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Looking Back and Acting Out

Over 40 years in the past, in Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality, Iris Marion Young gave us a foundational understanding of how essentialist pseudoscience impacted experiences of embodied sexism. Young’s refined argument launched not solely how we may use phenomenology to grasp gendered conditioning but additionally gave us other ways of occupied with what it means to be “woman,” what it means to dwell in a sexist society, and how intentionality and objectivity constrain gendered our bodies.

According to Young, whereas gender is skilled on a spectrum, it’s conditioned by the expectations and interpellations of others, significantly by way of gender expression. She factors out the inherent logical incompatibility of the gender/intercourse essentialist binary by critically analyzing Strauss’s explanations of gendered throwing distinction. He argues for a organic trigger, however says that it isn’t because of anatomical options, as a substitute calling for a organic understanding of the female. Young argues that the rationale girls and ladies throw in a different way from boys and males has nothing to do with organic essentialism. Instead, it outcomes from the femininity enforced by means of patriarchal sexism, producing our bodies which are made into issues to be “looked at and acted upon.”

“Being looked at and acted upon” seems like an apt strategy to describe the present state of affairs for LGBTQ+ individuals in my residence state, Arkansas. The 94th General Assembly was known as into session on Monday, January 9, 2023. Since that day, 5 payments have been superior focusing on LGBTQ+ people, significantly youth and trans people. Unfortunately, regardless of being offered as safeguards of privateness, free speech, and truthful schooling, every invoice is grounded on a elementary misunderstanding of the lived actuality of LGBTQ+ Arkansans.

At a latest listening to, Arkansas State Senator Matt McKee requested an professional pharmacist, Dr. Gwendolyn Herzig, who was testifying towards SB 199, about her genitals. Dr. Herzig was scrutinized, not on the idea of her experience, however on the idea of the looks of her gender expression and the strictures of the sexist society interpellating her identification. This query encapsulates the institutional and intentional hurt of the lawmaking agenda on this legislative session, whereas exposing how “looking at and acting upon” is on the core of many misogynistic and transphobic insurance policies. The query laid naked the generally unstated however persistent layers of oppression impacting LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide.

Though Dr. Herzig’s embodiment doesn’t primarily influence her capability to testify to the harms of stopping LGBTQ+ youth from accessing gender-affirming care, phenomenologically, her expertise might heighten her experience. Despite Senator McKee’s grotesque and flippant questions, the experiential dimension of her experience expands her capability to supply significant information concerning the points at hand and perceive the interdependency of moral decision-making. In response to her experiences on the listening to, Dr. Herzig instructed NBC: “I really just hope it just shows people that there’s people like me who want to stand up and that there are people who want to make sure there are access to resources.”

Talia Mae Bettcher and Veronica Ivy argue that testimonial authority afforded to trans folks is each an ethical responsibility and an epistemic privilege. Following their arguments, I imagine that we must always reevaluate Dr. Herzig’s testimony as epistemically essential for combatting the anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ payments at the moment being processed within the state of Arkansas.

In her 2014 article, Bettcher explains that trans girls, specifically, are sometimes subjected to a twin type of violence (importantly, intersectionally, that is typically compounded by different types of identification like class, race, employment, and so forth., however allow us to set these apart for the second). This violence is an asymmetrical “reality enforcement,” the place—because of being a lady—the proper to privateness is already infringed upon by means of the social assemble of sexual entry, and the place—as trans particular person—the proper to privateness is deemed immoral, even hazardous, because of socially and institutionally oppressive perceptions of concealment/deception. In the case of Dr. Herzig, her privateness was deemed much less morally related than having access to a perceived hidden “fact” about, to make use of Bettcher’s terminology, her “moral genitalia.” However, flipping the script on this oppressive, essentialist, and theoretically bankrupt view, we will see that Dr. Herzig’s professional testimony and refusal to entertain irrelevant questions is a part of her, as Baldino places it, “non-reductive self-creation.” Dr. Herzig’s response that she deserved respect because of her schooling and experience, and the express questioning of her rights within the face of legislative authorities misusing their energy to oppress and demean her, replicate energetic resistance to the enforcement of restrictive gender norms and the moralizing of trans oppression.

Following feminist standpoint epistemology, it’s evident that the one strategy to counter the legislative misinformation grounding the Arkansan payments is to uphold the epistemic privilege of people whose phenomenological expertise affords distinctive perception into the ramifications of such laws. In reflecting on her personal “trans*formative process,” Ivy explains that she didn’t have satisfactory perception into the experiences of sexism pre-transition. Dr. Herzig’s testimony displays epistemically privileged perception into the impacts of anti-trans laws because of her intersectional identification as a physician of pharmacy, as trans, and as a lady. She clearly understood the qualities of this experience as she launched herself within the context of all of those identities.

The mannequin of professional testimony that Dr. Herzig supplied within the face of oppressive and dangerous laws in Arkansas demonstrates potential resistance to being, turning again to Young, “looked at and acted upon,” even whereas acknowledging that such resistance is embedded inside oppressive establishments that actively replicate sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and heterosexism. While these of us within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood in Arkansas should take care of legislative violence, these of us who’re philosophers have an moral obligation to articulate the worth and energy of resistance within the wealthy information produced by people like Dr. Herzig.

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Taine Duncan

Taine Duncan is the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion and Director of Gender Studies on the University of Central Arkansas. She was not too long ago awarded an APA Diversity and Inclusiveness grant for The Lavender Library: Institutionalizing Access to Queer Theory, Courses and Speakers at a Regional Comprehensive University within the South.


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