Every Tuesday, you can find the Queer Theory Reading and Writing Group analyzing “Queer Phenomenology” and “Living a Feminist Life” by Sara Ahmed. Chloe Brown (and) started “Queer Theory” as an independent study, but decided to open the group up to the community to broaden their discussion.
The group tackles issues and theories surrounding gender, sexuality, feminism and race and what their role is in our society today. Their meetings are organized around short readings, reflections on personal experiences and brief writing prompts.
“What I hope we can do in a group like this [is to] use a theory like this to illuminate what’s going on in people’s lives and what’s important to them,” said Dr. Storm Heter, the facilitator of the group.
Ahmed, a self-proclaimed queer, feminist and woman of color, often analyzes gender, sexuality, race, class, and how these identities intersect. “Living a Feminist Life” explains how the feminist theory pulls from everyday life. Ahmed writes on how feminist learn from the worlds they critique.
“Part of what Sarah Ahmed’s work is about describing her own experience as a woman of color, but the implications and importance of what she’s saying are for everybody,” Heter said. “It’s important for straight people to read this stuff, but often they don’t think it’s for them.”
While analyzing Ahmed, the group members often share how their own identities and experiences connect to Ahmed’s writing.
“I know about being queer, I know about being a woman, but people who might not have had my experiences might want to educate themselves more on it,” Brown said. “ You can always broaden her horizons and just make yourself a more empathetic person if you read about experiences that aren’t yours.”
One theory the group will analyze is the idea of straightness being the norm or “natural.” According to Heter, heterosexuality is almost unexamined. There are many theories to explain LGBT people’s orientation or gender, but not the same theories for straight people. Like most behaviors and norms in a culture, straightness is learned through parents and the environment, not a natural instinct.
“I always thought, just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that it is good,” Brown said. “Bacteria is natural. Flash floods and earthquakes are natural, and something like eyeglasses and air conditioning is unnatural but it’s generally seen as good.”
Though the Queer Theory Reading and Writing Group focuses on LGBT, gender and race issues, Brown and Heter reiterated that the group is open to everyone, regardless of how you identify.
According to Heter, the group and teaching queer theory, in general, is important because it can show that there is more to diversity than appearances.
“We focus a lot on how people look different,” he said, “but I think once you start opening up the conversation about the different types of differences, people will respond.”
The Queer Theory Reading and Writing Group meet every Tuesday from 2-3 p.m. in SciTech 146. For more information contact Dr. Heter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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