the body

Reclaiming Through Tattoos

One common reason cited for getting a tattoo is to reclaim the (physical) body.  It might be a general reclaiming, or focus on a particular part of the body.  These tattoos can represent individual agency or control over the tattooed person’s “body narrative,” but also connect them to larger communities.  Examples include the use of tattoos relating to marks of self harm, previous addictions, sexual assault, surgery and cancer, trafficking and surviving war.  Specifically, these forms of tattoo are popular amongst women and LGBTQ people.

tattooimage from The Daily Mail

 

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Ear Hustle Podcast

Ear Hustle is a podcast made by Earlonne Woods, who is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a visual artist who works with prisoners.  A variety of topics about prison culture are covered, including the need to nurture, maintaining relationships, the effects of solitary confinement, and importance of cellmates.  Though not explicitly political or abolitionist, prisoners are humanized and some faults of the criminal justice system are highlighted.
ear hustle radiotopia
image from Radiotopia
I highly recommend listening to all episodes, but thus far there are two in particular I found useful for the classroom:
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This episode discusses the unwritten rules around race in prisons.  A few prisoners discuss rules around who you can take food from, what style of party prisoners have, who you shower with, and what type of tattoos you can have.
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This episode is about sex trafficking and restorative justice.  A survivor and a perpetrator of sex trafficking are interviewed and then have a discussion.  Obviously the episode is very emotionally charged and can be upsetting for listeners. Sara Kruzan discusses her life, how she was trafficked, terminology around sex trafficking (specifically the word ‘pimp’), and healing.

Gender Identity

We commonly differentiate ‘sex’ as biological identity, from ‘gender,’ which is the cultural, social, and psychological differences between males and females.  Gender then refers to the patterns we associate with men and women in a cultural context.  The relationship between sex and gender often seen as direct or compulsory, but is socially constructed.  As I’ve previously posted, the Gender Unicorn illustrates the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. 

Some other cultures have historically included gender identities outside of the male / female binary.  This recognition of identity does not necessarily mean that they do not face discrimination

Recently, Germany has recognized a third gender for intersex people.  As I’ve previously posted, intersex people “do not fit the typical definition of male or female… biological characteristics.”  Theorist Judith Butler argues gender is performative in that it “produces a series of effects” that “consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.”  We are not born as men and women, but that it is in social interaction that gender identities are reproduced.

Other terms that have entered the general vernacular around gender include ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ people.  Cisgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does correspond with their gender identity.  Transgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does not correspond with their gender identity.  Because transgender people encounter intolerance and violence, gender performance can be complex.

It is becoming more common for young people to identify as gender ‘non binary,’ meaning they do not identify as male or female, or ‘non conforming,’ meaning their gender expression does not correspond with the cultural expectations of their respective gender.  A study recently found that 27% of teenagers in California are gender nonconforming.  In Oregon and California, residents can legally identify as non binary on drivers licenses and state documents.  In 2017, a baby in Canada became the first to have the gender status of ‘unassigned’ or ‘undetermined’ on their health records.  Some celebrities, such as musician Sam Smith and actress Amandla Stenberg, have also come out as gender non binary.    

The Gender Unicorn

“The Gender Unicorn” is a visual depiction that clarifies and distinguishes various aspects of individuals’ gender and sexual identity.  Its predecessor “The Genderbread Person” is considered by some to be inaccurate and possibly plagiarized.  

gender unicorn.jpgimage from http://www.transstudent.org

Perfume Genius’s “Die 4 You”

In the androgynous / queer music video for “Die 4 You,” Perfume Genius uses erotic asphyxiation as a symbol of commitment and devotion.

Lyrics from genius.com:

Limit every second left
Until I’m off balance

Oh love
I’m there in spirit

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting

Oh love
See it through
I would die 4 you

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting
Limit every second left
‘Til I’m off balance
Each and every breath I spend

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
Oh my love, oh my love

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
See it through

Ancestry and Social Construction of Race

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard and host of PBS program Finding Your Roots, discussed ancestry and the social construction of race with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show.  The clip can be seen here.
Finding Your Roots has courted controversy in the past for acquiescing to celebrity Ben Affleck’s request to exclude information about his slave owning ancestors.  The program also garnered attention for research into actor / musician Fred Armisen’s past, whereby they discovered that his ethnic heritage is Korean and not Japanese as he believed.

Rise Like a Pheonix

In 2014 the Eurovision Song Contest was won by Conchita Wurst from Austria.  Conchita Wurst is the drag persona of Tom Neuwirth.  “Conchita” is Spanish slang for vulva / vagina and “Wurst” is German slang for penis.

The Eurovision Contest is known for its eccentricity and gay representations are not new, but Wurst’s performance was particularly unique.  Though wearing long, curled hair, full makeup, and a beautiful gown all culturally signifying female, she also had a full beard, a secondary sex characteristic associated with males.

The song “Rise Like a Phoenix” holds additional meaning when sung by Wurst.  The lyrics “Peering from the mirror  No, that isn’t me  Stranger getting nearer  Who can this person be  You wouldn’t know me at all today” and “Once I’m transformed  Once I’m reborn I rise up to the sky  You threw me down but I’m gonna fly  And rise like a phoenix” can all be read as referencing gender ambiguity or transformation.  Neuwirth has stated “Conchita Wurst” is his drag persona and he does not identify as transgender, though, like many drag queens, uses ‘she’ pronouns when in character.  Wurst’s genderqueer performance was attacked by the Russian Orthodox church as an “abomination” and Vladimir Putin as “aggressive” because non traditional gender identity was “put…up for show”.

In her acceptance speech, Wurst stated “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.  You know who you are.  We are unity and we are unstoppable.”