who what when where

What constitutes a problem is not the thing, or the environment where we find the thing, but the conjunction of the two;  (45)

This line stood out to me in particular because of the way it relates to our discussion of identity and queer theory.  In context, she’s speaking in terms of her sampler and how it makes more sense in Elsie’s house than in her sewing class.  However, I think that this concept is really interesting when applied to the idea of identity.  Take for instance a lesbian couple.  According to Winterson, there is nothing inherently wrong with the couple themselves.  Place them in a Greek Orthodox church, however, and issues arise.  However, if you take a devout Greek Orthodox and place him in a lesbian dive bar in the West Village and issues are bound to arise there too.  Perhaps then it is environment that colors our perception of good and bad, right and wrong.  If something can be right in one context and wrong in another, is there such thing as something that is inherently, at its core, good?  And for that matter, can something be inherently, at its core, bad?  This might be a stretch, but this then leads me to explore the concept of gender.  I think that Winterson’s words here can be used to argue that everything, not just goodness and badness, is contextual and situational.  Therefore, gender, sexuality, and everything else that we as a society have forced into black and white boxes could be argued to be entirely situational, rather than inherent.

6 thoughts on “who what when where”

  1. I noticed that the page you referenced was also referenced in the blog post Societal Expectations. This student talks about the societal expectations that Jeanette endures. I think that blog really strengthen the claim you are making. These societal expectations shape the black and white boxes you described in your post. Groups in society have different expectations so, like you said, what’s good and bad can be defined based off of the ideologies of the environment.

  2. This is a great quote pulled from the reading as I agree entirely about whether something can be considered inherently bad and/or inherently good. I also like the idea of gender and sexuality as being situational. In a way this could relate to another part in the book as to when Jeanette would go to the Paper store to get some Macaroons from the two “deviant” women who lived there. However Jeanette would still treat them with respect despite the rumors. She saw those women as people and I think she is now struggling with the feelings she has for Melanie.

  3. I found your analogy of a lesbian couple interesting. I couldn’t help but think of the lesbian couple that Jeanette meets early on in the novel. When she first meets them, she sees them as people and treats them as such. She has no opinions of them being forced on her by institutions such as religion. She has no idea there could ever be a reason to see these people as doing something “wrong”, but once the views of her mother are brought in to the picture, Jeanette is forced to learn to view them as wrong-doers.

  4. After reading this quote I instantly thought of the concept of gender as well. I think in our world it would be impossible to reach a point of consistent standards of what is “good” and what is “bad” because there are so many different environments in which they’re found. It doesn’t even have to just be about gender, think about how people dress. In one environment, wearing a certain outfit may symbolize wealth and power, but in another environment that same outfit may be frowned upon or deemed as unacceptable. I think when confronting the issues we face in the world today, it is essential we understand the environment in which it’s taking place. By understanding the background of something we are able to have a better understanding of why that issue is an issue.

  5. This line really stood out to me as well; it is so seemingly simple, yet so insightful. i really like the example of a lesbian couple in a Greek Orthodox church, because when i read this passage in the novel, i immediately thought of my own experience of this feeling, when my girlfriend and I were visiting Rome, and went to the Vatican to see the Papal address. Though we were only standing there just as everyone else was, we could feel others around us staring and whispering. It felt as if the moment we entered Vatican City, the context of our mere existence took on a different meaning that it hadn’t had five minutes prior.
    In Jeanette’s case, I felt that the acknowledgment of this concept is a point of foreshadowing to her coming out; that her sexuality is evil within in the view of her mother and in the context of her fundamentalist church, but not evil in other settings outside of the bubble that she lives in now.

  6. I found your analysis to be very similar to the thoughts that I’ve had throughout this course. Your explanation of societal norms as the primary determinant on our perceptions of right and wrong mirrors my own thought process on many of the issues that we’ve dealt with thus far. Because we only have so much control over the thoughts and beliefs of other people and of a society as a whole, how are we supposed to deal with stigmas and stereotypes that surround certain minority groups? It’s a sad reality that there are plenty of people in our contemporary society that our unwilling to change their perceptions on certain groups of marginalized people. If this is the case, how are we ever supposed to truly reach societal levels of acceptance?

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