JORDAN B. WRIGHT

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The following is in response to the article:  A walk on the wild side: Urban ethnography meets the FlâneurJournal for Cultural Research by Jenks & Neves. I have been doing research for my Masters of Education for the past two years and I found this article to be problematic. I would therefore like to address some of the issues here.

 

The term "flaneuse" becomes problematic due to the sexualization of women when they are attempting to stroll unnoticed. This assumption that all women will be sexualized unless they are shopping I believe to be false. Unfortunately in our western society we are bombarded with media which constantly sexualizes women taking away their power and ignoring their intelligence. When is the last time you saw a movie with a female character who was not sexualized? By sexualizing these characters their intelligence and power is diminished. This often becomes the case in reality when this modelling affects how people assume women should be treated.

If someone feels more feminine they may feel more comfortable calling themselves a flaneuse. However, what happens when someone is more gender fluid or intersex?

These exclusionary terms flaneur and flaneuse are based on heteronormative binary language which makes many assumptions about people and how they are treated and seen. This invisibility of multiple genders could be viewed as transphobic and exclusionary.

Perhaps a third term needs to be created which is genderless such as the "flaneud". 

The “flaneur” or urban ethnographer can be viewed as contradictory when attempting to give voice to those who have been left out while simultaneously speaking for them subconsciously adding one’s own view, culture, opinion thereby appropriating original thought.

However, this is not to say that all women are sexualized when they are not "shopping" on the contrary to views expressed within the Akkelies van Nes and Tray My Nguynen article Gender Differences in the Urban Environment. 

I personally believe many women are able to be flaneuse allowing them to observe unnoticed.

 

In March 2015, Laverne Cox visited Toronto.

The following academic organizations were involved in organizing the event “Laverne Cox, Toronto: Ain’t I A Woman, My Journey to Womanhood”:

  • The RSU Trans Collective
  • The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU)
  • The Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR)
  • The York Federation of Students (YFS)
  • The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)
  • The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students at UofT (APUS)
  • The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU)
  • The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU)
  • The Community Action Centre (CAC) of the Students’ Association at George Brown College (SA)
The organizing of the event was insular, did not include the trans community (although it did include some trans students) and did not center organizing around trans women of color, homeless and marginalized trans people. Both the Trans Collective and the Students’ Union recognized how this was problematic. Both organizations committed to attending and helping organize a workshop/discussion addressing how this type of insular academic organizing introduces harm to our community, and exploring ways in which academic organizations can work alongside trans people working in grassroots organizations and groups.
— Grassroots Trans Toronto

Although the trans community was not included in the organizing of this event and I see how this is problematic I could relate to many of the things Cox said about gender, discrimination and sexuality. As a trans person who faces anxiety, discrimination, and harassment when using public washrooms there are points made in Coxs speech which resonate with me. Therefore, I would like to summarize some of what was spoken about at the Winter Garden Theatre.

LAVERNE COX

The flawed logic of the gender binary model, the gender system that we know, conflates gender orientation and identity.
— Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox recently spoke at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto about how anti-gay slurs have been used to discriminate against her even though she was being bullied due to her gender expression. According to other kids she did not act the way someone who is assigned male at birth is supposed to act. They said she acted like a girl; these stereotypical assumptions of how one should act forces people into boxes and prohibits the freedom of expression and individuality.

Cox explains that one of the biggest obstacles the trans community faces is points of view which suggest that we can not be anything other than the gender we were assigned at birth.

She argues that the gender binary model can not exist without gender policing. This involves enforcing very rigid ideas and expectations about what it means to be a man or a woman; a girl or a boy. She challenges people to resist against being gender police and allowing people to express their gender in whatever way feels most authentic to them that day.

Cox believes violence towards black trans women is due to the history of slavery under Jim Crow when black men were lynched and their genitals were cut off. She argues that black folks dealing with post traumatic stress view trans women of color as the embodiment of this historic emasculation come to life. Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQI homicide victims and 89% of these victims were people of color (Ahmed et al. 2014).

I remember my therapist asking me if I knew the difference between a boy and a girl and in my infinite wisdom as a third grader because third graders are so wise I said, “There is no difference.” The way that I reasoned it my mind at the time was that everyone was telling me that I was a boy but I knew that I was a girl. I knew that in my spirit and my soul that I was a girl so I reasoned that there must not be any difference.
— Laverne Cox

When Cox was bullied her mom asked her what she was doing and she replied she was just being herself. Cox relates this to Brene Browns work on shame which comes from feeling that one is wrong. Cox began to feel at an early age that she was wrong. She did not feel safe at school or fully safe at home but where she did feel fully safe was in her imagination. She loved to dance and through finding something that she was good at it saved her life. Cox believes that if we can find something we are good at it can be life saving.

The intensely painful belief that one is unworthy of love and belonging.
— Brené Brown
Empathy is the anecdote to shame. Shame can not exist in an environment of empathy.
— Brené Brown

Cox named her event Ain't I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood taken from abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojournor Truth Ain't I a Woman Speech May 29, 1851 at the Ohio Women's Convention about women's liberation as if she was not a woman because she was black.

Bell Hooks also used the title Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism for her first book about the devaluation of black women, feeling silenced and speaking about oppressions which are interlinked such as race, gender and class.  

Bell Hooks also used the title Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism for her first book about the devaluation of black women, feeling silenced and speaking about oppressions which are interlinked such as race, gender and class.

 

One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.
— Simone de Beauvoir

Butler's critique, 'Nowhere in De Beauvoirs is guaranteed that the one who becomes a woman is necessarily female.'