Yesterday I finished the book Gaga Feminism by J. Jack Halberstam. Overall, I found the book interesting and inspiring and so I now feel the need to write about it.
While Halberstam focuses on issues surrounding gender and sexuality in the book, I feel that many of the points are relevant to a broader frame. I took two larger points out of this book:
1. We don’t need to change to adapt to the system, the system should be changing to adapt to us.
Halberstam brings up same-sex marriage and questions why “marriage” is such an issue at all. Yes, legal marriage affords many people rites that domestic partnerships (or even legally-unrecognized partnerships) does not, but isn’t that part of the bigger picture of things that need to change? We need to work on changing the way families are recognized in society instead of trying to adapt ourselves to society’s definition of a family.
2. Labels are becoming less and less definitive.
The chapter which particularly struck me in Halberstam’s book was the one on sexual fluidity. It’s a concept I’ve believed in for a long time and it completely negates labels like “gay”, “straight”, or even “bisexual”. Once you box yourself into a label, it becomes more difficult to break free, even if you feel it no longer (or never did) applies to you. This may lead to people feeling ashamed of their feelings or worry about the consequences/social outlook if they decide to change what they’ve previously been labeled as.
In keeping with the theme of my previous post, after finishing the book, I decided to write to the author to let them know how much I had enjoyed the book. I was shocked and pleased to hear back from Halberstam a few hours later. Unfortunately, there was some talk of a few of the negative reviews it received on Amazon. However, I feel this only reinforces the need for a book like this: If the system and labels we’ve been using are truly what works best for us, then we can look forward to the unrest Halberstam mentions that surrounds these systems dying down. But if there is a need for something different, I think we’ll being seeing more of what Gaga Feminism has to offer in the coming years.
Either way, I think questioning why something is the way that it is is always a prudent exercise and allows us to find both its strengths and flaws.