Friday, October 15, 2010


In class last week, our class discussed queer and transgendered issues in the media. I particularly found this class the most informative yet as I am much more familiar with representations of race and cisgender in the media. Up until recently, the mid-1990s it seems, "deviant" sexualities and genders have been symbolically annihilated (Tuchner 1978) through their lack of representation in the media. Although homosexuality has become more predominant in popular films and literature, while it is not cast into the negative stereotypes as it once was, still requires the annihilation of the queer, which recognizes its own un-articulability (Warner 1993), through assimilation to hegemonic (Gramsci) construction of "the family", or what they call in media theory, mainstreaming (). Certainly mainstreaming has the benefit of what Bandura calls "social learning, in which one learns certain behaviors through watching media. For instance, I have little doubt that the mainstreaming of homosexuality has contributed to the linear growth in acceptance to gay and lesbian marriages, especially as youth come into contact with such acceptable and "acceptable" characters who are "like us", verses "the other." On the other hand, many queers have fought against such a mainstreaming and assimilation of queer identities into hegemonic social good, a good which is never questioned (Edelman 2004).

In particular, genderqueers and transgendered and transexuals have yet to be accepted societally. Still, there are no federal hate crime laws protecting them (although, hate crime laws are another contested issue in the queer community--it is argued they support a racist, classist, unjust prison system at the expense of offering restorative and transformative justice). Nip/Tuck was mentioned in the documentary, in particular, how it offered a positive, non-stereotyped role. Yet, this was only in the first season. By the second season, trans women were being used as props for plot twists and by the third they were victims of transphoic violence. By the fifth season, lesbians became the target of homophobic humor. This is an instance whereby the phenonmenon of mainstreaming may also produce media backlash as a show rises in popularity and thus emblemises what is called "gratification theory," that people watch media in part to validate their own values and experiences.

In class before the video, we looked at a news article about a transgender student who wanted to be homecoming queen, however, the school board decided that since her birth certificate said she was a boy that she could only run for homecoming king, a position that insists upon biological reductionism and essentialism and also what Julia Serano (2007) calls "oppositional sexism" (in which there no continuity and transition between "opposite" poles is accepted). It was noted that the journalism made the decision to identify her as a "her" and not a "him." This brings up the inevitable political consequences and construction that discourse is, that any journalist can never escape the categorizing of language. However, just the other day I also encountered a story on feministing about a story that deliberately used the pronoun "he" instead of "her" for the story and another in which there was a very objectifying description of a trans woman:
One of those men, who asked not to be identified, said “Stacey” was beautiful and could pass for a woman.

“She was pretty, but if you didn’t know what time it was, you wouldn’t know what she was,” he said. “She was built . . . and she drew attention from men just walking down the street.”

This does to show how just as there is a male gaze (), a particular hegemonic perspective in which to perceive women, so is there perhaps a cissexual gaze through which we see transexuals. This also relates to what Serano calls "transmisogyny," a particular form of transphobia directed at trans women in a culture that knocks on females and feminity, and especially those male bodies that privilege the feminine over the hegemonic norms of masculinity performance.

1 comment:

  1. Adam,

    Your blog is fascinating. But I only see one post related to this class. Please post more to raise your blog grade. And thank you for all the contributions you have made to class so far. MIDTERM BLOG GRADE: C