Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

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

Syndicate content
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.

essietee's picture

Evolution Revolution: An "Androgynous" Teach-In

essietee: Here’s a little know fact about me: I’m secretly in love with fashion and beauty. I love that a person can put on one outfit one day to reflect their mood or a certain personal ideal, then completely change that image whenever they please. I struggled with this fluidity of fashion as a teen living in an environment where you had to declare yourself as one thing or another (ie: jock, cheerleader, theatre nerd, etc.). It’s been a long road, but I’m finally comfortable wearing a dress and heels to go out on a Friday night, then switching into cargo shorts and an old t-shirt for Saturday evening. This proved to be a point that I thought about while taking and posing for these pictures: we started out with photographs of our individual faces and body parts, then moved on to clothing and makeup. I felt like a paper doll, grabbing different options from my closet; some of my clothes were things that I haven’t worn since my first year of college, while others are staples that I usually wear at least once a week. Though changing multiple times in a common space where anyone could view me (sorry, housekeeping!), I was very comfortable in my presence with my group-mates and with the clothing choices I made. They reflect who I am: a multifaceted incidivual who believes in expression of self and personal creativity. It’s like the lyrics for the song featured in our video, “Androgynous” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “She's happy with the way she looks / She's happy with her gender.”

See video
venn diagram's picture

Material For Tonight

super crip
sexual diversity
abnormal vs. normal
2 to 1 pregnancy
sex selection
sex ratios
right relationships
ethics of care
cultural relativism
the people’s microphone
trigger warning
a grievable life

venn diagram's picture

What Makes a Family

See video
Shlomo's picture

Speaking "OUT"

Hi friends,

I know tonight is our last night of class, and you may no longer be checking the Serendip conversation posts anymore.  That being said, there is a post in our conversation that I think really merits more discussion.  That post is jmorgant's post "OUT" and the replies it garnered.  I think that the conversation about choice that resulted from the original post just kind of dwindled out, which is a huge shame, because it is not only an important conversation for us to have -- it is necessary for us to understand.

I am choosing to post anew rather than to respond to the original post in the hope that more of you will see this and join me in continuing to discuss it.  

As far as my perspectives go, I was blown away by the comments made by Christine.  Her story highlights the lack of choice faced by survivors as well as the extent to which lack of understanding regarding rape and sexual assault is ingrained in our minds and the system.  As a society, we need to strive to gain a better understanding of rape and sexual assault and what survivors are going through.  We cannot discount the witness that survivors share.  Let's keep talking.

phenoms's picture

Right Relationships in Urban Gardening - Overcoming the Race/Class Divide

     The difference that Humbach makes between rights and right relationships can be teased out within the debate on food security/sovereignty. Food security, as an ideal, is the right for all people and communities to have enough culturally appropriate food. Food sovereignty builds upon this by accentuating the importance of process in food acquisition. It places importance on community food systems, non-exploitation, and health.
      The issues of food justice and food security have always been important to me. On the surface, they are merely about food: having enough, access and availability. And on the surface, these are simple problems to fix, right? To fix hunger, farmers should plant more. Grocery chains should build stores in neighborhoods that lack them. But relationships always prove to be more complicated than their surface implications.

aybala50's picture

Moving towards a right relationship between Bryn Mawr College and Transgender Students

The following is a link to the movement I wanted to present towards a right relationship between Bryn Mawr College (or maybe all single-sex schools?) and transgender students. I chose to use a prezi to present this information to show that there has been movement, but also that I would like to see more movement. 

There is a zoom in/zoom out button at the right side of the screen, which you might like to use as some of the slides might be more comfortably viewed when zoomed in on. I have a slide with a link to my sources at the end of the presentation. I hope my movement through this work makes sense to all of you! 

Anne Dalke's picture

Schedule for Tuesday night's "teach in"

still haven't heard back from kammy, but/and/so
here's the (interim) current plan for tomorrow night
(feel free to use less--but not more!-- time than been's allotted for your group)

7:10-7:30: review end of semester requirements, portfolio work, etc.

7:37-7:44--amophrast, Katie Randall

7:44-7:59--venn diagram, jmorgant, phenoms

7:59-8:14--aybala50, lgleysteen, leamirella, S. Yaeger

8:14-8:29--jfwright, essietee, kimk, lwacker, rachelr


8:44-9:14--someshine, AmyMay, charlie, chelseam, Gavi, sel209, shlomo

9:14--9:30--end of semester evals

looking forward to this!

jmorgant's picture

"Consent is Sexy" at Haverford: Not Yet

I’d been working on another paper for this web event, one linking human rights abuses to sexual assault, and examining the relevance of transitional justice mechanisms. After the past three days, however, I feel compelled to share some of what’s been going on in my quest to build “right relationships” between people – students, administrators, faculty, and staff – on Haverford’s campus.

The Context: Rape and Sexual Assault at Haverford College

Haverford is mandated by the Clery Act to report crime statistics, including sex offenses. According to Haverford College’s 2011 Security & Fire Safety Report, there were reported 4 forcible sex offenses in 2008, 7 forcible sex offenses in 2009, and 8 forcible sex offenses in 2010. The same report listed 0 non-forcible sex offenses for the same years (but does not define how it distinguishes between forcible and non-forcible sex offenses).

(Source: 2011 Fire & Security Safety Report, Haverford College, 2011. Page 6.)

The Security Report goes on to acknowledge, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crimes of sexual assault are among the most underreported of all crimes. This is especially true on college and university campuses.” It continues, “Any reported rape or sexual assault will be treated confidentially with concern and sensitivity…All victims of campus crime are strongly encouraged to report the incident.”

Shlomo's picture

Creating Right Relationships with the International Refugee Community in the Wake of Little Bee

We all know that Little Bee is a work of fiction.  Its poetic text, symbolic prose, and beautiful imagery—while stunning—are not describing real people or events.  But it is based in reality, and the fact remains that there are thousands upon thousands of refugees around the world.  Many of these refugees bear horrific physical and/or emotional scars that we cannot even begin to comprehend.  And yet, despite our acknowledged lack of comprehension, it is only natural that we want to help these refugees.  We are all human, after all, and the thought of other humans forced to flee their homes (and sometimes forced to lose their conceptions of their bodies as home) is hard to understand and subsequently ignore.

     After reading Little Bee, I know there was some conversation in class about what can be done to aid refugees.  It is my hope that my web event will serve to further inform and thus continue that conversation.  I think that by better understanding the international refugee crisis, how we can help, and hopefully implementing our new knowledge, we can build a right relationship (or at least a better, more just relationship) with the refugees scattered across the globe.  Anyway, because I want this web event to continue our in-class conversation, I have written this web event in what I believe is a conversational tone.  Finally, I want to mention that this web event is by no means a complete discussion of all that can be done, but it is a start.  Thanks for reading.

lgleysteen's picture

Searching for the Right Relationship Between Agency and Subjectivity

Searching for the Right Relationship Between Agency and Subjectivity

Web Event #3

December 4th, 2011


            Every person has the capacity to obtain agency to an extent.  Agency is the ability to make active decisions about one’s life.  Agency is something that is impossible to completely achieve because of cultural, gendered, ethical, and economic restraint.  To possess all-encompassing agency involves removing a right relationship between the individual and their society.  The amount of agency an individual has is determined by their culture, ethics, gender, and socio-economic status.  Agency is subjective.  For example, one woman might see the act of wearing a veil as restricting a woman’s agency or even worse, judging the woman for denying her agency while the woman wearing the veil feels empowered because of her devoutness.  Agency can be seen as “the interaction between our self-conscious self and the social context we find ourselves in.  It is embodied in that individuals may be more, or less aware of how their environment, social context and upbringing affect their lives and their decision-making. (Williams, 39) Transnational marriage migration of ‘bought brides’ in East Asia is a phenomenon in which agency meeting subjectivity. 

lwacker's picture

Orange Alert

Gender Pay In-equality: A Call to Action In Orange Art

Attached are two documents:

Word.doc With pay gap data & reflective writing.

Artistic reintrepretation of possible road signage: photos of 14 different painted caution signs included.


Lee Wacker

Web-Event 3

Gender Pay In-equality: A Call to Action In Orange Art



[Figure 1]                                                        [Figure 2]


charlie's picture

wonderful video

A friend of mine shared this link with me and I thought the video was so wonderful that I wanted to share it with all of you. I wish I could be half as eloquent as this young man is. 


See video
charlie's picture

The Arc

Although cheesy, the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true. To express the concept of “right relationships”, I have “curated” an online exhibit of photographs. Although all of the photographs are real, because I have borrowed them from other websites, I have created my own titles for them. Additionally, for some of the photographs, the captions below the titles are not accurate for that specific photograph, but rather are based on the content of the photograph.

Because I am not computer-savvy enough to create a virtual gallery space, I will use my words to help you imagine the exhibition space in which this exhibit would be on display. Imagine a large, open room with light, sandy-colored wood floors and high white walls. There is also an expansive wall of windows allowing for natural sunlight to flood the gallery. The photographs would be 24” by 18” framed inside of a 2” white mat and a 1.5” solid black frame. The titles and captions would be printed on cards and mounted on the wall next to the bottom right-hand corner of the frame.

The Arc

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

rachelr's picture

"The Ugly Footprint of Africa's Black Gold"


     Chris Cleave’s best-selling novel “Little Bee” narrates the entangled lives of two very different women from two very different worlds: one from the safe and peaceful Britain, the other from the oil-torn and secretly brutal Nigeria. Little Bee seeks refuge in Britain after fleeing the violence brewing in her homeland over oil, violence that the government turns a blind eye to. While “Little Bee” is a novel, in a Q&A with Cleave he admits that the story does have a basis in reality, though the details and individuals themselves are fictional. On his website, Cleave invites his readers to “Explore the Issues,” providing links to supplemental material on Nigeria, the oil drilling in the Niger Delta, and refugees and asylum seekers. While the page title is “Explore the Issues,” the URL, in fact, reads “get involved.” It seems that through “Little Bee” Cleave is using a novel, a fictitious voice, to reach out to readers who may not pick up a book on human rights or contemporary global events to inform them of issues that may not directly affect them, but weave into the web of humanity’s entanglement and codependence. What is the relationship between Cleave’s fiction and the reality of the almost 160 million Nigerians and all those connected to them? That is what this essay aims to determine.

leamirella's picture

The nature of our entangled relationships; can we actually form a right relationship?

I had attempted to create a video paper for this webevent but I encountered a couple of technical difficulties that 1. did not allow me to be a little more creative and 2. made the audio and the visual not match up perfectly. (YouTube...)

But I wanted to include my actual point in case the video wasn't clear. The right relationship that I had tried to build was the relationship surrounding the reproductive health bill. Through my lesson plans, I had the intention to working within the social context of the Philippines (or as I sometimes refer to it, the motherland) to improve sex education and thus, help alleviate the large population growth, lack of resources as well as educate the youth about sex in general. My point (or you could even say the thesis of this paper) is that although I am very connected and "entangled", through my roots, I still find it difficult to be considered as an insider because I still diffract the issues through the lens of someone who has been educated and who grew up in another country. Thus, I question whether or not I really have the right to be giving advice in the first place.

Sorry if it was difficult to watch or follow! I wasn't really so sure about how to fix that problem...



See video
jmorgant's picture

In thinking about (re)constructing "right relationships"...

This short music video really spoke to me. Not only is it beautiful, but the central premise - rebuilding what has been lost - made me think about the concept of a "right relationship" - is it possible to rebuild what has been destroyed, to construct an ice castle from a puddle of water?

S. Yaeger's picture

A (Hopefully) Inclusive Conversation About Right Relationships Between Cis and Trans Feminists

Several weeks ago, a user of the website TUBLR posted about Bryn Mawr’s  policies regarding trans women.  She called the school out for a number of things.  Students, myself included, responded pretty quickly to defend the school and to explain that the Bryn Mawr community is largely welcoming to trans individuals. 

I have been thinking about the exchanges we had since then and I have come up with many questions.  When I was trying to decide what to do with this web event, I planned on writing a paper exploring my thoughts on a possible right relationship between cis feminist activists and trans feminist activists.  Then, the thought occurred to me that doing so would be a little pointless if there were no trans female voices involved.  I thought of the question recently raised in class about how to humanize someone you don’t know. 

So I contacted the trans woman who had posted on TUMBLR and asked her if I could interview her for my paper.  She agreed and I planned on interviewing her via email and writing a paper based on our interview.  Something about that didn’t seem quite right to me.  I had recently conducted interviews for a paper in another class and I hated the process of treating peoples’ narratives like data.  I hated the idea of creating a closed conversation that would then be  presented through the filter of me. 

Amophrast's picture

Safe Schools Legislation

Speaking of activism, it would be great if y'all could sign this petition for safe schools legislation in Pennsylvania, put forth by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, something that BMC's Rainbow Alliance and HC's SAGA are involved with.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition is an entirely youth-led and youth-run organization dedicated to advocacy across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth. Comprised of leaders from youth-led LGBTQ organizations across Pennsylvania, we work in educational institutions and local communties on behalf of LGBTQ young people.

Anne Dalke's picture

"something of non-speakingness....or, welcoming selective inhabitants of the margin in order to better exclude the margin"

I had a bit of a revelation during our discussion of Little Bee on Tuesday, and since--in the midst of insight!--may not have been very clear about what I was suddenly seeing, I wanted to write it out here.

In 1899, Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness. In the late 1950's, Chinua Achebe critiqued the novel as "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." He then created a new work of fiction, the novel Things Fall Apart, to give life and flesh to the sorts of figures Conrad had objectified in his novel. In 1979, the appearance of Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood called attention, in turn, to the peripheral role women had played in Achebe's novel. In this sequence a story was repeatedly re-worked-- first in criticism, then in fiction-- in order to bring into the foreground the sorts of characters whose lives had been neglected in earlier fiction. In each case, the attempt to fill one gap unexpectedly created another one.

Something quite similar happened with Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre. Like Achebe's essay, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's 1988 discussion of "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" made problematic the fictional use of people of color as representations of the tortured psyches of Europeans. Spivak's analysis helps explain the generation of Jean Rhys's 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea, in which Bertha Rochester takes center stage (in Bronte's novel, she had been confined to the attic as a madwoman, a figure of Jane Eyre's unexpressed rage).

Gavi's picture

Disability and Sex Workers

I stumbled upon this video today on the feminist site Jezebel...

What do y'all think? One thing that interests me about this documentary is that I find it very difficult to visualize a conmparative one about disabled women and a male sex worker, or about LGBTQ disabled individuals and sex workers (this is also a concern brought up in the comments on Jezebel). Of course, this documentary doesn't need to address the whole, multifaceted issue of disability and sexuality... but I think that the documentary, as previewed through the trailer, shatters some conceptions of sexuality (like the supposed asexuality of disabled people) while implicitly upholding others (like heteronormativity, or the greater male desire for sex). 



See video