Monday, November 17, 2014

Bechdel’s Sexuality: Her Father’s Nature and Lack of Nurture (Project Proposal)

            I am arguing that the combination of nature (our genetic code) and the nurture we receive (childhood experience) combine together to ultimately shape who we are. More specifically, Bechdel’s own sexuality is due to the genes given to her by her father and also from his closeted sexuality directly reflecting on her. Her sexuality, like other genetic traits is inherited; it is predetermined by her parents.

Bechdel’s sexuality is independent of her genes or her upbringing. It is her own personal trait that has nothing to do with her father. Sexual preference is not a trait that can be inherited. She determines her sexual preference and it not due to her father in any way.  Or perhaps, her sexuality is related to her family, but is more complex than just the impact from her father.

So what?:
The reader should care because this idea ultimately affects everyone. There isn’t a single person who does not have parents, and even if they are not present in their life the impact they have on our ultimate disposition and how much control we have over who we are is fascinating. If there is no way of changing who we are, then is there actually any such thing as free will? We can control our physical actions, but if we cannot change the impact from our parents then society is looking at the dynamic of change in the wrong way. We cannot change who we are, instead we must deal with what we are given. We in fact cannot do anything we set our minds to. We can do a subset of things that we are genetically encouraged and raised to do. The idea that it explicably affects our sexuality is even more interesting as it can show why there is a different in sexuality. To me the fact that our sexuality is determined from our parents and upbringing is something most people don’t think about and is really interesting to research. By using the research to show the impact on Bechdel, the reader can further understand the complexity of her relationship with her father, and perhaps the multiple dimensions of her sexuality.

Possible Introduction:

What role do our parents play in our lives? The concept of nature vs. nurture deals with the ideas that an individual is due to their genetic code or the way someone is raised. However, I believe that more specifically it is a combination of the two that shape who we are. We are given certain genes that determine certain aspects of ourselves, but we are also the product of the experiences that shape us. It is more fascinating that certain, unusual traits can be controlled by the dichotomy. Fun Home depicts Bechdel’s childhood events highlighting the strange relationship between herself and her father. Her father is a closeted homosexual and according to Bechdel, ultimately ends up committing suicide. Is it a coincidence that Bechdel ends up being gay? On the contrary, it may actually predetermined based off of her father’s sexuality. Throughout Fun Home, Bechdel depicts herself in a similar, if not mirroring way to her father to highlight the similarities between them and the influence he has had on her. Bechdel’s sexuality is due to the genetic predisposition she inherited from her father, and grows based off of his hidden sexuality.

Basic Outline:

Intro: Sample above
Body I: Bechdel’s depiction of herself and her father (showing similarities)
Body II: Research on “gay gene”
Body III: Nurture side (research on growing up with gay parents)
Body IV: Psychological impact of whole childhood on sexuality
Body IV: Counterargument, sexuality only due to Bechdel herself (research shows otherwise) or perhaps sexuality due to factors other than just her father
Body V: Bechdel’s coming out and effect of suicide with father
Conclusion: Bechdel’s sexuality is in fact due to her father.


            Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. First Mariner Books, 2006. Print.
This source is the class text that my essay revolves around. I plan to use certain quotes in Bechdel’s text that describe her father to show how she portrays similarities between herself and her father. I also plan to compare her drawings of herself and her father to show that she in fact feels a part of herself is clearly based off of her father.

This source discusses recent studies on the effects of growing up with gay parents. I am planning on using the data with Fun Home to show the predisposition for being gay if one’s parents are, even if is the parent is a closeted homosexual, as in Bechdel’s situation.

Goldhaber, Gale. The Nature-Nurture Debates: Bridging the Gap. Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
This source couples nature and nurture together to show that it not one or the other, but rather both that combine together to influence people. He references the importance of understanding the reason we are the way we are and why it matters. I plan to use it to highlight the “so what” question to show it is important to understand how we develop and that some traits (sexuality specifically) can be influenced the same way as more typical traits such as temperament.

Letourneau, Nicole and Joschko, Justin. Scientific Parenting: What Science Reveals About Parental Influence. 2013. Web.
This source shows a variety of childhood experiences and how they are scientifically proven to affect the child in the situation. There are examples of abuse, struggling parents, and other problems that Bechdel experienced as a child. I plan to use it with the psychological side of her sexuality.

            Pool, Robert. “Evidence for Homosexuality Gene.” Science. Vol 261, July 16, 1993. Published by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Web.
This source is an article describing one of the first studies that show the “homosexual gene” in homosexual individuals. It is proof that there are many things that we cannot overcome from our parents’ combination of genes to make our own. It shows that there is at some level a genetic predisposition for our sexuality much like our race, eye color, or hair color. I plan to use the research data to show that genetically, Bechdel has a predisposition of being gay.

            Steen, R. Grant. DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior. Plenum Press, 1996. Print.
This source discusses many studies on the traits of individuals and the likeliness of them being genetic traits passed on. One part specifically focuses on the chances of passing down the “gay gene” through reproduction. I plan to use this both in my argument that Bechdel’s sexuality is due to her father and in my counterargument that it is her own personal preference independent of her father’s sexuality.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting area to explore, and is vastly more focused than I had expected so early, so that's great! There's a little more work to be done focusing this. You don't necessarily need to work very hard to show why it matters that certain characteristics, including our sexual orientation, are shaped by forces and influences totally out of our control. But this is such a big topic that taming/focusing will be your challenge. You're well underway by focusing on nature/nurture specifically with Bechdel, but the topic is still so big that it's easy to focus insufficiently.

    So here's a foundational question. Are you after a better understanding of Bechdel through the use of science? If so, how does that change our understanding of the book, especially as a work of art? Or are you interested in using Bechdel to illustrate a larger point about human behavior - and if so, toward what end? I think either one is fine (the first is easier to focus than the second), but that answering that question will help lead you to an even sharper focus, where you can really articulate what you're trying to show about us, Bechdel or both.