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A Perfectly Feminist Curriculum

hpolak's picture
Hilary Polak
December 5, 2008
    I decided to draw a short cartoon for this assignment. I have never made a cartoon before, but I have discovered that it is an effective way of getting a message across. Like I learned with Persepolis, the combination of words and images can sometimes project a concept in a more powerful and accurate way than just text. The goal that I tried to achieve with my cartoon was to expose the problems with education on the topics we discussed in this class. I believe most people never even come in contact with these issues in their lives. When people do start to learn about these ideas, it is usually not until college or later. I think this is a bad system, and I think education on these important issues needs to be addressed earlier in schools. I believe that the later people are exposed to things, the more likely they are to reject the idea. Not only can people reject it, they can also treat it with disdain and disrespect. In my cartoon, I showed a group of college students in a classroom setting being taught about these concepts. They appear to be confused, and after the class have conversations about how this was completely new to them, and some of them found the ideas strange. One girl feels uncomfortable about the whole situation, and wishes she had been exposed to this material earlier on in life. At night, she dreams of a high school where she was taught about sex using a spectrum that included people with disorders of sexual development. She imagined an English class where heterosexual love poems were read alongside gay love poems, and a history class that examined the existence of transgender figures in the past as well as present. She also thinks about a lesson on minorities within different cultures around the world. I wanted to show that it is valuable to provide children with a comprehensive understanding of sexual and cultural identity so that they can be well informed throughout their lives. When this is done at an earlier stage, children are less likely to be critical and disrespectful, especially when it is being taught as an academic subject.
cartoon.jpg405.4 KB


Anne Dalke's picture

Re-imaging Education


I see two (different?) things going on here, and would be interested to hear a little more from you about how you understand them--I'd call them form and content, or shape and sense--in relation to one another.

On the one hand, you are trying your hand @ a form that's new for you, combining words and images as a more powerful, accurate way of projecting a concept. On the other hand, you are arguing for a very concrete intervention in education: introducing students earlier to some of the ideas (about intersex, transgender, varieties of global/local gender oppression) that many of you have encountered, for the first time, in this class.

I'm delighted to see you experimenting with a new creative form--and delighted that you weren't the only one, this time 'round, to explore what drawing might do that words alone can't. See especially Words vs. Graphics, which argues that words "offer more freedom" to the reader, while pictures involve a more "direct" process--or at least the illusion of directness, a transferal from the brain of the author to that of the reader, without an intermediary.

The central idea of that essay is that words allow (invite? insist on?) more imagination on the part of the reader, than images do. The latter are more directive, more instructive, more didactic...and so more helpful "when the author wants to make sure the reader is thinking exactly what the author wants to convey."

Graphics, that essay also says, "cater to time," allowing for a fuller expression of simultaneous activity than words--which have to be laid down (and perceived) linearly--can manage.

Do you see now what my questions are? Your picture-essay is about imagining a gender curriculum that begins in earlier grades. You picture that idea through a dream. What is the effect of doing so? How might your pictorial account work differently--more effectively--on us than a written one can do? Do you think you have included dimensions of being more directive, more instructive, more didactic...? Or is something else going on?

In what ways, in other words, does form convey function, follow or express content?

I look forward to learning--