Trying to Try

Cheers, StyleNation, and welcome to the new academic year! Yes, almost everybody in the Northern (academic) hemisphere is back to class now, except for the lucky few – our own E-Jo, for example – who are excused from teaching and will thus spend the term engrossed in their research.

To be clear, gentle readers, for all my griping about prep and marking, I enjoy my time in the classroom. Generally, my students are great, and I LOVE the stuff I teach. But the balance is off lately, and I dream of months of uninterrupted research coupled with some respite from student demands. With almost 200 students this term and very little in the way of assistance with marking, I must (and will) rally. But I’m eligible for leave next year (hurrah!) and am counting down the days!

Professorial rant (scroll down for outfit post)

In the mean time, I have serious concerns about young feminists/feminism. I have this fantasy that this is only happening in my city, but regular (and VERY annoying) exposure (at conferences) to feminist and/or queer cultural studies suggests otherwise. Here’s the problem as I see it: gender-queer practices are the new (so-called) feminism, and the new (so-called) feminism tends to be anti-historical, intensely preoccupied with (Euro-North American) selfhood/identities, alarmingly elitist, and often misogynist. In short, gender-queer politics, at least in the incarnations in which I witness them, are not feminist at all. Instead, there’s an apparent “need” to eliminate the category of “woman” because it is, apparently, reprehensible and ostensibly irrecuperable. In this context, too, gender-queer’s preoccupation with a representative gender-neutral “personhood” seems to over-value a form of (relatively young) slightly re-fashioned masculinity. Gender-queer politics names this refashioned masculinity “androgyny.”

If this is actually a thing now, then, in my not-so-humble opinion, we’ve got a serious – and very tiresome – problem. For my part, I grow INTENSELY WEARY of the refusal, on the part of gender-queer critics, theorists, and students, to interrogate the assumptions underlying their politics.

How does this politics manifest in the undergraduate women’s studies classroom, the nerdier among you might ask? Currently, I am informed on a semi-regular basis, by 17-to-22-year-old persons with carefully-styled “androgynous” hair and clothing, that gender binaries must be disregarded to the point where any research or activism that acknowledges constructed genders is irrelevant.

How many times do we have to learn that socially constructed ideas have real effects, and that “refusing” to engage with a particular ideology does not, in fact, negate its effects in culture? Why can they not hear when a vast and diverse body of feminist cultural critics and theorists points out that even their gender-queer counter-culture defines itself in relation to mainstream gender ideals (i.e. gender-queer NEEDS normative gender constructions in order to understand what it is not)?

Moreover, I am sick and tired of research examining gender-based cultural belief systems that result, for example, in “women’s” starvation and death, or in infant mortality being disregarded and dismissed because those who wrote up the research failed to problematize the constructed categories of “man” and “woman,” or failed to account for a “woman”‘s personal agency when she “chose” to feed her husband and children before herself.

Here endeth my ranting. For now.

Outfit #1: First day of class

No, it’s not exciting, but I wasn’t excited to start teaching, again:


Cardigan: M.A.K. (gifted from D-Med, remixed); Silk & lycra shell: Le Chateau (new to blog); Black cami: H&M (remixed); Linen trousers: H&M (remixed and redyed); Invisible black flats: MTNY (via Winners, new to blog)

Outfit #2: Teaching Day (today)

It’s chillier today. My classroom this morning was especially cold, so I lectured in this jacket:


Cotton velvet blazer: RW & Co. (gifted from the A-Dubs-Hubs ages ago); Printed polyester tunic: Smart Set (new this season); Black leather belt: Mexx (remixed); Pleated black maxi skirt: Reitmans (end-of-season sales this summer); Trouser socks: Joe Fresh; Pewter faux-snakeskin flats with hardware: David Wilcox for Town Shoes (love these, bought ’em in gold, too)

Then, it warmed up, so I took off the jacket for my second class in the afternoon:

What’s up with you, StyleNation?

Also, am I being crazy about this gender-queer stuff?

12 thoughts on “Trying to Try

  1. I find this post stimulating, but also troubling. I’m what I’d like to think of as a well educated feminist who happily inhabits a home on the outdated spectrum of traditional gender identities. (A conflict that I’m well aware of.) Most disturbing to me is that since my departure from Academia some 16 years ago, SO much has clearly changed in the realm of gender constructs that I struggle to even understand your rant! I must request, dear AW……. a tutorial on gender binaries over Thanksgiving.

    In the meantime, on to a more important question: On teaching day #2 – did you have wine for breakfast……. or did you take these pics at the end of the day? (Please note that Wake & Wine is the far more respected answer to this question……….)

  2. Having eased out of the academic world while remaining a fervent feminist, I am horrified by your report from the field. The very necessary fight for trans rights should not occlude the very necessary fight for women’s rights. Destabilizing the gender binary doesn’t help poor women in rural Texas access reproductive care. Gender-queer counterculture that silences gendered voices risks serving the patriarchy under which we all (men, women, transmen, transwomen, children, gender-queer androgynous everyone) lose.

    Post-feminism? What? NO.

    I totally dig your maxi-skirt layering action and may need to copy it with my own very similar long black flowy skirt! Imitation = flattery, dude. Your black wide-legs are boss, and I need to see those invisible shoes.

    • Dude. You are eloquent and I love it. Also, will look forward to your iteration of the maxi skirt. Probably I will learn something awesome – I usually do when you style things!

      Shoes to follow at later date.

      • I am glad, largely because, in the theoretical world in which I live, such thoughts are awfully uncool to have. (I mean, I spend a lot of time with Baptist ministers, who are on my side with this on–all the way, I might add, but are also understood to not be hip to the theory, if you will.)

        I also have thinks to say about self-objectification and the third wave, which basically boil down to “You do not have to turn yourself into a sex object to be attractive and for what it is worth, objectifying yourself is not empowering yourself.” I can go on and on, especially if I have been drinking. Personally, I have no interest in being a sex object, which I see as inherently different from being a sexual human being.

  3. On a related note, I just read an article about a transman who gave birth to a child (post transition) and managed to breast feed despite having had top surgery, with lots of help from LLL. He applied to be a LLL consultant and was turned down because he was a breastfeeding dad, because of his gender identity. One part of me (the part that wants to applaud this person for charting his own course) is deeply indignant that he was turned down. But (and I realize that this is an old argument, dating back to the Lilith Fair in the 90s), I am also hesitant about transmen in women’s spaces. So much of what it means to be a transman is performative–enacting maleness. And part of what makes all female space feel safe to me is that it tends to be without that kind of gender identity. And then I feel politically horrible for having those concerns…..

  4. As someone else in the humanities, and someone who works a good bit with genderqueer theory, I think that you are absolutely dead spot on. I have a friend who refers to me as “charmingly second wave,” because I worry about the political implications of gender theory that troubles the binary system. On the one hand, I think troubling the binary system is theoretically good and important. On the other hand, it is very disconnected from the on the ground realities of the majority of women. And the (often horrific) plight of trans people does not negate the social realities of women living in patriarchy. And yes, lived manifestations of that theory imply that androgyny is inherently boyish.

    One of my cousins is currently transitioning, ftm. And he gave us all books for Christmas, to help us understand and process. My mom got a book called “Just Add Hormones.” I tried to read it and was so enraged that I had to stop, because the author talked about women accusing him of basically having made a power grab, of transitioning to gain access to male privilege. And the author basically said, “Whatever that is, I have not seen it or experienced it.” Basically denied that such a thing exists. (NOTE: I was livid and the book is not with me, so it is possible that my fury as obscured the actual point. Perhaps.) Now, I would be perfectly willing to believe that a transman does not (at least most of the time) have access to male privilege but I am not willing to believe that make privilege does not exist. I can understand how the accusation could feel very unfair, given the realities of a transphobic society, but denying the realities of male privilege (and even denying that transmen probably have access to some aspects of it (male names on resumes come immediately to mind)) seems, in the end, deeply anti-woman.

  5. As a person who is much closer to 60 than 50, I recall feminism as necessary, successful, and brutal. As a person who lives in the US, I am horrified by the complacency over the re-litigation of every single bit of progress that was made during that time.
    So yeah, I wish more of us would bring the crazy. They’ve got it coming.

  6. No, you’re not being crazy. I would laugh in the face of anyone who said straight-up feminism is post-relevant, after seeing my heavily male undergrad class. It’s a bit of an eye-opener for me, I’d gotten complacent after six years of graduate teaching to a population that’s closer to 50-50.

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