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Monday, December 12, 2005

HRC prepares for battle

The Harvard Republican's elected new leaders last week, and progressives should take note of an important paragraph in today's Crimson article:
"¬ďAll the candidates expressed agreement with the goal of the bottom-up leadership and the greater watchdog role," Dewey said.

The watchdog role that the HRC is trying to attain will involve playing a greater role in campus politics, such as the Undergraduate Council (UC) and dealings and dealings [sic] with the University administration.
While the old President Downer was known for his non-confrontational personal style, Stephen Dewey, a Cambridge Common reader, is known for just the opposite. Take, for example, an email he sent to HPU-open (Harvard Political Union) on Sept. 7th in which he distinguished between the gay rights movement (the mainstream movement which he is ok with) and the queer movement (the more radical movement that he "hates"):
I fully believe that "queer" activists' picture of an ideal world is a thousand-member man-animal BDSM orgy in the center of Copley Square on videotape, and I say that with all sincerity.
[...]
I am convinced that A) queer activists don't need rights, they need psychological counseling and B) they're basically being led by the Devil.
While words like this will certainly alienate Dewey from the majority of campus (even if they too think the "queer movement" is also too radical for them, I don't think they would express their disagreement quiet so intolerantly), progressives should be ready to do battle, the HRC is.

36 Comments:

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a queer activist and would not be into a thousand-member man-animal BDSM orgy in Copley Square.

First of all, like many queer activists, I believe in animal rights.

Second of all, I don't think that people should have to see fucking if they don't want to. It's not fair to have a large BDSM orgy in Copley because people should not have to see large orgies.

Nor does every queer activist want to participate in orgies or even BDSM on an individual level.

I think the biggest problem here, however, is not the specific argument made on that particular day, but the entire rhetoric often used by groups or individuals at harvard that would call themselves conservative. There is this form of rhetoric in which they try to frame what some other group is arguing for, without letting that group explain it for themselves. This is a perfect example of someone who clealy does not align himself with "queer activists" says what queer activists would want and completely misrepresents them.

If you're looking out for it, you will see this strategy used all the time.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen is nice enough in person, but I'm not sure if his style will end up hurting the HRC or helping it. I think they have been playing a larger role on campus over the last year but mostly because they have chosen their issues pretty carefully - like the BGLTSA thing. If the above email is any indication of what is to come, it will just be that much easier to write them off.

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Shit - is this the wing that has taken over the HRC? Did we go from a joint statement to "led by the devil" in one week?? I can imagine the dems may be a little gleeful about trading Downer for Dewey, but the campus as a whole might suffer...

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, in all fairness to Dewey, you took that email out of context. In that same email he talked about how he supported gay marriage - or at least some form of giving everyone equal rights, which he aknoweledged as both needed and right.

Also, in many respects, the campus as a whole will benefit when there is a strong debate on both sides and I think Dewey will hold up his end of that bargain.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I tried to put the email into context by pointing out that he was distinguishing between two movements, one which he is ok with and the other which he "hates." I also tried to make sure to be fair by linking to the email itself so that people can get context.

It's not simply the argument/opinions that Dewey will have trouble with, but the rhetoric. As a debater on HPU he can get away with this type of language, when he is leading the HRC he will need to learn to be politick, or realize that he is painting his entire community with his lack of rhetorical tact.

 
At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Quadling said...

This is the "gay agenda?" Holy shit, indeed.

There was a great flash cartoon I saw a while back of the "gay agenda," and maybe someone can dig it up. It showed two men at a small dinner table silently eating pasta. One of them murmurs something like, "So, how was your day?"

That is the gay agenda.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's be clear about our psychology:

homosexuality is no longer defined as a disorder in the DSM and is not "treatable" with psychological counseling.

but, the belief that oneself or others are being controlled by imaginary demons ("being led by the devil") is a sympton of numerous psychological disorders.

 
At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Caitlin said...

One of the many anonymous folks wrote: "Also, in many respects, the campus as a whole will benefit when there is a strong debate on both sides and I think Dewey will hold up his end of that bargain."

Strong debate can only take place when individuals on both sides are well-informed. As many people have already pointed out, Dewey's rhetoric does not reflect a solid understanding of the "queer" or "gay" agenda. If you attack a straw-man, what good is the argument you offer?

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger katie loncke said...

Okay, in addition to seething at the intolerance of the new HRC leadership, I hope we can also keep in mind Golis' last point: that while Dewey's comments are certainly inflammatory, they do reflect a real discomfort experienced by the majority of people in this country and on this campus (including people who call themselves progressives) whenever there's an attempt to step outside the narrow confines of 'gay rights' and address other aspects of the queer movement.

Rather than fixate on Dewey's statements themselves, I hope we can identify (1)what exactly most people think queer activists are about, (2)how this differs from the common perception of more mainstream 'gay rights activists,' (3)why people feel less comfortable supporting the former than the latter (why queer activism is 'too radical for them'), and (4)how we can help turn this trend around by self-educating within the progressive community (by which I mean taking the initiative to find resources ourselves rather than running to tug on the sleeve of the BGLTSA every time we have a question about queerness).

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The flip side of that is that I think part of getting ourselves educated may mean actively getting involved in LGBT/queer groups, like the BGLTSA, even for progressives who see themselves as part of the S. There's a reason there is an S for supporter there.

The BGLTSA walks a fine line between radical queer activism and building an LGBT community, and I think they are amazing at building bridges accross philisophical and political divides.

Not that we should constantly run to BGLTSA to be educated, but we should also recognize that groups like BGLTSA have multiple events every week designed at educating us, because they want to educate us, so we definitely are not getting in the way by attending and helping out in the ways that we can.

For example, the BGLTSA has a library in its resource center which is in holworthy basement and open from 11 to 5 on weekdays.

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that Stephen Dewey has been on the hrc board for at least a whole year (and in fact was on the board when the statement was made) why has this never been an issue before?

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

It was an issue on that list, but it's a list where many (including myself) let our rhetoric get a little out of hand and so people generally simply fight back. This, of course, was an extreme example and so I think it is relevant now.

It is also especially relevant because now, for a majority of campus, Stephen Dewey represents the Harvard Republicans. Simply being on the board of HRC is not the same thing. After all, I doubt many outside of the Dems, GOP, IOP communities knew who he was, while many know who Matt Downer is. In any event, it takes on new meaning now, and Dewey will have to deal with that...

 
At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, i guess that makes sense, and maybe it's because I'm not familiar with the republican club as much, but why was it any better under matt downer if he tolerated these kinds of statements?

 
At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Stephen Dewey said...

Hey everybody,

Thanks for your comments on this issue. It's obviously an important one that will impact a lot of people, including those who are not members of HRC.

Let me first say that I think it would be unfortunate if people developed their view of myself or HRC's future solely based on this post or that one email that I wrote. The email was intended for a specific audience, those who debate over hpu-open, and was written in a context where people get emotional about a lot of things and frequently send flaming emails back and forth. In fact, Andrew Golis himself has not been immune to this tendency (which he freely admits). When I wrote that email I was feeling particularly emotional, and it obviously shows. But I think it would be a mistake to extrapolate from that and to say that that reflects my overall demeanor or the quality of my political views.

In reality, I do hold nuanced views on the issue of sexual orientation and identity. An important point from my email was my distinction between outlooks on life that are based on "queer theory" and those that are based on one's perception of one's own orientation, and that's a distinction that I tried very hard to make. The theory/movement that I strongly dislike and to which I was referring was this concept that sexual orientation doesn't actually exist in a rigid form and that pretty much everything comes down to social constructs. This is often referred to as "systems of oppression" theory. I very much dislike this theory because I feel it takes a marxian (lowercase M) approach to the world and trivializes interpersonal relations.

Caitlin above suggests that I don't understand the "gay agenda," but she's wrong to put that in quote marks because I never said that phrase. She just puts me in a box along with all other conservatives... surely those who profess to be open-minded can do better than that.

Also, I take issue with those who suggest that I don't understand "queer" theory at all. I have been a silent subscriber to BGLTSA-Open for well over a year now, and read most of the emails that go over their list. While I find a lot to like, I also find a lot to dislike. There are clearly a lot of likeable people in the BGLTSA, who have concerns that I can fully sympathize with. However, I do think that there are people on the list who have a really warped worldview that boils everything down to systems of oppression. There are also a lot of people there who do seem obsessed with sex to an unhealthy degree. Clearly, any group has its positives and its negatives, and the BGLTSA is no different. But I don't think I'm amiss to rail against the negatives that I do see. For the sake of the email in question, I characterized the negatives as "queer activists" based on what I saw as their efforts to deconstruct the basic fabric of society, and contrasted them with "gay activists" (and related) who simply want recognition of their own fixed sexual orientation.

At any rate, I think that Andrew and others are wrong to predict that I will be an alienating figure in the next year or that I will fail at making politically tactful moves. With specific regard to the sexual orientation issue, I was actually among those who approved our joint press release with the BGLTSA. Furthermore, I am in the process of planning a joint HRC-BGLTSA study break where we can get together for the sake of dialogue. This should happen during reading period. Finally, we may also be bringing the president of the Log Cabin Republicans to speak this spring, also in cosponsorship with BGLTSA.

All that said, I have no intention of stopping being a strong voice for conservative politics, and I meant it when I said that we would perform a watchdog role this year. I think we can be respectful and reasonable but still principled at the same time. I think the only problem with the email you've cited is that I failed to phrase things in a way that most people would consider reasonable. However, a lot has changed since then, including my own approach to politics in general.

- Stephen

 
At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Attack of the Gay Agenda

 
At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The HRC made a mistake of course when last week they elected a vaguely coherent pumpkin to the post of presidency (and a man with a deliciously unholy name to the post of secretary). The distinction between "the gay rights movement" and "the queer movement" is intellectually bankrupt. It is not a difference in quality but quantity, not in ideas but methods. Both ideas seek the full acceptance of the gay minority into a majority hetero world. The question is which group will do more extreme things to get there and which group won't. And so by biting at one, you bite at the other. If one thought the goals were inherently valuable, one would do anything to get there.

I suspect at the heart of this distaste is one for the 'queerness' of gay people. It is not unreasonable to suggest that with this view of the world, gay people would be accepted only if they behaved straighter and be more 'normally', not rushing bigots to acccept more correct positions.

But that's the beauty of many in the BGLTSA, despite a sometimes oddly annnoying flamboyancy: they challenge the way the world works in a good way, unlike the HRC, which simply challenges for the sake of challenging, like an annoying 9 year old.

I suggest the HRC not settle for a "watchdog" role on campus, but rather a "thinkdog" role. Because that would entail some actual thinking before the bark, which I suspect could be desirable in a university.

 
At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The distinction between 'the gay rights movement' and 'the queer movement' is intellectually bankrupt. It is not a difference in quality but quantity, not in ideas but methods."

That's your distinction, but not a distinction he made. Your statement about it being intellectually bankrupt is offered without any basis whatsoever. At least Stephen describes exactly what he doesn't like about some people he terms "queer activists." If he gets the nomenclature wrong, then so be it. But I think his point is still well taken.

 
At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone else pick up on the irony in stephen dewey's post "people get emotional about a lot of things and frequently send flaming emails back and forth" ?

 
At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Golis, I really don't think you should have done this. Yeah, he said those things, but they were in the context of HPU. When people debate at HPU, they have to have the freedom to speak openly. Otherwise, nobody can really debate anything.

Whether or not you admit it, I think what this is really about is your desire to defame the new HRC President's character.

 
At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the distinction between the "gay rights movement" and the "queer movement" is a distinction he made earlier in his email to the HPU (and something Golis crystallized in his blog post).

This distinction is intellectually bankrupt because it is a contradiction. He claims to support the gay rights movement but not the queer movement. Yet both stand for the same thing. It is true they differ in their methods. But if you support the goal of gay rights, you wouldn't feel such a vehemence to the queer movement, because both of you support the goal of gay rights.

Warning: Ad Hominem attack coming up: I suspect this distinction is made so that one can hate gay people under an intellectually respectable model.

 
At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yet both stand for the same thing."

I think his point was exactly that this is not the case.

 
At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, yes. The former stands for a thousand-member BDSM orgy in Copley Square while the latter stands for gay rights for normal people.

Honestly though, what is the distinction between 'gay rights' and the 'queer movement' if not in method? Is there an intellectual distinction? If there is, I'd be willing to hear it.

 
At 1:17 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

while I strongly disagree with it, I would recommend reading Dewey's own account of the difference before we speculate about what he meant.

 
At 2:23 AM, Anonymous quadling said...

Can anyone even point to any radical queer rights movement wanting anything close to an orgy in Copley? Can we see a link to a position paper?

Lord knows that if someone is seriously believes this, they'd have posted it online.

 
At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
anyone else pick up on the irony in stephen dewey's post "people get emotional about a lot of things and frequently send flaming emails back and forth" ?"

-Yup, quite funny.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Lori Adelman said...

Coming at this from a slightly different angle...
Despite Dewey's semantical and somewhat futile attempts to distinguish the Civil Rights Movement from the Queer Rights Movement, I find it ironic that his exposed email shows evidence of precisely the same existing parallel he is trying to disprove. While Dewey finds it important to distinguish between the "Gay Rights Movement" and the "Queer Rights Movement", one of which is acceptable to him and one which is not, many racists of the Civil Rights era, and even today, try to rationalize their prejudice on the basis of making a distinction between rights for "African-Americans" who behave "correctly" (read: docile, safely) and are therefore deserving of the equal rights society offers them, and "n-words, or insert other derogatory term for blacks here" who have wild, irrational lifestyles and ideas and whose equality would disband social constructions society holds dear (think black nationalists, or even black rappers). The point is that while they might differ in methodology and behavior, their ultimate goal is the same- equality for blacks. Or, in the more modern example of oppression, equality for gays.

 
At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Lori, you're assuming that when somebody takes issue with means, they're taking issue with ends as well. That's just not a logical progression and you would be hard-pressed to prove it. Couldn't somebody, for example, have been very opposed to the Black Panthers but still supported equality for blacks? You're putting words into his mouth.

 
At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to anonymous above, I would add that his contention is that the ends, and not just the means, are actually different. So he would take issue with the assumptions in Lori's post.

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger katie loncke said...

I think that what Lori is pointing out is that Dewey is being overly narrow in his definition of the Civil Rights Movement--a movement that included The Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and various Black Power and Black Separatist factions in addition to the more well-loved and romanticized MLK, Brown v. Board, SNCC, CLC, etc. Many of the groups and individuals involved in the Civil Rights Movement differed in *both* means and desired ends: some were willing to use violence while others were not (even Ida B. Wells advised Blacks to buy rifles for self-defense), and some wanted integration while others wanted separation.

It seems to me that Dewey is being selective in his definitions of both movements. He claims that "The intent of the Civil Rights movement was to resolve major material
discrepancies between the quality of life of blacks and whites." But the Civil Rights movement was clearly about more than material issues. Even the Brown v. Board decision came down to the reasoning that segregation was inherently socially harmful *even if* material conditions in separate schools were equal. I'm inclined to make the same argument about the same-sex marriage issue: even if civil unions are recognized and even if they include all the same rights and benefits of marriage, the fact that they are legally different from marriage continues to be a problem.

As far as his beef with the "sickos" in the queer movement, it's pretty naive to believe that only queer people--or all queer people--have kinky sex. Straight people actually fought to be included in the S&M leather culture back in the day (the transition between the Old Guard and the New Guard). Do all queer people want to have orgies, and are they the only ones who want to? Really?

But I do agree with Steve in that the broader queer movement (as (perhaps) distinct from or encompassing the gay rights movement, and (perhaps) distinct from or encompassing the specific equal marriage issue) tends to do more to challenge gender binaries and traditional gender roles, which is considered more radical. But if we're taking the cartoon above as an example of a typical gay rights argument, we need to be aware that the image it presents of an ostensibly same-sex couple (one character could be gender queer or transgender--there's no indication in the cartoon) is white and middle-class. Using this image of gayness--an image that is as comfortable and mainstream as you can get, basically--is strategically smart, but it also obscures other realities of the gay rights movement. It's similar to Lori's example of how some African Americans were held up as shining examples of normalcy because they were mainstream enough, but as a result, other Black Americans were further marginalized because they did not fit that mainstream, non-threatening mold.

 
At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Couldn't somebody, for example, have been very opposed to the Black Panthers but still supported equality for blacks? You're putting words into his mouth."

Look at the Panther's ten point plan. They wanted a plebiscite to breakaway from America. They weren't striving for equality, but separation. Thus the ends were different, whereas the gay and queer rights movement share the same ends.

I stand by my ad hominem attack: that the reason the distinction between the queer rights and gay rights movement was made was because it allowed Stephen Dewey to feel a distatse for gays in a politically acceptable model.

 
At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous above, it's pretty ridiculous that you're making ad hominem attacks from the shroud of anonymity. If you're so confident in what you're saying, why don't you at least give your name? That's pretty cowardly.

I think we're just talking past each other at this point, but I want to reiterate my point from before that not only did Stephen say he saw a difference between the two groups, but he described exactly what that difference was: the one group wants recognition and acceptance into society, the other views all social bounds as basically constructed and wants to change them for all people, not just for themselves. Whether or not the second group actually exists may be debatable. But his vitriol was clearly directed at that group.

Clearly you enjoy attacking him, so I won't belabor the point or expect a change of heart.

 
At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, attacking gays themselves remains fairly politically acceptable, and as Andrew points out, Stephen doesn't really seem to care very much what is and is not politically acceptable (though that may change now, this was before he was HRC President). So the truth of your attack is dubious.

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous has just attacked anonymous for being anonymous.

Love,
Anonymous

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the UC race is over - happy days are here again.

-Anonymous

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can people please stop posting in my name?
Ann Onymous

 
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