Tag Archives: queer theory

(Queer) Activism at Stanford University

by Lina Schmidt, ’15

screenshot of survey
What is queer? and what does queer want? were two questions asked over the course of the class “Introduction to Queer Studies” (FEMST 120). Questions about what queer “means” are important to me because, as both a queer-identified individual and as a member of the campus group Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, parts of my identity are implicated in use of the word. The  meanings of queer can be a scholarly pursuit. However, the placement of queer in the title of a student group committed to “social change” makes its meanings relevant to the entire Stanford community, regardless of academic focus.

Described as a “discursive horizon” (Queer Theory 1), queer is fluid; a site of connotation rather than denotation. As a result, writings about queer — “Queer Theory” — are sometimes contradictory. The goal in reading, however, is not to produce a consistent worldview but to challenge entrenched ideas. For example, Annamarie Jagose suggests that 0ne use of queer is as an umbrella term for non-normative identities, serving as a contraction of “LGBTQIA.” Another writer, Cathy J. Cohen, suggests that queer has a more “radical potential” through its inclusivity not just of non-normative sexuality, but of differences in race, class, physical ability, and more (Punks 11-16). Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Summer in Cape Town: Or I’m Sorry for Using You

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

They will ask you
Whether your project can inflict ‘harm’
And you will respond: “minor discomfort” to expedite the review process

Her name is Cym,
And the arc of her smile mirrors her painted eyebrows,
On Mondays she asks you what you did over the weekend.
You do not tell her.
You are guilty of the conversion rate, how you can afford a club, a skin, a language that she never will.
She wants to know what it feels like to live in America
If you have a handsome boyfriend there who will buy you dinner sometimes

In your field research class they will teach you about the importance of obtaining consent.

Cym cannot sign your form
So she communicates with the earnesty of hazel eyes Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Real Zach Schudson

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

With Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, I invited Zach Schudson to come and perform in Terra House during Winter Quarter. I stumbled on Zach’s work through Facebook and was immediately inspired by his body-positive, queer-positive message and the way he was using mainstream pop music to communicate radical critiques. In person Zach was just as eloquent and charming. His performance was a bunch of fun! I wanted to interview Zach to hear more about his thoughts behind the music.

AVM: Tell us about yourself. Who is the real Zach Schudson?
ZS: This is always the most intimidating question on online dating sites and so I always make a joke. I guess that’s a good summary of me though. When people ask who I am, I make a joke and avoid the question. I’m totally comfortable with that. I think confidence and clear-cut answers are overrated. Placing excessive value on them privileges a kind dominant, go-getter attitude that just does not work for me. I like spinning my web out of avoided questions and humor-based defenses. My friend Sarah recently described me really well: “You and I are a lot alike – really chill about other people and really neurotic about ourselves.” My Myers-Briggs type is INFJ, for those with some interest in personality psychology.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Speech to Queer High School Activists

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

Note on terminology: Throughout this text I will be using the word ‘queer.’ I do not mean to use ‘queer’ as a derogatory or negative term, rather I use it as an umbrella term for sexualities and gender-identities that are not heterosexual (when one is attracted to members of the ‘opposite’ ‘sex’) or cisgender (when the gender someone is assigned at birth aligns with their psychological feeling of their gender).

Flawed Paradigms

What comes to mind when you think of the ‘gay’ movement? Chances are you think of the Human Rights Campaign and their “gosh-darnit this is so aesthetically pleasing” ‘equality’ sticker – the very sticker you were so proud of yourself for sticking on the back of your mom’s minivan that you drive to school. Chances are you think of marriage equality: of the ‘State’ ‘denying’ gay people their very integrity and going against ‘true love.’ What comes to mind when you think of gay ‘activists’ who compose our movement? Chances are you think of people participating in protests and rallies screaming into megaphones demanding full and equal rights. You might think of a Pride Parade with gorgeous and fit gay people dressed up with all their reckless fabulosity.

But ask yourself: What would change in your life right now if the Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and that every State in the United States now had to legalize same-sex marriage?

My guess is that after your cried tears of joy, felt a delicious burst of self-affirmation in your heart, texted all your friends, and kept the news on all night, you would recognize that very little in your day-to-day life would change. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Ravenous Appetite: Desire of the Mind and Body in Patricia Powell’s ‘The Pagoda’ and Jewelle Gomez’ ‘Oral Tradition’

by Megan Winkelman, ’13

In desire lies the meat of human motivation, struggle, redemption and catharsis. Artists, vanguards of the human struggle, write desire into our conscious world, excavating the needs of the body and mind from the dusty psyche.

Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda and Jewelle Gomez’ Oral Tradition fashion desire into a weapon of the unknown and unacknowledged. Both authors fortify desire’s tired trope in order to challenge a hetero-normative world. The Pagoda explores “the shadow zones between sexes and desires, to suggest the slipperiness of identity” through the journey of a young Chinese woman who must live her immigrant life in Jamaica as a man (Pye). In her poems Gomez tells stories of sex, loneliness, history, death and friendship, linked together by longer ballads “sung” by Gilda, the black vampire lesbian character borrowed from Gomez’ novels.

Both literary works inspire an honest assessment of desire’s visceral impact through different media and to different ends. My analysis will use Gomez’ inherently fractured narratives (in the poetry medium) to inform Powell’s continuous narrative. This approach exposes the reader to the authors’ divergent arguments about desire, as well as the different sets of tools prose and poetry provide.

In the following essay I will analyze both the cerebral and physical portraits of desire through Powell’s prose and Gomez’ poetry. The cerebral aspect of desire, fantasy, appeals to the intellectual examination of desire’s consequences. In contrast, desire’s physical manifestation preys on the reader’s empathy through the conflation of sex and violence. Each author separately attacks desires through the ideation of fantasy and the physicality of sex to build the newly layered meaning of desire that exists far from the safe dichotomy of love and lust. I argue that Gomez’ poetry achieves more visceral access to both a physical and an intellectual interpretation of desire. Despite this difference in efficacy, both Powell and Gomez force readers to revisit the pedestals they have individually erected, the ideals that dictate their own romantic and sexual wants. Only then can readers begin to gradually chip away at these pillars until a new understanding, informed by the struggle of queer yearning, rises from the rubble. In this spirit, I will conclude with an interpretation of how the prose and poetry of fluid sexuality, through language that is alternatively ambiguous, violent and visceral, can change readers’ outlooks, effectively “queering our centers.” Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,