewers = decoding

“[M]eaning making is understood as a shared process between the encoders and decoders” (28).

Hall does not believe that we can take any meaning from a text. Rather we are working with shared cultural meanings. We encode and decode in roughly similar ways.

Increasingly we need to regard media consumers as media producers or “media users.” Examples: remixing videos, creating memes, fanfiction, online comments, online columns.

We will consider “media as a series of social practices and relationships between texts, audiences/users/consumers, institutions (corporations, production companies, governments), and technologies” (31).

These are all important aspects.

The guiding questions provided at the end of the chapter are useful and might be a useful starting point in thinking about what you might like to write about in this class.

HAVE I DONE ATTENDANCE?

Next week—visibility!

September 8 2016

Welcome back!

1. A little bit about me.
2. Events!

Silkscreening on Friday, September 23, 1-4 in the basement of the Monastery – our shirt will say Social Justice Studies

Ivan Coyote – Public talk and Q&A in the Theatre with book signing to follow on Wednesday, October 26 from 7-9:30.

Ivan will be coming to our class on Thursday, October 27 from 12:30-2:00. We will be reading Ivan’s anthology One in Every Crowd and can discuss this in class. This is a very unusual opportunity for us and we have Jen Gordon—the sexual violence prevention coordinator—to thank for this.

3. Overview of Queer Media: What is at stake?

4. Go over the syllabus, assignments and course