Emi’s report on a NWSA panel on conservative backlash against feminism in Japan

July 4, 2007

There was a panel session, “Tangled Threads of Backlash against Feminism in Contemporary Japan” at the National Women’s Studies Assocation conference in St. Charles, IL, with Masami Saito, a feminist activist/scholar from Toyama, Japan, Emi Koyama, me and Norma as a moderator.

Tina asked me to write a report on this (and I am asking Lauren to report on it, too!), but Emi already posted a very detailed report of the session in her blog – so take a look!



response to “From ‘Intersex’ to ‘DSD'”

June 8, 2007

For a lack of a better expression, Emi Koyama’s keynote speech at Translating Identity (“From ‘Intersex’ to ‘DSD’”) simply blew my mind. It is such an exquisitely rich entwinement of various topics of and related to the issue of the term “intersex.” As a gender studies major, I was ashamed by how fuzzy I was about the very definition of “intersex,” so Emi’s list of common misconceptions was definitely helpful. Along with that clarification, I am also glad to learn about other issues orbiting intersex studies, such as “public stripping,” “the impaired role,” and the power of “normalizing medicine.” Some questions that remains are: what are the social costs of intersex/DSD people not forming a political community? Why do so many people, intersex individuals included, feel indifferent to the urgency of solving social problems associated with our anxieties about bodily differences and sexuality? How can pop culture contribute to or inhibit such a solution?

problems with “Ladies’ Comics”

June 8, 2007

 Again, I apologize for posting my reading questions late.

Jones makes a good case for pornographic manga, but I think that “bad girls who like to look” are, in the end, (in the words of Catherine MacKinnon) still vicariously working out the fantasies of men. Just because the ladies’ comics provide a venue for women to express and experiment with various sexual desires doesn’t mean that some (or most) of these desires are autonomously conceived. If, indeed, manga and anime are so integral to the shaping of gender identification and relations between the sexes (as Napier suggests), then wouldn’t it be irresponsible of Jones to neglect the informative aspect of anime and manga? As with any mass medium, shouldn’t we consider the influence of the representation (on the subject) as well as what is reflected (from the subject) in the representation? In other words, don’t social constructions create our identities as much as we create social constructions? If such a construction perpetuates a motif of explicit abuse, is it “ethically” okay to identify with it upon awareness of its effects? And this makes me wonder: what is the mentality of the gang rapists mentioned in the anecdotes of ladies’ comics readers? To link this train of thought to our class today, I ask yet another question: to what extent are the “male” actresses in Takarazuka even more directly living the vicarious life of the masculine fantasy?

integrating the differentiation

June 5, 2007

Emi’s second talk here entitled “Intersex at the Intersection of Queer theory and Disability theory” introduced me to a number of new ideas, as I previously was pretty unaware of much about queer theory, disability theory or intersex. One of the things that really surprised me was her talk of the different biases that the medical profession has in treating certain “abnormalities”–to the point of arbitrarily setting down rules to perpetuate other arbitrary societal norms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Intersex – Who should decide?

June 3, 2007

I think that in the interest of all parties involved, that the action applied should be determined on a case by case basis.

What is easiest for the parents to cope with? What is most affordable? What is easiest for the child to cope with? What is practical given how far along the child is in development? Is the child “leaning” to one gender or another in terms of hormone levels? Does this make one course of action medically more practical than the other? What do the physicians think is the best course of action given past cases they have examined in which the patients were similar? Is precedence more important in determining successful procedures or should they use this opportunity to maybe try an innovative new treatment?

I could spend all day coming up with questions and issues that they must ask and the point I want to make is that, for all our discussions and analysis of intersex, there DOES NOT exist a clear cut right or wrong. I think what we’re trying to get at (and all agree upon) is that these people deserve their human rights just as much as anyone else and should be informed of their situation and provided with all the information. For a physician to “decide” what is best for the child without consulting the parents and taking into account all the complications is a medical/ethical issue that is hotly debated as to when it is and is not appropriate.

While we do acknowledge that they are trained individuals in resolving these problems, we also must acknowledge that they too are people and can and will make mistakes. While their advice should be taken into serious consideration, we have to look at what all parties agree on as the best compromise in the course of action and they should keep the child’s health and happiness at the forefront of their objectives in deciding this.

Is our class going to resolve this issue? Certainly not! But I think we all have a better handle on the issues facing intersex and that can understand where Emi is coming from and why this topic deserves considerable attention.

Emi Koyama’s Visit: Class visit, and Her Lectures on International Adoption and Intersex

June 1, 2007

We were lucky enough to have Emi Koyama visit our class, and give two really interesting talks for the Celebrating Protest Lecture Series. I first met her when she visited our class and gave a introduction to intersex, and it’s common misperceptions. Emi is a really great speaker, she got our entire class hooked as soon as she shared with us her infamous snail story. Snails apparently dance around each other for hours, circling each other before they mate. Eventually when they decide they like each other, they swap by the neck and both parties are impregnated. These snails are what hermaphrodites are, never humans. She spoke of the mistaken identity of intersex people, mainly intersex children. I had not much previous knowledge about intersex and found her class visit very informational. She shared with us major shojo mangas and boy mangas that now feature intersex. They seemed interesting and hope to read them some day.

Her activist writing on children of intersex was really interesting. Until I read her articles, I had never thought about the negative impact the medical community could potentially have on intersex children. Because I studied biology at this school, and work at the University hospital, I only have views of the medical community as doing anything they can to help people. It was unusual for me to hear her speak on the negative impact medicine could potentially have on these children. The reason she sees this is because these children, due to their unusual physical appearance, are often times examined by an entire medical team. It is sometimes referred to as a “public stripping” where the children must undress in front of a team. Sometimes pictures are taken of their naked bodies. I am a bit torn on this issue, as it makes sense that the medical team’s purpose is to pursue further medical knowledge of intersex so that more can be done to help intersex children. However at the same time, the way things are done currently seem to be a bit extreme and very careless of the children’s emotions. Hopefully improvements can be made for the future.
Read the rest of this entry »

I Have or I Am?

May 29, 2007

Speaking on the subject of how inter-sex individuals and their families view the state of inter-sex, Emi Koyama brought up the question of whether inter-sex individuals view themselves as having inter-sex or being inter-sex, especially in light of the fact that there has been a recent decision to change the name from inter-sex to Disorders of Sex Development. Would an inter-sex individual say, “I have inter-sex,” implying a condition as the new name seems to indicate, or would they say “I am inter-sex,” implying an identity? Treating inter-sex as identity, it would seem, renders it as something that colors every aspect of someone’s life while treating it as a condition leaves it as only one on a long list of self-defining characteristics.

This same question can also be applied to the “Otaku.” In some contexts otaku is viewed as an identity, whether it is outsiders pining this label on others or those who are self-proclaimed. For many of these identity otakus it does not seem that any segement of their life remains untouched by the state of otaku-ness. To draw from fictitious examples, we can look at the example found in the characters of “Genshiken” and Train Man. These characters were obviously and pervasively “otaku,” and being otaku took on more connotations than just being extremely obsessed with something—it was a way of life, a mode of being.

On the other hand it seems that some would treat Otaku as a condition, particularly those who are (hyper) critical of it. The Miyazaki incident, as related by Kinsella and Schodt, brought to mind the way in which otaku can be perceived as a disease, something put on with a pathology and symptoms, something that is a singular (broken) facet of a person’s personality. Otaku becomes a condition that may demand treatment.

Is there any right way to approach labeling, be it in the context of an inter-sex individual, an otaku or > enter defining characteristic