GENDER PEDAGOGIES, AND THE LIMITS OF MATERIAL VIOLENCE

Yesterday (17-X) I presented my little book Desafíos a la Heterosexualidad Obligatoria, together with Miquel Missé, author of Transsexualitats: Altres Mirades Possibles and Gerard Coll-Planas, author of La Carn i la Metàfora: Una Reflexió sobre el Cos a la Teoria Queer. At one point of the lively ensuing dialogue, we were asked about the resistance to the incorporation in our teaching of Gender Studies.

Gerard acknowledged that he was often criticised for teaching “mariconades,” I explained that I need to fight my female students’ resistance to feminism by reminding them that discrimination becomes a crucial issue when looking for a job, and deciding to be a mother. But all this was nothing in comparison to Miquel’s comment that he hesitated to declare his identity as a transsexual whenever he taught workshops against gender-related violence in secondary schools, because he wanted to “leave the place alive.”

Logically, those of us working on Gender Studies are a bunch of naive idealists who think that everyone will eventually see the logic of total tolerance for personal choice. This creates what might even be a dangerous bubble as we carefully avoid contact with recalcitrant patriarchal individuals. They are often in class, as men or women, but political correctness prevents them from answering back; besides this, there are always ways of avoiding our discourse, as we give them the choice of not taking our elective courses or of working on other issues in our compulsory ones. Students unbounded by political correctness, the ones that Miquel faces, are another matter.

Miquel himself was not sure about his decision not to present himself as a transsexual in the workshops, as this contributes to concealing his identity and that of other persons like him. Yet, I sympathise for there is always the possibility that he’d be verbally abused –from sneers to insults. I want to believe that a physical assault would never happen, but the simple fact that I have to consider this possibility is indeed worrisome. The ugly reality of material violence is, precisely, what makes Gender Studies so necessary as a preventive pedagogy.

I myself and the colleagues who teach Gender Studies suffer from another form of violence, which I’ll call intellectual. Other teachers, even Department colleagues, use their classes to criticise and undermine what we do, somehow suggesting that because we do Gender Studies we are not qualified to teach Literature in a ‘proper’ (philological?) way, whatever that means. In other cases, they teach texts we also teach just because Gender Studies is fashionable, or because they want to offer the ‘proper’ non-ideological reading –as if that’s not in itself ideological.

I’m really looking forward to meeting the colleagues already teaching in the new UAB Minor on Gender Studies, see what’s going on in their classes. And, yes, as Miquel said, maybe we should attend one of his workshops.

2 thoughts on “GENDER PEDAGOGIES, AND THE LIMITS OF MATERIAL VIOLENCE

  1. I just finished my MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture and I often find myself lying about it (e.g. I’ll say I have a masters in Cultural Studies, period) or not even mentioning it. It’s nothing to do with coming out. It’s just that when you get people still asking things like “Who is the woman in your relationship?” you realise that there’s a lot more they won’t understand.

    I know exactly what you mean here: “This creates what might even be a dangerous bubble as we carefully avoid contact with recalcitrant patriarchal individuals.” Since I started my course I started to realise that I seemed to live in a parallel reality, but then I talk to someone who’s never heard of gender theory and I realise we’re just not speaking the same language when we talk about gender or sexuality.

  2. Yes, Samuel, it seems clear to me that Gender Theory should not be a matter just for higher education, but, rather, for primary onwards. It makes me sad to read that you lie about your MA, not only for you, but also for your teachers… but I understand!

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