Discussion Guide: Sex Workers and their Current Fight for Legality in North Carolina

Format for Deliberation

Before the Deliberation

1.  Read this document’s Background, Shared Language, Expected Outcomes and Conversation Agreements section.

  • If you encounter words or concepts that you are unfamiliar with or have questions about, refer to the Shared Language section that provides some discussion and definitions of key terms related to gender and sexuality

2. (Optional) Review the sources listed in the footnotes of this document

During the Deliberation

  1. Shared Language – 5 mins
  2. Expected Outcomes and Conversation Agreements – 5 mins
  3. Introduction and Personal Stake – 10 mins
  4. Gaps and Solutions – 30 mins
  5. Reflections – 10 mins

Background

From North Carolina Prostitution Offenses and Penalties

Prostitution is the act of “performing, offering, or agreeing to perform vaginal intercourse, any sexual act, or any sexual contact for the purpose of sexual or another gratification for money or other consideration.”

It is important to note that this law has only been updated twice in recent history: once is 2013, and the last time being 1919. As such, there is archaic language and traditional marital roles present within much of these laws. For instance, one can be charged with “patronizing a prostitute” with anyone “who is not his spouse.” Not only does this assume older individuals seeking sex workers are married, it assumes they are male. On top of those assumptions, it assumes they are heterosexual as well. Making the clarification of “vaginal intercourse” instead of simply stating “intercourse” clearly demarcates how some legislators define sex as vaginal intercourse between a man and woman. Additionally, even if the participants were heterosexual, it excludes anal intercourse from this specification. Still, the wording and referring to the readers as “his” indicates a misogynistic viewpoint that only men pursue prostitutes.

From Safer Sex Work – NC Harm Reduction Coalition

The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition defines a sex worker as someone that “provides sexual or sexual related services in exchange for money, drugs, other favors” explicitly as a form of income/work. This article addresses the myth that “all sex workers are women” or that “sex workers can not be raped.” In this page, the coalition also gives advice on avoiding STIs and date violence all while using common vernacular to explain their reasoning. 

Shared Language- 5 minutes

Language to Consider Adopting/Preferred Terms

  • Intercourse
    • Intercourse can be the emotional or physical acts of engaging in sex. It is not limited to vaginal intercourse and is not dependent on the participants’ gender or sexual orientation. 
  • Sex worker > Prostitute
    • Prostitute is a notoriously derogatory term for sex workers and is similar to “lady of the night.” It demeans their work with a socially negative connotation and falsely separates sex workers in categories between prostitutes (physical sex workers in cities) against pornography stars or strippers. 
  • Sex Trafficking versus Choice
    • While it possible that many sex workers acquired this profession via sex trafficking, there are many individuals that chose this line of work and being respectful of this choice is imperative to continue. 
  • Solicitor > John
    • While the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition refer to all sex worker clients as “John,” to avoid gendered language it would be beneficial to use “solicitor” or “client” instead. Calling all clients “John” ties back to the heterosexual myth that all sex workers are women and their clients are all men; both sides come with a range in genders. 

Dynamics to Consider

  • Many sex workers consider “prostitute” and “lady of the night” to be demeaning terms. These terms are also gender-exclusive which is why saying “sex worker” is preferred to the former options. Not all sex workers are cis gendered women, so it is imperative to use this distinction.
  • Despite the rise of technology, and the increasing use of platforms such as OnlyFans, we will only be discussing sex work when it comes to physical intercourse, stripping, and pornography. Although OnlyFans is new, its complex interface and user interaction are too expansive for this discussion. 

Expected Outcomes and Conversation Agreements- 5 minutes

Expected Outcomes

Given the complexity and religious as well as economic nature of this topic, the purpose of this forum is not to come to a formal agreement or declaration about any policies related to the legality of prostitution within North Carolina. Instead, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition will take ideas generated from this forum to be utilized in committee meeting discussions and planning for future political decisions and lobbying.

Conversation Agreements

In entering into this discussion, to the best of our ability we each agree to:

  1. Be authentic to our experiences and be respectful of others’ experiences shared.
  2. Be an attentive and active listener for all parties involved–whether or not you agree with their stance on prostitution.
  3. Be a purposeful and concise speaker. 
  4. Approach fellow deliberators’ stories, experiences, and arguments with curiosity, not hostility.
  5. Assume the best-and not the worst-about the intentions and values of others, and avoid snap judgements.
  6. Demonstrate intellectual humility, recognizing that no one has all the answers, by asking questions and making space for others to do the same.
  7. Be open to answering others’ questions to the best of your ability; however, be aware it is not your job to educate others.
  1. Critique the idea we disagree with, not the person expressing it, and remember to practice empathy. 
  2. Note areas of both agreement and disagreement.
  3. Respect the confidentiality of the discussion
    1. When referencing specific individuals, whether part of the sex work industry or not, no names or identifying remarks will be shared outside of this group
  4. Avoid speaking in absolutes (i.e. “All people think this,” or “No educated people hold that view”).

Introduction and Personal Stake- 10 minutes

  1. Who are you, how old are you, what are your pronouns, what do you do for work, and what do you hope to gain from tonight’s discussion?
  2. What about the legality of sex work is important to you personally and for our broader community? 
    • If willing, please explain sex work’s economic impact on your livelihood.
  3. What immediate issues, if any, do you see regarding sex work in our current North Carolina social sphere?

Gaps and Solutions- 30 minutes

Gaps (15 minutes)

1. Based on the background materials or your own personal experiences, what do you think are the most pressing needs related to the sex work industry in North Carolina?

2. Living in an idealistic world, what would sex work look like in North Carolina in the future if we adopt change?

3. Now more realistically, what goals do you think are most achievable in the short and long term?

Solutions (15 minutes)

1. What solutions do you think have the greatest potential for positive change in North Carolina? Do you think these solutions can be applied nationally? Why or why not?

2. Which proposed solutions do you think would have a detrimental effect and/or negative unintended consequences? Why are you concerned about them?

3. Many of these actions will require different levels and combinations of time, political influence, and broad institutional support. Do these differences factor into your priorities for change, and if so, how?

Reflections- 10 minutes

  1. What was your biggest takeaway tonight?
  • How do these conversations begin larger discussions in the political atmosphere?

2. What perspectives aren’t in the room that would be important to consider?

  • What perspectives would be best to lead these conversations on a legal floor?

3. Is there any other future step you would like to take related to tonight’s discussion?

“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).

The Feminist “Love-Politics” of Labelle in “Morning Much Better”

Labelle, formed in 1971, was all-female rock trio comprised of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash. Known for their “godless gospel music” fit for the “space age,” Labelle was revolutionary and boundary breaking in a plethora of ways, whether it be their sex-positive lyrics, futuristic costumes or the fact that they were the first Black rock group to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera and the first Black vocal group to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine. I contend that Labelle was uniquely “womanist,” in all the senses of activist and author (and also anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist) Alice Walker’s term, as they were a Black feminist group that loved music and dance and promoted sexual and non-sexual love through their intimacy-laden lyrics and “sexual self-expression” focused performances.

In this short essay, I will analyze their 1971 track “Morning Much Better” from their first album Labelle and lay out why I think it is a feminist song. “Morning Much Better” begins with this demand addressed to a sexual partner: “But if you want to keep me happy / Better hear what I’m saying to you.” To me, this sets the song off on a particular feminist note, as it emphasizes the agency of the person making the demand, which in the case of Labelle, is three Black women. This is especially significant given the fact that Labelle was a departure from the girl group model of the sixties and seventies exemplified by The Supremes, who, also as Black women, were subject to a degree of respectability politics that made them look practically identical and sing about sentiments such as “waiting for love,” in the case of their song “You Can’t Hurry Love.” The difference in tone and agency of The Supremes’ song and “Morning Much Better” underlines both the boundary pushing nature of Labelle as well as their song’s feminist message, which rejected the notion of passively waiting for love and/or a sexual partner.

While the song has one mention of “Daddy,” it is otherwise pronoun-less and thus could apply to anyone of any gender identity, which is another unique feature of many Labelle songs that cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon contends, “surely contributed to the group’s appeal among gay men and lesbians.” Thus, “Morning Much Better” is also part of Labelle’s legacy of promoting a more intersectional feminist message that included people of all gender identities and sexualities.

The central narrative in “Morning Much Better” is a desire to have sex in the morning. One line in the chorus goes: “But I usually like it much better in the morning, yeah.” This overall sentiment of the song renders it as one that is, in signature Labelle fashion, sex-positive, which is a feminist ideal exemplified by many feminists including poet and activist Pat Parker. It also renders the song as one that promotes communication and dialogue in sexual relationships, which I contend is a feminist principle in that it is the foundation of healthy relationships of mutual respect in which both sexual partners have the ability to express their desires as well as what makes them feel good.

In advocating for sexual partners vocalizing their own personal desires and preferences, “Morning Much Better” exemplifies what writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde envisioned as radical self-care, which she writes, “is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” While self-care today has veered far from this conception as it has come to adopt the kind of “competitive atomistic” and “liberal individualism” that author and feminist bell hooks claims “undermines the potential radicalism of feminist struggle,” Labelle in “Morning Much Better” is advocating for a radical self-care based on consensual and fulfilling sex, healthy relationships and a good night’s sleep! As the song goes: “But I don’t know, baby, just what it is, but that’s mmmm, when I feel good / Oh, with seven (I assume hours) behind me / Oh, you better come find me, yeah.”

All in all, “Morning Much Better” is a “sonically intimate” and vibrant feminist, and arguably womanist, boundary breaking song that incapsulates a Black feminist tradition of “love-politics,” in the sense that it advocates not only for relationships of love and intimacy that personally feel good, but also a relationship of love with oneself through its promotion of radical self-care. According to a member of the Atlanta Feminist Lesbian Alliance, Labelle’s impact was indeed felt. In their words, Labelle represented “very together women who love people and each other. And they have a heavy feminist message.”

Listen to “Morning Much Better” here.

Feminist MixTape: “enough for you” by Olivia Rodrigo

If you ever feel the need to go for a drive and cry about how much the patriarchy sucks, listen to “enough for you” by Olivia Rodrigo. Olivia Rodrigo is a singer, songwriter, and actress. She blessed the world with “enough for you” in 2021, as part of her album, Sour, which also presents several feminist perspectives. I particularly recommend listening to the final song, “hope ur ok,” as it reaches out to the LGBTQ+ community through its discussion of abuse, sexual orientation, and acceptance. 

The first way that Olivia Rodrigo instills feminist beliefs in “enough for you” is through the theme that she, as a woman, felt as though she did something wrong or was flawed and that is why she is experiencing a breakup. This feeling of self-hate is obvious in the lyrics, “You found someone more exciting The next second, you were gone And you left me there cryin’, wonderin’ what I did wrong…”. When listening to this song, it reminds me of the book I read for the book review, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward. I sense a similarity between this song and that book because of its connections with the misogyny paradox. Essentially, the misogyny paradox asserts that boys’ and men’s desire for girls and women is expressed in a society that simultaneously encourages them to hate girls and women. This is evident in everyday life through men’s practices of abuse, mansplaining, and disrespect towards women (Ward 35-38). Olivia Rodrigo’s lyrics demonstrate the harmful effects that the misogyny paradox has on women. Specifically, it leads to negative thoughts in which women think that they are at fault for men’s poor treatment of them. In reality, women have done nothing wrong and this is a flaw of the patriarchy. 

Olivia Rodrigo also presents the societal expectation that women should be responsible to beautify and improve themselves to be “acceptable” to men. The artist sings, “I wore makeup when we dated ‘Cause I thought you’d like me more If I looked like the other prom queens I know that you loved before Tried so hard to be everything that you liked Just for you to say you’re not the compliment type…”. These lyrics remind me of the efforts by the diet and deodorant industries to exploit people’s insecurities so that they feel motivated to buy their products. A similar practice is at work in the heterosexual-repair industry, as I learned in The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward. Women are led to believe that they must keep their bodies “fresh” and “sexually appealing” to their male partners. Advertisers then put the strain on women to maintain their appearances to keep their partners happy (Ward 47). Olivia Rodrigo also falls victim to this harmful burden put on women. She sings about how she felt as though a romantic interest may have liked her more if she used more beauty products. 

While this song speaks to me as a straight, white woman, there may be some limitations in that the song is not inclusive of Black feminist theory and Olivia Rodrigo appears to be singing about a heterosexual relationship. While Olivia Rodrigo is unlabeled in her sexuality, she uses the term “boy,” to describe the person she is singing about. Therefore, a member of the LGBTQ+ community may feel ostracized from relating to the lyrics of “enough for you.” Furthermore, Olivia Rodrigo seems to be singing very generally about problems faced by women and does not acknowledge Black feminist theory and the increased inequity faced by Black women due to the intersectionality of their identities. 

To conclude, Olivia Rodrigo finally establishes at the end of “enough for you” that there is nothing wrong with her, she is a strong, beautiful, powerful woman. Instead, there is a problem with the patriarchy and the expectations put upon women. She demonstrates that in the following lyrics: “Yeah, you always say I’m never satisfied But I don’t think that’s true You say I’m never satisfied But that’s not me, it’s you…”. Overall, I find that this song has its most profound impact when I think about any relationships with men, whether that is professional, familial, or romantic relationships. It is in these relationships that I find myself questioning my self-worth the most and feeling as though I am never good enough. In response to that, Olivia Rodrigo reminds her audience to be kind to themselves despite patriarchal barriers. Listeners need to keep in mind that despite societal pressures and expectations, there is nothing wrong with them. 

Book Review: The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward

Cultural propaganda, sexual assault, incest, compulsory marriage, economic dependence, control of children, and domestic violence; are the only possible reasons a woman would remain in a heterosexual relationship. As a straight woman and having had conversations with other straight women, these reasons are evident in every heterosexual relationship I have come across. Jane Ward in The Tragedy of Heterosexuality explores the societal expectations and pressures of the patriarchy upon heterosexuality and the heterosexual-repair industry that desperately attempts to mend these broken relationships. In addition, as a lesbian, in her book, she describes the sadness she feels upon witnessing the violence, control, diminishment, and disappointment experienced by straight women. In summary, her book leaves readers wondering, are heterosexual relationships worth the toxicity of straight culture?

Jane Ward is a professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition to The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Jane Ward has written two other books: Not Gay and Respectably Queer. Her books cover a wide array of topics including, feminism, queer parenting, the racial politics of same-sex marriage, and the social construction of heterosexuality and whiteness. She currently resides in Southern California with her partner, Kat Ross. One may argue that because Jane Ward is a lesbian, she should not be making such broad claims about heterosexual women. I counter this by suggesting that a lesbian is the best person to observe and criticize heterosexual relationships and the burden they put upon women. Ward can compare the respect and fulfillment she feels in her lesbian relationship, to the stress and disrespect felt by the heterosexual women in her life.

As a white woman, one aspect lacking from The Tragedy of Heterosexuality is the expectations imposed upon Black women by the patriarchy. One hardship that Ward’s book does examine is the fact that many early white feminists based their arguments for nonviolent marriage and women’s rights on the claim that bringing white women closer to equality with their husbands will ensure a unified front among white people against the Black civil rights activists. However, as a reader who has now read “Controlling Images and Black Women’s Oppression,” by Patricia Hill Collins, the lack of attention paid to the controlling images forced upon Black women in heterosexual relationships, and the constant criticism of their sexuality, is highlighted. Therefore, there is a slight bias in the book to feel sadness toward white women in heterosexual relationships, because Jane Ward is a white woman. 

 The overarching argument present in The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward includes the efforts by the heterosexual-repair industry to improve the enduring defects of straight culture. The heterosexual-repair industry has been flawed since its emergence. It is made up of eugenicists, sexologists, and social reformers. Ward cites three broad concepts present in the industry: they exposed the violence and mutual dislike in heterosexual relationships and reassured the population that this was natural, they took on the role of defining modern heterosexuality and repairing the problems that came along with it, and they accepted the premise that men and women found each other’s bodies undesirable and advocated for the use of beauty products to stimulate desire. Each of these concepts is inherently misogynistic. For example, at one point, experts were channeling their efforts to discover why women had annoying personalities and attempted to mediate men’s irritations with their wives. The solution the “experts” discovered involved women being submissive, lovely, and always putting their husband’s needs before their own. They went as far as asserting that women should be responsible for heterosexual success because they managed men’s emotions and should also be responsible for the happiness of their households and communities. Did no one ever wonder if it was men’s sexism and unrealistic expectations that caused them to be irritated with their wives? Or consider this: perhaps wives’ personalities come across as irritating because they are having unpleasurable sex?

Furthermore, the heterosexual-repair industry also came to the solution that women had to keep their bodies “fresh” and sexually appealing to their husbands. Advertisers collaborated with the heterosexual-repair industry in provoking fear among women to purchase their beauty products. The logic was that if women were not careful about their appearance then they could risk losing their husbands’ affection or “suffer their wrath.” One should not even have to explain the flaws in this argument and the unnecessary strain it places upon women to improve straight culture and desire. The toxicity rooted in straight culture is thanks to the patriarchy, and yet women are expected to help men improve their relationships. To conclude, Jane Ward, in her argument, exposes how the efforts to improve the conditions of straight culture are misogynistic and put the responsibility onto women. 

The single greatest strength in The Tragedy of Heterosexuality by Jane Ward is explaining the misogyny paradox that plagues straight culture. Essentially, this paradox asserts that boys’ and men’s desire for girls and women is expressed in a society that simultaneously encourages them to hate girls and women. Jane Ward provides a possible explanation for this paradox in which society is suspicious of women because they stand to threaten men’s patriarchal power. The author analyzes this in the context of violence against women and girls. The misogyny paradox is evident when a man rapes and/or murders a woman that he reported to have desired or loved. Another example of this outlook is seen in the 18th and 19th centuries in England and colonial America. At this time, wives were seen as a “necessary evil.” Many would argue that wives, and heterosexual marriages, in general, are still seen in this negative light today. While these are all extreme examples, the misogyny paradox takes a simpler form in everyday life. Often, straight men claim to love women but continue to speak over them, mansplain subjects to them, and train their sons to imitate this lack of respect for women. To comprehend the true tragedy of heterosexuality, the author must portray the disrespect, violence, and ignorance displayed by men to women who claim to be in affectionate, romantic relationships. Jane Ward understands the importance of this paradox to her argument and succeeds in making the misogyny paradox accessible and easy for her readers to understand. 

One weakness present in Jane Ward’s book, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, is the lack of proposed solutions to this tragedy. The author notes that no feminist efforts have made a dent in straight culture, but she doesn’t go further to explain where they fell short. In fact, Ward describes the sexism and toxic masculinity surrounding heterosexuality as “inescapable.” Later, she also reveals that, as a lesbian, it is painful to witness straight women’s “endless and ineffective” efforts to repair straight men. As a straight woman reading this book, it is incredibly depressing to read these statements and feel as though there is no hope. The patriarchy and toxic masculinity seem like grand problems that can never be solved, certainly not by the time that I’m ready to settle down and get married. It leaves me wondering, am I destined for an unhappy marriage? Is there any point in dating if sexism is normalized in straight culture?

After reading this book and sharing facts and anecdotes with my non-straight friends, they unanimously decided that I represent The Tragedy of Heterosexuality. Over my 19 years as a straight woman, I have heard from friends, family members, and therapists that there are good men out there and not to give up. However, upon reading Jane Ward’s book about the emotional and physical strain of heterosexual relationships on women, I began to question if straight culture is worth the control, diminishment, and not to mention, disappointing sex. I will now respond to these friends, family members, and therapists that until the misogyny paradox is abolished and women are treated with genuine respect, finding “one of the good ones” will be challenging. Finally, I wish the heterosexual-repair industry the best of luck as they take on the impossible endeavor of mending the relationships between men and women, following a long history of sexism and abuse. 

Works Cited

Ward, Jane. The Tragedy of Heterosexuality. New York, New York University Press, 2020. 

Sister Cindy’s Shaming: Funny or Harmful?

Cindy Smock, or “Sister Cindy” as she calls herself, is an Evangelical campus preacher turned Tik Tok user. She first gained attention when college students posted clips of her speeches on Tik Tok, inspiring her to make her own account. She currently has over 370,000 followers, and #sistercindy has over 194 million views (Fowler). The main subject of her Tik Tok content is encouraging college students, particularly women, to turn to Christianity and be a “ho no mo.” In many of the videos she uploads, she welcomes viewers to “Sister Cindy’s Slut-Shaming Show.” While many of Sister Cindy’s followers regard her as a comical figure, the shock factor she employs in her preaching through homophobic and misogynistic comments is harmful. 

Through a glance at Sister Cindy’s Tik Tok account, it is evident that her content is misogynistic and demeaning towards women. In nearly every video she uploads, she casually uses the words “slut,” “hoe,” or “thot,” as insults towards women. For example, when visiting college campuses, she often changes the names of the universities to incorporate the word “slut.” At the Louisiana State University campus, she renamed the institution, “Louisiana Slut University.” By insinuating that college students are sluts, Sister Cindy is weaponizing the word to be used against women and normalizing the slut-shaming that is common in society, particularly on college campuses. However, Sister Cindy is proud of her slut-shaming tendencies and makes it a common theme in her posts. In a different post filmed by a college student, she exclaims, “You are princesses made in the image of God. Yet, you’ve traded your crown to be a cock-sucker.” This is quite the opposite of sex positivity and guilts women into practicing abstinence. Sister Cindy, or anyone for that matter, should never use guilt tactics to influence other people’s lives. Furthermore, why is this hateful comment only directed towards “princesses,” or women? Why is it that women should feel guilty for engaging in consensual oral sex and men should not? Last I checked, oral sex is an act requiring at least two people. 

Another example of sexism in her uploads is found in a Tik Tok filmed by a student at the University of Florida. In this clip, Sister Cindy shouts, “Men, if you buy her one margarita, she will spread her legs.” This statement is incredibly insulting towards women. Not only does it perpetuate the view that women are sexual objects, but it also furthers the entitled belief held by some men that women are sexually indebted to them after buying them a drink. In addition, this comment is heteronormative and leads straight men to assume that all women are attracted to them and want to have sex with them, which is simply not the case. Finally, similar harmful views were expressed in a Tik Tok clip of Sister Cindy telling a college student that she is “an accessory to the rape crime on campus” because she is causing boys to get their “passions stirred up” (Fowler). This belief is so inherently false, that it should not require any explanation. The blatant disregard for holding men accountable in situations of sexual assault is destructive to anyone who views this post. It reminds me of the common argument in society that someone is “asking for it” based on the clothes they are wearing. Placing blame and guilt upon women seems to be a common theme in the media posted by Sister Cindy. Again, why is it that sexual assault victims should feel guilty for something that is out of their control and not their fault? 

If you thought her content could not get any worse, we have not even analyzed the blatant display of homophobia present in countless Tik Toks. For example, in one clip while preaching to college students, she orders, “Don’t do it. Don’t kiss a girl and like it.” In defiance of her hate speech, two women make their way through the crowd to kiss in front of Sister Cindy’s platform. Apparently, the act of two women kissing is a difficult sight for Sister Cindy, because she has to cover her eyes. In a second Tik Tok, Sister Cindy, with no shame, shouts to a young man walking past her, “Are you a homo? You kinda act a little effeminate there. You need to repent!” There are so many problems with this statement, it is a challenge to decide what to unpack first. To begin, a straight, cisgender person should never use the term “homo” to describe someone of the LGBTQ+ community. Second, Sister Cindy is reinforcing the societal gender expectations that men cannot be feminine and women cannot be masculine. And if that is the case, then that person must be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, telling someone that they need to repent because of their sexuality, something that is out of their control, is unacceptable. Religion should never be manipulated to discriminate against groups of people. People’s sex lives and sexuality are an intimate part of their lives and should never be a subject of criticism. Therefore, someone who posts homophobic content, like Sister Cindy, should not have a platform to project those hateful beliefs. 

To reflect, one’s values and beliefs should never be used as a weapon or a way of guilting others into adopting those practices. While Sister Cindy’s intention may be to educate college students, her comments are misogynistic, heteronormative, homophobic, and may even be classified as hate speech. Sister Cindy even admits that she expects to be removed from social media for her problematic comments (Fowler). If that is the case, what is Tik Tok waiting for?

Works Cited

Fowler, Kate. “Who is Sister Cindy? Evangelist Christian Preacher Turned Tik Tok Star.” Newsweek, 6 June 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/who-sister-cindy-evangelist-preacher-tiktok-star-1597651. 

I love this post and how it highlights the way that people will oftentimes use comedy to hide rhetoric that is actually very harmful. Although Sister Cindy is oftentimes funny, she’s still promoting a toxic culture that prevents women from embracing their sexuality. This is a super important topic and I’m glad that you’re shedding light on it!

Media Analysis: Pre-Columbian Vessels

Wearing Peru’s national soccer team’s shirt, Moche district’s mayor Arturo Fernández smiles for the camera. Behind him, a red statue of a man raises his left arm in a fist. The red man sits in a cubic-like structure of the same colour, decorated with cream-coloured, geometric shapes. The statue has long hair and a white, large smile that looks more like just showing teeth than showing happiness. He wears a cylinder-shaped hat and big, circular earrings. Most surprisingly, apart from this, he is naked and his left arm holds his erect, disproportionally big penis, which rises diagonally to the same height as his nose. 

The statue was put in place in Early January 2022, in the district of Moche, Northern Peru.  Peruvian media and social media users got really engaged in a debate around this statue, which got coverage by newspapers, TV, streamers and, of course, social media users who did not wait to circulate memes about the statue. As a large-scale representation of Precolumbian vessels from civilizations that lived in the area between the II and VIII centuries, the statue would not have attracted as much coverage if not for one feature: The statue represents an erotic vessel characterised by an oversized, erect penis so big that, as the media put it, you can see it from kilometers away. In less than two months, since its inauguration in January, the statue has been vandalized, burnt down, and restored. For me, and probably for many other Peruvians too, this was sadly an expected reaction in a country as conservative and puritanical as Peru. 

While the debate has raised important observations about Peruvian society, it quickly became a two-sided, moralized argument. One side calls the other pervert and immoral, and advocates for the removal of the statue. The other side responds by calling them prudish, and archaic, and fuels the debate even more with happy pictures next to the statue to “challenge the conservatives.” But maybe the heat of the debate can interest us all in understanding more about these vessels and raise questions about Peruvian society too. 

What are the erotic vessels?

Most civilisations that inhabit what is now Peru between the II and VIII centuries developed pottery techniques that allowed them to produce pottery for daily use and for other purposes, such as religious and spiritual rituals. Notably, the Moche civilisation stands out for the realism and variety of techniques that were innovative in their times.

The erotic vessels were pottery pieces especially dedicated for religious purposes. As a farming community, the Moches centered their worldview around farming activities. Their calendar, visual representations, tales and oral traditions, rituals and religion were deeply connected to agriculture. Sex was also an activity connected to the fertility of the land and the production cycles. The erotic vessels are precisely a representation of this worldview. The vessels represent how different sexual acts were used to call for rain and good soil. 

Our bodies

The techniques used to model the vessels were as advanced as the Moches’ knowledge of the human body. The detail and genius to represent the human expression and body, including the genitalia, are a reflection of a different view of the flesh. The human body was seen, explored and represented without the shame that in our society we express between ourselves and our bodies. 

French philosopher Michael Foucault denounces the medicalization of the human experience. We give doctors almost full power to access our bodies, to tell us what is wrong with it. However, outside the medical practice, we punish the exploration of our own bodies. Outside a course of anatomy or biology, our bodies are kept distant from us, as the unexplored and not-to-be-explored territory. As a society, we effectively impose rules on how the body is to be explored, understood and taken care of. 

If we, as the Moches did, had a worldview that connects sex with the agricultural calendar, the dead and the gods, then we would have a very different set of rules to explore our own body in modern times. Surely our current view would be a less puritanical, prudish, guilty view of our physicality; however,  this does not mean we should advocate for Peruvians to return to a Moche worldview. Just as Foucault does not take a side with either the modern over the older worldview, I am not trying to advocate for the Moche’s over the modern worldview either. Instead, I am suggesting our relation to our own body is heavily regulated by our worldview, and people should view themselves in this context. 

Why does this matter? 

Going back to the debate around our phallic Moche friend, I try not to take a side with any of the two rivals. I am surely not suggesting to go full Moche worldview-lifestyle. This would be imposing another set of rules, with their own set of problems and complexities. It would also be practically impossible considering that our colonial history meant a witch hunt against indigenous worldviews and traditions. Instead, I am suggesting we stop for a moment and question whether the repressor can be ourselves. So far you may have thought that it is the others, the powerful, the majority, who impose a morality on us. But don’t you police yourself all the time? Don’t we follow rules for how our bodies ought to be explored, understood and treated just because we have been taught that? Why do you feel guilty when you break the rules? Where do the rules come from? 

So far, each side has become the perfect villain for the other. There cannot be conservatives without liberals and the way around. But if we are teaching our children rules, and if we are vigilant if our neighbours are feeling guilt for even thinking of breaking the rules, it sounds to me like we are the enemies who actually made it inside our homes like Foucault suggests. Insofar these rules are going around totally unquestioned, insofar as we police whether everyone meets the rules, we will be walking around with no certainty that we ourselves are not the repressive enemy. 

References

Museo Larco

Michael Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 1979.

Janus Woloszyn and Katarzyna Piwowar, “Sodomite, Siamese Twins, and Scholars: Same-Sex Relationships in Moche Art,”  American Anthropologist 117, no. 2 (June, 2015). 

Óscar Paz, “Atracción, polémica y hasta disparos por la estatua de un Huaco Erótico en Trujillo” (El Comercio, 2022).

Theory to Praxis: Steps to Changing Rape Culture at Davidson College

I have learned about so many new things this semester and I am grateful that I have a greater awareness of many issues in society today. One thing that is really important that I was able to learn a lot about was rape culture. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time in the semester to discuss rape culture far in depth, but we were able to discuss it for a class period, and I was still able to take away a lot. I found our in-class discussion very valuable to add to what I had learned on my own from my book for the book review. 

For the book review, I read the book Rape Culture on Campus by Meredith Minister. After reading this book for class, I became really invested in rape culture in general, but especially on college campuses since it is a very relevant topic to Davidson that pertains to everyone here. Through doing some digging around Davidson’s website and pulling from my previous knowledge, I, like many others on this campus, see a need for greater sexual assault resources. I would like to propose many steps that the college could take action on to implement more resources for not only sexual assault survivors, but also in preventing sexual assault on campus. Currently, I find that the prevention efforts are minimal on campus and I would like to lay out a plan for how to proceed in doing more sexual assault prevention on campus. 

Currently, there is a petition going around campus online for the Davidson community to sign that would require Davidson College to hire a second Title IX coordinator, in addition to a few other measures. The link to this petition was shared via email with our entire GSS 101 class recently. I contacted the creator of the petition, and she said that currently the petition has about 750 signatures, just over half of the required number of students of 1,322. Getting this petition to its goal would be a huge step in the right direction, however it will take some time to get to that many signatures. I have looked into and thought of a few ways that staff and faculty on campus can do better to provide a safer place for students regarding sexual assault. 

My first thought was in regards to the required courses on Moodle that freshmen now must complete before they arrive at Davidson. Since the Summer of 2019, freshmen have been required to complete two “Davidson Close-Up” courses that were created in association with students, faculty, and staff around campus. The two courses are Alcohol & Drugs and Sexual Health & Sexual Misconduct. I think that this is a great starting point for educating students as they begin their lives at college; however, being a current sophomore, I will tell you that I honestly do not remember most of what was in those courses. They were educational, but brief,  which is beneficial to a certain extent. Unfortunately, the college does not reinforce these things once students arrive on campus. Serving as an Orientation Leader this year for the incoming freshmen, I can tell you that the discussion with the health center in general was very short, and sexual assault was rarely touched on again once everyone was all moved in. I think that not only should the Davidson Close-Up course be required each returning Summer for students, but that a large assembly should also be held for those who want to attend where people can learn more about resources, prevention efforts, and ask questions should they have any. This would create a more open and reassuring atmosphere. 

In looking through the resource pages for Davidson College, I found that Campus Police actually offers Rape and Defense (R.A.D.) classes where students can learn tecniques for self-defense. I did not know this and I have never heard of this. This seems like a great program, but I had never heard of it until now and you have to contact Campus Police to learn more about taking the program. I am assuming that since I was unaware of this program, many others are as well. This led me to wonder why Campus Police does not just offer these classes for people to sign up for every couple of months? The skills learned in a class like this would be beneficial not just only on this campus, but outside of the Davidson bubble as well. I think without a class like this being offered, this is an important preventative resource that is hidden away and unused. 

One other thing that I found to be problematic with the college’s response to sexual assault is that I can tell many of the web pages have not been updated in a while. On at least three different Davidson web pages, I found Georgia Ringle’s name listed as someone to contact with questions or for help. For those who do not know, Georgia Ringle worked as the main health educator on campus through the Center for Student Health and Well-Being for years. She retired this past year and now there is a temporary person filling her shoes this year, but last I heard they are still looking for someone to hire long-term. Since she is no longer employed at the college, she is another resource lost for students. These web pages can be considered out of date since they have not been updated in about six months and campus is now lacking even more outlets for students in regards to sexual assault. 

To compile my thoughts, campus needs to do better to educate students yearly to keep up to date with prevention and resources for sexual assault, the health center needs to hire more staff, including a health educator, which means updating many online resources for information, and to promote more ways the college can help in protecting students. I think that all of these ideas I am proposing are practical and simple fixes; however, this will require the support of the college and require Davidson to recognize the ongoing issue at hand. By Davidson doing nothing to support students in this way, they are contributing to the continuation of rape culture on college campuses. Change and intervention will help break the cycle of rape culture around Davidson College’s small campus. 

*Also, if you have not signed the petition I discussed in my proposal above, please do! Here is the link: https://forms.gle/dNhujsTScpNccRaX6

Works Cited:

Javed, Ikra. “Davidson Close-Up: Sexual Health & Sexual Misconduct.” Davidson College Digital Learning, 10 Jan. 2020, https://digitallearning.davidson.edu/digitalprojects/davidson-close-up-sexual-health-sexual-misconduct/. 

“Sexual Assault.” Davidson College, https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/public-safety/safety-resources/sexual-assault. 

“Sexual Misconduct.” Davidson College, https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/dean-students/sexual-misconduct. 

“Three-Year Summary of Sexual Misconduct Reports.” Davidson College, https://www.davidson.edu/offices-and-services/dean-students/sexual-misconduct/three-year-summary-sexual-misconduct-reports.

Theory to Praxis: Ending Child Abuse and Building Resilient Families

Written by Anna Newman

Overview:

I will be implementing my knowledge of gender and sexuality studies, specifically on women’s rights, feminism, and rape culture, to plan a civic engagement experience over the summer. Through a collaboration with SAFEchild in Raleigh, North Carolina and Strong Girls United, the goal of the project will be to educate children on noticing and responding to child abuse appropriately before it escalates, while also learning more about the implications that domestic violence has on parenting.  

About the Partners: 

SAFEchild is a non-profit advocacy center that ensures children have a safe living environment, free from abuse. SAFEchild empowers the children and their families by providing counseling services and childcare. One important aspect of SAFEchild is a program they run called “Funny Tummy Feelings” which is a program that educates first-graders about noticing and appropriately handling child abuse when they see it or are subject to it. Funny Tummy Feelings has been implemented in the Wake County public school curriculum for first graders; however, the goal of this project is to expand Funny Tummy Feelings to the Strong Girls United program. 

Strong Girls United is a mentorship program for young girls which pairs collegiate athletes with elementary school girls and the groups meet to discuss confidence building, mental health, and new sports skills. I believe that Funny Tummy Feelings could also be a beneficial addition to the Strong Girls United curriculum. Unfortunately, rape and sexual abuse are pervasive parts of society, but one way to combat this is to educate about rape culture and the ways you can stand up to it and notice it before it escalates.

Connections to GSS:

This project will be focusing on providing children and mothers the skills needed to build confidence in response to child abuse and domestic violence. Confidence and mental resiliency begin at a young age, and if we can empower elementary school girls, we can empower an entire generation to put an end to domestic violence and child abuse. My research would overlap with several articles that we studied in class about feminism. In the article titled Committee on the Status of Women in India, the author discusses how marriage can become a “hindrance for women seeking career advancement” which demonstrates that a marriage with power imbalances is the basis for domestic violence and abuse of power. Betty Friedan talks in the Feminine Mystique that in the 1970’s, rape was not considered a penalty. Friedan also discusses the topic of women not being fulfilled simply by staying in the house, making beds, washing dishes, and cooking for the family, which relates to the lack of liberties that the woman has within a marriage. These hindrances that married women face are the basis for domestic violence and patriarchy. One notable quote from the Feminine Mystique is “when she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity, she finally began to enjoy being a woman” (279). When women stop allowing their husbands to control and abuse them, they enjoyed being women. Additionally, bell hooks’ work called Feminism is for Everybody encourages the notion that equality is the goal of feminism, and the goal is not to subvert men. In relation to my book review on the book titled Medical Bondage, white male physicians were abusing enslaved women’s bodies by taking advantage of their position of power and conducting unsolicited gynecological research and painful experiments. The consequences of these experiments were destructive, both physically and mentally, for these women. The enslaved women’s experiences with the gynecological experiments parallel the domestic violence that women today face in abusive relationships. Abuse within a relationship affects the way a mother can parent a child, which demonstrates the vicious cycle of domestic violence at a young age starting with a lack of self-confidence, then getting wrapped up in abusive relationships, and to then raise kids in an environment filled with abuse and neglect. So, my goal for this project is to confront and help children notice domestic violence at a young age so that they can grow up to be confident people in healthy relationships. After doing an analysis on the film Moonlight in my writing class, it was brought to my attention that some abusive family dynamics are avoidable, while others are out of one’s control. In Moonlight, a young boy by the name of Chiron was being raised in an abusive and neglectful household because his mother was involved with dangerous drugs and did not have time for her child; however, the opportunities available for the mother to parent her child were lacking. While I’m doing my research, l will be sure to look at the context of the situation (what resources are available to the family?) versus judging the situation and the parenting choices. 

Limitations:

The limitation of this project is that Strong Girls United does not mention anything about transgender children, non-binary children, or gender-nonconforming children. This is a research question that l will be asking the SGU executive board in hopes that something is done to make the organization more inclusive of children of all gender identities. Part of feminism is creating equity across the genders, so this feminist project is aimed at creating equity for boys, girls, and gender non-conforming children. Overall, the goal of this project is to provide a form of mentorship for children seeking assistance with confidence, mental health training, and skills needed to confront abuse if they ever need to use them. 

Implementation of Plan: 

A few summers ago, my mom and l volunteered at SAFEchild and we babysat the children while their mothers were in a counseling meeting. I am hoping to resume my volunteering with SAFEchild by babysitting the children and then shadowing one of the leaders during the counseling meetings. I feel like I would gain another dimension of appreciation for the struggles that these families deal with by listening to the mothers speak. Also, it would be impactful to listen to the women’s stories of domestic abuse within their marriages and how this abuse impacts their ability to mother their children. 

After shadowing a counselor, l would ask one of the leaders/counselors at SAFEchild to be a guest speaker at one of the meetings with Strong Girls United. The counselor can focus on teaching a Funny Tummy Feelings course for the SGU children. The plan is to empower young girls by giving them to skills to notice and respond to child abuse in a confident way. One possibility of furthering my research experience would be to shadow a pediatric physiatrist to learn about the impacts of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence on youth’s mental health.  

“God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHLHSlExFis

As Ariana says, “You’ll believe God is a woman” by the end of an intimate act. In her song, “God is a Woman”, Ariana emphasizes women empowerment and raises awareness to a topic that is frowned upon in society- woman finding pleasure in sexual relations. Ariana encourages female empowerment through lines such as “And I can tell that you know I know how I want it” and “I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it”. In doing so, Ariana sheds light on the idea of women placing their needs and desires above men, this way the act of intimacy shifts from being man-dominated to woman-dominated. These lyrics emphasize the importance of women openly speaking about their sexual desires and reclaiming their bodily autonomy. 

This idea of being confident in speaking about sexual desires relates to Foucault connections between knowledge and pleasure, and how sex is just not supposed to be a learning experience, but also an opportunity to teach us something about ourselves. There is an urge to know something from sex and pleasure, but there is still the paradox of the sex talk where sex is silenced, yet we still talk about it explicitly and incessantly. Ariana paves the way for women to skip the act of silence and feel confident in speaking about their needs in a sexual relation. 

However, it is important to note there are limitations that exist in how gender plays a role in her song. Ariana references intimacy in a relationship between a male and female both in the song and the music video. For example she sings, “And he sees the universe when I’m the company.” With the usage of the pronoun, “he,” Ariana excludes homosexual relationships. Also, the exclusion of queer relationships does not address other women’s sexual experience, such as those who are transgender and lesbian.

Despite this, “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande encourages female sexual liberation and celebrates female pleasure. 

Book Review- *Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and The Politics of Stigma*.

The LGBTQ community is growing rapidy and gaining more support through the decades. However, many members within the community continue to experience discrimination because of their identity to other marginalized groups. Fat gay men have a hard time being accepted by the heteronormative society and the gay society. Members of this double marginalized group are often stigmatized and have a hard time feeling confident in who they are. Once the way fat bodies live and shape the world is understood, acceptance and celebration emerges. 

Jason Whitesel, professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, enters the world of fat gay men in his book Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma (2014). Whitesel discusses how members of a double marganilzed group (being fat and gay) have reconstructed their identities in the face of discrimination. Whitesel argues that fat gay men are stigmatized in the LGBTQ movement because of their size. He explains how gay big men are marginalized both for their sexual orientation in a heteronormative society and for their size in a gay society (2). Gay fat men want their dignity and respect in society. 

Whitesel’s use of ethnographic study allows people to better understand the stigmatized world of fat gay men. Whitesel does his research and observations by becoming a member of a fat gay men group called Girth & Mirth. Although his experiences and analysis is concentrated to that group, Whitesel does discuss the issues in a broader, open-ended lens. The Girth & Mirth is a group that provides fat gay men a safe-space and support. They like to refer to each other as a family rather than an organization. The Girth and Mirth family allows fat gay men to do activities like eating in public, socializing with others, and more “every day” activities they would not have otherwise been able to do on their own. People in this group discuss ways in which they found out about Girth & MIrth and how their life has changed since. Members have heard of this group through newspaper ads, friends, and more. Ultimately, Girth & Mirth saved the lives of many and provided fat gay men a place to come together and embrace their diffrences.

When trying to understand the everyday life of being a fat gay men, Whitesel becomes aware of his skinny privilage and ensures to not let it play a role when analyzing his research. In trying to understand the impact social events have on the fat gay community, Whitesel attends two. The first event is called the Super Weekend and the other is a national Convergence in Minnesota. Whitesel went into these events with only telling a few people he was doing research. Because Whitesel is a skinny gay man, he was known as a “chaser” (term given to skinny gay man who are attractive to bigger men) when he became a member of Girth & Mirth. By going in as a member and not letting it known he was doing research, Whitesel was able to get  more sincere and honest responses on how the fat gay men feel towards their status within the gay community. 

In Chapter 3, Performing the Fat Body we learn about The Super Weekend, an event where fat gay men gather at the Cabana Inn and “create an inverse world for themselves” (61). Big gay men are able to engage in reinventing themselves as objects of desire and reclaiming their right to self-definitions. People who attend the event are able to have a good time engaging in scatological humor and celebrating through food, dance, and sex. Whitesel attended this event as a member of the Girth and Mirth club, but also a coordinator of the event. Through his weekend and interaction there, Whitesel noticed that big gay men use campy humor to work through the stigma of being fat. It is important to note that The Super Weekend can be controversial as it can be over sexualized. For example, the doorknob award is given to the person who has had sex with the most people during the event. However, using this form of humor allows big men to “overcome their underdog status” (86).

Whitesel also participated in the annual Convergence of big men in Minnesota, which he describes in Chapter 4, Big Gay Men’s Struggle for Class Distinction. This event is much larger compared to the Super Weekend. Although Convergence is similar to Super Weekend, Convergence offers sightseeing, education seminars and theme dances. For example, the Convergence does a “prom”, “homecoming” type dance where fat gay men are able to dress up and participate in an event that they might have felt excluded when in high school. Although many members participate in such events years after their “normal” time, they still play a big role in their life and how they feel about their identity. In this event, Whitesel was advised to talk openly about his role as a researcher so more people can talk to him about how big gay men work through self-esteem issues (98). The Convergence allowed big gay man’s status in the society to be improved. 

By attending both The Super Weekend and The Convergence, Whitesel was able to understand how big gay men socially construct their culture differently (108). This allowed Whitesel to conclude that gay men reconfigure the shame of fat stigma by either turning themselves into sex objects, or by seeking class validation (137). Whitesel was able to fit in the Girth and Mirth group nicely due to his homosexual male staus, but made sure to be aware of his skinny privilege as he interacted with people during both events. By keeping an open mind, Whitesel was able to grasp a better understanding of the injuries and discrimination that big gay men face.

Although Whitesel described his observation in both events, there were areas that lacked information. For example, during the Super Weekend, he talks about the Chub-and-Chaser relationship but does not bring to attention the controversy and hierarchies that might exist. Events like this are spoken in a positive narrative, and lack explaining issues that might be present like the fetishization of fat bodies. 

Overall, Jason Whitesel does a good job giving a voice to fat gay men. Members of this double marginalized group are often silenced by the gay community and Whitesel brings attention to groups such as the Girth and Mirth Club and how they use their platform to create a safe and fun space for gay fat men to express themselves and participate in normal activities such as partying and eating in public places. In Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma we learn of the injuries and discrimination fat gay men face and ways in which they embrace their figure and get rid of the shame they grew up with. 

In conclusion, Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma by Jason Whitesel is an informative read for people who are interested in learning about the discrimination that occurs when you are part of a double marginalized group. This book enriches fat studies and highlights interesting ways in which social stigma, body size, and sexual identity intersect and impact the lives of people. However, it is important to note that having some knowledge of fat studies will be useful in understanding Whitesel’s conclusion on how the three social issues connect with one another.

Works Cited

Whitesel, J. (2014). Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Book Review: “Sex/Gender Biology in a Social World”

by Chase Waldner

One of the most perplexing and scientifically mystifying areas of study is neuroscience. The study of the brain, memory, identity and neural networks is interconnected and infinitely complex due to the multitude of factors seen and unseen that contribute to what makes you, you. A specific application of this is in the biological study of sex, gender, and sexuality. We have no idea what truly creates gender in humans or any animal for that matter, but we have some fairly decent guesses. There is a potential prenatal hormonal factor that could contribute to gender; a genetic factor, epigenetic factor, a parental and sibling factor, a societal factor. There are too many “answers” as to why we experience gender the way we do to seemingly ever find the true cause, although I suspect it’s a combination of all of those aforementioned aspects in combination with some we have not even discovered yet. Over the years, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists have all performed many different types of studies to try and get closer to the big gender questions: Why do we experience it? Why are there so many different expressions of it? How can we better understand it? And we have made a lot of progress in this field. Anne Fausto Sterling brilliantly summarizes a lot of the major work done on gender exploration and does so from a lot of these unique scientific perspectives. 

In, Sex/Gender Biology in a Social World, Sterling deep dives into the scientific pursuit of gender within the context of social pressures we experience within our culture. She describes both the biological and cultural contributions to our multifaceted gender identity and expression starting from conception and ending with adulthood. She identifies the many different sex and gender identities we cycle through throughout our development and how they each play a role in our final, “adult gender identity.” Sterling uses Money’s “sex layer model” to show this. You start with chromosomal sex (ie. XX, XY, or, rarely, some other combination of sex chromosomes), then “indifferent fetal sex,” and as you develop go through 11 other “layers” of sex until you end up at your adult gender identity. These layers aren’t linear as some layers form as a function of several that come before it. For example, brain sex and fetal internal reproductive sex both contribute to the pubertal hormonal sex of an individual, and gender fortification and body image both create your juvenile gender identity. Sterling uses this book to break down all of these different categories and talk about the different aspects of each one and how they play off of each other in order to come to some sort of definition or conclusion on what makes up our gender.

these are the “layers of sex” from Money

NY native, Anne Fausto Sterling was born in Queens, New York, in 1944. She graduated from The University of Washington with a degree in zoology in 1965 and later earned her Ph.D. in developmental genetics from Brown University in 1970. Currently, Sterling is the Nacy Duke Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown and works within the molecular and cell biology department as well as the biochemistry department. During her time in academia, Sterling has written several books about gender intended for a general audience and has made over 60 scientific articles on similar subjects. She also is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science where she has received many grants for both the sciences and humanities. Clearly, Sterling is known for her astounding scientific achievements and has made many contributions to modern-day feminist movements with her work on the intersection of gender and biology. Sex/Gender Biology in a Social World was written in 2012 and is just one of the written works Sterling has produced on gender. Her listed main areas of interest are, “rethinking the nature/nurture divide, women in science/gender, intersectionality, homosexuality and its construction, and the role of race in gender and sexuality.” Her Ph.D. and mountain of scientific excellence make her uniquely qualified for explaining and exploring gender through a variety of scientific methods. 

For this book, Sterling references many researchers across several disciplines and creates a holistic view of gender through that lens. As said before, she uses Money’s “layers of sex” model to explain how our own gender changes as we grow up. At the beginning of the book, Sterling uses several stories and metaphors to explain how we have been and probably will always be a gendered society. Although our societal expressions of gender have changed throughout time and across different cultures, it will always be a part of the human experience. Starting from birth, your parents dress you and socialize you based on your sex or genitalia, and with this interpretation of your sex, your social gender identity is created. In modern-day America, we have pink for girls, blue for boys, and all childrens’ toys have a gender that they are intended for. Our society has determined what you are supposed to like and how you should act based on your perceived “boyness,” or “girlness.” This in combination with the infant starting to learn their anatomy by discovering their genitals, and the genitals of those around them creates their sense of body image.

Sterling also makes a point of how some different species have more than two sexes, and how some creatures have more than one type of male or female. For example, some insects have three distinct sexes, and there is a species of lizard that does not use males at all for reproduction. There are a variety of factors that determine what sex an animal will be too. Some frogs use temperature for sex determination, and there are so many other seemingly arbitrary environmental features that different species use to determine the sex of their offspring. Some species can even change their sex (ie. develop the opposite genitals and reproductive organs to their natal body) based on a lack of males or females in their vicinity. All of this boils down to Sterling making a point of how up in the air and fluid both sex and gender are. We can not truly understand them if we keep thinking of them as rigid and unchanging when in reality they keep growing and developing just as we do.

As the book continues Sterling circles back to explain the process of human child development in more detail and highlights the stage or “layer(s)” of sex one has reached based on their stage of life. When embryos are first beginning to develop they go into a stage of “equipotential development” where male and female fetuses are indistinguishable. At this point in time, the fetus is said to have reached the “indifferent fetal sex” layer, and soon the XX and XY babies will begin to develop in separate, yet similar, processes. Sterling also makes a note of intersex children and how sometimes sex can get a little more complicated than just male or female. Intersex babies may present as one gender while having the genetics of another, or even have a mix of male and female parts. She then goes into the different aspects of “brain sex.” In some species, like canary birds, the presence of a sex hormone will change the size/development of specific parts of the brain. For example, the injection of testosterone into a female canary’s brain will cause the “song” part to grow and that female will begin to sing male-specific songs. Environmental complexity also affects brain sex. In an experiment with rats, there were separate groups of male and female rats. Some were placed in a cage with no enrichment, while others were given toys and housed together to provide an enriched environment. Female rats in the enriched environment had significantly higher neural branching (think of more neural branching equating to more/better/faster communication within the brain) than males. And in the caged environment, males had higher levels of neural branching. This goes to show how complex brain sex is and how, in some ways, male and female brains develop differently. This, in turn, creates a big part of our adult gender identity.

Throughout the entire book, Sterling does an excellent job at providing enough scientific detail to provide context and clarity to her exploration of gender, while at the same time not jumping off into the deep end and making the book inaccessible to people with less biological knowledge. At some points in the book she lets herself dive a little deeper into genetic and biological factors of sex and gender and provides mind-gripping science and discovery to keep her readers invested in the book. Some chapters even come across more like scientific articles minus the chemical jargon. This is a wonderful way to expose people to the science behind our brains without losing them with an excess of detail. At the same time, Sterling also uses more anthropological and historical perspectives to analyze gender which only furthers her reach of audience.

While Sterling does a phenomenal job explaining all of these different perspectives, she also sometimes gets lost in story and metaphor. Part of her writing style is to use anecdotes to explain complex topics, but she sometimes spends too much time fleshing out those stories and loses focus on the point of her book. In chapter five, for example, she spends the first half recounting two conflicting scientists’ histories with each other in an attempt to explain gender identity and, more specifically, fetal sex. Although there is validity in bringing up these two scientists, the length of time she spent on their lives rather than their work concerning gender in the context of this book seemed excessive. This is not the only time she does this either. There are a few longer chapters in this book that could be shortened and clarified with some editing down of irrelevant information.

Anne Fausto Sterling’s Sex/Gender Biology in a Social World was well written and provided a wonderful intersection of science and humanities to explore what sex and gender are. Her in-depth recount of the neuroscience and biology behind gender was especially gripping while reading through this book. It truly is meant for people from all walks of life. You don’t have to know a lot about science or biology to understand what Sterling is saying, although having some prior knowledge is imperative to understanding the full picture. At the same time, you do not have to be an anthropological expert to follow along either. Sterling successfully made this a book for all people regardless of their background and education, as there are so many different yet connected perspectives on gender that she cycles through.

Work Cited:

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World. Routledge, 2012.

Sterling, Anne. “Home – Dr. Anne Fausto.” Anne Fausto Sterling, http://www.annefaustosterling.com/.

Book Review: *Medical Bondage*

Sex, rape, injustice, medicine, slavery. These words spark an interconnected web of issues relating to sexism and racism in the antebellum era. Owens’ begins with ways in which the perpetuation of slavery and the expansion of the field of gynecology were directly proportional. When Congress prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa, slave owners feared that there would no longer be enough slaves to sustain the growing economy, so slave owners turned their focus to the reproductive health of female slaves in order to maintain and improve slave procreation. Slave owners and white, male physicians alike continued to expand the field of gynecology; however, their motives were unethical. The motive for the development of the field of gynecology was to maintain a growing economy built upon slave labor by experimenting on marginalized populations like black women and Irish immigrants. These experiments planted the seeds for racism and sexism in medicine that still plague society today, illustrating the power of science and a persuasion. 

As one of only two Black women in the US leading a program rooted in the medical humanities at a university, Dierdre Cooper Owens is an award-winning public speaker and activist. Time magazine claimed Owens are one of the most successful and “acclaimed experts in U.S. history”. Owens graduated with a Ph.D. in history form the University of California-Los Angeles. Currently, Owens is the Director of the Humanities in Medicine program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. With a doctoral degree in history, Owens’ is versed in the history of gender and racial discrimination; furthermore, her position as Director of the Humanities in Medicine program indicates her knowledge for the intersectionality of race, sex, and medicine which allows her to speak with intelligence and poise on the topics discussed in Medical Bondage. Medical Bondage, Owens’ first book, won The Darlene Clark Hine Award for the best book in African American women’s and gender history in 2018. As a black woman, Owens can write with an accurate, first-hand point of view because she herself may have been victim to racism and sexism, either in medicine or the workplace. 

In the first chapter, Owens discusses the “Birth of American Gynecology” in the hands of Dr. James Marion Sims and other antebellum-era white physicians. Dr. Sims invented the silk suture method through countless experiments on female slaves. The sorrowful reality of this process is that once the experiments were complete, and the female slave was proved “infertile”, they were sold back to their slave owner because they were no longer useful for research. In other words, female slaves were pawns for white males, the economy, and for the development of modern-day science and medicine. White supremacy, male dominance, and the slave holder mentality prevailed in that no credit was given to the female slaves for the brutality that they endured; in other words, the white males were apathetic to the fact that a population was suffering at the expense of their ingenuity, success, and scientific fame. To be specific, by experimenting on innocent women, white males asserted their dominance and searched for biological ways to justify differences between white women and black women, further perpetuating the idea of black inferiority and oppression. The physicians used science as a means of justifying racism and oppression, stating that black women are biologically inferior to white women. 

In the second chapter, Owens further describes the cruelties that black women face in the hands of white slave owners and white physicians. Black women were seen as pawns and merely “breeders” for producing more and more slaves to benefit white men. White men viewed black women and Irish immigrants (another marginalized and discriminated population) as “impervious to physical pain and unafraid of surgeries” (Owens 20), illustrating the dehumanization and alienation of blacks and minorities. This mindset of using black women and immigrants as pawns for research is explained in Thomas Wright’s and other southern physicians’ experimentations in that “they needed their black patients, as a means to learn about curing disease, much more than their black patients needed them” (Owens 27). In other words, the blatant disrespect of dragging a black woman’s body across the floor, disrobing her in front of other servants, and performing an invasive surgery without consent illustrates the selfish and egocentric nature of white physicians in the Antebellum era, as well at outlining one of the motives for their gynecological research: perpetuating systemic racism and sexism. One specific example of the brutality that black women faced was the Supreme Court case State of Missouri vs. Celia, a slave, which was the trial for Celia who murdered the slave master who repeatedly beat, raped, and impregnated her on several occasions. The jury decided that Celia be sentenced to death, but at the time of the murder, she was pregnant, so the State of Missouri decided to wait until the child was born before executing her. This cruel and unjust criminal justice system illustrates the slave master’s desperation for the slave procreation and the perpetuation of forced labor. 

The final three chapters parallel each other in that Owens explains reasons as to how physicians used scientific authority to justify their sexist and racist claims, as well as the various ways in which rape and mistreatment of black women went under the radar. The term “superbodies”, which is brought up in chapter five, suggests that rape does not even harm a black woman because they are physically dominant and capable of hard work which minimizes the pain and suffering of rape stories. For example, black women’s rapes were “private occurrences” and many of them went under the radar because it was considered normal and moral in the eyes of white supremacists. In short, gynecological medicine in the antebellum era was a field that allowed white physicians to stake inherently racist and sexist statements about women by using their title as doctors to bolster their claims. 

One of Owens’ strengths lies in her ability to synthesize information and find the intersections of medicine, race, and sex. The sexual discrimination and racial discrimination that arise in Medical Bondage relates to Audre Lorde’s “There is no Hierarchy of Oppression” In Audre Lorde’s “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions”, the theme of oppression as a omnipresent challenge, not just individualistic, is revealed when Lorde states that “any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community” […] “I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only” (Lorde). In other words, oppression is bad in any of its forms: racism, sexism, heterosexism etc. One cannot classify one oppression to be less significant than another. In relation to Medical Bondage the brutality endured by women in bondage and the sexist claims created by male physicians is just as significant and oppressive as the racist classifications of white versus black female bodies. Black women were found to have “steatopygia (enlarged buttocks), elongated labia, low-hanging breasts, and lasciviousness” (19). These discriminatory and racist stereotypes perpetuated the racial binary of white versus black, which provided evidence for white supremacists to harass black women. These derogatory stereotypes relate to an article that I read in my writing class titled “Venus in Two Acts” written by Saidiya Hartman. Hartman brings up the term “Hottentot” which relates to Hottentot Venus, a stereotypical image of the black female physique, and further details the cruel language that is used to describe black women: “A sulky bitch. A dead negress. A syphilitic whore” (6, Venus in Two Acts). In short, Owens’ ability to create subtle connections with other texts, feminists, and activists illustrates the implicit strength of her argument. 

            A weak point in Owens’ book is when the term “superbodies” is brought up in Chapter 5 regarding black women seeming capable of harder work in the eyes of white men as a result of their “hypersexuality”, and their “physical strength” which was supposedly superior to that of white women. “Superbodies” is ironic in that it assumes black women are superior to white women because of their strength; however, women are supposed to be known for the weakness, fragility, tenderness, and submissiveness. Does the relationship drawn between “superbodies” and black women suggest that female slaves are not even human? “Superbodies” means “superhumans” or “superheros” which are all superior to humanity. Do female slaves not experience feelings, emotions, and physical suffering of normal humans? Black women were subject to racism and sexism and suffered the “ugly stereotypes that many American men, regardless of race, held about them as wanton seductresses,” (Owens 75) meaning that on top of racism coming from white men, black women experienced oppression from both white and black men who saw them solely for selfish sexual pleasure. However, I find the term “superbodies” to be hypocritical and illusionary by blurring the lines between white and black femininity. To strengthen the vagueness of this new term, Owens should have given an example for black women not showing emotion or pain or suffering and contrasting this with an example of white women’s fragility and emotion. 

In my opinion, the book Medical Bondage is an accurate representation of the intersectionality between sex, medicine, and race. While there are some weaknesses in the delivery of certain terms, Owens successfully describes the birth of American gynecology and draws connections between medicine and societal issues such as sexism and racism. Anyone seeking to learn more about the history of developing women’s health and the roots of prejudice in medicine that were planted during the antebellum era should read this book because the reading is accessible to the broader public and anyone who reads the book will benefit from its message about the ongoing quest for equity in medicine. 

Works Cited:

Owens, Deirdre Cooper. Medical Bondage Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. University of Georgia Press, 2017. 

Lorde, Audre. “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions”. Leaning into Lorde. Council on Interracial Books for Children, 1983.

Hartman, Saidiya. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe, vol. 12 no. 2, 2008, p. 1-14. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/241115.

Walsh-Little, Maya. “Bio”. Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, https://www.deirdrecooperowens.com/bio

Dierdre Cooper Owens. “Charles and Linda Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine; Director, Humanities in Medicine”, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2019. 

Book Review: *Rape Culture on Campus*

Meredith Minister’s Rape Culture on Campus Book Cover

Within college campuses, rape culture is a prominent issue that is often addressed on a surface level, leading to little or no change in the occurrence of sexual assualt and sexual violence. Meredith Minister breaks down how rape culture is continually perpetuated on college campuses and offers solutions to reducing the prominence of sexual assualt on campus in her book, Rape Culture on Campus. Minister emphasizes that not only is rape culture an issue that requires a change in ideolgies and how we approach sexual assault prevention, but also that rape culture is partially a result of binaries that often exclude gender, sexual, racial, and ethnic minorities. 

Minster begins her book by introducing how she defines rape culture, specifically saying that rape culture is “a socially accepted pattern that legitimates violence to police socially nonconforming activities, including expressions of sexuality and gender” (1). She equates the issue of rape culture existing in the first place to the way we view society and the people within that society. Colonial ways of thinking about gender and sexuality exacerbate the occurence of rape culture in society. She expands on her definition of rape culture by breaking the causes and continuation of rape culture down into pieces. Minister’s writing provides an up close look at how rape culture has defined college campuses and how colleges can do better to break the cycle of continuing the voilent pattern. Mininter draws on her educational expertise to include how purity culture, religion, and autonomy, in addition to policing and trigger warnings, do not assist in interrupting the rape culture pattern on college campuses. 

Simplifying Sexuality through Wine Labels

Written for Wear Your Voice by Molly Murphy

Let’s just be honest here, sexuality is complicated.  There are times that you don’t know exactly who you love and where you fit in. Having these feelings of insecurity and unsureness, and THEN trying to describe your own sexuality in a way that makes sense to others is even more complicated. In the hit series Schitt’s Creek, the main character engages in a conversation that perfectly balances the importance of openness and honesty in these conversations. This series follows a rich family of four who suddenly lose all of their money and their luxurious lifestyle. They are forced to pack up what is left of their property and move into a small town, their only remaining asset. Schitt’s Creek is the town that the father once bought the son as a joke for his birthday. That son and main character of the show is named David Rose. Presumably gay to the viewers and other characters in the show, he finds himself one night sleeping with a female and straight character named Stevie Budd. Stevie is confused, and decides to confront him while out wine shopping for an event. She hints, “Just to be clear, I am a red wine drinker, and I only drink red wine… and up until last night, I was under the impression that you too only drink red wine.” Catching on, David responds to her, “I do drink red wine. But I also drink white wine. I also have been known to sample Rosé. A couple summers back, I tried a Merlot that used to be a Chardonnay, it just got a bit complicated.” Stevie is a bit confused, and David goes on to say, “I like the wine, not the label. Does that make sense?” This iconic scene would go on to be quoted in many articles, printed on tee shirts, and used to give confidence to thousands of youth helping them come out to their parents and peers.


What is great about this use of a wine metaphor is how it is so unconventional, but so easy to comprehend. It allows even the most conservative and closed minded individual to understand that David is pansexual. And as a bonus- who doesn’t love wine? Everybody can relate to how David is describing to his sexuality through the use of this metaphor. David is able to bring forward his very complicated history of experimentation and self-discovery. He is so secure with himself and his journey, that he can calmly explain his sexuality to Stevie in an amusing way. David educates Stevie in a manner that is lighthearted but clear, and it is centered around inclusion and positivity. These conversations can be hard to have, but Stevie reacted in a way that let David come out to her while also not downplaying the importance of having “no labels” to David.

Society’s social constructs and biases make coming out a traumatic experience for so many people. How can they help not feel frightened at the possibility of having their loved ones turn on them for revealing their true self? Throughout every episode of Schitt’s Creek however, the creators challenged that idea that coming out needs to be traumatic. (As a disclaimer, they do not ever downplay the importance of that experience; having somebody working up that courage to finally be unapologetic and open with who they really are and love. There is an episode where David’s partner comes out to his parents in distress, but even then, his parents were only upset that he felt he couldn’t be honest with them about his sexuality, and not that he was actually gay.) By not making sexuality such a huge ordeal, it forces the viewers to imagine a world where there is no bias or judgment when two men are in love and holding hands in public. There is no talk among the characters of anybody’s sexuality beyond this scene, so the reaction to these couples is the same as any reaction would be to a heterosexual couple walking down the street holdings hands. This amazing directing is what sets Schitt’s Creek apart from other series. The series LBGTQ+ representation fosters an inclusive environment, free of bias and full of love and acceptance with no shame.  

Schitt’s Creek has made a difference in this world, right when we all needed it! It’s constant celebration of unconditional love and wholesome relationships between all of the characters really resonated with viewers, making it become one of the most popular and successful shows to ever hit the big screen. The series’ defiant representation of different races and sexualities throughout both acknowledge that facts that anybody in the audience who identifies with the characters are valid, and that they should be proud of themselves and love who they are. This show has won the battle of representation, and has helped pave the way in media for impenitent openness and inclusivity.