Precarious, Performative, Playful, Potential...Perspectives!
|Welcome to Precarious, Performative, Potential, Playful.... Perspectives, the core course in Gender and Sexuality Studies, offered in Fall 2011 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.|
So who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.
We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
Geis Student Research on Women Conference
Open to the Member Institutions of the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium
Saturday, April 28, 2012 University of Delaware
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Geis Student Research on Women Conference invites submissions by students attending institutions in the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium who have done research on women or gender issues. The thirteen institutions of the Consortium include:
- Bryn Mawr College
- Drexel University
- Haverford College
- LaSalle University
- Rosemont College
- Saint Joseph’s University
- Swarthmore College
- Temple University
- University of Delaware
- University of Pennsylvania
- Ursinus College
- Villanova University
- West Chester University
The conference is open to female and male students, at either the undergraduate or the graduate level. Group-authored projects are acceptable. Faculty help and advice are assumed, but the paper must be entirely student-written. All papers will be reviewed, and acceptance will be based on excellence and relevance of the research to women and/or gender issues. Past winners are encouraged to submit new work for presentation but are not eligible for awards.
To Submit Papers mail to:
Diva 4, Kurt Kauper
Check out Advocate editors favorite art pieces from 2011 here.
This painting by Aaron Smith is my favorite! What's yours? Maybe one way this class site can continue is each of us keeping an eye out for our favorite art piece entangled with gender and sexuality during 2012? Post here!
Rip-staver, Andrew Smith
Wishing you a rejuvenating, relaxing, refreshing start to 2012.
While I have been, I think, pretty vocal about what I like and dislike about this class, I have decided to keep my evaluation private. The reasons for this are varied and complex, and I won't bore you with the details. In any case, I will be emailing my evaluation to Anne and Kaye. It's been a pleasure.
This diffraction is not easy for me to write. I think that’s because this class has left me feeling largely confused. When we began the class, I saw myself as someone who loved Gender and Sexuality Studies—not so much the theories behind them as the case studies I read about and saw all around me (as a Biology major, I’ve noticed that I tend to reject the idea that one theory can explain all of gender or all of society—I think this is because in anthropological sense, there is no theory that computes to a scientific law. This is, for me, a weakness and a strength). The first reading by Barad caused me some distress, because I couldn’t understand why we were working so hard to connect physics and gender. In my mind, physics and gender both connect to everything else (indeed, if you get philosophical enough, everything connects to everything else), but that doesn’t mean we should spend our time dissecting the connection.
After Barad, I was further confused by the focus the course took on disability. I think disability is an important topic, and one that merits discussion, but I didn’t feel like our discussions ever had anything to do with gender. Once again, the sheer interdisciplinary-ness of the course had me feeling lost.
As has become my custom, I would like to introduce this web event with a short description of my motives and hopes. I want to tell you how this web event came to be (a long story in this case), what I hope to communicate through this web event, and what future directions are possible.
Allow me to start at the beginning. In the past few weeks, I have found myself increasingly aggravated, confused, and above all inspired. My aggravation stems largely from Haverford’s policies regarding rape and sexual assault, which seem to become more and more inadequate the more that I learn about them (for anyone who hasn’t already done so, I strongly recommend reading AmyMay’s web event Biological Discourse and Rape Culture at Haverford College and jmorgant’s web event “Consent is Sexy” at Haverford: Not Yet). While my belief that the Haverford policies are insufficient was immediately strong and clear, I grew confused about how to effect change. I pondered a variety of questions, including:
I was very surprised by what this course had to offer. I was looking forward to it, but I assumed that it would be similar to all the other gender and sexuality courses I have taken at Bryn Mawr. This course was much more interactive than i could have participated. Before this class I did not know what Serendip was and did not have the opportunity in any of my other classes to reflect on class after it had already finished. I really appreciated that because I am not the most vocal in class, and sometimes I need to opportunity to talk and think things out with people before I say them in a public forum. Sometimes I would wait most of the week before posting on Serendip because I liked to see if there was anything I would want to comment instead of starting my own post. There were a few people in the class who I talked with outside of class about a lot of the course material. Usually we would come up with a few ideas and one of us would post and the others would comment. This is one of the few classes where I have had so much discussion about the course after class was already over.
When I look back at this course over the span of the semester, I view the Gen/Sex class not as a linear progression and building of thought, but as a diffused and (of course) diffracted set of ideas that have significantly shifted the ways in which I see and interact with the world. Even during this finals week, I was struck by the influence PPPPP has had on my writing and my work; as I studied for my History of Western Civilization final, for instance, I increasingly saw the words “entangled” and “diffraction” in my notes. I view history and literature (my two academic fields) differently, as well as the implications and potentials of my inter-personal relationships.
However diffused of an influence the theory in this course has had on me, I can still track my linear, temporal progress through my web postings. In my first posting, I wrote that one of the activities we had conducted the week prior “forced me to consider my position both in the classroom and outside of it, as a student and as an activist.” I was frustrated by the disconnect between my behavior inside and outside class, and the standards to which I was being held in both areas. I had hope that these different lives of mine could converge; I wrote that “I realize that I will be a better student and a better activist when I can synthesize critical thinking and unconstrained action. So hopefully, my visions for the future will (in the future) be a lot less timid.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. When I decided to take the class I only did so as a bit of an adventure. I mean, I had never taken the course and after taking Gender & Technology I was thirsty for more knowledge on gender. I honestly didn’t have much of an expectation entering this class, as I wasn’t quite sure what we would be doing. All I know is it was a good place to start and see where the movement would take me.
Disruption in the Interpretation of Embodied Symbols
Final Web Event
Assumptions are made about individuals through the expression and interpretation of embodied acts and body language is the conduit for social meaning. The social meaning behind bodily acts are disrupted when the movement itself is not completely controlled by the individual. Disability, gender, and communication are all entangled in a web of perception, symbolism, and agency. This web of entanglement causes people to not see an action for as it was intended and make assumptions about a person on their limited controls on bodily action. Interpretations of bodily actions are often misunderstood when an individual is not completely able bodied.
In my second web event I questioned Bryn Mawr Colleges admission policy regarding transgender students. I wrote a mock scenario in which a prospective transwoman has a discussion with her mother about wanting to attend Bryn Mawr. In preparation for this project I talked to a few people in administrative positions at the College and was faced with requests at remaining anonymous in their answers. Because of the lack of receiving answers to my questions, I posed my web event as a question. Are transwoman allowed to apply to and attend Bryn Mawr College?
In my third web event, I traced the history of the College in regards to its mission and history of transgender topics. There have been several web events posted by Bryn Mawr students on Serendip, which were very informative and useful in my own movement towards gaining more knowledge of how to build a right relationship between Bryn Mawr College and transgender students. In this web event my focus switched from not only transwomen, but also transmen. I also used information on the Transgender Task Force, which was created in 2007. I noted that President McAuliffe approved the recommendations made by the task force in 2009.
Now, where do I go next? I’ve noted what I believe is Bryn Mawr’s role in the 21st century regarding transgender students. However, I don’t have enough facts. I lack information…knowledge…
The Groundings of a Commonwealth: Workshop on Forging Environmental Ethics Through Reading and Telling Stories
I created my third web event with every intention of deriving from it a workshop meant to bring together Israeli and Palestinian young adults over shared literatures. Literature was a medium through which, I had argued, right relationships had the space and time to emerge, and was a form particularly suited toward broader socio-political change. While I was excited about this final web event and its possibilities, I was also somewhat daunted by my own distance from the site of relationship building. I was also concerned by the spatial impracticalities of actually translating this workshop into action. I have become, through the course of the semester, very interested in how academic conversation can be used as groundwork for activity and doing; it seemed duplicitous to consider in my postings how “a group of listeners becomes a group of actors,” and even create frameworks for such a transition, but have no intention of taking this kind of action myself.
Playful, Performative, Precarious, Perspective
I came into this class terrified. It was my first semester at Bryn Mawr, and starting a class with juniors was incredibly daunting to me. I spent a lot of the first half of the semester afraid to speak in class, though I did speak in break out groups. Right from the beginning, I found the readings pretty interesting, though some of them were very confusing (I’m looking at you, Karen Barad). As the semester wore on, I could not seem to shake the thought that I wasn’t ever fully grasping some of the scientific texts, but I did try to grasp them. In terms of reading, I would say that I was a good reader for this class.
In terms of speaking, I did eventually start speaking more in whole class discussions, but I do wish that I had done so sooner. I realize now that my silence may have really hurt me in terms of learning how to speak in class. I feel like I learned in this area, but that I prevented myself from learning as much as I could have.
On one of the very first days (weeks?) of class, when we were talking about diffraction, I noticed something very interesting. The chairs that we sit on in English House have a texture that’s almost like a very solid mesh—there are lots of tiny circles both in the back of the chair and the seat of the chair. If you look across the room to one chair sitting in front of another, you will notice something very interesting. The visual space in which the backs of the chairs overlap will appear to have magnified the pattern. While you may not be able to really see the texture of a single chair from across the room, looking at one chair through another magnifies it to make it visible, if not totally crisp and clear.
This is an extension of my third webpaper: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/11451
I have changed the names of the interviewees to First letter of first name (or initials) [dot] Initial (or hypen) noting gender [dot] abbreviation of school. So if I converted Kaye's information into this format, it would be K.F.HC. Anne would be A.F.BMC.
I also acknowledge that this project will be a work in progress and is not anywhere near finished, seeing as it's just barely started.
Entangling and Enabling: A handbook for BSA that encourages right relationships despite a disabling culture
For my final project, I chose to expand upon my third web event, which explored the idea of forming a right relationship between the Boy Scouts of American and the LGBTQ community. A restatement of my original introduction is useful in understanding the issue at hand:
“The Boy Scouts of America’s website is covered in testaments to the organization’s commitment to the betterment of America’s male youth. Its mission statement professes dedication to building active and conscientious citizens, its parent portal promises that it is the best organization to reinforce ethical standards and promote self-confidence, and its timeline gleams with the success of past service projects and awards from numerous presidents. What the website neglects to publicize, however, is perhaps the most telling statement of all about BSA’s moral and ethical belief system: the Boy Scouts do not allow openly gay members to join their ranks.”
This course has been unique, challenging, frustrating, exciting, and empowering in many ways. Its interdisciplinary nature challenged the associations I had previously drawn between concepts. My opinions, modes of thought, and even identity were diffracted through the lens of this course (and the people/authors in it). On the other side of this diffraction emerged new appreciations and revelations regarding both the content we studied and my assumptions about scholarly discourse.
I began this class doubting my own ability to be a useful contributor. Most of my experiences with gender and sexuality classes in the bi-co have been cross-listed, so I was able to tackle the gender and sexuality using a specified and known framework (e.g. political implications, literary structures and syntax...). This is the first class I have taken, in which there was purposefully no status quo framework within which I could situate myself. This was difficult, and I enjoyed it at times, and really dreaded it at others.
On a personal note, It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortably situated within the academic world of Haverford. I doubted my ability and capacity for this school since the first day of my freshman year. It’s taken years to feel comfortable enough to speak aloud in a class discussion; to understand that I’m at this school for a reason, and all matters of voices should be heard. I realized (halfway through my junior year) the reason I harbored this sense of unease was due in part to the fact that many of my classmates were constantly performing a part of academia that I had not grown up with, never grown accustomed too. However, the recognition of certain language and style as a performance allowed me to overcome the initial fear of being heard. This is the roundabout way to say that I perform much better in small, intimate groups than I do within the class as a whole. Speaking to a few people is less of a performance than addressing a crowd. Both are essential, and I’m still learning.
The difference that Humbach makes between rights and right relationships can be teased out within the debate on food security/sovereignty. Food security, as an ideal, is the right for all people and communities to have enough culturally appropriate food. Food sovereignty builds upon this by accentuating the importance of process in food acquisition. It places importance on community food systems, non-exploitation, and health.
The issues of food justice and food security have always been important to me. On the surface, they are merely about food: having enough, access and availability. And on the surface, these are simple problems to fix, right? To fix hunger, farmers should plant more. Grocery chains should build stores in neighborhoods that lack them. But relationships always prove to be more complicated than their surface implications.
I enrolled in this course after Kaye recommended that I take it following an internship I had last summer at National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) that was funding by Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. NAPW does a lot of different things, but basically provides legal support for women who have been incarcerated or had their children taken away because of a drug charge. While I didn’t get to do much reflecting on these issues specifically, this course did teach me a lot.
I entered the class a little unsure of exactly what to expect. It was my first Bryn Mawr class and my first course that was listed primarily under gender and sexuality studies (I had taken gen/sex classes in the past that related to political science and anthropology). On the first or second day, we were asked to do a “wagon wheel” and talk to various members of the class. One of the prompts was to say all the gender pronouns we knew. I began, “He, she…” The student standing across from me added, “Ze…” (What?) I responded with a smile, “It…” The student answered, “I don’t think a person would appreciate being called “It.” Okay. Got it. Can’t make jokes about gender here. Don’t want to offend anyone.
In Culture as a Disability, McDermott and Varenne) present the argument that the system in which the conventions of our culture is set up disallows each all individuals to be perceived as ‘able’. (McDermott and Varenne, 1995) Varenne then, in a later article entitled “Extra burdens in the search for new openings”, claims that our culture is “simultaneously enabling and disabling”. (Varenne, 2003) Whatever act is taken to enable a certain group will invariably disable another. To ‘disable’ is not limited to the literal definition and I will expand on this later. An extrapolation of this claim would indicate that there is no possibility for a collective Utopia; culture does not work as an interconnected whole. Rather, it is a system that separates, disables and causes injustice.