Archive for December, 2013

  • 2012-2013 Winner: “A Defense of the Legalization of Homosexuality in China” by Junmeng Zhu

    Date: 2013.12.17 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    A Defense of the Legalization of Homosexuality in China

    Homosexuality was accepted in Chinese history and major Chinese literature. However, there has never been a time like now when this complex issue is exposed to the society directly, igniting controversial debate. Since there were considerable and various historic, social, governmental, cultural causes, the issue is now becoming really complex. Some people detest gay people violently because they think homosexuality is a mental disease, which is a misunderstanding. Except for those who totally cannot accept it, interestingly, most Chinese people take a position of acceptance but do no support of legalization. Importantly, it is the traditional culture of “family” that makes people so anxious when talking about homosexuality. However, with the research on homosexuality having gone on in China, it is now the time to make it possible to legalize homosexuality in China. Although it must be admitted that China is lacking for several conditions to establish a complete law system for homosexual community, homosexuality should still be legalized in China for four reasons. First, since homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality, it should be protected by statute laws like heterosexual relationships are. Also, it should be legalized for the responsibility on the heritage of the valuable Chinese traditional institution: respect and acceptance, which is even more important today.  Third, legalization is needed because of the uptrend of visible homosexuals and their urgent needs of legal protection. Lastly, there will be considerable benefits gained from the legalization of homosexuality.

    In order to understand the problem of legalization of homosexuality in China, it is important to address the context of the debate first. Basically, there are two main reasons why Chinese society is against homosexuality. First of all, the misunderstanding of homosexuality is a problem in China when achieving the legalization of homosexuality. Though there are many scholars who concentrate on research of homosexuality in China now and they are showing efforts to make the Chinese public notice and admit the existence of homos, it is still really hard for the whole society in China to actually know them. Some Chinese still have the impression that homosexuals are abnormal. Certain amounts of people think homosexuality is a kind of mental disease or disorder. Some even think homosexuality can be “cured” by some medical treatments. This misunderstanding is a pity, in that it shows that even though China has become the second economically strong country, its humanistic construction is still incomplete. The mistaken impression of the LGBT community is difficult to change because of the absence of mainstream media, such as newspaper, TV programs, and radio in the homosexual issue and the absence is from the ambiguous position of Chinese government. A solution to solve this problem is to let media have legislative evidence to make their argument, not always ignoring this issue. Thus, the legalization of homosexuality is really important and the Chinese government should start doing this. It is natural to be homosexual. The idea that homosexuality is abnormal should never become a reason why some people are against it.

    Second, the influences of ethical and philosophical systems have blocked the legalization process in China. In America, a great number of people who are offended by homosexuality are influenced by their religious beliefs, which built their moral rules toward many issues. However, since China is not a country with a particularly or historically homophobic culture, the most influential view that blocks the society’s moral permittivity of homosexuality is the strong conviction of family meaning parents and children.  The deep conviction about family is a result of the culture of Confucianism that dominated Chinese official and mainstream values in the long history from Han Dynasty to Qing Dynasty. In one of the representative works of Confucianism Daxue(The Great Learning), the family is put on the second place in the process of achieving a man’s political dream just after a series of steps to refine onself (修身齐家治国平天下) (Indiana University, Early Chinese Thought, 3). The influence of Confucianism is so profound. In the article China The Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide , there is a true statement about the current Chinese social situation: “ The institution of marriage is so deeply rootead in China that sometimes marriage becomes a public matter instead of a private matter: parents worry about it; neighbors talk about it; colleagues offer suggestions, and everyone looks for different ways to be helpful.”  (Steward 361)You can imagine, for homosexual people, how high the pressure is. To contrast the idea of ,“family”, the purpose of a partnership is not only procreation, but also the exclusive commitment with your partners. Can’t homosexual people form a normal family? The answer is yes, and to achieve this, the admission of their relationships in law is necessary. They can have a family with a commitment from two partners, and they can have children. Some people are worried about the risk of raising a child for homosexual couples. However, they do not need to and an example proving this is given. There is a popular speech video on supporting the legalization of same sex marriage in Iowa State on weibo (Chinese micro blog).    It was delivered by an excellent student Zach Wahls at University of Iowa who was raised by a lesbian couple. He states, “my family isn’t actually different from yours. Not once have I been confronted by an individual who realized independently I was raised by a gay couple because the sexual orientation of my parents has zero impact on the content of my character.” Homosexual couples have the ability of raise a child as usual and the fact that they are gay does not influence their children to be gay. Consequently, a responsible government should offer the legislation on homosexual partners’ relationship in order to provide them with a chance to form a real family.

    Furthermore, there are several main reasons defending the legalization of homosexuality. First of all, homosexual love is also from human nature. Homosexual people will meet someone in some situation. They will get to know each other. They will feel a passionate sentiment toward the right person, and then form the thought in their mind to spend the whole life with that person who has the same gender. However, the love is the same as heterosexual one. Love is just love, without reference to genders. Dr. Michael J. Sandel, best known as the Professor of an online Harvard course named “Justice,” affirms that “the love of humanity is a noble sentiment.” Love is one of the most wonderful things in the world making generations of people expect it since the start of history. Since marriage is an institution that honors, recognizes and protects love, if love is present, it should be legally protected in the form of marriage. Thus, the legislations should protect homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally.

    What’s more, it is special that in Chinese history, the acceptance of homosexuality is greater than in Capitalist countries. This is mainly because China does not have a religion that opposes homosexuality. Referring to many historic records and literature in different historic time in China, there are a number of instances of homosexuality that are accepted by people centuries ago when China was still an autocratic country. For example, recorded in the great work of Bangu, a famous historian in Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), one day the emperor Ai (reigned 6 BCE–1 CE) woke up next to his favorite same sex partner Dong Xian. The emperor got up, however his sleeve was pinned by Dong. The emperor thought he could not wake his favorite up. So he cut his sleeve to go. The term “断袖”(cut sleeve) then refers to homosexuality in China. These relationships were not only accepted but also recorded as admirable stories. Since ancient time, Chinese people have had the institution of respect and acceptance. What Chinese should do is to preserve the good institution. Since China is in a much more developed society than ever before and since the role of legislation is a symbol of a well-developed country, China should agree to legalize homosexuality.

    In addition, there is an urgent need for the legalization of homosexual relationships because of an uptrend of visible homosexual people and a society that still has discrimination against gay people in many areas. The internet plays a significant role in the campaign of queer people. The internet offers a place to let homosexual people be visible in a relatively private and safe way. The internet is so powerful a place that homosexual issues are discussed. There are websites for gay people to gather, there are blogs defending the legalization of homosexuality, and there are homosexual couples telling their stories. With the increasing number of visible homosexuals, homosexuality is no longer so minor that the whole society and the government do not realize it. The formation of the new term “出柜” particular for homosexuals means the visible trend that homosexual people are braver than ever and they tend to tell their family and friends about their sexual orientation someday in a more proper way.  Also, Youjian Wu who is a mother of a gay and now an activist who helps gay people “出柜” in a proper way is evidence that there is a need of some kind of recognition or help from homosexual people. They strive for equal rights. The reason why there is an urgent need is also because the visible homosexual people are under discrimination. So far, in China, there is no such discrimination to death like Americans did in the history. However, if you are gay, you will be under the risk of losing your job, the situation of losing your, “friends”, and the possibility of a break out from your nuclear family. Those are things that are more severe than physical abuse. To achieve a peaceful social condition without fear for them,having a clear legislation of the admission of homosexuality is necessary. Though at first the legislation may not totally prohibit those abuses, the law at least can be a proof when their rights are abused and when they are unequally treated.

    More importantly, the legalization of homosexuality brings many benefits to homosexual people and to family relations. First, it can contribute to reduce health problems, mainly HIV\AIDS for gay people. Yinhe Li, one of Chinese most famous sociologists and sexologists states in her blog that more than 40% of HIV was transmitted by heterosexual contacts and only 5% was transmitted by homosexual contacts in China. However, the problem is that 5% is higher than the proportion of homosexuals in the society. With the limited permittivity and without the guarantee of legislative authority, gay people cannot find their stable partner. Suppose homosexual relationships and gay people’s rights are protected by law like heterosexual relations. If they need to perform responsibility to their partner and if their rights are protected, they would like to keep a stable relationship too. In addition, with the legalization of homosexuality, gay people will tend to be more visible, so that there will not be tragedies that the heterosexual partner of homosexual people find out their partner is homosexual after they have married each other. These heterosexual partners are innocent, but they must undergo the miserable experience because their partners do not have the right to declare their sexual orientation under high pressure from family or the society. According to the two benefits, Chinese government should enact a statute for homosexuality.

    Though there are ideas both for and against the legalization of homosexuality all over the world, there are certain people think that government should get out of the business of any kind of relationship or marriage no matter whether it is heterosexual or homosexual because, they think, government can never represent every single person in the society and the government does not have any rights to impose a general idea to its citizens. However, the recognition of a relationship needs to be completed by governmental law since a marriage or a legal relationship is not only a personal choice but also a social recognition and honor. It is true that family is about a core value of your own family, but since we live in a society together with other people, the acceptance and the others’ blessings become important. Especially in China, governmental decisions have more meaning than American ones under the special situation of Chinese democracy. Hence, it also becomes much harder to let the government respond to these complicating and contested issues. Thus, recognition of the government in China is pretty important for homosexuals. They need the legal support to define their social position in Chinese society.

    There is some homosexual people share or talk about their experience online in some groups where the supporters of them will also go to.  There is a desperate situation that when there is a boy saying that he happens to like a boy. Most of the responds are saying “decide after think it over. The way is so hard to go. ” These comments are from those supporters. Can you tell how sad this is? Even the supporters are not confident about the future of the homosexual people and they are subconsciously persuading the people to abandon their love towards the same gender. In reality, the situation reflects the famous Chinese saying: “We are like the fishes living in the dark, deep sea where no one can get close to us so that we can protect ourselves.” If the society cannot rationally accept homosexuality, hopefully, legalization of homosexuality can promise them a better future. Under the complicated social situation on the issue of homosexuality, a more realistic suggestion is to enact some minor statutes referring to homosexuality and gradually enlarge the content of them.

    Work Cited

    China. Hongwei Bao. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide. Ed. Chuck Stewart. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2010. p355-373. Word Count: 9868

    Zach Wahls. January 31, 2011

    Michael J. Sandel

    Yinhe Li.同性恋与艾滋病(Homosexuality and AIDS)2012-11-30 Blog. Web.

    Indiana University, Early Chinese Thought [B/E/P374] – Fall 2010 (R. Eno)

  • 2012-2013 Winner: “Does What You Like Define Who You Are” by Malie Fujii

    Date: 2013.12.17 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Does What You Like Define Who You Are?

    The reliability of one’s popular culture preferences as true indicators of his or her identity is a matter that relies heavily on perspective.  Some view an individual’s cultural interests as insignificant factors in determining identity, pointing instead to innate elements of character as the traditionally dominant mediums of personal definition and asserting that common interests among groups do not always signal a universally definable identity. However, when approached from a perspective that focuses on individuals rather than culturally-categorized groups, preferences can provide revealing information about an individual’s character, ultimately serving the external purpose of communicating and facilitating interpersonal understanding amongst individuals. With change being one of few things that holds constant in today’s increasingly diverse cultural landscape, personal definition is more important than ever. As society morphs from a unified picture of traditional Americanism into a vastly varied medley distinguished by difference and dissimilarity, individual identity has entered into the spotlight of social scrutiny, with historic emphasis on unanimity and conformity now holding less of a presence in modern culture. This newly diversified state of society calls for a new and necessary means of social unity. With the spotlight on this modern emphasis on individualism, the nature of social and individual identity composition is important to clarify: interests define identity not by creating it, but by reflecting it.

    When considering “what you like,” it is important to think about the scope of an individual’s preferences rather than zeroing in on just one particular tendency of interest. It may be easy to single out a person as a sports fan, a Beatles fan, or a science fiction fan, but shallow labels like these cannot even begin to provide a holistic depiction of an individual’s ideology. As Gary Westfahl claims in his article “Ways of Defining Personal Identity, and Popular Culture: Two (Largely) Unrelated Subjects,” while “one might imagine that science fiction enthusiasts would at least be united in supporting the American space program,” the diverse reactions within the sci-fi community in response to events such as the Columbia space shuttle tragedy suggest that although fans may have similar interests, their individual points of view vary significantly (Westfahl). Because different people hold varying stances on a multitude of facets of popular culture, only a consideration of the multiplicity of an individual’s interests can provide an accurate understanding of the forces acting on a person’s identity. It is this notion of individualized multiplicities of interests that subverts attempts to apply universal assessments of character to seemingly monochromatic groups.

    While the implications of what you like are important to our investigation of identity, it is also necessary to enunciate the process of how exactly these interests define who you are as an individual. One could argue that an interest defines a person by directly accounting for changes to his or her character.  However, the acquisition of this interest must be called into question; an internal foundation of identity was likely responsible for assessing this new popular culture interest and embedding it into this person’s essence of character. Consider an individual brought up in a Christian household who listens to contemporary Christian music. It is difficult to argue that this person’s interest in Christian music is the direct source of his or her religious identity, since chronologically, their Christian upbringing preceded their preference for Christian music. Rather, based on this individual’s upbringing, their music preferences make sense; their religious background is the foundation upon which their subsequent musical taste is built, with this individual’s interest in Christian music pointing to valuable information about their identity. Instead of creating character traits, popular culture interests serve as symbolic indications of one’s inherent identity and provide a method for clarifying an individual’s character based on what one’s various interests imply and define about oneself.

    In contrast with the notion that cultural interests define character by serving as vehicles of individual symbolism, Westfahl argues that only in extreme cases of fandom and scholarship can people be accurately defined by their popular culture interests. In Westfahl’s view, only scholars and fans who are “utterly devoted to varieties of pop culture” are truly definable by the areas in which they focus their attention; popular culture scholars dedicate their entire careers to their mainstream literary concentrations, while fans sometimes become so enveloped in their interests that they engage in extreme behavior such as when “they fill their homes with Miami Dolphins memorabilia, attempt to own every single Barbie doll ever produced, or collect thousands and thousands of detective novels” (Westfahl). According to Westfahl, these scholars and overzealous fans comprise a limited exception of the population whose identities could be predicted based on their interests alone. This element of predictability stems from the extensive time and resources that these individuals dedicate to their popular culture interests, thus making their tastes a more visible part of the identity they convey to society. However, this take on how interests define identity is inconsistent with the concept of interests as symbols of identity that was discussed previously. In the extreme case of fans and scholars, rather than seeing interests as reflections of character, Westfahl sees interests as primary determinants of character. While it is accurate to say that a person may become engaged in a certain type of behavior due to that behavior’s relation to the individual’s main interests, it is more important to note that a person’s inherent character, values, and desires still function as the core foundation from which interests are developed. One wouldn’t know how to assess and acquire interests without a sense of their own self-concept to begin with. Therefore, tastes in popular culture define individuals in a way that describes who they are rather than decides who they are. Although a group may share a common interest, the group generally does not have a uniform ideology that can holistically define its members. With this reasoning, Westfahl concludes that popular culture interests are irrelevant in revealing details about individual identity. Yet, while it is true that not all people who share a common interest share similar beliefs, even on seemingly one-sided issues, we must furthermore investigate the multiplicity of interests that are acting on each individual and their role in defining identity. Consider the television series Glee. While fans of Glee all share the Gleek name, they each hold a different stake with regard to their interest in the series, bringing personal ideas and values about gender, race, sexuality, and other social matters to their viewing experience. These fans can be identified collectively as Gleeks, but beyond this title, they differ greatly on an individual basis in views, interests, and most importantly, identity. With varied influences and components to their identity, individuals within a group undoubtedly differ on certain issues, but still share basic identity elements in common based on their mutual areas of interest. Ultimately, Westfahl’s attempts to apply universal assumptions to diverse groups and to completely dismiss the significance of popular culture interests fail to expose the complexity of an individual’s identity and the factors interacting with it.

    While Westfahl’s broad definition of identity ignores the complicated nature of modern character, a view that focuses on the individualistic state of society more accurately describes how preferences define people. On an individual level, internal forces play a key role in defining who you are based on what you like. People are not exclusively reactant; often the environment that one lives in and the values one has acquired throughout life provide an individual with a core foundation for defining who they are. When confronted with new issues and factors in the popular culture world, an individual’s existing sense of identity examines these external stimuli, assessing whether they are a match or mismatch for a person’s character. It is in this way that interests define characteristics of individuals; interests acquired in this case-by-case basis symbolize a person’s traits, forming a mosaic of individual identity. For example, it can be inferred that a person with strong feminist views is likely to revere a culturally significant woman—Tina Fey, for instance—and reject the antifeminist sentiments of mainstream rappers whose lyrics often depict women as objects of the male gaze. While character assumptions like these do not necessarily imply universal relevance, this illustration reveals that popular culture tastes are often strongly linked with a person’s core identity and beliefs; it is highly unlikely that this individual formed a feminist viewpoint purely because they were influenced by Tina Fey and rap alone. Instead, it is more reasonable that their perspective is determined by internal values and beliefs, which then act as a filter for external cultural influences.

    In addition to the notion that existing internal forces facilitate the acquisition of relevant interests, another important implication of popular culture tastes is that they are valuable tools for communicating identity to others. Brian Cogan, in his article “Pop Culture and Individual Identity,” claims that cultural tastes hold meaningful information about identity. He argues that members of large groups, whether in sports, science fiction, or straight edge, all prove the importance of the influence of popular culture in facilitating socialization among likeminded individuals. Identifying with certain aspects of popular culture conveys different elements of one’s personality to others; in other words, mutual interests serve as a common language with which like-minded individuals can communicate their identities. For example, Cogan describes the straight edge ideology, a subculture of punk rock that emphasizes a substance-free lifestyle, as a popular cultural movement in which likeminded members of the punk rock community see straight edge as a “system where they can feel at home with others with…common belief systems” (Cogan). These individuals adopt the ideology and practices of the straight edge way of life, sometimes even marking their hands with X’s in order to identify themselves with the movement. This simple display of membership to a larger cultural community is more than just an expression of oneself as an individual composed of unique interests; it is simultaneously an external method of communication that allows others in the straight edge movement to recognize common beliefs. Mutual popular culture tastes not only reflect intrinsic beliefs on an individual level, but furthermore facilitate open communication and expression within communities, conveying valuable information about who individuals are in a broader cultural context.

    While some believe that what you like does not define who you are, it is unfair to assess the impact that interests have on identity by looking for group uniformity amongst individuals affected by a multiplicity of popular culture stimuli. It is also inaccurate to describe popular culture preferences as insignificant in defining character, as tastes serve as meaningful reflections of an individual’s own beliefs and values. A person’s identity can be symbolically defined through their preferences due to the fact that their internal sense of identity caused them to acquire their unique preferences in the first place. These elements of character are in turn reflected externally as the tastes in popular culture that are observed by society and communicated within it. Interests act as expressions of identity that allow people to unite over common tastes and the implied beliefs that accompany those tastes, leading to perceptions of group unity, despite seemingly overwhelming diversity. Ultimately, rather than dismissing popular culture interests as uninformative factors of personal identification, we must recognize the key role they play in revealing and expressing the character of individuals.

    Works Cited

    Cogan, Brian. “Pop Culture and Individual Identity.” Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

    Westfahl, Gary. “Ways of Defining Personal Identity, and Popular Culture: Two (Largely) Unrelated Subjects.” Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.


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