Category Archives: Teaching

Facebook gets genderqueer – but does it translate?

Many if not most of us live some portion of both our professional and social lives on Facebook. Among my friends and colleagues, a significant amount of attention is paid to how to ensure privacy on Facebook, but less attention is paid to self-expression and self-description options. That’s certainly true of me. That’s why my latest discovery has me thinking.

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Facebook has a bunch of gender options, apparently rolled out in early 2014. Its been a while since I’ve updated my profile, so I didn’t notice until now. My first reaction is to be like a kid in a candy shop – which one do I pick? Can I have them all? I’d previously decided not to display a “gender” on Facebook because the options were limited to male and female. Granted, this list still blurs the sex/gender dichotomy and doesn’t make the pronoun “ze” available, and while I can ‘be’ a number of genders, I can still only be ‘interested in’ male or female (or both). Still, upon my initial encounter with this list, I was too elated with all the options to be particularly concerned about those remaining shortcomings.

I could identify as (and this is in alphabetical order now): agender, androgyne, androgynous, bigender, cis, cisgender, cis female, cis male, cis man, cis woman, cisgender female, cisgender male, cisgender man, cisgender woman, female to male, FTM, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, gender questioning, gender variant, genderqueer, intersex, male to female, MTF, neither, neutrios, non-binary, other, pangender, trans, trans*, trans female, trans* female, trans male, trans* male, trans man, trans* man, trans person, trans* person, trans woman, trans* woman, transfeminine, transgender, transgender female, transgender male, transgender man, transgender person, transgender woman, transmasculine, transsexual, transsexual female, transsexual male, transsexual man, transsexual person, transsexual woman, and/or two-spirit. If any are missing, I can suggest a new one. And I don’t have to pick just one. I can pick up to ten! I don’t go wild – I only pick four, then I almost hit the logout button.

Then it occurred to me – does this translate? Is it available everywhere in the world? Is it available in all of the languages that Facebook is available in? Are translations based on English words, or local ones? These questions lead me to other questions – what privileges are a condition of possibility for my joy and excitement at the discovery of the ‘new’ Facebook genders? Who does facebook’s new genderqueer face benefit?

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‘Mansplaining’ International Relations?: What Walt Misses

Following the tradition of Saturday Night Live’s Father Sarducci, Steve Walt turned the “Five Minute University” from the 1970s into a lesson for the undergraduate class of 2014 on Foreign Policy yesterday, providing a five-minute lesson as a substitute for a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Walt’s lesson included five key concepts: anarchy, balance of power, comparative advantage, misperception/miscalculation, and social constructivism. While Walt acknowledges there is much more to know about the discipline (including deterrence and coercion, institutions, selection effects, democratic peace theory, and international finance), he suggests those might be “graduate level” and that “all you really need to know about the discipline” can be found his five-minute, five-concept lesson.

I’d like to introduce Steve and his audience to a (sixth) concept that comes from outside of International Relations but applies to it: ‘mansplaining.’ A term introduced by Rebecca Solnit in 2008, the idea has gained traction both in popular circles and in academic ones. Though many different ‘definitions’ of ‘mansplaining’ exist, a picture of Steve’s post could be in the dictionary next to mine: it is a short, humorous ‘explanation’ of the discipline of IR, from one of its male/masculine/(masculinist) elite aimed at its feminized/feminine/(female?) margins: new trainees and potential trainees. In that explanation, Walt accounts for a global political arena in which it appears that men and women; sex, gender, and sexualities; masculinities and femininities; masculinizations and feminizations do not exist. This might be where my definition of ‘mansplaining’ differs from others: I think a ‘mansplanation’ is an explanation made in a masculinized tone that endogenizes, makes invisible, or leaves out gender. Walt does this almost artfully: the global political arena that we can learn about from Walt in five minutes is indeed one where it is possible that women do not exist at all. That, among other things, makes it both a ‘mansplanation’, and deeply problematic.

My problems start at what Walt does not talk about, and continues as I read what he does discuss. Let’s start with five ideas that I’d characterize as key to understanding global politics, which Walt leaves out:

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Discourse analysis of “Israel Apartheid Week”: Where’s the peace?

On the Wednesday of Israel Apartheid Week, the daily email announcements from the University included the following:

Palestinian Solidarity, Anti-Zionism, and BDS

Join us for our first event of Israeli Apartheid Week at Hopkins. We will be having members from Jewish Voice for Peace and Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine speak about anti-Zionism, Palestinian solidarity, and BDS (JHU “Today’s Announcements,” via email, 2/25/2014; italics in original).

In the space of these fifty words, I was struck by the divisiveness and violence of the use of “Anti-Zionism;” conflicted about the invocation of apartheid; strongly opposed to but not at all offended by the advocacy of boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions on Israel and Israelis (BDS); and, if Palestinian solidarity means caring about the lives and futures of the Palestinian people, then broadly supportive.

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