On Monday, February 14, 2005, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Leslie Feinberg put tears in many people?s eyes. Their inspirational wordsabout resisting the patriarchy and the authoritative powers that restrict us resonated in our ears as we left the Sykes Ballrooms.I did not expect them to talk about the War in Iraq. In fact, like many people, I had forgotten about it. I feel so ashamed to forget that people are still losing their lives every day for America?s interests.
Maybe some people?s lives in Iraq are better. I can?t be sure about anything, though, because I don?t trust the news even from a variety of sources. Until I visit Iraq or have a deep conversation with someone who has been there, I will not presume to know how the citizens of Iraq are faring. However, I know for sure that I do not agree with what the Bush Administration did going into Iraq.
Leslie Feinberg is a transgendered individual and prefers genderneutral pronouns, such as ze instead of he/she and hir instead of her/him. Ze was born female but looks like a male. Hir novel, “Stone Butch Blues,” is only one look into the life of a transgendered person and how difficult it is to grow up not looking like either gender. This is what I expected hir to talk about. Instead, ze and “love-mate” Minnie Bruce Pratt, as they referred to each other, talked about what they deem to be not necessarily more important, but just as important.
Feinberg and Pratt stressed the fact that all oppressed social groups need to come together and support each other. Not because each group will be “paid back” in return, but because everyone?s struggle is interrelated.
One might wonder how transgendered issues affect them. One might wonder how or why someone would want to dress as the other gender. The real question is: why do we feel like there has to be these two distinct genders in society? Why must we oppress each other and require people to be either one or the other? By keeping these strict gender boundaries, we enforce stereotypes.
Examples of these stereotypes would be that men aren?t supposed to cry, and that women are supposed to wear makeup.
Feinberg said that there was a time in everyone?s life where we were told we were either performing our gender too much or not enough.
“Don?t cry, be a man!” or “Why don?t you ever want to wear dresses like the other little girls?” By constructing these strict boundaries, we are all being oppressed.
We all need to work together to break down gender barriers and stereotypes, as well as work together for other causes that we may not necessarily feel a part of. The truth is that we are all affected by these strict boundaries. I would like to see more men cry. In fact, I don?t think I?ve EVER seen a man cry. I would like to see more women stop shaving their legs. Who told us that we should, anyway? I would like to stop hearing people say “That?s so gay,” as if there is something wrong with being gay. Or “Stop being a p—-,” as if there is something wrong with p—-. The word refers to either the female genitalia or a cat, and there is nothing negative about it.
To all of the gender warriors out there, thank you for working to break down these stereotypes. I know that not everyone uses thesedegrading terms and stereotypes, but by the conversations I overhear, it would seem that the majority does.
Feinberg and Bruce relayed to us that all of our battles are connected, that we must all come together to fight what may be the biggest issue these days: the War in Iraq. Many of us have forgotten about it. It probably doesn?t have much effect on us unless we know someone who is in a branch of the military. However, this war that was started for the wrong reasons is still going on, and innocent people are still dying every day.
Feinberg and Pratt encouraged everyone to come together and unite, especially on March 19, 2005 in Central Park in New York. On the anniversary of the start of the War in Iraq, there will be a large protest by many diverse groups. All people fighting any kind of oppression and who oppose the war should converge and support each other, especially on this day. The Feinberg and Pratt program was highly successful.
Although Feinberg didn?t talk about what some of us had hoped, I know no one who has any regrets. In fact, what ze said may have moved me more than anything else.
Feinberg and Pratt are a perfect pair. Their rhetorical genius stupefied the audience. Both are so eloquent in their speaking, putting together sentences as if they were written, revised and rehearsed them a million times before. In one of the most inspirational programs I have attended at WCU, Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt reminded us that we have to stick together. Doing so will aid us and bring a sense of unity, as well as allowing our voices to be heard even more.