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June 30, 2009

Romance, Sex, Love, and Marriage: Perhaps the Most Significant Discussion We Never Had!

When we romance someone do we consider how/why she/he receives us the way she/he does?

When we kiss someone what is the criteria that contributes to our kiss being considered a “good” kiss as opposed to a bad one? Could it be because my lips are fuller or less full than other people’s lips? Could it be that a person has been told they are different, enough to affect their confidence?

Is a preference or disdain to lip size or hip size racism, or ableism?

Does our sexual orientation affect the quality/way we are capable of loving or being loved?

Can sex be better if you have it within a backdrop of a 5 star hotel, or with cars racing past as lovers hurriedly attempt to take advantage of a moment, with the only option available being a car and the only location the side of the road?

Are these questions that most people ask themselves? Would our experiences with romance, sex, love, and marriage be better if we engaged these questions as we move in and out of our intimate moments? Well, what do you think?

Every third semester I teach a class at SUNY Plattsburgh titled Romance, Sex, Love, and Marriage (RSLM). As the director of the Center for Diversity at SUNY Plattsburgh people often are startled to hear that as a man who specializes in diversity and social justice education I could be engaging something that seems worlds apart from the topic of diversity. What do you think? Could RSLM actually be a diversity class? Well, enough of my Examining Diversity through Film students sprint to this class that I have to wonder is it about the interesting places we go with the subject matter? Or the fact that Attila the Hun could be teaching the course? If Attila (or should I refer to him as Mr. Hun?) or anyone else was teaching a class that enabled 20 year olds to unpack some of their romantic notions, or discuss some of the most unromantic things they have heard about or encountered, would it be well attended? Probably so, but that aside, please inform me of some other ways how you think RSLM could be related to diversity and social justice? I have come to realize that the people who respond to my blog often reflect on these topics in profound ways. How does ageism curtail our romantic overtures? How does privilege make someone sexier? How does a lack of privilege make someone hot?

Since the semester is only a couple of months away, I am also curious if any of you would be interested in sharing with me what some of your favorite films/scenes in films are so that I can consider them for my class. Why are the scenes your favorite and what lessons can be learned from these films? More specifically, how would you categorize the choice of your film scene? As a matter of fact, some new film clips that I will use in my class this semester are: Sin City, XX-XY, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Sex and Lucia, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Poetic Justice, Bull Durham, The Human Stain, and Alfie. Any guesses on the scenes I will use? You probably aren’t familiar with any of them, are you?

Recently I watched “Vickie Cristina Barcelona” (VCB) and “He’s Just Not That Into You” (HJNTIY). While the first film could easily gain cult status as a film classic (especially with Penelope Cruz winning Best Actress for her performance) with its 70 rating on Metacritic, HJNTIY could be dismissed summarily as a mediocre ensemble piece with its 47 rating on Metacritic. Nonetheless I easily could use both films in almost all categories, though their strengths may be centered more in one area than another. In HJNTIY and VCB romance is all over the place and sex is in the air. HJNTIY provided an excellent example of a non-traditional perspective on marriage through the relationship between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston. VCB takes sex to some places that films years ago wouldn’t dare go (okay, so Last Tango and Nine ½ Weeks are an exception to everyone’s list) and most of today’s films arguably don’t do sex well. Both of these two films engage marriage in creative ways, as well as provocative notions of romantic love.

So how does romance relate to diversity and social justice (visit my March 5, 2008 blog titled “Here’s Looking at You Romance” [11])?

While the gender implications of sex or obvious (don’t be so sure), how many of us process our sex through the lens of race, privilege, ability, or socio-economic class (visit my October 12, 2007 blog titled “Is a Kiss Just a Kiss” [12])?

How is love influenced by our ability, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age, socio-economic class, and privilege (visit my April 3, 2008 blog titled “Is it Possible to Love” [19])?

All of these conversations were truly intriguing and provocative as demonstrated by the total of 42 comments that framed the three discussions, or as seen in the number of comments bracketed within the parentheses above.

At the very least, check out the films that I have mentioned if you are interested in escalating an evening to a romantic level where thoughts of sex, love, and even marriage may abound. Do it quickly (watching the film that is) and let the Wiley Wandering crew know exactly (but tastefully) how we spiced up your night. At best, share some of your hottest, sexiest, most endearing/loving selections so that others can fall in love/lust/like through your contribution. Now, let me get back to my triple header: “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” A Lot Like Love, and Closer.“ I know some of you may be thinking that if I am immersed in 6 hours of film watching my insights must be theory based. Well you may be right, but watch them critically and add to your game. Watch them with the right person and you may not need game. You don't hear me!

June 1, 2009

If She is Racist, Why Isn't He?...Race, Gender, & Class Conflicts

Recently I wrote an In My Opinion (IMO) in the Press Republican (PR) on April 28 about a local politician who recently made statements that were consistent with what men who were against the women’s suffrage movement might have said, or what racists against the abolitionist’s movement might have said. When I expressed disbelief that she could have made these statements, I was called intolerant by an ex-student of mine in another PR IMO (May 9). This ex-student attempted to take me to task for being intolerant simply because I challenged the politician's alleged statements. Aside from the student’s ignorance of the often painful plight of gays and lesbians and political agenda as a proclaimed Republican leader (the politician I challenged is also Republican), what many people wouldn’t know is that the student who challenged me is the son of a prominent community leader who actually wrote a PR IMO back in September 2008 challenging me for my attempt at satire in an August 2008 PR IMO about the potential of the Obama’s ascending to the White House.

These correspondences further framed for me the problematic way of seeing that arises when we are challenged because of how different our perspectives are from those of others. While I understand this, and challenge other's views often, I believe that I do it when I see clear disconnects. However, I am not so out of touch that I don’t recognize that others are probably operating from the same motivation. With this in mind I decided to enlist some assistance with the following scenario as a case study we could work from.

On “Meet the Press” there was a conversation between David Gregory, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina, to the Supreme Court. In the process of this conversation concern was expressed over Rush Limbaugh identifying her as a racist. Additionally he made these comments:

MR. LIMBAUGH: She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court. I don't care, we're not supposed to say it, we're supposed to pretend it didn't happen. We're supposed to look at, at other things. But it's the elephant in the room. The real question here that needs to be asked, and nobody on our side, from a columnist to a TV commentator to anybody in our party has the guts to ask: How can a president nominate such a candidate, and how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.

With Limbaugh's comments in mind, here is what nominee Sotomayor said:

"I...accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. ... Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that wise old men and wise old--and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am...not so sure that I agree with the statement. ... I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who wasn't lived that life. ... Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

In contrast, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made similar comments that were not taken to task by Limbaugh or anyone else. Those comments are below:

(Videotape, January 11, 2006)
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who, who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or, or because of gender. And, and I do take that into account.

Why would Sotomayor’s comments be held to a different standard than Alito’s? What is really going on here? Is this indicative of something larger in our society? How might race, gender, and/or class be playing a part in the ways any of these scenarios are playing out?

Oh, and for those of you who actually read the ongoing exchange between me and the father-son combo, was I unfair or intolerant for taking our local politician to task for her comments? If so, why?