Tags: biology, bodies, class, crime/law/deviance, demography/population, disability, discourse/language, gender, health/medicine, immigration/citizenship, intersectionality, lgbtq, nationalism, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, science/technology, sex/sexuality, institutionalized discrimination, eugenics, subtitles/CC, 11 to 20 mins, 21 to 60 mins
Year: 2012; 2013
Length: 15:05; 17:25
Access: YouTube (clip 1; clip 2)
Summary: The eugenics movement has a long history in the United States. A popular misconception is that eugenic thinking and the associated practices were uniformly abandoned after the Third Reich's genocidal intentions were laid bare at the end of the Second World War. In point of fact, eugenic ideologies and practices have been recalcitrant features of American social institutions right up until the present day. In her book American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism, Nancy Ordover remarks on the resiliency of the ideology, "Eugenics..is a scavenger ideology, exploiting and reinforcing anxieties over race, gender, sexuality, and class and bringing them into the service of nationalism, white supremacy, and heterosexism." In earlier decades eugenicists could openly discuss stemming the "overflow" of immigration, as an effort to "dry up...the streams that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm." The language of eugenics would eventually change, but the core ideas have remained; socially deviant groups and socially undesirable conditions are seen by eugenicists as biologically determined. The above clips are news stories, which draw attention to two recent manifestations of eugenics policy. The first clip chronicles the experience of an African American woman who was legally sterilized in the late 1960s in North Carolina after giving birth to her first son. The clip reports that between 1929 and 1974 approximately 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized for a host of dubious reasons, from "feeble-mindedness" to "promiscuity." But while North Carolina's victims included men, women, and children, Ordover's research points out that the victims were overwhelmingly women and African American (by 1964 African Americans composed 65% of all women sterilized in the state). The first clip, then, is an example of how eugenics became institutionalized with the force of law, but the second news clip examines a case of institutionalized eugenics in California, which existed without the explicit consent of law. In 1909 California became the third state to pass a compulsory sterilization law, allowing prisons and other institutions to sterilize "moral degenerates" and "sexual perverts showing hereditary degeneracy." By 1979, when the law was finally repealed, the state had already sterilized as many as 20,000 people, or about one-third of the total number of such victims throughout the United States. One learns from the news clip that between 2006 and 2010, 148 women were sterilized by doctors who continued to be guided by the precepts of their eugenic ideology.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: biology, gender, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, agender, cisgender, gender expression, gender identity, genderqueer, queer, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Peer sex educator and YouTube sensation Laci Green breaks down the gender binary in this four minute video. Green proposes that the binary is kind of like two different suitcases packed with distinct expectations and beliefs, and which are arbitrarily imposed on people based on their genitalia. What this means is that the gender identity people adopt for themselves is sometimes different than the gender identity parents and medical professionals assign people at birth. As Green explains, Cis or Cisgender refers people whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth, while trans* or transgender typically designates people who identify as a gender, which is different than the one they were assigned at birth. In contrast, people who identify as agender do not subscribe to being either a man or a woman, and genderqueer is more of an umbrella term that similarly denotes people who refuse to identify with being either a man or a woman, but also includes people who simultaneously identify with aspects of both genders. The video works nicely as a short introduction to the gender binary, and the flurry of terms that emerge as a result of the fact that no single gender identity or expression perfectly corresponds to biological features, such as genitalia, chromosomes, or even the capacity to birth children. Laci Green does a good job of revealing that the gender binary is a rather unstable proposition and far more fluid than what is often pretended. Perhaps this inherent instability is why people so often seek to moor gender to biology, which they imagine to be more stable (e.g., "Getting pregnant made me feel like a woman," "Men are naturally more aggressive than women."). Yet instructors can push students to consider the way biology itself also fails to conform to a binary system of categorization. Contrary to popular belief, men have estrogen, women produce testosterone, chromosomes do not reliably determine sex, and the intersex community reminds us that despite the longstanding efforts of surgeons there is often more to genitalia than penises and vaginas.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
When did you decide to become straight?
Tags: discourse/language, lgbtq, media, prejudice/discrimination, sex/sexuality, heteronormativity, heterosexual privilege, sexual identity, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this video, amateur photographer Travis Nuckolls asks a number of respondents whether they think people choose to be gay. To those who think it is a choice, Nuckolls poses a thought provoking follow-up question: "When did you choose to be straight?" Why are the respondents so surprised by this second question, and what might their surprise reveal about the way people think about sexuality. One answer is that people were caught off guard because they are rarely asked questions about heterosexuality, and this is arguably because heterosexuality is thoroughly taken for granted as the normal and natural sexuality. In fact, sociologists and others argue that the United States is a deeply heteronormative society, which means that it is a society awash in messages that suggest heterosexuality is the normal and preferred sexuality. In a heteronormative society, heterosexuals do not typically field questions about their sexuality, while sexual minorities, such as those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or polyamorous, are routinely asked questions about theirs. A second insight one can glean from the surprise people express in the video is that heterosexuality is widely believed to be the original sexuality. That is, there is a heteronormative belief that all humans start life as straight, or perhaps as undecided, and then reach a moment when they become gay. This belief is the unspoken premise behind Nuckoll's question, "Do you think being a gay a choice?" and since people appear unsurprised by his first question, one can argue that they subscribe to this premise. In contrast, the premise to his follow-up question, "When did you choose to be straight?" is just the opposite. The follow-up question suggests that people start as gay or undecided, and only after making a choice, become straight. However, confronted with this question, people seem to be taken off guard. That is, they do not accept the premise behind the question. In sum, Nuckolls' video likely went viral because it centered and exposed U.S. heteronormativity and heterosexual privilege by asking people two relatively simple questions. It also clearly exposed the fact that people hold heterosexual folks to a different standard. It is entertaining to watch respondents in the video question their assumptions about sexuality, but it's also useful for viewers to articulate just what those assumptions are.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Fa’afafines at Pasifika festival, 2007. Photo credit: John Corney
Tags: culture, gender, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, fa'afafine, gender binary, Samoan culture, third gender, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This segment from the New Zealand television program Pacific Beat St explores the concept of Fa'afafine (fah-fa-fee-neh), a gender category in Samoan culture that is distinct from man or woman. In this way, Fa’afafine can be understood as a third gender that falls outside of the gender dichotomy, and this gender category is integrated into the fabric of Samoan society. As explained here, if a family is comprised of all sons, one of the boys will sometimes be raised as a daughter in order to perform daily duties that are associated with femininity. Other times, parents will raise their (biologically born) boys Fa’afafine if they exhibit strong feminine characteristics at an early age. The work performed by Fa’afafines is valued within the culture and, as noted in this clip, can include such things as cooking, caregiving, and singing in the choir. Fa'afafines present their gender in a variety of ways, as one American traveller observed: "Some of the Fa'afafines I met were very effeminate and dramatic, some were big old bruisers, some were very understated and graceful, but all walked among their countrymen with heads high and a solid footing in society." However, although Fa’afafines are an established part of Samoan culture, as this video states, they still face discrimination and marginalization, similar to transgender people in other societies. In this clip, Phylesha Brown-Acton, a Fa'afafine and transgender advocate, speaks of the prejudices she's faced. Instructors can highlight the specific stereotypes Phylesha cites, which, in addition to being perceived as "a sex worker, a druggie, a thief," also include the misperception of being "a man who wears women's clothing." As Phylesha says, every Fa'afafine has a different identity, but she personally does not identify as a man or a woman; as such, she is not "a man who wears women's clothing." This perspective and societal arrangement challenges the Western gender binary system. The clip also features Phylesha's advocacy work with youth and we meet three Fa’afafine youth advocates who work on behalf of transgender issues.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
The "sissy boy" experiment had terrible consequences.
Tags: gender, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, conversion therapy, gender socialization, research ethics, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This CNN investigation looks at the controversial work of psychologist George Allan Rekers, whose 1970s "sissy boy" experiment sought to make a boy more masculine. It covers many sociological concerns including gender socialization, sexual orientation, and the ethics of research. First, in believing young boys who display behaviors thought of as feminine are more likely to be gay than supposedly masculine boys, Rekers exemplifies a common type of flawed thinking by conflating gender and sexual orientation. He attempted to "correct" supposedly feminine boys with severe sanctions (positive and negative) not only to compel boys to act in more masculine ways, but also to reduce the likelihood they would be gay as adults (and he is within a minority of people who think that is a bad thing). Second, because of the extremity of the sanctions that occurred under a psychologist’s recommendations, the “sissy boy experiment” raises many ethical concerns about applied social-psychological research—especially studies conducted on children (and also conversion therapy more generally) without consideration to the long term effects. Rekers, who is well-known in the anti-gay movement today, heralds the experiment as a success despite the fact that the boy committed suicide as an adult. As a third and final consideration about this video, we should keep in mind that everyone is subject to milder forms of sanctions on our gendered behaviors; boys (and even adult men) are often rewarded for supposedly masculine behavior while being shamed or even punished when they act ways deemed feminine (and of course, vice-versa for women). There is no doubt these experiences shape our gendered selves while reinforcing normative gendered behaviors more generally.
Submitted By: Jason Eastman
Youth poets critique the "Oppression Olympics"
Tags: art/music, intersectionality, lgbtq, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, sex/sexuality, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This poem, performed by two young women in the youth poetry competition Brave New Voices, is an excellent way to introduce students to the concepts of intersectionality and Oppression Olympics. "Oppression Olympics is a term used when two or more groups compete to prove themselves more oppressed than each other." Intersectionality is the theory of thought that draws attention to the ways in which inequalities are intersecting and interlocking, and thus proves the difficulties associated with comparing one group's experience with oppression to another's. The poem specifically chronicles what happens when members of the African American community and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community engage in comparisons of who has had it worse. While the practice of comparing the harms of racism to homophobia isn't new, as sociologist Eric Anthony Grollman points out in this blog post, "the supposed black-versus-gay divide is old, and frankly a little tired." Indeed, as Grollman and the youth poets show, the experiences and activist histories of these two marginalized groups have much in common. Such insight supports what the bisexual Caribbean-American activist poet June Jordan wrote in her book, Some of Us Did Not Die: "Freedom is indivisible, and either we are working for freedom or you are working for the sake of your self-interests and I am working for mine." In addition to pairing this video with Jordan's work, the clip would work well with scholarship by other intersectional thinkers such as Audre Lorde, Allan Johnson, and Patricia Hill Collins.
Submitted By: Kendra Barber
George receives a massage from a man
Tags: emotion/desire, foucault, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip is from the Seinfeld episode entitled "The Note," which is the first episode of the show's third season (note: the audio is low; turn up the volume when screening this clip). After receiving a massage from a man, George shows up at Jerry's apartment, clearly distraught. George reveals to Jerry that he thinks he might have had an erection during the massage and he fearfully exclaims: "That's the sign! The test…if a man makes it move." Jerry reassures George saying, "That's not the test. Contact is the test. If it moves as a result of contact." This clip can be used to teach several concepts. First, the clip can be use to illustrate how sexuality is not a fixed concept; it is fluid and not easily defined. For example, is sexuality defined by sexual desire? Sexual behavior? Sexual identity? In this case, George focuses on sexual desire. Despite not identifying as gay or engaging in sexual behavior with men, George wonders if his erection is a sign of same-sex desire, a desire presumably unbeknownst to him. Jerry shifts the focus by narrowing in on behavior, stating that the sign of gay entails physical contact that results in sexual arousal. This discussion points to the complexity of sexuality. Viewers can be encouraged to consider various scenarios in order to highlight this complexity. For example, if George dates women, has sex with women, self-identifies as straight, yet is aroused by a man, is he gay? What if he identifies as gay but has sex with women? Viewers can further be encouraged to question our cultural obsession with defining sexuality in the first place. In his book The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault calls this a discourse of knowledge and, similarly, power. The clip also illustrates how heterosexuality gets renormalized in our culture through social interactions—that is, there is no need for George and Jerry to debate the definition of being straight. Presumably, that's just known and normal. Finally, the clip also supports elements of Michael Kimmel's concept of masculinity as homophobia, or the notion that men are terrified to be gay or, even more, be perceived as gay.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: emotion/desire, foucault, lgbtq, sex/sexuality, theory, abjection, asexuality, heterosexuality, masculinity, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: A common assumption about sexuality is that all humans have sexual desire, which suggests that sexual identity is biological or innate (e.g. see Foucault 1978; Planned Parenthood). However, in this interview with Tucker Carlson, asexual activist David Jay broadens the discourse on sexual orientation by bringing asexuality to the forefront of the discussion. In short, an asexual person is defined as someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Through his interview with Carlson, Jay challenges the commonly held belief that all humans are sexual beings, and effectively creates a dialogue for viewers to rethink taken-for-granted assumptions about male-dominated heterosexuality. Questions to ask while watching this video include: How does Tucker Carlson define sexuality in patriarchal terms? How is his definition of a heterosexual male limited? How does David blur the dichotomous lines of gay and straight? Can we understand sexuality on a spectrum instead of as mutually exclusive? Why is Tucker pressuring David to “try” sex? Is this Tucker’s attempt to make David an intelligible body? Why is it so important to Tucker that David perform his sexuality “properly”? How does Tucker abject David and the concept of asexuality? Why is the concept of asexuality so problematic for Tucker? Julia Kristeva’s (1982) theory of abjection may serve as a useful concept to frame discussions around this video. The abject is defined as “the other” or as “the human reaction […] to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between the subject and object or between the self and the other.” We fear and loathe the abject because they are threatening to the social order and ultimately to conceptions of our self. Considering this, another question to ask is whether or not asexual relationships threaten heterosexual masculinity. The discussion of asexuality challenges naturalized conceptions about human sexuality and paves the way for the exploration of other forms of intimacy, sexual orientations and partnerships. It is only when we let go of normative prescriptions of sexuality that we can experience and recognize other forms of love and expression.
Submitted By: Pat Louie
Scene from the music video "Same Love"
Tags: art/music, inequality, lgbtq, marriage/family, prejudice/discrimination, sex/sexuality, hip-hop culture, homophobia, marriage equality, privilege, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Seattle rapper Macklemore’s hit track “Same Love” provides a social commentary for the relatively absent discussion of homosexual love in mainstream hip-hop culture. In “Same Love,” Macklemore expresses his support for gay marriage and creates a space for listeners to reflect upon their views of both gay marriage and homophobia—online, in rap music, and in our daily lives. The video tells a story of struggle with sexual identity, acceptance, love, and marriage. The video follows a man from childhood to old age, unraveling a story about the difficulties of navigating queer sexuality in a heteronormative environment. In the song’s opening lines, Macklemore unpacks stereotypical assumptions that society holds of prescriptions that define “gayness,” explaining his own confusion with his sexual identity as a child because he was “good at drawing” and “keeps his room straight.” Macklemore’s music provides a counter-narrative to typical messages in hip-hop centered around sex, money, drugs, and objectifying women. Instead, he uses his music as a forum to spread awareness about social issues. He effectively flips the discourse from the glorification of homophobic language in mainstream hip-hop to a discussion about prejudice and discrimination. Some questions that instructors can ask students include: “What do heterosexual people take for granted at school dances? At parties? At family dinners with their partner? How do these events illustrate some of the privileges associated with being heterosexual? What are some of the ways we “properly” perform heterosexuality in high school? Do you think hip-hop is an effective medium to educate and create discussions about social issues? For another post that features hip-hop music as a forum to engage social issues, click here.
Submitted By: Pat Louie
The "You Can Play" project promotes sexual equality
Tags: gender, inequality, lgbtq, prejudice/discrimination, sex/sexuality, social mvmts/social change/resistance, sports, 00 to 05 mins
Access: You Can Play Project
Summary: The You Can Play project brings athletes, gay and straight, together to promote and educate other athletes and sports fans about equity in all levels of sport from professional to recreational. The project argues "It’s time to talk about sports and it’s time for us to create change. It’s one of the last bastions of society where discrimination and slurs are tolerated. It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s an assumption in sports that gay and lesbian players are shunned by all athletes. It’s just not true and You Can Play is dedicated to providing positive messages from athletes, coaches and fans." Their website features a growing library of video clips, each 30-60 seconds long, with professional and collegiate athletes and team personnel describing their support for the initiative. Some videos simply show athletes' meanings of sport without vocalizing their support, while other videos feature explicit statements of support (e.g. San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels says "I am proud to support LGBT athletes everywhere"). The videos can be used to discuss gender and sexuality stereotypes in sport, to challenge these stereotypes, and show how sport can also function as a site for education and social change.
Submitted By: Margaret Austin Smith
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