Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nikki Fenmore

This is a video I created about the beautiful and legendary Miss Nikki Fenmore.  I interviewed her on April 24, 2008.  Photography by Kaitlin Dale.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

some thoughts from recent Disch readings:

Where Race and Gender Meet

By: Helen Zia


“That is all other communities of color have a similar prosecution rate for hate crimes against the women in their communities – namely zero.” (Pg. 497)


“…women are mere shadows in the existing civil rights framework.” (Pg. 498)


“There is a serious difficulty with pushing for use of federal and state hate remedies.” (Pg. 498)


“By taking women of color out of the legal shadows, out of invisibility, all women make gains toward full human dignity and human rights.” (Pg. 499)


            This article was really intriguing to me because honestly, I have never really thought of the difference in hate crimes, be it male or female induced, and whether the subject is male or female.  I have always just assumed that it affected people as a grand whole, but I think it is definitely important to rethink hate crimes in the sense of gender rights and how they are affected.  I mean, when I innately think of a hate crime, I think of someone hating on me because of my sexual orientation.  I have never thought of a hate crime being committed because of my sexual gender, but isn’t this a huge problem for women?  Is not a man beating his wife a form of a hate crime?  His blatant ignorance of human rights is directly affecting her due to her gender, hence why he is committing a hate crime.  Then why isn’t this considered a hate crime…but rather a form of domestic abuse?  Would he still be hitting her if she were a man, or would he think twice about pummeling down another male?  It is because women are forced into a subservient social role that men justify their superiority, and even then that superiority complex indeed is a form of hated as well.  By feeling superior, or placing yourself among that tier, is a person not exuding a type of hatred for someone of a lower status?  Maybe not hatred in the sense of wanting to kill someone, but most definitely hatred in a way that classifies people into ranks and therefore allows those people to justify gender responsibilities.  I would even go as far to say that men are even taught to hate women to a certain extent, in order to perpetuate their ego’s in a patriarchal driven society.


Homophobia in Straight Men

By: Terry A. Kupers


“When this man arrived at the prison at 19 he was beat up and raped a number of times, and on several other occasions prison toughs fought with each other for the opportunity to use him sexually…he learned it was safer to become a woman.” (Pg. 500)


“In prison, ‘butt-fucking’ is the symbol of dominance.” (Pg. 500)


“…Men are always building something that they believe will keep them off the bottom of the heap, out of range of those who would ‘shaft’ them.” (Pg. 500)


            Hmmm, becoming what we are not in order to survive this thing we called life.  How poignant.  Like, in this example, the young male “became” a woman in order to survive, and that only reminds me of this issue of masculinity, and how as a gay man I constantly have to consider how I portray myself.  It would be so much easier for me to just conform with the “normal” ideals of a man and dress like everyone else and display this idea of hyper masculinity, just so I am not “found out,” but honestly I feel like a phony doing that.  But I would also be lying if I said that I have never done that before; pretended to be straight when I clearly knew that I was more drawn to Johnny in Chemistry class rather than Kara in Math.

            I like how “butt-fucking” in prison is considered a form of dominance.  Honestly, as a gay man I find it to be about the same sort of thing.  I am constantly faced with the question, “Are you a top or a bottom?”  Do I have to choose?  But I know exactly what responsibilities come along with either role and what is expected of me as either the giver or taker.  But what happens if I don’t fall into either category; what if I want to be both, then what?  I mean, in general though, being a “giver” usually coincides with being the more masculine actor within the relationship, and thus by being the more masculine figure, he/she is expected by society to be dominating toward whomever assumes the feminine role.  So in essence, “butt-fucking” is just one tactic used to reinforce gender norms, if not by gay men, then most definitely by the general population.  This is why it is used in the prison really…to establish who are the women and who are the men, and depending whether you are fucking, or being fucked, you are thereby being forced into both a sexual and mental caste system.


How Safe is America?

By: Desiree Taylor


“As a mixed race, half Black, half white woman born into poverty, I have never felt safe here.” (Pg. 511)


“Everyday in this country people fie from exploitation that originates right here at home. Some who toil and slave in service to a system of wealth and prestige, who don’t even earn a living for their trouble, slit their wrists out of desperation and pain.” (Pg. 512)


“But it’s impossible for me to suddenly forget that the United States empire was built upon and is still maintained by abuses against the poor and minorities.” (Pg. 512)


“I learned that employers would keep employees just under 40 hours a week, so that officially they were not full-time and therefore not entitled by law to benefits.” (Pg. 513)


“[Terrorist attacks] are attacks on freedom and justice itself.  But how is the possible when here at home justice, freedom, and the American Dream are denied to so many?” (Pg. 513)


            Am I safe in America?  We discussed this a lot in class actually, where I really thought about this idea of safety and whom America’s government really protects.  I mean, as a gay man who is open to the world about who I am and how I identify myself, am I safe, at or least protected by, my home country?  I would have to be on the fence with this one.  I mean, on one hand I am fortunate enough to be a legal citizen of America, and I come from a loving home where I have two wonderful parents who are paying an obsene amount of money for me to be receiving the education I am thankfully getting.  However, on the other hand, althought I am “free” under the American Constitution, I still have to consider a lot of things when I am out in public.  Things such as what I am wearing, how I am portraying myself, am I with my boyfriend, can I kiss my boyfriend, god forbid I hold my boyfriend’s hand, etc.  Heterosexual couples don’t have to consider these things because they are among the norm; their interaction is most commonly seen within the public eye and therefore the general populus has accepted it as the status quo.  In essence, if I have to constantly weigh how I have to live my life in order to be “acceptable” among everyone else, am I indeed free?  If I am chained to these fears of being “caught” for not living up to the norm, am I free?

            Indeed this article went on to discuss how the poor of also not free.  Let’s be honest, it is the poor that this country exploits the most, mainly because one, they can, and two, the poor have nowhere to turn.  If someone is an illegal citizen of the states, what job opportunities do they have?  Slim to none really.  Therefore, anything that will pay them enough to survive is there only hope, and thus major retail giants take advantage of these situations and barely pay these poor people to work under horrid conditions.  But what choice do they have?  Even if these people do become citizens, do they have any better of a chance to rise in the ranks of life?  No.  Not without an undergraduate college degree they don’t.  And even now, a master’s degree is becoming so important that soon even I, an American born man with an undergraduate degree from a private and respected university institution, will not be able to get a job without one. 

Basically, without that citizenship or a college degree, this country can be economically cruel to people.  And what does someone need in order to get an education?  Money.  Lots and lots of money.  So riddle me this: if someone flees to America in search of finding a better life for themselves and their family, without a working visa how can they find a job?  Oh yes, find a company that will hire them illegally and will pay them next to nothing.  But this job will never allow them to save any money in order to get an education and therefore they will forever be stuck in the social class entitled, “poor.”  And thus, with nowhere to go, and no way of rising up in the social and economic system of America, these poor immigrants are left with barely a hope in “the land of the free.”  Thoughts?


Wielding Masculinity Inside Abu Ghraib

By: Cynthia Enloe


“Why did one American woman military guard in particular captured the attention of so many media editors and ordinary viewers and readers…” (Pg. 515)


“Women by conventional contrast, were expected to appear in wartime as mothers and wives of soldiers…” (Pg. 515)


“The bad apple explanation.” (Pg. 516) à nothing needs to be reassessed or reformed


“Was it significant that so many of the abuses perpetrated on the Iraqi prisoners were deliberately sexualized?” (Pg. 518)


“Organizational climate?” (Pg. 518)


            This whole article just made me think about how people always freak out whenever a woman assumes masculine roles within life.  In fact most of the controversy about the scandal concerning the American soldiers who sexually and physically abused the male prisoners was the fact that a woman partook in the event.  The idea that a woman could potentially hold enough power over a man to sexually abuse him is appalling to America, and what I find most sickening about this article is that the media focused more on the idea of a woman committing the act, rather than the inexcusable act itself.  And what I find hilarious is this idea of the “organizational climate” to which people have justified her actions as temporary insanity due to her constant contact among male soldiers.  That this climate of war and being around a primarily masculine territory had in some way changed her womanly morals and replaced them with violent masculine traits.  Basically, according to America, a woman cannot innately be violent, and thus this woman had to have learned to do such an act from the people she was around. 

            I also really like this question of whether or not it was important that many of the abuses were sexualized.  I think that it is very important, mainly because I think sexuality is such a touchy subject for human beings alike, so when sexual boundaries are crossed the offense is taken that much heavier.  These soldiers knew exactly what buttons they would be pushing by forcing these prisoners, who come from a background of homophobic politics, to mimic homosexual acts.  They threw these men around as if they were nothing, objectifying them just like the men within the prisoner’s culture have objectified women for centuries. Whether or not these acts were intended to a particular commentary on how the prisoner’s cultural beliefs, I believe these soldiers did these specific acts on purpose.  What do you think?


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Desiring China part 2

This is the first half of my notes on Desiring China...again, this will be boring.  These are just some points I liked from the book, but I have yet to go into any detail about how I felt about them.  So here are some glorious notes...please don't fall asleep.

Desiring China (first half)



-first melodrama to captivate Chinese audiences



-realist portrayal of life

-taught the viewers to embody desires

            -gender class and positions

-it taught longing (?) (pg. 37)

            -repressed people allowed and deserve desire (?)



-“popular culture in China, as elsewhere, functions as a contradictory cultural site, where domination, opposition, and cultural creation coexist.” (pg. 40)


-“This relationship of culture to power is often mediated through such public culture phenomena as television.” (pg. 40)


-impossible to escape its (Yearnings) tenor in the lives of everyone

-show somehow became a social forece in people’s interpretations of it’s significance for their lives (pg. 41)

-personification of patriotism & nationness in Huifang’s character

            -giving up everything for the her family

            -aka a country giving things up for their nation

                        -war justifies in this context (?)

-Huifang represents China

-intellectual hero: Luo Gang

            -embodies hope

            -China needs its intellectuals (pg. 60)

            -represents masculinity

-Modleski says that American heroes are feminized and have an appreciated of domesticity

            -Luo Gang in not effeminate.


-“Yearnings demonstrates the capacity of allegory to generate a range of distinct meanings simultaneiously.” (pg. 61)


-the gay people in China are predominantly 30 or younger

            -older generations do not come out?

            -being gay is about sex, not part of culture? (pg. 87)

            -socialism a big factor

-cultural citizenship à ESSENSE OF BELONGING (pg. 94)

-homosexuality is not illegal, but considered immoral

            -police use “public morality” to close bars and to arrest people. (pg. 96)

-gay kindship and the need to carry on the patrilineal line

-Dennis Altman (pg. 90)

            -global gay identity (?)

            -what constitutes a universal gay identity?

            -“contests sexual rather than gender norms; replaces the idea of the male…” (???)


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

WARING: most boring blog of all time...

so...just as an FYI, this blog is just some notes from Rofel's Desiring China.  This is just the second half of them...the first half still needs to be typed up.  This post is literally just notes without any kind of analytical work on my part...just what I found captivating as I read.  

Desiring China (second half of book):


Dennis Altman:

-global gay identity

-what constitutes a universal gay identity?

-it “contests sexual rather than gender norms; replaces the idea of male homosexuals as would-be women with new self-concepts; leads to primary homosexual relationships rather than to marriage within homosex on the side; expressed sexual identity openly; develops a public gay political consciousness; and creates a ense of community based on sexuality.” (pg. 90)

-Gay Kinship

-Should you tell your parents that you are gay?  Should you take care of your parents by getting married and having a child?  The focus mainly on parents (pg. 97)

-the idea of coming out as selfish and only causing grief to parents

-Wang Tao talking about how gay men shouldn’t follow “western” ways of being gay; that China should create their only social construction of the term. (pg. 98)


-“If the passion to pursue the meaningfulness of sexual desire lies at the heart of creating cultural citizenship, the same passion propels some Chinese gay men in transnational networks.” (pg. 106)

-the ideas of culture citizenship and cultural belonging


Legislating Desire

Homosexuality, Intellectual Property Rights, and Consumer Fraud


-the case between Fang Gang and Mr. Xu (pg. 135)

-the writer mentioned a salon where gay men met up at for Valentines Day.  He didn’t mention the name of the bar, but rather the name of the bar manager, who once the publication came out, lost his job, his fiancé, and his friends from being outed by such a book.

-this idea that homosexuality is ok under wraps, but once exposed to the public, action must take place to put it back under the covers.

-another case about two women living together (emotional and sexually), and one fo th father’s reporting “hooliganism”.

-he reported their actions as reprehensible that was damaging to public morals since their relationship was carried out in view of other townspeople.

-these cases are known by most Chinese people mainly because gay legal cases are rarely picked up, so these garnered more attention because of the topic of homosexuality associated with them.


Property Rights

-Xuan Bo asked to work on adapting Tale of a Demoted Official for the Shenyang Opera House (pg. 141)

-it aired on television, but did not mention his name at all

-he changed singing stylization

            -argued that stylization is not covered under intellectual property rights law

-China’s Copywrite Protection Authentication Committee concluded that certain scenes were entirely different and they supported Bo’s case.

-Bo’s lawyer argues that “It’s like a painting.  After I have finished the painting, I sell the painting to you.  As the buyer, you enjoy full rights of ownership, but the rights of creation are still in my hands as the painter.” (pg. 141)

-Bo won the case.

-possessive individualism


Desiring China

China’s Entry into the WTO


-“China’s relationship to transnational capitalism clearly delineates the contours for the longings needs, and interests people seek to embody in China.” (pg. 159)

-consumer fundamentalism

-the world as consumers and China as one of the largest exporters of trade

            -this innate idea that “the deep answers to life’s dilemmas lie in consumption.” (pg. 164)

-China’s joined to World Trade Organization (WTO)

            -lays out pure forms of neoliberal capitalism

-China and their problems with “dumping” or exporting products for more money than they are worth, which inevitable hurts other country’s economies.



-“Those who have embraced a gay identity debated how to be properly gay by combining their engagement with transnational gay networks and a desire for cultural citizenship within Chineseness.” (pg. 198)


-China attempting to become a cosmopolitan society, but who is it marginalizing along the way and who is being affected for the worse? (pg. 204)



Monday, March 31, 2008

Family obligations and who is a man?

I really feel that this thought of a nuclear family has been running the lives of the American population for way too long.  The idea of having 2.5 children, a picket fence, and the perfect housewife preparing her man’s dinner is not, and never will be, a reality for most people in this world, and that is WONDERFUL!  Why does anyone want to be the same as everyone else…as Mark Twain once said, “conform and be dull.”

It has been this idea of the American Dream and the nuclear family that has taught men, and plagued them simultaneously with the notion of being the head of the household.  In Transformation of Family Life by Lillian B. Rubin she quotes men who feel like they are expected to be the “bread winners” among their families.  In regards to his wife working, one man responds that “she doesn’t have to do it.  It’s not her job to have to be working; it’s mine.  I’ve got to be responsible for that, not her.  And that makes one damn big difference.” (Disch, pg. 304)

This is just it!  Who is responsible and how does this sense of responsibility shape familial patterns in the home and in the workplace.  Rubin explains how in the past there was a “clear understanding about the obligations and entitlements each partner took when married.” (Pg. 305)  I mean, this would translate into how the woman was expected to cook and clean, while the man takes on a 9-5 job.  However, today more and more women are working outside of the home, but yet domestic work is still considered their responsibility as well.  I mean it comes down to human rights really, where if two people agree to share their lives with one another, isn’t it justifiable that they are legally bound to share both economic and domestic responsibilities with one another as well?  And if a woman shares that economic part, why shouldn’t a man share the domesticity of household living?  It seems only fare, doesn’t it? 

What I thought was so funny about many of the readings pertaining to this aspect of the obligations within the home and how they are organized, is that most men argue that “their responsibility s breadwinner burdens them in ways that are alien to their wives.” (Pg. 306)  Therefore they do not have the energy to help around the house.  You know, part of me wants to agree that the societal affects on people’s minds, be it through media, and most especially through verbal interactions with friends and family, do indeed shape what we think and how we lead our lives.  If that is the case, then yes, I agree that it is hard to take the path less taken and defy what everyone and everything around you tells you what is right.  This stress put upon men to be the man is extremely psychologically influential, which is most likely why men who are economically less successful tend to turn to verbal and physical violence of their partners.  This idea that they are not living up to their responsibilities as a man could be hugely detrimental to anyone really. It means that you are almost considered subhuman, because the idea is that everyone can be successful, and if you aren’t people consider you a failure to humanity.  Or at least I would figure that that is what these people feel of themselves anyhow.

On the other hand, after such women’s right’s movements and of how common it is to see a powerful woman in today’s modern world, why do men still feel personally obligated when women have begun to lead independent lives?  I would argue generational affects.  My generation is less concerned with being “men” than the one before me, and I would even argue that being a man to my father is different than to his father.  The farther back in time you travel, before woman starting rallying for their independence from a patriarchal monarchy in the home (and elsewhere), the closer you get to the origin of “being a man.”  Audre Lorde addresses this idea in her article Man Child where she askes, “what does ‘acting like a man’ mean?” (pg. 332)

I mean, what does that mean truly?  What is a “man?”  I guess it all depends on what geographic you grow up in, as to what constitutes the masculine role within the nuclear family.  And what if there is no father is a family, who then has to take on the “man” role?  Better yet, who feels responsible to do so, and who pressures them, whether it is induced by familial or society factors???

Can it be argued that I will never be a “man” because I will never have a wife?  I guess that is one of the biggest claims of homophobic people, who discriminate against gay people under the false pretense that we are not necessarily living up to the societal standards, so therefore we are not justifiably the same as them.  However, is it not enough for me to be able to pay my taxes just like everyone else and to provide for my loved ones just like a “normal” (for the lack of a better term) family?  If I live up to every damn law that is enforced on every other citizen of the United States, why then am I still exempt from being fully, truly, and completely equal?

I guess I am just stuck on this thought…am I a man?  I know I am sexually a male, but am I considered a man via the socially constructed US standards?  Do I play sports?  No, not really.  Do I oppress all my emotions?  No.  Do I have sex with women? No.  Do I support my family economically? No.  Better yet, how many straight men would answer no to many, if not all, of these questions as well.  Are they not considered men either?  Hmmm, just something to think about.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Bible and the Bakla...

The other night I watched the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” which is all about parents who raise their children Catholic in hopes of helping them fulfill a full life.  However, once these people learn that their children are gay, the documentary shows their journey to learning to love and accept their children, as well as their faith as an interchanging aspect of life that has to adapt just like anything else.

The film really focused on four families and how they dealt with this issue of homosexuality and how they initially perceived this as an “abomination” just like how the Bible preaches.  However the real concept of the film was to stress the Bible as a social construction just like most concepts that I have discussed within this blog.  Concepts such as being a “man” or a “woman” and what traits and/or characteristics are necessary in order to keep up this “charade” of being such a thing.  I say charade because, let’s be honest, masculinity and femininity is really just what society tells you what you are, more so than yourself.  I truly believe that a person is a person, and yes, although you can judge sex by genitalia, defining what constitutes who is a man and a woman is truly up to the general population to judge. 

Global Divas, by Martin Manalansan really touches upon this classification of people within his book about Filipino drag queens.  He discusses how different the meaning of being gay is between American and Filipino standards.  In the Phillipines, they call gay men “bakla” which constitutes men who are effeminate and tend to cross dress. (pg. 25)  In fact, as a society they consider homosexuality to be just that, an outward, skin deep, manifestation, rather than a truly emotional aspect of human life.  In fact bakla is a hybrid word that stems from the work that means woman (babae) and man (lalaki).  Thus, a bakla is a woman-man, and “the main focus of the term is of effeminate mannerism, feminine physical characteristics, and cross-dressing.” (pg. 25) Indeed the people are not considered either a man or a woman, regardless of whatever they gender identify with.  Society doesn’t allow them to identify themselves as man or woman, but rather as some hermaphroditic entity.

In contrast to this, America actually allows these women and men to be something more than just a bakla. Being gay in America isn’t just that skin-deep quality that defines who you have sex with and how to dress.  In fact, in America “participation in same-sex acts is not the crucial standard for being labeled homosexual or identifying as gay.” (pg. 23)  Now I argue that these people are considered more than just “gay,” but is this the truth?  Yes, indeed the gay rights movement has been moving in a perpetual forward motion since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, but it has been and still in an uphill struggle to keep the humanizing of gay men and women since.  Yes, it is true that as a gay man I still have the innate human right to my own opinions, but the rub lies in whether my opinions are legal to be voiced or not, due to my sexual preference. 

Back to the film, there were some really interesting points made by the creator.  One described how the Bible calls such homosexual acts “unnatural” while a man and a woman together are considered “natural.”  He stressed that it is important to realize that these terms, natural vs. unnatural, could be changed to “customary” vs. “uncustomary.”  At the time in which the Bible was written, homosexuality was not accepted among social customs, and thus the views of such an act were deemed “unnatural” because they were considered “uncustomary” and they deviated from the status quo.  Therefore, now that homosexuality has become a part of social customs, at least within many parts of the United States (and other parts of the world as well), we much take the Bible’s stance on such a subject more metaphorically rather than literally.  Most of all, it is okay to follow the Bible’s teachings, because it does introduce basic stances on morality and its importance to lead an honorable and fulfilled life, but not everything preached among its pages needs to be followed.  If we did so, anyone who has ever eaten shrimp would have to be killed.

So the question lies in why the shrimp rule has been omitted, but the gay rule, which is among the same pages of the book of Leviticus, is not?