by Ellen Gillingham
J. Jack Halberstam, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Queer Action/Queer Ideas)
1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?
This reading’s main ideas start with exploring nonnormative relationships in popular culture such as children’s animations like Finding Nemo. Then looking at romantic comedies again, Halberstam evaluates explanations for imbalances between male and female dating options. This leads to the discussion of “‘heteroflexible’ desires, [which are] the phenomenon of heterosexual women whose desires for masculinity or masculine bodies can wander (49%). Another major point comes from the anecdote about Halberstam talking to a horse breeder. The situation shows how human lives and their “stories are intricately woven through and into nonhuman animal lives and stories” (51%). This also shows that normal is just simplified. Halberstam also questions if “gay” is global and to what extent.
2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?
If the Japanese language does not have a word for ‘lesbian’, what words do they use to talk about lesbians?
How does transgenderism affect travel and tourism in other countries?
If once a female-bodied person is past her reproductive prime and the social scrutiny of her sexual activities and “gender identification may lessen and s/he may experience a limited kind of freedom” then how does women having children at young ages effect this (56%)?
3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?
Halberstam’s analysis of Fantastic Mr. Fox spoke about gender and spectacular consumption because it is an allegory of modern masculinity. Mr. Fox loses his tail and gets his tail back in a new form because now he can take it off or put it on at will. He can alternate, as he likes between “fantastic and wild, wild and reliable, wise and reckless” (63%). This example shows how even family movies are a part of spectacular consumption and important to study because they and their messages are consumed at mass amounts. Additionally the stop-motion animation teaches the viewers about a tail-less male in a “world of phallic power” (63%). It confirms for us that detachable tails are a symbol for what is in fashion, gender categories always threaten to run wild.
4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is
presented in the essay?
The authors ideas about gender presentation reminded me of the documentary The Aggressives, which is about women who dress and act like society’s constructions of men. The film explains personal experiences and relationships between sexuality and gender presentation. One of its main points featured Kisha and a society, which often wanted her to be something that she is not because they are “intimidated by her” (Peddle). Halberstam talks about how butches are depicted, as well. He notes that society interprets them as not attractive or sexy and as an abject and gross perversion.
5.) If given visual/performance material to review, how are these in conversation with essay(s) read for this week?
Pariah is a very powerful movie that recognized society’s binary definition of sexuality – butch or femme. The story is about identity. The main character Alike is trying to find herself. The film Pariah had many nuanced scenes and ideas behind the story line that connected to the reading. One part, which resonated with me, is how Alike asked what to wear when the girl from church Bina invited her to a party. This showed how she does not know how to dress at different times and that it is of importance to her. It goes beyond the environment of the party to the question of masculine or feminine. It is interesting when her friend replies that she can come as she is. This line speaks past the idea of wearing casual clothes to the deeper meaning that the friend accepts Lee for who she knows her to be, encouraging her to be herself. This is a similar idea to Fantastic Mr. Fox because the tail he wears is a symbol of who he is as Lee’s feminine or masculine clothes symbolize who she is.
Another interesting part of the movie is how uncomfortable Lee is with letting someone read her journal. This symbolized her fear of being herself openly for others because she prefers to keep her creativity and personality to herself. The reading references how “gender-variant people in Thailand are tolerated only in certain circumstances” (53%). There is only mixed support for nonnormative behaviors and personalities in society, which cause Lee to see the way she does.
In addition, the scene where the mom, dad, and Lee are fighting shows the similarities between the dad and Lee. The mom compares her two family members because they both are “acting like they are hiding something” (Rose). However, the difference lies in the fact that the parent’s relationship with each other is deteriorating, when this is juxtaposed against Lee’s building friendship with Bina. This technique shows the essence of Gaga feminism that searches for “new narratives of life, love, and intimacy” (48%).
It is a great film with different elements about taking ownership of who you are.