Janet R. Jakobsen

Janet R. Jakobsen is Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women and Professor of Women's Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics and co-author of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limit of Religious Tolerance with Ann Pellegrini. She is also the co-editor, with Pellegrini, of the anthology Secularisms and, with Elizabeth Castelli, of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence. Before entering the academy, she was a policy analyst and lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Posts by Janet R. Jakobsen:

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Religious and sexual freedoms are not opposed

On June 1st, President Barack Obama proclaimed June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month and called “upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” If President Obama expected to be showered in lavender love in return for this proclamation, he was sorely disappointed. During June, grumbling about the Obama administration’s public stance on such issues as gays in the military, same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reached a crescendo. Candidate Obama had expressed his determination to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy and DOMA; now-President Obama is taking a decidedly more muted tack—in the name of pragmatism. At a White House reception for invited gay and lesbian leaders on June 30th, with wife Michelle prominently at his side, the President implicitly acknowledged the slow pace of change (critics might say the no-pace of change) and counseled patience: “I know that many in this room don’t believe progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It’s not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago. We’ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”

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Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Practicing sex, practicing democracy

secular_age.jpgWhy is it that sex is such a central part of American political life anyway? Why, when The New York Times reported on the influence of “values” voters on the 2004 Presidential election, did the Times name only two “values,” both of them reflecting a conservative sexual ethic: opposition to abortion and opposition to “recognition of lesbian and gay couples”?

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Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Marriage plots

sex-in-a-secular-age.jpgDespite the putative separation of church and state, one of the major places in the U.S. where religion and the state remained entwined is around sexuality, specifically at the point of marriage, where religious officials are actually empowered to act on behalf of the state. And whenever politicians talk about marriage laws, they nearly always do so with reference to religious commitments—and the political affiliation or philosophy of the policymaker doesn’t much matter in terms of this outcome.

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