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Taboo vs. Charades

pejordan's picture

For our teach-in, melal, FrigginSushi and I wanted to look at different modes of expression and how they related to our discussions in class and feminism as a whole. We particularly wanted to look at how people can use words or images to express certain ideas, and the difficulties that arose with each one, and so we used the general format of charades and Taboo to demonstrate this. We picked the words "strong" and "safe" for Taboo, and "weird" and "smart" for charades; all of these words are defined differently based on your experiences, and we wanted to use the difficulty of expressing them to demonstrate that we don't all have these shared experiences.


melal's picture

For our final performance,

For our final performance, pjordan, FrigginSushi and I organized two games that inspired by two things that we felt impressed: when we were asked to describe the “ without using the word “salty”, almost all people got stuck; and Spivak’s argument that authors should leave space for different explanations in their works. We hope it would make our performance more interactive and try to cover some of the main themes we talked about in class, including: different genres and their influence on people’s reading experience, interactive education and generally, the affects on class on people's behaviors in and approaches to their education. Here I attached our script used for the performance:


Charades is a game of pantomimes: players have to "act out" a phrase without speaking, while the other member of the team tries to guess what the phrase is. The objective is for your team to guess the phrase within 1 minute. Words will be showed to the audience and performers. Divide the players into two teams of two. Divide the slips of paper between the two teams.


Same as charades, words that showed on the cards cannot be spoken, giver of each team can only use words that are related to the “taboo” word as hints to make their partners guess the word in 1 minute. For example, the giver might have to get her partner to deduce the word "baseball" without offering the words "sport," "game," "pastime," "hitter," "pitcher," or "baseball" itself as clues. The giver may not say a part of a "taboo" word; for example, using "base" in "baseball" is taboo. The giver may only use speech to prompt his or her teammates; gestures, sounds (e.g. barking), or drawings are not allowed. Singing is permitted, provided the singer is singing words rather than humming or whistling a tune. The giver's hints may not rhyme with a taboo word, or be an abbreviation of a taboo word.

First Round: Team A do charades and Team B do taboo

            Words are: “smart” for charades and “strong” for taboo

Second Round: Team A do taboo and Team B do charades

               Words are: “safe” for taboo and “weird” for charades

 Questions for givers:

Which words do you feel difficult/easy to express in charades? Why?

Which words do you feel difficult/easy to express in taboo? Why?


People use their bodies as “images” as a means of expression when they paly with charadeswhereas in taboo they use “words” as a means of expression.

 We designed this intentionally as a reminder of how we have learned in this class and how this type of learning is important to us. First of all, images and words are two major means of expression. The works we’ve read for this class include both text novels, such as Middlesex &3 Guineas, and graphic novels such as Persepolis and the Smartest Kid on the Earth. Just as what people will find in the game, sometimes words are more efficient to express emotions and information; sometimes images may be more efficient. Neither of them is perfect and neither of them works all the time. For example, a word like weird maybe easy to be guessed if it is played in taboo, while “strong” is more suitable for charades. This is the first thing that we want to people to realize in this game.

Another thing that we want to address is that, even we express the word in the most suitable way to the others, they probaly still cannot guess it correctly. This is because everybody need to relate their own experience when they try to describe things.  For example, people may say "ladygaga" when they do taboo for weird. However, their partners may not think so.  For words that are socially constructed, people have different experiences with different them. Because we cannot sense their experiences and past, we may not have the same feeling as they do. Same for feminsm/gender, everyone has different diffinitions. The best way for us to learn gender is not to give it a definition, but to be open to everyone's view on it.

FrigginSushi's picture

I found the dicussion on

I found the dicussion on images vs words very interesting for me. I really couldn't pick a clear cut winner and we never did pick one or the other as the best or the strongest. Many times throughout the course we were asked to pick one or the other, but in the end we'd never settle on one thing. We'd say it's a combination of both or that they both have their pros and cons, but ultimately deciding was a challenge. I think this harkens back to the idea that in this class and type of institution, we are always taught to question everything, not necessarily to make firm answers. We need to be open to other peoples ideas and make our "answer" inclusive and welcoming to everyone. In my opinion, the fluidity of our answers is an example of feminist behavior that I subscribe to. Not necessarily the type of radical feminism that argues for rights, but the peaceful feminism that is open to different perspectives and hearing different voices.