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Floating Forum #1: Possible Texts

Anne Dalke's picture

I'm creating this forum as a space where, as we run across them, each of us can enter possible texts/videos/whatevers for the second half of our course--so that when push-comes-to-shove (this will happen sooner than you think: Oct. 6th & 8th), we'll have something to work w/. Two possibilities have already come my way this week:

(from Kristin Lindgren, my co-teacher):
Inquiry About Runner Angers South Africans
(NYTimes, August 26, 2009).

(from Sarah Willie, Chair of Anthro and Soc @ Swat):
I have a Sri Lankan friend, Ruvani Freeman, who is a political journalist and writer.  She's just published her first novel to rave reviews. Her debut novel, A Disobedient Girl, has just been published in the US and Canada by Atria/Simon & Schuster (July, 2009) and by Viking in the UK and in translation in Italy, Israel, Taiwan, Brazil and the Netherlands. She lives in Bala Cynwd and is hoping to talk to college classes  this fall.  I'm not going overboard to call her FANtastic -- warm, funny, engaging, mesmerizing. Her work incorporates themes and issues in Asian Studies, Gender and  Sexuality Studies,and post-colonial English Literature, and Creative writing.  You need not have already assigned the book in order to have her come talk:

kayla's picture

oh man

 I found this link to a photographer's website and I couldn't resist sharing.

Chad photographed various men in various settings and each image is accompanied by a quote from that man explaining when/why/how they feel the most masculine. Some interesting ones include:

“I feel masculine when I am home, I can take care of myself. I often feel emasculated when I leave my apartment though, with everyone asking me if I need help. I don’t need any help.”

and a really offensive (at least to me) quote:

“I am masculine because I abandon women after taking their love. Because when you study Freud, you don’t let him study you. Because I study philosophy, not literature.”

Enjoy! And I can't wait to see everyone Tuesday!

skindeep's picture

smile through the ridculousness

that site was really interesting.. it was amusing to see how almost all of them said the same thing but seemed to feel like they were saying something different..

this one in particular made me grin - ''i consider myself to be masculine because i spent time in the marine corps, i work out, i have a mohawk, i have tattoos, i am a tattoo artist, i cuss a lot... and thats all i can think of right now'' -- i guess its just the manner in which it fits every stereotype ever thought of amuses me.

another one - ''because i have never questioned my gender identity, although i love women, i have never wished to be one''  -- if you dont want to be a man, do you have to be woman? and are you not a man if you question your sexuality?

a interesting one - 'men arent being men anymore, they arent taking care of women'-- should the feminist in us object to this? is chivalry wrong/outdated?

we reallu need to work on society. just to make them realise, that the boundaries they've constructed are based on nothing but fear. and maybe its time to confront that now.

eshaw's picture

Y - The Last Man

 A lot of people in class have expressed interest in graphic novels and I know that we've added a few to our "sylla-ship." For people who are still hungry for more, I just read the first part of a really interesting series called Y- The Last Man. I know that it's hard enough to do reading on the side during the school year (which is why I took advantage of a little extra free time during my fall break) but it really doesn't take long to read. The premise for the novel: a plague wipes out every mammal with a Y-chromosome except for this 20-something year old guy and his Capuchin monkey named Ampersand. There are some really interesting ways that Vaughn (the author) plays with gender roles and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a spare hour or two. In addition playing with the gender binary, the story spans from Boston to the West Bank and Jordan, exploring the mechanisms of violence and patriarchal society.  I heard that they might even be making the series into an HBO show. The author is actually a writer on LOST now, if that is appealing to anyone (I, personally, am addicted to the show). Anyway, check it out if you're interested!

Karina's picture

more on those bathrooms....

sorry if it double posts, but this made me think back...

Anne Dalke's picture


I was talking this morning with Howard Glasser, our new post-doctoral fellow in science education, who has a particular interest in equity, social justice, and under-representation in education. Howard asked me if we have-or-would be looking @ masculinities, and then sent me a very rich reading list. Here are a few selections from it, which we might want to consider as we select the remainder of our class texts together:

Connell, R. W. (1993). Disruptions: Improper masculinities and schooling. In L. Weis & M. Fine (Eds.), Beyond silenced voices: Class, race, and gender in United States schools (pp. 191-208). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Connell, R. W. (2006). Understanding men: Gender sociology and the new international research on masculinities. In C. Skelton, B. Francis & L. Smulyan (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Education (pp. 18-30). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Kimmel, M. S. (1994). Masculinity as homophobia. In H. Brod & M. Kaufman (Eds.), Theorizing masculinities (pp. 119-141). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sommers, C. H. (2000). The war against boys: How misguided feminism is harming our young men. New York: Simon and Schuster.

CCM's picture

Kimmel- "Masculinity as Homophobia"

 I read Kimmel's essay on "Masculinity as Homophobia" last semester in my Sociology course, "The Study of Gender in Society," and really enjoyed it.  He wrote another piece on the dangers of masculinity in the fraternity/college setting which I thought was very accurate.  Anyhow, I definitely recommend this reading and would love to discuss it in class.  

CCM's picture

NYT Article: "Coming Out in Middle School"

I just found this article while reading the New York Times this morning.  The story itself is pretty compelling:



meredyd's picture

More of a question, but this

More of a question, but this is a thread about texts...I'm an English major, and my primary area of interest is children's and young adult fiction. I'm taking a YA Lit class at Penn and we were discussing the subgenre of "issue" books for teens - there are quite a lot of them, but I'm having trouble (and I think the rest of the class was, too), thinking of those that specifically deal with gender identity. There's obviously a fair amount of books for younger readers that deal with the issue of teen sexuality/sexuality in general, specifically the coming out story (which seems to be the only kind of gay teen ficiton available, though that's a whole 'nother rant), but I'm thinking more along the lines of a story of a transgendered or intersexed teen, or just one struggling with issues of definition/self-identification. Seems like, with the popularity of Middlesex in the adult genre, there would be a market for that sort of thing. But you never know with mainstream publishing.

Serendip Visitor's picture


I've heard good things about the book Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger, although I haven't read it myself. It's the story of a high school student who comes out as transgendered. Apparently, it's a pretty quick read, but it's supposed to be good.

rae's picture

Queering Gender and Sexuality

I'm really interested in exploring non-binary aspects of gender and sexuality (that might be poorly worded, but basically all the stuff that doesn't fall within the categories "man" and "woman" or "gay" and "straight" and "bisexual"). I read a few books this summer that I found really fascinating, and they've influenced my own ideas about gender and sexuality.

One book is called PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality. It was edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel. Actually, I'm not sure how much this book itself has really shaped my ideas, but I like the concept of PoMoSexuality, and I think it's really important to think about queerness and not just gayness. Or rather, to recognize all of the ways that sexuality exists and to recognize that rigid categories like "homosexual" and "heterosexual" and "bisexual" don't suit all people. This book itself is interesting, but (as a warning) it's also...rather explicit about sex, sometimes. Not gratuitously so, but possibly more than people would be comfortable with in a classroom setting. Anyway, mainly I just think that something relating more to queer studies than to gay/lesbian studies would be interesting.

Another book I read that I really loved was Leslie Feinberg's Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink Or Blue. This one actually has shaped my views on gender. It's less of a textbook and more of a collection of essays and speeches, but I think it's really great. The second paragraph of the book is as follows, and I think that it sums up the book better than I could: "Each person should have the right to choose between pink or blue tinted gender categories, as well as all the other hues of the palette. At this moment in time, that right is denied to us. But together, we could make it a reality" (Feinberg 1).

Another book that I'm actually hoping to base my thesis around (I just sent in my proposal about half an hour ago!) is GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary, edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. Some of the stories are a bit sexually explicit because, well, I think it'd be difficult to really showcase people's voices about their genders and sexualities in a completely sanitized way. Nevertheless, it's really a wonderful book. Part of the back of the book's description reads as follows:

In this groundbreaking anthology, three experts in gender studies and politics navigate the rigid, societally imposed concepts of two genders to discover and illuminate the limitless possibilities of identity. Thrity-eight first-person accounts of gender construction, exploration, and questioning provide a groundwork for cultural discussion, political action, and even greater possibilities of autonomous gender choices. Noted lesbian-feminist scholar Joan Nestle is joined by internationally prominent gender warrior Riki Wilchins and historian Clare Howell to provide a social, cultural, and political exploration of gender identity that is essential reading for anyone interested in gender rights--and human rights in general.

The book starts with essays by each of the editors, and they're really great. If nothing else, it might be worth it to put them on blackboard (or serendip) or something for reading. The essay "Deconstructing Trans," by Riki Wilchins is particularly useful, I think, especially since there is such confusion over what the term "transgender" means (since there are so many definitions--probably as many as there are trans folk, or more). Actually, the thesis thing is more about this essay than the whole book (not that it's really relevent to anyone other than me). 

Anyway, I just wanted to point out some of the books I've been reading and enjoying. Another positive thing is that none of them are official-type textbooks, so they're all under $20. 




Karina's picture

Sports and the Gender Binary

Anne Dalke's picture

same story

see also the link (just above) to the NYTimes version of this same story....

LizJ's picture

Overlapping Classes

I'm taking a sociology class now and today we talked about how categories such as gender, race, and class are socially constructed. They are not "real" things, because they were created from nothing, but they are "real" in terms of their consequences. I still find it confusing, but I think I'm starting to get the gist of it. For example, biologically there is no such thing as race, but because people have made it into a social category, they have made it "real" by consequences such as racism. The reason I'm writing about this is because I can't help thinking about GaS when I'm in sociology and vice versa. My sociology professor even talked briefly about Anne Fausto-Sterling who is a biologist that studies gender categories. He didn't go into a lot of detail but I think she's worth looking into. I just hope I don't start mixing up topics and readings for the separate classes...

Anne Dalke's picture

on building a house (and men. and women.)

Think of it this way:  a house is constructed. It starts w/ blueprints, which the carpenters follow in order to build it. And once it's built, it's real. Being constructed doesn't mean "not real." It just means "made"--and for those of us who "believe" in social construction, it means that whatever's been made can be made's a hopeful philosophy.

And hey--why do you NOT want to 'mix up' topics and readings...? Seems to me exactly what we all ought to be doing! So, for starters, here's the link to Anne Fausto-Sterling's li'l essay on "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough..."

Several years ago, I helped to bring Anne Fausto-Sterling to campus to lead a discussion called Building Two-Way Bridges (between area Science and Women's Studies faculty). The conversation arose out of, and was based, on her wonderful essay "Science Matters, Culture Matters," which argues for a new model of teaching "science in social context." What the diagrams in Fausto-Sterling's essay show so dramatically is that when she expanded her embryology course (for instance) to teach neural tube development as "embedded in a matrix of epidemiological, medical, historical and social questions," she found herself unable to avoid examining neural tube defects, the epidemiology of birth defects, who gets what kind of health care in this country, the ethics of selective abortion, etc. etc....

Fausto-Sterling's presentation was a clear example of the  "embedded nature of every topic" (she begins her classes, btw, by having students construct "knowledge webs," which forces them to face up to the uncertain nature of knowledge....)

ebock's picture

awesome queer theorist

Queer Theory/Gender Theory, by Riki Wilchins


Awesome book, great writer.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Riki Wilchins

i agree.

rae's picture


Oops, sorry, I didn't realize that I wasn't signed in when I replied. But that was me agreeing that Riki Wilchins and Queer Theory, Gender Theory are great.

Karina's picture

the need for exploring masculinity

Today in class we'd talked about what it is that we need to make the study of gender and sexuality appealing to both sexes, engaging for various pools of people. That's something I'd thought about many times and I think a number of months ago I finally got my answer.
I asked a close male friend of mine what it was like to be a man in this world. By that point I'd listened to many women's narratives and many men's narratives, but the men's narratives seemed to come from the infamous "neutral" point - since in a phallocentric society the neutral experience is predominantly male and the female experience is invariably made into that of the outcast, the minority. He said it was tiring. That it was like constantly having to live through pre-written narratives with little to no room for the creation of one's own.
I was shocked, but in a good way. I think that in order to have a successful gender and sexuality curriculum we need to focus on the traps of traditional masculinity and masculine narratives in their relation to the non-dominant narratives. We tend to forget that the dominant culture, as male-oriented as it is, is rightly called out on hindering the progress of BOTH sexes (that is, if we're still sticking to the gender binary, which is a whole other issue) and we need to acknowledge that.

dshetterly's picture


You make a really interesting point.  Because they are normative, male narratives often are excluded from discussions on gender and sexuality.  I'll admit that issues surrounding masculinity are something I haven't really considered.  I would be really interested in talking about masculinity more.  The texts that Anne posted a while ago definitely seem worth exploring.