Queer Literature

a study of sexuality in literature

Month: September, 2014

Just Another Post About Oppressive Topics #nbd

by biancon2014

Every time a culture labels an oppressive group of people, an unwanted image becomes part of a lethal heterosexual social normative. That is not to say homophobia should be put on a pedestal because similarly other oppressive topics like racism and sexism need to be addressed. A primary oppression is one that affects the lives of those gravely, whether they be female, people of color, or a gay man. In todays America racism is a huge issue with respect to fighting this cultural war by ironically promoting bad stigmas against those that already being oppressed through forms of multimedia text and language. Frames are being constructed out of false images of particular groups of people for things that they have no control over. A colored man does not choose to be born to the parents he is born to. A girl who is born in a boys body should not feel victimized that forces to fit into a picture image for their own sleazy commercial benefits.

As I reflect on reading Homophobia: Why Bring It Up by Barbara Smith, I realize that homophobia is honestly not as prevalent of an issue as should it be. It is a scarcely influencing derogatory word that is effects 10% of people who will identify as lesbian, gay, trans, or queer (Smith). Or the 10% of colleagues that identify as a lesbian woman or a gay man. Regardless of our intent to be ironic or witty, our privilege tends to shroud our vision to empathize or have the compassion to understand what people carry. It is astonishing to me how the oppressed become the oppressor. Out of all of the issues like poverty, hunger, famine, disease, and rape to name only a few, people choose to get hung up over what other people are doing. Somehow sexuality and gender become the talk of the town while your innate characteristics are paraded around to mature into this perfect image of false advertising. I was intrigued by Dinah’s trepidation to share anything about her sexuality wither her therapist Dr. Raeburn in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by . He was more intuitive than she painted him to originally be by making interesting observations toward her cautious dishonest responses. He began by saying “That constantly saying what one doesn’t mean accustoms the mouth to meaningless phrases.” He continued by saying “Maybe you’ll understand that when you need to express something truly significant, your mouth will revert to insignificant nonsense it knows so well.” He scrutinizes Dinah’s ability to be open-minded about something that confused her and she could not fully understand. I did not find Dr. Raeburn’s ability to be so casual with Dinah easy to understand. Though I say that, and I hate therapists and psychiatrists like children hate clowns. Please feel free to respond to my post.

Thank you,

 

Natasha A. Bianco

Gay Witch Hunt

by jillygreco

Let me start by saying I love The Office. I think it’s a wonderful, witty, well written show. They tackle social and political issues all the time and one of my favorite statements they have ever made was the message in the episode we watched today. Michael serves the purpose of ignorant straight man who has little to no contact with gay people at all. And let me tell you, it is accurate. A number of  my straight male friends have the same attitude toward queer people as Michael does. They laugh, ask completely inappropriate questions, and jump to the sexual remarks almost immediately. They always are shocked at first; the fact that they have been friends with a gay person and not known about it is somehow troubling to them. Michael captures all these reaction perfectly. His ignorance is funny, but raises awareness to the larger, very real, issues at hand.

Queer people are looked at differently when they come out. Whether their friends are accepting or not, perceptions often change. Michael started treating Oscar like he was a new person. This happens all the time. People are looked at like they have a new personality or secret identities, when really they are just attracted to a gender that wasn’t expected. Building upon the “coming out”, in the episode, Michael does this for Oscar, rather than letting Oscar decide the right moment to make his personal life known. This could be Michael’s notorious mindset that he has to control every situation and be the hero or the savior. He thinks that he has the power to make this important decision for Oscar just because he is the “dominant” male in the situation. That is, he is the straight one who apparently knows when someone should come out. One of the questions on the board today in class was, “Do you think queer people should always choose when they should come out?” I say, definitely. It is a very personal issue that varies from person to person. Some people are open about their identity and don’t hide themselves from the general public. Others are more private or sometimes even ashamed and keep it to themselves. Either way, it is never okay for someone else to “come out” for a person. The episode we watched portrays the anguish and embarrassment that can result from an unexpected and unwanted “outing”.

This episode, in my opinion, addressed homophobia and heterosexism very well. While it was funny at times, it brought real issues to light and showed the problems people face with coming out and the changed perceptions of those who know them. We still have a long way to go before things start to change, but  a popular show like The Office can serve as a catalyst for this reform and spark real movements.

How To Survive a Plague.

by regimbomb

Last year, I took History 104 (study of American history from 1865 – present day) here at Western, and towards the end of the quarter we discussed in great depth the AIDS crisis America faced in the 1980’s. To supplement our in-class lecture, our professor assigned a 2012 American documentary titled “How to Survive a Plague.”  Now, out of every text/video we were assigned in this course, this documentary is what has resinated with me the most for almost a year now. The documentary follows key members of notable AIDS and Queer activists groups through the beginning of the AIDS epidemic all the way until the disease’s decline in America the following decade. The film was profound in many ways, in terms of being informative and well-shot, but I’ve never watched a documentary that catches the struggle of its focus group quite like “How to Survive a Plague” did. There were points in the film where I, a rather emotionally stable person, was brought to tears by the overwhelming challenges the activists faced and the grave sacrifices some were forced to make. I would encourage anyone who is interested in not only queer studies but also film in general to watch “How to Survive a Plague,” as I have actually re-watched it several times since my initial viewing. Just so you do not think I’m alone in my praise for this masterpiece, i have included some of the film’s ratings and accolades:

IMDB – 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes – 99% positive

Accolades:

Best Documentary (won) – Gotham Independent Film Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics

Best Documentary (nominated) – 85th Academy Awards

Grand Jury Prize and Director’s guild award (won) – Sundance Film Festival

I have also included a link to my favorite scene in the documentary, just so you can get a quick look:

Queer Relationships in TV Shows

by raejeanwoodard

While watching Gay Witch Hunt on The Office today in class I realized how much people create this ‘funny’ or joking connotation around being a part of a queer community. Personally, I find that I also, to some level engage in this type of behavior or am around people who do. While watching the episode I felt that ‘being gay’ for Oscar was just a huge joke that no one really took seriously. Then again this show is made to be a funny show with a lot of comedic relief, but so many other shows portray the same feeling of wanting to laugh or making the audience feel comfortable. For example, my friends watch Modern Family where there is also a gay couple and from what I’ve heard, their lifestyle is set up in such a way that everyone feels like this couple’s relationship hilarious or fun to watch on TV. Not that there is anything wrong with enjoying shows that do portray couples of the same sex, but I would like to see a show where these couples are taken more seriously. When we talked in class, we talked largely about oppression, and that makes me think about all the issues in this community that aren’t being talked about or brought up beyond just giving people the right to get married or walk in public, and the media seems to be trying to integrate all sorts of people but aren’t really capturing anything serious or different than the view that most people already see. This seems to largely be ‘what’ queer people are ‘supposed’ to look like or act like. In The Office, Dwight and Michael were so confused with Oscar because he didn’t ‘look’ gay but in their meeting we see how much they don’t really take the situation seriously and as the audience I think we would deal with the situation the exact same way because that was how it was portrayed. The consistent ways queer relationships in shows are given trivial meanings show just how much these issues are still prevalent and hugely ignored in society.

-Raejean Woodard

Characterization and Themes in “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

by devinsoderland

I really enjoyed reading ZZ Packer’s “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” although the ending was somewhat different than what I was expecting. However, I found the text to be both very well-written and engaging, as well as fascinating on a thematic level.

I found the characterization of the characters to be very interesting, particularly with Dina and Heidi – both individually as well as with the ways in which the two central characters could be compared and contrasted. In my opinion, Dina’s steadfast refusal to explore and experience the world – as well as her tendency to run away from her problems and anxieties rather than confront them – presents a polar opposite to Heidi’s acceptance and exploration of her identity as a lesbian. Additionally, Dina’s harsh, tough manner is contrasted with Heidi’s friendliness and timidity – as exemplified in the incident with the mouse in the kitchen. The dichotomy and growing distance between the characters ultimately results in the rather melancholy ending of “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” wherein Heidi and Dina lose contact with each other and presumably never speak again after Heidi travels to Vancouver.

Overall, however, I found the contrasting characterizations of Dina and Heidi to be very interesting because, to me, they seemed to demonstrate two of the most common responses people have to realizing that they are queer – just based on my own personal experiences and observations as a queer girl with a lot of queer friends, of course. While some – such as Heidi – readily embrace their identity and community, sometimes even going a little over the top, there are also those (such as Dina) who are terrified and nervous of the implications and changes inherent in their newly-realized identity, and thus instead run away or otherwise attempt to deny their feelings. Thus, while the characters of Dina and Heidi are both interesting individually, I also read their characterizations as perhaps being ZZ Packer’s commentary on the overall condition of being queer – especially for those who are already marginalized or oppressed in some way(s). Those were some of the thoughts passing through my head while reading “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.”

I would be rather interested to hear others’ thoughts and opinions on this matter – thank you!

Devin Soderland

My Take on “Gay Witch Hunt”

by kellamn

During lecture today, September 30th 2014, we watched an episode of the popular television show “The Office”. The episode “Gay Witch Hunt” was all about how people became obsessed about trying to figure out who each of their co-workers fell under, heterosexual or homosexual. The stereotypical classification of a lesbian women being stern or a gay man being fashionable was called into question as the cast tried to ‘uncover’ these homosexual people.
The moment of consideration that I found the most fascinating during the episode was when the characters were considering whether they were heterosexual or homosexual. The amount of pressure given to the topic forced the cast to consider their own orientation. I had a similar thing to me happen in high school when I was part of the softball team. It was a saying that the girls on the softball team were all lesbians. At the time I considered myself heterosexual but because so many people were saying this and that about me, I started to consider their words. This didn’t change my opinion though. Now I go by the saying that I may be into guys now, but it may change if I met the right person. I believe people are limiting themselves to say that ‘I am only interested in one gender’ when it is the individual person themselves that you fall in love with. If I met this right person, I would want to spend the rest of my life with them regardless of their gender.
~Nicole Kellams

Homophobia: why bring it up

by wilso228

The quote that stood out to me in Smith’s piece was the one referring to how all the enemies of these minorities had clumped together like a dung beetles prize, yet the victims of their abuse still remained un-united. It’s a scary thought that hate actually unites people more than caring. It’s hard to imagine because as Smith states, deep down we all want the same thing, an equal world. A world where these people bred on hate don’t exist. But it’s hard to see that end goal with all of these negative things pilled in front of you. With the insults and hatred it’s easy to imagine the entire worlds against your cause, with all that hate it’s hard to see the allies directly in front of us. But we are finding those allies today, a campus queer support group up in Vancouver I volunteered at spoke of uniting with the other groups to create a more positive area for the students there. So that a step in the right direction, I only hope others are taking it too.
-Peter

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

by sheck2014

What grabbed my attention in the reading was the process of Dina figuring out her feelings and relationship with Heidi. Throughout the story I could not figure out what the psychologist was implying toward Dina about her being in denial and “pretending.” And then I understood that she had repressed feelings for Heidi. At first I thought that the story was based around her having a lesbian friend and dealing with those emotions of not being okay with it, but I didn’t understand until the end when she left Yale and couldn’t stop thinking about what Heidi was doing.

After rereading the story, Dina’s feelings seem more obvious to me. When the girls are finishing cleaning up the commons and decide that rinsing off and changing into their normal clothes before leaving that night was clearer during the second reading. The dynamic in their relationship changed because of the action off washing each other while being naked. I think this was the moment when Dina started thinking about her relationship and strange feelings she was having toward Heidi.

I noticed an undertone to the story that was only mentioned a few times but was what I originally thought was going to be the main point. The topic of Dina’s skin tone comes up briefly but impacts her making friends at Yale and interacting with other people who are also colored. The story did take a shift after Dina goes to the dining hall and is mistaken for being a couple with Heidi and being invited to a gay party. Even after rereading the story, this is still where my mind was headed even after knowing that the story was going to take a different direction.

– Stephanie Heck

Dina’s Attitude in “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

by Carlos Lynch

One thing that intrigued me when reading “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” was the main character, Dina’s tendency to “run away” from her problems. Her life seems to be fraught with problems but she always tries to go somewhere else with the conversation or situation whenever one is brought up.  Whenever she is with Dr. Raeburn she tends to hold back from the truth (though she doesn’t have much reason to trust him anyway). When he asks her to talk about her parents she whys away, not wanting to confront the problem. She changes the story about the boy with nice shoes when she tells it to him, but even the story itself shows her reluctance. As much trouble as she is having with the groceries, she doesn’t want the boy to help her because she doesn’t want him to see where she lives. Then when she gets home she lies to her mother about what really happened, yet another problem. When she tells the story to Dr. Raeburn, she changes it altogether, removing the problems entirely and changes the ending so that it ends up with the boy helping her home and them making out on the couch. when she finally realizes that maybe she loves Heidi, she leaves the situation. She even transfers to a different workplace to avoid having to confront her. I suppose we all behave this way to an extent but I am curious as to exactly why Dina’s reluctance is so strong. What caused her to behave this way?

–Carlos Lynch

Homophobia: Why Bring It Up?

by monicaronquillo

From the readings we were given Homophobia: Why Bring It Up? by Barbara Smith really opened my eyes to something that I had not considered. The fact that there are so many forms of oppression and activist groups full of people who identify with the cause, speaking on behalf of what group they identify with. However , one may identify with multiple oppressions and have a voice for how they are all interconnected.

When Barbara Smith brings up the idea of intertwining “isms” and how destructive it can be to ignore that there is a connection between racism, classism, and sexism.  By making these connections between oppressions you open up to a wider audience, you get more people talking about a “common cause.”

I may be a hispanic, heterosexual, feminist but the issues that I am passionate about may be related to a gay, white, male or a colored, lesbian, feminist and activist.  The more connections made between oppressions the stronger and larger the team fighting to bring equality  becomes. This doesn’t need to mean that we all fight the same battle, because we never really will but it does mean that you have more hands to reach for when you happen to need a hand.