cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Tag: gender

The supposed sexual conquest of Latin America

I’m writing a paper about the extent to which women challenged prescribed gender roles in colonial Latin America. In class we’ve been looking at the role of gender and sexuality in colonial times, too, and I’m shocked to realize how close to home these topics are, how vivid they are in my life, despite the fact that centuries have passed. How double standards, the discourse of virgins and whores, the suppression of agency and basically all of the domination that I read about in articles are things that were (and continue to be) all too close to home. I realized this because I was getting really angry while listening to the prof’s lectures and while doing the readings.

The anger gives way to a sort of creative tension when I’m reading texts that actively question these things and seek to unearth from old sources the agency of women, which through omission and masking had been made invisible. Thinking about these things, entertaining these ideas in my head and writing about them is an academic exercise, but is also analogous of a personal effort on my end to deconstruct these influences in my life, be able to look at them, pick them apart. In doing so help me along the process of better understanding myself and my interaction with my past, with the experiences that shaped me and to a great extent continue to be a part of my intimate relationships.

This is an instance when I feel life is good in all its brokenness and iniquity.

“No hay nada más recto que una escalera torcida, ni nada más integro que un corazon partido.”
Rabi Menajem Mendel de Kotzk



Last night F. and I had a conversation about what it takes to feel like a woman as opposed to a girl, or a man as opposed to a boy. Several things came up. For him, it was about getting out into the world, making something of himself, achieving, gaining power (many kinds). For me it was more about becoming an adult, and to a much lesser degree a woman. To me adulthood has to do with developing my own independence, being able to take care of myself materially and establish myself socially in a place away from my family. Once again, becoming a woman smacks of becoming a specific, gendered thing (whereas becoming a man seems more straightforward); it implies a negotiation of the expectations of what women look like and act like, of sexuality, of power, and personality. To a large extent, I find myself avoiding that: I want to just be an adult without it being complicated by gender. I want to be assertive, to talk where men are talking and be taken seriously, to be as forward as I want to be. At the same time I want to reserve the right to be someone softer, caring, and accommodating when I choose to.

I know that my conceiving of the different aspects I described above as masculine and feminine aspects is not politically correct, not feminist, and maybe even reinforces the sexist attitudes that I despise, but the truth is that this is deeply ingrained in how I grew up and how I feel about it. I don’t think that pretending otherwise is very conducive to me ever moving forward with the topic. My way of navigating womanhood is to willingly have aspects of both sides, to allow myself to be internally contradictory, and in that way expand the limits of my being a woman.

All this was to say that I’m glad that this kind of thinking is no longer in vogue. I like to have my guys and eat them, too.

Gender and me

I’ve been thinking about gender recently. On Tuesday I saw Cinema Politica’s screening of Regretters, a film about two men who had sex changes, then years later switched back. It was a fascinating conversation on and contemplation of what role gender means and how important it is, what role it plays in our lives, how it makes us who we are, and how we can mess with it. On Wednesday in Research Methods I watched a documentary called The Codes of Gender that show the differences in how men and women are typically portrayed in advertisements and what these messages these signals convey about what it means to be feminine or masculine. The film was very powerful because of how keenly it picked out cues in images and how clearly it translated and revealed the strong messages therein.

What most struck me in both of these pieces were how directly they spoke to me and the behaviours I have. They made it painfully obvious that much of what is my personality is moulded by the gender roles I grew up in. It is the reason I find it cute to point my toes in when I’m sitting down; the reason I find it difficult to charge in full for the work I do; the reason I find it difficult to assert my boundaries when someone makes me uncomfortable unless they go clearly beyond the pale.

Upon hearing the arguments expressed in the second film, I made mental notes as to the things I wanted to avoid or refuse to do: I want to look people in the eyes, I want to be alert and attentive to my surroundings, I want to wear shoes that don’t make me vulnerable, I don’t want to position myself in ways that are contorted and destabilizing. According to these codes, I don’t want to be feminine.

But I am a woman and to hear myself say that hurts; it’s a negation of myself. Rather, what I’d like to do is push femininity to encompass something else. I want for femininity to include strength and capability, and be able to be beautiful without being sexualized (note, this doesn’t mean feminine has to be beautiful; I’m just saying I would like to see its aesthetic not rely on crude sex appeal).

At any rate, now I checked out Erving Goffman’s Gender Advertisements to read over break and I’m contemplating taking martial arts classes.


During the past few weeks I’ve been so busy that I sometimes don’t have time to shower. But this morning’s theory lecture is far more important than petty hygiene. (Editing, however, is not. Forgive my form.)

research clearly valued superior to teaching: the better you are (research chair) the less you teach, especially at undergrad level.

  • Guy Roche in Quebec, made sense of all opposing schools of sociology (introduction a la sociologie). This is very recent! Dagenais’ first sociology class was with Freitag the giant. Now, tenure decided on number of articles published. The economy, not the synthesis, of knowledge. Want to get universities to compete with one another. ADAPTIVE – policies will force you to adapt to this economy. Taylorism, the managerial control of professional activity, is taking over the university. BUT ON WHAT FAILURE IS THIS REVOLUTION NECESSARY? none. not necessary.
  • the limits of modernity. Once we’ve gone through modernity, we can acknowledge its limits. (It is through the enormous transformation of the planet that we encounter the ecological limits of our existence.) Central in this is the key concept of modernization: individualizing everything, how we own things (private property); family (marriage for love and only the kids you want); authority (open to all who go though the phd process or democratic election); art (invention of subjective perspective). But there are limits to what individualism can deliver. Problem right now knowing if we are still modern? Postmodern? Some want to bring it to its end because of its limitations. This is where Habermas will suggest we continue the project of modernity, qualified by its limitations.
  • Edward Shorter The Making of the Modern Family and Dagenais’ The (Un)Making of the Modern Family; both phenomena caused by the same thing. Individualization of family, to marriage for live. Tranformation of traditional marriage to subjectively agreed-upon marriage. Individualistically oriented familia. Modern family is nuclear-founded every generation. Traditional familia is not founded at every generation, simply contribute to the renewal. The warmth and intimacy of home, hogar does not exist until 15th century England: introduces the personal aspect of life. And reflected in the change to marrying for love.
    • Calvin: women should have only the number of children they can properly educate. So, modern family comes from the want to educate/form children to become emancipated citizens that will later create own families, not continue their original family. This sets up children to betray their family of origin.
    • Modern funeral: find widow and console for loss of close person. Traditional funeral is a march because family is still intact.
    • Gender identity = objective. Primitive societies have divided world into gendered space and identities. Everything is one or the other. Later, modern gender identity is a subjective gender. Read Simone de Beauvoir, the Second Sex: women defined by their gender and males as transcending their gender. She wants not women’s rights, but rights of the individual. She wants access to the individualistic character of the man. Modern woman is woman for another man only in private. This gender identity is secondary to the public sphere. She is not a woman for her clients or for the government or even for her brother or father. This has made gender subjective.
    • Uncle is a modern term; does not exist in Ancient greek or in Latin. In traditional familia, brother of mother is not my family. Women do not transmit blood relationships.
    • Postmodern kinship systems demands that prof’s ex-wife share her role as mother with prof’s current partner. To do so is to allow for the future. To accept this is difficult, demands the transcending of the subjective. Post-conjugal. Based on the limits of modern love mediation. Instead of hitting him for replacing him as father, “have to admit that we share the same granddaughter”. Co-mothering legal is preparation for individual right to have child — an amplification of the individualizing process.
    • If you look at evolution of fertility since 16th century. Is it possible to identify different fertility modes? Pre-modern, modern, postmodern? Existential relation to a child: don’t want a family, want experience of having a child. Love is a pure relationship, not a reason for having kids. We want to find someone to have kids with; not a person we love, and kids are secondary. Modernization of family and modern deconstruction of family accounted for by modernity, even though opposite.