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Precarious, Performative, Playful, Potential...Perspectives!

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Anne Dalke's picture


           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.

jmorgant's picture

Sexual Misconduct Policy Reform at Haverford College











Source: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape


Haverford College is a small liberal arts college that prides itself on its community, Quaker roots, and commitment to social justice. Upon matriculation in 2008, however, I was dismayed by what I perceived to be a lack of resources for survivors of sexual assault* on campus as well as the broader absence of conversation about these issues. In the winter of 2009, two other Haverford women and I started a student-run support group called Survivors of Assault and Rape (SOAR). Since then, a small group of committed Haverford students has embarked on a quest to instigate rape and sexual assault policy reform. Although we have faced frustrating bureaucratic barriers, what has at times been perceived as resistance and a lack of support on the part of the campus administration, Haverford has substantially altered its rape and sexual assault policies in the last three years. This paper is the continuation of a number of pieces that I have written about rape and sexual assault in colleges (see “Consent is Sexy at Haverford? Not Yet”). I hope that this paper may serve as a resource for other college students hoping to change the rape and sexual assault policies on their campuses.


charlie's picture

Precariously Yours

Dear Anne & Kaye,           

            This class held quite a few firsts for me. It was the first class that I had that met only once a week and at night. The first class that was co-taught by two different professors (and from two different colleges). The first class in which the internet played a role larger than a resource for research. The first class I have taken in gender and sexuality studies. The first class in which we were asked to challenge everything – the way a class should work, how we performed and acted in class, the way a paper should be written, and most often, the gender binary.

rachelr's picture

Disappearing Daughters

I found a video on Yahoo news about the missing females in India, babies aborted, neglected, or murdered because they are females. There is a town in India that has the least gender diversity in the world. The video is about 6 minutes and really ties in with our discussion about abortion. They speak to one woman whose husband (who is a doctor, as she is) and inlaws tortured her when she refused to abort her twin girls, and her mother-in-law threw one of her twin daughters down the stairs when she was 4 months old. She says that everyone admits the growing gender gap is a problem, but no one wants to take on the responsibility of having girls who are a financial burden because of the illegal dowry system. 

AmyMay's picture

Reflections on the Consent is Sexy Campaign: Moving Forward, Looking Back

Reflections on the Consent is Sexy Campaign: Moving Forward, Looking Back


“To grieve, and to make grief itself into a resource for politics, is not to be resigned to inaction, but it may be understood as the slow process by which we develop a point of identification with suffering itself.  The disorientation of grief—“Who have I become?” or indeed, “What is left of me?”  “What is it in the Other that I have lost?”—posits the “I” in the mode of unknowingness.” (30)

 –Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence


The Consent is Sexy campaign I co-organized for my Final Web Event has definitely been an emotionally, physically, and academically exhausting venture.  The above quote speaks greatly to my feelings about the campaign. The project was a political endeavor inspired by my experience of violence, trauma, and grief.  However, it was also an exploration and coming to terms with the new person that came out of the survival of that trauma. For me, the campaign was just as much a form of mourning as it was inspired by mourning.  The emotional nature of this form of politics was inspiring and empowering at the same time that it was frustrating and problematic.  These experiences have made me wonder if restorative justice can truly be achieved for survivors when their community is willing to look forward, but not back. 

AmyMay's picture

Consent is Sexy in pictures

I wanted to separate my thoughts from the consent is sexy campaign from the actual pictures and materials I gathered while working on the campaign.  Below is a photo montage of the postering and chalk we put up around campus.



Postering Thursday, December 1st.  Let's get organized!


Alliances are best vuilt over tea and donuts!

The only people we targeted... the Deans (Chase).

...well, I guess we targeted the Interim President too (Founders).

Let's get chalkin', so people get talkin'...

someshine's picture


During each “finals” period, I find myself attached to a different song in my music library that I listen to on repeat, almost literally, for the entire week. This semester that song is John Ondrasik’s Chances. Some of you may be more familiar with his single 100 Years or his stage name, Five for Fighting. Re-reading my portfolio, reflecting on my journey, and musing on our sylla-ship, I’m reminded of how excited I was for the potential in our semester together. 

Amophrast's picture

Teach-In: Privilege and Precarity

For our final performances/the teach-in, I worked with Katie Randall and kammy. Our performance had two halves: a world portrait of privilege (or lack thereof), and balancing privilege and precarity.

For the first activity, we did a smaller scale version of the "world portarit" village of 100 people, based on statistics from this website: We focused on specific statistics, such as gender, literacy, poverty, access to electricity, etc, and scaled them down to a class of 25 people.

-          Gender

o   12 male

o   13 female

-          Geography

o   1 from North America

o   2 from Latin America/Caribbean

o   3 from Europe

o   15 from Asia

o   4 from Africa

-          Overall literacy

o   20 would be able to read/write

o   5 would not

-          Education

o   16 would have a secondary school education

lwacker's picture

Lee Wacker Self Eval.

Lee Wacker


GenSex 290

Self Evaluation

At the beginning of this course I was slightly terrified. My attitude was rooted in my fear that I had never taken a gender and sexuality studies course that wasn’t cross-listed with another department (silly, I know, because the nature of gender and sexuality studies within the tri-co is that it is inter-disciplinary). So I automatically believed coming into the class that there would be no room for intersectional, inter-textual and entangled scholarly work. My, my, how wrong I was!

I assumed that since I was taking two other Flexner Lecture Seminars I would do the bulk of my inter-disciplinary learning in those classrooms and the heavy theory work would be done within my gen-sex core course. If anything I found the opposite to be true. Our core-course was a site of theory knowledge and also mainly of theory gestation through the intra-action of our extensive and overlapping class acts. I found myself applying the heavy theory from my other Flexner courses onto the material in our core course and vice versa. A mirroring pattern and diffractive engagement thus developed between my academic classes that provided space for layered deep critical thinking.

charlie's picture

The Arc: An Exhibit on Right Relationships



The Arc

Written on the wall, to be seen as the first thing when entering the exhibit:

“Right relationships are human relations in which each (or all) seek, without abandoning themselves, to be attentive and responsive to the needs and emotions of one another, quite apart from considerations of entitlement. There are also several important “negative” markers of right relationships, namely they must be free of systematic oppression, exploitation or manipulation. That is, a relationship is not “right” if participants seek to overbear in power (oppress), to overreach in resources (exploit), or to mislead for selfish advantage (manipulate).” – John A. Humbach1


The introduction to this exhibit, to also be printed on the wall:

See video
leamirella's picture

My Diffraction.

I began the course excited to see how far I would be able to push the boundaries of my knowledge about gender and sexuality studies but I was a little bit concerned that the class was to meet only once a week and at night. Seeing as I had never participated in a course that was like this, I was a bit nervous that I would not be able to keep track of everything that was going on in the class and that the conversations would not flow as well as I was accustomed to.

At the end of the course, I still feel the same way about many of my assumptions about the course. Given its entangled nature, I felt that I definitely valorised the two and a half hours we spent as a group once a week. I found it difficult to keep my thoughts flowing because of the large gaps between classes and as a result, I found that this was the biggest factor in keeping me from learning as much as I could. Although I am a fan of Serendip and appreciate how conversations can go on outside of the classroom in the ‘virtual’ world, I found that it just was not the same as meeting each other face to face. Though this was the case, I did find myself talking to others in the group about the subject material and this was a nice way to keep myself participating. This drawback was definitely a personal thing however, I have heard of others that liked the once a week meetings and online discussions.'s picture

Questioning Gender Through Dance

First of all, apologies for being antisocial and doing my teach-in so individually. I really liked the group participation that so many of the other ones provided and I'm sorry mine kind of lacked that dimension!

For my presentation, I wanted to showcase some of the instances in which the assumptions about gender that we've been questioning all semester get questioned variously embodied ways in four distinct dance worlds, suggesting that in its inherent playfulness and performativity, dance is an important outlet for the creative expression of gender, both normative and nonnormative.

(Before I go through them, here's a great TED talk, Dance vs powerpoint, that inspired me to think about how one might do a "teach-in" that incorporates dance. If I had more than 7 minutes, I would have been doing some movement myself -- and getting you all to move, too!)

Anne Dalke's picture

Photos of our Teach-In

phenoms's picture

Hillary Clinton's speech

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to say that I'm heartened that this space will live on past the official ending of our class/ semester. In the spirit of perpetual online communities I thought I would make one more post regarding activism and current events.

Has anyone seen this?? It speaks to the concept of rights in regards to cultural relativism. We've been talking a lot about the importance of individual activism on a structural level. It's rather hard to conceptualize how an individual such as myself could possibly go about creating change on anything but an individual level. I'm not a member of congress. I'm not a millionaire. I'm certainly not Paul Farmer.

Believe me, I appreciate the value of social movements and the inherent potential of many voices mobilized against oppressive power structures. But we also have to think about our elected leaders as resources for change. While social movements are vital to cultural structural change, government leaders have the capacity for structural and legal change. The symbolic power of government public protection and recognition can go a long way for both activists and opponents.

someshine's picture

"Yarning" A Playful, Precarious, Potential Right Relationship

Our concluding activity is a diffraction of Eve Ensler's litany, Karen Barad's concept of entanglement, and John Humbach's discussion of right relationship.

Each member of the class wrote their individual contribution to the litany enumerated (anonymously) below. The model we offered was, "I am over ______./, (and) I commit to ______." All of the slips of paper were mixed together before being passed out at random. One by one, we entangled our ideas by tossing the ball of yarn to the member of the class whose utterance was shared. They then read the slip in their own hands and repeated the tossing process, being careful to pull enough excess string from the ball of yarn prior to toss! Below is a cropped image of our circle and the yarn, captured by Anne Dalke.

"Yarning" A Right Relationship


Please, classmates, return here for inspiration and conversation. If I did not procure your contribution, feel free to email me ( and I'll gladly add it to this post. The semester is coming to a close now, but we're just getting started, eh? ;)

I'm over observing from the sidelines as a passive ally for rape and sexual assault survivors. I commit to the active pursuit of JUSTICE.

lgleysteen's picture

The Entanglement Machine!

During class tonight I drew this, thinking about some of the main themes of our course.

Kaye's picture

info session: solidarity delegation to Nicaragua

I have received funding from CPGC to lead an educational delegation of six Bi-Co student to Nicaragua from May 30-Jun 8. This 10-day study tour, which will introduce students to the political, economic and cultural histories of Nicaragua, is coordinated by ProNica, a Quaker organization founded in 1987 to build “sustainable cross-cultural relationships between the people of North America and Nicaragua” and will be guided by Carmen Gonzalez, who has lived in Nicaragua for over 20 years.

Our delegation begins in Managua, where we stay at Quaker House, learn more about Nicaraguan culture, speak with community leaders, and visit sites important in the Sandinista revolution. From there, we travel to smaller cities and villages in the central highlands, such as San Marcos, Matagalpa, San Ramon, Esteli, Largatillo, and
Achuapa to meet with grassroots organizations that provide integrated health care, opportunities for childhood and adult education, and link producers to fair trade markets. We will speak with women whose husbands and children were killed during the Sandinista Revolution and the Contra War, with adults who provide a safe space for children living in La Chureca, the largest open land-fill in Central America, with women’s healthcare providers, with farmers, librarians, artists and shopkeepers. These interactions will help us understand on a deeper level how international policies and interventions affect the lives of our Nicaraguan neighbors and how we can be in solidarity with them as they build healthier and more sustainable communities.

leamirella's picture

Apples To Apples: The Gender and Sexuality Studies Way!

For our final performance, aybala50, lgleysteen, S.Yeager and I created our own version of the (as I've come to find at college) popular game Apples to Apples. Using words that were particularly important in our discussions throughout the semester, we created adjective and noun cards and asked for volunteers in the class to play.

And we we didn't just make this game to make people have fun! (Though this was part of our intention.) We thought that just that simple game revealed many of things that we have been discussing this semester. First of all, we thought of the ways in which each player diffracted the adjective through their own personal lens. But this was not the only thing at play. Though the player was thinking of how they could use their words to 'match' with the adjective, they were also considering which word would win them the round and be 'judged' as being the best card. This demonstrated the entanglement between the players and the judge.

Additionally, there was further entanglement when considering that we had them play in front of the whole class. This was another factor in the decision that the player made as they were also aware that they were appearing and thus, had to choose a word that the class would understand. There was also entanglement to us, as the creators of the game, as we gave them them a fairly limited choice of words.

Lastly, we wanted to demonstrate how each of the words did not lend themselves to a fixed definition. Thus, we managed to question our use of labels and the way in which we define certain terms.