Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sally ride and the epistemology of the closet

PHOTO: Google Books Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Epistemology of the Closet," University of California Press, 2008 -- About this book -- "Since the late 1980s, queer studies and theory have become vital to the intellectual and political life of the United States. This has been due, in no small degree, to the influence of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's critically acclaimed Epistemology of the Closet. Working from classic texts of European and American writers--including Melville, James, Nietzsche, Proust, and Wilde--Sedgwick analyzes a turn-of-the-century historical moment in which sexual orientation became as important a demarcation of personhood as gender had been for centuries. In her preface to this updated edition Sedgwick places the book both personally and historically, looking specifically at the horror of the first wave of the AIDS epidemic and its influence on the text."

Another antigay letter appeared in my local newspaper (by Marian Ely, "Letter: Who cares if Sally Ride was gay? She was an excellent role model," Gazette-Times, Jul. 27, 2012, p. A13). Similar to previous ones, it was disguised as a naive question by somebody who insisted they had "gay friends. At first I ignored it because it wasn't clear if the person was well intentioned, but clueless, or if they were just repeating an old point made by a few uninitiated gay people and also antigay political groups. However, I was also concerned that a short letter in reply could not convey all of the complex ideas surrounding how the closet only perpetuates anti-gay discrimination. Below is the copy edited version as it was printed in the newspaper:

(Marian Ely's) letter of July 27 letter asked, who cares if Sally Ride was gay?

One answer is it matters to the bare majority who voted to deny Ride's spouse the equal rights of opposite-sex married citizens.

Sally Ride volunteered to be a role model for female students seeking a science or engineering degree at Oregon State University.

A century ago, females had to literally hide their sex (today called gender) to become a successful engineer.

It is relevant news that Ride, an otherwise brave astronaut, apparently felt too intimidated by society to also be a role model for students with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ultimately, it was her choice to remain in the closet.

More than one doctoral thesis has analyzed the epistemology of the closet. All confirm the conventional wisdom that those who defend the closet facilitate discrimination.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Life of closeted homosexuality and global acclaim hold a lesson," Gazette-Times, posted Aug. 2, 2012)

Related links: