THEORY TO PRAXIS: DELIBERATION GUIDE 

Title: 

 Deliberation on the participation of transgender athletes in college sports  

Before the Deliberation: 

  1. Read this document for the understanding of the subject matter in detail   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender and https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/transgender 
  1. Read this article regarding the recent laws against the transgender school and college athletes in North Carolina https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/n-c-lawmakers-file-bill-ban-transgender-athletes-sports-n1261958 and  https://www.wunc.org/politics/2021-04-15/north-carolina-anti-trans-athletes-bill-debated-high-school-sports   
  1. Analyze this graph on the public opinion on transgender athlete and their participation in college sports https://www.statista.com/statistics/1238594/college-transgender-athletes-by-age/ 
  1. Be familiar with Davidson NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation    https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/diversity-and-inclusion/lgbtqia-resources/gender-identity-resources 

Introduction: 

Everyone has their own gender identity depending upon the internal understanding of oneself as either male, female, or neither. Apart from our own gender identity, our gender expression helps us express our gender through the way we dress, pronouns we choose to be referred to, style, dressing, etc. Society’s understanding of gender construction as only male or female since birth has failed to recognize transgender people in the community. Similarly, in today’s world societies gender construction have mixed opinions on whether a transgender athlete should be able to compete in sports. 

The survey of the public opinion on whether a transgender athlete should compete in college sports in the United States as of April 2021, by age shows that only 20.2 % of the entire population support transgender in competing in college sports whereas the rest of the population is unsure and are against it (Reference). As a result, the debate on whether transgender people should participate in college sports in accordance with their gender identity has been a polarizing issue. Through this deliberation, I will include the several perspective and opinions of the entire Davidson community to provide a suitable conclusion for the Davidson college transgender athletes community in relation to their participation in sports. 

 
Background:  

North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that hinders transgender students in schools and college from competing in sports. There have been 84 bills filed against transgender people mostly focusing on school and college sports. Mark Brody, one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican, introduced a bill in the North Carolina House of Representatives which argues how transgender dominance in sports has pushed out cisgender athletes from school and college sports. Such has affected their records and scholarships The North Carolina argues how such laws were introduced to protect the integrity of sports competition. 

Such laws limiting transgender people to school and college sports have had a significant impact on the mental health of transgender people. In response to such bills, statistics from a national survey of LGBTQ youth from Trevor Project (a non-profit organization on crisis and suicide prevention services) state that 40% of LGBTQ respondents, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth, seriously considered attempting suicide.  

This has been a highly debatable topic in college sports. Similarly, the Davidson college recently follows the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation. Such a policy emphasizes the medical treatment of testosterone. 

  1. (FTM) A trans male assigned birth as a female receiving medical exception treatment with testosterone may compete on a men’s team but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team. 
  1. (MTF) A trans female assigned birth as a male receiving medical exception treatment with testosterone may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. ( Reference

 
Similarly, any transgender student-athlete not taking hormone treatment related to gender transition may participate in sex-separated sports activities in accordance with his or her assigned birth gender. 

  • A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who is not taking testosterone related to gender transition may participate on a men’s or women’s team. 
  • A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team. ( Reference)  

Central question: 

 
To what extent should Davidson college intervene in transgender athletes participating in sports.? 

 Intended audience: 

 I acknowledge the fact that the collaborative voice of the entire Davidson college community is highly valuable and matters to improve the understanding of this topic in detail. As a result, an entire Davidson community along with some professionals will be directly or indirectly involved in this deliberation. It will include the voice of every Davidson member and each opinion, discussion and perspective will be highly valuable for suitable outcome in relation to the transgender athlete and their participation in college sports. I will invite lawyers and the North Carolina athletic director as participants in the deliberation. 

General Format: 

The event will be held in person at Duke Hall. Although it is extremely difficult to include the voice of all1983 students and the faculty members at a single event at once, everyone will somehow contribute to this deliberation through an online survey, petition, and a form to include their voice and perspective. The event will be highly monitored by the invited professionals such as lawyers and the North Carolina athletic director who will play an important part in the evaluation and conclusion process. Below will be the general format of the deliberation.  

Part one: – Introduction and discussion of the background material (10 minutes).             

– Presentation of the facts, article, laws, collected data, and research (10 minutes) 

Part two: –    Anonymous survey and petition (5 minutes) 

                  –   Identification of the pros and cons (5 minutes) 

                  –   Discussion of the main topic in detail (15 min) 

        –    Discussion on the current policy NCAA Policy on Student-Athlete Transgender.                                    

                 –    Debate to evaluate important considerations and opinions (10 minutes) 

                 –    Deliberation: generating and evaluating ideas to transcend (15 minutes) 

 
Part 3:        Reflection (15 min) 

 
Question of consideration: 

 
1. What do you mean by “transgender athlete “? 

2.  what are the current policies in the United States in relation to the transgender athlete and their participation in college sports? 

3. To what extent do cisgender athletes get affected by transgender athletes? 

4. To what extent do transgender athletes get affected by cisgender athletes?  

6. Should Davidson College preserve or amend the NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation after the bill on not allowing transgender athletes to participate in college sports is passed? 

7. Does excluding transgender athletes protect the integrity of sports competition. 

8. What are the main arguments in Favour of the transgender athlete participating in college sports? 

9. What are the main arguments against transgender athletes participating in college sports? 

10. Should the North Carolina house committee pass the bill that would exclude transgender rights to college sports? 

11. What are the pros and cons of allowing transgender athletes in competing for college sports? 

12. How it is or not fair to allow the transgender athlete to college sports.  

13.  What are the ways in which both transgender and cisgender people can participate in sports while protecting the integrity of college sports competitions. 

14. How will Davidson college respond to the issue of not allowing transgender into college sports? 

14. What are the ways in which Davidson college can provide a fair and comfortable environment for transgender athletes in sports. 

Reflection and Follow ups: 

For the reflection, all the data, research, opinions, perspective, and recommendation of the entire Davidson community will be evaluated to provide an insight to make a new understanding of Davison college transgender athlete and their sports participation. Everyone’s opinions will be highly valuable. The gathered information will be evaluated to create a suitable environment for both transgender and cisgender athlete in the Davidson college sports. The evaluation will help determine if Davidson college should continue to implement and follow the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation or amend it in relation to new demands and policy.  

Confidentiality will be maintained. All the discussions among the parties involved along with the required documentation will be confidential unless a person makes a specific request. All the information regarding the collected data, information, and documents of the transgender and cisgender students including their identity and medical information will be kept confidential.  

 Following that, each will provide some feedback and suggestions at the end of the meeting for any future deliberations on this topic. Such opinions will help accumulate different plans, amendments, and changes. The Davidson athletic community will play a vital role and each transgender and cisgender athlete will be able to share their understanding, concerns, and questions. After the discussion and gathering of data, the invitee such as lawyers and the North Carolina athletic director along with Davidson college’s president and president of the athletic department will produce suitable conclusions to this subject matter in detail. 

 
 
 
References: 

https://www.wunc.org/politics/2021-04-15/north-carolina-anti-trans-athletes-bill-debated-high-school-sports

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/n-c-lawmakers-file-bill-ban-transgender-athletes-sports-n1261958

https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/diversity-and-inclusion/lgbtqia-resources/gender-identity-resources

“The Invention of Women:” A Review for Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s Revolutionary Book

In 2011, Beyoncé asked, “Who run the world?” and answered, “Girls.” Almost a decade later, many of the protest signs at the Women’s March on Washington featured this same declaration. Worthy as it may be, Nigerian sociologist Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s first book, The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses, which provides a deconstructive analysis and history of womanhood and gender—and their absence— in Yorùbán society, presents a strong case against the idea that “girls” are, and have been, a global and universal social category. As evidenced by the title, The Invention of Women, Oyěwùmí lays out how “the fundamental category “woman,” which she claims is “foundational in Western gender discourses,” “simply did not exist in Yorùbáland prior to its sustained contact with the West.” (Oyěwùmí x) Moreover, Oyěwùmí presents evidence for how the Western constructions of gender, as well as sex, were brought to Yorùbáland and implemented in such a way that they became salient social institutions that eventually led to the “patriarchalization” (86) of Yorùbán history and society and as a result, the subordination of what is now the category of women.

Before I begin to review and summarize the work of Oyěwùmí in The Invention of Women, I want to foreground her definition of gender as it forms the basis of her analysis. Oyěwùmí considers gender to be “an institution that establishes patterns of expectations for individuals based on their body-type, orders the social processes of everyday life, and is built into major social organizations of society, such as the economy, ideology, the family, and politics” (39).

The work of Oyěwùmí in her 1997 monograph takes the boundary pushing scholarship of sociologist Judith Lorber and others at the time who were focused on the construction of gender, and complicates it by noting that gender was not only socially constructed, but that it was socially constructed in the West and is therefore not applicable transnationally or transculturally. To set the stage for her argument, Oyěwùmí speaks to the characteristics of Western thought that allowed for the construction of gender. She contends that the somatocentricity (ix) of Western thought, in which biological determinism is the basis for the organization of society, coupled with the West’s “privileging of the visual,” (3) made the physical human body “the foundation of social thought and identity” (x) and thus subject to the creation of gender. Oyěwùmí makes it clear that in contrast to the West, Yorùbán society, prior to Western contact, did not privilege the visual sense or the body in its construction of sociocultural meaning.

Oyěwùmí then goes on to explain the ways in which Yorùbán society was organized absent of gender and sex. One key tenet of Yorùbán society that Oyěwùmí explains is the “centrality of the family compound,” rather than gender, “in defining the status of residents” (44). People who married into a household, or “ilé,” were known as “aya,” while those in the household were known as “ọkọ.” The “aya” was considered an outsider while the “ọkọ” was considered an insider and their relationship was ranked such that the “ọkọ” was “the privileged senior” (44). Overall, the hierarchy of Yorùbán society was based on age—with older people having the most status— and thus “social positions of people shifted constantly in relation to those with whom they were interacting” (xiii).

In the latter half of the monograph, Oyěwùmí speaks to the process in which gender was brought to Yorùbán society through missionaries and the imposition of the British “patriarchal colonial state” (123). Because “access to power was gender-based” in Britain, the British arrival in Yorùbáland led to the creation of “women as an identifiable category, defined by their anatomy and subordinated to men in all situations” (123). Oyěwùmí claims that one the most impactful aspects of colonialism that led to this subordination was the colonial educational system as it excluded those under the new category of women. This in turn led to the creation of a stark gender divide in terms of power, wealth, and status, which Oyěwùmí claims is an impact that is still felt in “the contemporary period” (128).

In the final pages of her book, Oyěwùmí widens her focus and criticizes the way in which “womanhood has been pathologized, at a global level” (177). As a result, Western feminists have assumed that the experience and subordination of women is universal without recognizing that this represents a “globalization of what was once a local Western preoccupation” (177). However, because colonialism imprinted gender and the category of women on Yorùbán society, Oyěwùmí speaks to the challenge of “present[ing] alternative ways of looking at anatomic sex-distinctions without pathologizing the female” (178).

I believe the greatest strength of Oyěwùmí’s The Invention of Women lies in the fact that it paints a holistic picture of Yorùbán society and culture before gender was introduced, as well as after colonial contact. As a result, I was able to understand the way in which specific cultural institutions were changed and perverted in the formation of male hegemony in Yorùbán society as a result of colonialism. Oyěwùmí also relies on primary sources, such as Yorùbán elders, to make her argument without preemptively imposing foreign cultural concepts, such as gender, on her research, which she claims is often the case with Western and Western-educated researchers. In her words, “Researchers always find gender when they look for it” (31).

A challenge I would levy on the work on Oyěwùmí in her monograph is the lack of elaboration on her very brief mention of homosexuality. In a discussion around sexual relations in precolonial Yorùbán society, Oyěwùmí contends that “homosexuality does not seem to have been an option” (63) without any further elaboration. Feminist, academic and human rights activist Sylvia Tamale, in her essay, “Confronting the Politics of Nonconforming Sexualities in Africa,” reveals that in many African cultures, there are examples of nonconforming sexuality while noting that “the context and experiences of such relationships did not mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we may today describe as a gay or queer identity” (Tamale 35). Thus, without assuming the presence of homosexuality and nonconforming sexuality in precolonial Yorùbán culture, I wonder whether or not it is even possible to state that these sexualities were absent given Oyěwùmí’s evidence of the absence of gendered identities. In other words, how would nonconforming sexuality be conceived without the construction of gender? Additionally, Oyěwùmí claims that “issues of sexuality were not really issues of morality” (Oyěwùmí 64) until the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Thus, what is nonconforming sexuality when there is no conception of moral, normative and conforming sexuality? Nevertheless, I think Oyěwùmí’s work would be strengthened with a deeper interrogation of homo/nonconforming sexuality in precolonial Yorùbán culture in addition to a discussion on the impact colonialism had on notions of homo/nonconforming sexuality.

All in all, Oyěwùmí’s The Invention of Women is a fairly accessible and relatively short monograph that is not only vital to understanding how gender is constructed, but also vital in that it problematizes the supposed universality of the construction of gender. This book is suited for anyone interested in the intersection of gender and colonialism, for Oyěwùmí reveals how the colonial project in Nigeria was inseparable from the imposition of gendered identities and a gendered hierarchy. Finally, if there’s anything to take away from this review it is this. Next time you hear/say/think “Fuck the patriarchy!” think about the contributions of Oyěwùmí, and how they might inform your answer to this question raised by philosopher and art historian Nkiru Nzegwu: Is patriarchy a “valid transcultural category of analysis?” (21).

Token: Chelsea Manning Talk

Sitting in the Lilly Gallery, hearing Chelsea Manning speak made me want to throw my phone across the room. Manning discussed how technology has gotten so good at understanding what we view as innately human, which made my spine crawl and my leg violently shake. While I have been exposed to and heard about the power of artificial intelligence in controlling our battles, Manning talked about how technology can predict our actions, which made me feel like freedom is really subjective. Manning pushed the idea that while in 2010, her leaking of information was critical in helping transparency, the issue we face now is having too much news available to the public, to the point where it’s hard to distinguish misinformation, disinformation, and what is reality. Culture is controlled by technology, which is all ruled by capitalism.

However, having the awareness that this is our reality provides hope. Manning talked about the importance of building coalitions. From her years in the US’s unjust prison systems, she recognized the importance of working together and intersectionality, a topic we talked about in GSS this term, to help break this negative feedback loop that technology has placed us in. She spoke of the absurdity of having solely one cause to be passionate about when everything intersects. The way Manning encouraged intersectional action was aligned with the ideas we learned about in class as well as through readings such as hooks. 

During the Q&A section of the talk, the last question that was asked of Manning was, “What advice would you give young activists?” Manning’s answer was what stuck with me as she said something along the lines of “You guys don’t need any advice from us; all I can give is encouragement.” I thought this answer was insightful and spoke to her support of young voices.

The Power of Voice and Intersectionality in “I Won’t Say” by Xenia Rubinos

Xenia Rubinos is an artist that does not dominate the mainstream. Her words often do not reach most Americans, and most do not hear her essential messages of the pain and joys of existing in an Afro-Latina body in America. Born to immigrant parents from Puerto Rico and Cuba, Xenia explores her place in creating music in non-white and westernized ways, through the innovation of jazz-funk and soul rhythms.

Since she speaks to being a brown girl in America and attempts to harness “black girl magic,” her music has often been diminished as solely “political,” not giving credit to her immense musical artistry and whimsical and smooth neo-soul vocals. While Xenia’s music has often been disregarded by popular American culture, her album, Black Terry Cat was ranked in the top 10 by NPR in 2016.     

In the song “I Won’t Say,” on Black Terry Cat she speaks to the experience of being silenced and constrained by the toxic expectations forced upon women of color.

Throughout the song, she repeats the phrase, “I won’t say anything at all/No, I won’t say anything at all/ Anything at all.” She speaks to her conditioning to not question and openly defy the socially accepted institutions around her. Xenia stated in 2016 with the release of the song that she has been in a “fight with words for the last ten years” and stopped singing because of it. But with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, she was empowered to speak her mind and bring voice to important truths that she and millions of other Americans have experienced.

Xenia quotes civil rights activist Abbey Lincoln’s essay, Who Will Revere The Black Woman? Singing, “Whose hair is compulsively fried? Whose skin is bleached? Whose nose is too big? Whose mouth is too loud? Whose butt is too broad? Whose feet are too flat? Whose face is too black?” her words exemplify the how expectations of feminine beauty, whiteness, and thinness intersect and are interconnected in American beauty standards. This aligns with the perspectives of 2nd wave Black Feminism, and to the essay Why Intersectionality Cannot Wait. Since systems of discrimination are overlapping and interdependent, this can render black women of color invisible and vulnerable to oppression greater than the sum of racism and sexism combined (Crenshaw 2015).  

However, in I Won’t Say, Xenia Rubinos also comments on the normative culture of social media and how posting pictures on these platforms reproduce the conditioning of women to uphold beauty standards. So, while she feels as if she cannot say anything and is oppressed by this pressure to stay silent, society is constantly in discourse about topics of white beauty within social media, bombarding her with how she should act and look through reproduced aesthetic expectations. Like stated in The History of Sexuality, our actions are constantly being regulated through public discourse and this discourse holds immense power (Foucault 17). She reclaims this power when singing her experiences to life. As stated by Wann in The Fat Studies Reader, power also lies in naming (Wann 7). Xenia is resisting and undo her alienation by naming her blackness, loudness, unique features, and desire to be heard.

By stating, “Look at me/Look at me/Look at you/Look at yourself looking at your selfie/Where’s your selfie?/Let go your selfie/I tried to see my ego but was blinded by my selfie,” she demonstrates the salient message that posting the “perfect” photo only upholds the stigmatization of those who are coded as socially undesirable and unworthy of a like.

In the words, “Where is the place you are?/Put it down/put it down,” Xenia urges young brown and black girls like her to let go of the pressure to conform and accept the normative standards of beauty and worth on social media. Like proclaimed in “Killing Us Softly IV: Advertising Images of Women,” women of color are forced to resemble the white ideal, straighten their hair, and lighten their skin (Kilbourne). They are set up to fail, never able to measure up to the unrealistic image of physical perfection—which is why Xenia urges people to “put it down” and see and appreciate themselves as they are.   

By repeatedly stating that she is “only sleeping,” she exemplifies how women are compelled to uphold norms through the hundreds of unconscious actions that we are programmed to do every day. For instance, “playing hide and go seek with a prince charming” is an action she does while sleeping, unquestioning the constructed heterosexual expectations that pervade every aspect of society. However, sexual orientation is not examined further within the album, and it is important to stay cognizant of how queer identities intersect with black identities. In “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions” for instance, Audre Lorde urges for homophobia to be seen as inseparable from racism and sexism (Lorde 1). Her newest 2021 album, Una Rosa, provides more insight on how sexuality intertwines with Xenia’s life story, inspired by Puerto Rican, diva drag queens.

When stating, “I don’t know her/she don’t know me/I don’t know me/I’m only sleeping,” Xenia speaks to girls’ ignorance over themselves and their own bodies. In light of Our Bodies Ourselves, the song demonstrates the immense occurrence of self-dissatisfaction within women because of cultural images of the female body and the little control they possess over others’ perceptions of them. But, this song is a testament to Xenia Rubinos’ journey of learning herself, letting go of expectations, and reclaiming the facets of her identity that she has been forced to conceal for so long.

Brandon Reid Token: Campus Drag Show

On Saturday, April 9th, I attended the drag show at Rusk’s eating house in Patterson Court. This event was co-hosted by Queers and Allies and Rusk Eating House. During this event, there were many different drag performances. Some of the performances were done by professional drag performers, while others were performed by Davidson College students. The event was emceed by a member of Queers and Allies, who helped add context to the performances by introducing the performers and providing some narrative of what the performers would perform.

Before attending this event, I completed some personal reading on drag. Specifically, I sought to learn more about the history of drag. According to Wikipedia, the first known drag balls in the United States were in Harlem in the 1920s. The Wikipedia page also said that in this show and others that happened around that time, gays and lesbians impersonated members of the opposite sex and competed in fashion contests. Today, and then, drag shows are forms of entertainment, as they are skits that involve impersonating members of the opposite sex. These skits are filled with both serious stories and humorous ones.

This event was relevant to our class’s content, because it involved conversations and actions that push against heterosexual norms of our society. In class, we have become deeply aware of heterosexual norms and how they function in our society. As a student in GSS 101, I have become even more invested in working against homophobic norms, and supporting this event and engaging with the event’s content was a way of doing so. When it comes to course readings, this event most reminded me of our readings on intersectionality, as there were many intersecting identities in the performances.

Further reflecting on the event, I am glad that many students came to support the drag show. However, I still wish that there was more attendance from those on campus who are actively supporting homophobic trends.

Feminist Mixtape – “Video” by India Arie

Video by India Arie connects to the Womanist movement and body neutrality. It broadcasts ideologies found in the womanist movement by rejecting the ideals associated with whiteness and femininity. Black women are often ignored in the conversation about equality and representation. India Arie sings about not needing wealth or fancy things to be happy. Through this language, she is rejecting the idea of wealth in order to be feminine. This is part of what the womanist movement rejected from the first-wave feminists. First-wave feminism focused on white, upper-middle-class women instead of the intersectionality and marginalization of different women. India Arie also aims to spread body neutrality by accepting herself and not nourishing the unrealistic beauty standard. She makes references to not shaving her legs, not combing her hair, not getting plastic surgery, and not wearing pantyhose. This is deconstructing the ideals and standards set for women. In the class reading about body hair, it explains how in the late nineteenth century, body hair removal was normalized to show racial superiority and modernization. The Instagram book review writes, “Maintenance of white women’s ‘proper’ physical appearance became about maintaining ‘health’ of the white race in the face of migration and racial unrest” (@alokvmenon). This was an effort by men to control (white) women’s femininity and sexuality. The understanding of black women as inferior because they have body hair connects back to the womanist movement. The standards, acceptance, and discrimination between white and black women were very different. Black women had to deal not only with sexism but also racism. White men during this time aimed to control Black women while simultaneously interpreting them as racially inferior. The need for a movement that accepted all women regardless of race, socioeconomic status, and body size came from the rejection of Black women into the feminist movement. The chorus says, “I’m not the average girl from your video. And I ain’t built like a supermodel. But I learned to love myself unconditionally. Because I am a queen.” This song expresses modern feminist thought by inspiring women to take control of their lives and do what makes them happy. As a Black woman, India Arie tells the story of acceptance, self-love, and independence from the controlling society we live in. 

This song is personally inspiring to me as a Black woman because it rejects the beauty standard that is reinforced through all aspects of society. So often, young girls are told they are too fat, too skinny, not tall enough, too tall, etc. This song teaches young girls that they are beautiful just the way they are. Unlike many current artists, India aims to empower not degrade women. I grew up listening to her in my household which I believe positively impacted my self-esteem.

Brandon Reid: Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean

In the book titled, Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean, Andil Gosine takes an interesting approach to demonstrate a global issue of homophobia and general exclusionary attitudes that societies have adopted towards marginalized communities. In this piece Gosine describes these global issues in a way that incorporates experiential storytelling on their experiences, and broader data, laws, and systemic forms of oppression. Before even diving into the book, Gosine’s book cover greets students with an intriguing image of a person blending into a jungle, while holding a rooster. By starting with this image, Gosine invites readers to pause and contemplate the message that is being conveyed, as it pairs beautifully with what is represented in the actual book. In this book report, I will share my perception of the work’s content.

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Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures: A Review

Crunch. Bits of crushed-up peanuts add an element of surprise as I chew. The chunky texture intertwined with the smooth layers of peanut butter creates a satisfying experience. Extra crunchy peanut butter. A treasured delicacy of mine. When the dining hall does not fill my grumbling stomach’s desires, I chow down in my dorm room alone on my favorite snack. A yummy snack? Yes. A snack that works as a form of resistance against the normative intimacies of eating in the public sphere? Well, that is an idea I had not even begun to consider until reading Anita Mannur’s 2022 monograph entitled Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures. 

Mannur, a self-proclaimed “professor, writer, thinker, recovering optimist,” works as an Associate Professor of English at Miami University. Mannur teaches interdisciplinary courses centered on race, class, gender, and sexuality. Additionally, she is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture and co-editor of Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader. Mannur received her BA in Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Mannur’s background and primary research in food studies as well as her interdisciplinary teaching approach qualify her to examine food in Intimate Eating. 

Keep on reading!

Book Review – Bodyminds Reimagined by Sami Schalk

Ondessa Kiliru-Liontree

Black literature is often criticized more heavily and held to a higher standard than the literature of other races. The lack of historical Black narratives has left many Black writers focused on constructing non-fictional literature and realistic portrayals to rewrite history and break down racist ideologies. Non-fiction has always and will continue to have a place in society, however, much can be learned and expressed through speculative fiction. Bodyminds Reimagined investigates Black speculative fiction as a necessary avenue to understand the implications of the intersectionality of (dis)ability, race, and gender. However, many Black authors criticize this hybrid genre and accuse other Black writers of betraying their mission. The question then arises, does Black speculative fiction have a place in Black literature and provide alternative modes for understanding oppression?

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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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From Palestine to Ukraine: The Roles of Race, Whiteness and Gender in Negotiating Resistance

War and social media have coexisted for the last two decades or so, however, the role social media is playing in the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine stands out from other ongoing conflicts, whether it be the current bombardment and mass starvation of Yemen, the ongoing civil war in Syria, or the practically invisible suppression of West Papuans in their prolonged struggle for independence. I contend that the distinction lies in the way the Western world is responding to the crisis in Ukraine. As a very active American consumer of social media, primarily on Instagram and Twitter, I have noticed an outpouring of support for Ukraine from my American peers previously averse to posting on matters of politics and current events as well as from American and European individuals and institutions with prominent social media followings, including corporations, celebrities and government officials (see images below). These individuals and institutions are what I am referring to when I say “the Western world.” Even my own college of Davidson in North Carolina is currently flying the Ukrainian flag beneath the American one in the center of campus.

I am pointing out this distinction that is the Western world’s response to the war in Ukraine because I think it can teach us an important lesson on a) the political construction of whiteness, b) how race and gender influence how the West perceives and responds to human suffering around the world, c) who is entitled to resistance to violent aggression in the eyes of the West, and d) who is given unequivocal support from the West in their respective fights against imperialist aggression.

I will perform my analysis using a TikTok I encountered on Twitter depicted below. First of all, for a TikTok to make it onto Twitter, especially the politics-focused Twitter spaces I am a part of, it needs to be one that is very prominent and being widely discussed and shared. In the case of this TikTok, it had over 750,000 likes, 16,000 comments and 15,000 shares and 14.2 million views alone at the time that I encountered it. The TikTok itself centered a horizontal video of a young girl confronting a taller and armed male soldier. The video follows the girl as she yells at the solider who responds by walking away and laughing. The environment in the background resembles a desert with a sandy road and hardly any trees. For a moment at the end, the video cuts to an old woman who is crying being interviewed by RT, a Russian media outlet. Above the video, there is text that reads: “LITTLE GIRL TRY TO STOP” followed by two broken heart emojis and a sad face emoji, which is then followed by: “PRAY FOR UKRAINE” [Ukrainian flag emoji] [broken heart emoji]. The caption for the TikTok read: “#ukraine #army #fyp #fyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy #RUSIA #emotional.” The TikTok was posted by @staystrongukrainee, which had 127,400 followers on the app, and now appears to have been removed (most likely for spreading misinformation).

As evidenced by the strange caption and the questionable editing of the video, this TikTok exhibits many standard “red flags” of misinformation. In fact, the TikTok is an example of misinformation as the video it references as depicting Ukraine is really a ten-year-old video depicting a Palestinian girl named Ahed Tamimi confronting an Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territory known as the West Bank. It is precisely the fake nature of this TikTok that interests me the most, as I believe its ability to exist as a piece of misinformation to illicit support, solidarity and sympathy for Ukraine in the current conflict reveals a lot about the political construction of whiteness, as well as the role of race and gender in shaping Western discourse around the Ukrainian conflict specifically, but also war and resistance in general.

First and foremost, I want to speak on this video’s ability to be used as a tool for misinformation and how that is related to whiteness. Ahed Tamimi, who has blonde hair and a fare skin tone, is white passing.

Before I delve into this, I want to touch on the history of this term. “Passing” was first used in runaway slave notices from 19th century America, which Andrea Guzman claims “brings us back to the tension between being white and being free. Are they really the same thing?” This history is significant as it reveals that the concept of “passing” for white is a political construction with implications of power and freedom. It also reveals the fact that whiteness has historically been a threshold demarcated by upper-class, property-owning white people. The runaway slaves could not decide themselves whether they were or were not white passing, but rather their whiteness was contingent on the whims of white people as revealed by the fact that poor white people were sometimes cast as “mulatto” by other whites and sold into slavery.

This is all related to the case for Ahed Tamimi in this example of misinformation as it was her white appearance that allowed this video of her to be repurposed for the Ukrainian conflict, which is situated in a country where the majority of the population has fare skin and, in some regards, is considered white. In fact, some journalists are noting how the skewed coverage of the Ukrainian conflict compared to others around the world (Syria, Yemen, Somalia and West Papua as some examples) is due to its nature as a nation of white people. Another source astutely classified the skewed nature of the coverage as “blatant racism.”

But while Tamimi’s white passing appearance has allowed an account like @staystrongukrainee to co-opt and frame her resistance against the Israeli soldier to be an assumed example of resistance from a Ukrainian girl against a Russian soldier, Tamimi’s identity as a Palestinian, and therefore a non-white, non-Western individual, did not afford her resistance to Israeli aggression the same level of support and sympathy from the Western world that has been afforded to cases of Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression. Kuan-Yun Wang, in an analysis of American and Canadian media coverage of Tamimi notes that “the media frame Tamimi and the Palestinians as violent initiators.” Wang found that the media also decry her persona as “fake’ and ‘propaganda,'” all of which Wang claims to “achieve the purpose of legitimising the use of state violence on colonised bodies, which ultimately reflects settler-colonial history in North America.” In terms of Tamimi’s reception in Israel, one member of the Israeli government has called her a terrorist, while the current Prime Minister, and Education Minister at the time, Naftali Bennett stated Tamimi deserved to be incarcerated for life following another instance of her slapping a soldier in 2018, which she served time in prison for. I will also speak on popular gendered tropes used against Tamimi in Israel later on.

This is all in stark contrast to the women in Ukraine who have taken up armed resistance against the recent Russian aggression and have been hailed by Western media outlets (examples: France24, Vanity Fair, Slate) and labeled as “brave” and as “heroes,” as seen in the tweets below.

While Tamimi’s relation to whiteness (being non-white but white passing) has impacted the way her resistance is received and, in this case, commodified to illicit certain reactions, her gender has also been used to further delegitimize her resistance, unlike the case of the Ukrainian women. For example, Yasmeen Serhan in an article for The Atlantic noted that “a young girl known for her long, curly hair isn’t the image one might typically come to expect of a national freedom fighter.” While the validity of Tamimi’s status as a “hero” figure is questioned due to her age, appearance and gender, the Ukrainian women being heralded on Twitter and in the media are not subjected to such scrutiny, even when, in another case of misinformation used to illicit support for Ukrainian women fighters, the women are wearing neo-Nazi symbols on their bullet-proof vests. Additionally, I have yet to come across any source that labels the Ukrainian women fighters as “fiery,” which is the sexist term The Mirror used to characterize Tamimi.

The fetishization of Tamimi’s hair is also very prevalent in media and individual accounts of her. The Washington Post described the appearance of her hair as “wild locks swept up in a hair band,” which is yet another example of the emphasis on Tamimi’s supposed feistiness and “wild” nature, which is notably not how men, or the Ukrainian women I’ve referenced, that participate in resistance are ever described. A popular nickname for Tamimi among Israelis and others is “Shirley Temper,” which both fetishizes her hair, in its reference to the hair of Shirley Temple, and weaponizes her gender as something that is associated with rage. The general focus on her hair above everything also points to a form of dehumanization that Tamimi, and not the Ukrainian women, experience.

Other accounts of Tamimi have described her as a “metoo heroic victim” and have classified her resistance as “provocative,” which is yet another sexist term commonly used to objectify and victim-blame women. One Twitter user, who notably has their profile picture set as the Ukrainian flag, objectifies Tamimi in referencing her “usefulness.” They wrote: “Shirley Temper’s arrest was the grand finale of her parents’ grooming. Now that she’s no longer a photogenic little girl, she’s no longer useful.”

Returning to the focus of this analysis, it is clear from these examples that resistance to violent aggression is not created equal according to the West. While Ukrainians are heralded for resisting the violent invasion of Russia, Palestinians like Tamimi who resist the violence of Israeli soldiers (unarmed, in the case of Tamimi) are put under intense scrutiny, delegitimized, objectified and ridiculed. Additionally, it is clear race and gender play key roles in how resistance to violence is negotiated and classified by the West. As evidenced by the TikTok I’ve been referencing, the political construction of whiteness, and its ability to be weaponized at the whims of those looking to achieve certain goals, also plays a key role. Tamimi’s white passing appearance was weaponized to create misinformation to illicit Western sympathy for Ukraine, while her identity as a non-white Palestinian girl (at the time of the 2012 video) complicated and invalidated her actual act of resistance in the eyes of the West.  

Tamimi’s relationship to whiteness can be understood using the words of Bree Newsome Bass, an artist and organizer based in North Carolina, who writes that “The ongoing conflict in Eurasia again shows that whiteness is not an ethnicity but a fluid power construct, a product of colonialism, where inclusion/exclusion fluctuates largely according to the whims of the ruling white elite. Where is the dividing line between Europe & Asia? Between East & West? Between European & non-European? Between white & nonwhite? Anti-Black racism remains the only constant that holds this fragile construct together. There must be clarity on who is unequivocally excluded.”

Bass’ inclusion of anti-Black racism is also relevant to the Ukrainian conflict, as African international students, migrants and residents of Ukraine have experienced immense racism, as well as acts of violence, in their attempts to escape the fighting.  

This case of misinformation from TikTok I have dissected is important in that it reveals the impact of whiteness as a “power construct,” to use Bass’ terminology, that factors into the negotiation of whether or not certain people are entitled to resistance, whether or not it is acceptable that certain people suffer, and whether or not certain people are given unequivocal support from the West, even in the extreme cases of displaying connections to Nazism, like some fighters in the Ukrainian army.

As the Ukrainian conflict continues to this day, alongside numerous other conflicts and cases of Western imperialism around the world that have been purposefully swept under the rug and overlooked, it is important that we do not perpetuate narratives or spread media that supports the racist Western double standard regarding resistance that is rooted in whiteness and its weaponization. All peoples are entitled to resistance against oppressive forces, and we must recognize that.

Can Society Really Determine Perceived Genders?

Mastermind magazine produced this image of Willow and Jaden Smith in the 2019 fall issue. Mastermind magazine releases bi-annually and focuses on current events and attitudes of the younger generations. It is a space to be creative and display a range of talents and people. The intended audience ranges from young adults to millennials. This exclusive magazine was founded in 2017 and is available for purchase online and paperback. They chose to include Willow and Jaden in the 2019 issue because of their impact on gender expression, unique styles, and confidence as individuals. Willow and Jaden both actively participate and advocate within queer spaces. They also have developed into queer fashion, music, and film symbols. Willow and Jaden reinforce that beauty, individuality, and confidence does not have to fit into the narrow boundaries of what society portrays as normal and abnormal. As young, black, queer adults, Willow and Jaden represent the positive ways non-conforming people can live in our nation. As the younger generations become more accepting and educated on topics of gender and sexuality, we come to realize that beauty and gender have no particular features, shape, or color, and Willow and Jaden depict this with no remorse. The photograph from the magazine presents a symmetric reflection of Willow and Jaden gazing upward, hands identically pressed to their cheeks. They are challenging this notion of physical difference between men and women. If one did not know the Smith siblings prior, would the gendered differences be obvious? I believe this is the question they are forcing the audience to reconcile with and reflect on. This photograph examines the viewer’s bias and understanding of how gender functions as invented categorizations to divide people. 

Although intersectionality of gender and race play into the lives of Willow and Jaden, it does not consume this photograph. As a person of color, perhaps I brush over the fact of their blackness when gazing at the photograph, or perhaps it was looking for an intentional gender-directed reaction. However, I want to acknowledge the intersectionality in this photo as another product of social construction that produces real consequences. Willow and Jaden also come from a previously wealthy family which contributes to their success and ability to be openly unique individuals. Intersectionality plays an important role when discussing aspects of gender and sexuality because it often influences and dedicates the way we interact with it.

Willow and Jaden break down the gender norms and stereotypes associated with the binary in the photograph. As Jonathan Van Ness explains in his Netflix special, Can We Say Bye-Bye to the Gender Binary, gender is performed and enforced in society. This can be seen through the segregation of colors inflicted on people in society. Jaden projects a commonly feminine look with his pink eyebrows and hair. In the context of public expectation and presentation, blue is typically for boys, and pink is for girls. Pink has not always been associated with femininity. Pink was more of a boy’s color, if a gendered color at all, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People dressing in gendered clothes is a relatively new invention. Jaden proves in this photograph that people can dress, alter, and perform gender in any way they choose. It also connects deeper to the ideas of how the binary should project and display itself. Men are supposed to be tough and masculine whereas women are soft and emotional. Jaden and Willow’s gazes are identical with soft, innocent-like features. Neither of them is visibly wearing makeup, contributing to the vulnerable look. They both wear rings in the photo, revealing that jewelry does not belong to a singular gender. Willow does have earrings and a nose piercing, however, this just means that every individual is different. It is celebrating diversity, preferences, and choices between human beings. Willow Smith wears a similar short hairstyle to Jaden further breaking down the ideas of what is supposed to be masculine. Society loves to associate female beauty with hair, but Willow shows that beauty exists beyond long this. As Lorber explains, “​​For the individual, gender construction starts with an assignment to a sex category on the basis of what the genitalia look like at birth… A sex category becomes a gender status through naming, dress, and the use of other gender markers” (Labor 55). Gender is not determined by biological or psychological differences. There are no features that accurately reproduce the binary, but instead, it is a construction of our surroundings, interactions, media depictions, and upbringing. This calls to question the title of this photograph. If their names were not written across the page, neatly drawn into their boxes, would it be obvious which image was Jaden and which one was Willow? In a way, it feels as though the magazine wants to be progressive, but not to the extent of complete freedom. If the magazine did reject all gender norms, it would not have placed the lettering where it did. Alternatively, it could simply be educating viewers who are unfamiliar with the Smith siblings. There are multiple ways to interpret the purpose and placement of the title. 

Willow and Jaden Smith have become icons of the younger generation for their confidence, identity expression, and talent. Mastermind magazine exhibits Willow and Jaden’s beauty and originality in this edition. The photograph calls to question our notions of gender and forces us to reconcile with our constructed worldview. The upcoming generations are more and more open to diverse gender expressions, giving me hope that many adolescents looked to this photograph as inspiration, not with hostility. 

Theory to Praxis: Combatting Period Poverty at Davidson and in Charlotte

One public health issue that falls within the realm of gender and sexuality studies -particularly reproductive justice- is period poverty. Insufficient access to menstrual supplies or environments that allow safe changing of products means that people who experience periods face additional challenges to their everyday hygiene, which has a direct impact on other aspects of their life. For example, a survey of U.S. teens found that 4 out of 5 individuals “either missed or knew someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products” (Capozzi). In addition to encompassing the lack of menstrual products available to people that need them, the term period poverty also references the lack of health education because of stigma around periods, lack of funding and resources, or other reasons.

Period poverty is often cited as an issue for developing nations, and while this is true, it is also a pervasive problem for people in many situations where their needs cannot be met. Not everyone who needs period products is a woman, but since they are marketed towards women, they are unnecessarily expensive (llano). In the United States, this means that people living in poverty or experiencing homelessness are especially susceptible to period poverty. It is important to note that youth experiencing homelessness are disproportionately LGBTQ people of color (Griffith), so period poverty is not just a women’s health issue, but a very intersectional one.

Two ways Davidson can make menstrual care less stigmatized and more accessible for the community are by increasing the availability of period products in public restrooms and providing opportunities to support menstrual justice in the greater community.

  1. Many of the public women’s restrooms on campus have free tampons available in them- Wall, Union, the library, and Chambers are a few examples. However, they are often out of stock, which eliminates any benefit of them being offered there. In addition, they are only ever set out by the sinks in the women’s restrooms, but not the men’s. Increasing options for gender-neutral restrooms is something we have discussed in class and other students have brought up in their proposals, and I would argue that offering free menstrual products in all public campus restrooms would be a small, good first step to implement towards that goal.
  1. Davidson has the wealth to provide widespread access to menstrual products in public restrooms, but this kind of accessibility is unfortunate not the norm. To encourage action on this issue, I propose putting up posters about period poverty in restrooms. These would include a definition of what period poverty is, as well as a QR code that leads you to the links of organizations to support. For example, Flo Charlotte is an organization that collects and distributes menstrual hygiene supplies to those in need around Charlotte. Their mission statement emphasizes that they “focus primarily on families experiencing homeless, but [they] also support domestic violence shelters, schools, and safe havens for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults” (Flo Charlotte). They accept donations of menstrual hygiene supplies, but also monetary donations, so the posters could even have a QR code that links straight to their PayPal. It would be great to have these posters up in the bathrooms of public buildings on campus to inform people of all genders about this issue and what they can do to combat it.

References

Capozzi, Lindsay. “Period Poverty: The Public Health Crisis We Don’t Talk About.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab, 6 Apr. 2021, https://policylab.chop.edu/blog/period-poverty-public-health-crisis-we-dont-talk-about.

Flo Charlotte, https://www.flocharlotte.com/.

Griffith, Daiana. “LGBTQ Youth Are at Greater Risk of Homelessness and Incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative, 22 Jan. 2019, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2019/01/22/lgbtq_youth/.

llano, Alejandra De. “The Pink Tax: Why Are Feminine Products More Expensive?” CavsConnect, 10 Mar. 2021, https://www.cavsconnect.com/opinion/2021/03/10/the-pink-tax-why-are-feminine-products-more-expensive/.

Theory to Praxis: A New Cross-Listed Course at Davidson College

One thing that has stood out to me after taking GSS101 this semester is how feminist and queer theory is inherently inaccessible to the average person. Theory has been kept in the realm of academia and most do not ever interact with or see feminist and queer theory until college, if ever. In my experience, I never learned about any theory in any of my years in public school and I had never heard of most of the scholars we discussed until reading their work in class. This course has been eye opening for me and I feel a more informed person after taking it. I personally think that it is important for everyone to, at the very least, know the basics of feminist and queer theory because I believe it informs critical thinking and social awareness. 

I am interested in the development of an interdisciplinary course that would be a part of the educational studies department and the gender and sexuality studies department at Davidson College. This course would cover how we can incorporate theory into elementary and middle school education. A focus would be on how we can create a standardized curriculum that would educate students on feminist and queer theory but in accessible terms so that it is easy to understand. Examples of projects in the course would be: to pare down Michel Foucault’s “History of Sexuality” into a simpler, easier to understand format, to develop a lesson plan that teaches about the waves of feminism and how they have shaped women’s rights, or to incorporate bell hook’s theory from “Black Women Shaping Feminist Theory” into a presentation and assignment suited for different grade levels. Throughout the development of this course and then into how this course is taken into the real world, it will be important to ensure that the information covered is intersectional and inclusive. 

Young students that do not feel like they fit in society’s definitions of gender or labels of sexuality will see early on that they are valid and that the whole concepts of gender and sexuality are ever changing and fluid. Introducing these ideas at a young age will cultivate a generation that will break down the gender binary, sexuality labels, and will create a more inclusive and accepting society.

Feminist Mixtape: The Man by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s pop anthem, “The Man,” is a catchy, upbeat song aiming to address the inequality between how female artists and male artists are treated and talked about. With a driving bass line, fun and catchy melody, and easy to understand lyrics, this song is able to reach audiences young and old alike. In her song, Swift discusses how every aspect of her personality, looks, actions, and decisions would be seen in a different way if she were a man. In our society there is a double standard between what is acceptable for men to do and for women to do. 

The line “They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to” addresses how when a woman cycles through multiple relationships before settling down with “the one,” she is judged differently than a man would be even though it is very common for both men and women to have many relationships. Swift changes this negative narrative by stating “And that would be okay for me to do” confirming to her audience that having multiple partners in life is normal and not something to be ashamed of.

Later in the song, Swift says “When everyone believes ya/ What’s that like?” This line is referring to the #MeToo movement and how women that come forward about sexual assualt, harrassment, and rape are most often doubted and questioned. Victim blaming is present in our society and is disproportionately against women more than men. 

The final line that stood out to me when listening to this song was “What I was wearing, if I was rude/ Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.” Women’s clothing is all too often equated with their success and the quality of their work. Instead of focusing on what women actually have to say or what their ideas are, the focus is on what she is wearing. Specifically, when female artists, actresses, or celebrities are interviewed the topic is almost always about what they are wearing, or how they look. In contrast, men are typically interviewed on what their acting experience was like, or what the song is about, for example. 

I connected this song to the reading by Lorber called “The Social Construction of Gender.” In the reading she argues that “it does not matter what men or women actually do; it does not matter if they do the same exact thing, the social institution of gender insists only that what they do is perceived as different” (Lorber 58). In “The Man,” Taylor is arguing that if she did not change anything about her actions but existed as a man, she would be perceived differently by society and treated better. Simply because we as a society perceive some actions to be more acceptable when done by a certain gender, it has become unacceptable to cross those made-up gender barriers. The issue is that there is no rhyme or reason for why we have these expectations for what different genders can or cannot do. The idea that what a woman is wearing determines her worth or success or how many partners a woman has had determines her value is a baseless belief that society has created. Taylor Swift is one of, if not the, biggest artist currently. She has an enormous platform and the ability to create change with the message she shares through her artistry and voice. This song is an attempt to address the disparities between how female and male artists are treated and spark discussion on how we can create change. Her feminism is not perfect and she can do a lot more to include intersectionality in her feminism and to use her priviledge uplift marginalized voices.