Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Queer Theory." by Annamarie Jagose and “Who is that Queer Queer? Exploring Norms around Sexuality, Race, and Class in Queer Theory.” by Ruth Goldman

In her article Queer Theory, Annamarie Jagose discusses the meaning of the term. She talks about queer theory being used to disrupt beliefs about "natural" heterosexual desire, two gender system (man/woman), and two sex system (male female). Queer theory asks questions about the assumption that heterosexuality and all that we associate with it is natural and normal (heteronormativity). She also warns against queer theory being used to mean lesbian and gay studies and queer being used as an umbrella term for lesbian and gay identified people. The tension between gay and lesbian identity and "queer" questions around the stability of identity is a really important tension that needs to continue to be explored.

Similarly, Ruth Goldman explores what queer means in her article "Who is that Queer Queer? Exploring norms around sexuality, race and class in queer theory." Goldman explains how queer was used initially to get away from identity categories but how the term has still come to mean white gay male and middle class. In particular she talks about how queer is used as an umbrella term for gays and lesbians and often excludes bisexuals. Bisexuals have a unique experience to bring to queer conversation as their desires are not built on a single track of desire. She even discusses the limits of a term like bisexual to talk about the real ways that bisexual desire does not necessarily focus on gender as a way of choosing partners. Goldman also discusses the ways that "queer" is generally used by white and middle class folks. While there is in interest in other perspectives, because queer theory is so closely tied to the academy and people of color are invited in to an already existing conversation as opposed to allowed to center themselves, queer theory reproduces its own norms even as it tries to challenge others. She asks that queer theorists not just think about sexual oppression but also about racial, class, and gender oppression as well as they all work to maintain each other.

These two works explain where queer theory is and offer suggestions about where it should go. It's important to think about how sexuality is connected to other systems of oppression. Queer theory is not an identity but a way of looking at and examining hierarchy in our world. A big piece of undoing oppression is going to be making queer theory accessible outside of academic places like colleges and universities. We have to meet people where they are and not just talk abstractly all the time. This is what "making accessible theory" means.

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