Tag Archives: gender

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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‘Knowing’ Rape

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict began in London this week. I wish I could believe that a summit attended by Angelina Jolie would end wartime rape. I wish I could believe that a conference attended by political leaders that wield power beyond the silver screen would end wartime rape. But more, I wish we could just end rape. We ‘know’ that rape is endemic in ‘peace’-time societies, such as India, South Africa, and Peru. We refuse to ‘know’ that it is a problem in the US. Laura’s post on Monday was an angry, rightfully so, response to George Will’s inane, ignorant, and, ultimately, violent comment—but he is not alone. I could make something of Rajiv Sinha, the former director of the Indian Central Bureau of investigation, who stated that those who are raped should just enjoy it. But I hate to let anyone continue to think that peacetime rape is a ‘brown’ person problem. It is an everyone and everywhere problem. I am angry, no, furious, and frankly exhausted by academics, pundits, and politicians who construct rape within post-coloniality. This allows for the West and in particular the US to construct itself within an exceptional frame, denying that any problem with violence against women exists within its boundaries.

It was not so long ago that Clayton Williams ruined his chances to be Texas governor by making a comment strikingly similar to Sinha’s. During his 1990 campaign against Democrat Ann Richards, Williams invited a group of reporters to his ranch for the weekend. Sadly it was cold and foggy. But no matter: Williams informed the reporters, like bad weather, “if [rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” I shouldn’t need to state that the formidable Richards was elected instead. (As a Texan, I feel I can write that this is the last time Texas chose a governor wisely. But I digress.) There continues to be a pervasive minimization of rape and thus a diminishment of victims of sexual violence within the US.

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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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The Gender Imbalance of Concern about Gender Imbalance in IR

This morning, the Committee on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Status of Representation and Diversity co-hosted a panel on the gender gap in IR citation practices. The panel was organized in response to the collection and publication of data about the underrepresentation of women in citation practices even compared to their publication rates, both to discuss that data and discuss strategies to address the problem. Members of the editorial teams of International Studies Review, International Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of Peace Research were in the room to talk about it. Dan Nexon, lead editor of the flagship journal in the field, talked about strategies for increasing representation of women in the journal and in citations.

As they had that conversation, five people listened. All five of them were women.

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A Woman Scorned?

It’s difficult to find a day that mistresses are not in the news.  Today is no exception. NPR ran a story today about the problems rooting out corruption in Chinese politics, the bulk of which was about the problems of mistress culture. According to the story, the way to get dirt about the corruption of high-ranking Chinese politicos is to find scorned mistresses interested in revenge.

These Chinese mistresses – whose “public scandals” have “made for bad press” despite being a symptom rather than a cause of corruption, have been the subject of a number of news and human interest stories. Of course, they are not the first mistresses to attract attention (and blame) in politics – from Paula Broadwell to Julie Gayet, publics love good mistress stories. Political analysts also often cannot resist analyzing the ‘trouble’ caused by sexual politics (e.g., Dan Drezner’s discussion of “The Trouble with Dames in World Politics” and subsequent responses). Some call it news, I call it slut-shaming.

The ‘trouble’ that these Chinese ‘dames’ cause seems to be multi-dimensional, to read their press. The stories characterize them as only in it for the money, cold, disloyal, and ruthless. Rather than talking about them as victims of the sex industry, the stories emphasize that they are ‘players’ who make their own choices, including the choice of betrayal. Their customers, or keepers, on the other hand, are characterized as relatively helpless: ninety-five percent of elite Chinese politicians have illicit affairs and sixty percent keep mistresses, it is ‘required’ for them to demonstrate their masculinity. The mistresses, then, are characterized as a key part of corruption and a key reason that corrupt officials are likely to get caught.  They characterized as the political equivalent of kryptonite to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption – they are at once the corruption and the threat to take it down messily. The message to (Chinese) politically powerful men is clear: keeping it in your pants is key to political survival, and women can take you down.

In a world where fifty-something, wealthy, married, powerful men exploit poor, undereducated, teenage women for sex (and often abuse), … how did the woman become the perpetrators and the men the victims?

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