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In-Depth Interview: Prof. Janet Jakobsen Relates Sexual Politics to Many Complex Issues

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Janet R. Jakobsen is a critical thinker who applies kaleidoscopic analysis to complex issues that are often reduce to binary opposites in compelling new book.Jakobsen is the Claire Tow Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.  Her new book is The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics.

One of her book’s chapters is largely devoted to the Supreme Court, and we open the discussion around the Trump nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Jakobsen describes the progress narrative–which leads many of us to think we are always moving forward to expand rights–and what she calls “mobility for stasis”, that not all change involves forward progress.

We look at the Bill Clinton presidency, which was based on many conservative and Christian memes that led to retrograde change in criminal justice, employment and income status, and welfare reform.  Jakobsen identifies many threads of influence that we often overlook.  She also comments on the identity politics of Hillary Clinton’s presidential attempts, and the forces that drove her political opposition.

We also discuss the outsized influence of Christian fundamentalists, and their willingness to vote against their own self-interest, as presented by Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter With Kansas?.  She offers comments on the expansion of religious freedom–mostly for Christians–at the expense of Muslims and non-believers.