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Notes Towards Day 11: Into the Vortex (Of Designing Our Syllabus Together...)

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 11:
Into the Vortex....

Feel warmly invited to the new "open and open-ended conversation" about
matter, form, meaning, aesthetics, emergent, evolving processes....


Let us use our school studies to
"redefine and reconstruct history to include us all."

(Peggy McIntosh)

The power of human emotion in an academic setting amounts to nil....No one grades us based on how much of an effect the material had on us and how well we allowed ourselves to be connected to and invested in it. No one places value on the depth or scope of feelings we experience or connections we’ve been able make with regard to our sense of self, personhood, and identity....It matters little what sort of wondrous and transformative disease(s) may be inhabiting our minds and bodies due to our honest engagement with what we are learning and the ways in which we are applying what we’re learning unless there are SYMPTOMS.... (Karina)

Today we enter Stage Two of a 4-Part Process that seems to be symptomatic:

Dreaming your own dreams 

II. Creating a vortex
"The vortex...destroys the barriers between dreaming minds;
destroys the ordered chaos of the Dreaming...."
(The Doll's House, p. 208)

Re-ordering the dream space  (Thursday's task?)

IV. Ordering the books, or...?!

Let's acknowledge, up front, the danger of raised expectations...
having dreamt, individually, how can we now work, collectively, towards a shared design?
(story of my kids, always angriest @ their edgiest/most inventive teachers, due to dashed hopes....)

N.B. I won't be commenting (publicly or privately) on your papers;
our conversation today is all the commentary you are going to get....
(how wish I'd asked you to respond to one another's!)

Also: adjusting my (totally reasonable-but arbitrary expectation
that we will all name one another before break....

We are going to get into groups of three to discuss...
Who Are We?
What Do/Don't We Know?
What Do We Want to Know?
How Are We Going to Learn It?

We will be stepping off from what have you said in your papers,
asking how we can bring those claims together collaboratively,
how we can enlarge our spheres of study--and action.

As per the instructions on this week's forum: don't just respond to individual recommendations which please or trouble you, but begin to think more largely about the patterns, desires and problems you notice when you begin to imagine constructing a class out of our wide variety of interests and hopes.

To inspire our work: some highlights (to music: a poem....?)
Janis Joplan, Cry Baby (from cantaloupe)
MIKA, Grace Kelly (from Elephant)
Yael Naim, New Soul (from Karina)
Ani DeFranco, Fuel (from Rhapsodica)
Petrucci, Lost Without You (from skindeep)

Are we, as women, speechless?...Are we constricted by language...or can we use language to free ourselves from constricting societal structures? Does thought proceed language or language proceed thought? Are we allowed more freedom to dream and interpret in a novel that lacks pictures, or a film that “shows it all”?... we could make a silent film or create a slideshow of pictures to convey our thoughts or feelings without the use of language. Would it be more liberating or constricting?
my education [has] been very women and queer centric....All my conversations, classes, seminars...lack a comprehensive discourse because they have not included the reactions to these movements’ push for social change and reform in social definitions....ending the semester [with surveys of our peers]...really emphasizes the complexity of this subject and experiences of individuals....where resistance from the oppressed and the oppressors’ reactions to that resistance inform one another to create different world views and interactions.

so what?  So what if I read an essay...? so what if i understand the categories...? what does this mean to me?  what do i do?....learning from one person at a time is the only real way we can ever understand the warped, intricate world....i think that movies and images are what we need to focus on in the remainder of the semester.  words might only just lead us to more words, but images might lead us to action....we all need to be reckless in our radicalism and see what comes of it....we understand that we have nothing to lose by exposing our souls.  

There is a lot to be said in favor of an education which is in dialogue with itself....The graphic novel was full of characters who varied from the gender binary but that wasn’t the point of the story...that non-issue approach lets readers empathise with charaters they otherwise might not....our studies would benefit a lot from more diversity of different systems of oppression work in conjunction with each other...perspectives we haven’t heard from yet and think critically about why we haven’t heard them....

I want to learn about other people. Let me hear your stories....I think that the rest of semester should be about story telling, fair story-telling...learning how to represent our experiences and others’ experiences in a new people the agency and the vocabulary to own their experiences...I want to learn how to learn from the people around me....from people outside of Haverford and Bryn Mawr. I want to do [this] with the people in our class, I want to hear their stories, and I am not afraid to ask.

Let’s look into the body again. Let’s look at ourselves. We are diverse... Let’s put that out there. Let’s let people know....Suicide is a problem. Amongst those who see themselves as different....If more people knew of the natural beauty of diversity...there would be less hate towards it and therefore less death....Let’s show people an alternative to a cruel world....Let’s create something from nothing....People have created the categories of gender and sexuality....let’s make them differently.... Express a newly created idea...Make [it] yours and show it.
I’ve been working a lot with theory, with words and language and thought....I feel that this kind of intellectual exercise is in some ways an act of displacement, of pulling back from the world and into my head....I don’t think that any of my classes have ever taught me what to do with that knowledge....we must actively work to uncover what’s next....believing in the transformational power of texts themselves is just naive....a part of life...lies outside of the classroom, outside of the intellectual can we use that knowledge to better the world around us? ....I’ve spent a lot of time inside my head in the past few years, theorizing and articulating and contemplating and analyzing, and I think I’m getting a little antsy....I would love to...learn how to transform thought into action.

So now I am learning how to think about gender in another way, to question its significance and usefulness...I feel like I have a responsibility to myself and to my community to look into how gender identity is useful and/or harmful....If we're looking to reconceptualize gender as something fluid then it would be ignorant to avoid reconsidering our own gender identities....we need to be aware of discourses that are going on in the rest of the world, bring in more perspectives from outside of the classroom....Lets rewrite our story of gender and sexuality in a way that effectively applies to our lives and the lives of everyone else in our communities....Is it socially possible to be a non-conformist?

why...was I longing not to be in school when I spent so little time in school to begin with? Because they never taught me anything I thought was truly never gave me the answers to the questions I thought needed serious answering....Sometimes one cut doesn’t get rid of it. Maybe a few cuts focus our studies only on America will do us a great injustice. I propose the studying of cultures foreign to ours....[Another] the exclusion of male experiences....I propose...[that we] challenge our belief of men as the sole source of our problem....Women have...taken the defining of themselves in their own hands....We must explore...songs by female rappers....

The most basic point of entry, from my perspective, is language. Language...significantly shapes the way we think...the way we ourselves and the culture in which we live permit us to think....investigating the gendering of spoken and written language is key to understanding the (presumably) gendered reality in which we live....The first step is to venture outside the classroom and engage in direct spoken dialogue with men...The second part... would consist of...deliberate attempts to to push beyond that limiting binary and attempt to create pieces of writing that [has] no gender at all.
Simone de Beauvoir says... “ being a man poses no problem”....[but] men...are by no means excluded from the demand of societal norms. How do we go about...bring[ing] the male into our gender & sexuality consider questions often neglected? My best guess: by talking....I’d like to see what everyone else has to express about this topic via interviews, film clips and art work—I’d like to have more creativity introduced into the classroom to be able to visualize others’ experiences in and out of the bounds of our community.

I recommend that the remainder of the course be dedicated to better understanding the way the spectrum of sexuality, biological diversity, transgenderism, transsexuality and gender neutraility are misunderstood and large portions of society.

I’ve gotten out of our previous texts - trying to know where we came from, to gain the basic framework necessary for understanding where we’re going next, telling stories and histories.....But do we always need to start that way? Can we dive right in, starting with the personal histories of the people around us, not grounded in theory but simply in interpreting experiences in our own way, to start with?...I think we can. I think as academics, we spend too much being afraid to just not know, to explore other points of view without first armoring ourselves in analysis....Another thing that I get the feeling that people are thinking but not really saying is - we need to stop talking about Bryn Mawr so much....We need to get out in the world more, not just out of the Main Line and collegiate world, but also out of the Western World. 

in addition to...putting others into boxes and categories, people try incredibly hard sometimes to put themselves into boxes, and are unhappy when they can’t....last year I made an attempt to Educate Myself by reading a book called Out of the Past...these stories were not exactly what I was looking for....I wanted to know what the history meant...particularly what it meant for the future....I’d like a look at the future in the future of the course. I want the tools for shaping it. I want tools for activism. Some of this will be through re-hashing the past, looking at what has been done so we know what not to try....I also want to study current organizations that fight for...rights.

this is the first course... that has taken me far beyond my comfort zone and made me want to keep it that way....we  must try and avoid...going down the same path  as previous activist and instead of breaking the strings that hold the pyramid together...simply add more bricks, thus making it harder for future generations to destroy it.  But what is it really that we  want to destroy, and what is it that we want to create? is up to every generation to  bring  society up to date on  the new ideas of the world....discussing in a class room setting can only go so far. My dream for the remainder of the syllabus, would have to be more outside....practice our beliefs and get involved.

gender [is] something more than just a noun that describes what we are.... If gender is something we must continually do, gender is more flexible, more fluid, and more fragile that it is usually assumed to be....For the remainder of the semester, I would...focus...on transcending gender.....Overall, I do not know what it is that I do not know..... What I don’t know is how other people react to the idea of breaking down the gender binary. What I don’t know is what other people think about the viability of living as neither a man, nor a woman, in today’s society. What I don’t know is how I am limited in thinking about gender....Maybe in speaking with others, I will learn what it is that I do not know. Maybe together we can come up with ways to enact change.

As I grew up, the “real world” took over...and I stopped getting lost in books the way I once did....this should be our approach for the rest of the semester...not getting wrapped up in theory and academic thought without connecting it back to the ways in which it is relevant in the world outside the pages of deconstruct the conventions that we have come to accept as given, and to use what we uncover to make things different for our generation and those following it....[to be] willing to look and think deeper, rather than being apathetic and complicit in allowing things to just stay the way they are.

...before I came into this class. I was movement. I could see the light, and it was bright enough to touch me, to engulf me, but the path that lead to it was not always clear. I could see objects along the road, make out the shapes, but I was too engrossed in the light and hence there was always a sense of haziness about the journey I was on.....The ideas [the class] poses are new to me but it still seems like I’ve always known them, it’s always been alive inside me, I just didn’t know it. I wasn’t aware. And now, slowly, I can feel the awareness seeping a manner such that it is firm enough to have structure, yet loose enough to yet be molded....and then we dream.

The study of gender and sexuality seems like a joke. How could it be a real study? It is comparable almost to saying that one is minoring in “race.” How could a part of one’s identity, whether they choose it or not (opinions may vary), be a field of study?....rather than simply studying activism...we should be active. What is the use of this controversial class if we are not going to do anything with the knowledge that we gain? some point we need to break out of our minds and bring what we learn into the world....[to] create change so that studying something so important will no longer be trivialized.

...encouragement wasn’t what we needed to move from the margins to *gasp* the real text....discomfort breeds change and our private institution of pseudo empowerment, we are comfortable and so we are numb....we live in a false comfort....gender/sexual deviance is not safe like theories. its not quiet....we don’t live in a comic book world. we live in a world where what are you can sometimes eclipse who are you... all in all i’m interested in how this course will turn out. i hope we can steer away from sterile theory and move into the more relatable aspects of the human experience.

Emerging from the dream into the real world of schedules....
to get us all on the same page to start,
here is also a (somewhat disordered) review of your concrete suggestions:

Jules et Jim

Hard Candy
The Butterfly Effect, dir. Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber

Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin, America on film:
representing race, class, gender and sexuality at the movies

fiction, memoirs, poetry:
The Bible, Koran, and Torah

Tony Hoagland, Donkey Gospel
Lynn Breedlove, Godspeed

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

Andrea Gibson, poetry

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Leslie Minot, "Girl Clothes in a Box," Bad Subjects


Kiesling, “Power and the Language of Men”

Land and Kitzinger, “Speaking as a Lesbian:
Correcting the Heterosexist Presumption”

Gertrude Stein, "Lifting Belly" (non-mimetic language)

Lynda Barry, What It Is (graphic novel to help w/ our own storytelling)
Moisés Kaufman, “The Laramie Project” 

Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights

Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present

Deborah Siegel, Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture 


household labor:
Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Second Shift
Jeremy Adam Smith, The Daddy Shift: How Stay at Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms
and Shared Parenting are Transforming the 21st Century Family

Ken Corbett, Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities
Melanie Heath, Soft-Boiled Masculinity: Renegotiating Gender and
Radical Ideologies in the Promise Keepers Movement

Joseph H. Pleck, The Myth of Masculinity

non-U.S. issues:
Crimes of Honour, dir. Shelly Saywell (the lives of Islamic women)

Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time (the AIDS crisis in Africa)

Michelle Cliff and Jamaica Kincaid  (Carribbean memorists)
David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly and Edward Said, Orientalism: Introduction

popular culture:
media, fashion web sites

Disney films

The Makers of Cool (PBS documentary)

Foxy Brown, "Ill Na Na" and Nicki Minaj, "I Get Crazy" (female rap)
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Kate Brian, The Virginity Club

sex work:
Live Nude Girls Unite!, dir. Vicky Funari (unionizing sex workers)

sexuality (as biological and social phenomenon)
Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality

John H. Gagnon and William Simon, Sexual conduct: the social sources of human sexuality

Chris Beasley, Gender and Sexuality: critical theories, critical thinkers

Gillian Creese and Daiva Stasiulis, Introduction: Intersections of Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality

Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: Men, Women, and the Rest of Us

Kate Bornstein, My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man,
a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely
Kate Bornstein, Hello Cruel World:
101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws

Riki Wilchin, “It’s Your Gender, Stupid!,” “Queerer Bodies,” “Changing the Subject,” and “Deconstructing Trans,” GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, ed. Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins

Susan Stryker

Julia Serano, Whipping Girl

Richard Ekins and Dave King, “Transcending Stories," The Transgender Phenomenon

Morty Diamond, ed. From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond

Carol Queen and Lawrence Schime, eds. PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality

Robert J. Corber and Stephen Valocchi, eds. Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader

Paul Robinson, Queer Wars: The New Gay Right and Its Critics

Scott Barclay, Mary Bernstein, and Anna-Maria Marshall, Queer Mobilizations: LGBT Activists Confront the Law

Kevin Kumashiro, Troubling Education: Queer Activism and Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy

Matt Bernstein Sycamore, That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation

Nikki Sullivan, A critical introduction to queer theory

late-breaking additions!

Marjane Satrapi, Embroideries
Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex -
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For
Sherman Alexie, anything
Jean Kilbourne, video documentaries
Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project
TransGeneration (TV series)
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

Okay, you've got 45 minutes! Come back to the group w/ a
proposed plan for Days 16-26 (Oct. 29-Dec. 3)
of the semester.

N.B. Thurs, Nov. 5: Kate Bornstein's "big performance" @ Villanova
(possibly/probably meeting w/ us, earlier in the day...??)

Tues, Nov. 17: Felice Picano will be visiting our class.

So--what combined sense can we make of what we have done?
What shared dreams and possibilities can we see?
Re: concepts? texts? our interactions around them? our products/projects?

Homework: finish reading your classmates' papers.
Post your after-thoughts/forward-thinking thoughts on the course forum-->


All afterthoughts welcome from today's discussion;
also focus especially on products, such as...
make a silent film or create a slideshow of pictures
choose some cultural product and report back to the group with observations
writing exercises:
--construct a non-mimetic representation of some experience of our own
--record a week of consciously acting, speaking, behaving in ways that avoid reinforcing the gender binary --change the way we speak & act:ask your family/friends why they use the language they use.
--think of 10 stories you’ve heard....
take/draw a picture, write a song/poem/story/scene/dialogue, make a movie/dance. create.
venture outside the classroom to record direct spoken exchanges; compile and analyze the data; use it to write writing that is masculine, feminine, beyond gender....
do something to help an organization 
set up conventions (instead of inviting speakers to our class room):
organize close knit environments with people from the outside world
write a coming out story
move into action: protest the M/F stickers on SEPTA passes or observe a Transgender Day of Remembrance; write Op-Ed pieces re: gender, trans, genderqueer, queer, gender-nonconforming diversity; write legislators re: passing employment non-discrimination acts
interview individuals who have some connection to the topics we are discussing each week
conduct individual research on different forms of gender-related activism (NOW, HRC),
then share our findings in class in the form of a "jigsaw"
give individual reports of how gender and sexuality has affected different countries and cultures
take the information we have learned and use it to create change in a local arena
write weekly one-page position papers
conduct student-generated surveys to get peers' opinions and experience
engage in a community education/ analysis project:
go to a local highschool and present the things that we have learned in class
each of us picks a text from her own area of interest
each of us proposes her own personal project to enact change.
and pedagogy...?? 
(no one's said a word....)