Book Review: Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora

Gender roles have always been present in relationships. With any orientation, these masculine and feminine roles create expectations on how to act, dress, and conduct oneself in a relationship. Masculinity in relationships can be overpowering, especially in diaspora, the dispersion of peoples from their homeland. In Mexican culture, this can lead to Machismo, the concept of the ideal Mexican man. Having machismo can lead to being patriarchal and sexist. However, the role of a male figure amongst these Mexican diasporic relationships are not always like this. In Nichole Guidotti-Hernández’s most recent book, Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora, she collects the visual archives from Enrique Flores Magón and Leonard Nadel to document and interpret intimacy across relationships amongst Mexican men during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The book is separated into two sections, each with their own conclusion. The first half of the book follows the gendered migrations and life of Enrique Flores Magón, a Mexican anarchist. Guidotti-Hernández focuses on Enrique’s virility amongst his relationships around the time he fled to El Paso, Texas. Guidotti-Hernández notes the masculine style of his word choice when writing letters throughout his life, drawing attention to his masculine virility. With Enrique’s first relationship, being with Paula Carmona, it is possible that his virility caused a breakup. Despite Paula having visual evidence of their relationship, Enrique did not, erasing the relationship from his side. The reason why this relationship was problematic in diaspora is because of Enrique’s masculinity – he was patriarchal and misogynistic. This shows how heteronormative gender roles can affect one’s intimate relationship in diaspora. The second half of the book looks at the homoerotic conflicts within the bracero program captured by photojournalist Leonard Nadel. Guidotti-Hernández says that Leonard traveled over five thousand miles with for his photojournalism, focusing on his bracero subjects from their homes in Central Mexico to processing centers in the United States and labor camps. In Leonard’s photographs Guidotti-Hernández traces the tensions between two sides of the braceros’ identity; one side represents braceros in a more mainstream image, being seen as the typical masculine character. However, the other side shows same-sex relationships between the Mexican laborers. Hernández exposes the unseen side of bracero life to show that feminine masculinity and homoeroticism livened bracero life and culture while avoiding the dominant influence of Mexican patriarchy and heterosexuality. The book is wrapped up with the conclusion of the relationship between Mexicans separated by the border. Despite a lack of solidarity, these Mexican communities developed political connections that were highly emotive and intimate through their agitation for labor rights. What we learn from the changes that occurred between anarchists of the 1910s and 1920s and braceros in the 1950s has to do with how emotional bonds and attachments were forged. Both the archives of Enrique Flores Magón and braceros required narration against machismo. This is because Mexican male migration patterns and narratives of sociality are interpreted through machismo.

The author of this book, Nichole M. Guidotti-Hernández, is currently a professor of English at Emory University. Her first book is Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries, which is about the epistemic and physical violence that racialized and gendered peoples faced in the U.S. Mexico border from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Guidotti-Hernández has also written many articles for the feminist magazine Ms. and the feminist blog The Feminist Wire, discussing various topics from immigration to reproductive rights. Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is her second and most recent book. This book can be applied to wider research or career trajectories involving Gender Studies and Latinx Culture and Literature Studies.

In Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora, there is an emphasis on visuals, hence why a lot of the research material used is photos and artwork. Most analyses are of the photos, as Guidotti-Hernández says that Photographs capture the best state of something. The archives of Enrique Flores Magón and of Leonard’s photography have been carefully selected to tell historical narratives. Guidotti-Hernández’s display of visual archives includes photos, artwork, police reports, newspaper reports, and personal letters. When analyzing, Guidotti-Hernández describes the background information of the image then ties its connection to the main topic at hand. For example, in the section of Enrique Flores Magón, there are two sketches by him of Paula Carmona, his first wife. Guidotti-Hernández gives us context about Enrique’s relationship with Paula, saying that they show an intimacy that counters Enrique’s narratives, yet he erases his relationship with Paula. He makes the false claim that he was married to his second partner, Teresa Arteaga, around the time he was in El Paso in 1908. Despite Enrique saying he married his second wife Teresa Arteaga by 1905, he still showed his love for Paula by creating art in 1908.

One strength of Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is its in-depth analysis on every visual archive provided. By doing so, each archive reflects the effects of Mexican masculinity across time, relationships, and the location of the partners. As a result, Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora provides a look at gender dynamics of migrants from the mid-1800’s to the early 1900’s. These analyses also provide insight into the different types of relationships found in Mexican culture, such as father-son as well as partners and lovers, from homosocial and heteronormative. Another strength of this book is its connections to other cultures that had diasporic communities. In her section examining Leonard Nadel’s photography, Guidotti-Hernández brings attention to communities such as Japanese American sharecroppers and German prisoners of war. For example, she brings up how there were laborers imported from Japan to work with braceros during berry picking season. Guidotti-Hernández says that the history of multiethnic labor and racialized forms of capitalism were created by the homosocial labor conditions for Japanese and Mexican workers along with Japanese share cropping families. The connection between the two cultures emphasizes the effect of racialized capitalist systems that created these diasporic communities amongst laborers.

One potential weakness of Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is that it feels drawn out at times. The book does sometimes feel longer than it should be, especially when analyzing its visual archives. While Guidotti-Hernández does a great job gathering and utilizing evidence to get a point across, sometimes it feels like there is too much being explained. This is a minor complaint for the book overall, as the number of visual archives presented to the reader does not shallow her overall message from the book. Depending on how you look at it, the plethora of archives presented only strengthens the claim.

Overall, I think that Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora does a great job explaining diasporic masculinity and how it reflects gender roles of Mexican culture. When looking at the intimacies of diasporic relationships, Guidotti-Hernández emphasizes the effects of virility and machismo within them. This is done by looking through the public and private aspects of Enrique Flores Magón’s relationships and looking at the two-sides of masculinity within bracero life captured by Leonard Nadel’s photography. This book was informative showing how Mexican masculinities formed by becoming outsiders through diaspora. I would recommend this American studies and ethnicity, gender studies, Latinx studies, and Latin American studies.

A Review of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology:  Owens, Deirdre Cooper: 9780820351353: Amazon.com: Books

American gynecology would not be what it is today without Black women. In fact, the first women’s hospital in the United States was on a small enslaved persons farm in Mount Meigs, Alabama. In Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology (Medical Bondage), Dr. Deirde Cooper Owens examines the history of gynecological practices and the way that they came about, all while painting a picture of the women who shaped American gynecology. The book investigates both southern plantations and northern urban centers to showcase how nineteenth century ideas about topics such as race influenced relationships between doctors and their patients. Cooper Owens makes two significant arguments about the correlation between slavery and medicine: reproductive medicine was esstential to the maintenance and success of southern slavery and that southern doctors knew enslaved women’s reproductive labor helped them to revolutionize professional women’s medicine. Medical Bondage also, most importantly, retells history from the perspectives of exploited groups. By examining nineteenth century literature and  correspondence between doctors and other archival materials, Cooper Owens explains how exploited groups changed the course of American gynecology, ultimately creating a field that would be forever changed by the experiments done on their bodies. 

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The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India: A Review

Around the world, as many as 1 in 3 women face marital violence (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). In India, this statistic climbs to approximately 3 out of 4. 77.4%, to be precise (Ram, Anath, et. al 362). This violence encompasses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and many institutions contribute to it. In The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India, Srimati Basu explores the ways in which feminist law in India can be used and reformed to combat these marital issues. She does, however, also make note of the complications of settling a marital dispute. From colonialism to the division of inheritance to maintenance payments, Basu comments on the repercussions of divorce and the origins of the struggles women in India often experience when involved in unhealthy relationships. 

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Book Review: The Tragedy of Heterosexuality

Is being queer so tragic? Clearly, there is a common narrative that idealises straight over queer relationships: “No one would choose to be queer” or “being straight is so much easier.” While there is much privilege in being straight in a heteronormative society, this “tragedy of queerness” has gone unexamined. In fact, this narrative conflicts with simple, observable situations in our society: Why do women not benefit from straight relationships as much as men do? Why are queer people proud of their queerness if it is such a tragic thing? Jane Ward takes on the challenge of examining this narrative —the tragedy of queerness— and proposes that, even more worrisome is The Tragedy of Heterosexuality.

In The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Ward argues that “under the weight of heteronormativity […] people have come to understand heterosexuality as the most instinctive and fulfilling form of sexual relating.” While she recognises the difficulties of queer relations, she questions whether straight relations bring such ease and fulfillment. For Ward, heterosexuality is the tragedy because of the patriarchal and misogynistic nature of heterosexual relations that, paradoxically, teaches men to desire and hate women while also romanticises violence. For queer people, this means that actually, heterosexual relations are nothing to wish for. But for straight people, this clearly fleshes out the problem of misogyny, to put it mildly. Thus, Ward advocates for a reconstruction of heterosexuality: “a future in which straight men like women so much that they actually like women.” This is a straight relationship that does not perpetuate misogyny.

This deep analysis of heterosexual relations is presented in a digestible and extremely engaging way. The book is written masterfully: it combines the different aspects of an academic analysis, with stories, quotes and interviews that make it easier for the reader to make the argument personal, and includes the insights of the author as a queer and Feminist scholar. She is also the author of Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men (2015) and Respectability Queer: Diversity Culture in LGTB Activist Organizations (2008). She received her PhD in Sociology by the University of California Santa Barbara in 2003. Currently, Dr. Jane Ward is a professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California Riverside, where she teaches courses on feminist, queer and heterosexuality studies. Her experience is clearly reflected in her book, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality (2020). 

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Book Review: Seeking the Straight and Narrow

Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in  Evangelical America: Gerber, Lynne: 9780226288123: Amazon.com: Books

Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America by Lynne Gerber explores the intersection of weight and sexuality in the Evangelical church. The book draws focus to two Evangelical ministries that directly address these topics, First Place and Exodus International. First Place is a Christian weight loss program that was founded in 1981 by members of the First Baptist Church of Houston. The premise of the program is that Christians look to guidance and help from God for every other aspect of life, so they should be able to seek help from him for weight loss. First Place claims that it is grounded in both a spiritual and scientific approach to weight loss that benefits the person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It uses divine assistance rather than intervention, and sees divine authority as complementary to scientific authority rather than contradictory. With the rise of the ideas that homosexuality is immutable and natural from the gay right’s movement, ex-gay ministries grew in opposition. Exodus International is an organizational umbrella for roughly one hundred and thirty ex-gay ministries that evolved when the new evangelical movements started to reach out to gay people in the 70s. These ministries use evangelicalism to focus on issues like drug addiction, cultural exploration, sexual promiscuity, and homosexuality. Gays and lesbians that were “newly saved” went to these ministries to reconsider their sexuality in the context of their faith. Exodus International was intent on helping people overcome their homosexuality rather than them being in the closet or taking the liberal approach of acceptance. The ministries see homosexuality as a moral and psychological issue that is undeniably a sin. 

Although the connection between homosexuality and fatness is not a direct one at first glance and First Place and Exodus International exist in different realms of the Evangelical world, Gerber argues that they are in fact deeply connected. She states that “both are associated with excessive desires and excessive bodily expression, excesses that have long disturbed American culture and moral sensibilities” (Gerber 14). Also, homosexuality and fatness have been a “focus of containment” for the state, medicine, and religion. “Losing weight and reorienting sexual orientation are projects fueled by a tension between malleability and limitation that is very compelling in American culture” (3).” The interconnectedness between ex-gay ministries and weight loss ministries through the focus on the body, excess, containment, and malleabillity displays a strong similarity between the two groups that would not come to mind when first looking into these topics. 

The monograph is split into an introduction, three chapters, each with two subchapters, and a conclusion. This setup provides for a very organized and clear structure of Gerber’s argument. The first chapter titled, “Framing Right and Wrong,” is split into two subsections, “Sin” and “Health.” This chapter discusses how evangelicals use sin and health as a way to argue what is morally right and wrong. Food is often talked about in relation to sin, sinful foods or the sin of overconsumption of food. Homosexuality as a whole is seen as a sin by many religious communities. Gerber discusses how the definition of sin varies from person to person. Some people believe that some sins are mild and “not what God created you to be” (39) or to be very harsh and “disobeying God’s commands” (40). On the other hand there are people that believe a sin is a sin and that all sins are seen as equal in the eyes of God. One of the most interesting things I found in this section was Gerber’s claim that gluttony is seen as a worse offense than homosexuality in the bible but in Evangelical American society, homosexuality is seen as worse. In “Health,” Gerber discusses how “the Lord is conflated with health” (53) and any behaviors that do not promote health are against God’s will. Each Evangelical group equates their ideal with health, heterosexual relationships being the only healthy relationships, and having low cholesterol or weight is the only way to be healthy. The next chapter, “Making Christian Bodies,” discusses how these programs place the responsibility of the outcome on the participants. If people want to see change, either in their sexuality or weight it is on them to make that change. This then puts the success or failure of the program on the participant and not the ineffectiveness of the programs. The third and final chapter titled, “Accountings,” is split into “Success/Failure” and “Breaking.” In “Success/Failure” Gerber discusses the approach of the ex-gay and fat-loss groups. Both use a flexible programming design which lets participants talk about their frustrations about how they are not seeing progress. This pulls attention away from the program and to the actions of the participants. The flexibility makes it so the program’s successes and failures can be justified and not questioned. The section “Breaking” posits that the rise in queer activism and fat positivity and acceptance movements has allowed for positive narritives about gay and fat Evangelicals. As a result of this rise, Exodus and First Place had to work against those new movements to retain their membership and participant devotion. This was, however, not successful as many participants in these programs reach a breaking point and leave. They then find acceptance in themselves and their fatness or gayness. “Sexual identity is no more inherently true than religious identity. If people feel they need to pick, they may pick either” (223). The final conclusion of the book discusses how these ex-members must face an internal battle between their fat or gay identities and their Evangelical identities because they feel they cannot exist as both harmoniously. Gerber comes to the acceptance that some people, although not necessary, feel like those identities are not compatible and must choose one.

Lynne Gerber is an independent researcher and scholar. She has held academic positions at both the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Divinity School. Presently, she is an independent researcher based in San Francisco. At the time of writing this monograph, Gerber was a research fellow in the Religion, Politics, and Globalization program at the University of California, Berkeley. Gerber’s research focuses on religion, the body, and morality. 

Gerber used qualitative research in her investigation through participant observation, interviews, and content analysis of ministry materials. She attended First Place meetings for seven and a half months and although she was not a Christian and they knew she was a researcher, the group welcomed her and filled in the gaps of what she might not understand without a Christian background. However, it was not as easy to get participant observation in Exodus International. The groups were not welcoming to a researcher that was neither gay nor Christian. They had experience with undercover journalists and also thought that she would not understand their teachings or process since she was not a part of the groups they worked with. Therefore, she conducted her research through public gatherings and conferences of ex-gay ministries. She also interviewed sixty three people, twenty eight from First Place, twenty eight from Exodus, and 7 former members of Exodus. She is transparent in the possibility of bias in her samples as the majority of them were white and in leadership roles. 

One of the main strengths I found with Gerber’s book was how she took into account all perspectives on these issues and did not use her preconceived notions on the topics to influence her findings. She is very explicit in saying that everyone comes into the book expecting a different answer based on their beliefs about religion, gayness, or fatness. She knew that the people she interviewed and worked with throughout the process were expecting fair representation and that their vulnerable experiences were not going to be exploited. I think she shares their stories tastefully and respectfully, without any bias and without passing any judgement on them. I personally had thoughts about this book before reading it that were proved wrong. I think that the work is written very well and tells all sides of the story even if it’s not necessarily what some audience members want to hear. She acknowledges that there is validity to these programs while also talking about the pitfalls of them. 

The main weakness I found in the book was that the samples that Gerber used in her research were mainly white- 5 out of 63 participants were people of color. Although Gerber explicitly recognizes this underrepresentation in her analysis, it does not change the fact that her findings are not an accurate representation of the population. The attitudes and experiences collected from the Exodus and First Place people are only really representative of the white experience. The social impacts of weight and sexuality are not independent of race, for example a fat white person, fat black person, skinny white person, and fat black person will all have very different attitudes towards their fatness or lack thereof and will all have very different experiences regarding their fatness. Another example is that black gay men are more likely to face adversity than white gay men. Queer theory has historically already been focused around the white experience and failing to complete a more diverse assessment adds to this issue. Painting a white centered narrative of experiences in these Evangelical programs does not provide a comprehensive, representative view on how the programs affect people and the success of them. 

Overall, I enjoyed this scholarly read. I think it was a very interesting intersection between queer studies, fat studies, and religion studies. The book is written well and structured clearly, making it a read that is fairly easy to understand and follow while also being engaging. It is fascinating how these two Evangelical groups that seem to have nothing to do with each other, are very similar in their ways of teaching and programming, their beliefs around the things they are trying to fix, and how neither of them are very successful for their participants.

Works Cited:

Gerber, Lynne. Seeking the Straight and Narrow : Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America, University of Chicago Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.proxy048.nclive.org/lib/davidson/detail.action?docID=772137.

Book Review: *Visibility Interrupted: Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming*

Would you consider a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? You are most likely thinking that a tomato is obviously a vegetable because they have more of a savory taste rather than a sweet one when comparing it to other fruits like a banana. You are also probably thinking it is a vegetable because when would someone ever use tomatoes when baking or eating desserts? Although these are all logical thoughts, that is a prime and simple example of stereotyping. Now it is not as severe as stereotyping an individual per say, however, it is stereotyping and assuming things nonetheless. More severe cases of stereotyping are applied when doing it to an individual based on their race, gender, class, or any other forms of social categorizations and identity. Now, I mention stereotyping because in the monograph Visibility Interrupted by Carly Thomsen, she focuses her studies on one specific term that applies labeling to its meaning: metronormativity. Understanding the term ‘metronormativity’ is something that readers should suggest prior to diving in on Carly Thomsen’s monograph. When breaking the word up, it can become easier to grasp the concept. ‘Metro’ or a ‘metropolitan area’ is generally a region that consists of a large urban population. “Normativity’ is a term that refers to behavior based on a standard or norm and it carries the notions of social pressure. When looking at the word ‘metronormativity,’ it can be comparable to the word ‘heteronormativity’ which is when the sexual orientation of an individual is preferred and normalized to be heterosexual. These two terms are comparable because ‘metronormativity’ is derived from a similar context. It exerts the idea that queer life and identity are inseparable from urban areas, therefore saying that the norm or standard is that queer identity thrives, flourishes, and remains in the urban core opposed to in rural life. Metronormativity is an idea that can be referred to as stereotyping. Believing and saying that queer life belongs and is more prominent and important in urban areas and not in rural areas is the same thing as believing and saying that a tomato belongs in the vegetable category and not the fruit category. Thomsen establishes the idea of metronormativity from the beginning of her monograph and branches her study off the opposite idea: rural queer life. 

Carly Thomsen is the author of the scholarly monograph Visibility Interrupted: Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming that was published in this year: 2021. She resides in Vermont where she is an assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies at Middlebury College. In her monograph, she wants to examine “the experiences, desires, and politics of LGBTQ women in the rural upper Midwestern United States in relation to broader ideas about rural place and LGBTQ sexuality” (Introduction ix). Her focus on specifically women coincides with her profession at Middlebury College regarding feminist studies and her outlook on their visibility inspires authenticity and freedom. 

Beginning her monograph, Carly Thomsen introduces a problem within the LGBTQ community: There is a visibility problem and a rurality problem. The sense of metronormativity dominance is constantly circulated throughout different communities and this fact leads to Thomsen’s main argument in this monograph. She states “It is my position that rural LGBTQ women are illegible not to rural people but to urban people; self-identified liberals, progressives, and leftists; and gay rights groups, and, further, that rural LGBTQ women become illegible through visibility discourses” (Introduction x). Following the introduction of her main position, Thomsen then establishes two important court cases in the first chapter of her monograph involving two members of the LGBTQ community. The first case infers a hate crime (murder crime to be specific) committed towards a gay man, Matthew Shepard, who resided in the Midwest. The second case regards a lesbian woman, Jene Newsome, who was discharged from the military under the policy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell due to her hometown police department in the Midwest outing her. Although both cases differ in their own terms of context, each make their contribution to the assumptions made that visibility is desirable and politically valuable across geographic locales which illuminates the centrality of visibility politics to metronormativity. These assumptions inspire Thomsen’s curiosity in rural queer life regarding women which she further explores in the following chapters. 

 In chapter 2, Thomsen addresses the topic of coming out. She analyzes how many gay rights activists worship this understanding and process of “coming out of the closet” and LGBTQ scholars often criticize it. She believes that LGBTQ studies scholars have complicated the process of coming out. For example, she mentions how Mignon Moore, an LGBTQ scholar, “critiques those who represent ‘coming out’ as a linear process’” (41). Her study in this chapter analyzes her interviewees’ articulations of their relationships to visibility, specifically focusing on their disinterest in visibility, lack of identification with their sexuality, and overall, the role of rurality in shaping their positions. Thomsen concludes that “LGBTQ women in the rural Midwest can feel out and visible without speaking about their sexuality, identifying strongly with it, or politicizing it” as many gay rights activists who reside in urban areas do (57). Moving on to chapter 3, Thomsen intertwines LGBTQ and disability visibility in order to emphasize the hardships faced when struggling for visibility. Thomsen considers “moments in which disability and queerness come into contact and illustrate that visibility discourses can compel the erasure of material bodies, and in the process, render certain (spatialized and racialized) experiences obsolete” (64). Chapter 4 shifts to something different from disability as discussed in chapter 3, and now discusses queer labors. Thomsen focuses on the argument that coming out in one’s own workplace is work itself because it is a process of becoming visible. The constant demand from gay rights supporters to come out at work stresses the prevalence of metronormativity in not only urban areas but also rural areas. Thomsen concludes chapter 4 with the idea that “activists’ beliefs that all LGBTQ workers desire to be out at work and their related stitching of authenticity to visibility… are misguided at best and, at worst, write out of LGBTQ subjectively those for whom sum assumptions do not work” (116). Lastly, in chapter 5, Thomsen reflects on what we might learn about the relationship between metronormativity and visibility politics by observing the changes and similarities between rural queerness over the course of the last decade. She comes to find that long ago when Flickr was a popular source of social media, the LGBTQ side of it was dominated by men and this did not change much when Instagram came rolling around. The difference found was that although mostly displaying gay men, Flickr did not have much opportunity or accounts with LGBTQ members while when Instagram came out, there were more accounts with LGBTQ visibility. However, these accounts were still more dominated by men and more specifically, they were men in urban areas, not rural. In this monograph, Thomsen intentionally criticizes those who feel the need to politicize their queerness. Those who identify as LGBTQ in rural areas have developed more practices of freedom because they manage their queerness in the sense of how they feel most authentic to themselves.  

Carly Thomsen’s most prominent methodology used within her monograph is the use of interviews and having a core focus group; that focus group being women in the rural upper Midwestern United States. Throughout each of her different chapters, she focuses on different branches regarding visibility politics, however, she gathers different interviewees for each chapter. She allows for her interviewees to tell her their stories with no limits, rarely asking many specific questions and just letting them come to their own conclusions with their queerness in regards to where they live and how they identify themselves. With this being said, the data that Thomsen is collecting from these women is much more qualitative than quantitative. For example, in chapter 2 as I mentioned before, Thomsen interviews women to see how they view their relationship to visibility. These interviews helped Thomsen conclude that “demands to be visible actually interfere with [rural women’s] ability to be themselves, live their sexualities and engage politics in way that feel authentic to them” (44). Exemplified in chapter 3 is Thomsen interviewing women in the rural Midwest who are not only queer but also impaired with a disability. She does this in order to “consider the existence of post-racial and post-spatial epistemologies” in her interviewees’ narratives in regards to visibility politics (73). Thomsen concludes in this chapter with the help of the interviews that post-racial and post-spatial ideologies are reproduced as connections between sexuality and disability through discourses of visibility is articulated by each of the women interviewed. In chapter 4, Thomsen interviews women in the workforce and allows them to explain their perception on their visibility and outness in their place of work. One interviewee says, “I could be fired for being gay. So that’s a little bit scary” (114). Interviews with honesty like this helps Thomsen validate her concerns on employment discrimination and further her argument that gay rights activists demand visibility, however, it is not always the favored option in regards to rural queers. Drawing from these examples of how Thomsen uses interviews in order to construct her research and validate her claim, it is evident that the qualitative data she has obtained assists her argument that visibility politics do flow with the idea that metronormativity grants. Rural queer live is there, and it may not be prominent, however, it resides how those want it to. 

Something I would consider a strength of this monograph, disregarding the content within it, is the year that it was published. Visibility Interrupted was published in the year 2021, which means that the research was conducted in close proximity to the year it was published. Now transferring to the content in the monograph, the year it was published and the time in which the research was conducted gives accurate information in relation to the interviewee’s experiences in life and scholarly views on LGBTQ politics. The methodology of using interviews to gather research information also helps this scholarly monograph excel in its relatability towards readers as well as in its qualitative content which assists the author in validating her argument. The specificity of the women interviewed help Thomsen keep consistent research that readers will find accurate and reliable. The fact that Thomsen chose to focus on rural areas in the Midwest also helps contribute into finding interests in the monograph because it is not a super prominent topic that is researched amongst LGBTQ scholars. 

In contrast, something that holds this monograph back is its inability to have a consistent idea or argument flowing throughout the whole book. For instance, in the beginning, the term ‘metronormativity’ is introduced and described. Thomsen gave this term much importance and significance and set up the foundation for a monograph that would incorporate it often. Despite the few mentions of metronormativity throughout the monograph as each chapter moved to different topics, the term could have been more elaborated on in regards to the topics in each chapter. For instance, in chapter 4, queer labors are discussed. Thomsen concluded that women do not have to feel obligated to come out at their place of work if they feel it interferes with their authenticity and freedom and expression of choice. However, Thomsen could have included the idea of metronormativity in this chapter more than she did. The idea that women in rural areas do not feel the need to provoke their visibility in their place of work as much as women in urban areas do centers around the ideas that metronormativity generates. This idea is that queer life thrives more in urban areas and visibility politics are more prominent there. Overall, Thomsen could have included some slight elaborations and connections more in her monograph. 

Carly Thomsen’s Visibility Interrupted: Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming sets to deconstruct the stereotypes of rural life in general. She intends to set rural life apart from the homogenous repetitive assumptions of the area and tries to reinforce when rurality and queerness encounter each other. Despite her lack of elaboration on what seemed like a key idea in her argument, Thomsen achieves finding the different perspectives on queer visibility in the rural upper Midwest of the United States as well as the politics that lie within it. Carly Thomsen calls that “taking on the cult of visibility will require that we examine its many iterations and mutations” which will allow for growth within the LGBTQ community overall.  

Works Cited

Thomsen, Carly Ann. Visibility Interrupted Rural Queer Life and the Politics of Unbecoming. University of Minnesota Press, 2021.