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why does it matter?

cantaloupe's picture

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Courtney Jewett


            For the final project I really didn’t want to write just another six page paper.  I like writing, but around the end of the semester I am just trying to get my work done.  And I hate the feeling of just pulling together a paper about anything to get it done.  My first idea was to write about deaf culture, but I just wrote a paper on that.  And since then I haven’t expanded my knowledge of the subject that extensively.  Since I don’t know that much about it, it’s hard to think of a creative and interesting way to represent what I think.  So, I decided to go for something different.  Laryssa and I talked about it and realized we could do something interesting together.

            We decided to create an ongoing notebook.  We’ll each write something, or doodle something, or paste pictures.  Whatever we feel inspired to write, we will just record it.  It will be informal and handwritten.  I liked the idea because we always talk to each other outside of class about whatever the class that day made us think about, and now we can write some of it down.

            Kristen said that there needed to be a main question, but we didn’t really think of the project with that in mind.  We already wrote a little bit, and it is in the Lynda Barry fashion of mostly questions.  I wrote about Sherry Ortner, and Laryssa wrote in response to seeing Mark Doty.  So while most of what we write will be in response to topics we talk about in relation to class, some of it won’t either.  We want to write about our frustrations with academics as well. Laryssa is graduating in the spring, while I yet to have any actual direction, and both of us are fed up with what it means to be “academic.”  So I’m sure we will talk about that too.

            Basically, it will be asking the question, “why does it matter?”  I wrote my syllabus proposal beginning with the question, “so what?”  I didn’t so much talk about why it does matter, but I said that my hope was we would talk about why it matters.  I’m not sure my dream syllabus came to life, so I am excited to talk about it in the final project.

            Why does it matter that we talk about the categories of gender?  Who cares that we as a class, or even we as a college, decide that living without genders is preferable to living with genders?  Why does it matter that we learn feminist history?  Why does it matter if we sit and talk, but don’t actually change anything?  What is the point of academics if nothing ever happens?  People just write essays on their topics of interest, and then other people read the essays and talk about them.  Maybe one day they will write their own essay.  What does that really accomplish?  Even if you come to a fascinating conclusion about women as an analytic category, what does that really do? 

            I hope that we find some interesting pictures to paste in the notebook.  I doodle on all my notes in almost all my classes.  I can’t just sit and focus on a discussion; I need to be doing something else too.  So I draw worlds of snowmen with reindeer, birds flying, and trees in pretty mountain landscapes.  I’m not a very good drawer, but I like it.  Lynda Barry is definitely a source of inspiration.  I really appreciate how long it must have taken her to draw all those images.  (Why does it matter that she did?  I’m not really sure – maybe my enjoyment of her work is all that matters.  I think of her book as more personal representation of the world than an academic work.  But it’s a book, so really, maybe I’m making categories that don’t exist.  Maybe I’ll write about it in the final project…)  While we cannot possibly create anything as intricate as What It Is, we are hoping it will have the same vibe.

            As far as other sources, we aren’t sure yet.  For me, Sherry Ortner was the first person who really got me questioning what this education was getting me.  I don’t think I’ve ever met someone whose academic essay I had to read in a class.  Actually, I never even imagine authors of essays.  In my mind it is just one person who pumps out all these clever observations of the world.  He (or she?  Oh god) is the “essay writer.”  So seeing Sherry Ortner and hearing her speak made me realize that her essays were her academic accomplishments.  She went to college and did all this research, and then she wrote her essays.  And now we read her essays and talk about them.  Is that what I’m destined for?  How can talking about the theoretical world feel so unnatural?  So I would also like to include Sherry Ortner as one of our sources.

            Kate Bornstein’s books would be another source that we could include.  She wrote books, not just essays.  I was skeptical of her books, and seeing her made me even more skeptical of her life.  Was her mission to talk about herself as transcending gender?  I understand that her books are based around showing others that they don’t have to live within gender, kill themselves, etc.  So does the fact that her books are towards helping other people give her academic work meaning?  Is it really academic?  Where does she fall in the academic sphere?  Where do I?  We?   If I don’t have a true passion, so I pick any major just to graduate, what am I left with?  I really don’t want to go to graduate school, so will I be 21 years old with a major I really don’t care about with a life I need to get started on?  And still no clear passion?  It’s terrifying.  So really, at the end of the day, I took this gender and sexuality class, but what is the impact of anything we talked about?  With any luck that end of the project that question will be represented in words and pictures through a written dialogue of two very opinionated people.


Barry, Lynda. What It Is. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2008.

Bornstein, Kate. My Gender Workbook. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Ortner, Sherry B. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston:
     Beacon Press, 1996.




Terrible2s's picture

Courtney and Laryssa: Claryssa

So I love this idea a lot. I think it's Kate Bornstein meets Lynda Barry and I'm all about it. I am wondering how you're going to mix in academia with creativity. I guess the point is to just show what you've learned and how what you're going to do with it, so that makes sense.

I like the journal writing idea part of it. Maybe you guys at some point could write in response to each other, maybe even disagree and hash out a debate on paper? I really like the idea of generally emoting your frusterations because I feel like we have plenty of time in class to explore the academic and philosophical questions posed by these topics, but it is rarely that we can fully express our feelings and go further with what they mean because we have a time limit.

Good luck I think this idea is so cool and I can't wait to see it.


kayla's picture

 This really intrigues me,

 This really intrigues me, mostly because I have also been so frustrated about the "academic" all semester and I'm still getting more irritated about the meaningless spattle that is expected of me in most of my classes. I realized that all of the essays I have written for Junior Seminar thus far have been completely uninspired, and when I realized this I couldn't even make myself care--my response was more along the lines of "Oh, that makes total sense; I guess that sucks for jsem."

You said that you two don't really have a direct, central question to answer, but I have a feeling that something might emerge in the making of this piece. I'm wondering what the motivation behind the questions, "Why does it matter that we talk about the categories of gender? Who cares that we as a class, or even we as a college, decide that living without genders is preferable to living with genders?" My first reaction was generally pessimistic: "Yeah, why does it matter, it's not going to change anyways." Is this sentiment involved in any way for either of you? I think it would be interesting to include, somehow, the ways in which most of the world would react to the discussions we have been having--I'm not sure much would come of it.