Critical Feminist Studies

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Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to Critical Feminist Studies, an English and Gender-and-Sexuality-Studies course offered in Spring 2012 @ 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.

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.

S. Yaeger's picture

TW: Discussion of rape) On Possibly Breaking The Bubble of Silence: How Our Community Discussions of Rape Are Harming Us

I should have written this paper a long time ago, but the truth is that I was scared to approach the topic and felt somewhat unqualified in my position as something of an outsider in the sense that I don’t live on campus. However, as we’ve come through this semester together, and since we’ve discussed “Half The Sky” extensively, and the way that rape gets addressed on campus briefly, (thank you to rayj for providing some really great links and some really great insight) I’ve come to understand that hesitating to speak is part of Bryn Mawr’s problem.  From what I have read and heard, we, as a community, rarely talk about rape, and when we do, we do it in a very particular way.  In our collective mind, and in the school’s covert marketing message, rape is something that happens when a strange male attacker (perhaps that fabled “suspicious male on campus”) assaults a woman.

sara.gladwin's picture

Masculinity in Jimmy Corrigan

In the beginning of the comic book, The Adventures of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware wrote a series of tests and notes for the reader. An exam question asks for the gender of the reader. If the reader is female, she is to immediately put down the book (Ware 1). This implies that there is something about the experiences within the comic book that are so inherently gendered male that a female could not possibly understand them.  She may as well never read the book. Jimmy Corrigan examines masculinity and what it is like to constantly battle the social pressure to live up to an ideal masculine identity.

buffalo's picture

The Ethics of Reproductive Rights


About a week ago I came across a recent article titled “Uzbekistan’s policy of secretly sterilizing women” (1) and other than the holocaust, I had never heard about governments running forced sterilization programs. After looking at the Wikipedia page (2) I learned that it’s been happening since the early 1900’s in many countries, mainly for the purpose of eugenics. Forced systematic sterilization is now considered a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court, but it is still happening in Uzbekistan. Many human rights organizations are outraged, and there is pressure on United States, in particular Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton to place sanctions and cut aid to Uzbekistan because of these human rights violations. If you want to sign a petition asking Clinton to ‘end Islam Karimov’s (Uzbekistan’s president) reign and stop the brutal attack on women’ go to (3).

aybala50's picture

Conservative Liberals

My first project this year was stepping back and looking at the changing definition of a "woman" at Bryn Mawr College requiring admission policies. I traced the change from the opening of the college to its recent definition of a woman. In my second webevent I played with language and its limitations using the game Taboo. I learned that it is because of the limitations of language we fail to fully express ourselves and it is this failure that leads to curiousity and learning.

What are the limitations of language at Bryn Mawr?
Bryn Mawr has taboo topics.
Topics that are not discussed will not change.
Change is necessary for the existing definition of women at Bryn Mawr.
If we discuss women, will it lead to change?
Is change what we need?

I talked to a few friends to try and figure out what topics are taboo at Bryn Mawr. I had several suggestions and chose some to use as examples:

sekang's picture

The Low Representation of Women in STEM fields 3

The Low Representation of Women in the STEM Fields

bluebox's picture

Phineas and Ferb: A feminist children's show?


            Phineas and Ferb is a show on the Disney Channel about the summer exploits of a pair of stepbrothers.  Phineas and Ferb are boy geniuses who can create literally anything they imagine in the convenient time span of about one episode.  Of course, before the episode is over, there is frequently some unexpected consequence that teaches the characters, usually Candace, their older sister, a valuable life lesson.  The secondary plot concerning Perry the Platypus, the family pet who is an undercover secret agent and his arch-nemesis the evil Doctor Doofenschmirtz, who can also create nearly any contraption that he can imagine with the intention to enact revenge or to take over the tri-state area.  Doctor Doofenschmirtz’s machines nearly always malfunction and helpfully dispose of all evidence of Phineas and Ferb’s inventions. 

FrigginSushi's picture

Korean Masculinity: in History and Reality and Where it Fits in Feminism

While compiling together the rest of our semester for a Critical Feminism as a class, we agreed that looking into the intricacies of masculinity would be a good topic to look into further. We spent two days focusing our attention on a graphic novel “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” which narrates a seemingly pathetic middle-aged man and his struggles to live up to the fantasy/myth of the Superman image of his childhood; the Superman image was a common figure of masculinity in America during the comic’s peak. I think the reason we wanted to discuss masculinity in a Feminism course was to, first, change the conventional idea that Feminism is about hating men, and, second, understand that oppression and objectification is a two way street. My last two web papers have dealt with the woman’s role historically in Korean history and Korean women’s representation in Korean popular music. This web paper will take a turn and look at masculinity in Korea, where is originated in Korean history, how the masculinity ideals reflect in a the contemporary light of South Korean military and sexual harassment incidents within the army, and where masculinity in general fits into the conversation of Feminism.

meowwalex's picture

Sarah Palin vs. Mamabear

            When our class watched the film Game Change to further our discussion on Sarah Palin, one of the most striking aspects of her portrayal was the public’s focus on her role as a mother, and further, as an “everyday person” who understands the needs of the average family. I quickly remembered that this depiction was incredibly true to reality, as Palin’s role as a mother and wife was continuously touched on, whether in a negative or positive light. When her daughter, Bristol, was announced pregnant during the race, the construct of Palin’s “family first” outlook was questioned by some and applauded by others. A question that arose for me was how Bristol’s pregnancy affected Palin’s already stereotypical gender roles that were being emphasized throughout the campaign.

MC's picture


Space is being shaped right now! 

Looking back on some of the classes we've had I realized that I do not agree with some of the choices that we as a class either made or went along with. For this web paper I have tried to address those issues. 


Amophrast's picture

Notes from our Transgender Trask Force

With Colleen, epeck, and michelle:

We are not admitting those who are both
- gender: man (-identifying)
- sex (bodies): male

We are admitting: trans*, transdudes, transwomen, genderqueer, genderfluid, cis-female, etc.

DLT training (Hall Advisors, Customs people, Dorm Presidents, Peer Mentors, Community Diversity Assistants)
-- Bring in outside people to train

Freshman orientation
-- with customs groups during customs week
-- Q-forum can still exist but there needs to be a formalized aspect.
-- safe space
-- who would lead it?

Housing for freshmen
-- housing forms
-- ability to switch rooms, availability of singles

--language used when deciding who can use a residence hall bathroom

epeck: (really important note:) friends now with people who are trans, but unsure how it would feel to be housed as an incoming freshman, especially in situations like quads that have literally closer living quarters

sekang's picture

If I were a boy

Hi guys, I found a "blog" that has a lot of interesting stuff! And I found a video that we all can related to. One of the videos presented in the class was "If I were a boy" by Beyonce. And this one is called "If I were a bro." Would we be able to argue and hold the same views as we did toward "If I were a boy"? Or, would you view this video (If I were a bro) just as a joke? Do you find anything similar in both videos?

If you can find something feministy about this video, which one do you think is the better way to approach this topic: jokingly or seriously? 

See video
epeck's picture

"Hey Critical Feminist Studies..."

       In late 2011, the “feminist Ryan Gosling” (FRG) meme became an overnight internet sensation.  For those who haven’t heard of him, Ryan Gosling was already a presence in Hollywood, starring in movies such as “The Notebook,” “Half Nelson,” “Lars and the Real Girl” and “Blue Valentine” among others1.  A blog2 had already been created which showed images of Gosling with captions meant to appeal to a heterosexual, female audience.  These posts always start with “Hey girl…” and go on to show how lovable and sensitive the idealized Gosling is.  Some examples are shown below.  Feminist Ryan Gosling3 follows the same formula except that the text following “Hey girl…” contains some feminist idea or theory (examples of these are also included below).  Given the multitude of content that can be found online, why did “Feminist Ryan Gosling” become so overwhelmingly popular, especially considering the lack of involvement the actual Ryan Gosling had (none of the captions are quotes) and what role does the blog play in the discussion of male feminism?  Do we praise male feminists, and even those who are portrayed in some way to be feminist by outside voices, to an unreasonable degree (see rayj's post on another f

pejordan's picture

Title IX: Has It Solved Our Problems?

While reading “My Gender Workbook,” I came across the following passage that Kate Bornstein had quoted from Mariah Burton Nelson:

"All female athletes are gender outlaws… In the act of lunging for a soccer ball or diving into a swimming pool or engaging in most of the other sports that millions of women now enjoy, the athlete goes beyond gender…She has transcended gender and, even more importantly, sexism. Which explains, in part, why women are so passionate about sports."

Reading this quote inspired all kinds of questions for me. I have known for a while now that athletics is an important part of my life and my identity, but I had never thought about how sports played into questions of gender until now. It does seem to me that in swimming, I can transcend gender; I've trained alongside boys ever since I started, and I've always felt that I was treated as an equal. I grew up in a time when women had equal access to sports, and (at my level, anyway) female athletes seemed to be as visible as their male counterparts. However, this wasn’t always the case. I want to look into women's history in sports to see where we stand today, and see if there are any changes that could still be made to further women's opportunities in sports.

MC's picture

Petition to Asma al-Assad (TRIGGER WARNING)

During my daily perusal of feminist blogs, I came across this on Feministing. The wives of the British and German ambassadors to the UN produced  a video calling out Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar Assad, and encouraging her to speak out against her husband's actions in Syria. I am linking to the video instead of directly posting it  because of trigger warnings for gore, specifically injured and dead children. This video brings several conversations we have had in class to mind, including at what point are we allowed to involve ourselves in communities that are not our own (specifically white upper-class Americans in impoverished non-American communities, but I feel as though this still fits the bill) and what responsibilities does the wife of a powerful government official have to the community. 

michelle.lee's picture

Nicki Minaj!

See video
w0m_n's picture

Categories: when does it become crossing the line?


This is an image I found on tumblr. Thought it'd be interesting to bring up in class in light of the discussion we had about trolls on the internet. It reminded me about the idea of crossing the line. Thoughts? Below is the link to the post and the blog it came from...

MC's picture

April 17 Links and Eventual Commentary

-The Daily Show discusses Oklahoma's personhood bill. 

-Since children's media seems to be of interest, here is a list by Malic White at Bitch Media's End of Gender series of story books on the mulitiplicities and complexities of gender. The End of Gender series this past week has covered parenting and gender non-conforming children.

-A Mighty Girl: An entire site dedicated to positive media portrayals of girls. It looks very exciting to me as someone who read and enjoyed many of the books that are listed on the site, and as someone who continues to consume children's media aimed at or inclusive of girls. 

-A Feministing post about The Dinner Party. There isn't much to it besides stating that it exists, but considering our discussions of the piece earlier in the year, what does it mean that a well-known feminist site simply presents the piece with out any commentary?

dear.abby's picture

mark ruffalo, feminist of the week

so Melissa Silverstein of the blog Hollywood and Women gave actor Mark Ruffalo bonus points for criticising the male centric Academy Award nominations for Best Director:

"I would just like to say to the academy members: why don’t you grow a pair and vote for Lisa Cholodenko as well!".

Lisa Cholodenko co-wrote and singularly directed the film The Kids Are All Right which (inspired by her personal experience) depicts a lesbian couple meeting their anonymous sperm donor when their two (donor fertilized) children are high school age. The film won Best Film Comedy at the Golden Globes, and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Though not, of course, the award for Best Director--no female director was nominated. Only three female directors have ever been nominated: Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Bigelow won in 2009. Over 100 males have been nominated during the course of 84 ceremonies. 85 have won.

It is interesting to note that Ruffalo stated that the Academy members needed testicles--implying that only an emasculated Academy would exclude female directors. A female bodied Academy would lack the strength and guts to be radically different.

dear.abby's picture

statements about Girls

In the spirit of last week I am going to ignore the oppressive limitations of statement making and attempt to only make statements regarding the new tv show Girls which premiered on HBO last night...

The girls of Girls are all caucasian and 24: they are not girls. 

They all live in New York. 

They can work unpaid interships.

What is real for one may be terribly unreal for the rest.

Parts of Girls are excruciating to watch.

Girls is created, written, and directed by its female star Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham is a 25 year old female.

She went to a liberal arts college.

Girls makes statements by asking questions.

Girls is not Sex and the City.

Approximately 10-15% of tv programs that go to pilot are written and created by female writers.

Of those many are written by male-female teams.

Huge, Pretty Little Liars, Being Human, The Killing, Rizzoli and Isles, The Big C. These shows and their pilots were written by female writers.

Girls is a terrible title.

Girls is worth watching.

first season preview girls
aybala50's picture

questions v. statements

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the significance of making a statement versus asking a question. Personally, I feel more comfortable questioning something rather than making a statement about it. I do feel that it is easier to question things because I never feel fully certain about what I am saying. Will I offend anyone? Do I really know what I'm talking about? Am I making a fool of myself? 

Besides these questions that roam my brain I feel that the biggest reason for my tendency to question is because it is much more interesting! If life consisted of statements and we didn't question even those things that we feel certain about, how would change come about? How would we learn?