Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questions

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Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questions

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:30 pm

In light of recent events, I decided to finally write this post; I've been thinking about it for a couple of months.

Is membership in marginalized groups stated or implied appropriately in quiz bowl questions?

Many of the important people asked about in quiz bowl are members of marginalized groups. Whether it's sexuality, race, or something else, there's a ton of ultracanonical answerlines that fall into a minority group of one of those categories. While quiz bowl questions do a decent job of acknowledging ethnicity and race, the fact that many authors, artists, and historical figures belong to a marginalized group is often completely ignored. As an example -

On AseemsDB, there are 101 TU/Bonuses on Michel Foucault. Outside of a 1993 Penn Bowl bonus, none of them mention his homosexuality or the fact that his homosexuality was formative to both his life and a good deal of his work. Out of 134 TU/Bonuses's on Virginia Woolf, one explicitly mentions her sexuality, while a couple more mention "lover of Vita West". The same holds mostly true for Inge, Vidal, Genet, Coward, Whitman, Mann, Grimke, Keynes, Ginsberg, Forster and many many more answerlines deeply imbedded in the canon.

There are a couple cases where homosexuality is very commonly implied or stated, two of those being Oscar Wilde and Verlaine / Rimbaud (I group them because in both cases the inevitable FTP is some derivative of "had relationship with -the other-"), and these deserve to be looked at closer. First, Oscar Wilde. Any references to his homosexuality only come along with discussion of The Ballad of Reading Gaol or De Profundis, and in most cases this reference comes in the form of phrases like "while convicted for gross indecency charges", "wild homosexual antics with Lord Alfred Douglas", and "homosexual offenses/acts". In the Verlaine / Rimbaud case, I think the convention of using them as a giveaway has just magnified to the point where it's the most known thing about them, and therefore is included in nearly every question.

With some exceptions, nearly every question on LGBT people neglects to mention or imply their status as a member of that community, even when it's incredibly relevant to their work and life (which I'd argue is pretty much ubiquitous). When it is mentioned, it is often done so in a way that dances around the fact, puts it in a negative light, or is essentially reductive to "lol gay people". Explicit mentions of sexuality no more complicated than "For 10 points, name this gay novelist" are few and very far between.

Why is it advantageous to fix this?

As much as it would be great if people only got things in quiz bowl because they had read the work in question or read about it, the fact is that much of any player's surface-level knowledge comes purely from hearing quiz bowl questions. As a means of delivering information, then, it's key that quiz bowl helps to highlight the contribution of marginalized groups to major fields of study. As a gay quizbowler, finding out that many of my favorite playwrights etc. were gay was actually a really cool experience; it inspired me to learn more about them given the shared link, and knowing that their works were written through that lens helped me to identify with them.

More widely, it helps to legitimize minority groups in that it makes clear the impact that marginalized groups have had in academic topics. It reaffirms the existence and contribution of those groups, and knowing that marginalized groups have made such important impacts in the world makes it much harder to discriminate against and belittle those groups as a whole. I hate to use this, but I think the whole "_____ teen surrounded by bigotry who plays quiz bowl and realizes that they can do anything" argument is actually pretty valid here as well.

A more practical reason is simply that it makes the question a more accurate depiction of the answer line. Insofar as quiz bowl is a means of transmitting knowledge, taking one word to explain a lens through which the entire body of work of that artist/author/scientist/etc is at least subtly affected is pretty damn economical.

Is it really relevant?

Yes. The interesting thing is that quiz bowl already empirically acknowledges the relevance of a detail like "Where _x_ person was from". Tossups on countries or cities based on important people who live there abound in nearly every subject, because it's acknowledged that living in a certain place and contributing to that place's legacy is relevant, interesting, and noteworthy. By the same token*, living as a black person in America or living as a gay person in the 1920's is similarly notable and deserves to be mentioned. Ultimately, you can not divorce the intersection of the lives of the people you're tossing up with their work - while this doesn't excuse making tossups entirely biographical, obviously, it also means that things as formative as sexuality or race should be absolutely acknowledged.

*(please note that I am no way suggesting you write tossups on _gay people_ that go "one person of this sexuality wrote a novel...")

How do we go about fixing this?

Ultimately, applying this to question writing isn't really going to cause any massive changes. I'm not saying that "every single TU/Bonus about a minority needs to mention their minority status, otherwise it is racist/sexist/homophobic" - but it isn't really a huge deal unless you want it to be. For instance, take this giveaway from CO 2009 Lit.
For 10 points, name this author of Myra Breckinridge and longtime feuder with Truman Capote.
And, after massive and ground-breaking changes...
For 10 points, name this gay author of Myra Breckinridge and longtime feuder with Truman Capote.
Sarcasm aside, I don't really think it's a whole lot to ask for writers to devote 4-10 characters (if possible) to highlight the fact that the subject of their question is a member of a marginalized group. It's also not even fair to just view it as a "4-10 character sap I can't use to write clues" because their membership in a marginalized group, like their country of origin, is a clue in and of itself.

It's also possible to write TUs or Bonuses in a way that explicitly mentions their minority status more fully. Here's an example for a MPSS side event I produced earlier this year:
10. This work’s first volume, The Will to Knowledge, discussed the concept of biopower emerging in the Western world.
For 10 points each:
[10] Name this work that begins with a part titled “We Other Victorians”. It discusses the repression of the title concept, its “repressive hypothesis”.
ANSWER: The History of Sexuality
[10] This other work, inspired by the concept of Bentham’s Panopticon as well as the prisons of Neufchatel and Mettray, contained intense descriptions of discipline’s power over society that were ratcheted back in the later Security, Territory, Population.
ANSWER: Discipline and Punish
[10] This philosopher, whose own sexuality helped enable his fascination with conformity and society, posited that gender and sexuality were social constructs. He wrote The Order of Things and The Madness of Civilization as well as the previously mentioned works.
ANSWER: Foucault
While this type of reference obviously takes up more space (and I am in no way saying "every Foucault bonus should have this!" or something), it's also something worth considering for people who are as profoundly affected by their marginalized status as Foucault.

I'm curious to know what you all think of this. To my knowledge, it's a suggestion that hasn't been brought up much before, and I think it's a pretty easy fix for something I see as a fairly important issue.

I think it's important to acknowledge that quiz bowl as a whole has gotten really quite good in some areas at highlighting news and history for many marginalized groups. I've definitely noticed quite a lot of LGBT-related issues coming up in current events and history (as well they should) in the past year, and it's always been super gratifying to get questions on them. I think there's already an effort being made to be more inclusive and fair with the representation of various groups in quiz bowl, and I definitely appreciate that. Please share your thoughts and suggestions!
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Ndg » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:01 am

If writers are going to try to emphasize this, they need to make sure not to let it get in the way of writing good, playable questions. A clue like "This philosopher, whose own sexuality helped enable his fascination with conformity and society" is quite vague. I guess it's okay for bonus filler if you're into long bonuses, but these sorts of clues in tossups are usually pretty frustrating to hear.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:17 am

I actually disagree, but about half-and-half. I agree with one-half of your thesis--hopefully I'm not misconstruing you, please let me know if I am--which seems to be that minority status, when relevant to a person's life, body of work, and significance in their relative discipline, isn't adequately mentioned. A lot has been written in academia about the chilling effect of making assumptions can have, so I'm not going to get into that specifically here.

Where I disagree is how far you go in defining "relevant." I believe that you too widely apply the term, and that in most quizbowl tossups, minority status is actually not relevant, and trying to shoehorn these details in is incorrect and harmful--I believe it would something akin to saying, "I don't know much about you, except that you were a minority, so let me add it very quickly in, thus ignoring the significance of that status."

I'm going to use two of your lit examples to clarify, since I know more about lit. (I don't know as much about Foucault, so apologies there.)

First, Virginia Woolf: I concede that this is a subjective point, but I don't believe the majority of the body of her work incorporates gay themes. I don't believe that these gay themes obviously manifested themselves in her most famous works, like To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. If you've read those novels, you can work to find undercurrents (like, really work), but I dispute that being gay was a recurring thought in Woolf's mind when she wrote those books. In contrast, being a woman certainly did--the female characters in each book are very significant, and A Room of One's Own is still a significant feminist text. So while knowing that the author is English, from the early 1900s, and *female* would help clue you in in a tossup because of text related reasons, I think English, from the early 1900s, and *gay* would only do so for trivial reasons.

On the other hand, to illustrate when and why being gay is mentioned for important reasons is Wilde's work--De Profundis and Reading Gaol are both signficant pieces of work that are the direct result of Wilde's homosexuality. You can't know about those works without knowing why they wrote them; thus it's more useful than not to mention his homosexuality. OTOH, if you're not mentioning those works or related works then I see no reason to mention it.

So I argue that to add that Woolf was bisexual merely because--and excuse me for just taking words out of your mouth--finding out so would be a "cool experience" is against the purpose of quizbowl. Quizbowl is, IMO, about rewarding academic knowledge you would find while studying a specific discipline. To add that Woolf or Wilde were gay just because it's interesting is, to me, no better than adding when somebody won a Nobel Prize or what town they were born. Just like minority status, those could be useful clues (the most recent Nobel Prize, a town that features prominently in their novels), but are they usually? Of course, if you're talking history, then all of a person's life is pretty much fair game, but even then is it useful to know about Turing's homosexuality if you're only asking about the Enigma Machine? (and I chose literature examples, anyway).

Anyways, that's my two cents; sorry it was a little hastily written, and I didn't have time to more specifically respond to each point/example you drew upon. Hopefully I'll have time to come back later and flesh out what I want to say more; as with OP I appreciate criticism and response.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:21 am

Ndg wrote:If writers are going to try to emphasize this, they need to make sure not to let it get in the way of writing good, playable questions. A clue like "This philosopher, whose own sexuality helped enable his fascination with conformity and society" is quite vague. I guess it's okay for bonus filler if you're into long bonuses, but these sorts of clues in tossups are usually pretty frustrating to hear.
And yes, question quality is most important. I'm not going to add "[...Orlando clues] which was inspired by this author's lover Vita Sackville-West" if I'm already at an 8 line highschool tossup (or if I can't rearrange clues pyramidally with ease).
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:29 am

Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:The interesting thing is that quiz bowl already empirically acknowledges the relevance of a detail like "Where _x_ person was from". Tossups on countries or cities based on important people who live there abound in nearly every subject, because it's acknowledged that living in a certain place and contributing to that place's legacy is relevant, interesting, and noteworthy.
They abound, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Again taking literature examples, I'm okay with a tossup on Chile using clues on Neruda and Mistral because those are authors with deep significance to Chilean literature. We aren't asking "Where Neruda or Mistral was from"; we're asking "Are you aware of the foundations of Chilean literature?" I know you expressly denied it's what you want, but I can't see a better analogue to minority status than precisely writing questions like "A person with this...status (yeah, I'm at a loss for a better word)...wrote about a character with this status in Giovanni's Room." In fact, to use another minority, I feel like this is what a well-written question on the Harlem Renaissance would do--ask about a group of writers who shared a common aspect and location and using clues on works significantly inspired by that aspect (e.g. being black, living in the same place, using similar mannerisms of language), but not just throwing names out hoping you know history.

Whereas badly written such tossups just turn into biography bowl, which nobody wants, not even history players.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:39 am

I'm inclined to agree with Raynor here. Sure, there are lots of cases where it doesn't hurt to add additional information if it's actually relevant to the person's most important work. However, to me it sounds rather trivializing to just drop information about people's status as part of a minority/marginalized group unless it's particularly relevant to the subject matter at hand.

I think people get what is being said here, but to provide a (made-up) example of what I'd consider an appropriate mention of someone's sexuality (using the same answerline for emphasis):
Though he wrote the piece while on vacation with Iosif Kotek near Lake Geneva, this composer declined to dedicate his Violin Concerto in D to Kotek due to rumors about his sexuality.
This adds a bunch of important, unique biographical information about Tchaikovsky and the composition of his Violin Concerto in D major - which is stuff you will likely learn if you do some reading about the piece beyond the score sheets. As opposed to this...
For 10 points, name this gay Russian composer of the 1812 Overture.
...which to some people would seem almost like an obligatory inclusion out of political correctness as much as a minor clue, especially since it's probably not going to help many folks get the question at that point. Even if it did, do we want people winning late-game buzzer races based solely on the knowledge that Tchaikovsky was gay?
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by jonpin » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:45 am

My initial thoughts on this are that there has been a tendency to get away from more-biographical clues like just dropping the word "gay" into a question where it is not related to the reason we are asking about this person. Your Oscar Wilde point is well noted, though, and I understand the idea that "his homosexuality only comes up in the context of him going to jail", which is similar to how it might come up in an Alan Turing question. I did think of and did a search on the same database for "Toklas". On the first page of results, the descriptions "partner" (2014 HSAPQ), "life partner" (2011 OLEFIN), "longtime partner" (2010 HSAPQ), "companion" (2010 HSAPQ), and "lover" (2010 NSC, 2009 VHSL, 2009 NSC) come up to describe the relationship between Toklas and Stein. One might find some of these overly euphemistic, but I don't think there's an outright lack of mentioning such relationships and orientations.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by RexSueciae » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:56 am

I pretty much agree with everything that Charlie said, with the note that (like any other kind of question) finding uniquely identifying and interesting clues should be a priority instead of doing a "let's pack more diversity into this question by mentioning that the author was gay without any context whatsoever." That being said, increasing the amount of LGBTQ content shouldn't be difficult--in general, authors write what they know, and unless they were forced to be discreet during their lifetime (unfortunately, not uncommon) there's a chance that people have been writing something related to their orientation, somewhere. There's lots of fun lead-ins to be found if people take a more in-depth look at what they're writing questions about instead of just skimming Wikipedia or Quinterest, as I suspect too many have done. (Although I hope this doesn't lead to people scouring the juvenilia of famous authors in an arms race for progressively more obscure works in order to avoid producing "stale" questions--difficulty must be regulated, sure, but I do think that there's plenty of stuff at most difficulty levels that is currently neglected and should get mentioned more. That's something I can get behind.)

I also notice that a lot of these examples are being drawn from literature and, to a lesser extent, philosophy, fine arts, and some social sciences--which is probably natural, since experience as part of a marginalized population is more likely to be relevant to those sorts of works than, say, the STEM fields. To take an example brought up above, Alan Turing's orientation is important but not particularly related to his career (except for ending it).
UlyssesInvictus wrote:I know you expressly denied it's what you want, but I can't see a better analogue to minority status than precisely writing questions like "A person with this...status (yeah, I'm at a loss for a better word)...wrote about a character with this status in Giovanni's Room." In fact, to use another minority, I feel like this is what a well-written question on the Harlem Renaissance would do--ask about a group of writers who shared a common aspect and location and using clues on works significantly inspired by that aspect (e.g. being black, living in the same place, using similar mannerisms of language), but not just throwing names out hoping you know history.
I'm a bit confused by this, Raynor. Are you suggesting that people write questions on "_homosexuality_ in literature" because questions on the Harlem Renaissance are a thing? I mean, if there was a social movement that, like the Harlem Renaissance, featured lots of writers with the shared characteristic of being gay, and this was an important thing in queer literary culture--then sure, write questions about it, just like you would write about the Harlem Renaissance. Writing questions on "_homosexuality_ in literature," though, isn't a good idea any more than writing questions on "_African American_ writers" or "_women_ in literature," because that, really, is an example of biography bowl than anything--tying together a bunch of disparate authors and works from different time periods and cultures merely because they're connected to a specific orientation is trivial, and feels a lot more like shoehorning in a diversity quota; on the contrary, emphasizing (historically or culturally important) characteristics of individual authors and works (including sexual orientation and gender identity) helps to convey actually useful information relevant to the experiences of those authors as they created those works without papering over intersectionality.

What I'm trying to say here is that there's a false equivalence in tying the Harlem Renaissance to being an LGBTQ writer, especially as an isolated answerline.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:33 am

Ndg wrote:If writers are going to try to emphasize this, they need to make sure not to let it get in the way of writing good, playable questions. A clue like "This philosopher, whose own sexuality helped enable his fascination with conformity and society" is quite vague. I guess it's okay for bonus filler if you're into long bonuses, but these sorts of clues in tossups are usually pretty frustrating to hear.
Right, and I'd never put that clue in a tossup for exactly those reasons; I included it to provide context for the first two parts of the bonus. Rest assured that I'm definitely not promoting vague, non-unique clues to be used in tossups for no reason other than to point out marginalized status.
relevance
I'm going to attempt to explain my thoughts on this in a way that makes sense, but it's pretty subjective, so hear me out.

I don't think it's necessary for a book to have strong LGBT characters or have a clear LGBT-related message in order to have the author's LGBT status be relevant. When I use the word formative to describe minority status, I mean it fully. I think it is near impossible to find a minority author who was not affected by their minority status, and to say that this doesn't affect their work seems pretty dubious. I can't think of a single canonical work by an African-American author that isn't seen as heavily influenced by their status as an African-American (but it's late, so I might just be completely off), and it seems a little sketchy to say that the same influence wouldn't extend to other similarly marginalized groups. For obvious reasons, many LGBT authors could not write novels that had strong gay themes, because they would have been severely punished - that doesn't mean we should minimize the relevance of that facet of their being.

In fact, (and this is TOTALLY subjective), I've found that personally I'm actually drawn to and enjoy especially work that's written by gay authors. Quizbowl got me into a lot of literature, and I found out that pretty much a majority of the authors whose work I was continually drawn to were gay (I found out that they were gay after I read them, if that's not clear). I"m not going to go all Eve Sedgwick and attempt to find "queer rhythms" in books but it's definitely a thing that I have felt.
country tossups
Perhaps I shouldn't have focused on tossups. Unfortunately, I find this relevance argument to be a little hypocritical given that literature tossups almost indiscriminately drop the nationality of the author asked about, regardless of whether you'd want to include that author in a literature tossup on that country. Ultimately, the reason I mention place of origin is not because of the tossups but because of the fact that they're used constantly as a modifier for "author" or "artist" or whatever (which they should be!)
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Even if it did, do we want people winning late-game buzzer races based solely on the knowledge that Tchaikovsky was gay?
If you're buzzing on "gay composer" and happen to correctly pick Tchaikovsky out of a pool that includes Schubert, Copland, Poulenc, Corelli, Barber, Menotti, Britten, and Cage among others, more power to you.



I already stated it in the OP, but it seems to have gone unnoticed by some, so I'll state it again. I'm not saying that "every TU on a minority must explicitly mention their minority status", I just think that a hell of a lot more than <1% of them should. I also entirely agree that in a situation where a person's sexuality is truly irrelevant to the work they create, it shouldn't be mentioned...however, I find it hard to believe that this is actually ever a thing. Are there a lot of cases in which you won't be able to fit in a clue that relates to minority status? Of course! However, I don't see the harm in these situations in simply mentioning their minority status within the question - I don't think it's any more "without context" than mentioning the country of origin in a tossup that doesn't explain why that country of origin is relevant. For instance, take this tossup -
PADAWAN wrote:One character created by this author calls the narrator a "publishing scoundrel!" before she dies. Another character created by this author explains that he wants to be thought of as "bad" when he is caught wandering on a lawn at night. In a story by this author, a biographer travels to Venice to infiltrate the home of the former lover of the poet he writes about. In a work by this author, Luke is blamed for failing to deliver a (*) letter, which was actually burned by a boy who had been expelled from school. In that work by this author of The Aspern Papers, Mrs. Grose is employed alongside an unnamed governess, who looks after children at Bly, which may be haunted by the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. For 10 points, name this American author of The Turn of the Screw.
Is Henry James relevantly American? Yes. Is it mentioned? Yes.
Is Henry James relevantly homosexual? Yes. Is it mentioned? No.

Around 40% of TUs on Henry James mention (usually in passing, as above) the fact that he is American. None of them mention that he is gay. I fail to see why dropping "American" as a last-minute modifier (that obviously no one will buzz on, unless they've narrowed it down to two people or something, which could work with 'gay' as well) is any different than using four characters to say "Hey, this guy was gay, and that is important enough in his work that we're mentioning it in this tossup".

EDIT: Mistakenly said a question was from BELLOCO when it was actually from PADAWAN, my bad, it was late
Last edited by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage on Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:33 am

RexSueciae wrote:increasing the amount of LGBTQ content shouldn't be difficult--in general, authors write what they know, and unless they were forced to be discreet during their lifetime (unfortunately, not uncommon) there's a chance that people have been writing something related to their orientation, somewhere. There's lots of fun lead-ins to be found if people take a more in-depth look at what they're writing questions about instead of just skimming Wikipedia or Quinterest, as I suspect too many have done. (Although I hope this doesn't lead to people scouring the juvenilia of famous authors in an arms race for progressively more obscure works in order to avoid producing "stale" questions--difficulty must be regulated, sure, but I do think that there's plenty of stuff at most difficulty levels that is currently neglected and should get mentioned more. That's something I can get behind.)
What would be some examples of things that are famous but being ignored? I'd be surprised if there was a whole lot of it. It's my impression that quizbowl does not shy away from LGBT topics or resist using an LGBT-related clue where it would be appropriate.

To give an extreme example, there should always be far, far more questions on male Renaissance artists than female Renaissance artists because the male ones were 1) more important to the course of art and culture and 2) more numerous. That should be the first consideration in picking things to write on, and not, "Why aren't there more questions on female artists?" In a similar, but less extreme vein, there's no good reason to start writing more questions/clues on Maurice where A Room with a View would be more appropriate, just because the writer feels that LGBT needs to be represented more in quizbowl questions.
Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:I don't think it's necessary for a book to have strong LGBT characters or have a clear LGBT-related message in order to have the author's LGBT status be relevant. When I use the word formative to describe minority status, I mean it fully. I think it is near impossible to find a minority author who was not affected by their minority status, and to say that this doesn't affect their work seems pretty dubious. I can't think of a single canonical work by an African-American author that isn't seen as heavily influenced by their status as an African-American (but it's late, so I might just be completely off), and it seems a little sketchy to say that the same influence wouldn't extend to other similarly marginalized groups. For obvious reasons, many LGBT authors could not write novels that had strong gay themes, because they would have been severely punished - that doesn't mean we should minimize the relevance of that facet of their being.
BELLOCO 2014 wrote:One character created by this author calls the narrator a "publishing scoundrel!" before she dies. Another character created by this author explains that he wants to be thought of as "bad" when he is caught wandering on a lawn at night. In a story by this author, a biographer travels to Venice to infiltrate the home of the former lover of the poet he writes about. In a work by this author, Luke is blamed for failing to deliver a (*) letter, which was actually burned by a boy who had been expelled from school. In that work by this author of The Aspern Papers, Mrs. Grose is employed alongside an unnamed governess, who looks after children at Bly, which may be haunted by the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. For 10 points, name this American author of The Turn of the Screw.
Is Henry James relevantly American? Yes. Is it mentioned? Yes.
Is Henry James relevantly homosexual? Yes. Is it mentioned? No.

Around 40% of TUs on Henry James mention (usually in passing, as above) the fact that he is American. None of them mention that he is gay. I fail to see why dropping "American" as a last-minute modifier (that obviously no one will buzz on, unless they've narrowed it down to two people or something, which could work with 'gay' as well) is any different than using four characters to say "Hey, this guy was gay, and that is important enough in his work that we're mentioning it in this tossup".
First, I don't think micropolitics has a role in quizbowl, insofar as quizbowl is accurately representing academic study of academic topics as they exist in the current academic world. (If quizbowl isn't being true to how much academic treatment certain topics receive, then that's something to be fixed.) Quizbowl's primary purpose isn't to encourage more study of particular topics the writer thinks are politically underrepresented, it's to accurately assess the knowledge that people have based on the way topics are being studied outside of quizbowl.

Second, being forced to acknowledge an author or artist's sexuality when it is not the subject of the works described seems perverse to the idea of celebrating them as people and creative forces, because it trivializes them to some extent as "gay authors" or "gay artists." I suppose that, not being gay myself, I can't claim to understand the personal significance of one's sexual identity in the evaluation of one's work. That said, even though I know people like John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg were gay, I think of them as "artists," not "gay artists." And I prefer it that way, because while I certainly don't dispute that sexual identity is a formative element of people's work, these people were a lot more than just gay, and their work has far more to offer than whatever can be learned from the fact that they were gay.

Third, I think Charlie is confusing the purpose of the designations "African-American" and "American" as used in question giveaways. The reason these things appear pretty much ubiquitously is not that they are uniquely identifying, but that they are actually useful for narrowing down the range of answers you need to think about if you're a player who doesn't know what was going on in the previous clues and knows little else about the answerline.

Saying Henry James is American is useful because 1) that's certainly far, far more important to the study of his work than his sexual identity and 2) nationalities are, to put it bluntly, pretty obvious. By that I mean that it's easy to tell that Henry James is American because that's pretty much the first thing you learn about him, whereas it's not so easy to tell that he was gay without doing further research.

Similarly, telling players that Langston Hughes was African-American is clearly distinguishable from the LGBT issue. For one thing, Hughes' most important works pretty much exclusively focus on African-American life, so saying that he is African-American makes for a cultural clue, not a minority-identification one. Also, the fact that Hughes is African-American is obvious at a superficial level. If you know anything about him, you know that he was black. In other words, "African-American" isn't there to acknowledge his minority status, but because it's an extremely famous thing about him that will be helpful to most people in answering the question.

To give another example, a question on 4'33" has no especially good reason for mentioning that John Cage was gay, unless that is specifically relevant to the clues about 4'33" that appear in the question. On the other hand, 4'33" is a monumental work in both American music and American art in general, so it's pretty important to mention that it was an American who composed it. And given extra clues in the giveaway, you can guess at 4'33" as an answer based on it being an American piece, whereas "Name this piece written by the gay composer John Cage" just adds an extra word that doesn't help.

The point I'm trying to make here is that both the relevance and the helpfulness of clues should be appropriate for the point in the question where we place them. Micropolitical goals shouldn't be a guiding principle in most cases, and even where they are, they should be secondary to relevance and helpfulness.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Ike » Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:11 am

Okay, so first of all: quizbowl language and clues are meant to be utilitarian, saying Michel Foucault is a "20th century French philosopher" helps out a lot more than saying he's a "20th century gay philosopher;" this is why you will see so much more of the former rather than the latter. Same goes for Henry James, Virginia Woolf, etc.

Look, you don't have to mention that "Henry James is gay" to talk about his sexuality; the most recent Henry James bonus I wrote ties in the "quintessential modern homosexual novel" ~The Line of Beauty~ and discusses how the narrator works on a dissertation of Henry James. So just because you don't see the word "gay" right next to Henry James doesn't mean that the question doesn't implicitly or explicitly not talk about the sexuality of the topic.

Also, let's be quite honest, on the high school level, I don't like writing questions on author's sexualities. I would not write an HS or MS level question that directly discusses Virginia Woolf's sexual abuse as a child, or the fact that J.M. Barrie might be a child molester - even though these are important aspects of their sexuality. I prefer to write questions that may "implicitly" reward knowledge of these topics without explicitly referencing them. It's like writing a tossup on ~Slaughterhouse-Five~ for high school - questions don't reference the Shetland ponies or use of the f-bomb on the high school level; but we still reward deep knowledge of that book by asking about their use implicitly.

Lastly, and speaking as someone who is gay, I am completely against turning quizbowl into an activity in which in every question, we have to gratuitously remind people that these important figures are gay. I would absolutely hate it if many John Cage tossups had to remind us he was gay every time. Do you really want the norm for Virginia Woolf questions to be "FTP, name this sexually abused lesbian author of ~To the Lighthouse~?" While the sexuality of Henry James is an important topic, it's not the only thing that makes him great: the real crime is not that tossups don't mention "Henry James is a gay novelist" but rather they don't mention "Henry James is one of the best prose stylists, period."

This brings me to my more general point, stop trying to use quizbowl questions as your personal soapbox; let your players discover the joy of learning. Much in the same way that I hate Ted Gioia's writing for being preachy, I would hate writers trying to shoehorn in their LGTBQ agenda into every question: quizbowl players by and large aren't stupid: the ones who truly want to enrich their lives through quizbowl will eventually figure out that Reynaldo Arenas is gay without you having to say it every time. There is no need to preach through your writing.

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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by theMoMA » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:14 am

For better or worse, modern quizbowl has tended to shy away from so-called biography clues in reaction to their overemphasis in pre-modern quizbowl. I think that's why topics related to sexuality might seem underrepresented. Only recently have we begun to understand that biography is actually a legitimate place to find interesting clues, especially biography as it intersects with the reasons why the subjects of questions are best known. Writers should try to find concrete clues that are non-trivial and that players actually know, and a discussion of how a person's life interacted with their work can certainly meet those criteria. In that framework, the fact that a person's homosexuality informed their work is a good thing to ask about if it can be done in a concrete and non-trivial way, and players can be expected to actually know it.

To some extent, writers already take advantage of this, as others have pointed out above; questions on Oscar Wilde that mention his relationship with Douglas and De Profundis/"Ballad of Reading Gaol" are a very basic example. But as people continue to explore the ways in which we can find good clues in biography, the intersection between minority-group identity and works of art/literature seems like a good place to look. And it's a worthwhile goal, at the very least, to talk about gay topics in modern language, rather than parroting Victorian social mores, as some of the questions above did.

That said, quizbowl's job isn't to make new things true; if the fact that a person was gay truly has no bearing on the reasons that person is notable, then it shouldn't be asked about. More specifically, if there is no meaningful nexus between the person's homosexuality and the reasons the person is famous enough to be asked about, or if the knowledge of that nexus is so obscure that there's no reason to think any quizbowler will know about it, the person's homosexuality is trivial for purposes of this game.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by heterodyne » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:22 am

theMoMA wrote:That said, quizbowl's job isn't to make new things true; if the fact that a person was gay truly has no bearing on the reasons that person is notable, then it shouldn't be asked about. More specifically, if there is no meaningful nexus between the person's homosexuality and the reasons the person is famous enough to be asked about, or if the knowledge of that nexus is so obscure that there's no reason to think any quizbowl will know about it, the person's homosexuality is trivial for purposes of this game.
I agree with basically all of Andrew's interpretation of Charlie's post, but I did want to highlight this. I think that Charlie was coming at this from a humanities perspective, where it's a lot harder to say that an author's sexuality didn't effect their art. I can't really think of a famous gay artist who doesn't deal with that or include that in some way in their work. Obviously, while I find the British government's treatment of Alan Turing despicable and I think noting his status as a major gay STEM pioneer is important in other contexts, it really has no place in a question on him, since his work had very little to do with it (all I could think of would be the way that his chemical castration inspired some of his work on biological math near the end of his life.)
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:26 am

This is an interesting thread. Rather than prescribing my own sentiments on how I think the minority status of various authors should or should not be treated, perhaps it might be helpful if I describe how I try to handle these issues.

Here is a comment in this thread with which I quite strongly disagree:
UlyssesInvictus wrote:First, Virginia Woolf: I concede that this is a subjective point, but I don't believe the majority of the body of her work incorporates gay themes. I don't believe that these gay themes obviously manifested themselves in her most famous works, like To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. If you've read those novels, you can work to find undercurrents (like, really work), but I dispute that being gay was a recurring thought in Woolf's mind when she wrote those books.
Now, I would argue the exact opposite: that I think one could not possibly read Mrs. Dalloway well and ignore the role that homosexuality plays in the novel. As Mrs. Dalloway recalls her past, one of the things she recalls is the sexual passion she developed for her friend Sally Seton, whose intensity is contrasted with the gentler affection she demonstrates for all the male characters in the book. This theme is revisited when Sally Seton appears in the present at the end of the novel. This is complicated by the fact that Mrs. Dalloway's intense hatred of Miss Kilman (which occupies her thoughts constantly throughout the first section of the novel) is directed at Miss Kilman's lesbianism. However, as Raynor notes, this is subjective and my belief in the importance of these passages cannot be directly expressed in a well-written question.

Nonetheless, when I edited ACF Regionals 2013, I wanted to reward people who had considered this aspect of the book. So, what I did is include as a lead-in a description of the scene in which Mrs. Dalloway clutches the water can while in the throes of passion for Sally. This is a recurring symbol that almost anyone interested in the queer aspects of the novel would zero in on. I did not explain the significance I felt it held for the novel, because that would have made it transparent and preachy.

This is the approach that I like to take to these issues. One of the first questions I ask myself when I construct the literature distribution for a tournament is: what are the different reasons why people read literature? I then try to pick works that will reward different sorts of reading aesthetics, including those that I very much do not favor, because my hope is always to reward many different kinds of readers. I ask myself that question again when I pick clues and I try to appeal to different sorts of literary memories over the course of a tournament. For example, when recently writing a question on a Dostoevsky work, I considered that every tossup that I'd read had focused exclusively on the literary themes in the work and not on the quasi-existential themes that are taken up by more philosophical readers. And so I chose one of the latter passages as a lead-in, even though that is decidedly not my frame of mind as a reader. A Henry James tossup written by someone who thinks that his prose style needs more attention from quizbowl could try to find a particularly distinctive passage to use as a lead-in clue, without (of course) editorializing the passage to explain how well-written it is. Provided one attends first to the sound construction and playability of a question, there is often room to reward underrepresented intellectual approaches, to which queer literature studies can surely be included.

The others in this thread are right to caution against prioritizing this, though. I have seen examples of this being done badly. I don't want to be cruel to the editor in question (and we've all written bad questions at points), so I won't name him. But I once played a tossup on Cosi Fan Tutte that began: "In this opera's beautiful trio "Soave sia il vento"...". This triggered a three-way buzzer race in the room. After the dust cleared, Kevin turned to the editor and pointed out that that's the most famous number in the entire opera, to which the editor replied: "Yes, that's why I called it beautiful!". We did not verbally respond to this justification. But it became a joke in the ensuing years, whenever we encountered a buzzer-race-triggering lead-in by this writer, some of which seemed motivated by aesthetic preachiness, I would shake my head and mutter: "Ah, that lead-in was just too beautiful!".

On a different subject, the Henry James tossup that Charlie quoted says that it is from BELLOCO 2014. Did it appear in that tournament? If so, we have an additional different problem on our hands, because I wrote that tossup for PADAWAN, a collegiate tournament in which it appeared, and I did not grant permission for it to be reused in a high-school tournament.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by theMoMA » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:28 am

I was going to mention this but didn't know where to fit it into my original post. Nationality and sexuality don't seem like a good comparison to me. The only real similarity is that every person has one. But a nationality is a public fact that people can use to categorize other people objectively and without any real tension or overlap with other categories. Sexuality is largely a private fact, and it's sometimes an open question; if you were to call Bret Easton Ellis a "gay novelist," you'd arguably be both right and wrong. And at least to my own sensibilities, there is a tension in calling someone, for example, a "gay novelist." Put another way, even if his sexuality was not in doubt, if you called Ellis an "American novelist," he'd never say "I prefer to think of myself as a postmodern novelist." If you called him a "gay novelist," he might have that response.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:28 am

RexSueciae wrote:
UlyssesInvictus wrote:I know you expressly denied it's what you want, but I can't see a better analogue to minority status than precisely writing questions like "A person with this...status (yeah, I'm at a loss for a better word)...wrote about a character with this status in Giovanni's Room." In fact, to use another minority, I feel like this is what a well-written question on the Harlem Renaissance would do--ask about a group of writers who shared a common aspect and location and using clues on works significantly inspired by that aspect (e.g. being black, living in the same place, using similar mannerisms of language), but not just throwing names out hoping you know history.
I'm a bit confused by this, Raynor. Are you suggesting that people write questions on "_homosexuality_ in literature" because questions on the Harlem Renaissance are a thing? I mean, if there was a social movement that, like the Harlem Renaissance, featured lots of writers with the shared characteristic of being gay, and this was an important thing in queer literary culture--then sure, write questions about it, just like you would write about the Harlem Renaissance. Writing questions on "_homosexuality_ in literature," though, isn't a good idea any more than writing questions on "_African American_ writers" or "_women_ in literature," because that, really, is an example of biography bowl than anything--tying together a bunch of disparate authors and works from different time periods and cultures merely because they're connected to a specific orientation is trivial, and feels a lot more like shoehorning in a diversity quota; on the contrary, emphasizing (historically or culturally important) characteristics of individual authors and works (including sexual orientation and gender identity) helps to convey actually useful information relevant to the experiences of those authors as they created those works without papering over intersectionality.

What I'm trying to say here is that there's a false equivalence in tying the Harlem Renaissance to being an LGBTQ writer, especially as an isolated answerline.
Yes, I agree about the false equivalence, I chose the Harlem Renaissance because it was the first example I could think of. I also agree about the part about "if there was social movement that [...]"; I can't think of a strong example right now (except for, at a stretch, the Beats), but, yes, that would seem ideal.

As for your and my other points, I think Stephen and Ike have responded the best already.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:38 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Here is a comment in this thread with which I quite strongly disagree:
UlyssesInvictus wrote: First, Virginia Woolf: I concede that this is a subjective point, but I don't believe the majority of the body of her work incorporates gay themes. I don't believe that these gay themes obviously manifested themselves in her most famous works, like To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway. If you've read those novels, you can work to find undercurrents (like, really work), but I dispute that being gay was a recurring thought in Woolf's mind when she wrote those books.
Now, I would argue the exact opposite: that I think one could not possibly read Mrs. Dalloway well and ignore the role that homosexuality plays in the novel. As Mrs. Dalloway recalls her past, one of the things she recalls is the sexual passion she developed for her friend Sally Seton, whose intensity is contrasted with the gentler affection she demonstrates for all the male characters in the book. This theme is revisited when Sally Seton appears in the present at the end of the novel. This is complicated by the fact that Mrs. Dalloway's intense hatred of Miss Kilman (which occupies her thoughts constantly throughout the first section of the novel) is directed at Miss Kilman's lesbianism. However, as Raynor notes, this is subjective and my belief in the importance of these passages cannot be directly expressed in a well-written question.

Nonetheless, when I edited ACF Regionals 2013, I wanted to reward people who had considered this aspect of the book. So, what I did is include as a lead-in a description of the scene in which Mrs. Dalloway clutches the water can while in the throes of passion for Sally. This is a recurring symbol that almost anyone interested in the queer aspects of the novel would zero in on. I did not explain the significance I felt it held for the novel, because that would have made it transparent and preachy.
This is mea culpa. I admit I've never read Mrs Dalloway and forgot about the character of Sally Seton; I completely agree that her character has relevance to homosexual themes, and would love to hear questions written as you described.
theMoma wrote:I was going to mention this but didn't know where to fit it into my original post. Nationality and sexuality don't seem like a good comparison to me. The only real similarity is that every person has one. But a nationality is a public fact [...]
I also agree here. I tried to shoehorn in nationality because it was the example Charlie used; but the analogy is weak. Charlie criticized my use of the analogy as well, but I think Stephen responded well. (I also want to note that nationality questions as Charlie describes them are something I would oppose; I would hate to hear a bunch of clues on American authors who have no relation to each other unless each embodied a significant movement in American literary history.)
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:41 am

I know the focus of this discussion is on literature and art, but I'll point out that history questions have a lot of room for LGBTQ topics, and I (and plenty of others) have explored these topics in past question writing. As we move forward, I think several of the current events topics of the last 20 years that will be retained as legitimate history will have something to do with the LGBTQ equality movement and historians will continue to learn the history of queer people as they dig through the suppression of the past. As a gay person I have always been drawn to these topics in academic study, and this does effect how I consider what questions I'm writing. I don't know that I would argue for history canon expansion (except maybe at the hardest levels of quizbowl) but there are lots of topics which can be used as clues on relatively straightforward answerlines. A history tossup on Illinois can mention it was the first state to repeal its sodomy law, a tossup on New Orleans can mention the Upstairs Lounge fire, and there are plenty of other important LGBTQ topics to be mined for interesting and relevant historical clues.

I think people should also be open to the idea of exploring the impact of an author or artist's sexuality on questions, and whether it deserves a mention during clue selection. As our modern society becomes more open-minded when it comes to sexuality and gender, we're better able to take a more comprehensive look on what this meant in the past by rethinking existing information and learning new information. Queer people have existed for the entirety of history, and while the secrecy and oppression associated with that leaves us in the dark about the specifics when it comes to many individual lives, we're always learning relevant information about long-dead people who might come up in quizbowl. It isn't necessarily distracting, non-academic, or playing micropolitics to at least enter the writing process with this in mind, although I agree that it has to merit more than a token biographical mention to be something worth including.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by alexdz » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:33 pm

Yawar Fiesta wrote:it has to merit more than a token biographical mention to be something worth including.
This succinctly wraps up my feelings on the matter. Perfunctory mentions, simply to mark off some kind of diversity checklist, do little to advance either the quality of the questions or the acceptance of the LGBTQ community, both goals which it seems most of us who have posted have not disagreed with.

All communication (including quizbowl questions) is political, and that is especially tangible when it comes from an institution, such as "good quizbowl." It is easy to feel slighted when a question on your favorite queer composer fails to mention their sexuality, and given how minorities have been treated by those in power in the past, it's very understandable to react in such a way that seeks to legitimize marginalized identities. I applaud efforts to increase representation in quizbowl, but only when that purpose would actually be achieved by mentioning the identity in question. Gender/sexuality issues are going be relevant to a question some percentage of the time (and that percentage is probably much higher than it is reflected now), but that percentage is not 100.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Aaron's Rod » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:43 pm

Although John has pointed out the obvious LGBT themes in Mrs. Dalloway, I think it's a bit far-fetched in the first place to speculate about a "recurring thought in an author's mind," beyond widely acknowledged subtext/allusions. Case in point, David Leavitt argues that the "Arguments from Various Disabilities" portion of Turing's Computing Machinery and Intelligence has some possibly gay subtext. (If you're interested, the quote in question is "[A machine's] inability to enjoy strawberries and cream may have struck the reader as frivolous. Possibly a machine might be made to enjoy this delicious dish, but any attempt to make one do so would be idiotic.")

To wit, if we pursue a line of inquiry that considers dubious or, worse, even subconscious authorial intent, it's going to lead us to some pretty ridiculous places. I am very much in favor of clues like the one Will provided; it can be interesting and still drop titles without venturing too far into biography-bowl.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:45 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
First, I don't think micropolitics has a role in quizbowl, insofar as quizbowl is accurately representing academic study of academic topics as they exist in the current academic world. (If quizbowl isn't being true to how much academic treatment certain topics receive, then that's something to be fixed.) Quizbowl's primary purpose isn't to encourage more study of particular topics the writer thinks are politically underrepresented, it's to accurately assess the knowledge that people have based on the way topics are being studied outside of quizbowl.

Second, being forced to acknowledge an author or artist's sexuality when it is not the subject of the works described seems perverse to the idea of celebrating them as people and creative forces, because it trivializes them to some extent as "gay authors" or "gay artists." I suppose that, not being gay myself, I can't claim to understand the personal significance of one's sexual identity in the evaluation of one's work. That said, even though I know people like John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg were gay, I think of them as "artists," not "gay artists." And I prefer it that way, because while I certainly don't dispute that sexual identity is a formative element of people's work, these people were a lot more than just gay, and their work has far more to offer than whatever can be learned from the fact that they were gay.
Going to concur here-if you want to mention Rauschenberg or other artists being gay, do so in the context of it being relevant to their work either on a very substantial academic level(something that should only be attempted at high difficulties-for example, the importance of concealment to Jasper Johns' works and scholarly discussion of how that relates to his being a closeted man in 1950s America) or where it actually has some relationship to his work(the presence of Judy Garland in some of Rauschenberg's combines, his very important for his work relationship with Jasper Johns, Marsden Hartley's German paintings being dedicated to his lover, and so on). "This gay american artist" is rather useless as a clue and frankly kind of patronizing/silly, "this artist painted In Memory of My Feelings-Frank O'Hara after the breakup of his relationship with Robert Rauschenberg" is more reasonable since it's directly relevant to the work in question.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:10 pm

Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:I don't really think it's a whole lot to ask for writers to devote 4-10 characters (if possible) to highlight the fact that the subject of their question is a member of a marginalized group. It's also not even fair to just view it as a "4-10 character sap I can't use to write clues" because their membership in a marginalized group, like their country of origin, is a clue in and of itself.
This is what I see as the main argument here. If mentioning someone is gay in a tossup doesn't replace another more substantive clue or take up characters that could be used for a better fact, then what's the point in not including it? In my mind, a clue is a clue is a clue, whether its's two sentences on one novel, or one word on the author's sexuality; there's no point in not including information that could help narrow down the answer for players if there's space in the question to include it.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:57 pm

I'm not LGBT, so I won't comment on this specific point, and perhaps my comparative analogies are flawed, but let me try to express why I find the usage of descriptors like "name this gay novelist" somewhat unsatisfactory.

I am a Korean American. Putting aside the obvious idea that everything a person does is influenced by aspects of their identity, I would say there are parts of my life that are very obviously related to those identity and other parts that aren't. My main academic work, which is on suburban/television history, isn't. If for whatever reason a quizbowl question was ever written on my work focusing on my research, I would feel uncomfortable having the descriptor "Name this Korean-American historian..."--not because it isn't accurate but because it feels like a check box form of identity listing--it narrows the answer space down, perhaps, but it also is highly categorizing--he's not just a historian, he's a Korean American historian.

Obviously there authors/writers whose sexuality, ethnicity, class, race, etc. are very much related to their work and this should be pointed out when necessary. It is implausible that one would consider James Baldwin, for example, without thinking about his race. On the other hand, is that true for every black author, academic, etc.?

Again, my analogy is flawed a little and I don't want to make it seem like being LGBT is equivalent to things it isn't, but I also want to express my discomfort with aspects of this reasoning. (and to be clear, the vast majority of ideas about using good clues and finding new areas of questions are perfectly cool)
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:34 pm

Cheynem wrote:I'm not LGBT, so I won't comment on this specific point, and perhaps my comparative analogies are flawed, but let me try to express why I find the usage of descriptors like "name this gay novelist" somewhat unsatisfactory.

I am a Korean American. Putting aside the obvious idea that everything a person does is influenced by aspects of their identity, I would say there are parts of my life that are very obviously related to those identity and other parts that aren't. My main academic work, which is on suburban/television history, isn't. If for whatever reason a quizbowl question was ever written on my work focusing on my research, I would feel uncomfortable having the descriptor "Name this Korean-American historian..."--not because it isn't accurate but because it feels like a check box form of identity listing--it narrows the answer space down, perhaps, but it also is highly categorizing--he's not just a historian, he's a Korean American historian.

Obviously there authors/writers whose sexuality, ethnicity, class, race, etc. are very much related to their work and this should be pointed out when necessary. It is implausible that one would consider James Baldwin, for example, without thinking about his race. On the other hand, is that true for every black author, academic, etc.?

Again, my analogy is flawed a little and I don't want to make it seem like being LGBT is equivalent to things it isn't, but I also want to express my discomfort with aspects of this reasoning. (and to be clear, the vast majority of ideas about using good clues and finding new areas of questions are perfectly cool)

This makes a lot of sense, but I think it's hard to translate into actual quiz bowl questions (not saying you won't ever be tossed up Mike!) because most of these questions are on dead people who we can't ask what they're comfortable being called. Who knows if Henry James, Virginia Woolf, etc. would've been fine with being called gay or bisexual in quiz bowl questions, or if, say, Phyllis Wheatley would want African-American or black to be used to describe her? I just think it's hard to honor/respect the wishes of the subjects of questions.

I do think we have to recognize that even if a writer/artist/whatever did work that did not obviously or directly relate to their sexuality, sometimes their sexuality is a notable fact that people can use to identify them. I guess the question is, is it quiz bowl's job to focus on providing gettable or helpful clues to identify answers (i.e. using "gay" or equivalents to point toward the answer), or to limit the clues given in order to focus on what's considered (by someone other than the subject itself) "important" or "relevant" to the person's work (i.e. not using sexuality as a descriptor unless it has a concrete relationship to what the person did)?

I personally favor the first option, but I can see how others would disagree.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by TheDoctor » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:48 pm

blizzard wrote:
Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:I don't really think it's a whole lot to ask for writers to devote 4-10 characters (if possible) to highlight the fact that the subject of their question is a member of a marginalized group. It's also not even fair to just view it as a "4-10 character sap I can't use to write clues" because their membership in a marginalized group, like their country of origin, is a clue in and of itself.
In my mind, a clue is a clue is a clue
The problem with this is that it suggests that a tossup is not a unified unit. Sure, you can throw things around as you please if you're using the "pick facts and string them together" writing method often employed by new writers, but that's not what a well-constructed question looks like. Really good questions are the ones that take an aspect of a topic and focus largely on it; it would be impossible to adequately incorporate all aspects of a person's life into a single question, and it's folly to try to do so. Fragmenting a question on ~To the Lighthouse~ by adding an LGBT adjective before "British" when describing its author adds nothing to that question. I agree with what was said upthread: When the focus of a question is on the elements of a person's work that are actually influenced by their sexuality, facts related to that sexuality are worth including (this is, in fact, what happens all the time), but fitting a worthwhile clue into a non-LGBT question that's actually related to its focus is a MUCH better use of that 4-10 characters.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:05 pm

TheDoctor wrote:
blizzard wrote:
Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:I don't really think it's a whole lot to ask for writers to devote 4-10 characters (if possible) to highlight the fact that the subject of their question is a member of a marginalized group. It's also not even fair to just view it as a "4-10 character sap I can't use to write clues" because their membership in a marginalized group, like their country of origin, is a clue in and of itself.
In my mind, a clue is a clue is a clue
The problem with this is that it suggests that a tossup is not a unified unit. Sure, you can throw things around as you please if you're using the "pick facts and string them together" writing method often employed by new writers, but that's not what a well-constructed question looks like. Really good questions are the ones that take an aspect of a topic and focus largely on it; it would be impossible to adequately incorporate all aspects of a person's life into a single question, and it's folly to try to do so. Fragmenting a question on ~To the Lighthouse~ by adding an LGBT adjective before "British" when describing its author adds nothing to that question. I agree with what was said upthread: When the focus of a question is on the elements of a person's work that are actually influenced by their sexuality, facts related to that sexuality are worth including (this is, in fact, what happens all the time), but fitting a worthwhile clue into a non-LGBT question that's actually related to its focus is a MUCH better use of that 4-10 characters.
I also wrote wrote:If mentioning someone is gay in a tossup doesn't replace another more substantive clue or take up characters that could be used for a better fact, then what's the point in not including it?
I think you may have missed this point, that if there's a better or more appropriate clue than that one should be used. I'm not advocating describing a person's sexuality in favor of other clues, but if there's room in the question and doesn't disrupt the focus (which I honestly can't see happening simply by adding "gay" or "bisexual"or "lesbian"), than I don't see the harm of adding it in.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by TheDoctor » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:06 pm

And I think you missed my point that if there's room for that in a question, there is room for a better, more substantive clue.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:15 pm

TheDoctor wrote:And I think you missed my point that if there's room for that in a question, there is room for a better, more substantive clue.
Yeah, I think this is right. If someone's racial or sexual (or any other) identity informs their work, a well-written question on them will make note of this, or at least I would hope. In addition, there is the very real issue of character space, which is especially restricted when writing NAQT questions, where three little characters are extremely valuable.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:16 pm

TheDoctor wrote:And I think you missed my point that if there's room for that in a question, there is room for a better, more substantive clue.
To address this, I guess I disagree in that adding a word that takes up the same amount of space as "gay" but is also a better, more substantive clue that stays true to the focus of the question is highly unlikely, but if it can happen, then I'm all for it.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:30 pm

blizzard wrote:I'm not advocating describing a person's sexuality in favor of other clues, but if there's room in the question and doesn't disrupt the focus (which I honestly can't see happening simply by adding "gay" or "bisexual"or "lesbian"), than I don't see the harm of adding it in.
Here's one possible harm:
I wrote:Second, being forced to acknowledge an author or artist's sexuality when it is not the subject of the works described seems perverse to the idea of celebrating them as people and creative forces, because it trivializes them to some extent as "gay authors" or "gay artists." I suppose that, not being gay myself, I can't claim to understand the personal significance of one's sexual identity in the evaluation of one's work. That said, even though I know people like John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg were gay, I think of them as "artists," not "gay artists." And I prefer it that way, because while I certainly don't dispute that sexual identity is a formative element of people's work, these people were a lot more than just gay, and their work has far more to offer than whatever can be learned from the fact that they were gay.
To add on to this, it seems to me that to artificially highlight someone's sexuality could actually serve to further marginalize those people even further by making sure to note that they are different from others. Quizbowl isn't about celebrating aspects of people's lives that don't bear in-context relevance to their academic value. To do this out-of-context makes someone's sexual identity an external fact to be studied and memorized independently of their work, and that's bad because what we should really be doing is treating marginalized people as equals.
blizzard wrote:I do think we have to recognize that even if a writer/artist/whatever did work that did not obviously or directly relate to their sexuality, sometimes their sexuality is a notable fact that people can use to identify them. I guess the question is, is it quiz bowl's job to focus on providing gettable or helpful clues to identify answers (i.e. using "gay" or equivalents to point toward the answer), or to limit the clues given in order to focus on what's considered (by someone other than the subject itself) "important" or "relevant" to the person's work (i.e. not using sexuality as a descriptor unless it has a concrete relationship to what the person did)?

I personally favor the first option, but I can see how others would disagree.
As long as quizbowl is staying away from biographical clues that don't relate to the substantive clues used in the tossup, the second option is definitely better for the purpose of quizbowl. When you write a literature tossup on Henry James, the question is not actually about Henry James, but about Henry James' literary work and his role in literature. So if the fact that he is gay isn't directly relevant to the literature clues you've used in the tossup, randomly adding that fact reduces the quality of the question because people buzzing on that fact don't necessarily know more than other players about the Henry James literature that your tossup is supposed to be about. If you were writing a history tossup on Henry James (not sure if that's possible, but let's assume it is), then perhaps a tossup failing to mention his sexuality would actually be a bad one.

Under your "what's the harm in adding extra clues" logic, we should also include a birthplace or hometown in every single author tossup, because who isn't influenced by the environment in which they grow up? Or we should include whether an author had single, divorced, or widowed parents, because that's also a large factor in people's lives and are bound to influence their work, consciously or subconsciously. It seems to me that the only thing distinguishing these examples from the LGBT issue is that LGBT people are a marginalized group. But if that's the only reason to include that information in the question, that's micropolitical and has nothing to do with question quality.

So in terms of the two options you propose, this isn't really an "agree to disagree" situation. The second option is clearly better, and questions following the first option are objectively worse.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:25 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
blizzard wrote:I'm not advocating describing a person's sexuality in favor of other clues, but if there's room in the question and doesn't disrupt the focus (which I honestly can't see happening simply by adding "gay" or "bisexual"or "lesbian"), than I don't see the harm of adding it in.
Here's one possible harm:
I wrote:Second, being forced to acknowledge an author or artist's sexuality when it is not the subject of the works described seems perverse to the idea of celebrating them as people and creative forces, because it trivializes them to some extent as "gay authors" or "gay artists." I suppose that, not being gay myself, I can't claim to understand the personal significance of one's sexual identity in the evaluation of one's work. That said, even though I know people like John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg were gay, I think of them as "artists," not "gay artists." And I prefer it that way, because while I certainly don't dispute that sexual identity is a formative element of people's work, these people were a lot more than just gay, and their work has far more to offer than whatever can be learned from the fact that they were gay.
To add on to this, it seems to me that to artificially highlight someone's sexuality could actually serve to further marginalize those people even further by making sure to note that they are different from others. Quizbowl isn't about celebrating aspects of people's lives that don't bear in-context relevance to their academic value. To do this out-of-context makes someone's sexual identity an external fact to be studied and memorized independently of their work, and that's bad because what we should really be doing is treating marginalized people as equals.
In my opinion mentioning somebody is gay doesn't marginalize them, but helps by spreading awareness. Unfortunately, the underlying assumption in our fairly-heteronormative culture is that unless someone is specifically mentioned as gay, they are assumed to be straight, so I kinda see including a subject's sexuality in a question about them as... "correcting" this assumption (sorry if this doesn't make sense, I have an idea I'm trying to relate but I don't think it's coming across well). And I get that this sorta adds politics to quiz bowl, so others may see it as appropriate it or not, but in my mind it's beneficial without doing much harm.
gyre and gimble wrote:
blizzard wrote:I do think we have to recognize that even if a writer/artist/whatever did work that did not obviously or directly relate to their sexuality, sometimes their sexuality is a notable fact that people can use to identify them. I guess the question is, is it quiz bowl's job to focus on providing gettable or helpful clues to identify answers (i.e. using "gay" or equivalents to point toward the answer), or to limit the clues given in order to focus on what's considered (by someone other than the subject itself) "important" or "relevant" to the person's work (i.e. not using sexuality as a descriptor unless it has a concrete relationship to what the person did)?

I personally favor the first option, but I can see how others would disagree.
As long as quizbowl is staying away from biographical clues that don't relate to the substantive clues used in the tossup, the second option is definitely better for the purpose of quizbowl. When you write a literature tossup on Henry James, the question is not actually about Henry James, but about Henry James' literary work and his role in literature. So if the fact that he is gay isn't directly relevant to the literature clues you've used in the tossup, randomly adding that fact reduces the quality of the question because people buzzing on that fact don't necessarily know more than other players about the Henry James literature that your tossup is supposed to be about. If you were writing a history tossup on Henry James (not sure if that's possible, but let's assume it is), then perhaps a tossup failing to mention his sexuality would actually be a bad one.

Under your "what's the harm in adding extra clues" logic, we should also include a birthplace or hometown in every single author tossup, because who isn't influenced by the environment in which they grow up? Or we should include whether an author had single, divorced, or widowed parents, because that's also a large factor in people's lives and are bound to influence their work, consciously or subconsciously. It seems to me that the only thing distinguishing these examples from the LGBT issue is that LGBT people are a marginalized group. But if that's the only reason to include that information in the question, that's micropolitical and has nothing to do with question quality.

So in terms of the two options you propose, this isn't really an "agree to disagree" situation. The second option is clearly better, and questions following the first option are objectively worse.
I agree that mentioning somebody is gay could take away from the focus of a question if the question doesn't mention anything directly related to their sexuality, but I think that it does so in a minor enough of a way as to not make much of a difference to the overall quality of the question. There will always be people buzzing without having direct knowledge of a specific clue due to lateral thinking/context clues/whatever you want to call it. For instance, mentioning a character name will point to a specific book, but also helps players by telling them something about the age of the text, where in the world it's from, what language it was written in, etc. So I think it's alright to mention the sexuality of an author as a legitimate clue to narrow down the answer even if it means people aren't buzzing on knowledge of the work of the author because people are already using clues about the works themselves to narrow down the answer even if they don't have knowledge of that specific clue. It's pretty difficult to have players answer questions solely on the content of clues without using critical thinking skills. Because of this, I think the benefits to mentioning someone's sexuality outweigh the mostly-negligible change to the quality of a question (again, sorry if this is hard to understand, I'm not sure how it's coming across).
gyre and gimble wrote:Under your "what's the harm in adding extra clues" logic, we should also include a birthplace or hometown in every single author tossup, because who isn't influenced by the environment in which they grow up? Or we should include whether an author had single, divorced, or widowed parents, because that's also a large factor in people's lives and are bound to influence their work, consciously or subconsciously.
I support mentioning sexualities because it usually takes up very little space in a question. Mentioning these, however will (generally) take up a lot more characters than saying someone is LGBT. Obviously there are some cases where this may be a good thing to mention, and some cases where mentioning sexuality would not work. Additionally, the information you mention is not likely to be something that is either well-known or buzzable, and so I personally wouldn't include it in questions for the most part.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:12 pm

blizzard wrote:In my opinion mentioning somebody is gay doesn't marginalize them, but helps by spreading awareness. Unfortunately, the underlying assumption in our fairly-heteronormative culture is that unless someone is specifically mentioned as gay, they are assumed to be straight, so I kinda see including a subject's sexuality in a question about them as... "correcting" this assumption (sorry if this doesn't make sense, I have an idea I'm trying to relate but I don't think it's coming across well). And I get that this sorta adds politics to quiz bowl, so others may see it as appropriate it or not, but in my mind it's beneficial without doing much harm.
First, quizbowl isn't really about spreading awareness, but measuring awareness, and it alters the balance of question content if we start testing for clues that writers think people ought to know, in a moral sense.

Second, there's a difference between not knowing if someone is gay and assuming that they are straight. Imagine you are playing a question on Henry James, and you don't know he was gay. Do you think to yourself, "Oh, that guy must have been straight?" I certainly don't. That would be weird. I think you're inventing a problem that doesn't exist. Most academically inclined people, or people who are learning things properly (which means most quizbowlers), know fully well how much LGBT people have contributed to art and culture. You're setting up a nonexistent issue where somehow the straight population is getting credit for the gay people's work, when really the gay/straight dichotomy isn't something anybody thinks about when playing quizbowl. There's no need to "correct" for anything because there's no misattribution going on.

Third, Henry James' work isn't the work of the "gay population" and the gay population as a whole doesn't have a claim to Henry James' work. Henry James' work belongs to Henry James, who happened to be gay and let that influence him to a significant, but finite, extent. I don't see any reason to go out of our way to designate things as the work of a gay person, as opposed to just a person.

Fourth, why should we care about someone's sexuality if it's not relevant to the academic content of the clues we are being asked? It's their private lives, and the only reason we should ever care about it in an academic sense is if they presented it to us through their work or activities. And insofar as that presentation is not present in the substantive cluing of a tossup, we shouldn't be assigning them labels out-of-context.
blizzard wrote:I agree that mentioning somebody is gay could take away from the focus of a question if the question doesn't mention anything directly related to their sexuality, but I think that it does so in a minor enough of a way as to not make much of a difference to the overall quality of the question. There will always be people buzzing without having direct knowledge of a specific clue due to lateral thinking/context clues/whatever you want to call it. For instance, mentioning a character name will point to a specific book, but also helps players by telling them something about the age of the text, where in the world it's from, what language it was written in, etc. So I think it's alright to mention the sexuality of an author as a legitimate clue to narrow down the answer even if it means people aren't buzzing on knowledge of the work of the author because people are already using clues about the works themselves to narrow down the answer even if they don't have knowledge of that specific clue. It's pretty difficult to have players answer questions solely on the content of clues without using critical thinking skills. Because of this, I think the benefits to mentioning someone's sexuality outweigh the mostly-negligible change to the quality of a question (again, sorry if this is hard to understand, I'm not sure how it's coming across).
This is a dumb comparison. Lateral thinking and context clues like "age of the text, where in the world it's from, what language it was written in" are all substantive qualities of the work and buzzing based on that constitutes legitimate academic knowledge about literature. Nowhere have I argued that buzzing should occur only on specific and precise knowledge of literary clues. But the author's sexuality, mentioned out-of-context, is different because it has no bearing on the literary content of the clues.
blizzard wrote:I support mentioning sexualities because it usually takes up very little space in a question. Mentioning these, however will (generally) take up a lot more characters than saying someone is LGBT. Obviously there are some cases where this may be a good thing to mention, and some cases where mentioning sexuality would not work. Additionally, the information you mention is not likely to be something that is either well-known or buzzable, and so I personally wouldn't include it in questions for the most part.
"Name this author from West Hills who wrote 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry'" and "Name this gay author who wrote 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry'" differ by 10 characters. But more importantly, "but it won't take up a lot of characters" is an incredibly unconvincing reason to add irrelevant biographical clues to questions.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Vainamoinen » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:21 pm

To be honest, I didn't even know Henry James or Virginia Woolf were gay until this thread. I think adding that to the giveaway would just confuse those of us non-lit/art/whatever players who aren't buzzing until the giveaway, where things are supposed to be clear.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:24 pm

I think the reasonable middle ground here is to only note the author's sexuality in questions where it's important, but also to not automatically assume it's unimportant. I don't know much about Henry James, perhaps being gay was unimportant to his writing, but there are plenty of cases where an author's work reads differently if you know about his sexuality. It doesn't seem ludicrous that in some cases it helped shape a person's output in a way that being from a country or living during a time period did, although I'll grant that it doesn't make sense to acknowledge sexuality in every case.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:33 pm

Yawar Fiesta wrote:I think the reasonable middle ground here is to only note the author's sexuality in questions where it's important, but also to not automatically assume it's unimportant. I don't know much about Henry James, perhaps being gay was unimportant to his writing, but there are plenty of cases where an author's work reads differently if you know about his sexuality. It doesn't seem ludicrous that in some cases it helped shape a person's output in a way that being from a country or living during a time period did, although I'll grant that it doesn't make sense to acknowledge sexuality in every case.
I'm not sure if it's been coming across differently, but this is exactly what I'm advocating. But I'm also pretty sure that this already happens, because that's what good question writing does--it accounts for background information that is substantively relevant to the "primary" plot/character/audio/visual/etc. clues. That's what I mean by "in-context" v. "out-of-context." I don't think anyone here thinks we should never use sexual identity as a clue.

As for whether or not sexuality is important, basically if you come across (good) clues that do discuss it, then it is important. If your research for the tossup doesn't mention it, then it's not. As a question writer, you should neither assume that sexuality is important nor assume it's unimportant. Just use the clues as you find them.

I'll also add that the fact that someone was gay should never be a primary clue. It's always secondary to a primary clue, and should be mentioned only when encountered in relation to the primary clue.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Aaron's Rod » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:43 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:Second, there's a difference between not knowing if someone is gay and assuming that they are straight. Imagine you are playing a question on Henry James, and you don't know he was gay. Do you think to yourself, "Oh, that guy must have been straight?" I certainly don't. That would be weird. I think you're inventing a problem that doesn't exist. Most academically inclined people, or people who are learning things properly (which means most quizbowlers), know fully well how much LGBT people have contributed to art and culture. You're setting up a nonexistent issue where somehow the straight population is getting credit for the gay people's work, when really the gay/straight dichotomy isn't something anybody thinks about when playing quizbowl. There's no need to "correct" for anything because there's no misattribution going on.
You're not getting it. As Sam mentioned, for most people and in most contexts, if you don't know another person's sexuality, you'll assume that that person is straight. (That's heteronormativity, or at least part of it.) It's not always conscious, but everybody does this in the real world--and statistically, you'd often be right. Similarly, I knew what Noether's Theorem was for awhile before finding out it was named after a woman, because most people would consciously or unconsciously assume that a mathematician is a man. I want to drive this particular point home less for quizbowl purposes, and more because you should know this as a human being in the 21st century.
gyre and gimble wrote:Third, Henry James' work isn't the work of the "gay population" and the gay population as a whole doesn't have a claim to Henry James' work. Henry James' work belongs to Henry James, who happened to be gay and let that influence him to a significant, but finite, extent. I don't see any reason to go out of our way to designate things as the work of a gay person, as opposed to just a person.
In cases where the work is significant to the marginalized population in question, it is pretty much erasure to not mention that status. Take Wilde as a better example, or some other author who had pretty undisputed LGBT themes. No one's arguing that LGBT people "own" James' works or or Wilde's works or whatever. But wouldn't you say it's negligent in most instances to not mention that Wilde was gay, or that Langston Hughes was African-American? (I know, as others have mentioned, that race and sexuality are not equivalent, but again, these identities have clearly shaped the author's work.)
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by alexdz » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:52 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
Yawar Fiesta wrote:I'll also add that the fact that someone was gay should never be a primary clue. It's always secondary to a primary clue, and should be mentioned only when encountered in relation to the primary clue.
I disagree with this in one particular situation: I don't see it as a problem in current events/general knowledge questions which reference someone who famously came out (i.e., a question on Caitlyn Jenner is going to necessitate a clue whose primary emphasis is "she is a trans woman"). This might also apply to a very small subset of history questions, when the "coming out" itself is the historical moment in question.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by blizzard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:57 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
Yawar Fiesta wrote:I think the reasonable middle ground here is to only note the author's sexuality in questions where it's important, but also to not automatically assume it's unimportant. I don't know much about Henry James, perhaps being gay was unimportant to his writing, but there are plenty of cases where an author's work reads differently if you know about his sexuality. It doesn't seem ludicrous that in some cases it helped shape a person's output in a way that being from a country or living during a time period did, although I'll grant that it doesn't make sense to acknowledge sexuality in every case.
I'm not sure if it's been coming across differently, but this is exactly what I'm advocating. But I'm also pretty sure that this already happens, because that's what good question writing does--it accounts for background information that is substantively relevant to the "primary" plot/character/audio/visual/etc. clues. That's what I mean by "in-context" v. "out-of-context." I don't think anyone here thinks we should never use sexual identity as a clue.
I agree for the most part about this as well. I think my main criticism comes from data Charlie brought up in his original post and how sexuality is so rarely mentioned for certain people, and I think that's disappointing. I definitely don't think it has to be addressed in every single question on every LGBT person, but I think an increase would be a good thing.
gyre and gimble wrote:Second, there's a difference between not knowing if someone is gay and assuming that they are straight. Imagine you are playing a question on Henry James, and you don't know he was gay. Do you think to yourself, "Oh, that guy must have been straight?" I certainly don't. That would be weird. I think you're inventing a problem that doesn't exist. Most academically inclined people, or people who are learning things properly (which means most quizbowlers), know fully well how much LGBT people have contributed to art and culture. You're setting up a nonexistent issue where somehow the straight population is getting credit for the gay people's work, when really the gay/straight dichotomy isn't something anybody thinks about when playing quizbowl. There's no need to "correct" for anything because there's no misattribution going on.
I do still disagree with this, though. It might not be an assumption people actively think about, but I do think there is an underlying assumption of heterosexuality in our culture as a whole.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:23 pm

Aaron's Rod wrote:You're not getting it. As Sam mentioned, for most people and in most contexts, if you don't know another person's sexuality, you'll assume that that person is straight. (That's heteronormativity, or at least part of it.) It's not always conscious, but everybody does this in the real world--and statistically, you'd often be right. Similarly, I knew what Noether's Theorem was for awhile before finding out it was named after a woman, because most people would consciously or unconsciously assume that a mathematician is a man. I want to drive this particular point home less for quizbowl purposes, and more because you should know this as a human being in the 21st century.
Thanks for the lesson on how to be a human being!

Look, you're missing my whole point about micropolitics. Personally, whether someone was gay or straight is not something I think about when I play quizbowl, because quite frankly, I don't care unless it is relevant to their work in a particular way. I don't want questions to preach to me about appreciating how much gay people have done for the world because I prefer to think of those people as just people. Where relevant, I do and will appreciate the role an artist's sexuality played in his or her work. Apparently to you, this is a flawed attitude that quizbowl should do its part in correcting. And if you think that, fine. I don't care. What I do care about is if question writers start writing questions in a way that tells me to view art and literature in a very specific way. That politicizes this game to an extent that really doesn't belong.
Aaron's Rod wrote:In cases where the work is significant to the marginalized population in question, it is pretty much erasure to not mention that status. Take Wilde as a better example, or some other author who had pretty undisputed LGBT themes. No one's arguing that LGBT people "own" James' works or or Wilde's works or whatever. But wouldn't you say it's negligent in most instances to not mention that Wilde was gay, or that Langston Hughes was African-American? (I know, as others have mentioned, that race and sexuality are not equivalent, but again, these identities have clearly shaped the author's work.)
Yes, not mentioning that Wilde was gay would be negligent if the clues in your question are directly relevant to his sexuality. If all your clues are plot elements from The Picture of Dorian Gray that have nothing explicitly to do with homosexuality and you haven't added any secondary clues pointing toward the influence of Wilde's sexuality on the book, then no, it wouldn't be negligent to not mention that he was gay. Same goes for Langston Hughes. It's not erasure to selectively mention things where they are directly relevant. It just so happens that every single one of Hughes' most famous poems deal directly with his race, so his race is mentioned in every tossup on Hughes.
alexdz wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:
Yawar Fiesta wrote:I'll also add that the fact that someone was gay should never be a primary clue. It's always secondary to a primary clue, and should be mentioned only when encountered in relation to the primary clue.
I disagree with this in one particular situation: I don't see it as a problem in current events/general knowledge questions which reference someone who famously came out (i.e., a question on Caitlyn Jenner is going to necessitate a clue whose primary emphasis is "she is a trans woman"). This might also apply to a very small subset of history questions, when the "coming out" itself is the historical moment in question.
Sorry for not being clear; I was under the impression that we were only talking about intellectual work (arts/science/literature/etc.). You're right, it would be pretty stupid for anyone to write a question on Caitlyn Jenner without mentioning her sexual/gender identity.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by alexdz » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:28 pm

I think I've finally figured out how to articulate why I feel so strange about mentioning gender identity or sexuality so flippantly as an almost generic clue, even while I feel very strongly about increasing representation and acceptance of the LGBTQ community*. I'm not sure there's a word that's the equivalent of "colorblind" for gender/sexuality, but if there was, that's where I think many of us are talking past one another. I don't think anyone is intentionally throwing out the idea that quizbowl questions should be "sexuality-blind" out of some belief that "we are all just people and why can't we ignore our differences," but it seems as though some posts might be being interpreted that way. Differences can and should be celebrated and articulated - but not all the time.

A concrete example: It's like being introduced as "the gay friend" every single time you get introduced to someone new. Or imagine being introduced as "the lesbian valedictorian" of your graduating class during your graduation ceremony. Wouldn't these situations feel extremely awkward? Sure, your sexuality influences your friendships, and influences your path to academic success in high school, but we don't always need to mention them because they aren't always relevant or appropriate in every context.

* In honor of this thread, tonight I made for dinner something I am calling the LGBTQ sandwich. Lettuce, guacamole, bacon, tomato and cheese (i.e., queso).
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:16 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:Look, you're missing my whole point about micropolitics. Personally, whether someone was gay or straight is not something I think about when I play quizbowl, because quite frankly, I don't care unless it is relevant to their work in a particular way. I don't want questions to preach to me about appreciating how much gay people have done for the world because I prefer to think of those people as just people. Where relevant, I do and will appreciate the role an artist's sexuality played in his or her work. Apparently to you, this is a flawed attitude that quizbowl should do its part in correcting. And if you think that, fine. I don't care. What I do care about is if question writers start writing questions in a way that tells me to view art and literature in a very specific way. That politicizes this game to an extent that really doesn't belong.
I think this is where I'm somewhat confused as to your argument. I don't know that making sure to acknowledge LGBTQ people is inherently "micropolitics", or at least not more than anything else that's advocated in question writing discussions. I also don't think art or literature is created in a vacuum in which somebody's sexuality, race, nationality, or anything else is irrelevant to its creation. I'm not sure that you think we should approach people in a "sexuality-blind" way, as Alex put it, but I would disagree with you if that's the case. I do agree with you that it''s not necessary in every case, and I think it's perfectly possible to write good questions that mention somebody's sexuality and write good questions that do not.

Take James Baldwin for instance: he was both gay and black, and while he did not seek to be represented as only his sexuality and race, his work dealt with both topics and is widely regarded as important for both LGBTQ literature and African-American literature. Here are two questions I found on Baldwin:
2012 ACF Regionals wrote:This author wrote about a teenage evangelist who has an incestuous relationship with her father in a novel focusing on soul singer Hall Montana. In another novel by this author the Rivers family struggles to free a man falsely accused of rape, and Tish is pregnant with Fonny's baby. In addition to Just Above My Head and If Beale Street Could Talk, this author wrote a novel in which the title character is guillotined for murdering the Parisian bar owner Guillaume. In another novel by this author, one character abandons his illegitimate son Royal, and the second part of that novel is composed of three prayers given in the Temple of the Fire Baptized church. That novel is set on the fourteenth birthday of the protagonist, John Grimes. For 10 points, name this African American author of Giovanni's Room and Go Tell It on the Mountain.
2011 NSC wrote:Barbara has affairs with Jerry and "Black Christopher" following the death of Leo Proudhammer in a novel this man set mostly in Greenwich Village, a locale that also inspired his portrait of angst-ridden artists Richard, Vivaldo, and Rufus Scott, who jumps off the George Washington Bridge. Hella abandons David in France after the title character kills Guillame in a novel by this man that surprised readers with its (*) all-white cast. This author of Tell Me How Long the Train's Been gone and Another Country responded to Richard Wright in Notes of a Native Son and drew on his own homosexuality to write Giovanni's Room. Best known for his novel about John Grimes's religious experiences in Harlem, for 10 points, name this African American author of Go Tell It on the Mountain.
The first question mentions Baldwin's race, but omits his sexuality despite having a clue about Giovanni's Room. The second question works in a clue about Baldwin's sexuality into a clue about Giovanni's Room, in a way that I think everybody on all sides of this discussion thinks is fine. But there seems to be a discrepancy (across more than just these questions) in the fact that questions about Baldwin rarely fail to mention his race, but mention his sexuality infrequently--even when using clues where it would be relevant to do so. I think both his race and sexuality are important things to know about James Baldwin, and I don't see it as playing "micropolitics" to question why one gets mentioned more than the other.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:38 pm

Yawar Fiesta wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:Look, you're missing my whole point about micropolitics. Personally, whether someone was gay or straight is not something I think about when I play quizbowl, because quite frankly, I don't care unless it is relevant to their work in a particular way. I don't want questions to preach to me about appreciating how much gay people have done for the world because I prefer to think of those people as just people. Where relevant, I do and will appreciate the role an artist's sexuality played in his or her work. Apparently to you, this is a flawed attitude that quizbowl should do its part in correcting. And if you think that, fine. I don't care. What I do care about is if question writers start writing questions in a way that tells me to view art and literature in a very specific way. That politicizes this game to an extent that really doesn't belong.
I think this is where I'm somewhat confused as to your argument. I don't know that making sure to acknowledge LGBTQ people is inherently "micropolitics", or at least not more than anything else that's advocated in question writing discussions. I also don't think art or literature is created in a vacuum in which somebody's sexuality, race, nationality, or anything else is irrelevant to its creation. I'm not sure that you think we should approach people in a "sexuality-blind" way, as Alex put it, but I would disagree with you if that's the case. I do agree with you that it''s not necessary in every case, and I think it's perfectly possible to write good questions that mention somebody's sexuality and write good questions that do not.
I think I've been in agreement with you 100%, and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. Let me outline three classes of questions:

1. A question that doesn't have much to do with someone's sexual identity but randomly labels them as a "gay author" or "gay artist": It would be micropolitical to artificially describe a gay person as gay in every question on that person because of a perceived need to correct for heteronormativity and the desire for that person's sexual identity should be recognized.

2. A question that mentions a work or uses a clue that deals directly with sexual identity: In these questions, it's important and usually necessary to mention someone's sexual identity because it adds vital context to that person's work.

3. A question describing works that could be read in a different light if viewed under the lens of the author's sexual identity: It's not necessary in these cases to mention sexual identity, but I wouldn't discourage it either. It shouldn't be overdone, though, 1) because of difficulty and "stock-ness" reasons, and 2) because that could result in an overemphasis of the role of sexuality in an author's work, relative to real-life academic discussion.

Alex's analogy with the gay friend is perfect. Say I was bringing my friend Bob to a party, and Bob happens to be gay. I'd introduce him as my friend, not my "gay friend." But if Bob wanted to bring his partner Charlie, and I wasn't friends with Charlie, I might introduce him as "Bob's partner." It's not that I'm choosing to ignore the fact that Bob is gay. I'm choosing not to draw attention to it because until it needs to be explained, it's nobody else's business, and I don't want people to think "gay" every time they interact with Bob. My position on how to deal with this in the context of quizbowl writing is similar.

Hope that clears things up. The reason I brought up how I approach authors and artists is that I think being "sexuality-blind" should be the default. We should recognize sexuality where it's appropriate to do so, but we shouldn't go out of our way to put labels on people when so many different labels could apply.

This will probably be my last post in this thread. I want to say that my main concern is about quizbowl becoming politicized. I feel like this discussion has weirdly gone in a way that could make it seem like I just don't want to hear about gay people in quizbowl. I won't claim to be a fiercely active advocate for LGBT rights, but I'm all for equality. It just so happens that I also feel strongly about the political neutrality of an activity that I care about.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:44 am

gyre and gimble wrote:This will probably be my last post in this thread. I want to say that my main concern is about quizbowl becoming politicized. I feel like this discussion has weirdly gone in a way that could make it seem like I just don't want to hear about gay people in quizbowl. I won't claim to be a fiercely active advocate for LGBT rights, but I'm all for equality. It just so happens that I also feel strongly about the political neutrality of an activity that I care about.
This pretty much sums up my sentiment exactly.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Sat Jul 11, 2015 1:48 pm

Sorry, but the whole "introduction at a dinner party" thing seems rather contrived to me, and not really at all relevant to quiz bowl. I drew up 25 random lit questions on quinterest, and extending your logic would lead to me introducing Saroyan as my "American friend", Tennyson as my "Victorian friend", Andersen as my "Danish friend", and Morris as my "British socialite and pre-Raphaelite friend". While it's noble (I guess???) of you to not want your friend Bob to be seen as gay, I see no relevance to the situation.

Ultimately quiz bowl's job is to paint an accurate portrayal of the people we're asking about. That's the reason why we acknowledge the fact that, for instance, "George Eliot" and "Currer Bell" are actually pseudonymous attempts to evade gender stereotypes for authorship. It doesn't need to be - and isn't - acknowledged in every question, of course, but anyone who's played quiz bowl and studied them in any capacity knows that.

I'd like to briefly divert from my argument to make a point that I've already made twice but doesn't seem to be sticking.
me wrote: I'm not saying that "every single TU/Bonus about a minority needs to mention their minority status, otherwise it is racist/sexist/homophobic"
me wrote: I already stated it in the OP, but it seems to have gone unnoticed by some, so I'll state it again. I'm not saying that "every TU on a minority must explicitly mention their minority status", I just think that a hell of a lot more than <1% of them should.
Stephen wrote:being forced to acknowledge an author or artist's sexuality when it is not the subject of the works described seems perverse to the idea of celebrating them as people and creative forces
Ike wrote:I am completely against turning quizbowl into an activity in which in every question, we have to gratuitously remind people that these important figures are gay. I would absolutely hate it if many John Cage tossups had to remind us he was gay every time.
Alex Dzurick wrote:Gender/sexuality issues are going be relevant to a question some percentage of the time (and that percentage is probably much higher than it is reflected now), but that percentage is not 100.
etc, etc. I'd like to make it once again very clear that I am not advocating that "every question on a minority must explicitly mention their minority status". That is a convention that isn't followed for nationality or race currently - and it probably shouldn't be; sometimes, that space is just better used. Furthermore, on really canonical people you're likely to hear many, many questions on them in an average quiz bowl career. Therefore, if even 30-40% of them mention minority status, that is more than plenty for adequately informing people about the most basic and impactful biographical information about that person.

Another thing I need to clear up is that I absolutely prefer using longer, more substantive clues with reference to minority status (perhaps with the addition of 'gay' etc at the giveaway as well) rather than simply dropping 'gay'. However, I also don't see anything wrong with doing the latter.

There's a couple of attitudes being expressed in this thread that kind of irk me, so I'd like to point those out further.

1. "It's their private lives, and the only reason we should ever care about it in an academic sense is if they presented it to us through their work or activities. / Personally, whether someone was gay or straight is not something I think about when I play quizbowl, because quite frankly, I don't care unless it is relevant to their work in a particular way. I don't want questions to preach to me about appreciating how much gay people have done for the world because I prefer to think of those people as just people."

This is reductive and is actually borderline pretty offensive. As much as it's comforting to think of queer people as "just like straight people, but they do different stuff in the privacy of their own bedroom", this is essentially a complete erasure of the struggles that queer people have historically had living in a heteronormative world. Due to those struggles as well as the intrinsic difference of being a queer person, an author's entire work is inextricably connected to their status as a queer person. I find privacy to be pretty irrelevant here; just because Charlotte Brontë as an author was publicly a man doesn't mean that we should never recognize the fact that she was actually a female and applied that lens to her work; that would be ridiculous.

In regards to the "preaching" line, why does mentioning sexuality have to equate to preaching? I"m not advocating for lines like "Despite the incredibly difficult life this man had with the struggles of being a homosexual, he was able to rise through the ashes and produce masterpieces that belied his lack of privilege". We're literally talking about a one-word identification of a major aspect of someone's being. That doesn't feel preachy to me.

2. "Analogy with a tossup on a work (4'33", To the Lighthouse) - I'm not advocating for, and have never advocated for, explicitly stating the sexuality of an author or artist in a tossup on a work. Obviously, if you want to add a clue on how the perspective of the author as a queer person modified the work, that's awesome, but I wouldn't see the need for dropping "gay" at the end, because it's really not analogous to author tossups at all. When you say, For 10 points, name this work by Virginia Woolf, that identifier Virginia Woolf immediately takes on all the meaning given to what that person knows about Virginia Woolf. It's the same reason you wouldn't end a Critique of Pure Reason tossup with "by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant" - all of the information about Kant is contained in just mentioning his name, and for many people that information comes from hearing other quiz bowl questions.

3. "Heteronormativity doesn't exist" - As much as I wish you were right about this, that's unfortunately not the case. Maybe you defy the conventional laws of society and do things like going up to women in bars and making sure they're not lesbians before you hit on them, but the rest of the world doesn't. People in this thread and in other areas I've posted this have said "I didn't know x and y were queer", and when they say that they're not saying "wow, thanks! I always had Virginia Woolf placed in the -ambiguous sexuality, will not judge until further knowledge acquired- box, now I know she's queer!", they're saying that they assumed she was straight.

It has become evident to me just through doing this thread that good quiz bowl players - even some queer quiz bowl players themselves - are unaware of the basic biographical information that some of the most major authors asked about are queer. This isn't that surprising to me - as I said before, a lot of peoples' knowledge comes from quiz bowl, and therefore I think the onus is on quiz bowl to point out major, formative aspects of the authors they ask about. This isn't about "shoving queerness down your throat" or "increasing the queer distribution", it's simply about rectifying the fact that people who know lots of deep things about authors and enjoy their work don't know a fact about them that's pretty crucial to understanding their work.

4. "A more worthwhile clue can be fit in 4-10 characters"- No, it can't. In fact, stating someone's minority status is probably one of the most efficient uses of characters I can think of. If you're magically able to fit an entire new, substantive clue in those 4-10 characters, by all means feel free to omit mention of minority status.

5. " 'x is gay' isn't a meaningful clue because it doesn't help narrow it down, however mentioning nationality does" - I really don't understand this argument. It narrows it down in the same exact way - there are a finite number of askable American novelists at any level, and there a finite number of askable gay novelists at any level. The only difference is that because mentioning "American" is programmed into quiz bowl writing, people have a mental grouping of "American novelists" to choose from. However, if we were to begin mentioning minority status in literature, that same grouping would come up for "gay novelists" and would help narrow it down in exactly the same way.

6. Dropping "x is gay" is out of context - It isn't, because all of the works of the author that were discussed in the question were created by a gay author and were influenced by that author being gay. Take the following tossup:
In one of this author's novels, Officer Bell falsely pins the rape of a Puerto Rican woman named Victoria Rogers on Fonny. In addition to that novel narrated by Tish Rivers, this man wrote a novel whose protagonist abandons his wife Hella to go to Nice, where he has an affair with a sailor. The title character of that novel by this man is executed for murdering the bar owner Guillaume, ending his (*) homosexual affair with the protagonist. He also created a character who fathered an illegitimate son named Royal with Esther but marries Elizabeth, who gives him a stepson who has a glossolalic religious experience on his fourteenth birthday. For 10 points, name this creator of Gabriel and John Grimes, the African-American author of If Beale Street Could Talk, Giovanni's Room, and Go Tell it on the Mountain.
Is African-American "out of context" here? Of course not. Just because none of the clues explicitly point towards Baldwin being African-American before the actual mention of it doesn't mean that it doesn't belong in the question. Besides being a distinct clue, it relates necessarily to the other clues used in the question because those works were written through the lens of an African-American writer.



While I understand and sympathize with the discomfort that saying "gay novelist" is akin to placing them into a box, it's important to realize that quiz bowl is entirely about boxes just like that already. Players have boxes like "Norse gods", "African-American playwrights", "Lake Poets", "novels by Hemingway", and "organelles" - that's just part of the game. Ultimately, we're writing questions that are meant to provide accurate and categorized information, and not introducing the people we write about at dinner parties. I'd wager that most historical figures would heavily disagree with the way they're portrayed in quiz bowl - whether it's that they disagree with the ranking of their works' importance, or Camus not wanting to be called an existentialist, or Albee not appreciating being called a gay playwright, our first priority is to provide the most objective and crucial facts to understanding the people we toss up, not to kowtow to their wishes to remain uncategorized.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Ike » Sat Jul 11, 2015 2:05 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:This will probably be my last post in this thread. I want to say that my main concern is about quizbowl becoming politicized. I feel like this discussion has weirdly gone in a way that could make it seem like I just don't want to hear about gay people in quizbowl. I won't claim to be a fiercely active advocate for LGBT rights, but I'm all for equality. It just so happens that I also feel strongly about the political neutrality of an activity that I care about.
This pretty much sums up my sentiment exactly.
And mine. You know the world is a bizarre place when I only agree with the straight people in this thread. Rest assured as editor and writer of many questions, I will root out all preachy verbiage With Fire and Sword.

Also, I can't believe people in this thread tried to lecture Stephen Liu and not take him on face value about how he thinks. That's part of my problem with LGTBQ discussions so often: a lot of times the discussion deviates away from the actual issue (do we represent LGTBQ culture enough in quizbowl?) to some ad hominem nonsense (Le's talk about how Stephen Liu is heteronormative and teach him how to be a human being!) It's not going to get the general public to agree with your point if you keep talking about how we as quizbowl question writers, apparently should be asking girls if they're straight / lesbian before we hit on them at the bars.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Sat Jul 11, 2015 3:57 pm

Ike wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:This will probably be my last post in this thread. I want to say that my main concern is about quizbowl becoming politicized. I feel like this discussion has weirdly gone in a way that could make it seem like I just don't want to hear about gay people in quizbowl. I won't claim to be a fiercely active advocate for LGBT rights, but I'm all for equality. It just so happens that I also feel strongly about the political neutrality of an activity that I care about.
This pretty much sums up my sentiment exactly.
And mine. You know the world is a bizarre place when I only agree with the straight people in this thread. Rest assured as editor and writer of many questions, I will root out all preachy verbiage With Fire and Sword.

Also, I can't believe people in this thread tried to lecture Stephen Liu and not take him on face value about how he thinks. That's part of my problem with LGTBQ discussions so often: a lot of times the discussion deviates away from the actual issue (do we represent LGTBQ culture enough in quizbowl?) to some ad hominem nonsense (Le's talk about how Stephen Liu is heteronormative and teach him how to be a human being!) It's not going to get the general public to agree with your point if you keep talking about how we as quizbowl question writers, apparently should be asking girls if they're straight / lesbian before we hit on them at the bars.
I think the problem with Stephen's posts is he's trying to make some roundabout point about how mentioning sexuality is some sort of identity politics attack on quizbowl (perhaps lay off the woe-is-me academia thinkpieces?) rather than the actual issue. There's nothing wrong with a discussion about how we mention things like race and sexuality, and if by trying too hard to "neutral" we end up downplaying accurate portrayals of marginalized groups. Arguing that this is some sort of politicization of quizbowl seems like a reaction to arguments that aren't being made by people here. I think the game is above finding it controversial or preachy for questions to acknowledge the LGBTQ status of the people they are about.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Jul 11, 2015 4:01 pm

Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage! wrote:3. "Heteronormativity doesn't exist" - As much as I wish you were right about this, that's unfortunately not the case. Maybe you defy the conventional laws of society and do things like going up to women in bars and making sure they're not lesbians before you hit on them, but the rest of the world doesn't. People in this thread and in other areas I've posted this have said "I didn't know x and y were queer", and when they say that they're not saying "wow, thanks! I always had Virginia Woolf placed in the -ambiguous sexuality, will not judge until further knowledge acquired- box, now I know she's queer!", they're saying that they assumed she was straight.
Don't mean to derail the conversation here, but since it's a fact that most people are inclined towards heterosexual preferences, it's generally pretty reasonable to assume that somebody is heterosexual unless they either say so or there are other general cues to the contrary. This on its baseline is not really that problematic, though some problematic things can definitely build on this - I really don't think that people assuming that someone a quizbowl question about is straight is one of them.

Seriously, Ike is right. One of the things I've come to appreciate about quizbowl is that it tends to stick to objective facts and that insofar as it asks about politically or socially motivated opinions, it asks whether you know what those opinions are and who formulated them. I've been guilty of being preachy in questions before and have realized the error of my ways. It's a good thing that you don't have to be constantly bombarded by the end-of-America tirades of intolerant right-wing lunatics nor bow your heads to the pronouncements of the high priests of left-wing cultural orthodoxy in this game, and I'd like to keep it that way.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Cheynem » Sat Jul 11, 2015 4:07 pm

I mean...it's not an "opinion" that James Baldwin was gay, it's a fact and pretty important to his writing. I (and I think most of the people in this thread, although some are expressing themselves vaguely--at least to me) have no problem whatsoever with clues that reference this and in fact, would call for it as a good clue as that is something that people who study Baldwin encounter (substitute Baldwin with other people if you wish). There's nothing "political" about this.

On the other hand, proscribing specific references to someone's sexuality all the time (again, I don't think too many people are calling for this) is perhaps going too far (see my above post). I'm not offended and i don't find it politics writ large, but I have some issues with it. Let's use good clues that people who know things about people that are important and proceed from there, which can include race, class, and sexuality.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Sat Jul 11, 2015 5:08 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Don't mean to derail the conversation here, but since it's a fact that most people are inclined towards heterosexual preferences, it's generally pretty reasonable to assume that somebody is heterosexual unless they either say so or there are other general cues to the contrary. This on its baseline is not really that problematic, though some problematic things can definitely build on this - I really don't think that people assuming that someone a quizbowl question about is straight is one of them.
I don't really think you should assume anybody is anything. You don't know everybody's sexuality is, and behaving in a manner that applies the world as seen by straights to everybody else is going to cause confusion for LGBTQ people when we realize things are constructed in a way that (intentionally or not) leaves us out.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Seriously, Ike is right. One of the things I've come to appreciate about quizbowl is that it tends to stick to objective facts and that insofar as it asks about politically or socially motivated opinions, it asks whether you know what those opinions are and who formulated them. I've been guilty of being preachy in questions before and have realized the error of my ways. It's a good thing that you don't have to be constantly bombarded by the end-of-America tirades of intolerant right-wing lunatics nor bow your heads to the pronouncements of the high priests of left-wing cultural orthodoxy in this game, and I'd like to keep it that way.
It's not preachy, political, or non-objective to acknowledge people are LGBTQ. Most people in this thread aren't advocating that we mandate questions about LGBTQ people mention their sexuality even when it's unnecessary. As ridiculous as that attitude would be, it is also ridiculous to suggest that it's pushing left-wing opinions on people to use clues about the sexuality of people when good, relevant clues exist. That's one of the reasons I brought up the James Baldwin example: it's not my opinion as a leftist that James Baldwin was gay, he was gay and it was super important to his work; quizbowl doesn't always mention that, and it's perfectly sensible to wonder if our quest to be "neutral" and non-controversial leaves us sexuality-blind in ways that prevents us from properly addressing important clues about people's sexuality. Quizbowl isn't colorblind (Baldwin questions nearly always mention his race) and nobody seems to think it's particularly political that it isn't, so I'm not sure it's really some sort of oppressive political agenda to apply that standard to sexuality.
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Re: Acknowledging Marginalized-Group Membership in QB Questi

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:32 am

Okay, one more post, because I've been exploring another line of thinking on this issue. This might clarify why I see Charlie's posts as political, even though I see Nick's posts as very much in agreement with my own, despite Nick's confusion with how I've chosen to argue that position. Now, I understand Charlie's motivation to be summed up in the following:
Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:It has become evident to me just through doing this thread that good quiz bowl players - even some queer quiz bowl players themselves - are unaware of the basic biographical information that some of the most major authors asked about are queer. This isn't that surprising to me - as I said before, a lot of peoples' knowledge comes from quiz bowl, and therefore I think the onus is on quiz bowl to point out major, formative aspects of the authors they ask about. This isn't about "shoving queerness down your throat" or "increasing the queer distribution", it's simply about rectifying the fact that people who know lots of deep things about authors and enjoy their work don't know a fact about them that's pretty crucial to understanding their work.
First of all, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyLWrKh2fB0.

"Pretty crucial" is relative.

Suppose that you buy into the "death of the author" theory. I'm not exactly sure how Barthes argues it, but my understanding of the theory is that texts should be interpreted separately from the author, because the general reader contributes at least as much to his or her reading as the author does. Under this framework, 19th century readers did not approach novels by Henry James with the understanding that the books were about or subtly influenced by the author's homosexuality because they did not know about his homosexuality. Subsequently, the immediate impact that Henry James had on literature was not the impact of a gay author, but the impact of a 19th century American author (qualities that readers would have been aware of). While it's true that now we know Henry James was gay, we should give consideration to that fact when we read, it's undeniable that much of the impact that Henry James had on literary history is completely divorced from his sexual identity.

One way of viewing the work of Henry James is by ignoring the author completely, and simply looking at the text in relation to the contexts in which readers have encountered it. Other ways include viewing his work as the work of a former Harvard Law student, a part-time resident of Europe, or the brother of a famous psychologist. And of course, viewing it as the work of a gay man is yet another way. When your argument is "Henry James suffered so much from heteronormative and homophobic standards, so we should make up for that now by bringing the influence of sexuality to the forefront," you are making a value judgment that Henry James' sexuality is the most accurate way to view his work. That's a valid judgment to make if you're writing an academic paper, but it's not one that should shape the way people write quizbowl questions.

What I find most political about Charlie's position and overall rhetoric is that Charlie wants to correct the player's understanding of the author. That's what Ike means by "preachy," I think. Nick's position, as I understand it, is about making sure that the question doesn't negligently fail to state something important about the works being described. And I concur wholeheartedly.
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