SLettrine

O I took my last classes for the semester today. I only teach two – they’re both two hours, though, for which I’m glad, given that as you may have noticed I tend towards the long! I forgot the official student questionnaire thing about my teaching, but the verbal feedback I got (which I know is way less reliable due to being less… anonymous) was surprisingly positive. One student even expressed voluntarily and at some length that the atmosphere in class was non-judgemental, which gave me warm fuzzies mostly because that is what I aim for, of course, but I’m never sure how well I do at it. Unsurprisingly, the third year students were way more enthusiastic about their course—you get far fewer in-it-for-the-degree students doing more specific courses like the one I’m running tutoring for—so they tend to be actually interested in the material (shock, horror!). I’m a bit proud of them, actually. They took negotiating self-demand amputation, circumcision (both sexes) and intersex ‘corrective’ surgery in their stride. Interestingly, they’re the first class I’ve had to be unanimous in their ‘no surgery til they can decide’ position when asked if they’d have surgery performed to ‘disambiguate’ their children’s intersexed genitalia (today’s topic).

The second year students… well, some of them were very positive, and others looked a bit put out. It surprises me, occasionally, how troubling queer theory remains for people. And amuses me that so many (at least to begin with and occasionally (a bit horrifying for my queer kids) even towards the end) assume they’ve never met a gay/lesbian/queer/trans person or had one in their class. Erm… really? Did you miss the coming-out in week one?

One of my students, who is from China, told us during her presentation today about the media reception of a woman who has translated Foucault’s works into Chinese. I wish I knew her name (so please, if you know, comment! I did a wee bit of a search and came up with nada but not knowing Chinese could be a major hindrance in this matter! Being able to point Chinese students in the direction of the bits of History of Sexuality we use in a language they’re that much more familiar with… well, it’d be kinda wonderful. Of course, I realise I may be showing my ignorance of the fact they already exist, but either way… edjacate me!) Anyway, this student was talking about the furor that had occurred as a result of her translations, and that the media seemed convinced that she was trying to undermine morality. The point that intrigued me was that she seemed to think that academics who talk about Foucault in Australia aren’t subject to any of the same kinds of treatment. Now I’m more than willing to grant that such accusations operate differently in the two contexts—that’s going to be reasonably obvious. But the implication of what she was saying was that in Australia it was completely acceptable to talk about sexuality, BDSM, sex addiction and so on (all topics we’ve done in the course); that academics who talk about such things are simply accepted as legit, and are never accused of undermining morality. Which is, of course, not not not true: my supervisor for one regularly comes under fire from well-known conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, and on the occasions that he’s not explicit about how she’s undermining morality, he does it in other ways by mocking her work, her presentation, her lifestyle (well, what he guesses about it, anyway).

It’s interesting, though. What does having a course about queer theory signify to people? Does it signify acceptability? respectability? Is that where this assumption comes from? Cultural studies remains under fire a lot in Australia, which academic-y types whinge about a lot (me definitely included!), yet clearly the impression that this student garners is that it’s perfectly a-OK. Which I find a little odd given that she’s been doing a course that spends a fair bit of time talking about homophobia, transphobia, racism and misogyny and the way that they’re entrenched in the ‘common sense’-ness of ideas like sex, gender, sexuality, health and so on expressed so often…

Anyway, teaching makes me weary (I wind up going straight from breakfast to dinner without any food, only caffeine and the wired-ness of engaging a class) so forgive the fuzz of me. Back tomorrow with more… something. What’s that thing? Awakey-ness. Dat’sit. G’night.

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