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The Tragedy of Heterosexuality in Global Context: A Lecture by Jane Ward

May 5, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


As part of the Women’s & Gender Studies Feminist Lecture Series, Jane Ward, Professor of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara, critiques one of the basic premises of the mainstream LGBT rights movement—that heterosexuality is easier than queerness—by asking for whom, and under what conditions, is straightness easier.

Drawing from ethnographic field work, archival research, and cultural studies methods, Ward examines the 20th century emergence of a “heterosexual repair industry” — a self-help empire designed to romanticize and ease heterosexual misery while eliding attention to heteropatriarchy and the queer, feminist interventions poised to undo it. In this talk, Ward takes her analysis in new directions, pointing to the global implications of heterosexual misery by analyzing the global “anti-gender” (or “gender critical”) movement and the collective anxiety about gender and sexuality that animates it. Ward conceptualizes “gender critical” projects as expressions of heteroparanoia and psychic dissonance aimed at reconciling the paradoxes of modern heterosexuality, and offers a feminist assessment of these projects’ trajectories.