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Precarious and Performative Play Web Paper 2's picture

And Tango Makes Three: Making Sense of the "Gay Penguin" Controversy

Note: I ended up having trouble putting the thoughts I had about this assignment into the form of a block of text directed at a single audience, largely because, as you will see, I found that there was not any one side I wanted to definitively take on these rather complicated issues. In the end, I think my audience remains mostly (rather prosaically) the other members of our class, but pay attention to how parts of my essay are directed at others, including the authors of Tango, parent Steve Walden, and scholar Joan Roughgarden.

AmyMay's picture

Biological Discourse and Rape Culture at Haverford College


“The sperm is inevitably characterized in a narrative of virility, aggression, and mobility.  Eggs are… well, your basic egg is usually described as a combination of Sleeping Beauty and a sitting duck.  Plump, round, and receptive, it waits—passive and helpless—for the sperm to throw itself upon her moist, quivering membranes.  The sperm push furiously at [the] inert egg until one of them finally penetrates deep into the warm, defenseless tissue.”

-Richi Wilkins, Queer Theory Gender Theory


chelseam's picture

Gender and Sexuality in the High School Biology Classroom: Fostering Critical Thinking and Active Engagement

    Gender and Sexuality in the High School Biology Classroom:

Fostering Critical Thinking and Active Engagement


Summary: This project was undertaken with the hope of changing the ways we think about teaching and engaging with science. This paper will discuss ways to help students recognize that science is interdisciplinary and can both affect and be affected by the social and/or political context it exists in.  

By asking students to think about the way science is presented and conducted, and giving them the tools to think about science not as an isolated body of information, but as a dynamic and shifting discipline, we will not only be encouraging more engaged science scholarship, but will also help students begin to notice the ways science is used as evidence in different contexts and evaluate these uses.


The goals of this project are two-fold. I hope to suggest ways for biology teachers:

aybala50's picture

All "Women's" College

Both the conversation and the letter are fictitious. I do not know what the college's response would be to a student who sent in a letter of a similar manner. I can speculate based on informal conversations and in these conversatinons I was never given a definitive answer, which is what inspired this project.

Sex: biological distinctions between males and females
Gender: based on societal factors such as values, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes

Casey- A high school senior in the process of deciding what colleges to apply to. She is a trans woman who has male biological sex organs.


Mom: Hey Casey, how is the application stuff going? Can I help?

Casey: Good and I think I'm ok

Mom: Just okay? When is everything due? Are you on top of it?

Casey: I still have a few weeks before the apps are due. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to apply to Bryn Mawr College ED

Mom: ED is really serious. Are you sure? Tell me more about Bryn Mawr

Casey: I really think it's the right place for me Mom. Bryn Mawr is an amazing liberal arts school, it's not too far from home and it's an all women's college

Katie Randall's picture

Presenting on Intersexuality-- A Template

After our unit on De/Meaning Sex and Gender, I knew I wanted to focus my web event on intersexuality. It’s a form of biological diversity of sex which most people don’t hear about until college, and many not even then.

So I started thinking—when would it make sense for students to first be introduced to intersexuality in an academic setting? I thought back to my own education in biology and the answer, to me, was middle school. In my middle school we had a unit in biology class which was basically “puberty education,” although I don’t remember what its official title was. We learned about the physical changes that male and female bodies go through in puberty—in other words, the changes our own bodies were going through right then. This would have been the perfect time to mention that not everyone would exactly fit into one pattern or another—that chromosomal sex, primary sex characteristics, and secondary sex characteristics don’t always match up. But this was never covered—not in middle school, high school or beyond.

I know that not everyone is given information about sex characteristics or the reproductive system in middle school, or even later. But to me the timing felt right.

I included the permission slip because I think that for many schools this would be part of the process of giving such a lecture.


Sample permission slip:

Kammy's picture

Sex and Gender Flowchart

The following is a satirical piece assembled for an audience of youth and peers. It is meant to illustrate the importance of biology and scientific studies with regards to their influence upon dominant discourse within our culture – regardless of whether those findings are conceptually relevant, methodologically rigid, or statistically significant. Scientific studies are often grasped and cited in the process of forming policy and promoting social agendas. Such use of scientific data is theoretically ideal, so that policies might be informed by factual understanding and thus work towards aiding populations to which they apply. Unfortunately however, data is often misinterpreted and reinterpreted. The practice of drawing upon “scientific studies” in order to bolster an argument is common and widespread. This practice hinges upon a Western epistemology that privileges science and rationality, thereby conflating it with authoritative power. It is therefore no surprise when a politician throws in a statistical figure, or when a scientific study is cited by legislators. The use of such scientific data is a means by which authority is gained, as it (authority) is conferred upon the subject by an unquestioned body of knowledge that is called upon. Furthermore, the use of scientific data is by no means confined to the realm of politics or policy – it is gratuitously used in mainstream media: as the crux of an advertisement, appearing as trivia in television shows, or even disseminated as fact on the news.

Gavi's picture

The Rainbow of Sex Difference: A Snippet from a Preteen Health Book

For my second web event, I chose to convey the concept of the healthy diversity of sex organs in the form of a preteen-and-up health book. As I was growing up, whenever I had questions about my growth or development that I might not have felt comfortable discussing with my parents or peers, I’d turn to one of these books. (The one I owned and referred to most often was the American Girl book The Care and Keeping of You.) I had a lot of questions, and most of them centered on an anxiety of normalcy. My concept of what was biologically and psychologically “normal” and what was not was almost entirely based on the information included in these colorful, approachable books. In fact, a wonderful health book to which I owe a lot of this project’s information and tone is even titled It’s Perfectly Normal. These health books are definitely valuable sources of information, but this information is often normalized and therefore presented as the only viable or healthy route in growth and development.

sel209's picture

"Dex" and Diversity

"Dex" and Diversity: A Message to the Medical Community

In the interest of full disclosure, I will begin with what I am not: I am not a doctor or a nurse. I have never been to medical school or completed a residency, and I’ve never conducted a physical or delivered a baby. Nor, for that matter, have I ever had to advise a scared and confused parent-to-be on how to best ensure the health and well being of an unborn child. Now that you know what I am not, here is what I am: I am a woman. I am someone’s child and someone’s sister. I am a student of gender and sexuality studies who embraces diversity and difference and discussion. It is with these credentials that I write to ask you to reevaluate what the medical community currently labels as "normal" and "healthy" and to push you to reconsider the lines you draw between what it is to help and what it is to harm. Below is my take on a rather contentious topic that is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s society: interfering prenatally with the gender of an unborn child. I use the controversy surrounding the “treatment” of a specific genetic disorder to highlight the importance of autonomy and self-expression through bodily diversity, and through this discussion I urge you to consider a change in perspective on the definition of normalcy with respect to gender.


phenoms's picture

Lesson Plan : Intersex

Hello All,
I would just like to preface this web event with a short explanation of my format/subject choice. When I was in the 9th grade, I had a biology teacher who, one day, convinced a male classmate that men menstruate. The teacher continued the prank, asking “***** have you really not gotten your period yet?” This boy began to get visibly anxious, as he oscillated between belief and skepticism. Everything he had learned about menstruation through popular culture led him to believe menstruation and masculinity did not mix. And yet, here before him was a science teacher testing the malleability of a mind by trying to convince him otherwise.

Knowledge comes to us from all directions - which means that (mis)information can be conveyed  through a plurality of sources. It’s as important to disentangle popular myths as it is to build up scientific “truths.” The following is a lesson plan designed for high school health teachers who wish to confront the issue of (inter)sex from more than one perspective. In order to learn something, it is instrumental to unlearn false truths first, we must sift through the myths surrounding the sexual binary.

High School Teacher Lesson Plan / Guidelines for Teaching Biology and Representation of Intersex bodies.  

To explore and discuss the scientific continuum between the sexes
and the culturally constructed binary of male/female
To unlearn myths/half truths about intersex

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