Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the June Mazer Lesbian Archives: Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection

Materials from the Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection 
include photos, newspaper clippings, articles, writings, and correspondence 
from their life together.

Working with the collections at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives is a unique experience, each collection has its own sense of itself, serving as a window into individual lives, formative political moments and the growth and development of the lesbian community. One of the first collections that I processed was the Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde collection. Ruth and Kent were both writers, lifelong intellectuals, weavers and lovers. Their collection covers the duration of their relationship of over forty years. 

What makes this collection so rich is the breadth of materials which includes a large amount of correspondence between Ruth and Kent and an array of their friends and family. These letters range in subject matter and through their reading one can get a sense of each woman’s particular sense of humor, specific interests and professional tone.

Throughout their relationship, Kent passed as a man, working in research laboratories and hospitals. Ruth took care of Kent’s mother and kept writing. Their political consciousness evolved as they reacted to the dramatic changes in political and social realities in the United States. Also included in the collection is an illuminating interview, conducted by volunteers at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives upon Ruth’s donation of the collection. After reflecting upon her and Kent’s life together, she also delves into the relief and sense of belonging she found once she actively sought out a lesbian community. Turning her efforts to activism in her later years she seems surprised at her and Kent’s own aversion to gay and lesbian life. Their collection serves to witness the intricate emotional, political and intellectual lives of these women while simultaneously reminding us that in order to understand the impact of change, we must look to the words of the people who weathered that change themselves. The Ruth Reid and Kent Hyde Collection has already been requested by researchers and Ruth herself used the interview done by the June L. Mazer Archives as an aid in writing her autobiography, which mainly focused on her relationship with Kent.

– Stacy Wood

Stacy Wood is a graduate student in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA and a graduate student researcher.


This research is part of an ongoing CSW research project, "Making Invisible Histories Visible: Preserving the Legacy of Lesbian Feminist Activism and Writing in Los Angeles," with Principal Investigators Kathleen McHugh, CSW DIrector and Professor in the Departments of English and Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA (on sabbatical from April to June, 2013) and Gary Strong, University Librarian at UCLA. Funded in part by an NEH grant, the project is a three-year project to arrange, describe, digitize, and make physically and electronically accessible two major clusters of June Mazer Lesbian Archive collections related to West Coast lesbian/feminist activism and writing since the 1930s. This project, which continues CSW’s partnership with the June Mazer Lesbian Archives and the UCLA Library, grew out of CSW’s two-year “Access Mazer: Organizing and Digitizing the Lesbian Feminist Archive in Los Angeles” project, which was supported in part by the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships. For information on the project, contact Dr. Julie Childers, Assistant Director, UCLA Center for the Study of Women,

The Mazer Archives is the sole archival repository on the West Coast dedicated to preserving lesbian and feminist history. Its holdings include over 3500 books, 1000 unique video and audio recordings, and close to a hundred unprocessed. This project will process and make accessible paper collections and recordings documenting lesbian political acts and effects in their communities, and materials documenting the lives and literary imagination of this burgeoning community. In addition to providing crucial materials to humanities scholars and historians, the project will also grow the Mazer’s infrastructure, preserving content that exists now while ensuring the future of the Mazer and its collections. Currently, the Mazer does not have the physical space to grow. Moving collections to the UCLA Library gives the Mazer the capacity to collect new materials and will enhance UCLA’s holdings in two significant areas of interest: LGBT archives and Los Angeles collections. Scholars and historians throughout the world will benefit directly from the primary research materials this project will make available.

“Trans-Temporality” and the Holidays

Heading into the holidays means scrambling to dot the Is and cross the Ts on our calendar of Winter and Spring quarter events. In my capacity as faculty of English, Gender Studies, and Asian American Studies, it also means squeezing in graduate student prospectus exams that have been put off until these final weeks of the year. With such an exam on the horizon, Gender Studies Ph.D. candidate Jacob Lau, who writes on narratives by transgendered and transsexual subjects, came into the CSW offices recently to discuss his ideas regarding “trans-temporality,” the central idea of his dissertation. According to Lau, the life-course of transsexual subjects is too often divided into before and after the visible (hormonal and surgical) change. As an alternative to that bifurcated and linear notion of time, Lau is proposing a richer, more complex interweaving of several temporalities: “secular historical time”—i.e., the national chronologies that we learn about in high school social studies classes—but also time conceived in religious, liturgical, and seasonal cycles as well as the daily round of events that French theorist Helene Cixous suggestively called “women’s time.” Aware that our own Chancellor Bloch is a chronobiologist, [1] Jacob may also consider the periodicity of wake-sleep cycles as they affect hormonal regulation in a “trans-gendering” context.

The timing of our conversation, of course, could not have been more situationally ironic with respect to the ticking minutes of our respective deadlines (cue sound effect of alarm bells ringing): for Jacob, his exam date that coming Thursday, and for me, the closing of the CSW offices for the winter break and the time squeeze represented by the upcoming holidays. For working mothers like myself, elementary school closures—such as the recent five-day closure of all LAUSD schools that occurred Thanksgiving week (due to budget cuts and forced teacher furlough days)—means having to juggle childcare even as the teaching, research, and administrative clock at the university marches indifferently forward. As Jacob might put it, I had experienced holiday time as a rupture of two chronologies that were  “immiscible” (non-mixing, as in the example of oil and water). Spending time with my three daughters is not about the efficient use of the eight working hours before me (at which I’ve become adept over my tenure as Associate and now Interim Director), but using up the time in pleasurable but focused tasks so that no one kills each other by 2 p.m.

Speaking about furloughs as forced experiences of temporal disjunction (between UCLA time and home time), I thanked Jacob for his insight into how trans-temporality applied to my present circumstances. Though intending to narrowly focus this directory’s commentary on the productivity of thinking Lau’s trans-temporality and Holiday Time together, an email alerting me to an upcoming forum on the current “campus climate” sponsored by the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition intervened in those plans (and lengthened the writing time) by bringing local, national, and transnational histories to the forefront.

By “campus climate,” I refer to that cyclic return—coincident with the advent of exam season—of anti-Asian verbal sentiment lying dormant for who knows how long in UCLA’s basement (bathrooms), bubbling up into public spaces such as Bruin Walk and the internet two years running: see and

The university has called this lashing out at Japanese-speaking and Vietnamese female students “isolated” acts, and we could imaginatively fill in the details of that speculated narrative: these acts of poor judgment were likely committed by stressed-out individuals (of who knows what race, sexual orientation, or gender) who blame Asians for their perceived and real worries over not doing well in the short term—those upcoming essays and exams—and the long term—their post-baccalaureate futures.

Shrinking opportunities for U.S. college graduates are certainly real: “From 2007 to 2011, the wages of young college graduates, adjusted for inflation, declined 4.6 percent,” according to the New York Times,[2] and a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly reported that “53% of recent college grads are jobless or underemployed.”[3] We might connect that shrinkage not to loss of jobs due to foreign workers but to the waning social compact between college students (so-called skilled workers of the professional managerial class) and the faceless corporations and “asset management firms” who form their potential employers. These firms no longer feel bad, if they ever did, about pink-slipping and downsizing the debits—and not people—that they “hold.” But, of course, it is hard to lash out against an abstraction—aka the fictive "person" of the corporation—and much easier to return to old habits—habits that both demonize Asians as foreign threats and desire and disavow them as docile, servile laborers necessary to propping up the U.S. empire—doing intimate labor such as sex work servicing of U.S. military bases and electronic assembly work that powers our info technology (iPads, computers).[4]

Holiday, we must remember, refers as well to times of off-duty “rest and relaxation” that were the flipside of the on-duty deployments of U.S. troops to Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during the so-called Cold War period. The slur calling Vietnamese female students “white-boy worshipping wh***s” reminds us of the U.S. military occupations of Asia (e.g., Okinawa and the Philippines), the infrastructural support of U.S. troops by “ghost” bar workers, and the white supremacy that remains partially congruent with the militarized spread of U.S. capital into those same former “theaters of war” qua Asian consumer markets. The surplus of time to indulge in off-duty, non-working pleasures—that which I’m associating with “holiday time”—has never quite felt like a holiday for others working in nail salons, electronic factories, sex work, childcare, eldercare, and other occupations requiring intimate labors on the part of women of color. As we become more service-oriented in our economy, what may be resented—and voiced as slur against Asian/American women—is the feminized situation of having to give our intimate labors—our good feelings and non-progressive, non-upward-bound time—to serve someone else’s holiday. Tis the season of thinking such temporal convergences for women, men, and transitioning women and men, of all races.

— Rachel Lee
Interim Director



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mood and Math

While usually my girls (ages seven, five, and five) are excited by the prospect of red and white pinwheel mints awaiting them in the post-voting area, this time around they were not so thrilled to go. I found myself speaking an extra cheerful running monologue on how great it was that we were going to decide who would be president, smiling widely at those who were leaving our polling place having cast their ballots, but getting only tight perfunctory smiles in return. “I’m scared. Too many people,” said one of my twins from behind the curtain she’d created out of my pant leg as I inked my ballot. Later, when dropping the girls at school, our kindergarten teacher shared her own thoughts on the election: “The mood is so different, not like the last presidential election where everyone was so hopeful. You can feel it; I’m very worried.”

In hindsight, it is easy to proclaim the Democrats overly pessimistic and Republicans overly optimistic. The mood on campus was palpably anxious on the day before the election. Even those wiser friends using New York Times statistician Nate Silver’s reports as flu shots in the days leading up to the election were infected by the smog-stress.

What do we make of this striking dissonance between mood—emotional rhetoric aka spin doctoring—and math? Or put another way, how might gender and feminism help us to understand that mood and math? Math, or at least layman invocations of 1%, 99%, 47%—statistical language to express discontent and sense of shrinking opportunity—were certainly crucial to the outcome of this election. For higher education in particular, the dueling arithmetic on which proposition (30 or 38) gave what percentage of revenue garnered from which formula of income or sales tax on which percent of the population filled the yahoo boards of bantering mommies, at least at my local public magnet, with confusion and minor disagreements. How do these local events draw upon and transform stereotypes of boys being good at math and girls at social and emotional intelligence, when the Biggest Boy Rove had clearly ignored the math and succumbed to his own rhetorical (terrorizing, falling of a cliff) spin on Obama’s stewardship of the nation and the American people’s lack of faith in it?

While not having the answers to the above questions, I offer them as provocation not to fetishize statistics and clear calculations (the hagiography of Nate Silver already does that) but to contemplate seriously the social and civil mood—aka the qualitative atmosphere of our decision-making processes and political action. The late scholar and polymath Teresa Brennan, who was also concerned with the way we could feel the atmosphere upon entering a room, used the term “affect” to name the circulating vital energies carried by hormones, pheromones, and other airborne neurochemicals. Using diverse sources—from biochemistry, neurology, theology, crowd theory, clinical practice, and psychoanalysis—Brennan takes aim at the “foundational fantasy” that we are self-contained individuals and pursues the longstanding (ancient) understanding of a “social wellspring” from which affects flow and in which our bodies are bathed. In this portrait, humans are nodal points for the transfer, projection, reception, and transformation of depleting and enhancing energies among and between us. We attach the agitation in the air felt by our bodies to some narrative that makes sense of it. Put more concretely, campaign discourse filled the air to such an extent that it became a tropical storm—a worry that became “Obama’s not going to be re-elected” or “Obama’s going to be re-elected.”

Useful for my purposes here (the tie-in to electoral politics, if only punningly), Brennan spoke of “the masculine party,” populated by beings of either sex, projecting their unwanted affects, such as aggression, onto a “feminine” other. Also a being of either sex, this “feminine” party internalizes that aggression as depression or anxiety: “The feminine party, while carrying the masculine other’s disordered affects, also gives that other living attention…Depression, in men or women, is a feminine affect, aggression a masculine one” (43). Speaking of affects as circulating vital energies (of aggression, depression, and caring attention), Brennan uses her gendered terms to differentiate the habituated, somaticized modes connected to historical divisions of labor wherein the masculine party (and she extends this to colonizers) directs negative emotions outward via aggression toward others, whereas the feminine party (and she extends this to the colonized and poor) serves as receptacles of that emotional dumping.

For me the most salient post-election report came from NPR coverage of women’s role in government that led with numbers highlighting the disparity between the percentage of women in the electorate (women are 50.8% of the U.S. population and 52% of likely voters) and the percentage of female congressional representatives (18–19% in the House and 20% in the Senate).[1] What gave flesh to these statistics, however, was not the math (the difference between the figures) but the subsequent salience of that accounting told in this anecdote: women speak less in absolute, durational terms and less about the issues they care about unless there is a parity threshold of women in the room, not because they are naturally silent (passive) but because men (here synonymous with Brennan’s masculine parties) regularly cut them off with much greater frequency than they do their male counterparts.[2] (When men are in the minority, however, they do not correspondingly speak less.) If we explained this difference only in terms of the numbers, well, we couldn’t explain it at all. Changing the mood in the United States thus becomes a matter of both the math and feminine affect.

Let me finish this opening Interim Director’s reflection not by arguing that the calculative reasoning—aka “the math”—reigns the day, but that our emotional intelligence has been severely narrowed by the habit of silo-ization (going it alone, maverick reliance on only the self), one supported by the ideology of neoliberalism—the idea not only that the market decides everything best but that the social sphere should bear all of the costs of industries and markets while all of the profit of the same should accrue to the private sphere. Our social sphere becomes that which should also bear the dumping of incredible aggressive “masculine” external energies…and who exactly is internalizing those energies and reshaping them?

— Rachel Lee
Interim Director

[1] These figures are from the  2010 census and a Gallup poll from the most recent election.
[2] Or unless the deliberative body makes conscious efforts toward procedural inclusivity. See Tali Mendelberg’s contribution to the segment of “To the Point: Women’s Issues across Party Lines” hosted by Warren Olney and broadcast on Friday, November 9, 2012. According to Mendelberg, the issues women care about include healthcare for the poor, taking care of the disabled, and tending to the needs of children. See also Mendelberg and Christopher Karpowitz’s New York Times Op-Ed “More Women, but Not Nearly Enough,” on November 8, 2012,