About Sarah Schulman
This is the text of the author’s keynote address at the Fazendo Genero conference in Santa Catarina, Brazil, delivered today, September 20, 2013 at 6PM EST.
The author extends her thanks to Jasbir Puar, Christina Handhart, Tim McCaskell, for foundational influences and TL Cowan, Alexandra Juhas, Jasmine Rault, Michelle Pearson Clarke and Zab for textual suggestions.
Thank you so much for this incredible honor and opportunity to meet with you, to visit Brazil for the first time, and to share with you some of my experiences and insights on where we are now.
The given theme is “The Challenge of Feminism” and I have to ask myself “What isn’t the challenge of feminism?” Not only are we talking about how women live and feel, but we’re also – now- using the word to mean a value system, a way of doing things. So, when we look at the materiality of women’s lives across the globe, we see a continued exclusion from power. But also, when we look at human methodology, in general, we see an eclipse of justice from the governmental to the personal.
So, in the long period of preparation for this talk, I decided that I want to focus on the very dramatic transformations in the gay movement/the LGBT movement/the queer movement, in a very short period of time, and its relationship to feminism. How concepts and self-concepts have evolved that eclipse “feminism” – a system rooted in justice, equal opportunity, access and the value of both the individual and the community. Some of these ideas are already in circulation and some are new. Some are solid and some are tentative. I am grateful in advance for your attention and very much look forward to our discussion.
Gay people are fitting themselves into a dysfunctional box in order to win approval
President Obama’s endorsement of marriage rights for same-sex couples gives us a moment to reflect on what lesbian, gay and bisexual people have had to do to win this recognition. We’re all sophisticated enough to know that oppressed minorities don’t just achieve basic rights because the dominant group has an epiphany. On the contrary, LGB people, like others who came before them have to go through (or seem to go through) assimilative transformations in order to become acceptable enough to the heterosexual majority to be considered for equal legal rights.
In its origins, the Gay Liberation movement arose to change society, to expand rigid gender roles, to break down confining social mores of privatized families and to defy the consumerism that accompanies monogamy and nuclear family lifestyle in the United States. It stood for sexual expression based on consensual desires, and community based relationships in tandem with monogamous and non-monogamous couples.
On Wednesday, November 23, 2011 I published an op-ed in the NY Times,(Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’). This 900 word piece attempted to contextualize Pinkwashing. Here is a more detailed documentary history of Brand Israel, Israel’s campaign to re-brand itself in the minds of the world, as well as the development of pinkwashing as a funded, explicit and deliberate marketing project within Brand Israel.
According to the Jewish Daily Forward, in 2005 The Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry concluded three years of consultation with American marketing executives and launched “Brand Israel,” a campaign to “re-brand” the country’s image to appear “relevant and modern” instead of militaristic and religious.
“Americans don’t see Israel as being like the US,” explained David Sable, CEA and vice president of Wunderman, a division of Young and Rubicam that conducted extensive and costly branding research for Israel at no charge. His conclusion was that while Israel, as a brand, is strong in America, it is “better known than liked, and constrained by lack of relevance.” Sable elaborated, Americans “find Israel to be totally irrelevant to their lives and they are tuning out…particularly 18-34 year old males, the most significant target.” Brand Israel intended to change this by selecting aspects of Israeli society to highlight and bringing Americans directly to them. They started off with a free trip for architectural writers, and then another for food and wine writers. The goal of these “and numerous other efforts” was to convey an image of Israel “as a productive, vibrant and cutting-edge culture.”