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.