Gay argues that our society obsesses over categorization of different aspects of character, including political orientation, gender identity, sexuality, and so on. She speculates that this obsession has become almost habitual, writing that, “we don’t know what to do when we don’t know the answers to these questions or, worse, when the answers to these questions do not fall neatly into a category.” Gay’s observation reveals our need for binary explanations of behavior, perhaps to simplify the complex nature of reality. She also expresses the discomfort people experience when having to deal with such complexities and ambiguities. Gay argues that people believe that categorizing people will alleviate this discomfort. This obsession with categorization, Gay argues, explains our expectation that celebrities will share their private lives just because they are in the public’s eye. This relates to her main argument where she asserts that humans have a desire to know about people’s private lives, as well as our fixation on placing people inside and outside of the norm, when in reality, the norm is much more convoluted than we want it to be.
What struck me most about the article by Roxanne Gay was her statement: “We act like placing these people [public figures] in categories will have some impact on our lives… The only thing satisfied by that information is my curiosity.” I understand that in the grand scheme of things, the way that other people act does not directly impact us. However, Gay failed to recognize the importance of indirect exposure to people of different sexualities, especially celebrities. When Raven Symone came out as a lesbian in 2012, she had a very lasting impact on fans of her Disney Channel TV show – they began to realize the importance of being true to yourself. This sparked more young people to come out to the LGBTQ+ community, proving that celebrities do in fact have an unwritten social contract that allows their following to be influenced by what they have to do and say. Hence, I disagree with Gay in that there are impacts on the wider community when a celebrity comes out. However, her point about the categorization of sexual orientations and gender identities also stands true, as we have mechanized sexuality and made it a binary system that oversimplifies the reality of gender and emotion.
What I understood from the article was that Cobb is completely against the institution of marriage, and the Supreme Court’s decision for Obergefell v Hodges in 2015 was one that struck a chord in Cobb’s perception of what it means to be single, or rather, unmarried, in today’s society. What I didn’t understand, however, is the lack of consideration for homosexual people in fighting for their right to marry. I specifically choose to use the word ‘right’ when discussing marriage. I don’t agree with any of Cobb’s arguments about how marriage is when “emotions meet law” and how remaining unmarried leaves one with no “constitutional dignity”. Instead, I argue that marriage is just a tradition that people can choose to exercise. I understand wanting not to get married to avoid the legalities of being someone’s life partner, but wanting to get married and having to experience said legalities should not be frowned upon. I do not agree with the notion of marriage as a “form of governance”. In my opinion, Cobb gives too much credit to marriage, using the phrase “it orders the world and civilization” to describe the power that such an institution has over humanity. Instead, I think that you can give marriage as much power as you wish, and your response to that power is proportionate to how much you personally care about it.
In We “Other Victorians”, Foucault considers the repression of sexulality in modern times as compared to historical eras. One thing that struck me was the mention of Freud and the shift in views towards sexuality that his research caused. I found it interesting that Foucault considered Freud’s conclusions of sexuality to be “scientific” and “medical” rather than holistic and psychological considerations of sexuality. It is understandable that Freudian theory about repression of sexuality caused a great shift in the late Victorian era and beginning of the Edwardian era. However, I also understand that Freud’s theories are now considered outdated and not empirical or scientific enough to be highly ranked within the realm of human psychology. I therefore argue with Foucault’s view that mentions of sexuality are still only determined by psychological and medical reasoning. Instead, I believe that modern day society has begun to accept sex to be liberating.
However, I agree with Foucault’s discussion about the abuse of power in sexual relationships. I believe that sex and power are related, and a huge reason for this is in fact society’s internalization of Freud’s theories. According to these theories, females are born with an Electra complex, which causes them to resent their mother for castrating them, but they still identify with the mother in order to avoid losing their attachment to their father. Because of this, I would argue that Foucault’s theories are more applicable to debates about gender with regards to sexuality and power struggles. After all, modern day society seems to have more cases of men taking advantage of their positions in power in order to gain sexual gratification, as I hope to learn more about in the discussion on the Aziz Ansari scandal. Overall, I think that Foucault’s conclusions have a strong foundation of understanding the relationship between power and the repression of sexuality, but I think that we must dig deeper into understanding the power dynamics between different genders, as well as different sexual orientations.
What I found most striking about Kipnis’s essay, “Against Love”, was her ambiguous view towards monogamy and polygamy. Her narrative came across as almost hostile, suggesting that any attempts towards finding love in today’s day and age are futile, purely because of the social standards set around relationships. I agree with Kipnis’s view that the impact that relationship breakdown has on people nowadays is far more worrying than it may have been in the past, however her lack of sympathy for genuine human emotion makes me feel like she is unjustified to put across such an argument. She continues to write about language having to be “codified”, which in itself comes across as cynical.
Her mechanizing portrayal of love could be interpreted in two ways. First is the optimist’s perception: that love is simple and can be put together through attention to detail. Second is the pessimist’s perception, or arguably, the realist’s: love has caused partners to develop a disconnection from the reality of being together. Perhaps Kipnis’s argument is more against the societal standards of love, rather than falling in love itself. People are too quick to jump into relationships and say those three foreboding words, and hence portray a mentality of not taking relationships seriously. It upsets me to think that modern romance has been damaged because of such standards. However, what Kipnis fails to recognize is that as times change, social standards for all aspects of humanity change. Comparing modern standards of love to historical standards of love is one of Kipnis’s setbacks in her essay, and I would recommend that she instead takes on a more optimistic approach to understanding love.