Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Intersectionalities - Intersextionalities

I feel pretty slow these days.  I have been reading but not in the mood to write.  I finished "The Regulation of First Nations Sexuality" by Martin Cannon recently.  In this article he explores some of the sexual/gender practices in First Nations prior to contact and the post contact push towards heterosexuality.  He also makes an argument  that it is important to not treat gender, race and sexuality as distinct spaces when undertaking inquiry into these areas.  This paper is from 1998, so some parts of the paper are less relevant, as many areas of academic inquiry have moved on from this type of pigeon holing of subjects and are more likely to treat individuals as complete persons within the scope of inquiry. 
Kim Chi

I found this topic particularly interesting as Sophie has recently identified as non-gendered, that she sees herself as neither a male or female.  So the more I can learn from Indian culture the better I can help her contextualize herself.

Cannon begins by showing how the processes of colonization brought together and then solidified conceptions of race, sex and heterosexuality so that confirming with gender and straight sex roles became part of the exercise in civilization.

Now of course, part of the issue with this type of analysis is that the source documents were overwhelmingly written by Christianized European males with a narrow idea of what was morale.  For example is a piece written by Jesuit, Joseph Francois Lafitau in 1711-1717, "If there were women with manly courage who prided themselves upon the profession of warrior, which seems to become  men alone, there were also men cowardly enough to live as  women... they believe they are honored by debasing themselves to all of women's occupations; they never marry..."

Throughout the article Cannon cautions of the desire to overlay modern concepts of gender and homosexuality on these types of historical text.  He speaks to how racism and patriarchal heterosexism worked together in the views of the missionaries, where being a sodimite, meant not only a sexual practice but assumption of "femaleness" and thus of lower value.  However for the indigenous peoples assumption of a particular dress or activity of one sex did not determine the worth of a person in the way is does in our society.  (Here he is quoting Harriet Whitehead).  He then moves to Foucault and the discussion of  how sexuality and related behavior is constructed and thus mutable over time and place.  I am drawn to think of Judith Butler as well and the performative nature of gender. 

Coming from this viewpoint I have found it easy to understand where Sophie is coming from.  I am very aware of putting on femaleness some days.  Performing as "mother" when going to see school professionals.  I love RuPaul's Drag Race as it is such a rich reminder of the transitiveness of our outward performance.  This last season we especially loved Kim Chi who was playing not only with drag but also with race, fat and performance.  This things all remain linked.  I am looking forward to following up on this article by Cannon and seeing what the state of this research is more recently.

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