As part of my morning routine, I always watch CNN while trying to will myself out of bed and this morning I was reminded of a story that’s been making my head want to explode. Last week a story came out that Georgia Republicans are trying to ban “sex courses” (I love their use of scare quotes!) like queer theory. Here’s the thing, I love queer theory and school, so this is the kind of thing I can really get going about. Here’s a list of everything that is absolutely outrageous about this policy:
1) The press, I’m looking at you CNN, has embraced this language of “steamy sex courses” to describe queer theory. Have any of these people ever, you know, picked up a book? It’s like they want you to believe that queer theory is a guide for how to have gay sex. It is not. It IS compromised of many awesome theories about how to see gender and gender identity as socially constructed. It asks us to think way outside of the box and move beyond thinking of gender and binaries. And my personal favorite part, is that it is actually very inclusive in mind, because it pushes for an understanding of gender that allows for a diverse array of gender identities and sexualities. It challenges people to think in new ways and that is never a bad thing.
(I know, you’re so pumped about this theory now that you want to know where you can read more. I’d suggest starting with Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. It will blow your mind!)
2) Here’s what’s cool about academia, if you don’t agree with a theory, such as queer theory, no one is saying you can’t argue against it, you just have to do it on solid academic grounding. I realize queer theory is pretty radical and some people are going to disagree with it, but to those people I say, why don’t you read some queer theory, do some reasearch, and give me a well-thought out position against it. Just banning the teaching of ideas is a totally insane way to discredit an entire field of solid academic work. Also, I’m pretty sure queer theory could come out on top in this academic debate!
3) “Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Calvin Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”
This kind of narrow-minded thinking is a huge part of the problem. It’s upsetting that those legislators cannot see that maybe there are some flawed assumptions in how those subjects are taught and embracing new theories like queer theory, feminist theory, etc. could help provide better understandings in all of those fields that would result in greater knowledge and improved policies based on that knowledge.
By the way, for anyone keeping track out there, I like the way this guy mentions that the purpose of education is limited to science, business, and math, 3 of the most gendered, male-heavy fields I can think of. Are we also not responsible for teaching people about English, history, social sciences, the humanities, etc? I feel like there’s a dangerous undercurrent in this that says education is only legit if it focuses on fields that have been traditionally associated with reinforcing a system that overwhelmingly privileges white, heterosexual males. This is key, because banning queer theory could be a slippery slope. What’s next?
4) I think there’s also a Title IX argument to be made here. For those of you who are not obsessed with Title IX like I am, Title IX states,”No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The law covers all areas of education and all programs at institutes of higher education. While this has not yet been tested in court and policy recommendations do not yet exist on the issue, I would argue that banning the teaching of queer theory (or feminist theory or whatever else conservatives decide they don’t like) could be considered a form of gender discrimination. I know if GW (where I am currently a student), decided to up and ban the women’s studies program, I would feel as though I was being discriminated against for wanting to learn more about issues related to my gender.
OK, I feel better having gotten that out!