Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » March 2005 » Hetero-normative or Hetero-naive?

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03/15/2005: Hetero-normative or Hetero-naive?

Following this "latest" in the Feminine Mystique from The Boston Globe: The Tyrany of the Minority by Cathy Young (Contributing editor at Reason Magazine) wrote about this recent item:

" The latest brouhaha at Harvard, home of the perpetually offended, is over a motivational speech telling women that they can have it all: career, marriage, and children. The remarks, delivered by singer-actress Jada Pinkett Smith on Feb. 26 at the Cultural Rhythms show organized by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, were deemed too heterosexual by some. Or, in politically correct newspeak, ''heteronormative."

Here's a sample of what Pinkett Smith said, as recounted by The Harvard Crimson: ''Women, you can have it all -- a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career. We are a new generation of women. We got to set a new standard of rules around here. To my men, open your mind, open your eyes to new ideas. Be open."

Terribly strident and controversial words to be sure. As this article put it: "So what was the offense? In the words of alliance cochair Jordan Woods, ''Some of the content was extremely heteronormative, and made BGLTSA members feel uncomfortable." The other cochair, Margaret Barusch, explained that Pinkett Smith's comments, while not intentionally offensive, were insensitive due to their ''strong focus on how to effectively be in a relationship -- a heterosexual relationship."''Heteronormative" means treating heterosexuality as the norm."

The article went to wonder about the PC correctness of this statement:
"Maybe it's not a sensitive thing to say at Harvard, but statistically speaking, heterosexuality is the norm -- which just might have something to do with the biology of mammalian reproduction. Researchers estimate that 2 to 5 percent of the population is exclusively or primarily homosexual. In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2001, fewer than 2 percent of new marriages are between same-sex partners.

Of course, this does not mean that gays shouldn't have equal rights or legal protections for their relationships, or that homosexuality is somehow wrong; human nature has many variations. But it's a huge step from tolerance and acceptance (which still have a long way to go in our culture) to the demand for acknowledgment in every reference to relationships. Such an insistence is especially ridiculous in Pinkett Smith's case, since she was talking about men's and women's changing roles in partnership with each other.

One performer in the Cultural Rhythms show, Ofole Mgbako, wisely noted to the Crimson that ''you'll always in some way be exclusive." Indeed. Let's say that Pinkett Smith had been inclusive enough to use the word ''partner" instead of ''husband." Couldn't she still be accused of promoting the scandalous idea that it's the norm for women to marry and have kids? Should women whose life plans do not include marriage and children have taken offense?"

Cathy Young may (or may not) be correct about this Heteronormative Value in our society and culture. However, I'm more looking at this "issue" about "Women's Potential Roles" from the Top on down in relation to WHO is qualified to Run the World as their first criteria to be met. How they choose to get there -- it's up to them.

Whether it be as a Wife-Mother-Career woman; or a Dedicated-their-life-as-a-Public- Servant -who's never-been-married; or as a Gay-activist organizer; or as a "Well-Connected" political operative; or as a Talk-Show personality; or as a Pundit; or as a Syndicated Columnist -- I don't really care.

What I Do Care about are the qualities of leadership, diplomacy, work ethics, ability to cooperate; negotiate; delegate; and Get-The-Job-Done -- and Done Right.

So, other than purposefully excluding certain Women or other persons and people (and for "good cause" I might add), I am positing a societal re-vamp which would allow Women to Run The World. It certainly couldn't be much worse than this past four-thousand years of exclusively male-dominated governance. It could turn out to be a Whole Lot Better than anyone expects.
But, as Cathy Young writes:
"...But trying to eliminate everything that could make a member of a minority feel ''uncomfortable" can result in a tyranny as oppressive as the tyranny of the majority....'Heteronormativity' is hardly a pressing concern when issues like hate crimes and job discrimination plague LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] Americans more frequently and devastatingly."Politically correct extremism can only further this polarization. Not surprisingly, the controversy over Pinkett Smith's speech at Harvard was great fodder for the conservative media. Why throw red meat to those who caricature the gay rights movement as hostile to both heterosexual marriage and free speech?"

Karen on 03.15.05 @ 05:45 AM CST

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