Friday, June 09, 2006

You Have a Degree in What?

So yes, as you most know I have just graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelors in Women's Studies after a long amount of time spent as an undergrad. Of course the most often questions I hear from strangers, aquantences and friends alike is "Women's Studies, What is that?!" or "What can you do with THAT degree?" The puzzeling faces, and questions never cease to end. In our society that puts earning power over public good or business over the arts, literature and the environment, it is almost easy to see why one find my venture into Women's Studies puzzeling. But add to this the idea that the focus is on sexism, women, and gender and people really start to question your sanity and common sense. But that is exactly the problem, the point being that so many do not understand why Women's Studies (and gender studies, queer studies, African American, Asian American, Native American or environmental studies) is important is why the degree is an important one. Much in society negates what is feminine and not masculine. This is what sexism, homophobia and even racism rest upon. Check out Suzanne Pharr's Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism or bell hook's Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics. Both of these works do a fine job at illuminating how the -isms in our world affect and defeat us all. Most disheartening is the sexism, homophobia and racism I see present in the GLTBF community. Some of my aquantences and freinds are guilty of this as well. I do not put myself above others and I say I am not subject to this as well, but the point in changing anything is first acknowleding that you have racist,sexist, homophobic, ageist, disability or weight prejudice and begin to deal with these thought processes. Yes, these are thought processes that are shoved down are throats from when we are born by society, visual media, literature and conventional wisdom.
I think part of the greatest tragedy is when I see those from minority groups acting and carrying out these same thought processes that are hurt us all. A lot of people I speak to find it shockin that gays and lesbians could be racist, sexist or even homphobic since we are such a marginalized minority group. But as studies have shown (yes, from Women's Studies and other "crazy liberal" sources) minority groups often cope with their degragated status by lowering those that they consider to be below them. It is never pretty to be considered the lowest of the low and gay men prove this point eloquently. I have seen racism and sexism from the gay community comparable to a heterosexual sports bar. Comments such as women should not be in "our bar", or should not be doing a "certain job" such as construction or a sportscaster or the idea that Spanish, Asians, Greeks or whoever represent something "exotic" or "different" to be conquered and lusted after are racist and sexist ideas. If these ideas where replaced with gay men the community would cry "FOUL" and make a hoopla over something they themselves are guilty.
This tragedy extends directly from the gay community into those that like to call theselves "liberal" or "educated" and I think a severe lack of thinking has occured here. Liberal has never meant not racist, sexist or homophobic. The basic premise of liberlaism is that "I do what I want, you do what you want, and if does not impede my rights and vice versa then we are all right." Liberals are closer to libertarians than they like to think, and most libertairians that I have met are full of racism, sexism, etc.... I like to substitute the word progressive instead of liberal becuase it implies change and moving foward, which is what we have to do as a society if we want to survive. Most liberals do not consider that their words, thoughts, or actions could be considered anything bad and fight vehemently to deny any such accustations without ever questioning themselves.
I am sorry, but because white people might be able to read, view in a movie, or hear about racism or whatever, does not mean they will ever experience it like a person of color does. A point to this is that if you ever have to look around in the room or lower your voice when saying something, it is most likely something mean about someone else and sexist, racist, homophobic, etc... A point that might help this, and I feel bad because the author's name escapes me, is the idea that she puts forth that racism can only be instituted by those who are white (in the contect of the US). Her point being that for racism to work society favors and puts forth the ideas of the majority (i.e. white people in America). This is done through the schools, chuches, news sources, laws and so forth. So while a black person can have racist views about Asians or white people, racism can never be put back onto white people because they control all aspects of society. (By the way, just as gay people can be homophobic, I believe Asians, African Americans or whoever can be racist, sexist or homophobic.) In our law class after having read this essay all the women (I was the only male and person of color) in the class did not agree with this idea, but I could see its implications fully. The professor who is white and Jewish, said she herself did not like this piece at first, but related it to her religion and could understand it more fully. The point of any ethnic or gender orientated studies is to challenge our presumptions and thought processes. It is never pretty or easy, but is something that must be done if we want to carry the label of being a progressive or establishing a free society. Otherwise we will just keep killing each other with our bombs, our words and our actions. Oh, by the way, some of the images I've included such as the African baby and the Asian carictures are part of the racist images I am referring to in society. Most people when telling racist comments or ideas cover them in the form of something comedic or or make them look cute, as if this deflates from the hurtfullness of the images or ideas. Just consider next time what you speak or do before you do and consider would you like the same thing done or said towards you.

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