Gendering Bodies, Institutional Hegemonies
Our fall issue of volume 41 (2015) explores the ways institutions — legal, governmental, medical, educational, and household — participate in the gendering of bodies and are themselves gendered.
At any given historical moment, dominant and resistant meanings of “women,” “gender,” and “sexuality” are socially and politically constituted in institutions through cultural struggles. The authors in this issue discuss how birth control, assisted reproduction, transsexual transition, hegemonic masculinity, abortion, and domestic violence are each articulated and contested in imperial law and economic discourses (Sreenivas), in medical procedures (Whitehead et al. and DasGupta), in university research regulations (Barnes and Munsch), and in the official practices of presidents (Mattingly). Our authors elucidate how such institutions are gendered, not just in terms of staffing by males, females, and nongender conforming people, but also in the ways they constitute gender relations in their everyday operations. The articles point to the continuing need for institutional histories and ethnographies that are feminist in conception and design. They also provide openings into more progressive gender and sexuality politics by underscoring the contradictions within all institutions.
Andrea Wood explores lesbian sex and romance in comics, a genre that has long captivated lay readers. Rachel Lumsden turns to Ethel Smyth’s 1913 composition “Possession,” an ode to same-sex intimacy that sonically melds passion, desire, and political commitment. Sharmila Lodhia’s account of Nina Paley’s film Sita Sings the Blues considers how a sexually-charged animated representation of a Hindu epic spurred battles over cultural authenticity. Ariane Cruz examines how sexual pleasure presses against racist histories in her study on black women and BDSM. Chloë Taylor addresses how women’s sexual desire is policed in contemporary sexology, while Lynn Comella explores recent books on pornography and the sex industry. Kawika Guillermo’s short story set in Las Vegas creatively renders the interplay between pleasure and danger, which is at the core of many articles in this issue. In News and Views, Wang Zheng recounts the recent jailing and release of five young feminists in China for their activism against sexual harassment.
The rendition of the song “Possession,” by Ethel Smyth, discussed in Rachel Lumsden’s article “'The Music Between Us': Ethel Smyth, Emmeline Pankhurst, and 'Possession'”:
The animated film Sita Sings the Blues, by Nina Paley, discussed in Sharmila Lodhia’s article "Deconstructing Sita’s Blues: Questions of Mis/representation, Cultural Property, and Feminist Critique in Nina Paley’s Ramayana":
We are pleased to announce that Marlon Bailey's essay on ballroom culture, “Gender/Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture,” inFeminist Studies Volume 37, Number 2, won the 2013 Modern Language Association's Compton-Noll Prize for Best LGBTQ Studies Article.