Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Broken Machinery of Death: My Case Against Capital Punishment

In modern society, the principle that under-girds the use of capital punishment is the same as in ancient history, while the methods and approaches have changed. This underlying principle is a dysfunctional one that carries with it brutalizing implications for societies within which it is employed, as any system based on retaliation and vengeance will invariably do. Such a system places emphasis and focus solely on the level of the individual and disregards the societal influences that affected the individual in question. In other words, it drags the individual out of any orienting context. In keeping with this lack of contextual basis, the dysfunctional nature of the death penalty is reflected in the unreliability and ineffectiveness characteristic of modern methodologies associated with capital punishment. Capital punishment is ineffective in reducing crime and is unjust by the standards of the U.S. Constitution because the system facilitates an increased possibility of wrongful executions by disproportionately gravitating toward minorities and the poor. The dysfunctional nature of this system has real-world effects that are directly relevant to considerations of ethics and basic human rights.

Capital punishment is a system with a long history that provides a mechanism for retaliation. This mechanism has evolved greatly and continues to evolve, yet stems from the same principle that gave birth to and motivated the sustained use of legislated retribution throughout history. The death penalty existed before prisons and was practiced in a manner reminiscent of reactionary zeal rather than of logically-constructed proceedings. The principle underlying capital punishment was thus quite primitive. In fact, “capital punishment” derived its name from the means of execution known as beheading or decapitation. The Latin word capitalis literally means “regarding the head,” and is the root of our English words capital and decapitation. The use of the death penalty was common to nearly all societies and extends to the beginnings of recorded history. In keeping with its primitive nature, some ancient societies imposed execution for only minor offenses. For example, Rome's law of the Twelve Tablets in the fifth century B.C.E. imposed death as the penalty for disturbing the peace of citizens at night and for dissenting against popular consensus through artistic expression [1]. Other ancient societies reserved the death penalty for what they defined as the most egregious of crimes.

The common thread connecting these societies was their belief in the death penalty as an effective method of discouraging and deterring crime, a belief that flowed from a penchant to gravitate toward primitive approaches characterized by retaliation and vengeance. In an article examining the socio-cultural reasons behind the high execution rate in Texas, research journalist Ned Walpin touches upon the historical relationship between state-sanctioned executions and illegal lynchings:

Lynching [does not] represent justice but rather the clearest way to exclude someone (or, implicitly, a whole group) from society. A member of a society who breaks the law experiences the force of justice; the representative individual who is forcibly rejected by, or excluded from, society is lynched. Based on this understanding of lynching [there] is a direct, inverse relationship between executions and lynchings over the course of the twentieth century. Executions simply replaced lynchings as the accepted way to sate the popular (white) need to "dehumanize" or "exclude" certain groups from normal society. If lynchings reminded white folk and black folk alike who was an "insider" and who was an "outsider"--who was "us" and who was "them"--then executions were implemented to serve the exact same purpose [2].
Capital punishment has been demonstrated by numerous studies and analyses to be ineffective on several fronts. George Bernard Shaw once noted in his characteristically insightful manner, “Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another out but similars that breed their kind.” The failure of capital punishment to deter crime vindicates this observation. Social psychologist and lawyer Mark Costanzo writes that the deterrence argument “assumes that potential killers engage in a dispassionate weighing of the costs and benefits of killing. This assumption is simply wrong. Most murders are crimes of passion – committed under the blinding influence of rage, hatred, jealousy, or fear” [3]. A 1980 study conducted by criminologists William J. Bowers and Glenn Pierce, both of whom hold the position of Principal Research Scientist at their respective universities, found that intentional murders accounted for less than 10 percent of the total [4].

In addition to being ineffective, capital punishment is also unjust on several overlapping levels, not least of which is the fact that the demographics of death sentences reveal disproportionate race and class discrimination. Recent evidence has shown that “a pernicious pattern of discrimination remains in the prosecution process in capital cases" [5]. Moreover, the conclusions assessed from this evidence “suggests in part that the mostly white-administered justice system tends to place a lower value on black lives than on white, in comparable circumstances” [6]. According to a recent report published by Amnesty International, race continues to figure prominently in U.S. death penalty cases. The report states, “African Americans are disproportionately represented among people condemned to death in the USA. While they make up 12 per cent of the national population, they account for more than 40 per cent of the country’s current death row inmates, and one in three of those executed since 1977” [7].

Injustice also emerges in the observable trend of unreliability inherent in the capital punishment system and the resultant frequency of false convictions. The same report by Amnesty International states, “Since 1973, more than 100 people – 45 per cent blacks, 42 per cent whites, and 11 per cent Latinos – have been released from death rows around the country after evidence of their innocence emerged” [8]. An article in the February, 2000 issue of The Progressive reports, “In 1999, eight people were freed and declared innocent of their crimes, bringing the total of those exonerated from death row to eighty-four since 1973, or about one-seventh of all those executed” [9]. The penchant for law enforcement personnel to mistakenly snatch innocent individuals is rather astonishing. A 1996 Justice Department report entitled Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial found that in 8,048 rape and rape/murder cases investigated by the FBI crime lab between 1988 and 1995, a total of 2,012 of the primary suspects involved were exonerated based upon the DNA evidence alone. “Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained (primarily by State and local law enforcement), the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing” [10]. Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, two of the contributing authors of the report, state further that

Without DNA testing, the prospects of wrongful convictions in these exclusion cases are evident. Even if one assumes half the normal conviction rate (State conviction rates for felony sexual assaults average about 62 percent), one would expect that hundreds of people who have been exonerated by FBI DNA testing in sexual assault cases over the last 7 years would have otherwise been convicted [11].
The legality of the death penalty is also highly dubious, and considerations of both the ineffectiveness and injustice of the system are directly relevant to the legal aspects and make a convincing case for abolishing the death penalty simply on that level. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids the use of punishments that are excessive compared to either the crime or the emotional and/or intellectual competence of the perpetrator. The Amendment uses the term “cruel and unusual punishments” to describe such excessive punitive measures. The current methods and approaches of capital punishment in the United States fall into this category, as both physical and psychological pain is inflicted on inmates. The many documented instances of physical pain experienced by inmates attests to the unconstitutionality of the process and to the fact that many execution procedures are botched and inhumane to a degree not becoming to a First World society. For example, many witnesses over the past several decades have provided detailed descriptions of electrocution, to take just one example. In his dissenting opinion for Glass v. Louisiana, Justice William J. Brennan recounted as follows:

The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands . . . The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted . . . The force of the electric current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out on his cheeks . . . Sometimes the prisoner catches fire . . . When the post-electrocution autopsy is performed the liver is so hot that doctors said it cannot be touched by the human hand . . . The body frequently is badly burned . . .” [12].
In this and similar accounts that relate to other execution methods such as the gas chamber and hanging, the fact that capital punishment has become far more than a matter of meting out correlative justice is made all too clear. Capital punishment has become indistinguishable from any systems of torture that far exceed the alleged crime as well as the mental health of the inmate, as discussed above.

The psychological aspect of capital punishment is also draconian. Sister Helen Prejean, whose life work has revolved around counseling convicts on death row, has witnessed firsthand both the psychological and physical pressures exerted upon them. Her experiences and testimony are documented in her memoir Dead Man Walking. Concerning Patrick Sonnier, a convicted inmate with whom she worked, she writes, “Later, in the months ahead, Patrick Sonnier will confide his terror to me of the death that awaits him, telling me of a recurring nightmare, always the same . . . For him there can never again be restful, unbroken sleep, because the dream can always come. Better, he [Sonnier] says, to take short naps and not to sink into deep sleep” [13]. The unnecessary physical and psychological suffering that is inflicted on the inmates prior to the actual moment of death (in other words, the actual prescribed punishment) is a telling reflection of what flows out of retributive tendencies, as opposed to the use of rehabilitation.

The appeal of legislated retribution to political motives that are inherently exploitative is well-documented. Alan Berlow, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, reports on several instances of expressed opportunistic intentions on the part of politicians:

Kirk Fordice promised in his campaign for governor that he would make Mississippi the "capital of capital punishment." Texas Governor Ann Richards, who presided over fifty executions during her four years in office, lost to George W. Bush in 1994 after a campaign in which he attacked her for not executing more people more quickly . . . Kentucky Governor Paul Patton signed five execution warrants on his second day in office, though all five cases were still pending in court. Bob Martinez has bragged that he signed some ninety death warrants during his four years as governor of Florida. And Governor Bill Clinton flew to Arkansas during the 1992 New Hampshire presidential primary for the execution of a brain-damaged man who had killed a policeman. Flouting Supreme Court rulings against executing the mentally incompetent, Clinton seized control of the crime issue for the Democratic Party [14].
Perhaps the most infamous proponent and overseer of capital punishment is former U.S. President George W. Bush, who presided over more executions in the state of Texas than any other governor that state's history. Having presided over seventy-seven executions during his first term as governor, an average of one death every nine days was presided over by Bush, and to date no fewer than 100 individuals have been put to death on his watch. It is hard to conclude that Bush was simply fulfilling a duty of carrying out state laws when one considers the famous report by CNN journalist Tucker Carlson concerning Bush's reaction to a clemency plea put forth by a female prisoner on death row. Carlson, who is himself a conservative supporter of the death penalty, expressed the shock and disgust he felt when Bush smirked and mockingly imitated Karla Faye Tucker's plea for a stay of execution: “'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'Don't kill me'” [15].

The sentiments expressed by Sister Helen Prejean should be voiced by those in this nation who stand opposed to legislated death toward the retentive and the fence-sitters, namely, “And I end by challenging people to ask themselves whether we can continue to allow the government, subject as it is to every imaginable form of inefficiency and corruption, to have such power to kill” [16]. The issue of capital punishment is anything but a marginal issue that relates only to the outcasts of society. The power of the government to legitimize state-sanctioned murder is a power afforded by democracy, and such legitimizing trends can be reversed through democracy. The machine of death is broken, a system which severs and which is itself severed. To borrow an age-old aphorism, when the blind lead the blind, faltering is inevitable.


1. Laurence, John. A History of Capital Punishment. New York: Citadel Press, 1960, p. 2.

2. Walpin, Ned. “Why is Texas #1 in Executions?” Frontline (February 1999). See

3. Costanzo, Mark, Ph.D. Just Revenge: Costs and Consequences of the Death Penalty. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997, p. 104.

4. Bowers, W.J. and Pierce, G. "Arbitrariness and Discrimination under Post-Furman Capital Statutes." Crime and Delinquency 26 (1980): 563-576.

5. Harries, Keith and Cheatwood, Derral. The Geography of Execution: The Capital Punishment Quagmire in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997, p. 72.

6. Ibid., p. 72.

7. Amnesty International USA. "Death by Discrimination - The Continuing Role of Race in Capital Cases." Amnesty International (April 2003), p. 2.

8. Ibid., p. 15.

9. Progressive, The. "The Case Against the Death Penalty." The Progressive (February 2000), p. 3. Also available at

10. U.S. Department of Justice. Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial. Office of Justice Programs, June 1996, p. xxviii.

11. Ibid., p. xxiv.

12. Glass v. Louisiana. 471 U.S. 1080. U.S. Sup. Ct. 1985, pp. 1086-1087.

13. Prejean, Sister Helen. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. New York: Vintage Books, 1994, p. 20.

14. Berlow, Alan. "The Wrong Man - 99.11 (Part Two)." The Atlantic Monthly (Nov. 1999): Volume 284, No. 5.

15. Carlson, Tucker. “Devil May Care.” Talk Magazine (Sept. 1999), p. 106. See also

16. Prejean, Sister Helen. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. New York: Vintage Books, 1994, p. 130.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Challenging Gender Norms Through Ethnomethodology

In my ethnomethodological social experiment, I sought to uncover the norms associated with attractiveness standards in terms of which standards are expected from each gender. The question being pursued related to which sex was more often noted attempting to display attractiveness. Why don't men generally feel the need to increase their sexual attractiveness to women by applying cosmetics? For this research, I dabbled in the use of cosmetics to disrupt this perceived social norm. For the first day of the experiment, I applied lipstick, eyeliner and fingernail polish, in addition to a close-fitting feminine t-shirt with very short sleeves. I then spent the evening in downtown Ashland, touring various restaurants and bars and keeping a close eye on reactions from other people. For the following weeks after that evening, a decreased emphasis on such extroversion was observed, and I simply spent my days on campus and in town sporting fingernail polish.

My predictions in terms of anticipating reactions from those I came in contact with was not occasioned by much speculation, and therefore was somewhat uniform. I predicted at least a slightly discernible level of unconscious recoil, perhaps not so much from shock as from surprise. I also expected to be perceived as gay. But my predictions and expectations did not run a long course, since my experiment was to be carried out in an area known for its liberalness and overall open-mindedness. The social experiment did not extend to the noticeably less liberal and less socially-conscious cities and towns that surround Ashland. While extending my experiment's reach to these outlying conservative areas may have resulted in more interesting results, I was also not keen on becoming a statistic in the colloquially negative sense of the word.

In his book Sex, Time and Power, freelance anthropologist Leonard Shlain writes that in Western cultures, "Cosmetics are very nearly the exclusive province of postpubertal girls and women” (351). This widespread exclusivity represents the reason the norm I broke was a clear challenge to gender norms. Because of the gender category I fall into, the expectation of society is that it should not be relevant or necessary for me to engage in attempting to increase my attractiveness through cosmetic enhancers. Rather, women are expected to focus their energies on appealing to me if they happen to consider me desirable enough to do so, with little input needed on my part other vindicating their efforts through acceptance and affirmation of their customized beauty. My reasoning behind thinking that my research would be a challenge to established norms involved an understanding that bending these norms and expectations would shift the direction in which beauty standards are commonly believed should be directed.

To understand how the norm of associating females with cosmetics and beauty-enhancing parlors is gendered necessarily entails understanding the cultural meaning of such staples. Popular culture very often advertises cosmetics as being an exercise in augmentation, when in reality women who gravitate toward cosmetics are often made to feel a deficiency to be corrected by marketing campaigns. As many feminist scholars have observed, men have created the standards of beauty in the West. In this respect, patriarchal power is a strong influence underlying and sustaining this norm. This norm serves to maintain the fact that women have less power than men in the U.S. When women adhere and conform to the standards of beauty that men have established, the desires of men are catered to and a potent yet subtle means of control which renders women little more than icons is reinforced. These subtle means of control are a good example of what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls “la violence symbolique.” Symbolic violence, as theorized by Bordieu, is violence of a non-physical character, exercised through symbols or norms such as size, age or beauty. The feminist sociologist and Islamic scholar Fatema Mernissi writes, “The power of the Western man resides in dictating what women should wear and how they should look. He controls the whole fashion industry, from cosmetics to underwear. The West, I realized, was the only part of the world where women's fashion is a man's business” (285-6). The deficiency that the dominant patriarchal culture seeks to impose on women as a means of control may also be an example of imposing emotional labor; labor on an emotional level involving caring for feelings and maintenance of moods and relationships. In every aspect in which women are disadvantaged by hegemonic male influence in the fashion industry, men are usually not subjected to these various burdens as women are. Therefore, the choice to engage in the use of cosmetics, as a man, is an apt means of observing firsthand the reactions that people have when such a powerful norm is disrupted.

The relative scarcity of tangible reactions I noted may be justifiably construed as propitious given the rather nondescript breadth of my predictions. The scarcity of tangible reactions may have been due to the highly liberal and diverse character of the city of Ashland as well as the fact that a higher education institution lies at the center of the city's culture. However, some small reactions were interesting. During my initial downtown venturing, fully decked out in cosmetics, I noted a woman about my age pedaling on a bicycle traveling the opposite direction I was walking who took one glance at me and laughed aloud as she passed me. As I approached the Starbucks coffeeshop on Main Street, a man standing alone near the building rolled his eyes and shook his head as I walked past. This ended up being largely the extent of the noticeable reactions I elicited. Nobody gave me a second glance as I sat in the Creekside Pizza Bistro and bar (although the presence of a group of very masculine and very loud college men behind me playing pool aggressively kept me on the edge of my seat). The same lack of a reaction was characteristic at the Hong Kong bar on the Plaza, as well as at the Beau Club bar.

The weeks following that evening, I reduced my display to fingernail polish, which I sported consistently on a daily basis. At one point, as I walked into one of my classes, the professor immediately stood up, walked over to me, and took hold of my hands. After closely inspecting them, she looked up at me with a puzzled look in her face and with a hint of amusement. She inquired as to whether she wanted to know what this was about as she began to laugh. As other students filed in, a girl asked me to start wearing high heels in order to “know how we feel when wearing them.” In another class, a girl sitting across from me at a table remarked that my hands were “pretty.”

While nobody I came in contact with vocally or otherwise recognizably asked me if I was gay or told me as much, it is not unreasonable to assume that I was more likely than not to be perceived that way. Before conducting this research, I certainly expected to be perceived as gay. The relationship between sexual orientation and gender is made dysfunctional by social constructions. Sociologist C.J. Pascoe highlights this dysfunctional aspect when she writes, “The fag extends beyond a static sexual identity attached to a gay boy. Few boys are permanently identified as fags; most move in and out of fag positions. Looking at fag as a discourse in addition to a static identity reveals that the term can be invested with different meanings in different social spaces. Fag may be used as a weapon with which to temporarily assert one's masculinity by denying it to others. Thus the fag becomes a symbol around which contests of masculinity take place” (Pascoe 81-82). In the case of homosexuality, sexual orientation is often erroneously pulled into the sphere of gender and hijacked to imply an insult to punish those who transgress the roles that society forces men to remain loyal to. Homophobia and heterocentrism play central roles in reinforcing hegemonic masculinity in a patriarchal society.

Based on my research, I can conclude that the norm I challenged is prominent. Inferences as to just how pervasive this norm is in U. S.society in general can be made based on the fact that some significant reactions were noted even in a liberal, diverse and educated community such as Ashland, Oregon. The chances that a more dramatic and noticeable reaction to such a transgression of gender roles would occur in conservative “red” states, for example, is very great. The reason this norm is so pervasive I think can be attributed to hegemonic masculinity and the setting up of the practically unattainable “ideal type” of masculinity that men are socialized from an early age to aspire to. As social justice activist Paul Kivel writes, “Many men are under the illusion that being in the box is like being in an exclusive club. No girls allowed. All men are equal. For working- and middle-class white men and for those men color who aspire to be accepted by them, the box creates a false feeling of solidarity with men in power and misleads many of them into thinking they have more in common with the corporate executives, political and religious leaders, generals, and bosses than they have with women” (Kivel 150). These observations are an important indicator of the condition of gender relations in the United States today, and why patriarchy is still prevalent. Men are afforded an excess of privilege and resultant power at the expense of women in a multiplicity of arenas, including career positions, wage earnings, domestic life, and, relevant to this research, control over standards of beauty for women. Patriarchal socialization instills in men the “otherness” of women, training them to view women as separate and with more differences than similarities, as icons to be enjoyed and as buffers against which to enjoy continued preservation of privilege.

The kind of research, such as ethnomethodology, that challenges norms and disturbs society's comfort zones is an important consciousness-raising tool that should be taken up by more people. When norms are challenged and disrupted by a growing number of people who are satiating a curiosity to understand what makes society tick, those who gain power by these norms are given a run for their money. A critical mass of consciousness-raising people who step outside the confines of the gender box within which they have been socialized to remain sequestered is one of the many crucial steps needed to uproot patriarchy and encourage true equality between men and women. Such equality may need to consist of the eradication of gender or the exponential inclusion of multiple genders that destroy the two-gender binary. As Betsy Lucal rightly says, “If gender is a product of interaction, and if it is produced in a particular context, then it can be changed if we change our performances . . . effective gender rebellion requires a more blatant approach – bearded men in dresses, perhaps, or more active responses to misattribution” (Lucal 30).


Kivel, Paul. "The Act-Like-a-Man Box." Men's Lives. Ed. Michael S. Kimmel and Michael A. Messner. Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 2007. 148-50.

Lucal, Betsy. "What It Means to be Gendered Me." The Kaleidoscope of Gender: Prisms, Patterns and Possibilities. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2008. 22-32.

Mernissi, Fatema. "Size 6: The Western Woman's Harem." The Kaleidoscope of Gender: Prisms, Patterns and Possibilities. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2008. 283-87.

Pascoe, C.J. Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. 1st ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

Shlain, Leonard. Sex, Time and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2003.

Ethnomethodology: A Research Project

Ethnomethodology is a technique for studying human interaction by deliberately disrupting social norms and observing if or how individuals attempt to restore normalcy. Studying norms by deliberately violating them will reveal the norms that most people bring with them into social interaction. The ethnomethodologist argues that you cannot simply walk up to someone and ask him or her what norms they have and use because most people will not be able to articulate what they are. We are not wholly conscious of what norms we use even though they are shared, because they are so deeply embedded through socialization. Ethnomethodology is designed to “uncover” those norms.

I will be conducting research on gender using this technique. I will be challenging one norm of my gender, in order to learn what is expected in this area in our society today. This is key to understanding gender relations in U.S. society because our gender norms are in a state of flux.

For my ethnomethodology research, I feel that performing a combination of gender-bending activities will be most effective and conducive in logging a tangible reaction. Seeing as I have nothing overly dramatic and extraordinary in mind, doing something on a single level may not yield responses or reactions sufficient to be devoted to a substantive essay. Therefore, my ethnomethodology project is as follows: I will tour the downtown Ashland area and walk into as many distinctly feminine-oriented stores and services as I can find. In some (likely most) I will request a job application. In others, I may request services in places such as beauty salons, tanning spas, etc. In conjunction with this, I will be sporting lipstick and fingernail polish (which, by way of slight compensation, I may display in a masculine fashion, i.e., dark, assertive colors and tones). I plan to do this project over the course of two days; one day spent touring stores downtown and another spent at my university campus.

In his book Sex, Time and Power, freelance anthropologist Leonard Shlain writes, "Cosmetics are very nearly the exclusive province of postpubertal girls and women" (Shlain 352). The cultural logic behind how this norm is gendered and thus why it would be ethnomethodological in nature for me is obvious, but only on a superficial or deceptively facile level. To understand how the norm of associating females with cosmetics and beauty-enhancing parlors is gendered necessarily entails understanding the cultural meaning of such staples. Popular culture very often advertises cosmetics as being an exercise in augmentation, when in reality women who gravitate toward cosmetics feel a deficiency to be corrected. As many feminist scholars such as Naomi Wolf and Fatema Mernissi have observed, men have created the standards of beauty in the West, to which women are expected to adhere and conform to. This erection (no pun intended) of what I like to call an "eye candy regime" serves the desires of men and is a potent yet subtle means of control which is unsettlingly effective in turning women into icons. I bring an evidence of this interpretation of the cultural significance of cosmetics in the form of a question: Why don't men generally feel the need to increase their sexual attractiveness to women by applying cosmetics?

As I'm researching in this way, I envision doing my gender in a working-class style (because that further transgresses expectations of the particular culture I'll be dabbling in). I also plan to not shoot for a hyper-feminine performance, for then it may appear to only be just that - a performance. For more realistic and believable effect (which I see as crucial to a successful and accurate analysis) I will be retaining forms of masculinity that are subtle and understated. Of course, I will clearly present myself as a male, just not a masculine male, which is the point of ethnomethodology.

I feel confident and excited about this enterprise. It promises to provide me with a new perspective on gender internalization which I suspect will illustrate for me the extent to which I take my gender and its accompanying behaviour for granted in day-to-day life. This study also gives me an opportunity to employ my journalistic skills which I am currently engaged in honing, being my chosen career path. It is typical of me to make feelings of nervousness or self-consciousness peripheral whenever involving myself vicariously in something or taking advantage of the opportunity to be simultaneously an eyewitness and critical interpreter of events. In this case, it may be said that I am witnessing reactions to gender transgression.

(Originally written October 26, 2009).