Sunday, September 30, 2012

Talking Points #5

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence 
Adrienne Rich

Define what Rich means by “compulsory heterosexuality” and “lesbian existence” using specific evidence from the text.

Compulsory: obligatory, mandatory, or required.
Heterosexual: straight; the relationship between a male and female.

Compulsory heterosexuality as a dominant ideology indicates that the relationship between a man and woman is essential and without it, we would not be able to reproduce and grow. Compulsory heterosexuality assumes that everyone is straight, that all women are attracted to men sexually and financially, forcing those who do not identify as “straight”, to “hide in the closet” and hide their true sexual orientation. Rich adds that in Nancy Chodorow’s book she explains “This heterosexual preference and taboos on homosexuality, in a addition to objective economic dependence on men, make the option of primary sexual bonds with other women unlikely” (84)… That women will turn to marriage as a “hoped-for protection” from some of the economic disadvantages they face in comparison to men (87).
Rich says that although heterosexuality is simply a choice, it is not seen like one because it is so compulsory, chosen and developed for us with all the forces, in our culture. Rich acknowledges that “constraints and sanction which historically have enforced or ensured the coupling of women with men and obstructed or penalized women’s coupling or allying in independent groups with other women”(84). He goes on to explain that the “closing of archives and destruction of documents relating to lesbian existence, idealization of heterosexual romance in art, literature, the media, advertising”, male power, etc. are forms of heterosexual compulsions that monitor the way people express their sexual orientation and with that tries to erase the existence of lesbians (85).
Moreover, Rich goes to explain that in The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and the Human Malaise, by Dorothy Dinnerstein, Dinnerstein tries to state that “there is a mystical/biological heterosexual inclination, a “preference” or “choice” which draws women toward men” (84). Rich says that “it assumes that women who have chosen women have done so simply because men are oppressive and emotionally unavailable, which fails to account for women who continue to pursue relationship with oppressive and/or emotionally unsatisfying men”, but Rich does not agree with that (84). I feel like this monitors compulsory heterosexuality by giving an excuse for a lesbian’s sexual preference. So to say that it is not a choice or a desire that they are with other women, but because men have done them wrong so they have turned to women. When in reality they were probably women who were lesbians forced to stay in the closet by our cultures heterosexual compulsions. With that I leave you with these quotes.

“Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life.” - RICH

“Feminism is the answer to compulsory heterosexuality and used as a tool to break out” - CHRIS

Class Discussion:

In the beginning of the semester we learned that in the first wave of feminism, feminists through out black women and now we read in Adrienne Rich’s text that it throws out lesbians.

Compulsory heterosexuality
(Compulsory means obligated so its saying that heterosexuality is required)
- The idea that there is such thing as heterosexuality, that it is required to function and to reproduce and progress. It is mandatory because it is deep down in the roots
- It’s the assumption that all women are attracted to men not just sexually but romantically, financially, economically, everything
- Lesbians are seen as “girl version” of men
- Men are always present as powerful
- Rich says that heterosexuality is merely a choice
- Heterosexuality is so compulsory in our culture that it is almost not seen as a choice
- Rich says that in fact heterosexuality is not always there, it could be something chosen or developed in us because of the forces of the culture.
- Ex) Dr. Bogad’s son is only 8 months old and every one has already decided that he is going to be a ladies man because of his long eyelashes. That is compulsory heterosexuality
-There are a lot of ways that heterosexuality is compulsory
                        -Media, male power, literature
- The erasure of lesbian existence happened because of the powerful source of compulsory heterosexuality. It is policed by society
- If you have a son and he wears a pink bib, everyone will tell you to take it off
- Compulsory Heterosexuality is a form of dominant ideology.
- Pronoun use (he, she) is another way it is policied

Compulsory Heterosexuality is maintained:
- Assumes everyone is straight

- People are forced to hide “in the closet”
            - They are silenced, made absent, and invisible
- Closets around sexual orientation are small, dark, and have one door
- The closet is the result of compulsory heterosexuality
- Compulsory heterosexuality is a system that policies how people express their sexual orientation so it forces people to hide in the closet 
- Feminism is the answer to compulsory heterosexuality and used as a tool to break out

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Talking Points #4

The Big Question:
Why/how is economic inequity a feminist issue?
As you think about issues of social class and economic injustice, why do you think that feminists would take these issues up? What makes money and class a "feminist issue?"


“Class can be harder to spot than racial or ethnic differences, yet in many ways it's the most important predictor of what kind of financial and educational opportunities someone will have in life.” -People Like Us

“At the CWCS, we see class as based on a combination of factors -- what kind of work people do, how much they earn, their social and economic power, their education, lifestyle, and culture.  We also recognize that class is closely related to race, gender, religion, and other social categories.
Class shapes the lives of individuals as well as the policies of our society.  For individuals, class affects not only whether you go to college, but also where you go and how well prepared you are to succeed.  It also shapes attitudes about work, community, and our expectations for ourselves and our children.” -Center For Working-Class Studies

    In the website titled, People Like Us, a women named Roberta shares a story with us about how the issue of class has affected her life personally. In the story she tells us about a young man, named Ben, who she falls in love with. Roberta and her family were considered to be in a higher class than he and his family were and she explains in her story that the night Ben brought her home to meet his family, they debated on whether or not he had become more “uppity like his girlfriend”. Ben’s family began to think that he thought he was better than his family because he was now with a girl whose family was in a higher class than they were. Roberta’s story interested me because I have seen this within some relationships, whether it is on television, in school, or at home within conversations between my friends and or family members. I feel as though family members will talk about a new friend you bring home to introduce to the family if he/she is in a lower or higher class than they are because they feel less comfortable not having that in common. If your friend is in a higher class, they may think that your friend is too snobby or bratty to hang out with you. If your friend is in a lower class, they may think that your friend is not good enough to hang out with you.
    I also went along to read a story about Charles, who also shares a story with us about how the issue of class has affected his personal life. Charles was a son of a “prominent surgeon” who was expected to attend medical school like his father, two brothers and younger sister because he too was intelligent, handsome, and attended private schools. As a sophomore at Stanford University, Charles decided to drop out in order to live a different life. Today he works as a house painter, living in a “double-wide trailer” with his wife, who is in fact now a K-mart cashier, and his three children earning no more than $25,000 a year. What is a little bothersome is that he then mentions that his parents never went to go visit him. They obviously did not agree with his life decisions, because he could have been living a wealthier life. Although becoming a doctor could have brought a lot of money in for him and his family, it was not sufficient enough in terms of what would make him feel happy. He clearly chose his happiness over his earnings. His parents should have not let their beliefs get in the way of visiting their child because just as his parents had their standpoint on a career, Charles had his own as well. Charles parents’ were living a much wealthier lifestyle than he was and while it did not bother him, it clearly bothered his parents.
    Economic inequality has to do with the difference in wealth and in income between or within groups of people or individuals in a population. Economic inequality is a feminist issue that would be taken on by feminists because they are just simply people who believe in campaigning, advocating, fighting, and pushing for women’s equal rights. Men and Women, a lot of the time, do not get paid the same to perform the same task. That right there itself raises an issue for feminists to fight for because for a company to determine pay based on one’s gender is not an equal right. It is not ok for a woman to get paid less because of her gender and it is not okay for a man to get paid more based on his gender. Is it only fair to get paid more or less based on things like the skills you are to perform while at work, how hard one works, and time employed, for example.
    As I went on to research more about gender based income, I came across the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), and learned that women in 2011, went from earning 77.4 percent in 2010, to earning 77.0 percent of what men were earning. In an article titled, Shortchanged: Why Women Get PaidLess Than Men, by Peter Coy and Elizabeth Dwoskin, the authors state “in many workplaces, discussing pay is frowned upon; in some, it’s a dismissible offense. So, like Ledbetter, women often don’t know when they’re getting paid less than men. So they don’t complain. So the problem continues.” Men and women do not go around comparing each other’s incomes, so it is not easy to tell whether a company is paying them more or less based on their gender, for doing the same job.