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Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory

Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory

Автором Mimi Marinucci

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Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory

Автором Mimi Marinucci

2.5/5 (4 оценки)
287 pages
4 hours
Jun 15, 2016


  • Provides a comprehensive introduction to gender and queer theory, and presents complex theories and concepts in a way which remains accessible to undergraduates. 
  • This new edition engages with the most recent developments within feminism/queer theory, many of which are highly topical (trans issues, online communities etc).
Jun 15, 2016

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Mimi Marinucci completed a Ph.D. in philosophy and a graduate certificate in women's studies from Temple University in 2000. Currently serving as associate professor of philosophy and women's & gender studies at Eastern Washington University, Marinucci teaches courses on feminism, philosophy, and feminist philosophy. Marinucci, who is especially interested in the subjective and social aspects of knowledge production, particularly knowledge produced around issues of gender and sexuality, is the author of of several articles that employ references from popular culture in the service of a more scholarly agenda. Examples include 'There's Something Queer About The Onion' (forthcoming in The Onion and Philosophy, edited by Sharon Kaye, Open Court), 'What's Wrong with Porn?' (forthcoming in Pornography and Philosophy, edited by Dave Monroe, Wiley-Blackwell), 'Television, Generation X, and Third Wave Feminism: A Contextual Analysis of the Brady Bunch' (Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 38, Number 3, February 2005), and 'Feminism and the Ethics of Violence: Why Buffy Kicks Ass' (in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, edited by James B. South, Open Court, 2003). Marinucci is also the founding editor of Wave 2.5: A Feminist Zine, a two-time Utne Independent Press Award nominee (2005, 2009).

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Feminism is Queer - Mimi Marinucci



The cultural currency of queer

No! this is not my country. It’s a place I have never seen before, although I have wandered far and wide. It seems to be all mountains and deserts and green valleys and queer cities and lakes and rivers – mixed up in a very puzzling way.

L. Frank Baum, The Scarecrow of Oz, p. 380

On June 26, 2015, a US Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states. While it might be tempting to take the Supreme Court ruling as evidence of a general trend in the direction of social and legal equality, doing so would ignore evidence of an unfortunate trend in a different direction. Consider, in particular, the rampant, and largely unpunished, police brutality committed in the US against Black people, including children, in recent years. In 2015 alone, police killed 1,135 people, 700 of whom were Black. Of the 1,135 people police killed, 222 were unarmed. Of the 222 unarmed people police killed, 74 were Black (The Guardian, n.d.). Given that, as of July 2015, only 13.2 percent of the US population was Black, or 15.7 including racially mixed people (US Census Bureau, n.d.), the percentage of armed and unarmed Black people killed by police is wildly disproportionate. This disparity is a powerful reminder that the US has by no means achieved social and legal equality.

For those who would offer the observation that the relevant issue when discussing same-sex marriage is not racial equality, but rather lesbian and gay equality, or perhaps LGBT+ or queer equality, I would first note that different identities and different forms of oppression are interconnected, such that those who identify as lesbian, gay, or any other sexuality category also identify as members of some racial or ethnic category. Violence against LGBT+ or queer people of color must therefore be taken into account when addressing social justice for LGBT+ or queer people. I would also note that violence against Black LGBT+ people, particularly Black trans women, is especially common, and seems to be increasing. Worldwide, 1,731 trans and gender-variant people were murdered in the seven-year period from 2008 through 2014 (TVT, n.d.). In the US, there were 1,017 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation or transgender identity in 2014 (FBI, 2014), and there were more murders of trans women in the US reported in 2015 than any other year (MSNBC, 2015). As of Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, 2015, at least 22 trans women had already been murdered in the US. Of the 22 who were murdered, 19 were people of color. Together, the disproportionate killing of people of color and the disproportionate killing of trans people put trans women of color at an even higher risk of being killed.

The Black Lives Matter movement has emerged as a poignant and powerful response to social injustice in recent years.¹ The social media hashtag #blacklivesmatter provides a way of naming and tracking examples of racial violence, while simultaneously expressing solidarity with its victims. The more recent introduction of the hashtag #blacktranslivesmatter is now bringing much needed attention to violence against Black trans women. It is ironic, though perhaps not completely surprising,² that violence against trans women, particularly Black trans women, should be increasing at a time of growing fascination with trans women, including Laverne Cox, the Black trans woman whose image appeared on the cover of the May 29, 2014 issue of Time magazine that identified the current cultural moment as The transgender tipping point. This announcement was made even before Caitlyn Jenner went public as a trans woman, an event that served to focus even more attention on trans women and the topic of trans identity.

What makes Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner noteworthy is not simply that they are transgender women. Rather, it is that they are transgender celebrities in what has been dubbed a culture of celebrity (Neimark, 1995). Cox and Jenner captured the attention of people who might otherwise have had very little exposure to trans identity. In doing so, they contributed to the growing list of recent representations of commonly underrepresented and misrepresented identities. While television is still heavily skewed in favor of heterosexual characters and traditional families, there has been a rapid increase in depictions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters over the past several years. Consider, for example, Lost Girl, a Canadian drama featuring Bo, a superhuman bisexual succubus, which ran on Syfi in 2010–16. Also consider the UK and US versions of the drama-comedy Shameless, both of which featured a central character, Ian Gallagher, who has complicated sexual desires, but is generally pretty much gay-identified. The UK version appeared on Channel 4 in 2004–13, and the US version has appeared on Showtime since 2011. The musical-sitcom Glee began in 2009 on Fox, and included a variety of gay, lesbian, and trans characters by the time it ended in 2015. Noteworthy examples include the lesbian character Santana, the gay characters Kurt and Blaine, the bisexual character Brittany, and the transgender characters Unique Adams and Coach Beiste. The award-winning family sitcom Modern Family, which began airing in 2009 on ABC, includes among its main characters a gay couple, Mitchell and Cameron, who are married and raising an adopted daughter together. More recently, Orange is the New Black is a prison drama produced by Netflix beginning in 2013, which features lesbian, bisexual, and transgender central characters. Indeed, this is the show that introduced many fans to Laverne Cox, the trans woman who plays the trans character Sophia. In terms of reality television, there is Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which gay men have been competing in drag competitions since 2009. There is also Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which has appeared on E! since 2007. While not originally or intentionally focused on transgender issues, this is nevertheless a show that now includes Caitlyn Jenner among its cast. Finally, it is worth mentioning The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which has been a consistently popular talk show on CBS since 2003, hosted by a trend-setting celebrity who began publicly identifying as a lesbian in 1997, when doing so constituted an even greater professional risk than it does today.

Mainstream media and popular culture representations, regardless of how positive and how numerous, do not diminish the violence to which people are increasingly susceptible in the three-dimensional world beyond our flat screens. These representations, however, like the violence lurking somewhat incongruously in the background, and indeed that incongruity itself, make it virtually impossible to ignore the subject of social justice. More and more people are not just seeking justice, but demanding it. This includes the demand for people to be able to identify themselves using terms and categories of their own choosing. An example of this is the increasing tendency for at least some people to choose nonbinary identity as an alternative to identifying as women or men. In some examples of nonbinary identity, people present themselves in a manner that combines recognizably feminine and recognizably masculine styles. In other examples, people make stylistic choices that avoid, or aim to avoid, femininity and masculinity altogether. In some examples of nonbinary identity, however, people may present an outward appearance that is virtually undistinguishable from how they would customarily be expected to present themselves given their assigned sex category. In other words, someone who was assigned female at birth, who wears clothing and has a hairstyle that would typically be worn by a woman, may nevertheless identify as nonbinary. Such examples invite a distinction between gender expression, which is primarily a matter of how people present themselves to others, and gender identity, which is primarily a matter of how people think and feel about themselves. There are also people who identify as transgender based on how they think and feel, who do not express their gender in ways that most people would interpret as gender variant. By mentioning these sorts of examples, I do not mean to suggest that they are uncontroversial. For many transgender people, achieving a match between gender identity and gender expression is of utmost importance, and to deny that it matters may come across as a facile dismissal of this aspect of their trans experience. What I do mean to suggest by mentioning these examples, however, is that people are queering the existing concepts and categories in interesting new ways, and it is not always easy to determine what terms they would use in reference to themselves if given a choice.

For some people, the choice between feminine and masculine pronouns is easy, even if convincing others to use the correct pronouns is difficult. Many nonbinary people, however, and many others as well, find the necessity of choosing between feminine and masculine pronouns to be quite frustrating. For this reason, more and more people choose they, them, and their, not just in reference to hypothetical persons in the abstract, but as ways of referring to specific people who might otherwise be presumed to be properly identified with feminine or masculine pronouns. More to the point, people are increasingly requesting others to refer to them using they, them, and their. At the 2015 National Women’s Studies Association Annual Meeting, held that year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, conference registration included name tags, as is customary at academic conferences. In addition, there was an assortment of optional adhesive pronoun ribbons available for those who wished to attach them to their name tags. There were ribbons with she/hers, he/his, they/theirs as well as a blank ribbon that could be filled in as needed. What I learned through casual conversations with other conference attendees is that some people who would not normally use alternative pronouns found themselves attracted to the ribbons printed with they/theirs. Often enough, it is not until we recognize that we have the choice to do something, or be something different from what we have always assumed we must do or must be, that we are able to determine what feels like the best fit. There are various online distributors of gender ribbons, as more and more event organizers make them available to attendees. Being presented with options in terms of gender identity and pronoun usage, like being exposed to varied depictions of sexuality and sexual identity in popular culture, carries a promise of helping people find more satisfying ways of understanding and presenting themselves.

Given my interest in alternative pronouns, particularly the growing use of they and their to refer to specific people, including specific people whose gender identity is known, I briefly considered making a change in my own practice with respect to pronouns in this edition. I ultimately decided against that change, and have once again avoided the use of gender pronouns entirely. I did make other changes, however, including expanding the additional resources listings at the end of each chapter to provide more, and more types of, supplemental material. I have recommended scholarly articles, websites, documentaries, feature films, novels, and more. I have also added a Thought and action section to each chapter, providing questions and activities for potential use in the classroom or workshop. There is variety in terms of the types of questions and activities included. These may be helpful in designing homework assignments, essay prompts, group projects, or simply for facilitating discussion. Finally, I have made updates and revisions throughout, but the most substantial addition of content is a new chapter, Questionably queer?, which addresses the precarious identity of those who identify as queer without simultaneously identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.



Faludi, S. (1991). Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishing.

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) (2014). Table 1: Incidents, offenses, victims, and known offenders, by bias motivation. 2014 Hate Crimes Statistics. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2014/tables/table-1.

The Guardian (n.d.). The Counted (interactive online database maintained by the Guardian). http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database#.

MSNBC (2015). More transgender people reported killed in 2015than in any other year. November 18, 2015. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/more-transgender-people-reported-killed-2015-any-other-year.

Neimark, J. (1995). The culture of celebrity. Psychology Today. May/June 1995. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199505/the-culture-celebrity.

Time Magazine (2015). The transgender tipping point. May 29, 2014.

TVT (Trans Respect Versus Transphobia Worldwide) (n.d.). International Day Against Homophobia 2015. http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results/idahot-2015.htm.

US Census Bureau (n.d.). Quick facts. http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00.


Not just the new gay

It was a queerly assorted company, indeed, for there are more quaint and unusual characters in Oz than in all the rest of the world, and Ozma was more interested in unusual people than in ordinary ones – just as you and I are.

L. Frank Baum, The Magic of Oz, p. 568

Once considered quite offensive, queer is now used with increasing regularity, often as a straightforward alternative to gay. Consider, for example, its use in the title of the recent HBO hit, Queer as Folk, which featured a group of friends comprised mostly of gay-identified men, or Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (later just Queer Eye) which featured fashion and lifestyle advice from, again, a group of gay-identified men. While I am neither naive enough nor arrogant enough to suppose that queer admits of just one interpretation, namely the one I happen to provide, I do recognize that the casual trend of replacing gay with queer ignores some important theoretical work aimed at exposing the representational limitations of gay and the comparable representational richness of queer. I also recognize that the oversimplification of complicated concepts in the popular media is a sure sign that the larger culture is at least vaguely aware of those concepts. This book aims to provide background and context for those who are curious about the recent insertion of queer into polite vernacular. This book also aims to provide background and context for those who encounter queer in scholarly writing that is often so mired in technical jargon that it may seem utterly meaningless to the uninitiated.

Introductory texts in gender studies, sometimes identified as women’s studies or feminist studies, address gender identity. Introductory texts in sexuality studies, sometimes identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies (or LGBT studies) address sexual identity. Unfortunately, however, introductory texts situated at the intersection of gender identity and sexual identity are rare. This book is, in part, an attempt to fill that gap, and could therefore serve as a text for any course of study, be it in a university setting or in the context of independent scholarship, directed toward the examination of virtually any aspect of gender, sex, and sexuality.

The structure of this book makes it useful for readers at different levels and from different fields. While the chapters and sections of this book fit together as interconnected components of a coherent whole, they can also be read separately. Those who choose to read chapters or sections out of context or out of order should refer to the appendix as needed. Potentially unfamiliar terminology is carefully explained, often in footnotes, as it occurs throughout the text, and these explanations are in turn collected in the Appendix, which is aptly titled Terms and concepts. This manner of presentation allows readers who do not require additional background information to read the main text with minimal interruption, while simultaneously offering helpful explication for those who need it. This is especially useful given that one of the greatest challenges in teaching queer theory, which is inherently interdisciplinary, is the varying degree of student familiarity with relevant background concepts. This often leads students to seek definitions, either from a dictionary or from the instructor. Unfortunately, dictionary definitions, which are detached from the specific context in which the terms occur, often do very little to promote understanding of specialized academic terminology. Indeed, queer theory resists the reductionist practice of pretending that it is possible to delineate, once and for all, the necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in any given category. Nevertheless, it is often necessary to provide an entering wedge for the uninitiated. Presenting contextualized explanations in the form of commentary and discussion provides this entering wedge without thereby pretending to offer a fixed or final account of that which is always and inevitably in a state of flux.

The book is divided into three main sections and a shorter fourth section. The first section, Sexuality, consists of three chapters, including Chapter 1, The social construction of sexuality; Chapter 2, The social history of lesbian and gay identity; and Chapter 3, Queer alternatives. Chapter 1 summarizes the emergence of the various concepts of sexuality and sexual identity that exist in contemporary western culture, and compares them with concepts employed throughout history and across cultures. Chapter 2 traces the relatively recent emergence, first of gay identity, and then of lesbian identity. Chapter 3 then introduces queer identity as an alternative to more familiar categories of sexual identity, which usually concentrate on sexual partner choice and ignore the many other subtleties surrounding sexual pleasure and desire. The second section, Sex, consists of Chapter 4, Unwelcome interventions, and Chapter 5, Welcome transformations. While Chapter 4 examines the role of medical technology in enforcing a boundary between female and male bodies, particularly in the case of intersex bodies, Chapter 5 explores the implications of this boundary enforcement for transgender people. The third section, Gender, consists of Chapter 6, Feminism defined and undefined, and Chapter 7, Feminism examined and explored. Chapter 6 examines the concept of gender, especially its role in linguistic contexts. Chapter 7 summarizes the various attitudes concerning gender and gender oppression collected under the banner of feminism. The fourth and final section, Queer feminism, contains just one chapter, namely Chapter 8, titled Notes toward a queer feminism, which explores what a queer approach to feminism might involve. I should note that although it is useful as a rough and ready way of organizing a potentially overwhelming body of material, the division of this material into sections on sexuality, sex, and gender is rather imprecise given the intimate interconnections between and among these concepts.

For those seeking only a brief introduction to queer theory, feminism, or the connections between them, this book, or even individual sections or chapters of this book, may be sufficient. For those seeking a more detailed explanation of these ideas and issues, each chapter provides a list of additional resources, including scholarly books and articles, as well as audiovisual material and works of fiction. Instead of recommending obscure material that the average reader would be unable to access, I have made an effort, whenever possible, to recommend material that is fairly easy to come by, for example, in online sources or widely reprinted in various anthologies. I have included videos and novels for the dual purpose of providing relevant information and examples, while simultaneously implementing my understanding that people are sometimes better able to learn new material when it is presented in a variety of different formats.

I did not cover all of the material that I could have, and my decisions about what to include and what to exclude are largely the product of my own introduction to this literature. It is a delusion, notes Sandra Harding, to think that human thought could completely erase the fingerprints that reveal its production process (Harding, 1993, p. 57). This is the case with the representation of any subject matter, and therefore it is likewise the case, not only

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