Vicious Arrest Sparking Controversy

In mid-March, Martese Johnson was arrested outside of a Charlottesville pub during a night on the university town. Friends and other witnesses say that Martese was tackled without purpose. Although the Alcohol Beverage Control agents say that he “was very agitated and belligerent” (2015), a student at the scene said “He wasn’t being aggressive at all”(2015).

Martese Johnson is a black male at 20 years of age, attending school at the University of Virginia. His arrest sparked protests amongst classmates of Martese’s because the agents carrying out the arrest are white and Martese is black. Because of the history of racism in the United States, this has sparked conflict for the people of Virginia.

The way in which people are talking about Martese’s vicious arrest is that the agents who arrested and showed aggression towards Martese in a defensive way to Martese. The articles poses that although these “white agents”, as is written in the article, are arresting a young black adult for a committed crime but adding violence to the mix because of stereotypical behaviour of black men. The article states that people who were around the scene of Martese’s arrest witnessed this situation and repeatedly express how he did not deserve to be tackled or beaten.

The article barely mentions the reasons for his arrests. He was charged with obstruction of justice without force, public intoxication, and public swearing. There is evidential proof that Martese should not be charged with obstruction of justice without force because in Virginia’s Legislative Act, 18.2-460 C., it states “if any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede any… law-enforcement officer, he shall be guilt of a Class 5 felony” (2009). The articles only states that Martese is a black man who was not granted access into a bar and was therefore arrested for swearing and being publicly intoxicated, but did not fight or threaten to fight the agents. The way in which this article is written stands up the intoxicated, angrily swearing black man because he did nothing wrong in the sense of harming or threatening to harm the officers. There was no aggressive contact towards them until the officers initiated it. Martese was wrongly beaten and harmed for one act which he did not commit and at the same time was harshly treated upon appropriate arrest. This is an example of using violence as a lens because recently in the United States, police and other law-enforcement officers have been accused of arresting and/or beating black criminals as a form of anti-blackness.

The systemic institution luckily stepped in, however, on Martese’s case by requesting further investigations as to why these officers needed to beat and tackle Martese’s arrest, saying “Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the secretary of public safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police Investigation in to the use of force”(2015).

The social and political intervention, #blacklivesmatter, plays a role in this case. Martese was systemically and purposefully targeted for demise in his actions brought on by his situation of not being granted access to a near-campus bar. The type of behaviour that one can infer Martese was acting out is not rare in the lives of typical 20 years olds across the country, or even North America, especially in the drinking cultures of university-aged people. For this reason, I support the call to action that his fellow classmates started by protesting against his harmfully aggressive arrest. Although, arriving bruised and covered in stitches from the incident, Martese exclaims that “We really are one community” and that “I beg for you guys to please respect everyone here”(2015), he respects the community and comes across as grateful for the support to the unfortunate event that is his anti-blackness, anti-racism, violent arrest.

BBC News. “Virginia governor calls for inquiry into student arrest.” BBC News. 19 March, 2015 Web.

Legislative Information System. (2009). Obstructing justice; penalty. Virginia: Virginia General Assembly.

Tolmie, Jane. Week 8 Lecture. Queens University. 2 March 2015.

The Manifestation of Misogyny in Online Spaces

In a brave post on, actor and women’s rights activist Ashley Judd recalled an incident of misogyny she had recently experienced on the social media platform Twitter (Alter no page). Judd described how, after posting a tongue in cheek tweet directed at an opposing team in March Madness, she was subject to threats of graphic violence and misogynistic remarks (Alter n.p.). These responses included rape threats, comments on Judd’s body, the questioning of her intelligence, and ridicule directed at her family (Alter n.p.). In this blog post, I will argue that the violent response that Judd experienced on twitter is reflective of a broader system that polices gender and sexualizes women to an extreme degree. First, I will examine the linkages between Judd’s comment on sport and the policing of gender roles. Next, I will consider how Judd’s position as an actor and as a woman places her in a hyper-sexualized state. Finally I will examine how the misogyny present in online spaces is just as authentic as that experienced in the “real” world.

The tweet that garnered such tremendous vitriol simply stated “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—” (Alter n.p.). At first glance, it is challenging to comprehend the intense reaction. However feminist theory sheds light on the confounding case. Judd’s tweet is in reference to a basketball tournament (March Madness) (Alter n.p.). This connection to sports is of particular significance. As Aulette and Wittner (342) describe in Gendered Worlds, sports are one aspect of society that is heavily gendered. In the Global North, the policing of gender dictates that sports are a primarily masculine pursuit (Aulette and Wittner 342). Judd “disobeyed” these strictly policed rules when she expressed an opinion on sport. What followed was gender harassment. Gender harassment can be understood to be unwanted attention or comments on the basis of gender, often as a form of “punishing” those who violate the policed gender norms (Aulette and Wittner 526). As such, Judd’s experience on twitter can be understood as part of a broader societal system that uses violence in the form of gender harassment to prevent women from rejecting the arbitrary roles ascribed to them.

The policing of gender is not the only factor that contributed to the Judd case; hypersexualization played a key role as well. Feminist theory states that hypersexualization involves an illogical degree of emphasis on the sexuality of a given individual (Aulette and Wittner 528). Hypersexualization occurs at different degrees on the basis of social constructs such as gender, race, and ability; as I articulated in my most recent post for example, people of colour are much more vulnerable to hypersexualization than their white counterparts. Judd’s position in society as a women and as an actor in the entertainment industry, make her subject to an intensified form of hypersexualization: sexual objectification (Aulette and Wittner 533). Sexual objectification alienates an individual’s body from their agency and capacity for opinions and actions. (Aulette and Wittner 533). When twitter users chose to make sexually graphic and violent remarks towards Judd, they were treating her body as something entirely separate from her humanity. Moreover, this kind of objectification represents a sense of ownership or entitlement over women’s bodies that is indicative of a broader culture that commodities women’s bodies. This popular culture that is saturated by hypersexualization and objectification can be instructive when examining the individual case of Ashley Judd.

In her piece, Judd connects her experiences on twitter to experiences in her youth of rape and incest. This connection reveals an important truth about the changing world of Internet and social media; misogyny can manifest itself online. Rape culture exists both in the impunity it gives to physical acts and in the pervasiveness of sexuality violent content available online. The fight to end systemic oppression now extends to the non-physical realm of the internet. Judd’s approach of applying the legal system is instructive, but as recent events in Ferguson and around the United States show, it is Judd’s white privilege that makes law enforcement a valid option. Systemic approaches that do not delineate between gendered, racial and other forms of violence are needed to make meaningful lasting change.



Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape”. Time. 19 March, 2015. Web. 7 April 2015.

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

The Voices of Online Harassment

There is a thin line between trying to make snarky jokes and harassing someone. It is line that should never be crossed, but yet it is done so frequently. Especially in this technological age of social media, people feel more empowered to post whatever hurtful comments come to mind because they do not have to say it directly to someone’s face. Some become ignorant of how words, even on a computer or cell phone screen can affect one’s life. As a result, verbal harassment has increased to a point where it seems inescapable.

Ashley Judd is one person that has spoken out recently about the verbal abuse that she has faced on twitter. After posting a tweet at a basketball game that said that the opposing team was, “Playing dirty and can kiss my team’s free throw making ass,” Judd began receiving hateful, sexual responses and threats (Alter). Judd believes that this was due to her being a woman. She felt that her status as a woman made her vulnerable to threatening tweets because of the woman stereotypes that exist in society (Alter). For example, to some her tweet was seen as a woman being whiny or a woman speaking out on a masculine topic they do not understand. Consequently, Judd’s intellect, character and body were insulted (Alter). Judd therefore sees that social media is a source for perpetuating sexual harassment and dehumanization towards women.

While the issue of online harassment is important to discuss, Ashley Judd’s story is one that alienates groups that are also affected by sexual harassment. Judd’s experience is one that is discussed through the view of a privileged white female. As a result of her whiteness and fame, Judd’s struggles are the ones being heard, while others are not. As discussed in a lecture, threats and dehumanization towards black women, Indigenous women and any other women of colour are less discussed and publicized (Tolmie, Week 8 Lecture). Consequently, Judd’s experience generalizes one’s encounters with sexual harassment even though harassment among different cultures and races is not necessarily the same.

As discussed earlier, online harassment to Ashley Judd is seen as an issue rooted in sexism, the inequality between men and women. Judd said,

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually.

With that being said, online harassment is not gender specific. There are those who choose not fall on the gender binary as a male or female but are also still harassed. For example, in class, Leelah Acorn, a Trans teen was discussed. (Tolmie, Week 3 Lecture). Leelah decided to commit suicide after she was bullied, harassed and unaccepted amongst her peers both in person and online (Tolmie, Week 3 Lecture). This goes to show that contrary to Judd’s belief, online harassment is not solely a result of sexism. It is important to recognize that people of all genders and race are affected by online harassment.

Even though Judd’s concerns with online harassment are limited to the experiences of the white, heterosexual, cis woman, her discussion of sexual violence is still significant. Judd brings to people’s attention that social media creates an environment where it is easy for people to dehumanize one another and then act aggressively. Judd says a common idea of the Internet is that it is “unreal and does not deserve validity,” and with that people are more likely say things without caution for the feelings of others. Consequently, harassers on the Internet feel safe to make threats because it is an “unreal” place without repercussions. Judd’s voice on the issue shows that the Internet is actually a real place where people need to be accountable for their actions.

Personally, I think that online harassment is not an issue that should be generalized to a specific group of people. I think it is important to recognize that everyone is exposed to online harassment and it is not an isolated experience. I do agree with Ashley Judd that the Internet makes dehumanizing other people easier and people should be held accountable for what they say. I recognize that some of online harassment is based on sexism and women stereotypes, but I do also know that women are not the only one’s experiencing online harassment. Homosexuals are harassed by homophobes online and trans people are unaccepted by some cis people online. Therefore, I think that if we want to have a discussion about online harassment, it should address and identify a variety of people and not one specific group.


Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time Magazine Online. 19 Mar. 2015 Web.

Tolmie, Jane. Week 3 Lecture. Queens University. 12 Jan. 2015.

Tolmie, Jane. Week 8 Lecture. Queens University. 2 Mar. 2015.

~ lesg1249

Cops or Robbers?

One night at a bar in Virginia, Martese Johnson, a twenty-year-old black male, was violated and abused by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents. He was tackled and handled with unnecessary force, even though he was not shown to be fighting back (BBC News). Bystanders that were at the scene took pictures of Johnson on the ground covered in blood, and stated that Johnson was not being aggressive whatsoever (BBC News). Eventually, he was arrested and taken away from the pub by the ABC agents.

It is hard to believe that in our world at this point in time, there are still multiple acts of racism being portrayed. All of the cases that have been covered by the news and media may be different in the approach as to why the act was portrayed, but there is generally one thing that seems to be consistent amongst all of them: the fact that the act is from a white person of high authority. Whether it is a shooting because the officer thought that the black man had a gun, or a physical beating because they were ‘resisting arrest’, there always seems to be a controversy.

Although the specific news article took both the agents and Johnson’s points of view, most newscasts fail to do so. In most cases, the news and media will side with the authorities, claiming that the act that was pursued had been appropriate. By doing this, the media sends a message to the viewers that it is alright for white people of authority to kill helpless men and women, and that they are just doing their job in protecting our society. However, in reality, they are doing nothing but harm.

When looking at other events of anti-blackness, it can sometimes be clear that the power structures involved with the act get away from the scene without any physical or emotional punishment. For most cases, like this one, the officers involved with the crime are still put to work, just not on the field (BBC News). However, in the case of the victims, there is no sympathy.

In a world full of white supremacy, people of colour are forced to live their day-to-day lives in fear of being oppressed. While spending time with his nephew, Javon Johnson talks about his young nephews reaction to seeing the police, “He smiles, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat and says ‘Aw man uncle! Five-oh, we gotta hide!” This is a clear example of how our authority figures are scaring young black children, when really they should be seen as keepers of the peace. Instead of being seen as a source of protection, these authority figures are seen as violent because they use violence as a lens whenever dealing with people of colour. This results in multiple cases of fear of those who are supposed to protect us. With something as simple as a traffic stop, Javon Johnson states that black men “Must be aware of how quickly your hand moves to pocket for wallet or ID” because to a police officer, it could look like a threatening act.

In the cases of Michael Brown and a homeless man nicknamed Africa, the simple act of moving a hand resulted in their unfortunate deaths. Michael Brown was an unarmed black boy who was killed by a white officer who thought he was carrying a gun (Jones). Africa was a homeless black man with a mental disability who suffered the same fate when the white police officer thought that a simple move of the hand was an attempt to grab his gun (BBC News). Both of these stories show the racism that exists within people of high authority, since they are quite clearly stereotyping these black men as dangerous.

These acts of murder and hatred continue to happen and go unnoticed due to many factors, including the participation of the media. If the news and media did not continue to portray the actions of police officers in these situations as right and just, more viewers would come to realize that what they are doing is wrong. However, since the media is such a big part of our world today, society has adapted to believing everything that they say and show. In order for this problem to stop occurring, we must gain a higher level of skepticism, and take action against the wrongdoings of our authorities.



-BBC News. “US Police Shoot Homeless Man Dead in Los Angeles.” BBC News. BBC News, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <>.

-BBC News. “Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <>.
-Button Poetry. “Javon Johnston-Cus He’s Black (NPS 2013)”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
-Jones, Denise. “Badass Teachers Association.” : The Death of Michael Brown, Teachers, and Racism: 10 Things Every Badass Teacher Needs To Understand., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

The Power of Our Media

On March 18, 2015, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents arrested Martese Johnson Charlottesville, Virginia. Johnson was charged with obstruction of justice without force, public intoxication and public swearing (BBC News). The ABC stated that their agents observed a situation and approached to control it (BBC News). However, the actions of the ABC agents were not so ‘controlled’. Images can be found on social media that display Johnson covered in blood and being tackled to the ground by the white ABC agents. Bystanders say that there was no need to be forceful with Johnson as he was fully complying with the agents (BBC News).

Johnson’s arrest has received much media attention because of the present systemic racism. Systemic racism occurs when society is structured to automatically advantage some groups, while disadvantaging others (Alexander 186). Student protesters who are demanding justice for Johnson’s arrest claim that this was simply another example of the white supremacy – the belief that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds – that exists in the United States (Alexander 186). Johnson’s supporters are not the first to identify explicit racism used by authoritative groups. Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin are just three names out of hundreds of black people that have been brutally harassed or fatally beat or shot within recent years.

Although systemic racism reveals that racism is structured into our society, it does not necessarily expose how or why it has become so ‘normal’ in our society. Hegemonic theory argues that the media manipulates and persuades viewers to beliefs that the current status quo is the best possibility, or even the only possibility (Aulette and Wittner 431). The media does this through legitimation. Legitimation involves creating an ideology or set of beliefs that explains and justifies existing social structures (Aulette and Wittner 412). It also occurs because the public believes that this source of information is legitimate (Aulette and Wittner 412). Some media outlets have portrayed Johnson, as well as the other black men previously mentioned, to ‘clearly’ be at fault because of their ‘aggressive intentions’ or the ‘suspicion of holding weapons’ or their ‘incompliance with the authorities’. The media completely kick starts a racist perspective on reports of criminal cases.

Stuart Hall presents a different perspective on racism in the media. His reception theory states that audiences are not passive receivers of media, but rather they engage in media and give their own meaning to the material being received (Aulette and Wittner 431). Each person reinterprets what the media delivers based on their systems of representation. The first system is a set of mental representations that allow us to interpret meaning in our experiences (Tolmie, Week 11 Lecture). The second is language, which constructs the meaning because we make connections between certain words, sounds, or images with certain concepts or ideas (Tolmie, Week 11 Lecture). The language used in the media has negatively stereotyped black persons, which has reinforced a negative perception of black persons within everyday experiences.

The reoccurring situation of white authorities unnecessarily hurting black persons is completely connected to the representation of black persons in the media. The language that is used in news reports pictures black persons to be dangerous, untrustworthy, and negatively intentioned therefore justifying white authorities to assert dominance over black persons. Although Virginia Governor McAuliffe has asked the secretary of public safety to initiate an independent investigation into the police force, it is not often that authorities are questioned on their practices (BBC News). Because of this, there needs to be a systemic change in the structure of the discourse that our society uses. I believe that the media is one of the most powerful tools in our modern society. It is easy for media outlets to use white supremacy to legitimize their news reports, but we cannot let them take the easy way out. If we do, we will be reinforcing racist perspectives within our society, and I believe even allowing innocent people to be dehumanized and unfairly convicted.


Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2010.

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Tolmie, Jane. Lecture. Queens University. March 26. 2015.

“Virginia Govenor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest”. BBCNews. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

~ graceelisabeth

Laverne Cox and the Practical Realities of Intersectional Feminist Theory

In a touching speech on her experience as a trans woman of colour, actress Laverene Cox reveals a personal incident of street harassment. She describes an instance where two men cat-called her and then proceeded to argue over whether she was a “b-word” or an “n-word”. In this moment, Cox experienced the very real interlocking oppressions of racism, sexism, and transphobia. In this blog post, I will use the case of Laverene Cox argue that the utility of feminist intersectional analysis is grounded in its ability to apply to lived experiences. First, I will analyze what is meant by the term “intersectional analysis”. Next, I will examine how that theory applies specifically to the case of Laverne Cox. Moreover, I will discuss how the systemic violence faced by trans women of colour requires an urgent solution, specifically the role that theoretical frameworks can play. I will conclude by exploring the compassion exhibited by Cox with a view to future solutions for violence against trans women of colour.

The term intersectional analysis came into popular use by feminist theorist Patricia Hill Collins in her book “Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment”. In another work entitled “Toward a new vision: race, class and gender as categories of analysis and connection”, Hill-Collins calls the reader to consider that “race, class and gender are all present in any given setting, even if one appears more visible and salient than the others.” (Hill-Collins 29). For example, academic Harold Garfinkle claimed that gender is omnirelevant; that is, regardless of the context, gender is always significant (Aulette and Wittner 71). This relevance can also be extended to factors such as race, class, sexuality, ability, and so on. An intersectional approach to feminist theory helps to negotiate the numerous, and often conflicting, privileges and oppressions that individuals can experience. It also is a useful tool in unsettling much of the privilege of second wave white feminism, that emphasized shared victimhood rather than engaging self-reflexive analysis on the roles white women play in white supremacy and settler colonialism.

The individual experiences of Laverene Cox provide an excellent example of how privileges and oppressions can intersect in complex ways. As a trans woman of colour, Cox is subject to oppression in many forms. The systemic power structures of the Global North privileges white, heterosexual, men over individuals who fall outside of these socially constructed identities. The essentialism of gender (the expectation that gender match the identity assigned at birth on the basis of unrelated biology) is an oppressive force for Cox as a gender non-conforming individual. Moreover, her identity as a woman of colour, puts Cox at a substantially higher risk of violence (Cox) than her white counterparts. Cox’s gender expression make her vulnerable to aggressive street harassment. In all of these situations, though one social identity may seem more relevant at the time than others, her race gender identity and gender expression contribute to the way Cox experiences the world. The anecdote relayed above makes this abundantly clear.

As a normative project, feminist theory aims to unsettle the systemic power structures that oppress huge segments of the population along arbitrary lines. Because of this aim, feminist theory is only significant if it is relevant to lived experiences. Intersectional analysis then can be said to hold significant value; as the case of Laverene Cox aptly demonstrates, social identities form interlocking systems that dictate her experiences. If one tried to analyze the cat-calling incident using a solely gender-centered framework, they would entirely miss the role that transphobia played in the encounter. Intersectional analysis helps to explain the way oppression and privilege are manifested, therefore facilitating the breaking down of these structures.

While intersectional analysis can provide valuable insights into systemic oppression, Laverne Cox provides a simple yet profound way forward: “love is the answer.” (Cox). Cox does not just tell us what the answer is, she shows us what it looks like in action. Cox explains how the majority of the harassment she has faced has come from black communities. However rather than criticize these communities, Cox shows remarkable love and compassion. She draws on the concept of collective trauma, in particular the hypersexualization and fetishization of African American men, to explain the resistance to MTF transitions. In these words of compassion, Cox is turning intersectional theory into feminist praxis, recognizing the role that race can play in perpetuating systemic gendered violence. It is true what Cox says: loving trans people would be “a revolutionary act” (Cox).



Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

 Cox, Laverne. ” Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 9 March 2015.

Hill-Collins, Patricia. “Toward a New Vision: Race, Class and Gender as Categories of Analysis and Connection.” Race, Sex and Class. 1st ed. Vol. 1. 1993. 25-45.

Love Is the Answer

Laverne Cox is a well-known, successful actress who shared an experience of street harassment in a recent speech on the intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny. She explains one of her negative experiences and the effects street harassment has had on her and other transgendered women and women of colour. She expresses that she believes love is the answer to these types of violence, while also asking the question of ‘What problems do people have with themselves that they feel the need to call out others for something?’. She refers to Cornell West, quoting “justice is what love looks like in public”. Cox believes that if we, as the public and society, can all learn to love trans people, then that will be revolutionary.

Laverne Cox’s lived experience is New York City proves that intersecting oppressions are prominent in everyday life. Many trans women go through experiences like hers of street harassment and live the reality of racism, misogyny and/or transphobia.

Because of the expectations set by society for people to identify within the gender binary, this creates oppression against people who do not. Trans people are an example of this because their gender expression does not with the gender binary of either male or female. Gender expression continues to affect these people every day, including on the streets, in jobs, in relationships, etc. They live in constant danger for a simple reason of being themselves. There are people who, because they have a problem with themselves, feel inclined to point that out on other people. This is often shown in ways such as street harassment, sexual assault, and even death by abuse. From Laverne Cox’s point of view, since violence seems to be the answer for eradicating and oppressing transgendered people, it does nothing but harm their lives.

The effects of racism that women of colour face every day cannot be compared to the effects that trans women also face, although can be analyzed intersectionally. Black trans women feel the intersectional oppression of misogyny, for being a woman, racism, for being a black person, and transphobia for expressing themselves as trans. None of these are a choice that these people make, and need to be accepted into society as a norm instead of acts of deviance.

Quoting from the guest lecturer from week that “dehumanization leads to violence” (2015), which is shown in Laverne Cox’s experience of street harassment. By calling out people for being different is dehumanizing and treating them as ‘others’.  If someone or a group of people happen to disagree with someone else’s expression of self and see it as unacceptable in our society, they may feel that the ‘othered’ person is in the wrong and engage in violence towards the person. This type of situation leads to ‘othering’ of people, causing an ‘us vs. them’ perspective.

In conclusion, Laverne Cox’s reflection on the oppressed lives of transgendered women opens up thoughts for listeners and readers of her speeches to reflect themselves on ways they have been oppressed or oppress a group. She recognizes that a systemic change needs to occur in order for a significant change to happen. Within popular media, public action, and social justice, transgendered people can become accepted through a conscious change. Love is the answer.

In my personal opinion, I agree with Cox’s point of view in saying that love will be the answer because if we, as a society, can learn to love one another instead of judge others for their differences, then this world and society can be equal and just. The reality of women, including trans and women of colour, is that their lives are disadvantaged as soon as they are born, so working together as a structural community, we can eradicate and eliminate the hatred and concern around differences.


           Tolmie, Jane. “Week 9 Lecture 1.” Kingston ON. March 9. 2015.

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What To Do About It).” Everyday Feminism December 7 2014. Print.


When Justice Cannot Be Served

When two fundamental freedoms come into conflict, it is difficult to choose which one is more important. There is no right answer, nor is there a wrong answer. With that being said justice in fundamental freedom disputes can never be served. American philosopher, Cornell West once said, “Justice is what love looks like,” but when the right to equality in regards to sexual orientation comes into conflict with other freedoms, equality rights are often suppressed. As a result, there is a lack of acceptance and compassion towards one’s sexual orientation. Therefore, in accordance with Wests’s view on justice, justice is not present when two fundamental rights challenge one another.

During the month of February in Detroit, Krista and Jami Contreras welcomed their newborn baby, Bay, into the world with the expectation that they would be able to provide enough care to raise a healthy baby. However, six days after the birth of their child, Dr. Vesna Roi, Bay’s pediatrician, refused to give the child any treatments ( Staff). Dr. Roi felt that aiding a child raised by two lesbian mothers would go against her religion. ( Staff). Even though this is discriminatory towards Krista and Jami, Roi’s actions are protected under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. ( Staff). Roi avoided face-to-face confrontation with Krista and Jami but she explained the reasoning for her actions in a letter addressed to them ( Staff). Through this occurrence, one can see that the conflict between sexual orientation and religion is never easy.

This is not the first time that religion and sexual orientation have contradicted one another. In 2009, William Whatcott protested that homosexuality was a sin that should not be tolerated in society (Cohen). The Saskatchewan Human Right’s Commission fined Whatcott for his protests, as his speech was discriminatory towards homosexuals (Cohen). However, Whatcott appealed his fine and won due to his right of freedom of expression (Cohen). This shows that there is a constant pattern in society that religion is superior to sexual orientation.

These scenarios exemplify that oppression does not stem from just one factor. Oppression must be seen through an intersectional lens. In context to Krista and Jami’s situation, they are being discriminated against due to the intersection of sexual orientation and religion. Being homosexual in itself makes a person a part of a minority, however the religious teaching of homosexuality being sinful creates more disparity. Therefore, one must look at more than one factor to see and understand the full extent of oppression. By doing so, problem areas can be separated and focused on with more depth to help decrease oppression in society.

The result of Krista and Jami’s inequality shows that culture hegemony is present in today’s society. Cultural hegemony can be described as people in power influencing the culture of a society (Tolmie). In relation to sexual orientation and religion, cultural hegemony occurs due to the fact that people with power are implementing laws and rulings that align more so with religion. As an implication, this is elevating a homophobic culture.

It is important to note that not everyone who follows a religion is homophobic. There are many people who disagree with the teaching of homosexuality as sinful and demonic. Nevertheless, this is not the case for Krista and Jami.

It is unclear what religion Dr. Roi follows, but one of her beliefs contradicts her actions. In her letter to Krista and Jami, Dr. Roi said, “Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice” ( Staff). Even though Dr. Roi says that she would never judge anyone based on the choices they make, she still judges Krista and Jami’s homosexuality by denying care to their child. If Dr. Roi provided medical care for Bay, then that would show that Dr. Roi is not judgmental to one’s actions. However, Dr. Roi’s beliefs and actions conflict with one another.

In conclusion, it is evident that there is a constant battle between sexual orientation and religion. It is a very difficult conflict to address because in the end, there is always a fundamental freedom being suppressed. Everyone is entitled to the freedom of religion as well as sexual rights to choose one’s own partner. However, patterns have shown that sexual rights are not seen as important as religious rights in the eyes of the law. In order for discrimination towards homosexuals to decrease, a balance must be found between the freedom of religion and sexual rights. Without taking action, this trend of discrimination towards homosexuals will only continue to grow and justice will never be served.



Cohen, Tobi. “Case Pitting Gay Rights Against Religious Freedom Reaches Supreme Court.” National Post. 11 Oct. 2011. Web 9 Mar. 2015


MyFoxDetroit,com Staff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby.” MyFoxDetroit. 18 Feb. 2015 Web. 9 Mar. 2015.


Tolmie, Jane. “Week 2 Lecture.” Kingston ON. 12 Jan. 2015.

Can We Learn To Love?


Laverne Cox is a woman who is known for her personal, inspiring speech about her life experiences as a black trans woman. Although it is clear that Cox has faced many difficulties, she has decided to focus on one particularly shocking event that changed her perspective on life, and has made her the face of a movement.

One day, while Cox was walking down a street in New York City, two men, a black man and a Latino man, approached her. Initially, being attracted to her, they began to shout degrading things towards her like “Yo, mama, can I holla at you?” At first, Cox could ignore them; however, once the men realized that she was a trans woman, they became even more insulting, “They began to argue about whether I was the b word or the n word” Cox states. Feeling very uncomfortable at this point in the situation, Cox began to become anxious, as she felt she was unsafe, “Our lives are often in danger, simply for being who we are, when we are trans women.” Eventually she was able to cross the street and leave the very uncomfortable situation without harm.

Cox’s story reflects the lives of many trans black women in the world today, and the struggles that they go through in their everyday lives. Specifically, it revolves around the discrimination and prejudice towards women, black people, and trans people, and the intersectionality that unfortunately consumes those who are a part of all three categories, causing them to be more vulnerable to violent acts.

First, being a woman comes with its disadvantages in today’s society. We are seen as less capable than men, and although equality has been and is still being striven for, there still remain a handful of problems corresponding to the uniformity of men and women. In terms of violence, women are seen as weak and naive when compared to men, which alternatively makes them more vulnerable to violent acts. This is shown throughout popular culture in many ways, especially horror movies. Rarely is there a horror movie when the woman isn’t being attacked, harassed, or kidnapped. They are always seen as the victim, whether it is on a movie screen, or real life situations.

Next, there is the problem with discrimination towards black people. Being that there is a lot of racism found in today’s society, they don’t have the opportunity to live full and complete lives. Due to systemic racism, there is clear evidence that a lot of societies believe in white supremacy. This causes a huge problem, as white people then start to believe that black people are lesser than they are, and they begin to use violence as a lens as the only way of looking at them. This hand-in-hand creates a greater chance that black people could be put into dangerous situations, without having the ability to protect themselves, just because they are seen as a danger to society. As Javon Johnson states in his slam poem, “It’s not about whether the shooter is racist, it’s about how poor black [kids] are treated as problems well before we’re treated as people”.

Last, being transgender comes side-by-side with issues of protection and safety within the criminal justice system, leading towards them also being in situations of being abused and violated on the streets. According to Surya Monro and Lorna Warren, “Transgender is inadequately dealt with by the criminal justice system… Transsexual people lack full legislative protection, facing barriers regarding many aspects of citizenship, including parenthood and marriage… Transgender people of all groupings frequently experience violence and abuse.” (346) Due to this, it is clear that being transgender can lead to higher rates of abuse and violence, even though it is very unfortunate.

Cox’s story reveals and connects how all of these aforementioned categories intersect into creating a group of women that are at the top of the ladder for being victim to violent acts around the world. According to Cox, the violent acts pursued towards this group of women are a mixture of misogyny, intersecting with trans-phobia, intersecting with some racist stuff.

The sad reality is that this is in fact true. These women are attacked, beaten, abused and murdered frequently, yet nothing has been done about it. If people of higher authority won’t take the time to fix this issue, then we as members of the society need to make a change ourselves. Cornel West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” If we begin to treat everybody in our communities as equals and with respect, then there would be less violence and hatred; there would be love.  Can we change for the better?



Button Poetry. “Javon Johnston-Cus He’s Black (NPS 2013)”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

“Cornel West Quotes.” Cornel West Quotes (Author of Race Matters). Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <;.

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What To Do About It).” Everyday Feminism 7 Dec. 2014. Print.

Love: Leave Out Violence. Digital image. 10 Mar. 2015. Web.

Monro, Surya, and Lorna Warren. “Transgendering Citizenship.” Sexualities 7.3(2004): 345-62. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

(No) Fight for Justice

When reciting the Hippocratic Oath, physicians state that it is their duty to treat their patients using their best judgments, no matter the status of their patients. However this was not the case when with Krista and Jami Contreras sought out Dr. Vesna Roi to be the pediatrician for their newborn baby girl.

Bay Contreras was born in October 2014 to her two loving mothers, Krista and Jami (myFoxNewsDetroit). Before Bay’s birth, Krista and Jami had met with Dr. Roi to be Bay’s pediatrician (myFoxNewsDetroit). They were confident in her abilities to provide medical care to their soon to be newborn daughter (myFoxNewsDetroit). Six days after Bay was born, Krista and Jami scheduled an appointment with Dr. Roi (myFoxNewsDetroit). When the Contreras family arrived, another pediatrician informed them that Dr. Roi would not be able to be Bay’s pediatrician (myFoxNewsDetroit). Dr. Roi felt that it was against her religious beliefs to care for a baby with lesbian mothers (myFoxNewsDetroit). The American Medical Association prohibits physicians to refuse care to patients based on sexual orientation, but they can refuse treatment if it conflicts with their personal, religious, or moral beliefs (myFoxNewsDetroit).

Four months after their scheduled appointment, the Contreras’ received a letter for Dr. Roi. In the letter, Dr. Roi apologized for not speaking to the family in person about the issue, but reiterated that she could not care for their daughter, as her religious beliefs would prevent her from developing a personal patient – doctor relationship with the Contreras family (myFoxNewsDetroit).

This explicit display of homophobia – discrimination against gays and lesbians – within a medical context is not exclusive to Krista and Jami Contreras (Aulette and Wittner 528). In 2008, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) conducted a survey that offers insights on the magnitude of challenges that the homosexual community faces while obtaining health services. Most respondents (67%) reported that they received substandard care, or were denied care because of their sexual orientation (Bonuck and Stein 88). Also, many respondents (52%) observed colleagues providing reduced care, or denying care to based on their sexual orientation (Bonuck and Stein 88). These findings confirm the ambivalence that many homosexuals feel towards their health providers.

Our culture has created a social setting where we are socialized to believe that heterosexuality is ‘normal’, this trend is called heteronormativity (Aulette and Wittner 527). Heteronormativity has inhibited our abilities to explore the possibilities of our own sexual orientation – how people identify themselves sexually –, and has limited our opportunities to engage openly with those of different sexual orientations (Aulette and Wittner 533). This normalization of heterosexuality directly marginalizes homosexual persons, which is clearly illustrated through the evidence mentioned above.

When we marginalized homosexuals, we placed them within a sexual minority, which categorizes people whose sexual orientation is not of the dominant heterosexual type (Aulette and Wittner 533). By placing homosexuals within a minority group, their concerns have gone unheard. This has lead to further discrimination within other public realms. For example, the state of Arizona has passed a controversial bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to homosexual customers on religious grounds (Saul). Those who support the bill argue it protects First Amendment rights for expressing religious beliefs, but Democrats have said the law would clearly allow for discrimination against homosexuals (Saul).

Both in the United States and Canada, equality is highly valued. But these routinely practices, have been shaped to reinforce heterosexual privilege, which refers to personal behaviors and public polices that assume that heterosexuality is the only valid form of sexuality (Aulette and Wittner 527). Homosexuals are not benefitting from societal ‘normalcy’ because of the constant heteronormativity that has been perpetuated within our social culture, and even our legislative policies. Krista and Jami cannot sue Dr. Roi because she did nothing illegal, which is precisely the problem. There are few laws that protect the homosexual community from discrimination. Currently only twenty – two of fifty states have laws that prohibit physicians from discriminating against sexual orientation (myFoxNewsDetroit).

Krista and Jami’s encounter with Dr. Roi emphasizes how engrained heteronormativity is within our social structures. I believe that we need to be exposed, and engage with persons of different sexual orientations to understand the complexities of our social structures. The understanding of the constant discrimination against homosexuals will hopefully create more movement towards justice, because in the words of Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public”.

~ graceelisabeth


Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Bonuck, Karen. A, and Gary L. Stein. “Physician – Patient Relationships Among the Lesbian and Gay Community”. Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. 5.3 (2008). 87 – 93. Print.

“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same Sex Couple’s Baby”. myFoxNewsDetroit. Fox News Detroit, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

Saul, Heather. “Arizona Passes ‘Anti Gay’ Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service on Religious Grounds”. The Independent. 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.