I've moved! I have my own website now, www.austintotamu.com.
This site will remain live as an archive, so feel free to browse. If you'd like to contact me, see the link on the new site.
10 July 2011
01 July 2011
Cross-posted at Geek Feminism.
So the idea of my cosplay project (which I have completed a big chunk of, but am putting on the shelf for a bit, so that I can mull it over in my subconscious) was pretty simple. Most people give these very simplistic answers about their motivations for their cosplay: it's fun, it's for the pure love of the show, it's about hanging out with other fans, I like the character, I like the character's costume, etc. I suspect, like most fan scholars, that something more complicated than those reasons go into cosplayers' decision-making. So I chose a particular cosplay trend—women cosplaying as the Doctor—and tried to get beyond those reasons, both through interviewing and by "reading" the costumes. Which, of course, has all got me thinking about my own motivations and decisions in the cosplay I wore to Gally. Obviously, the premise of my project is that cosplayers don't necessarily consciously know all the reasons they make the decisions they make in their cosplay, and I don't consider myself an exception to that premise. In fact, I knew I wasn't sure what it was about a steampunk TARDIS dress that held such a fascination with me. I only knew, as I told a friend at the time, that if I could dress as the TARDIS and wear a bustle at the same time, I'd be a happy lady.
When I started this project, I thought that my motivations for the TARDIS dress were mostly gender-related. After all, gender is something I think about a lot. When I met another TARDIS dress cosplayer at Gally, Niki la Teer, we chatted about how many TARDIS cosplays are not just women, but women wearing very femme costumes. I asked her if she interprets the TARDIS as female, and she said the TARDIS would be
"definitely female. [...] The way the Doctor talks about the TARDIS, talks to the TARDIS. Assuming the Doctor is straight, of course, you never know."
My own cosplay was very femme, and I share Niki's interpretation. Obviously, the TARDIS as female (and romantic companion of the Doctor) is now canon, with the wonderful Neil Gaiman episode "The Doctor's Wife." But this is an obvious example of one of my hypotheses in my project: namely, that cosplayers' costumes and choices reflect their personal interpretations of Doctor Who. In this case, we can surmise that women dressing as femme TARDISes interpret the TARDIS as a femme woman.
Niki dressed as a 50s-style TARDIS because that's the period from which the police box originated. As someone whose research interests mostly lie in the contemporary manifestations of the 19th century (mostly contemporary Jane Austens and neo-Victorianisms), steampunk is naturally fascinating to me. But I don't think this fascination is the reason I chose steampunk, or a Victorian-esque design for my TARDIS cosplay. What is it about steampunk and Doctor Who that seemed to combine so deliciously? And why the TARDIS? Why didn't I opt for a steampunk femme 10th Doctor (an option I considered briefly)? The answer seems to lie in the steampunk aesthetic itself.
So what is steampunk? What defines its aesthetic? Annoyingly, steampunk defies definition. One part Victorianism, one part science fiction, one part magic, and found in literary and material manifestations, in costuming/fashion, in film and in graphic novels, steampunk seems easy to identify and hard to define; á la Justice Potter Stewart, we know it when we see it. Or when we are faced with an overabundance of cogs.
|Brass and wood steampunk laptop with turn key and brass pedestal feet, modded by Datamancer.|
"asks us, perhaps via its material culture even more than through its fictional instantiations, to consider the apparent disjunction of a turn-key starter and a laptop computer. Then steampunk asks us to look harder and apprehend their aesthetic compatibility. Calling it aesthetic compatibility may, in fact, understate the point. In the laptop, modded by the technical artist Datamancer (Richard R. Nagy), the compatibility is operational: turning the key actually boots the machine. We might say steampunk takes the paradigm one step further and asks what happens when the markers of various time periods are estranged from their contexts and made simultaneous. [...] The point of modding your laptop to look like a turn-of-the-previous-century machine is not to create an object so radically mashed-up that one cannot discern its functionality, but to discover their aesthetic commonalities, to blend them in a way that verges on cancelling [sic] the difference" (6-7).Basically, then, steampunk takes the past and combines it with the present, precisely to erase the differences between the two. "This approach to temporality," Bowser and Croxall claim, "has the simultaneous and paradoxical effect of minimising the categorical differences between time periods. Steampunk illuminates the compatibility of laptops and brass, of steam engines and nanotechnology. Steampunk insists, in other words, on our continuing status as 'other Victorians' and does so in part through a manipulation of temporality that in its very machinations invokes the temporal revisions and reversals of the Victorian era" (10). Our belief that we are like the Victorians is what makes steampunk so very appealing; it projects a compatibility between us and the Victorians, between our culture and the (Western) culture(s) of the 19th century, between our technology and the inventions of the Victorian era.
Doctor Who is a show that, similarly, revels in temporal anachronism. This is a show that likes to take us back to the past and remind us of our compatibility with that past. Russell T. Davies's era, in particular, rather enjoyed jaunts to the past, and had a love affair with the Victorian era. Notable examples of traveling into the past in the RTD era are "The Unquiet Dead" (1869), "The Empty Child" (London, the Blitz), "The Girl in the Fireplace" (France, 1727), "Tooth and Claw" (Scottish moors, 1879), "The Shakespeare Code" (London, 1599), "The Daleks in Manhattan" (New York City, 1930), "Human Nature" (England, 1913), "The Fires of Pompeii" (Pompeii, 79), and "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (England, 1926). Going back in time is not intended to alienate the audience from the past. Rather, these episodes are characterized (like steampunk) by multiple anachronisms, multiple simultaneous meanings, and play.
|Giant steam-powered Cyberking, rampaging the city of London and coming into contact with the TARDIS hot air balloon.|
Further, the hero/ines of steampunk are usually tinkerers, inventors, and adventurers, all categories into which the Doctor undoubtedly fits. The compatibility of steampunk with Doctor Who is something that even the writers seemed to recognize in the production of "The Next Doctor," set in London in the 19th century, in which the Doctor finds himself once again fighting the Cybermen, who construct a giant steam-powered Cyberking.
In this episode, Doctor Who becomes translated in a steampunk version of itself, in which the Doctor carries an actual screwdriver, flies in a hot air balloon, and wears a spiffy vest and cravat. He fights the same enemies, but they are now steam-powered. Doctor Who works in the steampunk mode because that mode and its own normal operations are very similar; the tinkerer/inventor Doctor is not that different from most steampunk hero/ines and anachronism is definitional to both.
But, as I pointed out, a steampunk TARDIS seemed so much better to me than a steampunk Doctor (although I'm still considering a steampunk femme 10th Doctor for another con). That may be because the most important thing in steampunk is not the bustles or the brown, but the tech. Steampunk has been described as a response to modern technology that has become sleek, small, and boring, exemplified by the iPhone or iPod. Contemporary technology is not only boring, it's a black box. It's outside gives no clue as to what it does or how it works, and it's impenetrable. Not literally, obviously, but our own culture makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the layman to tinker with hir own tech. DRMs, EULAs, and warranties all reflect a certain attitude about how appropriate it is to bust open your technology and mess around with it, and the non-mechanical nature of tech like iPods, computers, and cell phones make it difficult for most people to learn how to tinker with it anyway. This isn't just frustrating, it alienates people from the tech that literally shapes many people's lives. As I mentioned before, steampunk hero/ines are usually tinkerers; Bowser and Croxall argue that the high-adventuring hero/ines of steampunk "not only [...] build their own devices, but also [...] discover and develop the science behind them" (20). Steampunk "stages a rejection of received notions about how technology should be treated and who should discover, make, or modify it" (21).
|The inside of the TARDIS from the Russell T. Davies era of the show.|
|The inside of the TARDIS for the current Doctor Who era.|
This is not all to argue that Doctor Who is steampunk. In fact, I don't think that is true. Rather, I think Doctor Who is compatible with steampunk, and shares some of its aesthetic concerns. The Doctor is easily reimagined as a steampunk hero, and the TARDIS as steampunk technology. They both use the past to understand the present and future, and tend to collapse the categorical differences between time periods.
The best part is not that they are compatible, though, but that my interpretation of them as compatible is visible in my cosplay and my thought process as I constructed it. Every choice I made reflected the ways in which I thought steampunk and Doctor Who meshed and the ways in which I thought they didn't. (For example, I didn't wear spats or heels, but black TOMS shoes, since the 10th Doctor wears Converse shoes, and that, at least for footwear, function and comfort are more important in Doctor Who than prettiness.) Cosplay has the potential to show us much more than what characters a cosplayer likes, identifies with, or appreciates the costumes of. It can tell us more than "I love Doctor Who." If we look hard enough, we can read whole arguments and interpretations in cosplay. Fashion, after all, speaks volumes.
Bowser, Rachel A., and Brian Croxall. "Introduction: Industrial Evolution." Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 (2010): 1-45. Neo-Victorian Studies. Web. 17 June 2011.
Farivar, Cyrus. "Steampunk Brings Victorian Flair to the 21st Century." NPR. All Things Considered. National Public Radio, 6 February 2008. Web. Accessed 17 June 2011.
Grossman, Lev. "Steampunk: Reclaiming Tech for the Masses." Time Magazine. Time Inc., 14 December 2009. Web. Accessed 17 June 2011.
la Teer, Niki. Personal interview. 19 February 2011.
22 June 2011
Hey all. I'm going to start publishing my posts in a larger font. I noticed my original font was tiny, and I wanted to make the blog more accessible to those who have trouble seeing small fonts. I'll be going back over the next week or so to republish all my old posts in the larger font. Cheers!
Posted by Courtney at 5:23 PM
18 June 2011
So, I haven't been around. Again. I'm sorry about that. I promised you a Doctor Who post! And a Doctor Who post you shall have.
Right now, I'm looking forward to homelessness at the end of next month (assuming I can even pay my rent next month, and my electricity isn't cut off at the end of this one). So, I've been doing a lot of crying. And hoping I can ask friends for money instead of my mother, because she'll be just awful about it.
I told my friends I'm not moving to Austin after all because I met a boy, because it's partially true, and because "I'm too broke to eat, much less move" sounded so much more pathetic. I'm about to have a master's degree! I was supposed to be upwardly mobile. Instead I'm looking at poverty worse than when I was growing up. Thanks, graduate school.
So I've been doing a lot of crying and not a lot of writing. Doctor Who post on the finale of this season (because, dude, WHUT) and ALSO a post about my Gally costume and steampunk aesthetics (more exciting than it sounds!) super soon.
Posted by Courtney at 2:11 PM
28 May 2011
Dude. Apparently, Texas A&M does not offer discrimination protection to their LGBT employees. It's a goddamn tragedy. Garrett Nichols set up a petition to ask them to fix this deficiency:
To be delivered to: Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, President, Lt. General Joe Weber, Vice President of Student Affairs, Vickie Spillars, Executive Secretary to the Board of Regents, Dr. Christine Stanley, Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity, Dr. Karan L. Watson, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Michael Benedik, Speaker of the Faculty Senate and Dr. Antonio Cepeda-Benito, Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost“Include sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas A&M's official employment non-discrimination policies.”
Texas A&M's current employment non-discrimination policy does not protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is the only Tier 1 institution in the state of Texas that does not offer these protections. (Both the University of Texas and University of Houston include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and UT also includes gender identity.)You don't have to be a student or associated with Texas A&M to sign, so go do it!
The administration at Texas A&M has expressed its verbal support of the LGBT community on this campus. We're calling on the administration to stand behind their words and officially protect this population from employment discrimination and harassment on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity.
Posted by Courtney at 2:51 PM
27 May 2011
Cross-posted at Left of College Station.
We ask that the administration address the recent series of events surrounding the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) community on campus. We, as faculty, condemn the recent TAMU Student Senate Bill 63-106 (Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill). By suggesting that students seeking guidance from the GLBT Resource Center are not represented by the terms 'family,' 'tradition,' or 'values,' this bill blatantly goes against Texas A&M's commitment to a diverse, unified campus that incorporates multiple perspectives as part of Aggie tradition and values. Other recent events--such as the secret recording and then broadcasting of GLBT meetings on YouTube--ostracize GLBT students form the safe space that the TAMU campus should be for all students. Such events, and TAMU administration's silence in the wake of these events, reflect the institutional forces that limit the representation of and support for historically marginalized and disempowered groups in our university. We acknowledge that these current events have incited a sense of fear and mistrust among the GLBT community. We reach out with empathy to all those affected and remain committed to addressing injustice as members of the campus community and as anthropologists. Further, we hold the administration accountable for addressing this issue in a timely manner.
-Statement unanimously approved by the faculty of the Department of Anthropology in May, from a memo to the upper administration at Texas A&M University, May 10 (emphasis added)
A&M students holding a sign reading "We are all part of the Aggie family" at the "Hands Across Aggieland" Unity March on April 15. (From the Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center Facebook page)
Following the groundswell of support from faculty, staff, and students in the Department of English, and with the advice and support of the department's directors and diversity committee, I am writing to endorse the statement of the Anthropology faculty in the memo addressed to you on May 10 concerning support for the Texas A&M Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender Resource Center in particular and more generally the GLBT community on our campus and the call for a positive response from the upper administration that affirms a re-commitment to diversity inclusive of sexuality and gender differences. The GLBT community, as a growing part of the Aggie family, deserves the support of our higher administrators, as well as our support at the departmental level. [...] Many members of the English department have expressed a desire to sign a petition in support of this position as well, but in the interest of acting quickly, I have decided not to collect those signatures at this time. Please note that many others do not feel that they can safely sign their names to such a petition. Let us hope for a future when the feelings of vulnerability that these silent ones experience will be dispelled by a campus community known for its civility, tolerance, and respect.
-Memo from the head of the Department of English, Dr. Killingsworth, to the upper administration at Texas A&M University, May 12 (emphasis added)
An A&M student at the GLBT Resource Center's "gay? fine by me." t-shirt giveaway on the National Day of Silence, April 20. (From the Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center's Facebook page)You may think of me as a faggot, a queer, a poof, a fairy, or a dirty homo. You may think that I will certainly die of AIDS…some of you may even think that I should die because of it. I know people on this campus and in this community who think that I deserve the death penalty for being gay. That is the reality of being gay on this campus, Senators. Even if a GLBT man or woman never once experiences outright discrimination, the knowledge that if it weren’t for Texas politeness they almost certainly would stays with them. It is fear, a constant awareness that we have to have when we’re on a date or walking across campus, an undercurrent of uncertainty about how people will react to us holding hands, wearing a GLBTAggies t-shirt, or standing in front of an Aggie Allies table by the Academic Building.
That is why the GLBT Resource Center is essential. It was part of what kept me alive a year ago, having a community where I knew I could find support, be able to talk to people who knew what I was going through and had the funding and resources to help get me (and every other person who visits the center, gay or straight) the information and support that they need to make it through a day, a week, a year, a lifetime.
Because guess what Senators? Somehow, most of us still love Texas A&M. Despite everything, we still bleed maroon. That’s why we are still here, why we haven’t just up and left, packed our bags, and hit the road for California or New York. The people who work at the GLBT resource center could have just given up years ago; it would have been easier. GLBT Aggies and their allies are still bettering this campus through our involvement in the student body. But we will continue to fight to be recognized fully as Aggies, despite the Student Senate’s clear position that we are not.
-from an open letter to the Texas A&M Student Senate, signed "An Aggie No More" (emphasis added)
A&M student holding a sign reading "Hate is not an Aggie value" at the "Hands Across Aggieland" Unity March on April 15. (From Dallas Voice)
You may have heard of of the Texas House of Representatives passing a bill, introduced by Wayne Christian, that would require any public school with a GLBT student center—or any center "for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues"—to have an equally funded center on "traditional values." While the supporters claim that they are only requiring equal time and funding for all sexualities, critics argue that the goal of this bill is to shut down university funding of GLBT centers altogether. Universities, after all, are all facing hard financial cuts, and the bill effectively forces them to choose between shutting down GLBT student centers or increasing expenses by funding two centers. And according to Inside Higher Ed, "the Young Conservatives of Texas, a group that worked with Christian on the legislation, did so with the hope that public colleges would respond to a law, if the bill passes, by ending support for existing centers." Supporters claim that GLBT centers preach the values of homosexuality, and make it difficult for students with "traditional values" to feel accepted on campuses.
The preposterous nature of the implicit claim of this bill—that is, that straight students with "traditional values" are unrepresented and marginalized, just as much as GLBTQI students—is captured by a column at the Texas Observer that begins
Imagine the plight of the heterosexual student stepping on to a college campus for the first time. How will he fit in? Should he tell his new roommate about his alternative hetero lifestyle? Will he be bullied, just like he was in high school, where he was mercilessly teased for being a sexual deviant? Where does a straight person turn?
This is not a reality for straight students. Heteronormativity is everywhere on college campuses, which is precisely why GLBT student centers exist. They are there to support GLBTQI students who face harassment and ostracization, precisely because homophobia is tacitly accepted by fellow students, faculty, coaches, and administration at most universities. There is a culture on campus that believes homosexuality is wrong, immoral, deviant, and chosen, and that culture is mainstream. It is sometimes clever and sneaky, to avoid accusations of outright bigotry, but it does not have to hide. It rears its head in the classroom, in the campus bookstore, in the local bars and restaurants, in the university policies and administrative action and inaction. Homophobia is institutional and societal, which is why GLBT student centers are vital to combating it.
What this bill intends is to cut off one more avenue for gay students who are depressed and/or harassed, to make it just that much harder to find justice when they are discriminated against, by their peers, their professors, or their school. These students don't have that much institutional power, and this bill is attempting to take away the small bit they do have, so that the mainstream university culture, of homophobia and heteronormativity, is unchallenged and unchanged.
This is all particularly true at Texas A&M, where outright homophobia, racism, and misogyny, are so common as to be unremarkable, and where "tradition" is a buzzword used to keep marginalized groups in their place. The Princeton Review ranked Texas A&M the 17th most LGBT-unfriendly university in the country.** In 2008, the Department of Student Life Studies did a study on the campus climate (which refers to the general attitudes toward diversity) at A&M and found that 70% of gay or bisexual students (as opposed to 2% of straight students) have felt uncomfortable at Texas A&M because of someone's reaction to their sexual orientation. The comments from straight students, however, are the most telling:
Having grown up with mostly women and being a male, I have picked up a few effeminate mannerisms which prompts some males to depict me as "gay" or "fruity", which is not the case. (Senior Hispanic male)
If I were gay I would not feel safe unless I hid that fact on campus. (Senior White female)
A&M is not a safe place to be gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer. These students recognize the culture of heteronormativity that exists at A&M, and the dangers of counteracting it, whether through your behavior (acting "fruity"), your sexual choices, or your identity.
It is clear that A&M is not in need of a "traditional values" center, and that its straight students do not face institutional and widespread oppression that needs to be countered with a center that would "encourage chastity or marriage between male and female students."* Seriously. If you were to sit in on one of my classes this last year, you'd have heard students call a woman a "prostitute" for wearing pink high heels, suggest that "men always want sex, and women never do," claim that it's "a compliment" for a woman to be catcalled by a stranger, argue that abortion should be illegal because women should "face the consequences" of sex, and that it is okay for men to browbeat women to make them shut up. And when that crap comes up in the classroom, I'm usually the only one to counter it. Which means either a) all of my students believe that heteronormative rapey nonsense or b) they are too scared to speak up. I know that a) is definitely not true, and I also know that I do everything I can to make sure that b) isn't true either. But I can only do so much in a classroom when those students know that an entire university tradition and history and tacit administration approval leave them vulnerable if they step outside of heteronormative value systems. Encouragement from a teacher can't overcome teasing, harassment, and ostracization from fellow students, and many of my Corps students have actually told me that they don't feel they can say things in class because it could get them harassed by their fellow members or in trouble with their section leaders.
"Normal" at A&M is being politically conservative, and being a "real Aggie" means supporting heteronormative conservative politics and values. "Traditional values center" could describe almost every building on campus, including the student health center.
|Bumper stickers on a Texas A&M student's car, reading "Keep College Station Normal" and "Real Aggies Choose Life."|
In late April, the Texas A&M Student Senate passed SB 63-106, the so-called "Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill."*** This bill formerly supported Wayne Christian's amendment in the state budget, and proposed that the funding for the A&M GLBT Resource Center be halved, and allocated to fund a center on "traditional sexual education." Further, the bill claimed to speak on behalf of A&M students. It's weird, because the Student Senate bill seems to argue that the problem here is not one of political agendas, in which a dichotomy between "traditional values" and "not hating on the gays" is the main concern (like the Christian amendment), but focuses instead on "sex education." As if the main function of the GLBT Resource Center is provide sex education for queer people, and this needs to be "countered" by offering sex education for "traditional values" people. (Nevermind the whole lotta people on campus who are neither of those things.)
This misconception may be because of the smear campaign the Texas Aggie Conservatives (yes, those Texas Aggie Conservatives) have launched against the GLBT Resource Center since Wayne Christian's amendment became a thing. TAC is all for this Student Senate bill, and to prove it, they secretly taped an event on "butt play" in March, hosted and funded by the GLBT Resource Center, put it on the internet (heavily edited, of course) and proceeded to call it "pornographic" and thus inappropriate for a student group. (And, of course, since we are adults, there is absolutely nothing in the school's rules about pornography and funded student organizations. So go to hell, TAC.) From the TAC blog:
Is this really an appropriate use of university funds, mandatory student fees, taxpayer dollars, facilities, and donor contributions to Texas A&M University? Do A&M donors have any idea how their money is being spent?
Um, yes it's appropriate for university-recognized organizations to spend their money however the fuck they want to. That's kind of how it works. For example, if TAC, as a university-recognized organization, wanted to invite an Islamophobic speaker to campus, to talk about how dangerous Islam is, they should be allowed, and the university should allow them to use university facilities to do so. (Unless, of course, the university believed the speaker would be participating in hate speech or endangering the Muslim community on campus.) The point is, TAC doesn't get to arbitrarily decide that A&M won't fund and recognize groups that have seminars/speakers on what they personally find gross, like butt sex. (By the way, the video of the seminar they posted was so fucking tame. It was merely about how to engage in anal play while being safe and not hurting anyone.) I mean, I find TAC to be utterly abhorrent, and really fucking offensive, but that doesn't mean I should demand that A&M pull their recognition or funding. (They claim they get no university funding, which may or may not be true, but as a recognized group they do get privileges like the use of A&M facilities, which has monetary value, comped by student fees.) So when TAC claims with outrage that
Most Texas A&M students do not support the GLBT agenda, yet they are forced to pay for the GLBT activism center through mandatory student fees.
all I have to say is, no shit. I don't support your agenda, TAC, but I still pay for your privileges with my student fees. That's how it fucking works. When the university picks and chooses what organizations get funding based on their political or ideological agendas, that violates their commitment to viewpoint neutrality funding, which you claim to support by supporting the Student Senate bill.
The problem is that idea that politically conservative is "normal" at A&M. This is what allows TAC, the Student Senate, and various other A&M students to believe that their outrage about "alternative" or "deviant" sexual practices are something that the school should pay attention to. They are right, because they are "real Aggies." Because they are what A&M is supposed to be. Because they are normal, and everyone else is not. That's what caused student Bryan Neale to post this on the Texas A&M Student Senate Facebook page on April 24:
The fact of the matter is that A&M has always been known as a conservative university. That makes us different than 99% of colleges in the US. A lot of aggies past and present love that about A&M. The majority of Aggies are conservative, so a resource center for them is a great way to spread awareness on a number of issues. Frankly, the LGBT group is lucky to receive any kind of funding or recognition at all. (emphasis added)
That last bit is important. Students like Neale think that the conservative politics should direct the actions of the university, and if you aren't conservative, you're lucky that the university even listens to your needs. So if you want to counter homophobia, do it on your own time and money, and don't do it on campus. If you want to create a resource center that gives queer students a haven in a university full of discriminatory harassment, fuck you. Because you don't count. You aren't real Aggies. And that, that dichotomy between "real" and legitimate A&M students and those that are different and don't count, is precisely what is wrong with the culture here at A&M. That is what our administration should be discouraging and countering every goddamn day.
|A black outline of an A&M Corps member playing a marching drum, surrounded by rays of rainbow colors.|
On May 10, the Department of Anthropology sent a memo to the upper administration, criticizing them for their inaction after all this anti-GLBT activity. They condemned the Student Senate bill and stated that the bill and other actions (like TAC's secret taping of the seminar) made the campus an unsafe place for GLBT students. The head of the English department sent a memo seconding the Department of Anthropology's sentiments, and I know that a petition signed by faculty and graduate students is also under way in the English department. The Department of Psychology and the Women's and Gender Studies program faculty and staff have also publicly supported the GLBT community and the Department of Anthropology's memo. The Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed Resolution F2011.11 on May 11:
Whereas: The Texas House of Representatives has passed the Texas Budget bill, HB 1 with Amendment 143, “Funding of Student Centers for Family and Traditional Values” (sponsored by Representative Wayne Christian), that requires Texas public colleges and universities, if they use state funds to support “a gender and sexuality center,” to provide equal funding to support a “family and traditional values center”;
Whereas: The term “family and traditional values” is not defined by HB1 or Amendment 143 and is therefore difficult to promote and/or implement such education beyond services currently provided at Texas A&M University (through, for example, courses, current counseling services, and health care services);"
Whereas: The term “family and traditional values” implies a false dichotomy that suggests “family and traditional values” and the GLBT community are mutually exclusive;
Whereas: The Policy Institute of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force commissioned a Campus Climate Assessment Project which found that, of the respondents: 19% fear for their physical safety on campus, 51% have concealed their sexual identity to avoid intimidation, and 34% have avoided disclosing their orientation or identity to an instructor, supervisor, TA, or administrator due to fears of negative consequences, harassment, or discrimination; and that 36% of GLBT undergraduate students had experienced harassment in the past year;
Whereas: The Princeton Review’s “The 373 Best Colleges: 2011 Edition” found Texas A&M University the 17th most “LGBT-unfriendly” campus in the United States;
Whereas: The GLBT community at Texas A&M University (including students, faculty, staff and administrators) has been a historically marginalized and traditionally underrepresented group that faces distinctive challenges, therefore requiring mandated assistance and education to fulfill the Texas A&M University anti-discrimination policy;
Whereas: Texas A&M University’s Diversity Plan states, “Our commitment to diversity, broadly speaking, encourages respect for individual differences. Respectful treatment of others affirms and encourages individuals to take pride in their identity and results in the inclusion of all in the ‘Aggie Family.’ The Aggie family is diverse. Diversity involves an exploration of individual differences in a safe, positive, welcoming, and nurturing academic environment.”;
And,Whereas: The Texas A&M University Statement on Harassment and Discrimination prohibits “discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status”.
Therefore,Let it beResolved: That the Graduate Student Council of Texas A&M University, on behalf of the graduate student body, does not support the passing of HB 1 with Amendment 143 and strongly encourages the Texas Legislature to remove the “Funding of Student Centers for Family and Traditional Values” budget amendment;
Let it beFurtherResolved: That it is the opinion of the Graduate Student Council of Texas A&M University, on behalf of the graduate student body, that if HB 1 is passed by the legislature with Amendment 143, then current Texas Governor Rick Perry should veto the “Funding of Student Centers for Family and Traditional Values” budget amendment;
Let it beFurtherResolved: That the Graduate Student Council of Texas A&M University, on behalf of the graduate student body, requests that Texas A&M University continue to provide funding and support for the GLBT Resource Center;
Let it beFurtherResolved: That the Graduate Student Council of Texas A&M University, on behalf of the graduate student body, requests that President R. Bowen Loftin and other university officials continue their support of diversity efforts in accordance with Texas A&M University’s Statement on Harassment and Discrimination and Texas A&M University’s Diversity Plan.
Basically, huge chunks of the university's faculty, staff, and graduate students have gone on record to oppose the Student Senate bill and Wayne Christian's amendment, pledge their support for the Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center, and (this is important) chide (directly and indirectly) the upper administration for their silence and inaction during this whole debacle.
The administration's response was essentially a non-response. You can read the message from General Weber here, but it basically says nothing except, "We support you, but only if the law doesn't tell us not to. Have a good summer!" The "Wait...WHAT???" Blog states it well:
It seems that university administrators are, in fact, not willing to publicly and adequately address the specific instances of anti-GLBT hate that have occurred in the last several weeks. While we appreciate Weber and Parrott taking the time to meet with all of us yesterday, we also wonder if our fears, hopes, and concerns really got through to them. Lip service "public support" is nearly as harmful as institutional silence (which is what we have experienced up to this point).
And speaking of content, the message from Weber -- as many at the meeting yesterday feared might happen -- glazes over GLBT issues merely as issues of diversity on campus. While GLBT individuals do contribute to the diverse community at Texas A&M, the fact is that some who are vocally anti-GLBT do not see it this way. They see the GLBT "lifestyle" as perverse and in complete contradiction with University core values and missions. Beyond the mention of the acronym GLBT a few times, Weber's message does little to address the real issue: hatred toward GLBT people.
While the statements from various departments, and the GSC resolution, all directly address the issue of homophobia and anti-GLBT rhetoric and behavior, the administration seems unwilling to do so. They don't want to go on record, it seems, supporting GLBT students, nor do they seem to want to do anything to change the hostile, unwelcoming, unsafe environment that A&M is for many GLBT students, faculty, and staff. This is flat-out unacceptable. We clearly have a problem here, and it isn't being addressed. Frankly, I think the administration is being cowardly, and the GLBT population here is going to pay the price for their cowardice. Apparently, the Christian amendment is not in the Senate version of the budget, but even that is true, and the budget does not contain the amendment when it passes, that won't change the fact that TAC and other A&M students have engaged in hateful anti-GLBT rhetoric, and the administration has done nothing about it. It doesn't change the homophobic environment on campus, or make A&M a safer place.
o o o
*Also, WTF. Encourage marriage between male and female students? Is it really appropriate for ANY center at a university to "encourage" marriage at 20 years old? If a "traditional values" center were to do awesome things like give safe sex seminars or seminars on consent geared towards straight kids, that would awesome. (Yes, I know that wouldn't happen.) But apparently all a hetero center can offer is abstinence and "get married as soon as possible." So a hetero center wouldn't even benefit most hetero students, because they aren't virgins or want to get married after they graduate from college. Seriously, fuck that noise.
** You have to create a free account to access that link.
*** The Student Senate site is apparently under construction, so I couldn't find the link and full text of this bill. I will keep an eye on it, though, and link it when it goes back up. If you click on the Left of College Station link at the top, though, a helpful commenter put up the full text.
Posted by Courtney at 9:10 PM
01 April 2011
|squirrely TONKS as a femme!Eighth Doctor, photo by The Ricketandoo|
The image of the obsessive, socially inept, immature science fiction fan is a familiar one. Popular conceptions of fans (in particular "Trekkies") are generally unflattering: the fan is incapable of separating reality from fantasy, a brainless consumer of program merchandise, and devoted to the memorization of worthless knowledge and trivia. Of course, fans know that this stereotype, while partially based in reality (we all have known one of those fans), does not represent the vast majority and extraordinary diversity of most science fiction fan communities. In particular, scholars like Henry Jenkins have overturned the stereotype that fan activities are fundamentally non-productive. What I mean by this is that this stereotype paints the SF fan as slavish to the interpretations and idea produced by other authors, namely the authors of the SF program. Even the fan activities that seem obviously productive and creative, like writing fan fiction or cosplaying, are usually depicted as mindless copying or appropriation of others' creative products. Fan fiction is not considered "real literature;" it's merely the re-mix of others' ideas. Cosplay is merely the copying (sometimes obsessively) of the work of costume designers. However, work has shown that fan activities like the writing of fan fiction are creative and productive, even if they are not necessarily counter-cultural or counter to the ideas and interpretations put forth by the program's authors.
I'm interested in how fan activities are productive, and how they create readings of the primary text (in this case, Doctor Who) and/or the fan community. In this study, I will focus on cosplay, which I see as reflective on both Doctor Who and the fan community/ies to which the cosplayer belongs. Because of the small scale of this current project, I will be looking in particular at the axis of gender in Doctor Who cosplay, focusing on the trend of "femme" Doctors (and the related trend of female fans crossplaying as the Doctor). The purpose of this research is to identify the rhetoric of femme Doctor cosplay and Doctor crossplay. My main research questions are: How are these cosplayers reflecting on and talking back to Doctor Who? How are they reflecting on and talking back to the fan community/ies? What does their cosplay have to say about gender in both of those spheres? How does the cosplay communicate these ideas and interpretations?
In order to complete this research, I will be conducting interviews with cosplayers about their creations, as well as collecting pictures of their cosplay. The interviews can be over the phone, Skype, or email, whichever you prefer, and are designed to last 15-20 minutes. If you've ever done a cosplay that you believe to be relevant to my research, in particular a femme or crossplay Doctor, I would love to interview you! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments to volunteer.
(Your identity in all write-ups of this research will be protected. You can choose how you are identified, whether by your real name, your online handle, or a pseudonym chosen by you.)
24 March 2011
So I got my last rejection letter in the mail today, from University of Illinois. I had applied to Ph.D. programs last semester in a bit of a haze, still trying to cope with the Kevin nonsense that I wrote about here, still trying to piece my life back together after the break-up, not really sure what I wanted. And as this semester started, I felt my priorities shifting. Graduate school is pretty great, don't get me wrong. Where else can I be relatively financially secure (in debt, sure, but I eat and pay rent) for doing the things that I love, like teaching freshmen why rhetoric is important and writing essays about literature and cosplay? But there is a fundamental lack of perspective in academia. There's this weird culture here that makes it difficult to imagine yourself anywhere else, because the idea is that being a professor is the highest of goals, and if you end up doing anything else, you've either been unable to cut it or you've settled for something lesser. Which is fucking ridiculous, obviously.
This is not a place that encourages mental health. Sure, you can negotiate the profound ableist culture of the university, but you have to want to. And I'm not sure that I'm willing to be even slightly miserable for so long right now. I'm prioritizing my happiness right now, and my health, and the university is not the place for me to do that. I've been struggling here for the past year, and it's been a rocky year, so maybe after I take some time off, I'll want to come back, from a better place. But for the moment I need a breather. So this summer I'll be moving to Austin, and will not be in school for the first time in my life.
Getting nine rejection letters was still hard, no one likes rejection. And, frankly, I think I'm pretty good and some of those programs are stupid to let me go. But I'm relieved I wasn't accepted somewhere amazing. I kind of doubt my ability to say no to them, and I don't doubt how miserable I would be, moving thousands of miles away from any semblance of a support system, to start a four-year (at least) project I'm not positive I want. So rejection saved me from making a terrible decision, and I'm really excited about this new chapter of my life, and confident that graduate school is always a choice I could make later. I won't worry myself about what comes next for a while. I've been thinking long-term my whole life, and I'm ready for a little living by the seat of my pants.
Leaving graduate school, though, means that my writing will become even more important to me. I think I'll be devoting more time to this blog than I have in the past (gone are the days of me disappearing for a month because of finals, after this semester is over), and my pipe dream is to break into freelancing. One of the reasons I was rejected from all those schools, I'm sure, is that I was not shy about the fact that I wanted to focus on science fiction fan cultures and pop culture. I could have made my application more conservative, painted myself as a Victorianist with a weird interest in science and science fiction, but that's simply not the case anymore, and I didn't want to end up somewhere where they wouldn't let me write papers about Doctor Who cosplay and the manifestations of Victorian culture in steampunk fashion. Honestly, I couldn't be happy only doing those things here, on the side of my life. So I emphasized them in my applications, and I'm pretty sure academia just isn't ready to consider those legitimate interests. So we'll see if I can make any money writing about those things elsewhere. For now, even focusing on doing them here sounds more satisfying than seeing when I can squeeze my interests into a seminar paper every now and then.
I've had a few friends doubting whether they should express sympathy or congratulations for my rejections. I say go with congratulations. I'm really excited about this new chapter in my life, and none of my options have been closed. And I get to move from College Station back to Austin (only, for real this time), and totally reverse the title of this blog. :)
Posted by Courtney at 7:03 PM
20 January 2011
Hey folks! I am, in fact, still alive, and plan to continue blogging. I've been feeling like I'm not being heard in my personal life lately, and I think that has contributed to this break in writing. But I am returning soon! With all my usual snark! Thanks to you folks who kept following me through the rough patch. I hope new-and-improved Courtney is worth the wait.
Posted by Courtney at 4:24 PM