Saturday, September 29, 2007

Difference and hate-crimes

I had almost forgotten about the story of Matthew Shepard. When I was teaching diversity to journalism students, I used his story a lot when talking about hate speech/acts against sexual minorities precisely because it was so powerful. As I was browsing the net the other day, I came across a case study on the power of social networking through the internet in the case of Matthew's death, and was reminded of the story once again.

You see, this boy could have been any one of us. And that's what's so frightening about his story: born in 1976 and violently killed in 1998. The crime was motivated by the fact that Matthew was gay. The 22 years old political science college student was different from what was perceived as 'normal sexual behavior'. Why was this difference offending? Why it still is? What is it that makes some of us feel that someone else's sexuality infringes upon our own? Who defines what normal sexuality is and why we never question that definition for ourselves?

In his book The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault has argued that bourgeois society has transformed sex into something that can and should be controlled. Sexuality, a central part of our embodied existence, was enlisted into capitalist logic of production. Good sex is that aimed at producing new labor force. The moralization of sexuality, which resonated so strongly with Christian dogma, policed our own desires, bodies and behaviors. Forms of sexuality which do not lead to reproduction are stigmatized, since they are not "economically useful and politically conservative" (p. 37).

Easier said then done. I mean, Foucault might provide interesting answers, but how can these answers help us becoming less judgmental and more inclusive?

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