Seattle-based Chhavi analyses an Op-Ed piece, published in the New York Times, on October 15, 2016. She, thus, unveils the identity issue of a transgender girl, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Judith Shulevitz’s article, ‘Is it Time to Desegregate the Sexes?’, was published in the New York Times on October 15th, 2016. In her piece, Shulevitz explains the Title IX statute fending off sex discrimination in public institutions and emphasises its enforcement. She discusses how schools and government policies conflict in some way or another regarding gender inclusiveness and bodily privacy. As an example of such conflicts, she demonstrates how some schools have interpreted the statute as the protection of student’s privacy interests, while some schools have interpreted the statute as the protection of transgender rights. Indeed, she brings up how complications arise in our cultural definitions of gender identity. Shulevitz describes the government’s law about “not undressing unwillingly in front of the opposite sex.” Her article is directed at the school administrators, government policy makers, and parents of the students.
In her article, Shulevitz makes a compelling argument that privacy interests oppose transgender rights. She presents specific hypothetical scenarios, cites strong sources, and uses rhetorical devices like logos, ethos, and pathos to support her claims. Nevertheless, Shulevitz acknowledges and portrays opposition using a respectable tone through hypothetical examples and testimonies to convey her readers that she is not biased. She also offers creative solutions after discussing her arguments.
She begins her essay using an informative title, “Is it Time to Desegregate the Sexes?” alerting her readers to the topic and her position. The opening paragraphs hold a reader’s interest as she begins her essay by saying, “You could be forgiven for thinking that the most fiercely contested territory in American right now is the bathroom.” Here, she uses the word, “You” to immediately engage her audience in a conversation. She then introduces a Supreme Court’s case on whether or not Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old transgender boy, can use men’s restroom. Through this example, Shulevitz tries to shed light on the issue of gender inequality by giving a real-world situation and pointing out how complicated the issue is.
Shulevitz formerly announces her thesis on protecting transgender rights in schools, when she says, “But there’s another theater for the clash of values-gender inclusiveness versus bodily privacy raised by transgender rights…I mean the locker room.” Through this statement, Shulevitz paints a picture of gender discrimination in locker rooms. She makes a point to show that she is examining the root of the problem of gender discrimination in schools. This shows that Shulevitz is trying to maintain the audience’s attention by directly addressing the problem.
In her piece, Shulevitz sets the stage well through the use of hypothesis in a scenario. She describes two girls-one cis-gender (gender corresponding to biological sex) and one transgender wanting to change for the gym. In this scenario, Shulevitz portrays a cis-gender girl, who feels uncomfortable about undressing in front of a transgender girl. The transgender girl does not want to be banished from the common area. Then, Shulevitz poses a question asking who will cede the floor to change in private. Here, Shulevitz uses a hypothetical example to help her audience visualise a gender-sensitive topic in a more realistic way. Ending her example with a question is an innovative method she uses, to keep her audience hooked.
Throughout her piece, Shulevitz cites strong sources that strengthen her credibility and appeals to ethos and pathos to build her argument. In the middle sections of her essay, she argues how federal agencies have informed schools about the new interpretation of “sex” as the “internal sense of gender” without being open to public discussion. Here, Shulevitz delineates how hideously these federal agencies have reconceptualised Title IX and how they are sidestepping the government. By pointing this out, she tries to gain the trust of her readers and enhance her argument. However, Shulevitz also makes sure to consider both sides of the argument, when she finds that some radical feminist organisations, Christian groups, and states have filed lawsuits in favor of protecting student’s privacy interests. These statements clearly show that the writer is not biased and appeals to ethos to gain the confidence of her readers.
In like fashion, Shulevitz effectively appeals to pathos, when she says, “Donald J. Trump repeated the phrase ‘locker room talks’…justify his personal accounts of felonious groping.” Here, Shulevitz uses current events to convey the readers that the problem of gender discrimination is ongoing. She implies how words like “locker rooms” can echo a deep sense of fear of being bullied, among vulnerable and weak students, especially transgender. She uses emotionally-charged words like “vulnerable” and “weak” to trigger the reader’s emotions and successfully creates a sympathetic image for transgender students.
Conversely, the writer also builds a good character when she creates a fair argument opposing the issue. She recognises the courts’ agreement on people’s right to privacy. Shulevitz displays a calm tone when acknowledging the existence of sex-segregation in the world. In addition to this, she admits that there are limitations of body exposure in both men and women, at certain points in their childhood. This statement shows how Shulevitz establishes her persona by being objective and practicing ally-ship with both sides.
Furthermore, Shulevitz clearly appeals to logos through her academic tone when citing strong sources such as the “Dear Colleague” letter introduced by the Department of Education and Justice in schools. This letter would allow students to change their gender identity through a simple notification. This statement shows how she successfully introduces and supports her stance by ensuring students’ equality. She portrays opposition when she again paints a picture of a scenario, where a cis-gender girl feels her privacy is being intruded by a transgender girl. Such cases seem to constitute Title IX violation. This example shows how Judith continually builds her credibility and encourages readership through a logical progression of ideas. She drives her open-minded persona by considering the folks opposing the issue.
Supporting her argument, Shulevitz notes the acceptance of transgender students in some schools and highlights the challenges faced by some. She clearly uses logos when she mentions reputable sources like the school district’s case, in Palatine, IL about the schools’ acceptance of a student’s gender transition, but their denial towards student’s access to locker rooms. By bringing up the point, “Student A felt she missed out on moments of team bonding…highlighted her outsider status,” Shulevitz evokes an image of the challenges faced by transgender students. She also monitors the high emotions felt by the student in that moment and effectively introduces pathos in her argument to highlight the seriousness of the situation.
At the same time, she determines the need for protecting the student’s privacy rights. She reports a lawsuit complaining about a transgender girl, who danced to raunchy lyrics and exposed her body. Shulevitz analyses the lawsuit’s interpretation of an uncomfortable scenario. However, she brings in a strong testimony to support the transgender girl. She cites a press release from an American Civil Liberties Union which claims that the student’s entire volleyball team also dance and listen to music and above all, even if she dances to explicit lyrics, then it is no more than a teenage trend. Therefore, Judith continually shows more and more, how complicated and multi-level this topic is, finding a solution without bringing up another problem.
Additionally, Shulevitz highlights the major forms of harassment such as verbal and sexual abuse among transgender students in a survey conducted in Washington D.C. and a study conducted by Association of American Universities. However, in these statements, she could have been more effective in supporting her stance if she properly cited her sources by indicating the place and date of publication. Not displaying current information could mislead her readers and may result in her readers’ loss of interest. This statement, therefore, weakens her argument.
In her conclusion, Shulevitz offers solutions to the problem of gender discrimination. For the purpose of protecting transgender rights in schools, she emphasizes the need to withdraw from the gender-binary notion. She points out to the colleges and offices incorporating mixed dormitories and gender-neutral bathrooms. The writer also cites a superintendent of Ohio School, William Dodd’s statement about creating and designing services for transgender people just like the disabled. Here, the writer builds her character by appealing to reason and logic. Towards the end, Shulevitz also refers back to the Gavin Grimm’s case. This is a clear example of one of the most popular techniques used by popular writers, to first introduce the thesis, then present the arguments surrounding the thesis, and lastly tying those arguments back to the thesis again.
Overall, Shulevitz is fair-minded and informed. She makes a compelling argument about protecting transgender rights in schools. Shulevitz cites strong sources and offers hypothetical examples to support her stance. Likewise, she also carefully considers the folks opposing the issue by presenting their arguments with adequate testimonies. In her article, the writer effectively employs three main rhetorical appeals-logos, pathos, and ethos to persuade her readers to support her argument. Through the use of such rhetorical strategies, she tries to gain the trust and confidence of her readers. By bringing awareness to the issue discussed, Shulevitz offers various solutions in her concluding paragraphs.
Shulevitz, Judith. “Is It Time to Desegregate the Sexes?” New York Times 15 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
Photos from the internet.
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Chhavi Mehra is an international student from India completing her Associate’s of Arts degree in Communications and Media at South Seattle College. She will be transferring to a university in California for her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Chhavi hopes to write quality pieces reflecting the integrity of publications like The New York Times.