3 Interesting Posts

Just found these three comments at InsideHigherEd–haven’t been able (yet) to get permission to post them but I’m putting in a link & my apologies to Ned in advance… Ned I believe they deserve to be read!

* Bigotry is no Substitute for Scholarship
* Posted by Ned , Psychology (2009) at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences on July 8, 2009 at 5:00pm EDT
*

As a Pakistani student and a gay woman who has just completed a Master’s degree in Psychology (Class of 2009) from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at NYU, I would just like to say that I will be very disappointed if NYU does not reprimand Dr. Thio Li-ann for her bigoted language, at the very least. As a student of Psychology who took courses on gender and sexuality NYU, I am really quite amazed that Dr. Li-ann thinks that she can get away with airing absurd views like this without any social science data to back them up. Show us the data, Dr. Li-ann!

By all means, allow Dr. Li-ann to teach at NYU, but please engage her in debate and make it clear to her that the views she has expressed cannot be sustained in the light of reason and scientific research. Human right to sodomy? There is a human right to be able to engage in private consensual sexual acts without interference from other people, let alone from the state! There are many sex acts that I personally find distasteful myself, and would never engage in, but that does NOT mean I would condemn others for engaging in them, and far be it for me to want people to be prosecuted for them! An aesthetic objection is NOT the same thing as a moral objection!

I came to NYU to study psychology, but also, to get a taste of an environment that is not hostile to LGBT people. This is a luxury that I do not have as a Pakistani. For the last two years, NYU has provided this environment for me. It is disappointing to find that just as I am graduating and getting ready to go back to Pakistan, NYU has hired someone with views like this. Back home in South Asia, just recently, our neighbor India, a very conservative and religious country, has de-criminalized homosexuality on the grounds of justice and fairness. No doubt other Asian countries will be sure to follow. NYU must stand strongly with LGBT people of the world and make it clear that as an institution it will not support discrimination (what to speak of criminalization!).

Let Dr. Li-ann teach, but let her know that NYU’s faculty and students will not tolerate bigoted remarks that lack all semblance of nuance and scholarship. If she wants her views to be taken seriously, she will have to express herself with a lot more sensitivity that what seems to have been the case so far.

* Read Foucault’s “The History of Sexuality”, Please
* Posted by Ned , Psychology (2009) at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences on July 8, 2009 at 5:15pm EDT
*

I also wanted to quickly respond to something Dr. Li-ann said in one of her talks:

“To slouch back to Sodom is to return to the Bad Old Days in ancient Greece or even China where sex was utterly wild and unrestrained, and homosexuality was considered superior to man-women relations. Women’s groups should note that where homosexuality was celebrated, women were relegated to low social roles; when homosexuality was idealized in Greece, women were objects not partners, who ran homes and bore babies. Back then, whether a man had sex with another man, woman or child was a matter of indifference, like one’s eating preferences. The only relevant category was penetrator and penetrated; sex was not seen as interactive intimacy, but a doing of something to someone. How degrading.”

Straw-man, Dr. Li-ann. An undergraduate would be able to knock this down in their sleep. Haven’t you read Foucault’s “The History of Sexuality”? The whole point Foucault is making is that sexuality is socially constructed. The modern LGBT rights movement has very little to do with Greco-Roman pederasty (or similar constructions of sexuality in Persia or China). Yes, in the past sexuality was constructed to serve the free adult male, with younger men, girls, boys, women, slaves, etc., all being fair game. But what on earth does this have to do with modern and postmodern LGBT identities, tied as they are to feminism, political leftism, environmentalism, vegetarianism, labour movements, and social egalitarianism? Absolutely NOTHING.

Since the above warning is ostensibly for the ladies, let me tell you as a gay woman that female homosexuality has liberated women from the strictures of hetero-patriarchy for centuries. It is still serving this function in my own society, the very patriarchal and misogynistic Pakistan. It certainly has done this for my long-term Pakistani partner and myself. I highly recommend that Dr. Li-Ann reads a book called “Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present” by Lilian Faderman on this subject.

* Homophobia is a Legacy of Colonialism
* Posted by Ned , Psychology (2009) at Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences on July 8, 2009 at 6:45pm EDT
*

I’m sorry I’m commenting so much, but the more I think about this issue, the more I feel that a voice like mine needs to be heard, especially since I’m leaving America in a few weeks and won’t be able to participate if NYU holds a debate on this topic (which is, I think, the proper way to proceed now that Dr. Li-ann has been appointed). I am a gay Pakistani woman who believes that heterosexism in South Asia is a legacy of Christian colonialism. South Asian culture has recognized a “third sex” for centuries. I also feel this is true for many other parts of the world, including America, whose Native American spiritual traditions were quite clearly friendly toward queer identities. See for instance the report “This Alien Legacy: The Origins of ‘Sodomy Laws’ a Legacy of British Colonialism” published by Human Rights Watch:http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/17/alien-legacy-0
For me personally, the major source of disagreement with Dr. Li-ann’s views is not that she thinks homosexuality is wrong. I have several conservative Christian friends who believe this and we are able to set aside our differences and have a chat over a cup of coffee. I have even enjoyed reading some critiques of homosexual culture that I quite agreed with, for instance by the conservative moral philosopher Roger Scruton. I personally have always intensely disliked some of the aspects of the early radical gay liberation movement in the West and within South Asia I’m a strong proponent of the idea that we do not repeat the mistakes made by that sort of hedonistic, commodified, materialistic culture. The issue for me is simply that Dr. Li-ann wants homosexuality criminalized in the same way that pedophilia is, which basically means that she wants a minority community to be legally persecuted by the law. It just seems like an indefensible position to me, morally and rationally. I doubt it will sit down well with most Americans, even conservative ones.
Regarding the comment by A Prof about Peter Singer, I think this point is a good reason why Dr. Li-ann ought to be allowed to continue to teach at NYU, while encouraging debate and discussion (I personally am not a Peter Singer fan either, for that matter). However, the analogy is not all that accurate. Peter Singer does not have the backing of an entire movement that wants to legalize infanticide (I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the political left would be horrified by the idea), while the views of someone like Dr. Li-ann would be embraced with open arms by the Christian Right in America or the fascist RSS thugs in India (who are already preparing a backlash to the decriminalization of homosexuality in India, which may well include violence). One lone Peter Singer cannot be compared to entire homophobic campaigns like this. There is a reason why some of us are responding to Dr. Li-ann’s appointment … these are things that influence how we are treated in Asia on a very practical level. Violence is something we *do* have to worry about.
Having said this, I do believe we ought to respond to these kinds of views with the tools of the intellect and culture, and not with political maneuvering. However, given that Dr. Li-ann is probably going to teach LGBT students at NYU, she may want to nuance her language and stop equating us with Greco-Roman, Chinese or Persian pederasts. 😉 It’s really too bad I’m leaving America in a few weeks, or I would have loved to meet Dr. Li-ann and debate her.

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