Toy Soldiers: Ron Kovic’s Vietnam and the Emasculation of America’s Good Ol’ Boys (written April 2014)

**originally written for a client April 2014; Copyright (c) Gloria C. Steele

Paralyzed veteran Ron Kovic’s Vietnam is a man’s nightmare of disillusionment, mocked and betrayed by his own beloved government. Born on the Fourth of July is about a man who was denied that heroism that he was promised by the Nation he loved. The government chose when and how he is a hero, but he feels inside unheroic, even criminal, because of the atrocities of war and struggles to redeem himself as a true hero after the war. It’s the story of a boy trying to be a man, a man wanting to be a hero, and discovering he’s just a selfish, oppressive murderer like the rest of his Great Country that even deceives/ed him and the rest of its own citizens again and again.

Manifesting several failed/unconsummated interactions and relationships with women, stemming from Catholic upbringing, Ron Kovic early on in life found himself stuck permanently in a pubescent’s fumbling anxiety. The incompetence, the loneliness and anticlimax found in youthful masturbatory obsessions, is cyclically and perpetually reflected in his literal fumbling with his limp/nonexistent manhood, even in his catheter alterations, the “peak” literally and figuratively unreached, the success of manhood unachieved just as the successful coupling with a woman is never realized. The motif of men crying like the babies they killed and pissing themselves like children visually brings the point home: the sons debilitated and disenfranchised in Vietnam were boys who never grew up; Loyal, brave, unwaveringly and foolishly Idealistic, “America’s sons” and “the good ol’ boys” like Kovic aspired to the heights of military machismo programming, yet never truly reached manhood. 

It meant the world to Kovic to be a good Catholic, a good son, a good American citizen doing everything he can for his country and his God—the ultimate martyrdom complex. Bordering on fanaticism and megalomania, Kovic fancies himself the ultimate Patriot, staunchly defending his government, and aspires to his mother’s fearful Holiness to the extreme of deliberately avoiding “heavy petting” and, to compensate, thrilling, instead, at an obsessive daily masturbation ritual. 

Kissing was all right, the priest said in a serious voice, but petting or heavy petting almost always led to sex, and sex, he said, was a mortal sin. I remember listening to him that day and promising myself and God I’d try never to get too close to a girl. I wanted to do all the things the guys in the study hall whispered about, but I didn’t want to offend God. I never even went to the senior or junior prom. I just wanted to be a great athlete and a good Catholic and maybe even a priest someday or a major leaguer. (Kovic, p 77)

Despite his youthful eschewing of female companionship, focusing instead on his Good American Son image, when he returns robbed of his organ of sexual expression—in the Marines, their sexually loaded marching chant is revelatory of our increasing rape culture: “this is my rifle this is my gun/ this is for fighting this is for fun (p 96)”—his unattainable desire warps into an ugly and mournful obsession to find

a woman who would love him and make his broken body come alive again, who would lie down next to the disfigurement and love it like there was not anything the matter with him at all. He cried inside for a woman, any woman, to lie close to him. In the hospital there were so many times when he had looked at the nurses and all the visitors and it would seem so crazy that the same government that provided a big check for the wounded men couldn’t provide someone warm, someone who cared for him.(127)

His experiences with the prostitutes in Mexico reveal much about his spiritual and emotional castration, as much as about his desire to feel through his paralysis, his literal numbness and incontinence as physical a castration as a sword to a eunuch. He witnesses a fellow wounded veteran abuse one of the sex workers and, although awed, can’t help but sympathise:

He punched her in the face because she laughed at him when he pulled down his pants and told her he couldn’t feel his penis or move it anymore. He was crazy drunk and he kept yelling and screaming, swinging his arms and his fists at the crowd who had gathered around him. “That goddamn fucking slut! I’m gonna kill that whore for ever laughing at me. That bitch thinks it’s funny I can’t move my dick. Fuck you! Fuck all of you goddamn motherfuckers! They made me kill babies! They made me kill babies!” Charlie screamed again and again. (128-129)

Kovic isn’t the only one who describes the inhumanity and lustful insanity bred in boys trained in war. As violence begets violence, soldiers look for something to control as a consequence of feeling confused, helpless, and a part of something large, violent, and out of one’s own control, a puppet at the command of Superior Officers and a vigilante government. Seeking something to make them feel powerful like men again, often, the answer is senseless killing, and routine rape as a release of their resentment towards fact that they are denied for months on end comfort from women and mothers at home while suffering unspeakable atrocities and witnessing total transformations from good clean boys to wild, uncivilized animals. In “One Morning in the War” Richard Hammer articulates such abasement and unwittingly confirms Kovic’s downward spiral:

More and more as these daily patrols went on without end, the men in Task Force Barker grew to hate the dirty war they were part of, a war where everything and nothing was the enemy and fair game, where trouble could come from anyone or anything. And they began to take casualties now and again, here and there….Another hamlet. Some of the men see a young Vietnamese girl. They grab her and pull her inside the nearest hootch. There are screams and cries from inside then silence. Soon the men come walking out, satisfied. (Hammer, p 323)

Ron Kovic was crippled as an old man before his time, crazed as a lustful adult in a child’s body, and grieves incessantly his inability to reconcile his instincts and urges with his body—and his likewise inability to reconcile the unintelligible and unconscionable loss he experienced in the war with his patriotic Ideals and the dogmatic propaganda he was duped by. Going into training for the Marines, he was accustomed to hearing the degrading sergeants yelling: “I want all you swinging dicks standing straight at attention (Kovic, 132)” yet with the severity of his wound he is left to merely lament:

I have given my dead swinging dick for America. I have given my numb young dick for democracy. It is gone and numb, lost somewhere out there by the river where the artillery is screaming in. Oh God oh God I want it back! I gave it for the whole country, I gave it for every one of them. Yes, I gave my dead dick for John Wayne and Howdy Doody, for Castiglia and Sparky the barber. Nobody ever told me I was going to come back from this war without a penis. (p 84)

Just as his manhood is lost, so is his ability to speak and be heard, such as the respect a man of integrity receives. He constantly seeks in the hospital to be treated humanely and he wants to be respected, not pitied; he wants to be loved, not made a poster boy for why the war should continue so America could win at all costs—literally over his dead, dickless body. When officers and other military representatives push Kovic against his will to speak at a veteren’s parade and rally, Kovic is frustrated that he didn’t want to speak of the war the same distanced way the others did who never experienced the losses he did and he wasn’t asked nor did he agree to being a hero on their terms and in their language: 

They sat together watching the big crowd and listening to one speaker after the other, including the mayor and all the town’s dignitaries; each one spoke very beautiful words about sacrifice and patriotism and God, crying out to the crowd to support the boys in the war so that their brave sacrifices would not have to be in vain. And then it was the tall commander’s turn to speak… Almost crying now, he shouted to the crowd that they couldn’t give up in Vietnam. “We have to win …” he said, his voice still shaking; then pausing, he pointed his finger at him and Eddie Dugan, “… because of them!”…He was beginning to feel very lonely. He kept looking over at Eddie. Why hadn’t they waved, he thought. Eddie had lost both of his legs and he had come home with almost no body left, and no one seemed to care…He was confused, then proud, then all of a sudden confused again. He wanted to listen and believe everything they were saying, but he kept thinking of all the things that had happened that day and now he wondered why he and Eddie hadn’t even been given the chance to speak. They had just sat there all day long, like he had been sitting in his chair for weeks and months in the hospital and at home in his room alone, and he wondered now why he had allowed them to make him a hero and the grand marshal of the parade with Eddie , why he had let them take him all over town in that Cadillac when they hadn’t even asked him to speak. (109-111)

Even at the rally for Nixon, he is silenced, blacked out, arrested, literally blocked by secret service agents from sight of the cameras, and discredited—which is the same as silencing—by shouts and accusations of communist affiliation. Unheard, he violently wants others to truly understand and not just mock, pity, or even falsely glorify his sacrifice:

Other people always seemed able to laugh and joke about the whole thing, but they weren’t the one who was living in this angry numb corpse, they didn’t have to wake up each morning and feel the dead weight of these legs and strain the yellow urine into the ugly rubber bag, they didn’t have to put on the rubber gloves each morning over the bathroom bowl and dig into his rear end to clean the brown chunks of shit out. They lived very easy lives, why their lives were disgustingly easy compared to his and they acted sometimes like everything was equal and he was the same as them, but he knew they were lying and especially the women, when they lay with him and told him how much they loved his body, how it wasn’t any different than any other man’s, that they didn’t care if his dick was numb and dead and he couldn’t feel warm and good inside a woman ever again . He was a half-dead corpse and no one could tell him any different. (p 164)

A sacrificial lamb, a “little Christ” himself, Kovic bears his cross, spat upon and crippled, maimed and emasculated by those he died for. Kovic died three times: physically, his body died to him and spiritually, his faith died; Idealistically, Kovic experienced too the death of all the paradigms he clung to and comforting programs he secured himself and his world with about the goodness of his country and the righteousness of the war against terrorism. 

He remembered how difficult it had been when he had first come to the war to tell the villagers from the enemy and sometimes it had seemed easier to hate all of them, but he had always tried very hard not to. He wished he could be sure they understood that he and the men were there because they were trying to help all of them save their country from the Communists. (p 190)

Kovic wonders if someone had only shown him the truth of what the war does to boys and men, and the unfathomable depths of what is robbed from them on those front lines, perhaps he himself would never have fallen for the Dream and perhaps through him other young Americans can decide for themselves if that crippling is worth it:

It is like the day the marine recruiters came. I remember it like it was yesterday— their shiny shoes and their uniforms, their firm handshakes, all the dreams, the medals, the hills taken with Castiglia by my side his army-navy store canteen rattling, the movies the books the plastic guns, everything in 3-D and the explosive spiraling colors of a rainbow. Except this time, this time it is Bobby and me. What if I had seen someone like me that day, a guy in a wheelchair, just sitting there in front of the senior class not saying a word? Maybe things would have been different. Maybe that’s all it would have taken. Bobby is telling his story and I will tell mine. I am glad he has brought me here and that all of them are looking at us, seeing the war firsthand— the dead while still living, the living reminders, the two young men who had the shit shot out of them…We were men who had gone to war. Each of us had his story to tell, his own nightmare. Each of us had been made cold by this thing. We wore ribbons and uniforms. We talked of death and atrocity to each other with unaccustomed gentleness. (p 142-144,148)

In conclusion, Born on the Fourth of July is a memoir, autobiography, war speech, battle cry, prayer, and Shakespearean-like tragedy recounting (and, no pun intended, literally re-member-ing) his loss of all he thought would make him the man he so wanted to be: his penis, his heroism, his self-discipline. Finding out it was all in vain, to be left a mangled pawn in a game, Kovic must forge a new Self out of the ashes, the debris, the raw essence of himself in all his rage in all the words he was never given license to say, the self accountability he so late attained. 

I think I honestly believed that if only I could speak out to enough people I could stop the war myself. I honestly believed people would listen to me because of who I was, a wounded American veteran. They would have to listen. Every chance I had to get my broken body on the tube or in front of an audience I went hog wild. Yes, let them get a look at me. Let them be reminded of what they’d done when they’d sent my generation off to war. One look would be enough— worth more than a thousand speeches. But if they wanted speeches I could give them speeches too. There was no end to what I had to tell them. “I’m the example of the war ,” I would say. “Look at me. Do you want your sons to look like this? Do you want to put on the uniform and come home like me?”  (p 150)

His tragedy is his loss of Ideals, his realization that all he fought to defend was unreal, meaningless, an utter and callous deception by all he held the dearest: his God he felt betrayed him, leaving him in the purgatory of his paralyzed condition; his country he was betrayed by for giving him the Dream of fighting a noble war for a beautiful Christian country that turned out to be a nightmare of senseless murder for a country of hateful consumers who found him invisible even moreso because he fought for him. Betrayed to find out that the war did not make him a “good guy” but a cold, desensitized, and dogmatic, brainwashed killing machine, Kovic must finally atone by showing through his body and describing through his speech the true consequences of America’s lust for war and meddling in foreign affairs:

And now it is we who are marching, the boys of the fifties. We are going to the Republican National Convention to reclaim America and a bit of ourselves. It is war and we are soldiers again, as tight as we have ever been, a whole lost generation of dope-smoking kids in worn jungle boots coming from all over the country to tell Nixon a thing or two. We know we are fighting the real enemies this time— the ones who have made profit off our very lives. We have lain all night in the rain in ambush together. We have burned anthills with kerosene and stalked through Sally’s Woods with plastic machine guns, shooting people out of trees. We have been a generation of violence and madness, of dead Indians and drunken cowboys, of iron pipes full of matchheads…He’d never figured it would ever happen this way. It never did in the movies. There were always the good guys and the bad guys, the cowboys and the Indians. There was always the enemy and the good guys and each of them killed the other… The good guys weren’t supposed to kill the good guys. (p 169-70)

Works Cited

Hammer, Richard. “One Morning in the War” Copyright 1970. Putnam Publishing Group. Reprinted with permission for A History of Our Time. Oxford University Press. 1995. 321-335

Kovic, Ron. Born on the Fourth of July. Amazon Kindle Edition. 


[1] Kovic remembers: “A song was playing called “Bye-Bye Miss American Pie” and I remember listening to it and feeling real sad inside, real low like I wanted to cry or kill someone (p 160).”

[2] In a passage describing a flashback from the grueling, torturous boot camp training, Kovic admires his comrades “..on their knees with their sea bags still over their shoulders like Christs, an they were crawling, he saw them crawling! (p 94)

Mojuba: the African Autobiography as Ancestral Reverence

Mojuba: the African Autobiography as Ancestral Reverence

Originally written for a client April 2014 (Copyright (c) Gloria C. Steele)

“Mojuba: the African Autobiography as Ancestral Reverence”

Africans place paramount importance upon children and ancestors. It is a common belief in many African communities, regardless of language or cultural nuances, that ancestors are reincarnated through our children. In African mentality, the idea of living honorably and living a dignified legacy is just as much to make one’s ancestors proud as to also leave a Proud example for one’s own children to follow. When ancestors are proud of their descendants, they may reincarnate as a child in the same family bloodline, sometimes reincarnating again and again as young children, such as abiku, heavily mentioned in by Soyinka in Ake (Soyinka, p 16-17). Many African spiritual groups have elaborate ceremonies or small devotional rituals giving respect and remembrance to the Dearly Departed, as evidenced in Soyinka’s stories, in which he mentions egungun again and again, literally translated as “bones of my bones”. 

It is in acts of ancestral reverence that Africans and other indigenous cultures (such as Japanese Shinto and Norse Asatru traditions) feel perhaps more palpably a sense of humanity: humbled while reciting the names and pouring libation for those that came before, and feeling a part of a long thread of Collective [Un/Sub]Conscious, one who actively remembers and invokes the ancestors realizes a single human being is never actually alone. Likewise, it is in having and raising children that one’s Divinity and Immortality is ultimately realized and, perhaps fleetingly, however abstractly or figuratively, attained. A child is a reflection of the parent’s story, a testament and affirmation of one’s own survival, which brings reassurance that, by looking into the faces of children, a man or woman can see and know the evidence of the long line of ancestors who begat them. The very act of birth and its dependency on and interrelation with the act of death confirms the parents’ story will live on because science has even proven memory is passed down through DNA.

African American Civil Rights leader and revolutionary Stokley Carmichael wrote about the Afrocentric community concept and the importance of celebrating children as ancestors returned, in order to celebrate the identity not only of the child, but the entire community, ethnic group, nation, the African continent, and the African Diaspora in the Americas and Caribbean:

Among many West African peoples from among whom our ancestors were seized, whenever a child is born, a birth poem or praise song is composed in its honor. Among the Yoruba [the Nigerian ethnic group which Wole Soyinka himself is apart of] this birth poem is called oriki. Some days later at the naming ceremony by which the infant is ushered formally into its place in human society, the child’s oriki is recited publicly, first into the ear of the child and then to the assembled community of family and neighbors. The first language a child will be required to commit to memory, the oriki imprints the child with its complex historical, spiritual, and social identities….[Oriki] is at once prayer, thanksgiving, celebration, and prophecy. It is a meditation on the meaning and significance of the new human’s name. It is an evocation of the strong deeds, character, and praise names of the infant’s ancestors, and, perhaps most important, it is an optimistic attempt to project (and define) in desirable ways the child’s future personality and life prospects. By evoking lineage, the oriki is ultimately about spiritual inheritance: that eternal life force that has many names (Ase among the Yoruba), which we receive from our ancestors. A vital force of which we, in each generation, are only the contemporary incarnations. And which in turn we pass on to our children and they do theirs, so that the lineage never dies….Oriki, while memory and history, is also character, at once both individual and collective. Individual because each human being has his or her own particular and unique oriki. Collective because being anchored in lineage, it is fundamentally about group identity. We Africans know that each individual one of us is ultimately the sum of that long line of ancestors—spiritual forces and moral arbiters—who have gone before to produce us. The psychic forces out of which we all come. In this sense oriki is a salute to family. It is also an inheritance one acquires at birth. (Carmichael, pp 11-12)

In J. Nozipo Maraire’s Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter, the narrator Amai Zenzele reveals her inverted reflection in her daughter, and her duty and desire to pass down as an inheritance the secrets of her life (which, in themselves, contain the secrets of her ancestors, her community, her African continent, the continent itself a Mother):

We have the same eyes, you and I. But yours are still vulnerable. They are candid and honest; like a scrupulous documentary, they take note of all of the details of life. And all of the world is reflected there—the beautiful and the wretched alike. My eyes are resigned to observe, detached, from some distance. They want no part; they do not take in. They keep out. In your company, I often feel blind, groping for firm objects, hesitant lest I collide with some obstacle I cannot characterize, let alone surmount. Ah, but your fingers are truly mine, long, dark, and graceful. And those clumsy lips, they are mine, too. They fall and tense and bend into every shape. They are never still, never without expression….I have learned something in my awkward journey through womanhood. The lessons are few, but enduring. So I hope that you will pardon this curious distillation of traditional African teaching, social commentary, and maternal concern. These are the stories that have made me what I am today. It is just that you are my very own, and it is an old woman’s privilege to impart her wisdom. It is all I have to give to you, Zenzele. (Maraire, pp 4-5)

Africans place emphasis on respectability in the sense of setting good examples for children and leading an honorable life that does not shame one’s family name or heritage. So it is indeed especially shameful to the parents for the new generation children to eschew such rich traditions in favor of disobedience characteristic of the “rebellious American [or otherwise Western] spirit”.

“I don’t know what to do, Amai Zenzele. Somewhere we did something wrong….when independence came, we celebrated with tears in our eyes! The country was ours! We would continue the struggle to ensure that our children received every opportunity of Western privilege. The whites had hoarded the pleasures and advantages of our nation for too long. My God, there were horse-riding and French lessons, video games, and trips to London and New York. There was nothing that our children asked for that we denied them. We who had grown up knowing only deprivation, austerity, and hard labor. We wanted only the best for them. We even sent them to the best private schools with plenty of whites.” ….She waved her arms around the sitting room, helplessly. The room was like a museum of African assimilation. On the far wall were shelves of video games, movies, and a computer…..the room, with its rich golden carpeting and matching velvet sofas, was the Zimbabwean’s version of Western sophistication….”But it was all in vain. They have neither respect nor gratitude”…When I left…I understood [Amai Stephen]’s predicament as well. All of the peri-independent generation shared a common vision of a better life. Unfortunately, too many of us had translated this into a material definition of success. We developed all the symptoms of the postcolonial syndrome, endemic to Africa: acquisition, imitation, and a paucity of imagination. We simply rushed to secure what the colonialists had…we denied our own culture, relieved to leave our primitive origins far away, in some forgotten village…we created an invisible white line or ultimate aspiration: to achieve what the Europeans had…we ceased to dream, to have our own vision of happiness and success. We were able to carry on this face with aplomb, but our children were getting caught in some gray zone that was neither black culture nor truly white either. (Maraire, pp 12-13, 17-18)

In the face of this schism, this cultural rebellion and betrayal, African parents, no longer able to solidify their traditions in their children simply by passing them through their loins, resort now to picking up the pen to solidify the once oral and mystical traditional wisdom into the European’s Written Word. “If you want to hide something from a Black man, put it in a book,” the old saying goes, yet the African parents writing autobiographies to pass to their children, often in the form of letters such as Maraire’s and Magona’s works, are doing the opposite: putting it in books they immortalize their culture and assert autonomy over their stories (rewriting, literally, blindly accepted Eurocentric HIS-story), revealing to a wider world what was once whispered around campfires and sung in cryptic lullabies. In a review of Sindiwe Magona’s To My Children’s Children and Mother to Mother, Meg Samuelson writes:

Sindiwe Magona’s autobiography, To My Children’s Children (1990), and her fictionalized account of the Amy Biehl killing, Mother to Mother (1998), provide a rich comparative framework in which to consider the construction of the narrating voice and the addressee….. To My Children’s Children opens by locating the speaking act (recourse is made to the oral, not written, tradition) in the culturally specific role of a Xhosa grandmother. Although there are (repressed) schisms within this voice, it sets itself up as one that emerges from a stable identity. The proclaimed aim of this autobiographical act (telling “my” story) is to conserve, record, and transmit the culture and traditions of “my people”–the amaXhosa — to her grandchildren (1). Here we see Magona justifying the “private” act of autobiography (writing the self) by turning it into a communal act, locating it within a culturally ordained, “authentic” sphere: orally transmitted cultural values. Thus the constructed voice and its placing of the addressee deflect the individualism implied in the act of writing. That the narrator’s voice slips out of its ostensible function as a communal voice (and reveals this to be a rhetorical strategy) becomes apparent when Magona drops the address to the “child of the child of my child” after the fourth chapter, only to hastily recover it in the closing sentence. The maternal identity, I will therefore argue, should not be taken purely at face value but should be read far more ambivalently as a voice torn by competing pressures. On the one hand, Magona is invoking textual strategies in order to write her story within the conventional politics of the time. On the other, we cannot but help see this device of constituting herself as a mother in/of the community as being, at times, a screen behind which Magona attempts the more private act of recuperating a stable individual self. What the voice she constructs claims to conserve is the locus of community. (Samuelson, pp 1-2)

The African voice of the community is often attributed to the elders, such as those keepers of wisdom Amai Zenzele in Maraire’s work refers to: “even the ‘ancients’ as you call them, with their interminable, glorious epic tales of battles waged and won and village life before the white man came—they are our living history…our library (Maraire, p 7).” The elders are perceived as the keepers of the village’s moral standards and spiritual convictions, they are also the shapers of socialization: the foundation upon which the example is based for how the citizens of the village should carry themselves with respect.

Looking back now, I can clearly see how iintsomi are an essential and integral part of the socialization of the child among the amaXhosa. The lazy youngster who would not bother to learn from his or her elders was punished; usually he or she ended up without a spouse because no one would marry such a sluggard. Always, good behavior was rewarded and bad punished. (Magona, p5)

Wole Soyinka’s luminal masterpiece Ake shapes Soyinka himself as a sort of trickster god, almost unreliable narrator, the child speaking through the adult’s mouth, writing through the adult’s pen precisely as the adult self sees his child self. Like the Esu-Elegbara crossroads deity the Yoruba tribe worship—the social-spiritual culture that Soyinka himself was born into—Soyinka straddles the fence between innocence and age, ignorance and perception, a child’s place and an elder’s authority, a child’s hope and an old man’s careful certainty and mortgaged regret. Soyinka’s middle existence between youth and adulthood signifies modernity or Eurocentrism as a sort of “growing up,” as if the magic of the traditional spiritual practices are acceptable as a child, but as an adult he engages in the more existential, philosophical intellectual activities of analyzing Christian doctrine rather than engaging ritually in the lively and living ceremonies of his people. Sindiwe Magona expresses a similar sentiment in To My Children’s Children revealing:

This straddling of two worlds, the world of school and of “civilization” and the world of ancestor worship, witchdoctors, and traditional rites, often created disagreements in our home.  “What do the teachers know?” [My mother’s] stock phrase meant “case closed!” Even when resourceful Jongi would resort to: “But we are safe. We have been fortified remember? Remember the witchdoctor?” it was to no avail. “He didn’t fortify you against suicide,” mother would retort, adding, “and I didn’t send you to school to find out you have a mouth!” Who could argue with such wisdom?  …After the weekend celebrations I would go to school as usual. I had to come to accept the existence of two far from compatible worlds, the one my world of traditions, rites, and ancestor worship, and the other, the world of “civilization” that included school. (Magona, p54, 65)

Between Yoruba traditional religion (Ifa) and Christianity, Soyinka grows to seamlessly syncretise the two with as much adeptness as Yoruba descendants of the Slave Trade did when creating new Creole-Caribbean versions of the Ifa faith naming them “Santeria” in Cuba, “Voodoo” in Haiti and New Orleans, and “Geechee” in South Carolina and Savannah, GA. This syncretism is evident in his identification with and possessiveness over a rock outside of Sunday School meeting. The possessiveness over the rock, although seemingly absurd to the western interpreters, is indicative of a connection to Eshu Elegbara, or Eleggua as He is known in Cuba, Exu as he is known in Brazil. This Yoruba deity is the African equivalent of the Norse Odin/Wotan, The Greco-Roman Hermes/Mercury, and the Hindu Genesha. This deity is often personified, consecrated, and/or embodied in idols or icons made out of rocks, particularly the sacred Laterite stone. Another example of such syncretism is hinted at in an early chapter of Ake in which, the young Wole asks if St. Peter is an egungun. An egungun in Yoruba language and belief means literally “bones of my bones”—in other words, egungun are the ancestors or our Collective Dearly Departed. Egungun ceremonies such as the ones Soyinka describes with such vivid detail and obvious joy are powerful and awe-inspiring, allowing for an ancestral spirit to “mount” or temporarily reside within an entranced performer’s body while in the sacred colorful multi-layered egungun cloth robes. However, the elaborate ceremonies and costumes aside, egungun are still, for all intents and understood purposes, literally regarded as the Holy Dead, a collective of ancestral spirits from one’s immediate bloodline and ancient lineages, sometimes even including past lives. Therefore, although belittled and casually dismissed by the uninformed reader literally lost in translation, the child Soyinka who so adamantly regards St. Peter as an egungun is in fact correct, as St. Peter too is an Elevated or Deified Ancestor, or once living human being, just as all the other human beings. Of note as well is the documented fact that many slaves—and to this very day, their descendents– syncretised and identified St. Peter as Eshu-Elegbara or Haitian Papa Legba or Cuban Eleggua (Akinkunle B: 2-3). This Eshu-like liminality the Wise Child Wole Soyinka displays is alluded to in an intriguing article comparing the exploration of abiku in Ake as follows:

In Wole Soyinka’s autobiography Ake, the middle-aged Soyinka resurrects the child Wole. This exceptional child breaks down the boundaries between Yoruba and English, the wild and the Christian, the town and the parsonage, Yoruba and Western-style schooling, Ake quarters and the rest of Yorubaland. Gender and generational barriers crumble when he becomes pivotal, as errand boy, in the women’s rebellion against taxation in Ake. These daughters, including his mother, Wild Christian, break patriarchal law and unseat the Alake from his throne for his intransigence and his apparent support for colonialism. Wole never forgets this history-in-the-making. However, the autobiography is a safari of the self, as Soyinka conjures the ghost of a past self and, as abiku, thrives in many spheres. In keeping with the genre, he cannot help but sell his self. He tacitly acknowledges that he inherits his rebellious spirit from his courageous, revolutionary, “wild” mothers. Shifting from the matrifocal, he also recognizes the gift of courage and acuity from his grandfather, and he mentions his debt to his intellectual father. Nonetheless, his mother, named Wild Christian, (16) presumably by Wole at the ripe, old age of three, embodies the unbridled and puritan spirits that are part of Soyinka, the writer. Wole names his father Essay by fusing the father’s fragmented initials-S.A.–into a word to conjure the cerebral, writing world. Wole and Soyinka reverse the parent-child power base when Wole renames his mother and father and Sayinka reproduces them textually. If his parents named him in Yoruba, Wole–‘step in (and stay),’ to borrow Clark’s abiku phrasing–names them in English. Through word power, Soyinka transplants them from a Yoruba milieu into an Anglicized domain by writing in English. Wole’s parents are not really Soyinka’s parents but traces of them in a mimetic space (Uncredited/Free Library, p 1-3)

In Country of My Skull, what we have essentially is a strange hybrid of confessional, transcription, and autobiography. We have an amalgam of pseudo-fiction, embellished facts that become “truer than true” and even instances where the accounts of several real persons are combined into one invented character’s slightly questionable, yet cohesive and moving, narrative. Controversy rides this formidable volume offered by the white Afrikaner Antjie Krog on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s native black witnesses and their recounts of truly gruesome racial violence inflicted upon them at the hands of whites during the recent—and still stinging—oppressive hegemony of 1990s apartheid…. Krog acts as a witness of the witnessing: reporting and transcribing the events, she is not only court recorder and is not covering the Commission hearings with velvet gloved journalistic objectivity, but instead finds herself engaged in and engaging with the channeling of these vivid memories, an unsettling, though some say cathartic, experience…. Indeed, Krog has made a lasting testament out of a guided testimony (Akinkunle, 1-2). Country of My Skull is a strange inclusion to the collection of African autobiography summarized here; It is not strictly the biography of the testifiers or of Antjie Krog herself—instead, it is more of an autobiography informing how she reacted to and felt about the confessions she has transcribed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The autobiography becomes more like a communal biography, wherein Krog realizes through her own intertwined testimony that their story/ies are in fact hers. As a white Afrikaner, Krog is in a strange place of exclusive inclusivity: white, she is a foreign entity in cultural mentality and appearance, even if she were born on African soil; yet, she is also undeniably and inextricably part of the community and the history because without the European invasion the victims’ testimonies she herself recounts from the Commission would never have been told, never heard, because it never would have happened. Although she is not personally to blame, her dual citizenship implies her culpability. Again, just as with the other biographies, ancestry is a large part: Krog’s white ancestors are the spectres haunting the history of the Black Africans’ ancestors and futures of the Black Africans’ children or descendents. Krog’s work, although not passed from parent to child (such as Zenzele or To My Children’s Children), nor presented as reflections from man to his boyhood self (such as Ake’), but it is in a sense an offering to the ancestors. Krog’s re-telling of the Commission transcripts is in a sense her own reparation to the Black victims’ ancestors; it is somewhat an un-silencing on her part of the Black victims silenced and left powerless by her own ancestors. Essentially, by allowing them expression channeled and legitimized through her literary exposure and influence, she on behalf of her  white ancestors offers a sort of apology in a way, through her sympathy for and internalization of the Black apartheid victims’ agonizing accounts of racial prejudice on their own continent at the hands of European oppressors.

In conclusion, the African autobiographies featured in this unit can be viewed as in and of themselves an offering, a  ritual canonization of one’s own experiences, where the “white man’s” Deified concept of Written Word (more external, its potential reach and influence due to its method of portability) meets the African gnosis of intuitive, unwritten nonlinear storytelling (a more enclosed, cryptic, secret, informal method of communication, and usually limited to family/tribe). In the different authors’ autobiographical writings, African forms of oral and mythological storytelling are inherently present, borne from a systematic Eurocentric, hegemonic oppression of a People who traditionally have been unaware of, or deliberately forbidden or limited access to, the “white man’s” literary history. The true triumph, then, is in a sense “beating the white man at his own game” by taking his assumed literary authority and cleverly circumventing such by writing distinctively “African” without apology or annotation. 


Steele, Gloria. Unpublished Article A (Writing Assignment 3, LIT-331-OL009). 2014. Thomas Edison State College

Steele, Gloria. Unpublished Article B (Writing Assignment 5, LIT-33-OL009). 2014. Thomas Edison State College

Carmichael, Stokley (author); Thelwell, Ekwueme Michael (Contributor-compiler), Ready For Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Copyright Scribner 1998, New York

Krog, Antjie. Country of my skull: Guilt, sorrow, and the limits of forgiveness in the new South Africa. Random House LLC, 2007, New York

Magona, Sindiwe. To My Children’s Children. Interlink Books, 2006, Massachusetts

Maraire, J. Nozipo. Zenzele: A Letter For My Daughter. Dell Publishing, 1996, New York

Moss, Laura FE. “” Nice audible crying”: Editions, testimonies, and Country of My Skull.” Research in African Literatures 37.4 (2006): 85-104.

Samuelson, Meg. “Reading the Maternal Voice in Sindiwe Magona’s To My Children’s Children and Mother to Mother.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 46.1 (2000): 227-245.

Soyinka, Wole. Ake: The years of childhood. Random House, 1981, New York
Uncredited. “An abiku-ogbanje Atlas: a pre-text for rereading Soyinka’s Ake and Morrison’s Beloved” The Free Library 22 December 2002. 21 April 2014 < abiku-ogbanje Atlas: a pre-text for rereading Soyinka’s Ake and…-a097515893>.

Heteronormative Gender Role Portrayals and Paradigms in ‘Queer’ Life and Media Originally written for a client May 12, 2017

Heteronormative Gender Role Portrayals and Paradigms in ‘Queer’ Life and Media Originally written for a client May 12, 2017

 It is widely accepted that human beings cultivate a sense of identity through a process of interpretation and integration: interpretation of what one perceives in one’s immediate environment as well as mass media consumption, and integration of such cultural norms and stereotypes that predominate in one’s societal surroundings. With its influence increasingly more powerful than even one’s parental examples, mass media presentations are vital, too, to identity cultivation, solidification, and maintenance. Knowing this, particular attention can be drawn towards answering the question of how media speaks to and for a particular identity demographic (as we often shape identity by our sense of belonging to a certain subgroup), in this case LGBTQ. 

Considering what messages are delivered about what it means to be not only masculine and feminine, but “appropriately” masculine and feminine in same sex relationships and/or identification with the fluid LGBTQ subculture(s), it is also inextricably vital to explore how advertising markets to this demographic. Analyzing how Queer culture is represented in media and targeted for market consumption, it is precisely what allegedly gay-friendly marketing slants say about predominant/hegemonic culture domination that reveals how deeply entrenched are often stereotypical established (or forcefully imposed/controlled) “norms” of how gays are to conduct themselves, represent themselves, and define themselves through consumption. Furthermore, by exploring how what is it that gays are “supposed” to be informs what they are supposed to want to buy to fulfill a sense of identity, it is inevitably, too, a challenge to exactly why is it presumed they should want what is promoted to them in such manner(s). In these analyses, it is therefore revealed the subversive ways in which hegemonic, dominant, heterocentric culture imposes its own predominant definitions even when seemingly “tolerant” or gay-friendly. It is through critical analysis made evident as well as how gays themselves perpetuate or resist these representations—and why. It will, too, be explored briefly the emerging impact of the rising transgender/transsexual visibility in Western society and how the trans agenda further complicates these questions of media marketing and representation of queer community: especially when some trans members do not identify as queer at all but indeed hetero, following hegemonic paradigms of masculine and feminine presentation. 

Paradoxically, “findings suggest that GLB individual may be more influenced by GLB media role models than by heterosexual media figures due to the GLB role models similar identities (Gomillion, 332)” although much evidence is available about gay, feminine-oriented or “bottom” male emulation of well-known female entertainers as diverse (a wide range of degrees of femininity, a wide variety of iconic, archetypal, even, feminine prototypes) as Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Eartha Kitt, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, and Christina Aguilera, even Betty Boop, Jessica Rabbit, and Hello Kitty, likewise heavily marketed to straight cis-females, evident in the plethora of Betty Boop-imprinted purses, backpacks, even dresses, t-shirts, leggings, shoes, hair and nail accessories. But where is the wealth of literature concerning who female lesbians identify with? Interesting to investigate is the possibility that it is more common for gay males to form identities revolving around a [hyper]feminine, mostly presumably heterosexual cis-woman…but how common is it that lesbian-identified women, trans or cis, shape identities and postures from actual heterosexual men? As a young gay male child may twirl in front of a television screen imitating Janet Jackson choreography, how often do young lesbian identified female children take posture cues from, and/or play out gender scenarios in, films such as, say, Rambo or Scarface? [Gomillion/Giulliano “on media role models influence of queer identity”, 2011, p330-354]

Similarity identification is defined as finding similarities with or idealizing a media figure and living vicariously through his or her activities. Wishful identification, on the other hand, occurs when an individual desires to resemble a media figure due to the media figure’s appealing qualities (e.g., fame, attractiveness). In an exploration of the role of the media in children and adolescents’ identity development, Matthews (2003) found that preschoolers intensely identify with television and movie characters and imitate them while playing (Gomillion, 332)

How do gays, especially, perhaps gay children, choose to identify themselves with predominant representations of masculine and feminine and who do they identify with? How do gays interact with media in the context of identity: Explore first how gender and sexual orientation identity/ies formed from and informed by media programming portrayals. What do they want to watch and/or otherwise consume that presumably reflects their interests (and, furthermore, who is to say what interests are or should be relevant to gays as opposed to straight, especially enough to define and categorize or make genres out of “gay-friendly media” or “specialty media” [Witeck]) Then how is that identity, once formed, maintained or enhanced/embellished by consumption of a heteronormative hegemonic dominating demographic?

Heterosexuals form the dominant group in society which holds the political power to legitimise and advance its own social, cultural, economic and educational agendas. The dominant group defines, governs and polices cultural values and social norms such as sexual relationship, marriage, family structure and parenthood from a heterocentric cosmology. Heterocentric ideology has been and still is the dominant force in most social practices, including the media industry. The heterocentric characterisation of male and female roles has failed to realise the complexities of human sexuality. Under heterocentric ideology, males and females have discrete and conventional, if not sexist, roles and prescribed social behaviours; as a result, a feminine man normally elicits public ridicule while a masculine woman is socially unacceptable. This social protocol (feminine: man / masculine: woman) is often identified with gay men and women and is embodied in media expressions (Chung, p101) 

To further complicate the matter of representation and identification with media portrayals in the queer community, is the emerging Trans movement/Trans Agenda. Presently at the forefront of attention to Queer rights and concerns is the advocacy for transgender identification: transgenders want the right to be recognized as the gender they identify with, recognized according to accepted masculine/feminine cues in the media. Do feminine presenting gay men, drag queens, transvestites, and/or transwomen model themselves after, identify with, and possibly even stereotype (Chung) themselves as, “normative” hegemonic patriarchal representations of what it means to be feminine [Giuliano/Gomillion] if, indeed, they are and want to continue to be recognizeable and, thus, visible only when “presenting as” or even “passing as” what is commonly accepted/acceptable as feminine—and therefore, by presenting as predominantly accepted, are they thus accepting their own hegemonic oppression (by limiting themselves to the standards of femininity imposed by a majority patriarchal, misogynistic capitalist culture/society that subjugates and limits in definition women in general as well as queers, lesbians, feminine presenting gay men as well as transwomen)? Janet Mock writes extensively in her book about how pop culture influenced how she shaped her feminine identity: confessing she “lives for Beyonce (Anthony Cooper interview controversy)” the transgender advocate writes of completing her physical, surgical transformation and spiritual self-initiation into womanhood with the adoption the moniker “janet Mock” as a tribute to janet Jackson, with whom she shares her “amazing cheekbones (cite interview)” and, thus, confirms:

 “positive portrayals of media characters who share similarities with an individual can produce changes in the individual’s self-perception… Consistent with this notion, Wohlford, Lochman, and Barry (2004) found that participants were more likely to have high self-esteem if they believed they shared many character traits with their role models than if they believed they shared few traits with their role models. In short, because having role models with similar characteristics predicts high self-esteem, it seems reasonable to expect that GLB individuals who have access to GLB role models may have higher self esteem than GLB individuals who lack access to such role models. Having role models has also been shown to be related to self-efficacy. For example, Cheung and Yue (2003) found that modeling after accomplished and distinguished individuals is related to a higher sense of self-efficacy among adolescents. It follows that GLB adolescents who model after successful GLB media figures or personally known GLB individuals may have a greater sense of self-efficacy in terms of coming out and achieving a fully developed identity. (Gomillion, p331-332)”

literally, janet Mock is found to be a baby born male “mocking” a “real” woman, Janet Jackson who is well-known supporter of gay rights and agendas, as well as a woman who, predominantly heterosexual, has admitted to same-sex flings and has made bold, androgynous, gender switching fashion choices over the years. . Identifying with these celebrities, Mock thus proves the depths of the extent to which identity—specifically gender roles and sexual orientation—is intricately wound in mass media through the individual’s relation with, admiration of, and emulation/imitation of entertainment figures/performers, acting to perpetuate normative standards of gender. 

Works Cited

“A Conversation With… Isis King and Janet Mock” 30 Jun 2012 (Video file) Retrieved from 

“Author Janet Mock Joins Piers Morgan” 05 Feb 2014 (Video file) Retrieved from 

Downing, M., Schrimshaw, E., Antebi, N., & Siegel, K. (2014). Sexually Explicit Media on the Internet: A Content Analysis of Sexual Behaviors, Risk, and Media Characteristics in Gay Male Adult Videos. Archives Of Sexual Behavior43(4), 811-821. doi:10.1007/s10508-013-0121-1

“Janet Mock On Pop Culture & Redefining Realness” 30 Jan 2014 A (Video file) Retrieved from

“Janet Mock on ‘Passing’ & Redefining Realness” 30 Jan 2014 B (Video file) Retrieved from 

Jenkins, H.(2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: NYU Press.

Kates, S. M. (1999). Making the Ad Perfectly Queer: Marketing “Normality” to the Gay Men’s Community. Journal Of Advertising28(1), 25-37.

Ng, E. (2013). A ‘Post-Gay’ Era? Media Gay streaming, Homonormativity, and the Politics of LGBT Integration. Communication, Culture & Critique6(2), 258-283. doi:10.1111/cccr.12013

Poole, J. k. (2014). Queer Representations of Gay Males and Masculinities in the Media. Sexuality & Culture18(2), 279-290.

Sheng Kuan, C. (2007). Media Literacy Art Education: Deconstructing Lesbian and Gay Stereotypes in the Media. International Journal Of Art & Design Education26(1), 98-107. doi:10.1111/j.1476-8070.2007.00514.x

Singer, D., Huntemann, N., & Morgan, M. (2001). Mass Media and Identity Development. In Handbook of children and the media. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Tuten, T. L. (2005). The Effect of Gay-Friendly and Non-Gay-Friendly Cues on Brand Attitudes: A Comparison of Heterosexual and Gay/Lesbian Reactions. Journal Of Marketing Management21(3/4), 441-461.

Um, N. (2012). Seeking the Holy Grail through gay and lesbian consumers: An exploratory content analysis of ads with gay/lesbian-specific content. Journal Of Marketing Communications18(2), 133-149. doi:10.1080/13527266.2010.489696

Witeck, B. (2007). Gay media in America: Who they are and how to reach them. Public Relations Tactics14(7), 22.

A Prophecy of The Effects of Gender-Fluidity (original essay written April 2014)

Written for a client April 2014

“Children of LGBTQ Parents: Normalization and Assimilation”

In these more modern and, some say, more “tolerant” times, The Gay Agenda has quickly normalized and sanitized perceptions of Same-Sex relationships in general and same-sex parenthood in particular. What some would call a glorification of postmodern alternatives to the pre-WWII era “nuclear family,” some would call a perversion of traditional family unit structure and values (Becker, p8). Michael E Lamb, editor of Parenting and Child Development in “Nontraditional” Families notes in his introduction that it would indeed benefit society as a whole “ to discuss in depth the ways in which various “deviations” from traditional family styles affect childrearing practices and child development (Lamb, xiii)” The fact that recently gay marriage is more widely accepted and gay rights more explicitly defended, has perhaps made it “easier” for children of same sex parents to feel “normal”—or does it give them a certain sense of still being deprived of stable gendered role models, or still being “Other-ed” or stigmatized by children of heterosexuals?  Proper child socialization and identity formation/establishment is often shaped by the parents—are children of same sex parents disadvantaged in a way by circumvented or inverted gender presentations; are children of same sex parents confused by lack of standard masculine-feminine identification and is that “confusion” in fact liberating as a condemnation of making oneself a stereotype, a condemnation of “labeling” or “gender policing”? Perhaps it can be proven that a child’s development of his/her own sexuality and self-identification in the face of disapproving, bullying, or simply unsympathetic peers is not necessarily affected by parent’s sexual orientation.

In these cosmopolitan, gay-friendly times, the Western world seeks in many ways to re-define and outline concepts of family and gender. In the post-Clinton-Lewinski-Scandal era of American sexual politics, in the post-Scandal era wherein America’s sordid history of slavery and miscegenation is remixed and upgraded to place Sally Hemmings as Olivia Pope in a designer suit and “white hat”, in the era in which the nation confronted, horrified, its behind-curtains Catholic Pedophilia glorification, new ideas about relationship dynamics and taboos arise just as dramatically as the recent spikes in divorce and adoption rates. In this exciting and unsettling New Age, many discover families are dramatically reconfigured. Through gradual standardization of homosexual portrayals in the media, many American citizens, liberal and conservative, question Ideals among hetero- and homosexual families of what’s considered “proper” or “traditional” in the family unit organization and/or presentation of gender roles, including masculine and feminine presentations of caretaking and employment responsibilities, as applicable (Opposing Viewpoints, p1). In the face of the question of whether gay parents appropriately raise well-adjusted, properly socialized, healthy, intelligent, and confident children, there are several opposing arguments presented. Among potential oppositional perspectives are: how children may feel isolated or ostracized for parents’ orientation (National Review); how witnessing homosexual displays of affection and/or sexual activity may be believed to cause children to experiences warping of gender identification; and whether or not a child’s proclivity towards homosexual desires/presentation can absolutely be attributed to direct imitation or emulation of a homosexual parent. These questions can perhaps be placed in a clearer context by exploring how the traditional family structure in America has changed, as well as how drastically and quickly changed has been the perspectives on Gay Marriage and Gay Parenting in the American collective.

The 20th and 21st centuries have been the most rapidly evolving in human history, with trends in arts, religion, fashion, and even human thought changing ever more fleetingly with each six months. The dawning of the 21st century especially has illuminated severe deviations from the traditional “nuclear family” structure, starting with (and blame attributed to) not only the institution of gay marriage, but even heterosexual families’ households changed drastically with the country’s post WWII high morale expansion and suburbanization-modernization, as well as post-1960s Women’s Liberation and the so-called Sexual Revolution. An article appearing in The American Family illustrates thus:

The economic prosperity following World War II enabled many American families to pursue what was perceived to be a better life in the wide-open spaces of the outlying, newly developing suburbs. The ties that bound the nuclear family, the extended family, and the ethnic neighborhood—all of which existed before the war—were loosened. (Becker, p1)

The thoroughly researched report went on including explanations for the formation of new dynamics including: increased occurrences of divorce leading to split and mixed families, the advent of the acceptable “stepchildren” as a normal reflection of broken vows, incidences of struggling retiree grandparents raising grandchildren, adoptions, and interracial marriages. All this in mind, it would seem evident the American Family Ideal was already becoming more inclusive, more fluid—or, some would say, the Standard was more corrupted—well before the political debates about laws governing same sex relations began.

With the definitions of family more elusive, and the definitions of “love” more broad, one may begin to wonder in extremes whether or not in the near future there will be advocates this zealous arguing for the acceptance and normalization of Pedophilic marriages. Edward Alexander, writing for The Weekly Standard surmised:

The triumphant campaign for gay marriage (and gay adoption) had swept all before it, once Vice President Biden forced President Obama to accelerate his “evolution” from the traditional (for most of human history) understanding of marriage as a heterosexual institution to endorsement of same-sex unions. The campaign had been conducted on the lowest possible intellectual level, i.e., that of “equal rights” for all people who love each other. But do any two heterosexual people in love have a “right” to marry? Suppose one of them is already married? Suppose one of them is the child of the other? (Alexander, p1)

In light of the question of whether same sex offspring are really living a life that’s best for them, the full article from “Gay Parenting” in Opposing Viewpoints in Context quotes extensively:

Those who oppose the idea of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people having and raising children argue that the traditional family structure serves as the basis for society, and without it, society as a whole will deteriorate and suffer. Collette Caprara in a Heritage Foundation blog entry, entitled “Reinventing the Family: Good Intentions Are Not Enough,” on October 24, 2011, writes, “Youths growing up with both a mother and father in the home are also less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as becoming sexually active or engaging in substance abuse and less likely to exhibit antisocial behavior. In addition, teens in intact families tend to fare better on a range of emotional and psychological outcomes and to have higher levels of academic achievement and educational attainment. With an apparent disregard for the social and economic consequences to children, the rise of experimental family forms and the ‘commissioning’ of babies may be the ultimate expression of the commodification of children—when offspring are conceived for the gratification of adults who have yet to grow up.” (Opposing Viewpoints, p2)

           Harsh as some of Caprara’s assessments may have presumably been, it is imperative that, politics aside, more scrutiny be given as to whether such alternate family, marriage, and relationship paradigms are truly best for children instead of just abstract concepts, untried, used as cannon fodder for vain political rhetoric and philosophical fascination with the taboo. Frustrated by the lack of truly thorough research on the effects of gay parenting on children, Mark Regnerus of University of Texas took it upon himself to conduct a larger, wider, more inclusive and representative study (The Wilson Quarterly) with samples of adults who had grown up with gay or lesbian parents and had come of age before gay marriage was even legal. His findings showed that children who had reached of adult age after being raised by gay or lesbian parents were more likely to need public assistance as an adult, more likely to face unemployment, more likely to experience depression and, thus, more likely with such symptoms to engage in drug use.

“If same-sex parents are able to raise children with no differences” from children raised by their married biological parents, Regnerus writes, “it would mean that same-sex couples are able to do something that heterosexual couples in step parenting, adoptive and cohabitating contexts have themselves not been able to do–replicate the optimal child-rearing environment of married, biological-parent homes.” (The Wilson Quarterly, p1)

Contrary to Regnerus’ findings, however, in a case of what could be skewed data and biased agenda pushing, a report published in Gay Parenting and Daily Hampshire Gazette on a study conducted by Abbie Gouldberg concludes there are no higher rates of depression or maladjustment among children of gay parents. The Clark University Professor Gouldberg asserts cheerfully that children are much better off because they were taught by their “more tolerant” gay parents to be “more open to same-sex relationships” and are “not as gender stereotyped “ as their heterosexual, more conformist peers (Wilson, p4). She also makes the connection that because of this open-mindedness and their parents’ tolerance, children of same sex parents feel more supported and thus more confident in life, translating to seemingly  more successful children, especially “girls (of lesbian parents) are more likely to have higher career aspirations (4).” Whatever the presumed benefits of higher career aspirations, Gouldberg’s happy assumption does not explain the results of Regnerus’ study implicating gay parenting as a key commonality among depressed, drug addicted, and unemployed adults of a far more inclusive and representative sample, including Blacks and Hispanics, than Amy Gouldberg’s own sample. Indeed, whose perception is more “open-minded?” 

It is not only wisely conscientious, it is indeed perceptively healthy to question the long term potential negative emotional and psychological effects—rather than the applauding of financial upward mobility in skewed studies of the gay demographic in the corporate workforce (Fetto, Experian Marketing Services) found in society’s sheep-like, fanatical, gay marriage bandwagon. Some gay parents themselves have acknowledged the subversive ulterior motives about the mainstream Gay Agenda and its potential damages, saying “I fear the same that the perversion of genuine love will be met with illusion and we will see way more mess coming (Personal Interview April 26, 2014).” 

It is imperative to question the future potential of other taboos (incest, pedophilia, polygamy, etc) being made legally acceptable by the Law of Man instead of the moral Law of God or Nature. These concepts in mind, it is worth a thorough read of Edward Alexander’s enlightening summation:

[In 1869, Matthew Arnold] Arnold singled out for relentless mockery liberalism’s obsessive campaign to change England’s marriage laws so as “to give a man leave to marry his deceased wife’s sister,” that is, to eliminate the longstanding English taboo on in-law marriage. Defenders of the taboo claimed that Leviticus forbade such marriages. Liberals said Leviticus did no such thing and therefore “man’s law, the law of liberty, … makes us free to marry our deceased wife’s sister.” But Arnold’s objection to the liberal position had nothing to do with Leviticus–“the voice of an Oriental and polygamous nation.” Rather, it expressed his sense of the sacredness of marriage and the customs that regulate it as the delicately woven fabric of civilization, a barrier against the promiscuity of primitive life, against “anarchy.” Such barriers are laborious to create, easy to unravel. England’s 65-year battle over this taboo, viewed from the perspective of our own recent reversal of the laws (to say nothing of ancient custom) regarding marriage, reverses Marx’s famous saying about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. But there is an eerie resemblance to the present that is worth noting. Arnold mocked Victorian liberalism’s obsession with the “right” to marry one’s deceased wife’s sister as the perfect example of its Philistine “double craving” because it combined “the craving for forbidden fruit and the craving for legality.” (Joe Biden, whatever his shortcomings, grasped this combination instinctively; and it is thanks in large part to him that a future book of presidential history may well be entitled Legalizing Forbidden Fruit: The Age of Obama.) (Alexander, p2)

 Speaking of “Forbidden Fruit” it is perhaps apropos to recall the age-old anti-gay slogan: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and, from there, to consider the issue of gender presentation in same sex households and the effects of such on a child’s own social-sexual development.

            In traditional heterosexual households, it is often accepted that Mommy, the feminine principle, presents as soft, often accommodating, sensitive, affectionate, and fulfilling role of cook, cleaner, and [patient] child provider; alternatively, Daddy, the masculine principle, presents often as stern disciplinarian yet wise advisor, brash and direct in speech, and hard working. In hetero- and homo-sexual homes, how are these masculine and feminine roles or stereotypes maintained or disassembled? In same sex families, how, if at all, does the child identify “mommy” and “daddy” or which mommy/daddy is regarded as the worker/provider and which is regarded as the caretaker/nurturer? “[S]exuality is an important aspect of gay relationships,” Virginia Casper writes in Gay Parents/Straight Schools, “But for many straight Americans, it is the defining one. Asked to imagine a gay-headed family on a Saturday morning, many Americans would not be likely to conjure up images of laundry and chores (Casper, 22).” Abbie Gouldberg seems to like the idea of the gay household model creating more open-minded individuals (Wilson, p.4) who perhaps can be said to be “beyond gender” (such as the incredulous pretention that today’s Americans live in a “post-racist” society) because “gay parents…encourage a girl to play with both dolls and trucks” or introducing gender neutral toys and games (Caldera, et al.), and, like Angelina Jolie’s gender-bending Shiloh, these ungendered children are supposedly more“Independent (Wilson, p.4).”

            Another issue of note inevitably to surface in any growing family household is the issue of Sexual Curiosity. Children are often influenced initially in sexual development by the sexual portrayals in their own household (Bering)—which is of course not to say children are witnessing explicit sexual activity—and even displays of affection between parents; mild expressions of desire and/or flirtations still shape how children feel they are as adults to approach and conduct themselves with the opposite sex. In modern times, some may argue children no longer base their interaction on opposite sex by heterosexual parents’ interaction: now, it seems to be a free for all as children now more likely have to discern organically, spontaneously, how they will interact with a person of same or opposite sex, with no set example of etiquette. Studies (Pick) have shown sexual proclivities, kinks, and/or fetishes are undeniably shaped by childhood memories and parental impressions (Darling)—does this prove that children of gay parents are more inclined to fetishize or otherwise find desirable, elements of homosexual eroticism, including but not limited to aspects of homosexual foreplay including sex toys? One must wonder if this is an unintended and imperceptible side effect (that perhaps Ms. Gouldberg did not anticipate in her “cars and dolls” encouragement) of this Aeon’s debauched permission of a “right” granted without consideration of its potential damage. Again, if in another 50 years Presidents are granting rights to pedophiles to legally seduce and/or marry children, without seriously contemplating the gruesome possibilities and mental instability from which could be wrought, it is worth considering if that too would be considered a positive progression of America’s “heroic tolerance”, ironic in its polarity to the arguably (to today’s standards) “close-minded” and “oppressive” Puritan values this nation was first purportedly founded upon.           

Often children of hetero or homosexual parents, for whatever reasons including bullying and/or peer pressure, do not want to identify with their parents and, as a personal revolution or liberation, present themselves in ways as different from their parents as possible. Could this include children of homosexual parents who deliberately and resentfully present themselves as heterosexual (even to some extremes of denying their own latent homosexual desires) out of shame for homosexual parents’ stigmatism in society at large? Children also obviously mimic their parents, finding the parental example set before them, regardless of society at large, as the Ideal they should aspire to. Could children of homosexual parents feel, especially in early stages of development, that homosexual relationships are indeed the “norm,” the “majority” or even the only way relationships are supposed to be, just as undoubtedly heterosexual parents’ children have felt it is the “only way?” Again, Ms. Gouldberg feels the opposite:

Q: Does any of the research show the opposite—that some kids of same-sex parents want to be anything but gay, not because they don’t love their parents, but because they’ve been dealing with “difference” all their lives?

A: That is exactly what I found. These kids are tired of defending their families and they’re very aware that their parents feel this pressure to produce straight kids. They’re so aware, growing up in the lens of media scrutiny, they feel they need to say, if I feel like screaming at my mom, it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s gay! (Wilson, p 4)

Conclusively, children may be faced with peer dissatisfaction or bullying for homosexual parents, however, it has been demonstrated through evidence presented in the paper, that although same sex relations are becoming more widely accepted, children of gays and lesbians do not necessarily identify as homosexual in any larger rates than children of heterosexuals. Furthermore, it seems time can only tell as in the next generation or two will the long term psychological effects be fully realized, the consequences of the “open” perceptions of this modern, “post-racist,” post-gender”, “post-homophobia” society. Like Pandora’s Box[1], like the “broad…way to Hell”[2], maybe there is such a thing as “too open.”

Works Cited

Alexander, Edward. “Liberal Dogmatism; How a far-out idea becomes orthodox.” TheWeekly Standard 12 Aug. 2013. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Apr.2014.
Becker, Cynthia S., Ed., “Changing Family Patterns.” The American FamilyReflecting a Changing Nation. 2005 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Information Plus Reference Series. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
Caldera, Yvonne M.; Huston, Aletha C.; O’Brien, Marion; “Social Interactions and Play Patterns of Parents and Toddlers with Feminine, Masculine, and Neutral Toys”. Child Development, Vol. 60, No.1 (Feb 1989), pp 70-76, Published by Wiley Online on behalf of  Society For Research in Child Development Web reprint
Casper, Virginia, and Steven B. Schultz. Gay parents/straight schools: Building communication and trust. Teachers College Press, 1999.
Darling, Carol A., and Mary W. Hicks. “Parental influence on adolescent sexuality: Implications for parents as educators.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11.3 (1982): 231-245.
John Fetto, for Experian Marketing Services reports “A look at household income and discretionary spending of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual Americans”
“Gay Parenting.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2013.Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Goldberg, Abbie E. Lesbian and gay parents and their children: Research on the family life cycle. American Psychological Association, 2010.

Lamb, Michael E. Parenting and child development in” nontraditional” families. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 1999.

“Looking at the research on gay parenting, Mark Regnerus noticed that the samplesof most studies were small and unrepresentative, so he collected a sample thatwas random and large.” National Review 16 Dec. 2013: 12. Opposing Viewpointsin Context. Web. 25 Apr. 2014

Pick, Susan, and Patricia Andrade Palos. “Impact of the family on the sex lives of adolescents.” Adolescence 30.119 (1995): 667-675.

“The gay parent report card.” The Wilson Quarterly 36.4 (2012). OpposingViewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Wilson, Suzanne. “Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents Are Not More Likely to HaveProblems.” Gay Parenting. Ed. Beth Rosenthal. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013.

Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “A Conversation with Psychologist AbbieGoldberg: What Studies Show About Gay/Lesbian Parenting.” Daily HampshireGazette 22 July 2009. 

Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Works Consulted

Bos, Henny, Loes van Gelderen, and Nanette Gartrell. “Lesbian and Heterosexual Two-Parent Families: Adolescent–Parent Relationship Quality and Adolescent Well-Being.” Journal of Child and Family Studies (2014): 1-16. Web reprint. < >Web Search 4 Apr 2014

Brown, Sarah S. “Popular Opinion on Homosexuality: The Shared Moral Language of Opposing Views.”Sociological Inquiry. 70.4 (2000): 446-61. Web Reprint. < > Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014.

Cahill, Sean, Mitra Ellen, and Sarah Tobias. “Family Policy: Issues Affecting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Families.” New York: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2002. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress. United States. National Association of Social Workers. Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBTQ Families. Denver, CO: Movement Advancement Project, 2012. Web. . Web Search 4 Apr 2014

Fitzgerald, Bridget. “Children of lesbian and gay parents: A review of the literature.” Marriage & Family Review 29.1 (1999): 57-75.Web Reprint. < > Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014

Gantz, Joe. Whose Child Cries: Children of Gay Parents Talk about their Lives. Rolling Hills Estates, CA: Jalmar Press, 1983. Print. The American College of Pediatricians. “Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time for Change?” Mar 26 2009. Web. 4 Apr 2014 .

Gates, Gary J. “LGBT Parenting in the United States” The Williams Institute. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA School of Law, 2013. Web. < >   Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014

Golombok, Susan, and Fiona Tasker. “Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families.” Developmental psychology 32.1 (1996): 3.

Kosciw, Joseph G., and Elizabeth M. Diaz. Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). 121 West 27th Street Suite 804, New York, NY 10001, 2008. Web. < > Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014

Lewin, Ellen . “Embracing Consumption: Making Sense of Gay Fathers’ Strategies for Becoming Parents.” The Austin Summit on LGBT Families . University of Texas. Austin, Texas. 26 Apr 2013. Reading. Departments of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, and Anthropology. Iowa: University of Iowa, 2013. Web. < > Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014

Marks, Loren. “Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting.” Social Science Research 41 (2012): 735-751. Web Reprint. < >Web Search. 4 Apr. 2014

Pluhar*, Erika I., and Peter Kuriloff. “What really matters in family communication about sexuality? A qualitative analysis of affect and style among African American mothers and adolescent daughters.” Sex Education4.3 (2004): 303-321.

Pick, Susan, and Patricia Andrade Palos. “Impact of the family on the sex lives of adolescents.” Adolescence 30.119 (1995): 667-675.

Walker*, Joy. “Parents and sex education—looking beyond ‘the birds and the bees’.” Sex Education 4.3 (2004): 239-254.

[1] The Greek myth of Pandora’s Box explained at length here

[2] Matthew 7:13

[3] A concept referring to “dysfunctional sexuality” or a luminal, undefinable and fluid sexuality or asexuality. Indication to its meaning here

Heavy is the Crown: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Brilliance of a War Strategist

**Author’s NOTE: This short paper was written for a client for their school paper in a college course entitled The Civil War and Reconstruction Fall 2021.

The Emancipation of slavery was certainly a wartime measure– both the Union and Confederacy used enslaved and free Negro enlistedmen to pursue a tactical advantage. Although certainly some Confederates abhored the idea of employing Negros in the war on either side– Howell Cobb, writing to Hon. James Seddon, pled “you cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers,” rationalising that, once Negros were made soldiers, “your white soldiers would be lost to you (Cobb’s Letter to Secratary of War, 1865),”– it is possible that the Confederacy saw the strength of the enslaved as a benefit in overpowering the Union forces; perhaps, in kind, the Union saw their forces bolstered by the strength of freed Negroes encouraged by the desire to see their kinsmen freed as well. If freed Negroes enlisted to fight for the cause of the Union, it seemed logical to conclude they would fight even more valiantly because of their vested interest in the anticipation of freedom of the rest of their Race. it is important here to note the anticipation of National Emancipation of the Negro collective because, in truth, it could very well be seen that Emancipation of Southern or Confederate-state slaves was indeed a Machiavellian tactic of war as, in truth and in fact, slavery continued after the Civil War in Union-controlled states and in Northern states. 

In the Confederacy, the Southerners saw the strength of the Negroes as both a justification for slavery, and a means to win the war to prove their supremacy. Therefore, they had justified slavery because the Negroes were viewed as stronger physicall. Thus, in this view, they were all the more suitable for the rigors of plantation slavery that boosted Southern economy and wealth. It seemed their aim, by controlling them through slavery by essentially forcing them to fight for the cause of their Masters, to want to prove that the strength of the Negroes could benefit America greatly if enslaved and, if not, that same strength could be used by them to bring the entire Nation to ruin for vengeance and their presumed stereotypical “savagery.” 

Abraham Lincoln, in his Letter to Conkling, very directly endorsed and encouraged the use of the Negro forces in war, despite Conkling’s apparant dissatisfaction with the prospect. As a “servant of the people,” Lincoln writes impassionedly about the necessity of the enlistment of Negroes to increase the odds of a Union victory. This was perhaps Lincoln conceding that the enrollment of Negroes to Union armed forces would give them a sense of pride. Indeed, more importantly, this would seem to cause them to “cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistence [sic] (Lincoln’s Letter to Conkling).” 

Overall, it seems clear that, for Lincoln, the emancipation of Confederate states’ slaves served as great incentive. As “punishment” perhaps for Confederate states’ secession, the emancipation of their slaves weakened them financially and politically. The emancipation of Confederate states’ slaves also served to incentivise them to– having been freed– enlist in the Union to fight for their Race. This clearly was a strategy to weaken the Confederacy, the “enemy” of the Union– Lincoln’s true goal. Although declaring he would “wish that all men could be free, (Lincoln’s Letter to Conkling)” we must note carefully that he did not definitively declare all men should be free. Indeed, the slaves which Lincoln’s Proclamation made free only served to free them as “contraband of war” to tactical advantage. Thus, indeed, the Emancipation of some of the Nation’s slaves– clearly, only the slaves of the Rebellious states that had seceded– was a wartime measure. Therefore this approach was a means, it seemed, justified by its ends– the ultimate goal of re-unifying The United States.

Emancipation seemed only a way to punish the Southern states for secession. The Southern Confederate states had seceded from the Union, a decision which they had initiated with Constitutional free choice. This rebellion was enacted in order to free themselves from the North’s imposition of values that undermined the economic advantage of Southern wealth. Even the ⅗’s clause in the Constitution, counting Negroes as ⅗’s of a human being, gave the Southern states advantage of representation in Congress due to the large numbers of Negroes in their populace, which generally threatened the North’s– and the Northern Republicans’– political power. 

Lincoln himself firmly adhered to Constitutional Law. The Constitution did not give the federal government right or reach of power to abolish slavery in all states. In fact, the Constitution only granted the power to prohibit the establishment of slavery in newly acuired Western territories. In addition, as Commander-in-Chief– an explicitly military position granted the President– he was able to abolish slavery, as a pointedly military justification, in states in rebellion against the Union that threatened the security of the Nation as a whole. 

Indeed, the Emancipation of slaves in Confederate states was a form of martial law. Martial law is a measure that the President, as military Commander-in-Chief, could implement to protect the Nation in times of rebellion and terrorism. The secession of Southern states was thus seen as rebellion and, in more modern terms, akin to local terrorism, an uprising that threatened the United States security as a whole. This, it seems, is the grave warning implicit in Lincoln’s famous invocation of the Biblical proverbs of Solomon in which “A House Divided Cannot Stand” was proclaimed at the Illinois State Convention in June 1858. The sagacity of this paraphrased quote from the Bible was a warning that the Southern states could possibly overthrow the Federal government and the Presidency from within, creating a “Nation within a Nation” of sorts. This rebellion had to be quelled, lest other States follow suit and enact their own terroristic rebellions for any manner of reasons. Thus, the secession and the Confederacy had to be made an example of, a weighty decision that fell squarely on the shoulders of Lincoln as President.

Lincoln’s General John C. Fremont to liberties to implementing strict martial law in Missouri, a state which, along with Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky, comprised the “border states” that did not secede but were “sympathisers” with  the rebellious or terroristic Confederate states. This imposition meant that, when the soon-to-be Emancipated slaves of Confederate states ran across state lines to the sympathising border states, which still legally were allowed to own and hold slaves, those border states were unable to benefit from the Fugitive Slave Act by returning runaway slaves to their owners for large sums of money. This martial law also meant that the property– including, of course, enslaved Negroes– of Confederate-sympathetic states could be seized and, as property, used by the Union in war. 

Although Lincoln later lifted the martial law implemented under Fremont and stripped him of his title, runaways and soon-to-be Emancipated slaves that fled Confederate states to Union-controlled military embassies in the South were to be considered “Contraband of war” and would not be returned to Confederate states under the Fugitive Slave Act. As human “contraband,” these Negroes weren’t necessarily any more “free” than those still enslaved in Confederate or Union states– they were now used as tools of war. When war breaks out between two factions, and one, overpowered, has their arms and utilities confiscated, the opposing force generally uses those seized weapons and vehicles to their advantage in other battles. Likewise, the “contraband” Negroes were– still dehumanised in a sense– used as weapons to give the Union vast advantage to win the war overall. 

Lincoln was a shrewd military commander more than a great sympathiser to the cause of the Negro. He very pointedly expressed his primary motivation was preserving the Union of the Nation, not sympathisisng with the brutal plight of enslaved African-Americans. This, in fact, was a perspective for which he was greatly criticised by abolitionists. Continuing to display his prowess in war strategy, he proposed two revolutionary Acts that were subsequently passed by Congress: the Militia Act and the Confiscation Act. The Militia Act permitted Negro men to serve for the Union in armed forces as laborers, although often relegated to more harrowing front lines positions, bearing the bulk of the terrors of combat, though without the reward of being considered military heroes, their efforts often overlooked and all but written out of the history/ies of the Civil war’s victors (typically the white Union Generals were remembered valiantly). The Confiscation Act cleverly undermined Southern power by permitting the permanent freedom of enslaved Negroes confiscated from the aforementioned border sympathiser states. By these two Acts, Lincoln was indeed poised to win the Civil War for the Union “by any means necessary,” to quote, with relished irony– the great Malcolm X/El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, an Honored descendant of the very slaves whose lives were used as pawns in the white Nation’s war. 

Whether most Negroes knew or cared if they were used as pawns in Lincoln’s war or not, there were clearly some who could discern the calculated effort to use them as property on both sides of the war for the agenda of each. Negro abolitionists like Frederick Douglass saw Negro enlistment as advantageous nonetheless. In Frederick Douglass’ editorial, “Men of Color, to Arms!”, he eloquently implores his fellow Negros to “fly to arms, and smite with death the power that would bury the Government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave (Douglass, “A Call To Arms,” 1863).” 

**Words written by Gloria C. Steele, commissioned by client, submitted December 2, 2021 at 1:44pm

**Instructions for, and images used as referenced/cited within the essay, are attached below:

The Narratives Contextualising Confederate States’ Secession

**Author’s NOTE: This short paper was written for a client for their school paper in a college course entitled The Civil War and Reconstruction Fall 2021.

In the discourse surrounding the Southern states’ secession from the Union, there are commonly three different narratives prevalent. Of these three, the first, and most common narrative is that which conflates the rationale surrounding Southern secession with the justification of enslavement of Africans as agricultural laborers. The slavery argument revolves around the Southern states’ deep economic dependency on slavery for agricultural wealth, due to their warmer climate and more abundant land availability. Southern states could easily yield cash crops upon which America as a whole depended and from which America as a whole benefitted, including cotton which was “King” of the textile industry.  

The South was shaped by the social element of white supremacy without which there was a large fear that the enslaved Africans that built the country would overtake the power. This justification of their enslavement shaped the entire culture, as this power dynamic was prevalent in all social layers of American society, and necessitated racial discrimination to allow the Southern system to sustain. It was economically, politically, culturally vital for the white ruling class in the North and South to have slavery prevail; thus blaming succession on the South only was highly disingenuous.

Slavery was seen as civilised and for the slaves’ good. This justification was useful for order and dignity in the South and United States as a whole. The argument for legitimising this practice was the idea that it was necessary, lest, presumably, the “savage Africans”, largely regarded as ignorant and uncultured, take over their masters in larger numbers. This fear revolved around the idea that freed Africans and their descendants would bring the country to ruin despite having literally built the nation by shaping the economic prestige of the country.

Northerners were agitated by the South’s economic superiority directly caused by capitalising off of slavery. Even with the burgeoning industrialisation bolstering the Northern economy, the South was clearly benefiting more from the free labor of enslaved Africans and American-born African descendants. South Carolina secceeded first on December 20th 1860, directly reasoning that for the North to outlaw slavery would destroy their sense of culture, civilisation, and economic standing. The concept of Emancipation as a threat to the South was due to the climate of the South and the profitability of cash crops, thus, justifying slavery as a “harmless” pasttime upon which their “genteel” civilisation hinged. 

Northerners, Southerners implicitly argued, envied the prosperity of the South. Glorifying “Old Dixie” and its clean, dignified, even indulgent Antebellum culture was distinctly contrasted with the “dirty”, industrial, overpopulated cultural climate of the smaller Northern states. There were complaints that slaves who shouldn’t be able to vote would ignorantly vote for Northern Republicans. This was seen to disenfranchise Southerners by voting for a political party whose ideology threatened the South’s sustainability both economically and culturally. 

Ironically, however, even in the north, Blacks didn’t have the vote and it was whites who voted overwhelmingly Republican. Republican policies were seen as a threat to the South’s Democratic views. Ironically, it was the sentiment of democracy that justified their freedom of choice to secede. The decision to secede was seen as rebellion and protection against what seemed a forced imposition on their way of life. This move is  similar to today’s time where, for instance– and perhaps ironically– Southern states overwhelmingly against vaccine policies threaten to secede from the United States again.

Mississippi seceded next, standing firmly upon the issue of slavery as vital to their commerce and trade. The heat of the near-tropical Southern regions ensured the abundance– and profitability– of the lucrative cash crops– notably cotton, rice, hemp, various tea leaves, and tobacco. These cash crops were harvested exclusively by slave labor which constituted the largest and most important portions of America’s needs and luxuries– clothing and textiles (hemp and cotton), food (rice and tea leaves), and the largely growing tobacco industry.

Mississippi justified slave labor and its inextricable justification of racism and ethnic dehumanisation due to the acceptance that the African-originated enslaved had the biological makeup (their melanated skin, fast twitch muscle fibers, and higher physical endurance, for instance) to endure the rigors of the near-tropical sun and humidity to make them ideal for harvesting in bulk and upon whose burdened shoulders lay the success of the seceding states. The South’s commerce depended upon slavery, and the North, seen as hostile and perhaps envious of the South’s wealth and ingenuity, sought to ruin the South out of spite as Industrialisation, for them, was seen as superior and more desirable than the “barbarity” of enslavement. This was in part, perhaps because the North was made up of more W.A.S.P.s (White Anglo-Saxan Protestants) who believed in “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” Protestant Work Ethic rather than the distinctly Indulgent Catholic-Christian views of the “Bible Belt” South that seemed to justify slavery by its own scriptures. The North encroached upon the security of Southern culture, societal hierarchies, and economic standing. Republican party policies were seen as hostile to economic and domestic institutions of the South. Denouncing racial equality due to racist fears of Black ‘savages’ predisposition to crime and vagrancy, slave-owning states denounced, likewise, republican ideals that supported racial equality. 

Alternately, the “States’ Rights” argument was seen as moralistic and abstractly legalistic. This perspective was hinged upon the ideological aversion of Southern states against executive and legislative overreach by federal government. In other words, the argument was more about the freedom of states’ choice of self-governance and rebellion against the Federal government’s “meddling.” This perspective seemed less racist than a pragmatic Southern fear of becoming a political minority, the proponents of this argument insisting on principle as opposed to policy. 

In the “States’ Rights” argument, the “blame” of secession was distributed among both parties. In this perspective, the South was acting in self defense against political and cultural oppression of Northern states. This viewpoint rejects legitimacy of slavery argument but argues instead for the violence of what was seen as an unecessary cultural struggle between Nothern and Southern ways of life, a conflict between the supremacy of economies agricultural and industrial, rather than supremacy of race. In this argument, there was blame placed on the North for pressuring and demoralising the South, essentially bullying the South as an uneducated and primitive genteel society. Overall, it was the Southern states pushed to independence due to Northern hostility and discrimination.

The third narrative is what is known as the “Lost Cause Argument,” nearly universally rejected as a viable narrative by most credible historians because it did not account for the importance of slavery and slavery’s necessitated racism as an inextricably important part of Southern culture despite the North, in reality, being just as– if not more– racist and discriminatory to Blacks and the newer influxes of immigrant minorities: contrary to popular belief, many German, Dutch, and Irish planters were slaverowners in the South as well, growing to great wealth denied them in the North, where they were vehemently disccriminated against, themselves.

The arguments of States Rights vs Slavery were two sides of a coin, where, in both, Secession becomes, essentially, a move against submission to the North’s pressure to change their way of life. 

Words written Copyright (c) Gloria C. Steele, November 28, 2021

***Paper submitted to client Sun, Nov 28, 6:24 PM. Course materials provided by client’s Professor for the completion of the essay provided below:

The Magician in the Man; Relating, Respect, and Reciprocity 

As a young woman of African and Native descent in the West, a child that survived an abortion attempt and was rescued and adopted, I have multiple layers of intersecting trauma and woundedness from ancestral cycles of dysfunction and pain that crystallised in very particular personal instances that irreversibly shaped my personality and perception of the world. Internalising rejection and abandonment Mother and Father wounds, I had to contextualise my trauma as I came to terms with the fact that my biological parents both chose not to parent me due to their own wounds. My feelings of low self worth and the lack of healthy dual-parent modeling of Divine Femininity and Masculinity in the home led me down a path of self-discovery peppered with anxieties and self-loathing. Despite the enormous love, attentiveness, encouragement, and validation I received from my adopted Mom, I couldn’t shake the resentment and internalised worthlessness from knowing my birth mother and my biological father seemed to simply not want me. Thus, this insecurity and the void left by my father was a vacuum in which I sought to fill that empty space with false validation from men I thought I “Loved” in an extremely unhealthy, all-consuming, obsessive, and ultimately damaging way, including extreme codependency and self-martyrdom. I chose men that were clearly troubled, romanticising their woundedness I thought matched my own, feeling that because they were hurt (and they, too, lacked honorable and consistent Fathers), they could understand my hurt and we could grown, “love” and heal together or, worse perhaps, that I could “heal him” with my “acceptance” of their “flaws” and “willingness” to “ride or die” as– I hoped– they would heal and transform into the Knights and Saviours I secretly hoped they would be. 

I subconsciously romanticisied a toxic empathy for wounded men– my beautiful, elegant, feminine adopted Mom modeled intelligence and eloquence tempered by reserve, modesty, and strong self-reliance, however, because she chose to remain single all my life, I began to internalise resentment of her in my teenage and young adult years because I felt she, too, denied me a father figure, even as a(n) [adopted] “step-father.” I didn’t know until after her death from cancer in 2012 that she, too, had been in an abusive marriage at the age of 19 which she quickly left and went into the Air Force. She had never shared that with me and I felt she was “too Perfect,” or “too intelligent” for men, intimidating them, and that she perhaps should have lowered her standards (the standards she instilled lovingly into me) so that I could at least see a man in the home growing up. You know that old saying “a piece of man is better than no man at all” that has eviscerated us as a collective, an entire generation of Black Women millennials. Seeing my resentment for her not having a man and choosing to raise me on her own– despite my extreme gratitude for her adopting me and literally saving my life, instilling good values in me– I thought I should lower my standards and work with the men I could get, idealising “building together” and working through our traumas and dysfunction together. 

I was confused by mixed messages of what “love” was– my mother, despite remaining single, told me beautiful stories of “waiting for the Right One,” a Prince of a man who would sweep me off my feet, lay me on our marriage bed gently, hold doors open for me, and carry me through hardship, honoring my emotions, patient, kind, and generously guiding me. Yet that didn’t add up with her perpetual alone-ness (I can’t say loneliness because her stoicism and decision never to talk about her relationships didn’t allow me to even see or consider she was in fact lonely, if at all). I was also beset by media images on tv and in film that told drastically different stories. I was indelibly imprinted by films like Eve’s Bayou, Waiting to Exhale, and What’s Love Got To Do With It” at an early age, and the soundtracks to The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale were constantly on repeat in my WalkMan headphones. There is irrefutable power in the images and sounds one immerses oneself in repeatedly. Those “sad love songs” became mantras that unconsciously affected me down to a cellular level. I internalised that “love” had to hurt, romanticised a “bittersweet” love that hurt and then somehow magically got better over time or, on the other end of the spectrum, that passionate, intense “love” dazzlingly, frighteningly crashed and burned fast. 

After being groomed by pedophiles from the age of 12, I hardened in my confusion into an angsty, rebellious mix of a “Black Power Fist”- pumping, Malcolm X quoting, ripped jeans-and-black-lipstick wearing Punk Rock Militant, dangerously intelligent and had quickly learned to mask emotion with my intellectualism and seek validation through being an articulate, brilliant provocateur. My opinionated assertiveness was the mask for the deep insecurity and dissociation from my body and castrated femininity, a vulnerability I felt I couldn’t afford due to being preyed upon and repeatedly discarded. I surrounded myself with platonic male friends and had estranged relationships with other women fraught with betrayal, yet I made the mistake of meeting “men” that were wounded with my masculinised competitive intellect masking the unfathomable depths of anxiety-ridden, dark, morbid, obsessive and needy “love.” I wanted a man to “love” me so much, I accepted men who didn’t respect me, nor did I truly respect. I felt entitled to their desire and felt compelled to sacrifice myself for their mere presence and tolerance. 

Having been fascinated with spirituality and Jungian archetypes from a young age, I courted “Dark Goddesses” of Love, Sex, and War like Kali ma, The Morrighan, Persephone, Lilith, Oya, Pomba Gira, Inanna, and Isthar, their worship a safe space for me to explore and own my Shadow with the morbid glee of my young AltBlackGirl Gothic self. I was comfortable in my Shadow, a gift of introspection allowing me to revel in the excavation of my wounds, swimming in my trauma, finding myself at home in the murky depths of my pain and self-martyrdom. It was the Light I hid from. Accepting and owning that, too, I deserved Love, Support, and Truth, unconditional and consistent. In lieu of a Father, the Masculine archetypes I glorified were gangsters and Mafia Men– the Corleones and the dapper, suit-wearing Padrinos of Scorcese films. On the other end of the spectrum, my immersion into grungy punk rock culture, too, established a strange affinity for images of “tortured rock stars” and “heroin-chic” wounded bad guys and addicts (think Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison meets Mark Renton as played by Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting) that needed serious help. As a poet, too, and literary artist, I was lost in the fantasy of the “tortured artist” archetype and felt pain– even, and especially, in relationships– would enhance my creativity. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a peaceful exchange of mutual respect. The only Masculinity I Respected and recognised was Machiavellian subterfuge and “it’s not personal, it’s business” degrees of Power.

A poet and a wounded young woman, I didn’t realise true Masculinity and especially Black Divine Masculinity is consistent, Present, supportive, and embodied empathy (distinguishable from [ef]feminised “sensitivity”). It wasn’t until the extreme acute trauma of my ex husband murdering my firstborn son that I realised I had made a literal grave mistake of idealising a destructive “love” in a marriage fraught with abuse and chronic homelessness that eviscerated me and our children completely, all to be a “ride or die” committed to a sociopath I thought I could “heal” with.

After separating and later divorcing my ex, and going through deep exploration and lots of therapy, I began to re-assess my willfully perpetuated faulty programs of this wounded “love” and that what I was really seeking was the validation of Respect from a Divine Masculine that I could Respect and Trust for the consistency and discipline of his character and Commitment. I chose to be accountable for my painfully misguided, trauma-informed bad decisions. I chose to show myself Self Respect by Committing to myself, encouraging myself to be consistent with self care and choosing to believe in myself. I choose to regard this is Self Respect that is disintclty different from the often unrealistically romanticised sense of “Self Love” trending on social media these days– a Self Respect that held me accountable, gently, pushing for my healing instead of self-enabling, and choosing not to overidealise or overestimate myself to the point of pedalising then discarding myself in the same vicious manner as my narcissistic abusers– men and women– had done to me, with my permission, all my life. 

Through this process, I began attracting Divine Masculine figures (and even recognising Divine Masculinity I never quite clearly saw before in men that had been close to me for years, like my best friend Jay whom I’ve known since the age of 5) that were patient and held space for and advised me from a platonic state of genuinely unconditional Care and Respect. Through men in my life showing up to model for me the brilliance of the masculine mind and show me, in their own ways, what my Father wasn’t there to, I was healed in a profound way I am still not yet to accurately articulate. I learned that, like myself, many emotionally immature women (particularly those without true functional Eldership and/or without healthy and Present Fathers in their lives to guide and model masculinity for them), too often, like sighing poets, deal in dreams and fleeting, inconsistent, untrustworthy “Love” based in an ebb and flow of emotion that isn’t steady and is all-encompassing and incomprehensible to the masculine mind, like the power of the Sea. Men need– and reciprocate– the consistency of Respect, that is disciplined, focused, and is maintained even when you don’t “like” everything a man does. With “Love” with some women, if he does “one wrong thing” in the slightest, she “doesn’t love” him anymore and nitpicks. However with respect, even if he does something a woman doesn’t like, she can’t deny his integrity and the character traits that compel her unflagging respect. That’s why Beyoncé and High Value women stay even after instances of infidelity: it’s not just because of the money; it is clear that, for a man like Jay Z to have that type of money, he obviously has character and intelligence that she respects more than little personal things she may dislike.

This revelation enabled me to go from disempowering and self deprecating Inner programs to knowing my own determination and discipline as a form of magick, as modeled by The Magician archetypes of Divine Masculinity in my life, going from always second guessing myself and seeking external validation, to knowing I Am irreplaceable, inimitable, and valuable inherently. The funny thing about “attraction” is that many perceive it as some glamour, candle/oil/spell, or magnetism that actively pulls something to you; it is in fact merely BEing, authentically, and allowing that BEing to set the vibration around oneself that is so high, it is only purity, sincerity, and the certainty of the world’s lavish abundance in which one dwells. It is only power, passion, and indefatigable confidence on the frequency of Abundance one is enveloped within, as inextricable from oneself as the baby is in mother’s womb, unaware of any separation between herself and the vastness of Mother. BEing, authentically, and being anchored and consistent in that Being is what men Respect in the Feminine state of surrendering to and in that BEing. Men don’t “Love” as is commonly interpreted by the collective. Men Respect that which, like their nature, is concrete instead of abstract, fixed in determination, firm in conviction, founded in certainty and consistency, and is confident in one’s power. Respect gets women further with men than their elusive, fleeting, mutable, and illusory feelings of “Love”. Being certain in “I AM” is the sure way to “Love” a man and be Loved (even platonically), his intrigue and commitment piqued by respect, his protective nature compelled by authentic vulnerability that affirms one’s power rather than obstructs it. 

To conclude, I include a poem I wrote:

You are a poet

As I am a woman

Poets and women deal in sighs and dreams,

free with their hearts, indeed

Yet even my trembling woman’s heart

Full of longing

Knows that Respect, rather than “Love”, 

Be the more valuable currency

And the honor of Gracefully bearing responsibility

Is the crown of steadfastness, a prized virtue,

Humility that turns a wretch into a Queen 

All words © November 2021, Gloria C. Steele aka/DBA Hadassah Chauah Hadara

Published November 18, 2021

BILQUIS, THE DJINN, AND THE QUEEN OF SHEBA (originally written by Gloria Steele-Hatten 06/19/2019 for Middle Eastern Culture and Society course, Columbia College of Missouri)

BILQUIS, THE DJINN, AND THE QUEEN OF SHEBA: an Exploration of the demonization of women in the monotheistic culture, scripture, and cinema

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Abstract: Herein will be discussed the place of Queen of Sheba/Bilquis and King Solomon/Suleiman in the Qua’ran. In starkly contrasting the portrayal of the Queen’s visitation/encounter with Suleiman in the Qua’ran with the event as depicted in the Hebrew Bible and the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast, I would like to explore how the nuances of the Islamic portrayal of the encounter speaks volumes about Islamic culture and Middle Eastern sociological perspectives concerning women. In addition, considering Western Europeanized depictions of these figures and this encounter through cinematic adaptations, the analysis is further enriched by the layers of interpretation shaped through Europeanized lenses, and what that means in terms of how the West chooses to portray Middle Eastern culture, religious figures, and relationships based in love, power, and politics.

Throughout history, women who have come to positions of power and absolute authority have been villainized. In the culture of the Middle East, the religious texts of Muslims, Jews, and Christians all make mention of King Solomon/Seleiman and an encounter he is recorded as having had with the Queen of Sheba of the Biblical 1 Kings 10 and the Quaran Surah 27 (significantly, she is also referred to in Luke 11 as coming to judge the wicked of the world in the Last Days). A Queen whose wisdom certainly equaled if not rivaled the wisdom attributed to Solomon, her magnificent riches and substantial land acquisition was truly unprecedented, especially in a time famed for its incredibly ambitious tyrants and prodigious male rulers. The Queen of Sheba was responsible for a land coveted for its advantageous position on the African and Middle Eastern trade routes and for its abundant, prized spices—a land whose location is disputed to this day, with some believing Sheba (or Saba) is in modern day Yemen and some attributing the Hebraic rendition of S’aba as Ethiopia. Male rulers, particularly in Egypt, sought to control her lands for the incredible profits inevitable from the lucrative trade of her spices and the possession of her gold.


In the Judeo-Christian Bible, the story of the Queen of Sheba’s meeting with King Solomon seems to be a chaste inquiry, perhaps a business transaction. Ultimately the Bible shapes their exchange of minds and goods as a meeting of equal, but independent sovereigns.

And when the queen of She’ba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of YHWH, she came to prove him with hard questions.

And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

….Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came…and, behold, the half was not told to me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

….and she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of She’ba gave to King Solomon.

….And king Solomon gave unto the queen of She’ba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country…

(1 Kings 10:1-3, 7, 10, 13; The Holy Bible, King James Version, italicised emphasis mine)

In the Hebrew rendition of their meeting, in fact, there is no hint of romance in the account, save for the ambiguity found in the line in which Solomon is said to have given her “all her desire.” Neither, for that matter, is much romance found in the version of their interaction found in the Qua’ran. In the Quar’an the story is more a tale of conversion; Suleiman is given a report by a hoopoe bird of the Kingdom of Sheba wherein the Queen and her people all worship the sun instead of Allah.

“Behold, I found [in Sheba] a woman ruling over them; and she has been given abundance of all good things, and hers is a mighty throne. And I found her and her people adoring the sun instead of Allah; and HaSatan has made these doings of theirs seem goodly to them, and thus has barred them from the path of Allah, so that they cannot find the right way….” (An-Naml/The Ants, Surah 27:23-24; The Qua’ran)

He entreats her in a letter to visit his kingdom and see why she should surrender to his Almighty. She consults her advisors who tell her, essentially, the choice is hers to answer the invitation. She sends a gift of her riches to Suleiman who, unlike in the Bible, does not receive it graciously but with mocking, proclaiming his wealth granted by Allah is better than hers, a patriarchal and belittling dismissal of her grandiose gift and her esteem in a tactic to further humble her to submit to his Allah. Before her arrival, Suleiman conjures one of the invisible spirit beings over which he has been granted magickal command to teleport her magnificent throne to his palace in order to beguile her. When she arrives to Suleiman’s palace and instantly recognizes her own throne, he marvels:

“She has arrived at the truth without any help from us, although it is we who have been given divine knowledge before her, and have long ago surrendered ourselves unto Allah! And she has recognized the truth although that which she has been wont to worship in stead of Allah had kept her away from the right path: for, behold, she is descended of people who deny the truth!”

(An-Naml/The Ants, Surah 27:42-43; The Qua’ran)

Finally, Suleiman gets the Queen Bilquis to submit to Allah (and to him, to an extent) by tricking her into thinking his palace floor was “a fathomless expanse of water (Surah 27:44),” and, after she raised her skirts to bare her legs, thus shaming herself in her exposure, she repents: “I have been sinning against myself by worshipping aught but Thee: but now I have surrendered myself, with Suleiman, unto the Sustainer of all the worlds! (Surah 27: 44)”


King Solomon’s portrayal as a trickster (a role he does not embody in the Biblical accounts) is commented upon by scholars (Miller, 2011), and expanded further in the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast. In this account, which makes explicit their romance and unequivocal their sexual affair and conception of a son, the Kebra Nagast weaves a spellbinding tale of Solomon’s deceit in order to sexually force her submission to him, pointedly after her submission to YHWH! In the Kebra Nagast, Queen Makeda has already been impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and his poetic reasoning with her persuades her that, indeed, it is the ultimate wisdom to surrender to YHWH’s worship instead of sun, moon, and stars she and her people worshipped prior. Satisfied in her own conversion to the Truth, she gets ready to leave back to her kingdom and her people, but Solomon, for his own selfish pleasures, asks her to stay:

“Will you go away without seeing the Kingdom and without dining with me?” And the Queen replied, “From being a fool I have become wise listening to your wisdom. Therefore, I shall stay according to your desire.” (Hausman, 1997, pg 92)

Taking her on a tour of his palace and his realm, he permits her access to specially reserved chambers where he lavishes upon her his best foods, and, in particular, ladens her with spicy entrées and drinks mingled with vinegar, without leaving her any water. He then comes to her chambers and bids her stay for the night.

And she said to him, “Swear to the God of Israel that you will not take me by force.” And Solomon answered, “I swear that I will not, but you must swear to me that you will not take, by force, any of my possessions.” The Queen laughed at hearing this, and replied, I have no need of your things, for as you know I am also very wealthy. Nonetheless I swear that I will not take any of your possessions.” And he swore to her and made her swear to him. The King went up on his bed on one side of the chamber. (Hausman, 1997, pg 92)

After the Queen falls asleep, Solomon has his servants place right between their two beds a pitcher of cool water. Feigning sleep, he lies silently until the Queen awakens with great thirst. As she goes to pour herself of the water, he rises from his bed and accuses her of breaking her oath:

“Why have you already broken your oath that you would not take, by force, anything in my house?”

“is the oath broken by my drinking water?”

“is there anything under heaven richer than water?”

“Then I have sinned against myself, and you are free of your oath,” she told him.

“I am free from the oath which you made me swear?”

“Yes, but please let me drink your water.”

So Solomon permitted her to drink and after she had drunk her fill, they made love and then slept together.

(Hausman, 1997, pg 93)

In the hypersensitivity of this post-#MeToo era, the scene reads more like forceful sexual coercion, the epitome of rape culture filtered through a Western context of understanding. Some, however, may read this as sensual and romantic, depending upon culture, era of history, and a plethora of other variables. One thing is clear: if you can’t beat them, join them, seems to be the motto by which men of great acclaim and pride gain satisfaction over independent, powerful women. Solomon, a man of tragic hubris whose lust for countless women is clearly exposed in the Biblical accounts, meets his downfall when his foreign, pagan concubines and wives turn his heart away from worshipping the One True God, the Most High YHWH of Israel. Thus, it is no surprise with his arrogance, charisma, and seduction, he seeks to possess the Queen of Sheba herself sexually, if he cannot get her to renounce (or share her throne) for him to possess Sheba itself, economically and politically.

…it is the Queen of Sheba’s political power that makes her dangerous enough to Solomon for him to find it necessary to subdue her. However, it is significant that the perversity of this power – wielded by a woman – is symbolised by the Queen’s hairy legs, by a blot on her beauty. Clearly, if she is so powerful than she cannot really be a woman. Beauty, therefore, is a manifestation of weakness and of femininity, two attributes which are irrevocably connected; in the Jewish Stories of Ben Sira, Solomon is able to sexually possess the Queen once her hairy legs have been made smooth, in an echo of Samson and Delilah – a story which offers a clear example of hair as a signifier for masculine strength, inappropriate for a woman. However, beauty tends to be described as a power, and the Queen’s seductive power is one of the factors that make her so dangerous. But it is perhaps a secondary power, ineffable in contrast to the actual physical strength of men, and once a woman’s beauty is sexually possessed it loses its influence and its threat. The revealing of the Queen’s hairy legs at the moment when she is fooled by the glass floor also connects her hairiness – the imperfection of her beauty – to the fallibility of her wisdom. Both her vaunted beauty and intellect are undermined in a single motion, suggesting a link between the two which is not often proposed. (Hart)

The Queen Makeda/Bilquis threatens Solomon as a woman precisely because she, like her land of Sheba/S’aba is unconquered(Hart). Men have since times immemorial referred to land, Earth itself, in the feminine. Just as the flag planted on the Moon, men have always penetrated the grounds they’ve conquered with the phallic points of flags of victory, just as they penetrate the womb of Earth with their tools to plant seeds as well as to dig graves. The womb of wom(b)an is often seen as the vessel of life, receiving man’s seed to bring forth mankind from the chamber of birth—indeed, the first palace. Indeed, too, the womb is also, according to Freudian analysis, also a tomb(Braun, Wilkinson, 2001)—the subconscious fear of the vagina dentata is a primal fear of men (Vachani, 2009) that, by defining it through Psychoanalytical theory, does little to assuage them of the ambivalence of disappearing (literally) into a woman during coitus. As the only territory that hadn’t been forced to surrender to Solomon and Israel, it is fitting that, according to legend, before meeting Solomon, Queen Makeda/Bilquis was, too, commonly regarded as a virgin whose loyalty had been solely to her duty to her people for whom she’d never wavered for the love of a man. It is intriguing that, in honor of her prestigious, pristine Holy lineage, Ethiopia to this day has never been invaded or colonized as the rest of Africa has been.


Her power and the expanse of her land was formidable and, to the fragile male ego, quite frightening. Without a King or even a male consort, she was a Mystery to male rulers and men in general, a force to be reckoned with, a confidence sought to be cut down, an autonomy abhorrent just as “The Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I of England must have been centuries later. This is referenced in a quite tongue-in-cheek manner in the television show American Gods, based on the literature of Neil Gaiman, in which Bilquis is portrayed as a succubus-like demoness who revels in consuming men—and killing them—with[in] her vagina. This Queen was such a threat that both Hebrew and Islamic sources and commentaries outside of the Bible and Qua’ran question with incredulity whether she is truly even a human woman. Both Midrashic and Talmudic Rabbis and historical Islamic scholars and interpreters of the hadiths have asserted that Queen [Bilquis] of Sheba is the daughter of a King and a djinn or demon. The portrayal of the Queen as a half-djinn demigoddess type of entity seems to be a sad aggrandizement used to not only demonize her, but save face in a sense, that Solomon was not outdone or rejected by a woman immensely powerful in her own right. Insufficient to leave well enough alone and let a woman be rightfully credited for her own brilliance, military strategy, trade and market acumen, and spiritual/intuitive genius, it seems men of the Middle East saw fit to comfort themselves in the faulty logic that, of course, she must have been something other than simply a glorious woman.

In the whitewashed cinematic adaptations of her tale, they perpetuate the need to preface her arrival on the screen with lurid tales of her inhumane origins and give her a ferocious countenance. In 1952’s Italian treatment “Queen of Sheba/Raina d’Saba,” the son of Solomon is speaking with two prisoners from Sheba, veritably feverish over fantasies about this fabled Queen while Solomon stands aloof, eavesdropping. In this version, her father is still on the throne and she is yet a young girl, but the men rave about her beauty—hair black as raven, skin perfumed with jasmine—yet also wonder at the rumors that “she handles the bow and spear like the god of war and when she rides her stallion, she even rivals the wind,” as well as the myths that “her mother left her in the desert and she was suckled by a lioness!” In the well-known and acclaimed 1959 American epic Solomon and Sheba, starring Yul Brenner and Gina Lollobrigida, the Queen of Sheba is portrayed as a femme fatale-like Temptress. In this sumptuous Technicolor version she is played (wondrously, I may add, despite the obviously racist ethnic inaccuracy) as a sensual witch, as seductive as she is cruel. In fact, during her first onscreen appearance, gorgeous as she is, she scowls like a tigress and lashes Solomon’s brother Adonijah with her whip several times, smiting his face and striking him to the dust. Of course a woman can not be powerful without violence, intelligent without cruelty, in patriarchal minds (the screenwriters and film directors, as much as those who twisted her story in Islamic and Talmudic accounts) of the same ilk that crafted bloody lies to demonize Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great. 1959’s framing of the Queen’s intrigue with Solomon is concerned with presenting their encounter as one tense with hidden motives: the Queen is initially seducing and bewitching Solomon to discover his weakness in order that his enemies in Egypt may overtake them, promising the Queen, for her assistance, more territory along the Nile. Eventually, however, she genuinely finds herself in love with him, pregnant with his child, and converts to his God, The Most High YHWH of the Israelites (called “Jehovah” in this film).


In 1952’s Queen of Sheba, her virginity is explained in a scene depicting a somber ritual of her consecration and installation on the throne, following her father’s death. In the scene, a priest invokes Chemosh, a god mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and Bilquis placed inside a talismanic star surrounded by female servants and companions. As the Crown is placed on her head, she is adorned in her Royal robes and her waist girded with the braided belt, the yoke of her vow to honor her position as sole Queen sovereign. During this rite of installation, the priest prays to Chemosh over Bilquis in words eerily similar to wedding vows: “What therefore I have joined together, let no hand of man untie.” He goes on declaring that Bilquis, as Queen, is now “sanctuary of the Mysteries, instrument of [Chemosh’s] celestial potency” and warns she shall have no other husband, now wed to him. She is instructed “never shall the lips of man touch yours, never shall the caress of man profane your body…” Her commitment is as Bride only to her god, her only obligation not to a King, but to her Kingdom.

In 1995’s Solomon and Sheba, starring Jimmy Smits and Halle Berry in the titular roles, the film thankfully displays more authenticity aesthetically and stylistically, with the caramel brown skinned Halle Berry as the Queen of Sheba—her name called Nicaulne[1] in his version—in a casting decision that at least reflects a complexion akin to that of the actual Ethiopians. In this version, Berry dons authentic Ethiopian garbs, not the ridiculously Westernized—albeit highly glamorous—costumes of the 1950s’ whitewashed versions. In this version, Nicaulne becomes Queen when she murders a traitor in her father’s army that has staged a coup, killing her father, and seeks to forcibly make her his wife. Seeking Solomon not to seduce but to shrewdly and sensibly strengthen her trade alliances, here she is a Virgin because she has no desire for man, dedicating herself, swooning, in poetic prayers to the Moon with offerings of incense. Later, when Jimmy Smits’ Solomon seduces her, reciting lines from the Biblical Song of Songs (said to be written by Solomon to a “Shulamite/Shunnamite maiden”), she trembles before him in a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of nervous surrender and inexperienced uncertainty. In this adaptation, Nicaulne as played by Berry introduces herself in brilliant subterfuge dressing up as a male servant, disguising herself to enter Solomon’s court to observe his judgements. Solomon soon displays his wisdom to discover her identity, instructing her to wash her hands and finds, as he suspected, she does not know how to wash “as a man.” Helping Solomon find the “gold of Ophir” (despite him already having gained possession of such gold and the lands of Ophir before even meeting the Queen in 1 Kings 9:28), after this excursion, her loyalty is tested and won while, inevitably, the two fall in a gentle, but passionate, love.

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In 1997, another television adaptation of the story was produced under the name Solomon, starring Vivica A. Fox as the Queen of Sheba to Ben Cross’s King Solomon. Lavishly produced, Fox’s casting as the Queen of Sheba—this time named Makeda—is perhaps her finest, yet most overlooked and underrated film role of her career. Radiantly beautiful, arrayed in stunning costumes that are yet not too gaudy, her soft spoken rendition of Queen Makeda is utterly, refreshingly feminine, effortlessly charming.


This version is perhaps the most faithful to the Hebrew Bible and Ethiopic Kebra Nagast. Portraying Fox’s Queen Makeda as genuinely interested in experiencing Solomon’s wisdom without ulterior motives, the unravelling of their love is not a seduction on either side but a mutual, warm attraction, based on equally reciprocated respect for each other’s wisdom. A love that is written and acted as sincerely based in mutual admiration and honor, she neither seduces Solomon (as Gina Lollobrigida’s Queen, with delicious ruthlessness and ritualistic determination, did), nor does he seduce her (as Nicaulne was entrapped by the heavy-lidded, smoldering glances of Jimmy Smits’ Solomon). Seeming to truly, ecstatically love one another, they are torn apart when Solomon’s priests forbid him to name Makeda’s son as his heir because she is a foreign wife and convert, not of the tribes of Israel born under the Law of YHWH. Despite being disappointed her son by Solomon would not be granted the title of heir, Queen Makeda retains her dignity and is quite clear she never intended to give up her throne or her country to share Solomon’s throne as Queen of Israel. With elegant restraint, she returns home with Solomon’s son.

th (2)

Admirably, this 1997 film version leaves an opening for viewers to make the connections with Ethiopia’s Kebra Nagast. This rendition also lends credence and representation to the Ethiopian tradition of the Solomonic Dynasty claimed by the Ethiopian Jews. This Ethiopian lineage is most significant as well for the Jamaican Rastafarians who worship Emperor Haile Selassie as their alternative to Yahoshua the Messiah (Christ), regarding Selassie as their Messiah, born of the lineage of David through Solomon and Queen Makeda of Sheba.


Conclusively, in exploring the various representations of the famed Queen of Sheba through Scriptural, literary, cinematic, and televised adaptations of her life and mythos, we inherently confront not only a woman, but a woman as a sociological phenomena. As a shapeshifter—Queen, Seductress, Succubus, Spy, and Submissive—she is as much shaped by the shifting ideologies of the passage of time and the changing of religions, rulership and culture. The Queen of Sheba is an embodiment of the ways patriarchal paradigms necessitate the villainising and discrediting of awe-inspiring female sovereigns and astute businesswomen. The Queen of Sheba, like many archetypes of commanding women, is sexualised and demonised by male interpreters of her story in ways that make them feel more comfortable, seeking to control her by rewriting her, and seeking to divide her Estate and Empire and belittle her Legacy by emphasising her ultimate submission—whether to King Solomon or an Almighty Masculine God.


Works Cited


Braun, V., & Wilkinson, S. (2001). Socio-cultural representations of the vagina. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology19(1), 17-32.

Elias, J. J. (2009). Prophecy, Power and Propriety: The Encounter of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Journal of Qur’anic Studies11(1), 57-74.

Hart, Carina. “The Queen of Sheba’s Hairy Legs.” March 2, 2014. Beautiful In Theory

Hausmann, G. (1997). The Kebra Nagast: The Lost Bible of Rastafarian Wisdom and Faith from Ethiopia and Jamaica.

Miller, R. D. (2011). Solomon the trickster. Biblical Interpretation19, 496-504.

Vachhani, S. (2009). Vagina dentata and the demonological body: explorations of the feminine demon in organisation. Bits of organization24, 163.


[1] In the Antiquities of Josephus, a collection of writings of 13th century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, her name is alleged to have been “Nicaulnis”

Between the Margins: Liminality, “White Man’s Language,” and Marginalization for Librarians of Color in America (Gloria Steele-Hatten, December 11, 2018)

Between the Margins: Liminality, “White Man’s Language,” and Marginalization for Librarians of Color in America

 originally written by Gloria Steele-Hatten




Highlighting historical obstacles to literacy for the descendants of African slaves in America, this paper acknowledges generational alienation from literary pursuits, and identifies remedies for the Black librarian to find an equal footing in a glaringly majority white field of particularly nuanced and at times arduous information and research expertise. Large numbers of Blacks, spanning generations, have traditionally held suspicions of “book learnin’” and have commonly maintained statistically lower rates of successful job retention and job satisfaction in a librarian position, due to exclusion and social disadvantage. While this is true, Blacks are increasingly empowered with Information Literacy and the rising numbers of Black librarians in the field can help to inculcate a sense of overall belonging and validation among majority white colleagues. Likewise, this paper explores how mentorship programs can foster an increased sense of confidence in librarians of color who succeed at much higher rates when able to network and apprentice under other librarian superiors of color as role models and with other librarians of color as peers and support systems. With higher retention rates of librarians of color, this sets an increasing precedent as young children of color are then able to increasingly accept that whites are not, as they have traditionally been regarded, the gatekeepers of literacy or the writers of “diverse” history. The incongruent ethics of minority vs majority public library service standards is also addressed, often in parallel with the landmark Brown v Board of Education Civil RIghts case, in order to expose the disparity between the “Black libraries” and “white libraries” and the message this sendes subconsciously to emerging, young Black minds.


In Western society, displaced descendants of African enslavement and colonization, collectively known as the African Diaspora, are continuously confronting the challenge of living a dualistic, liminal existence as children of oppression. Inevitably, belonging to (as enslaved and oppressed individuals) a white, Eurocentric Western society truly anathema to Black existence, minorities of color, and Blacks in particular, are facing challenges with representation and media inclusion. This problem is especially nuanced and unique for librarians of color, in an industry that so fully encompasses and embodies the literacy traditionally, legally, and systematically denied them for generations.

Many librarians of color are aware of ancestral history in which literacy was literally forbidden, and book knowledge was elusive, if not impossible, the acquisition of which was often criminalized and deathly punished. For some African Americans, inheriting the traditionally oral history of indigenous African ancestry, the ability to read was a landmark achievement, a point of access into the mysterious world of the Europeanized Written Word. For others, “readin’ and writin’” was somewhat of a betrayal, a treachery to aspire to “the white man’s language” with which they’d been “had, took, hoodwinked, tricked, bamboozled, and led astray,” as Malcolm X has famously been quoted. This post-traumatic suspicion of English literacy may be found similar to many of those post-Depression, pre-WWII “crazy old” elders who, white and black, were suspicious of entrusting their money into banks and, suspicious of the government, would keep their money in cash, hidden in walls and under floorboards. For generations, many African Americans were just as suspicious of literacy as others were hungry for it.

Generationally, many African Americans came to perceive the very obvious disparities in demographical literacy as evidence that literary passions and pastimes were “for white folk.” Even in the present day, many impoverished demographics of urban Black youth are often bored by reading, and insist that Black children with an exceptional vocabulary and advanced reading skills are “trying to act white,” as if aspiration for education is an aspiration for white assimilation. Herein lies the historical problem with recruiting librarians of color, maintaining their tenure, and being able to successfully gain and maintain the interest of youth of color in attending and patronizing library services as a whole. Some of the most problematic issues librarians of color may have lie within the ability or inability to find enough material that represents them and their audiences, especially those librarians that are tasked with reaching younger audiences (i.e. school presentations, toddler story times, etc). To give voice and shape to the frustration of this fractured, dualistic experience, sociologists, social researchers, and the like must explore how that visibility and representation of diversity creates complex sociological narratives in young developing minds.

Glendora Johnson-Cooper’s essay “Strengthening the African-American Community Through Information Literacy” stresses the importance of literacy in general and in particular information literacy. Citing historical and statistical evidence of the generational lack of literacy– let alone informational literacy– in Black/African American populations, due to slavery’s absolute condemnation of a slave’s permission to read, this article does a great job of showing the desperate and consistent need for African Americans to “catch up” to white counterparts in literacy and being empowered and equipped to learn effectively. Historically, African Americans were strictly forbidden to read altogether, and, even after slavery, literacy was strongly discouraged and those seeking literacy were violently opposed. Over time, many generations of Blacks even came to willingly and willfully eschew literacy, feeling the “white man’s language was nothing but deceit and that “book learning” was trickery (similar to how some generations of post-Depression elders, white and Colored, came to fear keeping money in banks, fearing they’d be deceived or swindled. Even in recent generations, many African American youth have come to view literacy and reading as “boring” or even elitist, shrugging it off, at best, as a “white” pastime, rejecting literacy simply because they have not been taught how to learn:

To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information. Information literate people have learned how to learn. They know how knowledge is organized; they know how to find information, and they know how to use information in such a way they can teach others…the importance of information literacy in all aspects of our lives becomes evident when we consider our information society is growing at a rate which may exceed our ability to keep pace with technological change….with this rapid growth of [technological] resources which is fast approaching ‘information overload,’ people need to be taught when it is appropriate to select a particular source/format, how to use it, evaluate it, and gather the specific information they need. (Johnson-Cooper, pg. 185)

This perspective is crucial to aide the validity of this thesis. Citing historical examples of Black/Colored illiteracy, and illustrating the traditional barriers to its acquisition, the article makes quite clear the reason why, for generations, Blacks have generally and counally been “behind” in literacy, as well as, quite frankly, suspicious of literacy altogether, losing interest and passion for maintaining the same levels of literacy and information competence as their white counterparts. Explaining the expansion and evolution of literacy to include information and technological literacy is important because, in truth, many children, teens, and adults of color are “behind the times” technologically and, with the world rapidly globalizing via the grandiose scale of internet accessibility, Black demographics are in danger of a collective stunting of intellect as information is not merely accessed and read, it is internalized wholly differently now with interactive internet engagement and computer-based technology. The amount of Colored youth, for instance, engaged in coding versus their white counterparts speaks volumes and, just as Black children are confronted with not being able to intelligently articulate their own histories, having their stories literally written and read for them by white authors, white librarians and white teachers, Blacks will also not being able to write and encode their way into the Brave New World of the West’s technological future.

In her essay “Diversity in Leadership,” Cheryl L Branch thoughtfully and poignantly explores diversity politics and its nuanced complexities. Some of the hypocritical, paradoxical aspects of diversity politics in the postmodern era, include racial erasure and a form of whitewashing in the sense that “diversity” is used as a cover-all buzzword, a mask and muzzle to pretend to promote diversity in an effort to perpetuate the deception of “post racialism.” The postmodern insistence that “there is no racism” is a particularly vicious silencing, a covering up of the reality of racial discrimination, profiling, stigmatization, and marginalization of Blacks and minorities. Branch articulates:

“Prior research has posited that diversity, as a term and a concept, is essentially a euphemism, designed to avoid the complexity and emotion laden natures of terms, such as race, racism, sex and sexism (Winston, 2007, p131).” Diversity and multiculturalism suggest inclusiveness of diverse and many cultures; the obverse racism and race consciousness are rarely used, acknowledged, or studied The need for diversity cannot be investigated effectively without addressing the origins of the diversity deficit. The social reasons, cultural beliefs, and racial attitudes that account for the relative absence of people of color should be examined. (Branch, pg 204)

Thus, Branch here affirms that so-called “diversity politics” is truly a phenomena of erasure, tiptoeing around white privilege and providing a false “representation” without true visibility. This accounts for why it is currently trendy to go to great lengths to expand inclusive  books and media that provide “diverse” stories and ethnic visibility on the library shelves, while the seats of librarianship are still largely empty, devoid of true Colored representation. Following this train of thought, the psychological effects of this phenomena are irrefutable, even when hardly definable. Questions, whether rhetorical or answerable, include exploring racial power dynamics inherent in how Colored children feel when white librarians are given power and authority to tell and represent “their/our” stories. It is irresponsible, indeed reprehensible, for the white majority of mainstream society to continue to ignore and invalidate the inevitable cognitive dissonance that this causes.

Faced with a persistent myth of literacy as a form of assimilative “whiteness,” Branch and others address what oppression and inferiority complexes this continues to enforce and perpetuate subconsciously. Likewise, in “The Ethics of Access: Toward an Equal Slice of the Pie” by Samuel F. Morrison, the author discusses the inevitable cognitive dissonance that is a result of the inherent inability of so-called ethics to reconcile the needs of the majority and minority in library [and other public] services. Morrison goes to great lengths to cite many examples of the inherent opposition of ideals concerning the prioritization and importance of the public service and library services needs of majority and minority community subgroups. While Invoking Brown v Board of Education, he Masterfully reveals through poignantly clear parallels that the system of “separate but equal” still persists consistently today, and the disparities between quality of access, resources, and services in minority v majority libraries is still just as vast. Therefore, Morrison confirms some of Branch’s ideas on the paradox of today’s propaganda-driven conceptualization of so-called “diversity.” Morrison ultimately makes clear ways African Americans suffer under the cognitive dissonance that results from the dualism and separatism of this inherent paradox of being Black and continuously marginalized in a supposedly globalizing, diversifying America. This pretense of erased existence, thusly illustrated, exposes once and for all the hypocrisy evident in the whitewashing of so-called “diversity.”

The author of this article so Masterfully and eloquently illustrates the fulfillment of the needs of the minority and the majority are inherently opposed by design and never were meant to be reconciled ethically. Thus, the myth of “separate but equal” persists and exists today in subversive ways, couched in language and coded terms of so-called “inclusiveness” anand the appearance of diversity through well-placed “ethnic media” without true equality and representation of actual Colored bodies in positions of power and administration in staffing. Library obligation is to provide relevant information to, for, and about minorities as well as representation of such. Most importantly, minorities need more free library access by virtue and necessity of historical marginalization and disenfranchisement, and that goal has still not been reached. Morrison goes on to expose the fundamental falsehood of the “ethics” of public service as contradictory to the reality of the inequality inherent in the conflicting differences of the standards of  mainstream majority white public services which invariably lead to a shortage in resources to enable minority colored public services to meet the same standards:

…in recent times, ethics has returned to the forefront…Ethics is a system of moral principles and of values relating to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions. When two diametrically opposed obligations conflict with one another, an ethical dilemma occurs. It is settled only by weighing and evaluating the importance of the conflicting obligations. The moral conviction of a democratic society supportive of freedom of information versus the welfare of the public might well be an example of two opposing obligations. Equal access to information by the people versus the provision of relevant and friendly information is another wordset of potentially opposing obligations. The free library for the good of the public versus quality library services is also a contender….Providing access and fulfilling the needs of the majority versus providing access and fulfilling the needs of the minority is yet another opposing set. If one adds the words “equal opportunity” then the impact of this statement upon the library is significant….there is a responsibility of the public library to provide meaningful and quality access to minorities….A library is obliged to determine who the [minority] groups are, their social, cultural and demographic characteristics, and their information needs…library is obligated to plan for the inclusion of the needs of minority groups in its overall programmed service…..meaningful, quality-oriented access requires the inclusion of minority considerations in all aspects of library operations. Foremost among these are the big four: collections, staffing, programming, and facilities…..minority groups in particular experience to a higher degree the limitations of cultural, education, and language barriers. (Morrison, pg 97-99)”

Like Morrison, in the essay “Inequality of Resources in School Libraries in the 21st Century”, Ndiaye heavily invokes and cites the historical Civil Rights case Brown v Board of Education, confronting the yet-persisting, erroneous concept of “separate but equal” still not-so-subtly perpetuated in today’s glaringly obvious disproportionate quality and availability of resources in minority public schools and libraries versus majority white schools and libraries. Ndiaye recounts personal experiences in her own urban school district, with majority students of color, and the distinct differences in quality for the libraries in her district versus majority white districts:

….schools….with majority Hispanic and African American students, tend to have markedly fewer library resources than the majority white schools…I believe that the persistently lower academic achievement of students in the “majority minority” schools is inextricably linked to the fact that our libraries have been chronically underfunded for many years. The student body of the middle school where I am librarian is comprised of 39.9% Hispanics, 28.4% African Americans, 19.8% whites, and 7.8% Asians, and 63.1% come from economically disadvantaged families. (Ndiaye, pg19)


Here, through Ndiaye’s diligence in observation and research is revealed the importance for the insightful parallels drawn between the current state of minority vs majority public libraries and the historical disparities that were paramount to the landmark ruling of Brown v Board of Education case. Illuminating the importance of the historical decision, and exposing the hypocrisy of its supposed “progress,” Ndiaye reveals that, even nearly half a century later, in reality many public library institutions today operating in minority vs majority demographics are no different than in the post-Reformation, pre-Civil Rights, and post-Civil Rights eras in America.

Acknowledging the disparities between lower-quality colored minority libraries and higher-quality white majority libraries in history and the present, it is imperative to then discover the necessity of programs that seek to remedy this systematically oppressive paradigm and heal the historical wounds of literary disenfranchisement and political marginalization. One way to remedy the lack of confidence Black youth and adults have in literary aspirations, research functionality, informational literacy, and the engagement of library facilities and services, is through empowering more Black librarians and motivating them to stay the course and commit to the field in order to increase visibility and credibility of Black scholarship. Emily K Chan’s piece, “Discovering Librarianship: Personalizing the Recruitment Process for Underrepresented Students,” explores the shortage of, and necessity of, programs for mentorship and recruitment for aspiring librarians of color. The importance of recruitment and Black mentorship is emphasised, and the tradition of being “grandfathered in” to academic librarianship due to role model influence “through the pipeline,” and being “led by example.” A significant quote to be included within the thesis is:

Since 1926, there have been approximately four ALA-accredited programs at HBCUs. These programs helped strengthen the pipeline of diverse professionals by training and preparing African Americans for careers in librarianship with a focus on servicing their own communities. Today, only one such program remains. Through grant-funded recruitment initiatives, a number of schools have made efforts to remedy the lack of representation of students of color….(Chan, et. al., pg 16, 17-18, 22).

Chan describes the limitations– and limited number– of mentorship programs which, in fact, have decreased over time instead of increased; yet also emphasises the success of the existing initiatives, and the vital need for their continuation, expansion, and standardization. Instead of merely being implemented in HBCUs as they have been traditionally– and even then, systematically repressed and reduced in number– Chan suggests they be implemented industry-wide to promoted more diversified workplaces and normalize Black mentorship in order for Black librarians to extend their tenure due to the satisfaction of “connect[ing] with peers and learn[ing] firsthand from veteran librarians who looked like [them](Chan.” Having observed and experienced the vital need for such mentorship programs, relationships, and dynamics, Chan was able to identify a list of benefits identified by recruiters on the efficacy and efficiency of the mentorship program to fully motivated often insecure, out-of-place minority librarians (p27)Booth was provided with the opportunity to connect with peers and learn firsthand from Veteran librarians who looked like him….also includes a significant listing of “benefits to having participated in the program (p.27-28)” Such characteristics and benefits pointed out and lauded by recruiters include:

  • Ability to provide tangible, professionally developed informational/recruitment materials to interested individuals
  • Greater willingness to network and engage with students to promote librarianship
  • Using one’s participation as a way to introduce diversity issues and topics to colleagues and the work environment
  • Remaining conversant in the initiatives and opportunities targeting students and never librarians
  • Reaffirming one’s commitment to the profession

Chan’s awareness is indispensable, as it provides a review of the “grandfathering” of the mentorship system and points out several reasons why the system produces successful retention results. Minority librarians of color invariably benefit from this type of mentorship, and it irrefutably increases the number of librarians of color who continue to commit to the profession. Indeed, without a support system of this sort, many librarians of color would bow out of the commitment, feeling alienated, ostracized, and greatly, uncomfortably marginalized. Often taken for granted at face value, the behind-the-scenes importance of the mentorship relationship for the librarian of color often offers the mentee a confidante that looks like them, a shoulder to cry on, so to speak, about frustrations unique to the discrimination (blatant or subversive, insidious or explicit) faced by those in marginalized, minority positions. It helps the aspiring librarian of color, working their way up the ladder to feel reaffirmed and find a voice in a reflection that looks like them.

Reflections and representations with which one can readily identify him/herself are vital to human development in general, and this project ore than ever. Terida Anantachai describes the importance of communal networking for librarians of color. The necessity of having fellow librarians of color to connect with, network with, and work with is not to be underestimated. In a majority white industry that, by and large, serves a majority white mainstream America, networking between Blacks, even at ethnic-centered events and Black-only library association gatherings is an affirming experience that helps validate the experience of working in a largely alienating industry. Like academic or extracurricular groups on college campuses for students of color in a majority white University, Blacks networks and subgroups that create space for themselves/each other are not only affirming but empowering and justifies one’s space and experience in a field historically, deliberately, and systematically closed to them/us. A critical quote to be included in the thesis paper states:

As libraries remain predominantly staffed and structured by the majority white culture, the few librarians of color often find themselves feeling marginalized and without access to a supportive group of similarly diverse-minded colleagues to whom they can relate and confide. This in turn can also affect their own advancement in the profession, as professionals are generally better equipped to grow and to succeed when they have such collegial group environments and networks at their disposal. Bearing this in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that issues related to a lack of job satisfaction, advancement, and retention are also so prevalent among this group. (Anantachai, pg32)

Anantachai herein reveals the resources that validate the Black Librarian Experience, in the sense that companionship found in like-minded colleagues also of color is in and of itself a resource that bolsters minority librarians’ confidence in the majority white field, and gives a footing and “A Seat At The Table,” in a manner of speaking. Although still a statistical minority in terms of percentage, when a librarian of color is able to identify colleagues, partners, and co-workers of color, as well as mentors to learn from and look up to, they are able to obviously feel more comfortable, more accepted, and more capable. Motivated by visibility, no matter how small, job satisfaction, commitment, and competence exponentially rises in the case of librarians of color with a like-minded and common color support group as opposed to librarians that find themselves alone, the only Black faces in their library network. Inevitably, as well, the number of colored librarians will increase, as increasing number of mentorship programs in which minority librarians of color feel validated and their voices and concerns as minorities genuinely understood.

Continuing the dialogue on the importance and success of mentorship programs, particularly in minority areas, Melody Royster and her team write the essay “Mentoring and Retention of Minority Librarians,” which confirms too that mentorship is an imperative for success in many industries, librarianship included. Many fields, whether artistic, scientific, or political, have traditionally always worked with some sort of apprenticeship system implemented. Since the dawn of time, apprenticeship was utilized to pass on secret arts, specialized techniques, and essential insider knowledge that continues the success of the trade or industry itself. Just as in ancient times the secrets of blacksmithing were not for everyone, and the unique secrets of its Craft were passed down through exclusive mentorship, so, too, is the very nuanced field of librarianship. The meticulous requirements of the prodigious and arduous rigors of cataloguing information, let alone categorizing, defining, and analyzing its importance to preserve it (thus critically connecting history with a far off future), is likewise exclusive knowledge only a few can access an assimilate. Thus, mentorship to pass on these “secrets” is crucial, as this article illustrates. Indeed, without mentorship especially for often outcast and overlooked librarians of color, whose intelligence and competence is often overtly or subversively questioned and attacked, the successful retention of the secrets of librarianship would cease. Royster, et. al., writes:

Mentoring provides psychosocial support needed for junior librarians to feel included, which in turn feeds into the commitment to the current library workplace. Mentors advocate for their proteges and provide much needed career assistance and networking. For librarians of color, mentors with a common background serve as positive role models to establish rapport and connections, resulting in a higher probability of retaining new librarians….mentoring research commonly finds that the protege identification with the mentor is important to the success of the relationship, and to realizing benefits from it. (Royster, pg 62).

Royster, et. al., thus painted a poignant, and often personal portrait of a young librarian whose success in the field is credited almost solely to the success of a close mentorship from an esteemed elder in the tradition. Thus, the personal triumphs accredited to the example and role model set by the mentorship program elders was touching, as many themselves had lived through Civil Rights era oppression and marginalization and, thus, all the more hungry for the validation of not only literacy in general for Blacks who had historically been denied such access, but librarianship in particular, which enabled a unique sense of power in, literally, holding and shaping the history in their hands and conservatorship as librarians.


Works Cited

Anantachai, Tarida, et. al., “Chapter 2: Establishing a Communal Network for Professional Advancement Among Librarians of Color.” Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color in Academia. Hankins, Rebecca and Juarez, Miguel. 2015. Library Juice Press. California, USA. pp.31-55

Branch, Cheryl L. “Chapter 37: Diversity in Leadership” The 21st Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges. Jackson, Andrew P., Jefferson Jr., Julius C., Nosakhere, Akilah S. 2012. The Scarecrow Press. United Kingdom. Pp 203-207

Chan, Emily K., et. al. “Chapter 1: Discovering Librarianship: Personalizing the Recruitment Process for Under-Represented Students.” Where Are All the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia. Hankins, Rebecca and Juarez, Miguel. 2015. Library Juice Press. California, USA. pp11-31.

Johnson-Cooper, Glendora. “Strengthening the African-American Community Through Information Literacy” The Black Librarian in America Revisited. Josey, EJ. 1994. The Scarecrow Press. United Kingdom.

Morrison, Samuel F. “The Ethics of Access: Toward an Equal Slice of the Pie.” The Black Librarian in America Revisited. Josey, EJ. 1994. The Scarecrow Press. United Kingdom. Pp 97-107.

Ndiaye, Joyce F. “Chapter 2: Inequality of Resources in School Libraries in the 21st Century.” The 21st Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges. Jackson, Andrew P., Jefferson Jr., Julius C., Nosakhere, Akilah S. 2012. The Scarecrow Press. United Kingdom. Pp.19-23

Royster, Melody, et. al., “Chapter 3: Mentoring and Retention of Minority Librarians.” Where Are All The Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia. Hankins, Rebecca and Juarez, Miguel. 2015. Library Juice Press. California, USA. pp55-71.

Samuel, Syntychia K. “Chapter 13: The Challenge of Designing and Promoting Services for Teens of Color Without Losing One’s Sanity.” The 21st Century Black Librarian In America: Issues and Challenges. Jackson, Andrew P., Jefferson Jr., Julius C., Nosakhere, Akilah S. 2012. The Scarecrow Press. United Kingdom. Pp. 93-97.





Asian Mystique and Masculinity in M. Butterfly (originally written by Gloria Steele-Hatten, December 20, 2016)

The Proposal: Examine ideals of Masculinity in M. Butterfly. How does the author critique these ideals? How does he show, through the arc of his main characters, how they are insufficient? How does he show how Western Civilization has politicized these ideals into foreign policy, i.e., how are these ideals expressed on a larger scale in the context of America’s involvement in Vietnam?


Many things have been written concerning representations of gender and power in M Butterfly. Some assert that the feminized masculine portrayals within the story are a deliberate metaphor for the West’s stereotypical  emasculation of the Asian and Asian America as a collective (Ling, 1997). Others suggest that the portrayal of the homoeroticism hint at the Western European exoticization of the Asian in an idealized fantasy stereotype of emotional and Colonial submission (Eng, 1994). Yes more conclude that the portrayals of masculinity serve to, indeed, broaden our collective notions of masculinity and to suggest a new acceptance and romanticization of masculine sensitivity  (Kong, 2007). Of the many things written and researched about the symbolism and heritage inherent in this work, one thing is certain– the mysterious gender-bending of this tale is one of its strongest and most intriguing allures. Yet far more than meets the eye is innately woven within the story to yield an exquisite allegory for the Asian spiritual journey. It is here argued that in M. Butterfly, ideals of masculinity and the art of feminine illusion are routinely and mesmerizingly thwarted, challenged, refuted, and reimagined in a political and socioeconomic world full of political deception.

The sexuality of Asians has long been hegemonically policed and defined through a limited Eurocentric lens, as with other so-called “minority” ethnic groups (which, ironically, are actually the world majority, only minorities in relative proportion to the number of whites in the US and UK). This lens is not only Eurocentric, but highly patriarchal. Even in strict patrilineal Asian households– even in China where boy children are still to this day glorified and baby girls still tragically abandoned or aborted (Zhu, 2009)– the kind of patriarchy that manifests through a Eurocentric cultural perspective is something still largely incongruous and entirely different than the traditional Asian representations of a vast array of styles of masculinity. In the West, the Asian, whether male or female, has often been stereotyped as willingly passive, serene, wise, spiritual, secret, characteristically bowing submissively, and often silent (Kim, 2005). Asian women are sexualized and exoticized precisely for their diminutive frames and meek, child-like obedience; likewise, Asian men are often stereotypically emasculated. The Asian male is often automatically emasculated by the widely disseminated and popularly perpetuated myth that Asian men’s genitals are commonly smaller than other ethnicities (Liang, 2010); this inherently castrates any “threatening” sense of sexuality. Even David Henry Hwang, the author of M Butterfly himself, calling Song’s Oriental penis a “little flap of flesh,” writes in his author notes the importance of Song being played by an Asian male, not an actress, because during the disrobing scene, the “little flab” must be all the more shocking because its diminutive nature aggrandizes the myth of the Orientals’ humility being the ultimate surprsing undoing of the Oppressor, just as Song’s subtle, quiet moment of revelation is Guallimard’s undoing, the unraveling and dissembling of all his racist and ethnocentric notions of Asian femininity and his own assumed Eurocentric, patriarchal, heterosexual superiority (2003, Nakaruma, p79-80). The often serene, de-sexualized and dignified portrayal of the Asian men, even with the genital shaming of the alleged “small package,” the inaccurate portrayals of Asian sexuality is distinctly contrasted by the sexualization of the African or African-American male, whose genitals are stereotyped as abnormally large and whose sexual desires are falsely represented to be ravenous, painting the African/African-American male as savage, aggressive, and threateningly hyper-masculine (Collins, 2004).

Shockingly, there is an incredible suspension of disbelief present in the story of M. Butterfly required to believe that Song was capable of fooling Gallimard into believing he was a woman for several years even during sexual intercourse. This strange faith Gallimard seems to sustain through the illusion is perhaps attributed to this enduring subconscious association of the Asian– male and female– with such subtlety and feminine fluidity of motion (even the glorification of Asian dance and martial arts is born of an admiration of their characteristically controlled, subtle, and often beautiful movements even in wrestling). With megalomaniacal Europeans deluded and ethnocentric enough to insist that genuine aggressive masculinity does not exist in the East, it is easy to see the privilege that enables men like Gallimard, who themselves outcast did not fit the standards of masculinity that attracted their own native European women to them (Act 1, Scene 2), to sustain the incredulous belief that the most alluring and beautiful “Oriental” woman like Song would want him(Act 1, Scene 9). Gallimard inherently opposes in his mind a belief in “authentic” Asian masculinity, compared to the portrayals of machismo he was used to codifying as properly manly. This inability to reconcile the different standards of masculinity across cultures, allows him to selfishly and blindly believe in the constant of the Orientals’ subservience to the Westerner. This submission he glorifies– even to the point of ludicrous self-deception– allows him to exoticize Song in a disturbingly oppressive philosophical regurgitation of colonist rhetoric. His own subconscious self-delusion of superiority and authenticity as a man, despite clearly his own nonconforming masculinity, allows him to deceive himself and willingly be deceived by Song’s intoxicating ruse.

The submissiveness glamorized here is a consequence of the construct of Orientalism. Orientalism refers to the falsely constructed concept of Eastern culture by Western colonialists (2003, Nakamura). A damaging, limiting stereotype, Orientalism overidealizes aspects of Asian submissiveness and a certain degree of reserve, poise, possession and control. Orientalism exoticizes what the Westerner perceives to be Asian passiveness and a gentle, clean luxury as opposed to the aggression, power, Will, and debauchery of the West. Orientalism also tends to glorify the detached female subtlety and the beauty of such reserve, while simultaneously fearing the perceived savagery of an assumed degenerate, uncivilized nation. Westerners quickly took to viewing the Orient as primitive and in need of acclimation to the necessary conditioning of Christian European values.

While Gallimard internalizes this Orientalism in fetishizing the “perfection” of Song’s delicacy, he reveals a racist assumption of power and desirability simply because, although he himself is emasculated in his own culture, the fact that he is a military man, to him, automatically seems to denote his machismo, which he justifies as the point of attraction to assure Song’s submission to him. Emphasising Song’s modesty and weakness, Gallimard perpetuates his own stereotype by falling for her frailty, subconsciously seeking to control her in her easily frightened nature and assumed frailty. Ultimately, Gallimard’s own biased Orientalism backfires against him: the fragility attributed to Song simply was Song’s own tool of deception to make the guise of femininity all the more convincing to the gullible and pretentious European. By telling Gallimard that the Westerner always expects the Orient to submit to their guns just as they expect the women to submit to their men, Song readily exposes the hypocrisy and delusion inherent in Gallimard’s colonial glorification of the cruel Ideal of the domineering European man controlling the obedient, easily frightened and acquiescing Asian woman.

This problematic narrative of Orientalism shaped forcibly around the Asian culture contributes to Western foreign policy and the assumption of power the West asserts over the East. Just as a man actively penetrates a passive woman, Europe and, subsequently, the United States of America, has continuously sought– and unfortunately often succeeded– to penetrate and control the Orient just as absolutely as a husband asserts power over his property and wife.

While European Orientalism was purported to justify the colonization and domination of Third World people, early American Orientalism was first invented to exclude Asian immigrants from entering or making a home on American soil….the mass media began its long history of cultivating insidious stereotypes of Asian/Americans for the visual consumption of the White American public— everything from the aggressive, ominous images of Japanese and Chinese immigrants during the “yellow peril” to more modern depictions of Asian/Americans as the passive “model minority”…Throughout the evolution of American Orientalism, the notion of the Orient as the culturally-inferior Other has also converged with the concept of women as the gender-inferior Other. Orientalist romanticism in the West synchronized White men’s heterosexual desire for (Oriental) women and for Eastern territories through the feminization of the Orient. American Orientalism in many ways depended on the masculine, superior image of White men juxtaposed with the emasculation of Asian/American men. By portraying Asian/American men as sexually excessive or asexually feminine, such cultural themes reaffirmed Orientals’ deviance from “normal” heterosexual gender norms implicit in White middle-class families (2005 Kim, p73, 75)


Gendering and personifying the Asian continent as a “she”, the feminization of the East as a whole allows the Westerner to view the Orient as some uncharted territory, ripe and yielding, willing to acquiesce to colonization and coerced into foreign policy initiatives that ultimately exploit the Asian nation(s) to ultimately benefit the West’s economic advantage. This sadistically sexualized Colonial notion of submissive Orientalism has endured and contributed to the United States’ foreign policy and compulsion to send troops to Vietnam in the 1960s. Because the play M. Butterfly is a conscious parody of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, its incredible distinction is its complete inversion of the original’s principle– the white devil and the submissive Asian woman — while creating an entirely new discourse concerning roles of Western and Eastern masculinity, femininity, and the processes of consumption, commodification, and dissemination of an entirely racist conceptual Ideal (Kwan, 1998). Unlike Madame Butterfly which features a “real” Asian woman playing the protagonist’s concubine, M Butterfly features an Asian man– a Chinese spy, in particular– as a drag singer, seducing Gallimard by his affectation of a specific fantasy stereotype of Asian passivity, using it to his advantage to lure Gallimard, disarm and engage him for his own collateral knowledge, ultimately compelling him– a most clandestine spy and assassin, indeed– to suicide.

Indeed, the feminized stereotype of the Asian culture and continent as a whole is disarming as the creation of the concept of Asian feminine passivity was nurtured aggressively in the 1960s. As the women’s liberation movement was hot and fierce, men increasingly afraid of the competition with and for their wives, glorified the fantasy of the perfectly quiet, demure, domesticated Asian bride. This perfectly passive vessel can implicitly promise to keep all the white husband’s most disreputable secrets, in this case, secrets of war (because of course she doesn’t speak his langauge) and endure his cruelest treatment with a smile or dazed, straight faced glare of longing and silent expectation. This concept became a certain fetish for them, a fetishization of a plain Asian face, an appeal of wistful desire on the part of the silenced Asian lover but without any agency on the part of pursuing, initiating, or even maintaining the relationship, as evident when the original Pinkerton of Puccini’s opera leaves his Asian impregnated concubine to marry his American wife. In the real Vietnam as well, many enlisted men took up Vietnamese concubines, wives, and girlfriends, a majority even fathering children there and leaving them without a second thought as they returned home to disenfranchisement, often homelessness, drug addiction, and insanity. The Asian women, then, are traditionally seen, in real life and in literature and theatre/film tropes, a respite for the American or European enlistedmen, representing the attractive illusion, like a mirage in a desert, of a feminine softness in a harsh savage world of war that relieves their tension, eases their fears momentarily, then are are quickly dismissed as a forgotten but pleasant dream during a time in Hell. Yet where M Butterfly turns the trope on its head is where Song’s feminine refuge ends up a falsehood as hard and harsh as the dissolution of that desert mirage– one ends up choking on the sands one once thought were glittering sweet waters the way Gallimard was undone ultimately by the discovery of his manipulation by the very one he thought, with no autonomy of her own, he was manipulating to his own whims. So, too, is herein contained a dark prophecy for a possible future of Western-Eastern political and economic relations: maybe the continuously underestimated East may soon rise to an Empire that, catching the boisterous Eurocentric Republic(s) off-guard, slithering up like a dragon from the waters, to swallow the West whole.






Works Cited


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