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Lecture 17

PHIL-020 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Gay Panic Defense, Root Mean Square, Gaslighting

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Mattingly James

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Bettcher, Bartky, Benson Notes
Talia Mae Bettcher:
Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion
Briefing: this examines the stereotype that transgender people are “deceivers” and the stereotype’s role in
promoting and excusing transphobic violence; contrast between gender presentation and sexed body;
Bettcher argues that people who misalign gender presentation and genital status are deceivers (2)
-Gwen Araujo case— beaten and killed after being revealed as transgender (2)
-even though he believes that genital anatomy should be gender, he still refers to Gwen as a her
-accusations that Gwen Araujo had herself engaged in wrongdoing (sexual deception) (3)
-someone justified the killing of Gwen bc they said that she violated and raped the men that killed
her (3)
-Bettcher is a white, Anglo, transsexual woman (4)
-transgender = people who do not appear to conform to traditional gender norms by presenting and
living genders that were not assigned to them at birth (5)
-transexual = people who use hormones or surgeries to alter their body in ways that may be
constructed as at odds with the sex assignment of birth
-MTF = male at birth; FTM = female at birth
-transphobia: implies any negative attitudes harbored toward transpeople on the basis of out
enactments of gender (5)
Deceivers and Pretenders
-Araujo’s violence involved the implication of her killers’ own sexual desire, so their violence was
not only transphobic but also homophobic (6); they were enraged by the deception
-Another case: Brandon Teena
-view: genitalia are the essential determinants of sex (7)
-however there are other ways of determining sex: chromosomes
-however, even people who have undergone genital reconstruction surgery have been represented
as deceivers (7)
-natural attitude: constitutes a kind of pre theoretical common sense about sex (8)
-the trouble with being called a deceiver: what if Gwen Araujo had come out as transgender??
-double bind: disclose “who one is” and come out as a pretender or masquerader, or refuse to
disclose (be a deceiver) and run the risk of forced disclosure, exposer as a liar (9)
Double bind: revealing oneself and not disclosing oneself both have bad consequences
-(9) difficulties with the bind (visibility yields a position in which that one is doing is represented
by pretending or playing dress up: 1) having life constructed as fictitious 2) failing to have one’s
own identification taken seriously 3) being viewed condescendingly 4) subject of violence
-other part of the bind (to opt for invisibility) difficulties: 1) living in fear of exposure 2)
disclosure as a deceiver or liar 3) being the subject of violence 4) being held responsible for that
-however, the possibilities of visibility and invisibility are sometimes not in our control (10);
constant shift from the invisible transsexuality into visible
-complicated intersections of visibility/invisibility with race and class privilege
-thesis that degree of transphobia is higher in areas with a higher degree of violence will be greater
in lower-paying jobs (11)
Sexual Deception as Rape
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-gender presentation is usually taken as a sign of sexed body, so people who “misalign” gender
presentation and sexed body are construed as deceivers (11)
-disclosure of genital status may only reinscribe a trans subject as a deceiver/pretender (13)
-difference between coming out as “transgender woman” and “man disguised as a woman” (13)
-clothing represents genital status
-when someone says they are “really a woman trapped in the body of a man” it turns the
accusation of deception by representing the body itself as deceptive (14)
Rape, Sexual Seduction, and Race
-“sexual deception” (a perverse fact) is in itself a type of rape (14)
-“rape can be accomplished by deception” (15), significant in the case of the transsexual
constructed lesbian feminist
-relation between gender representation and sexed body is a piece of communication system
-becoming transgender in some cases, men think justifies rape, as if a FTM is raped, it “puts
women back in their rightful place” (16)
-white female gender presentations have a special place in dominant standards of female
attractiveness (16)
Beyond Legal Solutions
-work needs to be done opposing the representation of transpeople as deceivers
-caution transgender advocates of passing a law that would prohibit the use of “trans panic” as a
defense strategy (17)
-legally banishing the trans panic defense may only intervene in securing the outrageously
obvious point that nothing that a transperson did could excuse her brutal slaying (18)
-no easy solutions in opposing transphobic violence
-hard to see how gender presentation could lose its communicative force without intervening in the
ways heterosexual sex are fundamentally conceptualized
The relationship between gender representation and sexed body is a piece of communication, and
if they are “misaligned” that person is then determined by social standards as a deceiver or a pretender.
Bettcher says that people use this accusation of a transgender or transsexual person as being a deceiver
to justify their discrimination, ostracism, and even killing. However, transpeople are constricted by a
double bind: if they were to reveal their assigned sex, they would be marked as a pretender and if they
were to stay “invisible” they would be accused of being a deceiver and would be subject to violence. In
either part of the bind, the transperson is subject to violence and ostracism.
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Sandra Lee Bartky:
On Psychological Oppression
-“psychic alienation of the black man”
-trying to explore that moment of recognition, to reveal the ways in which the psychological effects of
sexist oppression resemble those of racism and colonialism
-oppress= “to lie heavy on, weigh down, exercise harsh dominion over”
-black liberation movement and women’s movement have brought to light forms of oppression that are
not immediately economic or political; it’s possible to be oppressed in ways that involve neither
physical deprivation, legal inequality, nor economic exploitation
-“to be weighed down in your mind; to have a harsh dominion exercised over your self-esteem
-psychologically oppressed become their own oppressors = “internalization of intimations of
inferiority (22)
-poverty and powerlessness can destroy self-esteem
-economic and political oppression are types of psychological oppression (23)
-American women (white women and women of color) are stereotyped and culturally dominated
-argues that our ordinary concept of oppression needs to be altered and expanded, for it doesn’t
encompass an analysis of psychological oppression
-fragmentation & mystification:
- fragmentation = the splitting of the whole person into parts of a person (stereotyping)
-mystification = obscuring of both the reality and agencies of psychological oppression so that its
intended effect is lived out as destiny, guilt, or neurosis
-stereotyping threatens women’s self-determination; when economic and political obstacles on the path
to autonomy are removed, a depreciated alter ego still blocks the way
-EX: Muhammad Ali as a Primitive Man
-Women “cannot be autonomous, as men are thought to be autonomous, without in some sense ceasing
to be women” (24)
-white women are psychologically conditioned not to pursue the kind of autonomous development that
is help by the culture to be a constitutive feature of masculinity (25)
-sexual objectification example: the Negro is the incarnation of a genital potency beyond all moralities
and prohibitions (26)
-fragmenting: sexual objectification (extra note: the one who objectifies and the one who is objectified
can be the same person = narcissism or psychological oppression) (27-28)
-women become subject to psychological oppression when they conform to standards of beauty & dress
themselves up to fit them
-there is an idea that women ought to make themselves as pleasing to the eye as possible (28)
-it is not for the sake of mere men that we women ought to look “pretty and attractive” but for the
sake of beauty (28)
-psychological oppression is dehumanizing and depersonalizing (29)
-psychological oppression - “psychic alienation” = the estrangement or separating of a person from
some of the essential attributes of personhood (30)
-it is psychologically oppressive both to believe and at the same time not to believe that one is inferior
-oppressed persons come to regard themselves as uniquely unable to satisfy normal criteria of
psychological health or moral adequacy (30)
-the psychologically oppressed often lack a viable identity (31)
-to be psychologically oppressed is to be caught in the double bind of a society which both affirms my
human status and at the same time bars me from the exercise of many of those typically human
functions that bestow this status (31)
-psychic alienation and the alienation of labor are profoundly alike = splitting off of human functions
from the human person, forbidding activities thought to be essential to a fully human existence (32)
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