Catherine Fox. “Text of Our Institutional Lives: From Transaction to Transformation: (En)countering White Heteronormativity in ‘Safe Spaces’.”

Fox, Catherine. “Text of Our Institutional Lives: From Transaction to Transformation: (En)countering White Heteronormativity in ‘Safe Spaces’.” College English, vol. 69, no. 5, 2007, pp. 496-511. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

To remember:

  • Much work in queer theory focuses on either classroom pedagogy or traditional scholarship; other spaces that shape our work as English professors are often overlooked-the hallways and offices where we interact, often more intimately, with our students and colleagues, spaces that can be read as a “text.” Beginning with the premise that posting a safe-space decal is a discursive performance, I illustrate how this performance reproduces a heteronormative order through conflation of safety with comfort, through reproduction of a hetero/homo binary, and through elision of the “queer” work that needs to occur in order to consider the complexity of queer people (497).
  • The exigency of physical safety is a necessary and productive place to begin imagining how to create conditions where queer folks can learn, teach, and research (498).
  • However there is certainly some question about whether or not one who posts a sticker is prepared to advocate for the necessarily complex population denoted by “LGBT” … the complex intersectionality of race, class, gender, and ability: ‘The same conditions that allow homophobia and transphobia to develop most likely promote racism, classism, sexism, ableism and other forms of prejudice’ (GLSEN 4) (498).
  • suggesting that other ‘isms’ are the work of other groups implies a universal gay experience in relation to homophobia and heterosexism. Such a move fails to recognize how heterosexism and homophobia are always inflected with race and gender and fails to recognize that queers who are marked ‘other’ by race and gender experience such oppressions differently. This discourse produces and normalizes a particular kind of object around which safe spaces are organized-a white male-marginalizing or rendering invisible others in the discourse of ‘safe space’ (498).

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