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Week 1: Welcome to "GAS Works"!

Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to the course forum area for GAS Works, an interdisciplinary seminar on gender and sexuality being offered @  Bryn Mawr College in Fall 2009. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but I hope you'll come to value it as much as students in other courses have.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this is not a place 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 not worrying about "writing" but instead 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, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea 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.

I'm glad to have you along, and hope you'll come both to enjoy and value our shared exploration of gender, sexuality and education.To get started, introduce yourself here by telling us what drew you to this course: what are you looking for? Any initial ideas about how you might be working on trying to get it? Any other thoughts that arose during our first class session....?

Serendip Visitor's picture


Hello, my name is Kylee Mason. Fresh. Bryn Mawr. After much frustration I have finally figured out how to navigate this cite and I feel quite accomplished. I have never taken a gender and sexuality class...or really any college classes prior to this semester. All I know is in coming to college I want to challenge myself to take classes I've never considered and to be pushed slightly beyond my normal comfort zone in my thinking and understanding of the society I live in. Even though all I just said is very true, I joined the class because my friend Devanshi enthusiastically recommended it when I got dropped out of Haverford's intro psych class. My first impressions of the class is that it will be a great place for discussion and an invaluable springboard in my Bryn Mawr career. I was working on our first essay assignment today and I am enjoying how this class makes me think about things I haven't before. Bryn Mawr itself has opened my eyes to a variety of gender and sexuality questions and I really love the newness of this all. Anyway, this is me, or close enough. Nice meeting all of you!

Serendip Visitor's picture

an introduction

Hello all

I apologize for this extremely delayed post but I just about figured out how to use this website.

To say that I was always interested in gender and sexuality would be a lie. Where I come from sexuality is never discussed and gender has a list of pre conceived notions attached to it. Why did I take the class? Because I wanted space to question all these concepts I had been raised with and the class seemed like it would attract people who would aid that process.

I am one of the three freshmen in the class and so I have no theoretical knowledge about the subject. But I’ve lived it, for almost my entire life.

The things we talk about in class and the assignment we've been given make me realize that I have a long way to go before I can draw my own, firm conclusions on issues related to gender and sexuality. Already, my mind has begun moving around hysterically, with questions and concepts splattering on its surface and fading away. As always, this process is a good one.

The class exceeded my expectations, and right now, I’m just excited to see where it will take me.


kayla's picture


 Hello everyone! Greetings after a very busy day...

Thinking about it, it feels like I accidentally fell into studying Gender & Sexuality. I went into Haverford believing I would major in Psychology and concentrate in Creative Writing, but here I am: English major, GenSex concentration. I started taking English classes and realized that they all had some relevance to the this particular topic, so I just kept going. I am more excited about this class than I think I would typically be, however, because it's a means for me to branch out of my comfort zone within the field. I have read all kinds of literature focused on gender and sexuality, but all within the English department and it's time I broaden my perspective outside of studying strictly literature and philosophy. I've thought this for awhile, but this class seems like it will take that idea further than I could have in simply choosing courses in Anthropology, Psychology or Sociology, for example. My goal is to be able to understand issues of gender and sexuality and be able to operate with these understandings in the world, and this is a step closer to being able to relate to the lives of a bigger group of people and helping to work through the problems that still exist today for women and men. 


Alice's picture


 Hello everyone! I am a sophomore hoping to major in art history, with a minor in anthropology and concentration in gender and sexuality. That seems like a lot, but I am hoping that somehow I will get all the requirements done! My interest in gender/sexuality classes was first sparked by a class I took my first semester of freshman year called, "Women, Feminism, and the History of Art." Ever since then, it seems I keep getting attracted to classes that explore how gender and sexuality have influenced the development of societal, political, and economical structures. Interestingly enough, I grew up looking down upon the inconceivable "F-word" in a country where being gay is illegal and abortions were unheard of (I actually recently looked up feminist organizations in Singapore and only one came up and it was run by this crazy Christian cult...not so good). At the time, there were always more important things to worry about than whether firefighters were called firemen/firepeople or even the safety of prostitutes that stood along my most frequented shopping spot catering to the American sailors that came into town (I was naive, I admit it). Since then, I have gained a fascination with the way gender influences almost every academic discipline, social structure, etc. So, when I realized that my schedule lacked a gen/sex class, I was thrilled when my friend mentioned this one and I am glad I showed up today. I am just really excited to see how gender/sexuality crosses so many disciplines in a single class as opposed to just in art history or anthro, etc. Oh, and also, going off of what Roldine said....I am not certain why I chose Alice from Alice in Wonderland as my character. Somehow it popped into my head and seemed whimsical and mysterious, but also dark and twisty (especially with the whole tragic loss of childhood motif running through the entire book...). Anyways, I decided to keep it as an alter ego of sorts. Yes, so I am excited for the semester!

w0m_n's picture

Beta/Roldine: Introduction...

My name is Roldine. I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr, majoring in sociology concentrating in gender and sexuality. I decided to take this course out of necessity and out of curiosity. It's one of the requirements for the gender and sexuality concentration and I've always enjoyed discussions about gender and sexuality. The word in particular that drew me in, moreover, was "interdisciplinary". As a sociology major, I've only really been taught to think about gender in sociological terms and theories. Because of that, I find that when thinking about gender ans sexuality my process is very boxed in my major. While I'm trying to do this on my own, I want this class to help me to think outside my box, while not ignoring the fact that it exists and that it has a valid argument in understanding the structures of gender and sexuality. I chose the user name Beta because (from my understanding) a beta program in computer language is a work-in progress, which I feel is very reflective of life. Also, I just really enjoy Ann Dalke's teaching style :). I'm really excited for this class and hope that it fulfills my expectations.

LizJ's picture

An Introduction

I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College and am undecided for my major. My background is probably the main reason that drew me to this course. I grew up in a very open household in terms of sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, but my mom remarried  and my dad came out of the closet. I also had  two gay godfathers who cam to every holiday and spoiled me rotten. I feel as though I have lived in comfort with the ideas of gender and sexuality for a long time, but have never really dug beneath the surface. I want to learn about all the varying perspectives on gender and sexuality, and hopefully get a little uncomfortable.

I've never taken a gender and sexuality focused course before, because I used to think I knew all there was to know. After one year of Bryn Mawr, that changed. I want my mind to expand even further. I want to understand all perspectives before I truly form my own. I am not particularly eloquent when it comes to words, but I do know I want to fully express myself in the open public forum this class is providing. I have high expectations for this class but most of all, for myself.

Terrible2s's picture

Phase 6: Nightmare

Hi I'm Terrible2s and I am a Bryn Mawr Sophomore. I am planning on being a Psych major, Education minor, and GenSex concentration-- if I can get all my stuff together enough to fulfill all of the requirements.

I've read a few peoples responses already, some of which have included a seeming qualifier to the post that she or he has no background in GenSex. I sort of feel like my whole life has been my background in GenSex, but I also do not have much academic background in the study. I (sadly) took a different intro GenSex course thinking it was this one, hated it, and am still trying to get over it. I'm really excited to take this course and have already liked the two classes I've attended. Hopefully this class will help heal the wound... 
I want a lot of things from this course. Mostly, I want to be surprised. I do not want to agree with the professor or all the students at all times, and I want this course to change my thinking.
How do I plan on getting what I want from this course? I hope that others share in my excitement and help to add to discussions and learning. For me, I'm always asking questions, especially when the subject mattter really interests me, and hopefully I'll learn new things and be surprised. I hope also to push myself to do research on my own, because I really am interested in the subject matter (hopefully I'll push past my laziness and really learn something).
So far, however, the class has already given me some surprises. So to expose myself even more, I did the McIntosh reading an hour before our last class. Having thoroughly read the material and highlighted sufficiently, I went for a quick nap before class. Pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow I began to have a dream--nightmare really--that everyone was a woman. Every person in the world. No men at all. Maybe channeling Charlotte Perkins Gilman (the one who wrote "Yellow Wallpaper" and "Herland")? I don't know. Either way, it was terrifying. We didn't all look the same, but there was this eerie feeling and like very strong energy coming out of all of the women. When I woke up and walked to class the only people I've seen so far have been women. Maybe that's because I go to Bryn Mawr. Either way, I actually do think McIntosh makes a good point in saying we need some reformation and reconstruction, and that includes Bryn Mawr. I think my nightmare reflected the stigma which surrounds "Feminism" which I contest. Maybe the class will at least teach me a way to process feminist writings with a different, less scary, perspective.
Thanks, and I hope we have a good semester!
Serendip Visitor's picture


i loved reading your posst =)

Terrible2s's picture

Thanks, Anonymous! Next time

Thanks, Anonymous! Next time maybe I won't use this forum for dream analysis...

justouttheasylum's picture

Land Mass

Hey all, this is Asia. I know my username allows a bit of anonymity (as well as some room to question my sanity) but I chose it because that's my AIM name and thus easy to remember.

I was crazy when I created that screenname.

Well. As you probably remember, I am a senior Biology major at Haverford. Most people thought I should be a Math major but while I like doing math, I like the thinking required for Biology. I knew I wanted to also complete the Gender and Sexuality minor because I spend all my time discussing those issues, I figured I might as well be able to put it onto my transcript.

One thing you all should know is that I grew up with my mother. That's it. A mother who worked, came to my school plays and made dinner. She braided my wild hair, fixed my bike and dealt with my bullies. Naturally, I didn't understand that women had "roles". So I suppose I want to explore in this class "simple" terms coined for defining these roles and the roles women take that don't concur with their role. Words such as 'tomboy', 'lady-like'. Phrases such as "strong woman". Comments such as, "I have a lot of male friends".

How? Well. This is allowed to be an open-ended thought right? So I guess, how it will be done is by...


Rhapsodica's picture


Hey everyone! I'm a junior at Bryn Mawr, and up until recently, I've been an English major. However, I am currently working on switching to an independent major in Gender and Sexuality Studies for a number of reasons. In a nutshell, I realized that I'm much more interested in studying issues related to gender from a number of different perspectives than focusing solely on analyzing literature. I've taken a number of English courses cross-listed with the Gender & Sexuality studies program, but have found ways to focus on gender in other courses as well. This year, I'm working on taking a much wider variety of classes, which I'm really excited about.

Out of the three major disciplinary areas we've been split into (humanities, social sciences, sciences), I suppose I would align myself mostly with the humanities since that's what I've studied the most up to this point, though I also have a great interest in the social sciences (especially sociology). I probably know the least about perspectives that come from the sciences, so I would love to gain a little more knowledge in that area from this class (and from the few members of the class who said they come from a science background!).

I decided to take this course in large part because it is required for my major, but also because I find it exciting to think about ways to draw connections between different ways of seeing and understanding questions having to do with gender. I love taking classes related to gender and sexuality because they have a tendency of pushing me further and further outside of my comfort zone, and I find that those are the situations from which I grow the most as a student and as a person. I also love learning from my classmates about their different experiences with relation to gender identity and their thoughts about the course material, and I find it fascinating to learn about all the different places (mental, geographical, etc.) we are coming from.

It's hard for me to narrow down what I would like to focus on, because I am interested in learning about pretty much anything - including things I don't even know enough about to name off the top of my head! Over the summer, I read various bits of Manifesta and became more interested in thinking about the third wave of feminism, as well as its connections to previous waves of feminism. As an Education student, I am also interested in thinking about how feminism can be integrated into curriculum and pedagogy, though this is something I've only barely started to touch upon.

I'll put it out there now that I don't tend to be a very outspoken person in class discussions, and that I've been trying to push myself to participate more actively since freshman year. I personally feel most able to unpack my ideas when I have the space to think things out, whether that is a space where I'm able to put my thoughts into writing (like this kind of online forum), or whether that means being in a classroom where I feel as though I am collaborating with my fellow students (and the professor) to learn from one other and help each other go further with our ideas, rather than feeling like I am being put on the spot to say something intelligent and profound. I think that in this class, we need to be willing to push each other's thinking, but not from a place of judgment or harsh criticism. I personally find it challening to put my unfinished thoughts on the table, but I know that I will have a much greater chance to grow and learn more if I do!

Owl's picture

Don't Know What to Expect...

Okay, so I literally have no background whatsoever in gender in sexuality studies and seeing as this is a junior seminar and I'm a fresh woman,I am completely and utterly afraid of what my brain is going to allow my mouth say. Nonetheless,  I am excited to learn more about the hierarchy of the male embodiment and how that influences what people think is the rise of women in society. In addition I want to see what others think about stereotypes and what effect they have based on people, based on gender and sexuality.  Although I have no professional background in this topic, I have been a party to society's traditional and outdated perspective on women, race, stereotypical judgment, and etc.

I don't know exactly how I will benefit from this class, but I do hope that I will gain a wider perspective on life the way we know it.


cantaloupe's picture


I was looking forward to having a special little online name, but I already have cjewett created because I posed on here for csem.  So, here I am.  I'm pretty excited about this class - it is opening up a whole new area of study I didn't know really existed.  I'm a sophomore, so I knew about the gender/sexuality concentration, but I never considered what that concentration, or any of the courses included in it, might discuss.  I've thought about the spectrum of gender and sexuality on my own and have come to accept that no one can identify themselves as strictly one thing.  I look forward to getting to know other people's opinions, and life experiences, as well as reading outside texts.   As for what I am looking for in the class, I am a pretty open.  I am having an extremely hard time deciding what it is in life that interests me and what I want to pursue.  I seem to like everything enough to study it all, but can't find one thing that I'm passionate about.  So I am hoping for new ideas and new sparks.  I certainly do have my own ideas, but I love being challenged to see things differently.

Anne Dalke's picture

hey back

Any of you can change your username by logging in, going to "my account," and writing in something else.
Then logout, and log back in with your new username. Voila.

Can't wait to see this new self!

twig's picture


so basically i have no formal gender/sexuality studies background. that said, i've done my fair share of feminist and gender readings and such independently as i felt moved to, though mostly back in high school. i am coming to this class because my time at bryn mawr is going on three years at this point, and i often find myself forgetting what it is like outside the 'bubble' as we (fondly?) refer to it, especially in matters of identity. i'm gay, a dyke, a lesbian, whatever we're calling it today, and bryn mawr is a place where that is no big news. we're big on diversity and everyone is allowed to be who they are, or so the literature goes. as an all female school (traditionally), we are even outside of so many of the everyday issues of sexism, and though we may examine and talk about them all the time, we do so from a place removed from the very context we are trying to examine. therefore, i am in this class to really look at those issues in a way that covers much more than just my own experience, and what i can see from bryn mawr. i am intrigued by the interdisiplinary approach, as well as the texts and the range of experiences we seem to have in the class thus far.

CCM's picture



 I am a junior at Haverford College majoring in Philosophy with a concentration in Gender & Sexuality Studies.  During my freshmen year at Haverford I was fortunate enough to enroll in a feminist theory course.  The summer following my senior year of high school I recall having a conversation with my mother about my course selection for my first year of college.  Of all the courses that the Bico had to offer my mom made it clear that I should take a women’s studies course in addition to an economics course (she felt it was important for me to learn about financial matters and how to budget etc).  Though I ignored her advice when it came to taking the latter course (which I shouldn’t have considering I have major budgeting issues) I was lucky enough to sign up for a philosophy course on feminist theory.  Since then I have taken a number of women’s studies courses in the Bico’s gender and sexuality studies department.  While many of these courses were philosophy courses they were also cross-listed in other departments such as art history, German, and comparative literature. All in all I have broadened my understanding of this truly dynamic field of study and look forward to learning more about this specific topic through other perspectives.  Since this particular course serves as the core course for the concentration I am eager to see what I will get out of it.  Nonetheless, I hope to get a more detailed few of the most recent feminist movements within the US.  Most of my other gender and sexuality courses have focused on broad topics within a particular discipline (i.e. sociology- the study of gender in the US).  After taking this course I hope to have gained insight into struggles that American women have recently and currently face in the name of gender equality.  Moreover, I strongly believe that it is important to gain an understanding of what the future has in store for us women.  In the academic arena we spend a great deal of time analyzing the predicaments that our grandmothers and mothers have overcome.  However, it is critical that we look at the road ahead to discover what social/political matters deserve our time and attention.  In the near future I plan to attend law school and use my undergraduate education in gender and sexuality studies as a building block to a rewarding career focused on legal work on behalf of women’s rights. 


ebock's picture

excited for the semester.

I am looking forward to making myself uncomfortable in this course.

Gender and sexuality affect us all in different ways, and I want to find out what others' gender experiences have been like. I also want to do my best to share my gendered life with others. Most of all though, I want to get a better sense of how I can be an effective advocate for gender equity and rights. I read a really excellent queer theorist over the summer named Riki Wilchins, and the ultimate goal that Wilchins was working toward was very strongly social justice-oriented. I think all too often gender, sexuality, women's, queer (& whathaveyou) scholars get too bogged down in the theoretical and academic life of their work. I don't want to get lost in the privilege I have by default as a student at Haverford. I think as a class we need to strive to keep the human component of the study of gender and sexuality as visible as we possibly can. That being said, it isn't always easy to reconcile our privilege and the real injustice in the world around us. I think that's why it will be hard for me, and probably for others in the class. Let's work together on it.

Oak's picture


I am also very interested in the social justice aspect (I realize I didn't explicitly say this, but effecting it is one of my main goals in life, though I'm worried about my ability to do this/the effects it will have on my life) and I'm glad you brought it up.

rae's picture

Riki Wilchins

Out of curiosity, what did you read? I also read Riki Wilchins this summer (both Riki Wilchins' Queer Theory, Gender Theory and GenderQueer, edited by Riki Wilchins, Joan Nestle, and Clare Howell). Both of the books have really helped in shaping my current thoughts on gender.

rae's picture

Hi, everyone!

Hi, all.

I suppose I might as well start with the beginning question. What am I looking for? Actually, that's a pretty good question. I guess I'm looking for something different. My primary interest in both gender and sexuality has to do with exploring all of their possiblities, if that makes any sense. I'm interested in looking at sexuality and gender beyond the binaries of gay/straight and man/woman. Queer sexuality and genderqueer/trans issues.

Most of the other classes I've taken that were crosslisted Gender/Sexuality have dealt with gender as mainly being about the similarities and differences between men and women, or whether those similarities and differences exist, or how they came to be; I'm hoping that this class might go beyond that. I've done a lot of reading on my own about living in the metaphorical space outside the gender binary, but I'd really like to learn more in a more classroom type of setting, as opposed to just teaching myself.  

I believe that that's a decent summary of what I'm looking for. Currently, I can only think of one question that I had during the first class: What is the definition of gender, for the purposes of this class?

Oak's picture


Question one: What am I looking for?

My first semester, I took an English/Gender and Sexuality class, and I realized (among other things) that analyzing things through the lense of Gen/Sex issues, and discussing Gen/Sex issues generally makes me REALLY HAPPY. I eventually realized that this might be a sign that I ought to minor/concentrate/independent major in it, so I went to a Gen/Sex tea last semester. Someone there kindly informed me that I needed to take this class in order to minor etc, and I signed up for it.

The other half of that answer is harder. I need to know other people's opinions about gen/sex issues (not least of all because I might find out some of my own by contrast). I need to be challenged in my ideas so I can examine them and learn to defend them. I need to find out what sort of things have part said about gender and sexuality in the past so that examine them, avoid needlessly repeating them, and use them as part of my own arguments. I'm also fairly certain that I need to know enough things that there are questions I don't even know I ought to be asking yet (sorry for the cliché).

Question two: How am I going to get it?

I need honest discussion. I need to make sure I speak up when I ought to (which I know I don't always) and I need to know the thoughts of my peers, especially when they disagree with me (though I will probably forget this sometimes). Also, I'm excited about Evolution's Rainbow, which I've read a few pages of already (By which I mean I need sheer information and interdisciplinary knowledge.

Question three: Thoughts from class?

Um. Wow. Yes. Luckily I jotted down some notes on my thoughts, which I will try to reproduce in a coherent order. I think I understand more of what Mark C. Taylor is talking about with his Problem-based departments. He wants universities to produce students that will work towards solving the world's problems. However, I'm not sure his method would work universally. Students would need to be driven. Some students are of course already driven and find colleges or independent majors that meet their needs (whether it is for solving the needs of the world or for getting the degree that will get them the most money). Of course, an environment where problems are presented to students as exciting things to be learned about might inspire more students to pursue them (just as someone these days might take a classics class to fulfill a requirement and then go "THIS IS AWESOME; I WANT TO MAJOR IN IT.").

This led me to thinking (or maybe the thoughts were simultaneous) about my own life goals, and how I can best use my time at Bryn Mawr to get the tools to fulfill them. I realized that there are classes on a lot of the things that I've been intending to study on my own time, and I should probably take advantage of that. And maybe change my intended major. Yeah.

Serendip Visitor's picture

A delayed but short and sweet hello :)

So I am still learning to navigate this Serendip business so I do apologize for being so late.
I am a junior at Haverford majoring in English with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I work at the Women's Center and spend this past summer interning for Women Against Abuse and Choice - two non-profit organizations, the names of which are more or less self-explanatory.
I'm not entirely sure when it is that I decided that I identify as a feminist or at what point I became interested in questions of gender and sexuality but I do remember being afraid of opening pinning myself to the infamous F-word in high school. I also think that, much like the woman in phase 2, I spent a good portion of high school trying to prove to myself (and maybe those around me) that feminists can be "pretty" and "social" too. A silly endeavor, I realize now, but at the time I think I strongly believed that the only way I could be taken seriously in my proto-feminist tendencies was if I also happened to look and act and be thought of in a certain ("desirable") way. Freshman year I took a course on contemporary women writers and had that charming phase 3 moment of awakening and fury when I realized that I'd been forced by my then-adored high school curriculum to read only the literature of dead white men. No wonder I hated "Catcher in the Rye," I thought. More than that, Ani DiFranco now made perfect sense - I'd grown up "gagged and blindfolded, a man's world in [my] little girl's head." Something to that effect.
However, in all of my new-found self-righteousness, it took me quite a while to see the other side of that bitter coin. 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.