Thursday, December 2, 2010

Queer Theory and it's link to Feminist Theory

Throughout the semester I have been struck by some similarities between feminist theory and queer theory, especially with regards to similar approaches to oppression. This makes sense, because both Women's Studies and Queer Studies address the issues facing minorities. But it also makes sense simply because this course is listed as a Women's Studies course. I thought that briefly explaining approaches to feminism (what is sex oppression and how can it be solved) and comparing them to ideas and articles we've discussed in class would be interesting.

The sameness approach to feminism argues that women are the same as men (capable of the same things, both human, etc.). In the queer community there is often a push to show that queer people are just the same as everyone else. For example, they can also make families, raise children, get married (or want to).

The difference approach to feminism argues that there are differences between men and women (or between femininity and masculinity) and that those differences should be valued. The same argument can be made in queer theory. Several authors have discussed the subversive effects of queer identities and the value of subverting white, heteronormative society. For example, Sandeep Bakshi analyzed the disruptive potential of drag queens and hijras.

The dominance approach to feminism describes sex oppression as the systematic structuring of femininity as subject to dominant masculinity. Sex oppression should be discussed in terms of the power relationships at play, i.e. a relationship of dominance and subordination. This is definitely a problem in the queer community because queer people are a minority with fewer rights than non-queer people. Because heteronormative society holds legal power they can decided whether gay couples can get married or not. The article "Compulsory Able-bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence" describes how the "normal" people (who hold the power) create "abnormal" people (without power.)

Postmodern feminism describes sex oppression as a problem in our use of language. They argue that to change sexism we must change the language that is used to discuss women and their lives. Foucault is a postmodernist and studies how the use of language (ars erotica and scientia sexualis culture) has created people and identities. These two discourses on sex affect how gay people are talked about and treated.

Politics of identity feminism talks about how women's identity is affecting their lives. Things happen to women because of their identity and no matter what you do, you can't escape it. I think this is at the root of queer theory. At the beginning of the class we tried to define queer, to define the identity that people gather around. Jose Muñoz explicitly discussed identities, counter-identities and disidentifications.

This is just a brief glance at all of these approaches, but I think each has something to offer to the queer community and to the women's movement. I encourage you to think about other arguments and articles that are related!

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