5.12.2010

Sexuality and Culture

There's been a little flap over the photograph published recently in the Wall Street Journal of Elena Kagan playing softball. In case you haven't been around much in the last thirty years, "softball" is code for "lesbian." Here's one article on the supposed controversy.

I link to the story just because I think it's an interesting question whether the public has a right to know about a supreme court justice nominee's sexuality.

I know the inclination of most academics will be to say "No," sexuality is not the public's business. But in an age where "identity" has been highlighted as an indicator of ideology, and because it's easy to anticipate at least one case making it to the supreme court related to same-sex marriage or gay rights in general, I kinda wonder.

Haven't academics treated culture as closely tied to issues of identity? There's black culture. There's gay culture. We know Kagan's religion. Why not her sexuality?

I'm sort of devilishly advocating here, but I'm actually 50/50 on this.

Also, I'm accepting tasteless remarks about her looks in the comments section, but I can't bring myself to make one.

6 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

What bothers me here is that there is a default pejorative to being gay/lesbian, and that there exists strong cultural opposition to same-sex marriage. But I am in the minority that would vote someone into office because they are likely to vote in support of same-sex marriage.

I spent the day reading about Gorgias, and particularly how his notion of truth wasn't deconstructive or nihilistic, but rather communal. Bruce McComiskey translates it as "sincerity"--and I do think that postmodern attacks on epistemology do call for more attention to notions of character and integrity.

I just wish we could discuss sincerity and character without all the underlying opposition to characteristics different from the norm.

Casey said...

Wrangler, this is weird, but...

How can there be anything but a "deconstructive" notion of truth if our notion of truth is communal? Unless we suppress views opposing a norm? I mean here we are switching places again, right? You appealing to "truth," and me saying, "What is truth?"

So: on what grounds can you argue that opposition to laws favoring homosexuality is "pejorative?"--especially if you're correct that you and others favoring those laws are in the minority?

Wishydig said...

is that what he said?

Insignificant Wrangler said...

I mean deconstructive in the very specific philosophical-procedural sense: one that is always operating to dismantle the dominant position via and exposition of its foundations seeking an internal contradiction or suppression. It is an antagonistic process.

I have no idea how the two questions in your response are logically intertwined, so I won't directly respond to them.

I don't understand how, in any way, I am appealing to truth. Instead, I am positing a world in which there exists multiple truths, and no transcendent-objective procedure or apparatus to rate/evaluate those competing truths.

I was agreeing with you on the idea that character does become more important once truth loses its air of objectivity. This change can be good or bad. Good, if people learn to accept otherness and operate in a mood of hospitality and responsibility to the other. Bad, if people identify otherness as a threat and operate in a mood of hostility and responsibility for the other.

Let others take care of themselves. Invite their response. Do not write their response.

This is my response to your last set of questions. The other's sexuality need not be your concern. Don't try to save the other. Don't colonize them. Leave them (to/the) fuck alone. Its communal precisely because its not communitarian in the traditional sense. Its a procedural-ethical relation to others that alters the self (in the sense of repressing the desire to transform the other into a representation of the same) rather than attempting to alter the other.

Casey said...

"Good, if people learn to accept otherness and operate in a mood of hospitality and responsibility to the other."

This is the point, I guess. You seem to value otherness in and of itself, right (Levinas)? I'm asking, why? Are majority views always less preferable than minority views?--just by virtue of being majority views?

The only reason I brought truth up is that you said that you were reading about how Gorgias' notion of truth was communal. That sounds "deconstructive" to me. That is, you'll have a population with different truths, right? No hegemony can stand against that.

Casey said...

Oh, and the part about sexuality: that would be completely true if sexuality weren't at all corresponding to culture. But telling me to mind my own bed is like saying "skin color doesn't matter."

Well duh, but "Race" is only about 1% skin color, and 99% culture. Or so the theorists tell me.