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I've been ignoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), partly because it's relevance is mostly limited to the United States, and partly because the email related to it has been filling my inbox for months, which I resent. Yet I felt motivated to write when I read the recent results of this ENDA Poll.
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Current Location: home
Current Mood: determined
07 October 2007 @ 12:58 pm
I'm considering using the TAMS analyzer to help record, store and process my qualitative data. I'm attracted by the fact that it's text-based, free, and mac-compatible. Have any of you used this software and if so, what was your impression of it? I'm especially curious as to whether I will find it compatible with the voice centred relational analysis method I've chosen to use (a variation on Carol Gilligan's listening guide).
01 October 2007 @ 10:46 am
Statement of The problem: What does Polyamory have to Do With Bisexuality?
[This is a portion of my first chapter. I've removed the footnotes for formatting reasons. I've also got lots of extra bits and pieces floating around which will eventually fit in here.]

Theologian Richard McBrien wrote that our first theological question is “Who am I” or “Who are we?” It is in our attempt to understand our own lives, claimed McBrien, that we begin to explore what is typically thought of as “religious issues” – God, Jesus, church, and morality. cut for lengthCollapse )
24 September 2007 @ 02:39 pm
Patti Lather argued that the goal of feminist research is to “correct both the invisibility and the distortion of female experience in ways relevant to ending women’s unequal social position.” I feel this aim most keenly in relation to bisexual women. I have identified as bisexual since coming out seventeen years ago, and much of my activist life has been dedicated to building a bisexual community in Toronto.

Generation X
I was born in 1973. I am a member of Generation X, and a third wave feminist. For me, the emphasis on “grrl power” and the Do-It-Yourself-style of third-wave feminism and queer activism is the result of growing up in a world where the power of human action, both for good and for evil, was continually on display through the immediacy of television. The year I turned sixteen also saw the end of the Berlin wall, the crash of the Exxon Valdez, tanks rolling over students in Tienanmen Square, and the Montreal massacre. My first sexual education class included a discussion about AIDS. The year I came out as bisexual the World Health Organization removed “homosexual” from their list of diseases, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, and the world wide web was invented. The activist in me has been inspired by the fall of apartheid, and spurred to action by the rise of the Religious Right.

Third Wave Feminist,
In the article that coined the term “third wave feminism,” Rebecca Walker wrote that “To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of my life. It is to search for personal clarity in the midst of destruction, to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them.” Like Walker, I am bi-racial and bisexual. My parentage is Scottish and Micmac (a first nations group indiginous to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick). As a biracial bisexual, I find myself excluded by universalizing descriptions of “women’s experience.” Too much of my identity falls outside the norm to feel comfortable with unexamined assumptions about who "we” are as feminists. Instead, I am drawn to the places where identities and commitments intersect, overlap, conflict, and shape one another.

Social Consctructivist
As a social constructionist, I reject biological determinist explanations for sexuality. Sexuality is remarkably adaptive, fluid and unpredictable, with many facets of meaning to it. As heteropatriarchy defines it, female sexuality is passive, receptive, and directed toward reproduction. Within this system, femininity is not simply a collection of all that is “other” to masculinity. Rather, masculinity and femininity form a complimentary unit whose totality is heterosexuality. Politically, I would term attraction to one’s own sex as “ex-gender behaviour.” Although I disagree with the catch phrase ‘feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice,’ I do agree that feminism is a movement on a spectrum of feminine behaviour, away from hetero-normative sexuality. To put it more bluntly, any time a woman does something that is not approved by heteropatriarchy she is re-defined as less feminine. Femininity is thus a cultural wage, like whiteness, that is used as a reward for conforming behaviour.

Working Class
I am descended from the working poor and from what Karl Marx called the lumpenproletariat—individuals subsisting through crime such as bootlegging. I was raised in poverty in a country whose standard of living is ranked sixth by the United Nations. The rural poverty I experienced was different from the urban poverty my parents had known. I have never seen a bedbug, but was in my teens when we got a flushing toilet. Having grown up poor enables me to see the privileges at work behind what many view as necessities.

Currently I am working-class, supporting myself through retail and service jobs. Although financially insecure, this class position can undercut sexist gender roles, which expect women to be decorative, dependent, and subordinate. As Karen Kollias writes, “Working-poor women, starting at an early age, are used to making decisions that affect others and have to develop confidence in their ability to confront day–to-day responsibilities.”[1] This confidence has been invaluable in organizing community-building projects, confronting heterosexism, homophobia, and biphobia, and communicating our bisexual struggles and vision through the media.

I do not think that there is a contradiction inherent in being a working-class academic. Some feminists have viewed education as a process that erases ones position as working class.[2] In this view, educated women might identify themselves as being working-class in background, but their shift in intellectual resources and earning potential disqualifies them as working-class individuals.[3] At the same time, some construe their background as preventing them from ever being authentically middle-class.[4]

These critics are correct that education is a process aimed at creating a middle-class. As feminist librarian Mary McKenney notes, “[a]ccording to the stereotypes, she can’t be working class if she went to college, seems intelligent, cares about larger issues, has good table manners or likes the arts.” [5] But in making alienation from education definitive of working-class experience they overlook the resistance and counter-knowledges which working-class individuals bring to their studies, as well as the internal critique to be found within middle-class academia itself.

Undoubtedly, many working-class people have been denied access to higher education, and many have been forced out of grade school by economic necessity and social design. However, a lack of literacy and a disinterest in learning is not universal among the poor. Working-class culture is not without its theory and theorists; rather, it occurs outside the authorized discourses of knowledge, and is therefore often dismissed, criticized as parochial and faulted for failing to properly discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate sources. Furthermore, class is a material as well as a psychic reality. Economic violence marks the body in ways that reinforce and undergird charicatures of the poor as degenerated, dirty, and otherwise inadequate. In Elements of AntiSemitism Horkheimer and Adorno write, "Violence is even inflamed by the marks which violence has left on them."{6] I see this same dynamic at work in the direct (beatings) and indirect violence (of interventionist and paternalistic social welfare organizations) against the poor which is itself elicited by the marks left by the economic violence of poverty.

White privileged
I have freckled white skin, which is characteristic of my Micmac ancestors.[7] My mother’s family was Scottish, white, and estranged from us. My father’s family was multiracial, but primarily Micmac, black and East Indian. As a child I noticed that strangers would frequently address their questions to me, rather than my older, less-white cousins. At the same time my nativeness was often dismissed by white people, for whom the image of what a "proper" native woman looks like is predetermined by American images of bronze skin and a Plains headdress.

I noticed racial hierarchies at work even within the family. My grandmother, who had run away from forced residential schooling as a child, frequently emphasized the importance of preserving my whiteness by avoiding the sun, which might expose my native heritage. For her, whiteness was something she could achieve for her descendants.

My racial positioning means that I am aware of the white supremacy shaping western culture, despite being treated as white by others. In my dissertation study of bisexual women, I found myself noting the overwhelming whiteness of the participants. Two women in my survey mentioned having native ancestry, and one woman described her heritage as Jamaican. Although I did not intend my study to be representative of Toronto, it seems worth noting that my sample was so white, in a city that reports a visible minority population of 42.9%.[8] I began to reflect again on how white hegemony operates within our bisexual community, and what might be done about it.

Nowhere identities
Biracial, working-class academic, and bisexual have traditionally been construed as impossible middle grounds, belonging nowhere. I feel comfortable with Third Wave Feminism in part because it has not tended to view categorical transgression in this way. Indeed, multiple positioning or border crossing can be viewed as an aid to sisterhood, rather than a barrier.

[1]Karen Kollias, “Class Realities: Create A New Power Base,” in Building Feminist Theory: Essays From Quest, a Feminist Quarterly, ed. Charlotte Bunch, Jane Dolkart, Beverly Fisher-Manick, et al. (New York: Longman, 1981), 128.

[2] Kathleen Lynch and Cathleen O’Neill, “The Colonisation of Social Class in Education,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 15, no. 3 (September 1994): Diane Reay, “The Double-Bind of the ‘Working-Class’ Feminist Academic: The Success of Failure or The Failure of Success?” in Class Matters: ‘Working-Class’ Women’s Perspectives on Social Class, ed. Pat Mahony and Christine Zmroczek (London: Taylor and Francis, 1997), 20; Kathleen Lynch and Cathleen O’Neill, “The Colonisation of Social Class in Education,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 15, no. 3 (September 1994): 308.

[3] Kay Standing, “Writing The Voices of The Less Powerful: Research on Lone Mothers,” in Feminist Dilemmas in Qualitative Research: Public Knowledge and Private Lives, ed. Jane Catherine Ribbens and Rosalind A Edwards (London: Sage, 1998), 197; Jo Anne Pagano, Exiles and Communities: Teaching In The Patriarchal Wilderness (Albany: State University of new York, 1990) 136.

[4] See Saundra Gardner, “What’s a Nice Working-Class Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This?” in Working-Class Women in the Academy: Labourers in the Knowledge Factory, ed. Michelle M. Tokarczyk and Elizabeth A. Fay (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 49-52. Donna Langston, “Who am I Now? The Politics of Class Identity,” Idem 69-71.

[5] Mary McKenney, “Class Attitudes and Professionalism,” in Building Feminist Theory: Essays From Quest, a Feminist Quarterly, Charlotte Bunch, Jane Dolkart, Beverly Fisher-Manick, et alia (New York: Longman, Inc. 1981), 147.

[6] Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, "Elements of Anti-Semitism: Limits of Enlightenment," in Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 1996, original edition 1944), 183.

[7] R. Ruggles Gates, “The Blood Groups and Other Features of the Micmac Indians,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 68, (July - December 1938): 297. Forty-seven percent of the children Gates studied in the Shubenacadie Residential School had skin that could be classified from white to pale. Rather than reassess his expectation of what constituted “Indian characteristics,” he argued that “pure bloods are long since extinct.” Idem 284.

[8]Statistics Canada, “Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic: 2006 Census,” (April, 2007): Catalogue 97-562-X http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census06/analysis/ethnicorigin/pdf/97-562-XIE2006001.pdf.