The discussion that follows was inspired by an exchange between Kitty Krupat and Drucilla Cornell during the session entitled, “Fatal Women, Feminist Futures and the Past that Would Have Been.” Kitty spoke about a dilemma she has faced since publishing a book on the subject of lesbian/ gay rights and the labor movement. Though she identifies as a heterosexual woman, most people assume she is a lesbian: Why else would she care about a gay/lesbian labor alliance? Until very recently, she refused to challenge this assumption out of a sense of solidarity with gay people. But at some point, she began to think that it was better politics to claim the privilege and assert the obligation of straight people to join the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer peoples’ rights. Kitty also talked about the personal side of her dilemma. Maintaining silence sometimes made her feel dishonest or like a person with no identity to call her own. Drucilla responded by proposing a broader approach to defining identity by considering not only one’s identity, but also one’s identification and position. This, she argued, serves as a usable way to both complicate and clarify the way we understand ourselves and others in political movements. When we sat down to continue this conversation a year later, on March 30, 2003, the U.S. led invasion of Iraq had just begun. While the issues raised by the war are the subject of much of this dialogue, the themes addressed are central to many progressive political movements in the United States today:
• How can the university campus serve as a site of social justice activism? • What is the relationship between feminism and U.S. exceptionalism? • How can the left build successful coalitions? • What is the role of the media and political rhetoric in a democracy?