WGST 303 Day 10 Naturalizing Difference


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  • Distinction between ethnicity and raceCensus now allows for multiple check-offs under race.
  • WGST 303 Day 10 Naturalizing Difference

    1. 1. Eugenics Dr. Sara Diaz WGST 303: The *isms: Race, Class, and Gender Gonzaga University
    2. 2. Discussion Questions • The ideology of color-blindness often (but not always) accompanies symbolic ethnicity. • What is “symbolic ethnicity”? • How is it related to individualism?
    3. 3. Discussion Questions • How does ethnic identity formation differ for White and non-White groups? • How is this a source of tension and misunderstanding between people of European descent and people of color in the United States? • Can you identity racial tensions on campus similar to the examples Waters talks about? How can these tensions be resolved?
    4. 4. Individual vs Collective • Complex and confused history of individualist and collectivist ideologies. • Often the preference for one over another w/in an institution benefits the privileged. • Example: Eugenics. • Based on an understanding of human beings as part of a collective biological organism. • Connects individual outcomes to the collective good, where “collective good” is understood to apply specifically and exclusively to the privileged class.
    5. 5. Biological Determinism • The idea that biological factors alone, rather than social or environmental factors, determine the behavior and capacities of an organism (humans in this case). • Related to “Essentialism”
    6. 6. Eugenics • The idea that the human species (referred to as race at the time) could be improved by selective breeding of people w/ desirable traits. • Assumes that un/desirable social traits are actually biologically heritable. • At one time was widely accepted by biologists and medical doctors. • European variety of eugenics led to Nazism and the holocaust. • Unpopular since 1950, but still present in a lot of our thinking.
    7. 7. The Unfit/Undesirable Traits considered to make someone unfit for breeding and assumed to have a biological basis: • Alcoholics • Prostitutes • Criminals: thieves, rapists, people w/ tattoos (no joke!) • The sexually deviant (LGBT) • People with mental illness • The “feeble minded” (people w/ developmental disability) • People with a physical disability • Cancer survivors • Asthmatics/Neurotics • Members of the “lower” races including those of mixed racial heritage • People who were adopted • People living in poverty
    8. 8. “Positive” Eugenics • Based on the idea that socially/genetically inferior or “unfit” “stock” out reproduce the superior. • Encouraged white upper middle class people to have lots of children in order to “keep up.” • Fit Family Contests – something like a dog show where children are examined for conformity to a breed standard. (yes, this is the root of our modern sense of “fitness.”) • Encouraged “responsible breeding” – men should not marry below their station or outside of their race to prevent breeding “unfit” children. • Anti-miscegenation laws.
    9. 9. Negative Eugenics • Based on the idea that socially/genetically inferior or “unfit” “stock” out reproduce the superior. • The best way to prevent the breeding of undesirable people was to prevent it. • Some members of the birth control movement subscribed to this idea – Margaret Sanger • In its most extreme form, advocates of negative eugenics launched forced sterilization campaigns of undesirable women.
    10. 10. Forced Sterilization • Some women/girls were simply lied to by doctors: Told they needed an appendectomy and received a hysterectomy instead. • Women in institutions • Women engaged w/ social services • Some women were sterilized after child birth w/o consent. • Common among Black, Chicana, and Native American women through the 1970s and there are still cases of this reported today.
    11. 11. Forced/Coerced Sterilization • Native people: some estimate that at least 25% of all fertile Native women and 10% of Native men were sterilized in the 1970s (that decade alone) at BIH clinics. • Puerto Rican women: 1965 estimate was that 30% or Puerto Rican mothers were sterilized. The number is remarkable given its heavily Catholic demographics • Mexican American women: Disproportionate numbers of Chicanas, particularly those on public assistance, sterilized using federal funds in CA. • African American Women: Forced sterilization so common it was referred to as a “Mississippi Appendectomy.”
    12. 12. Eugenics Today • Still see it in our language about fitness. • Social Darwinism: Weed out classes. • Image of the “welfare queen” as black woman whose reproduction is out of control. • Differential use high risk birth control methods among poor women and women of color (norplant, IUD). • Continued coercion of sterilization for women on public assistance (some cases of women being lied to and told they must be sterilized to be eligible for welfare). • Sterilization in prisons • Prenatal genetic testing • Genetic engineering