Posts Tagged With: Feminism

FtM TRANSitioning, Utilizing New Media and Bodily Modifications

So I’m in the process of drafting my critical essay for our class, Hons201: Feminism, Health and New Media. The most inspiring part about this whole process of research has truly been the new media aspect of it all. My purpose is to focus on the way young people are utilizing new media via trans* YouTube vlogs and Tumblr blogs, as a means by which to navigate their bodies in relation to their gender. Throughout the bulk of my online research, I found myself particularly drawn to Female to Male (FtM) Vlogs and genderqueer blogs. In watching and reading, and reading and watching, I noticed certain trends throughout each new media representaion:

  • educational HOW TO’s on binders, packers and stand-to-pee (STP) medicine spoons
  • personal accounts of how testosterone (“T”) has affected the body, and at what rate should one expect to see “results”
  • reflections upon top and bottom surgeries, both from experience as well as from speculation

These themes kept on repeating themselves throughout my research, over and over again. I became more knowledgeable on the ways and means by which FtM folks navigate such issues as – Where can I find the least expensive, quality packer for men of color? How can I avoid yeast infections from wearing my packer for long periods of time?How long do I need to avoid direct sunlight, post-top-op? Where on my body can I expect to discover masculine change after X number of months on “T”? – and so on. Each Vlog tells a story: a story of the body in transition, away from ‘entrapment’ and toward one’s self-identified gender.

The corporeal journey to self-hood, I am finding, truly is an autonomous one. That is to say, every FtM TRANSition is specific to the individual. New media provides a space for which #LGBTQIA youth can create communities of online solidarity, support, information and education, reminding me of those brilliant strides made between 1969-1990 in the United States for the women’s health movement, which Sandra Morgan has titled in her book, Into Our Own Hands. Trans* youth are negotiating their own bodies on their own terms via new media. Health is central to TRANSitioning and TRANSformation, from female to male, including mental health and the processing of emotion(s).

In focusing on FtM trans* Vlogs and blogs, I hope to conceptualize some sort of conversation taking place between V/bloggers that is pertaining to perceptions of gender ‘authenticity’ and how much of a role bodily modification plays into that. In other words, does the penis really make the man? And to complicate that question further by suggesting that to be in a position to CHOOSE is to be in a position of socioeconomic privelege; that is to say surgery and hormone therapy can be quite costly (and more often than not are NOT covered by one’s insurance company, assuming one has health insurance). This makes for a nebulous cluster of conditional confusion.

>_^

But I think, by the time I figure it out, my critical essay will argue something like this:

FtM trans* folk are navigating body modification via new media. This online community serves as both a teaching tool on HOW TO perform masculine gender identity ‘authentically,’ as well as a ‘room of one’s own‘ in which to negotiate what it really means to be a man, and under what conditions said self-identity ‘ought’ to be inscribed upon the body via hormone therapy and/or surgery.

This critical essay will also examine the LACK of medical discourse surrounding what effects do hormone interventions have on the health of trans* folk.

Please let me know if you have anything you’d like to contribute; I am very open to critical suggestions! Below are some FtM Vlogs, with which I have been transcribing:

Ryan Cassata

I’m not looking to go on testosterone or anything…I feel normal….it was the first time I ever felt normal in, like, myself. And, you know, it was a great moment for me…my brain was satisfied. And I guess that’s, you know, what the surgery’s supposed to do.

ALion’sFear

Once you hit your year, things slow down and once you hit your two year, things slow down even more. My facial hair comes in a lot quicker. I just started shaving with a shaver and cream only 2 months ago (I used to use a trimmer). My voice hasn’t changed, my feet stopped growing somewhere between the year and two year mark.

DefineGender

Will I ever have bottom surgery? Probably not, unless there’s some way that I can get a penis transplant because what I have down there works really well, it’s healthy and I keep it clean and I’m not going to lie, I like orgasms. Ok? I mean who doesn’t? …I don’t want to muck with it, and I’d rather not mess with it when I know it works perfectly the way it is. For me, having something down there is not about just having junk in my pants or being able to pee standing up. For me, it’s about sex.

laidbaqq

I don’t pack all the time, only occasionally because I do get self-conscious. I do it for comfort so I can feel better about myself…there’s something there and it’s not so empty and I’m not so conscious of it…sometimes I do forget that this thing is not real. Sometimes I forget there’s nothing there. …Most of it is for comfort. …

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Princess Odette: The Feminist Swan

Okay, so it’s very possible that my sisters and I were the only three children in 1994 who were singing along to Dreamworks’ obscure animated film, The Swan Princess, being that Odette was not as popular as everybody’s favorite Disney princesses. She was however, in my opinion, a feminist.

If you haven’t already seen the movie, in which (according to IMDb), “a power hungry sorcerer transforms a princess into a swan by day in this tale of everlasting love,” then I highly recommend you watch the following clip and see for yourself the provocative question Princess Odette asks Prince Derek when he appears to fall madly in love with only her beauty:

Derek’s response is a self contained question, or rather a rhetorical one: “what else is there?” One such utterance implicates to Odette that beyond beauty, nothing else matters. Of course, such meaningful things as personality, likes, dislikes, passions, fears, aspirations, etc. are all to be included within that arbitrary category of beyond. Those were the things Derek felt no compulsion to consider in his arrogant “proposal,” in which he spoke not to Odette, but rather for her:

“Arrange the marriage!”

I think it’s necessary to point out this critical turning point in the plot because it is something that is oftentimes overlooked in some of the more traditional fairytales of Walt Disney Pictures. In fact, there are many arguments surrounding the dangerous effects that the Disney industrial complex has on the self-esteems of young people everywhere. They instruct rather specific gender norms, which teach young girls that as long as they dream, (see: Cinderella‘s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes“), their insecurities will magically be cured by a fairy God mother or a handsome prince, or both!

Animated Disney classics tend to repeat certain themes:

Men are brave, handsome saviors.

(Masculinities theorist, R. W. Connell, writes about hegemonic masculinity theory in his research on representations of ideal masculinity versus subordinate masculinities, along the lines of race, class, ability, sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion.)

Women are feminine, cisgender victims of external forces of violence- from which they require external saving.

Disney Princesses adhere to a strict size 2 body and dress code.

Beauty is defined in terms of, “fairness of skin,” and quality of hair.

(See: true classics blog post on, “Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.”)

Disney villains are often distinguished according to bodily malformations, darkness of skin, advanced age and/or weight.

(Beauty and love are synonymous to lightness [of features], youth, and innocence in the wonderful world of Disney.)

But Walt Disney Pictures aren’t the only culprits in this neoconservative scheme to instruct traditional gender norms Take, for example, my girl Odette! The Swan Princess adheres to that same size 2 body and dress code, those same savior-damsel heteronormative codes of gendered behaviors and also that same racialized morality according to character’s skin pigmentation and appearance.

But instead of accepting her fate as the unthinking flower, Odette asked a critical question to Derek and to the viewing audience (i.e. ME!…& hundreds of thousands of impressionable children). She asked us to think about the intensified value we place on physical appearance versus what else there really is to a person.

Why hadn’t any other princess challenged her own occupation before? No wonder nobody has ever heard of Princess Odette.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone?

We all know the stories; there are two of them after all.

1.) First, there’s the story we learn about when we are children, or maybe if we are young adults assimilating into American culture. It’s the classic tale about the Pilgrims, or rather the English separatist Protestants who later formed the [Puritan] Plymouth Colony in present day [southeastern] Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, and the so-called-Indians, or rather the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, whom had inhabited the land for the previous 12,000 some-odd years. They met and put aside their cultural differences in order to survive the frigid Fall of 1621. Their harvest gathering was attributed, by the Puritan settlers, to an almighty [Judeo-Christian] God, the Father. And it is in this colonial spirit that the American people celebrate Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November.

2.) Second, there’s the story we [hopefully] learn about as we get a little but older in our education(s), or maybe if we are wise (or post-modern) enough to critique meta-narratives on our own merits, regardless of educational attainment. It’s the story that is a lot less fun to listen to when we sit down and feast upon a dead bird, I mean turkey. The initial social contracts made between the settlers and the native people only lasted a generation, in which the Puritan settlers’ survival owed great thanks to the Wampanoag’s superior hunting skills and knowledge of the land’s fertility.

“The Wampanoag people do not share in the popular reverence for the traditional New England Thanksgiving. For them, the holiday is a reminder of betrayal and bloodshed. Since 1970, many native people have gathered at the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts each Thanksgiving Day to remember their ancestors and the strength of the Wampanoag.” -Text adapted from 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, 2001, National Geographic Society. Text by Lyssa Walker.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the, “bloodshed,” Walker and O’Neill are referring to, in a children’s version of the story of the first Thanksgiving, by the way, then a better education of North American history is in order: one which begins long before the arrival of Europeans and one that is complicated by the plurality of local narratives. Also, a little accuracy would be nice. To my general horror and dismay, I have come across a great deal of unnerving neo-conservative new media literature – in my research for this blog post alone. And it is disgusting how skewed interpretations of North American history has been convoluted, so as to politicize certain capitalist agendas that are no doubt tied into our [class] discussions of feminism, health and new media.

It is necessary to criticize contemporary interpretations of historical facts so that the systemic erasure of indigenous tribes (via European colonization) does not, yet again or moreover, become eclipsed or occluded by the childish meta-narratives we are all too familiar with. I am not advocating for an overturning of the nationally established holiday, nor am I suggesting that anyone who celebrates the fourth Thursday in November is hypocritical by any means. I believe that offering thanks transcends temporal location(s) as well as any social identity markers, such as race, sexuality and gender. It is a fundamentally human thing to seek closeness with one’s kin, and to celebrate appreciation without shame. I say, let our own local narratives be based in whatever truths we subscribe to.

However, we know this to be far from what [new] media preaches as festive. Like any other national or religious holiday, capitalists have taken full advantage of the spiritual meanings behind people’s cause for celebration and turned out a handsome profit, so to speak:

from Google Images of Black Friday shoppers

And to properly interrogate the hegemonic myths of Thanksgiving, one must pay close attention to their developmental paths throughout the [re]construction of American history. Any legitimate critique of racialized and gendered representations need be historicized, that is, accurately contextualized, before we can even begin an intellectual dialogue; the subsequential genocide of Native Americans by European imperialists is not up for debate…

The reason why it’s so important to defend local narratives is because they can so easily get become delegitimized in the public eye (see: Rush Limbaugh’s version of ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving’), endangering social justice strides made everywhere in defense of those who have been persecuted along the lines of race, gender, sex, sexuality, disability, language and ethnicity.

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What’s So Feminist About #Frankenstorm?

Several days ago, our class received an email from Professor Daniels suggesting that we respond to some current events touching on gender, race and feminism. Included in this email was a link to Professor Daniels’ recent blog post on Racism Review, titled, “Is (Hurricane) “Sandy” a White Name?” The article was insightful as it was informative. Daniels posed the significant question:

“Does it matter what name a storm gets called?”

After reading this post and several of its comments, I started to think about the chronic gendering of nature, which our [Western] culture has been guilty of throughout history; not to mention the inherent stigma attached to femininity. Among many thoughtful messages of safety and well-being, I received several texts and tweets referring to the so-called-bitchy nature of (Hurricane) Sandy: her brutal wrath; hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, etc. The implications of which are dangerous in reifying negative female stereotypes about uncontrollable emotional rage. Let us remember we are discussing a hurricane and not a woman when we discuss “Sandy” and its devastating effects. After all, many individuals refuse to conform to one such categorical gender, so why force natural disasters into that same [false] binary construction?

But beyond name blaming, there are many other issues surrounding this recent disaster, which indeed necessitate a feminist critique. And that leads us back to the discussion of a hurricane – the second consecutive hurricane to DIRECTLY impact the New York-New Jersey area, among many other 2011/2012 tropical storms, since 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Now I may not be very old, nor wise, but I have lived in southern New York all my life – that’s twenty-some-odd years – and I can assure you that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. What I mean by normal is normative weather for a location like the north-eastern United States. And if you haven’t already guessed it, yes I am referring to global warming.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! I said it: the controversial buzz word of all dismal realities. And I hope it goes without saying that what New York & New Jersey are experiencing right now include the devastating effects of one such complicated occurrence. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly announced his support for incumbent presidential candidate Barack Obama on the basis that opposing candidate Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney has not adequately acknowledged the effects of man-made global warming and thereby has not contributed to the safeguarding of our fair city of New York (and not to mention the planet).

“Mr. Obama was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.” -Mayor Michael Bloomberg

I took this photograph right outside my sister’s apartment on East 26th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan on October 30, 2012.

So what makes climate change a feminist issue? Climate change is planetary change, meaning it affects every intricate level of [human] life. It dictates population control policies, public control over drinking water versus private, adequate access to contraception, education and the right to work, to name a few. So as New Yorkers, we are currently dealing with the immediate effects of Hurricane Sandy – in the wake of all its chaos and destruction – but I encourage all my fellow citizens of the planet to wake up and observe the larger picture, the one that is STARING us all in the face.

Let us remember that on election day this November, when we cast our votes for the consequential in/action of environmental protection by the United States for the next four years…

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2Pac: Critical Race Theorist

2pac.com

This past summer, I lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York.  How exotic, I know.  But my internship was only a couple of blocks away from where Christopher George Latore Wallace (AKA the Notorious B.I.G.; AKA Biggie Smalls) began his fame as a talented young rapper.  My Chief of Staff, at the District Office of Council Member Letitia James (@TishJames/@Tish2013) in Brooklyn’s 35th Council District, used to tell me about seeing him ‘way back when’ on the corners of Fulton and Saint James – nearby where our office was located.  I confessed in her office one day that while I had the utmost respect for Biggie, and the legacy he left behind for Brooklyn as a cultural center for rap and Hip Hop, that my heart truly lies with Tupac Amaru Shakur.  To my delight, she agreed, quoting lyrics from his, “Dear Mama:”

“And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain’t easy tryin to raise a man
You always was committed
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it
There’s no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated”

Later on that summer, I was on the phone with a friend of mine who had his own connection to Biggie: his mom, having grown up in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was once approached by the young Christopher Wallace for a date – and supposedly told, “that fat boy,” NO, she was not interested.  I told him I had just finished watching a documentary about the Notorious B.I.G. – but that I resented its depiction of Tupac as solely antagonistic (i.e. an East Coast-centric model of analysis).  He said to me, “Biggie was no doubt a talented rapper, but Tupac – he was something else – he was starting a revolution.”

Now this post isn’t to reify (yet another) false dichotomy of east coast/west coast Hip Hop rivalries, nor is it to claim any authority over who is better, which side wins and so on…  This post is talk more specifically about the late, great rapper and the lyrical legacy he left behind.  Contrary to many other opinions out there, I find Tupac’s rap music to be emblematic of scholarly critical race theory.  He pays careful attention to the dynamic roles of masculinity, white sepremacy, and the LAPD as a hegemonic mechanism of racist, patriarchal practices.  Tupac takes into account the history of the United States, including slavery, laws and policies representing social inequities and the systemic institution of discrimination and ghettoization of Black America.

One such example of this kind of critical work can be found in the lyrics to his song, “Panther Power” [see below].  Shakur’s mother was a former Black Panther and refers to Black Panther co-founder, Huey P. Newton, in his famous song, “Changes” (i.e. “It’s time to fight back, that’s what Huey said.  Two shots in the dark, now Huey’s dead”).

Beyond his observations and critiques of the complicated space he occupied, Tupac presented conflicting messages when it came to feminism and feminist ideology.  Many people will accuse Shakur of his misogynistic views of woman, his use of derogatory language toward women, etc.  I could go on and on about how [I believe] Marion “Suge” Knight (AKA co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records) to be powerfully influential on Tupac’s aggressive demeanor later on in his career.  If you take the time to watch as many documentaries [about Tupac] as I have, you might come across certain material portraying Tupac as, dare I say, feminist.  Take a look at this film footage of Tupac discussing transformative potentials of youth, gender equity and respect toward women at the age of 17:

If I have the opportunity to pursue graduate school, I would love to write my dissertation on Tupac’s lyrics as deeply layered and representative of late, twentieth century critical race theory.  His music was profoundly influential as his image was widely controversial.  Tupac embodied all that has been demonized in the history of the [main-stream] United States.  Clearly, I am slightly biased in my admiration for his unique voice and presence in the tradition of rap music and in contemporary social landscapes, but I would resist depicting Tupac in the angelic light I [most likely] have done so in this blog post.  The music and words he produced make for compelling social critiques, dialogues and theories surrounding racism, sexism, hegemony and a critical moment in 1990s America.

PLEASE WATCH THIS LINK, ON TUPAC [AGE 17] ABOUT RESPECTING WOMEN.

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