January 2010 Archives

..and they are.  But on Sunday night's episode of the Duggar's reality show "19 kids and counting," it is Jill, one of the oldest children, who is acting as "mom" while her parents are at the hospital, preparing for baby #19.

Waiting for mom and dad to call from the hospital to announce the sex of their new sibling, the children gather anxiously in the family room, while the camera crew takes the opportunity to ask each of them what they think the "gender" of the baby will be. Though most of the kids answer either "i think it's going to be a boy" or "i think it's going to be a girl," one of the youngest, Johannah, responds "I think it's going to be a boy and a girl." 

Intrigued, I hit "record" on my Tivo while asking my partner, "Did you hear that?!"  Always the pessimist, she suggests Johannah meant that her mom was going to have twins, one boy and one girl, not a single child who identifies as "a boy and a girl."

But before I can draw her attention to Johannah's use of the word "it" to imply she's talking about a single child....or ask whether Johannah's intentions even matter because, regardless of what she meant, her statement "troubles" normative gender categories... for once, the Duggars give me exactly what I want. 

The camera cuts to a computer screen, showing a video of the Duggar parents announcing the "gender" of the baby.  It's a girl!  The camera cuts again, and the crew interviews the children to find out their reaction.  After a few predictable shots of the older children saying "I knew it was going to be a girl" and "yay! the girls are catching up!" they again turn to Johannah, who reiterates: "I think it's a boy and a girl." 

Always trying to stir up "trouble," the cameraman persists. "Why do you think that?" he asks the 4 year old as she twirls a lock of her blonde hair between her fingers.

"It decided to be a boy and---"

Johannah is cut off my her 18-year-old sister Jill.  Taking her sister's hand, Jill says, in an assertive voice, "They already announced what it was going to be. Did you hear that?"

Little Johannah nodds.

 "So why do you still think it's going to be a boy?" Jill asks.

Johannah sighs, exasperated.  "It's not. It's a boy AND a girl" she emphasizes.

Clearly, the little girl is not confused. She doesn't think her mom is having twins. She truly believes her new sibling is going to be a boy and a girl.  Furthermore, she is not suggesting that the baby is simply going to be born that way, but that it will "decide" to be a boy and a girl.  Thus, she is giving the baby agency, or the power to determine it's own gender. In fact, while I rolled my eyes when the cameraman asked what the "gender" of the baby was going to be, I have to give Johannah credit.  She answered the question that was asked. She articulated, quite clearly, that the baby is going to "decide" to present itself as a "boy and a girl."  I wonder, had she been asked about the baby's sex, whether she would have had a different response.  Does she believe there is a difference between the baby's sex and it's gender?  Unfortunately, this question was not asked. 

Still, in the few lines of dialog we do have from Johannah, we have quite a lot. Unlike her older brothers and sisters, Johannah is able to think beyond an either/or gender dichotomy and select both as a viable option. Is it because, at age 4, the gender binary has not yet been socially ingrained?  Or is she aware of gender conventions and intentionally choosing to subvert them?  Does she know that she is "making trouble?" Does she want to make trouble? If so, what kind of trouble does she want to make?  Is she confused, as her older sister seems to suggest, or is she expositing her own, nuanced kind of gender theory?

As bell hooks states in her chapter "Theory as Liberatory Practices," quoting from Terry Eagleton:

"Children make the best theorists, since they have not yet been educated into accepting our routine social practices as normal... they do not see why we might not do things differently" (59)

Still, Eagleton's use of the word "yet" is rather dooming. It suggests that, at some point, Johanna will give up on insisting that her new sibling is a "boy and a girl," acquiece to normative gender categories, and stop making trouble.

But, at least today, Johanna is still troubling the gender binary.  And she is getting in trouble for doing it. While her sister Jill may not have disciplined the 4-year-old in the traditional sense, she did use her language to attempt to discipline the child's thoughts. By questioning Johanna's logic and trying to convince her that her new sibling is only a girl, Jill is desperately trying to put Johannah back in line--- to make her understand and accept binaristic gender categories. While this constant discipling of thought may eventually break her down, today it is Johanna 1, Jill 0.  So far, the baby is still deciding to be a "boy and a girl."

Mean Little Deaf Queer

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i mentioned on the first day of class that i recently began reading a fantastic book that i think is based on the notion of troublemaking. 

the book is: mean little deaf queer by terry gallaway.
i am only about 75 pages into it now (because who has time to read for fun after classes start right?) but i am really enjoying it. here is a part of what the inside flat says: 

"As a ten-year old self-proclaimed 'child freak,' she acted out her fury at her boxy hearing aids and Coke-bottle glasses by faking her own drowning at a camp for crippled children. Ever since that first real-life performance, Galloway has used theater - onstage and off- to defy and transcend her reality. With disarming candor, she writes about her mental breakdowns, her queer identity, and her life in a silent, quirky world populated by unforgettable characters. What could have been a bitter litany of complaint is instead an unexpecting hilarious and affecting take on life." 

i am very interested to see how this story both troubles and doesn't trouble a whole host of notions including but not limited to queerness, disability, and acceptable social behavior. 

Question 2, for the hooks, Kumashiro, Yancy, and Davidson/Yancy readings:

Since this is the question dealing with my own lens/interests/discipline, here are my background/interests: I'm a student in the Curriculum and Instruction department, the Culture and Teaching track (which "engages the study of education as a cultural phenomenon" and looks at issues of equity and social justice in education). The two questions in which I am most interested in engaging (for right now, at least) are white supremacy in K-12 classrooms, specifically as addressed by white teachers with white students, and the disconnect between activism and academia.That's where I am coming from.

I'm going to make the assumption (and you can correct me in class if I'm wrong), that for most of us, most education, especially in PK-12 (prekindergarten to grade 12), did/does not have antioppression as its goal/purpose/vision nor has the goal/purpose/vision of theory been liberation. (This latter might now be different for some--hopefully many--of us given our enrollment/teaching in this class! But, it is still generally not that prevalent in the academy. And I would be SO pleased to be corrected on being wrong on that!)

Yet I agree with hooks and Kumashiro that these must be the goal/vision/purpose of education and theory. Inherent in this vision is being allowed and encouraged to be all of who you are (and are evolving into/from) in the classroom. So, my question for us is: What happens to students' relationships to schooling and education when they are not allowed to name their own realities and identities and have them enter the classroom, and what consequences does this then have individually, collectively, and societally?

More specifically, how is creating and facilitating a space where students can bring all their identities, realities, voices, and knowledges--and using them as a basis for what happens in the classroom--transgressive and troublemaking? To whom and for whom? How does it change learning? How would our own schooling (and teaching practices) look different if we had gotten this in PK-12? What might it mean as teachers/students in academia?

I also encourage you to check out "news" about my colleagues and their work on the Bill O'Reilly show last month. I will likely share more about it in class.

Troubling/trouble in the academy

So this week we are talking about feminist and queer pedagogies. What does it mean to make trouble (or be in trouble) in the academy? Or, what is troubling/troublesome about the academy? There are so many different ways to think about this and I am excited to hear/read some of your thoughts.

In my own work in feminist pedagogy, I am interested in the links between critical thinking/reading and troublemaking. Check out this quicktips on critical reading strategies  (you can also download a pdf version) offered at the U of M Center for Writing website. From a feminist and/or queer perspective, what strategies does it leave out for how to read critically? In what ways does it foster (or does it?) the troubling of texts? What other tips do you think should be offered that could enable students to read texts queerly or through a feminist lens? What if we created our own document for troubling a text?

Readings for next week (2.3)

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All of the readings for next week are available on our WebVista site. In addition to the Kumashiro and hooks, I added the introduction to Critical Perspectives on hooks and an essay from that book on hooks, pedagogy and whiteness by George Yancy. 

Sign-up Sheet

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For your reference, here is the sign-up sheet from class yesterday. I will also make the document a link under "handouts."

Graduate Student Symposium, March 6, 2010


The graduate students in the Department of French and Italian and Spanish and Portuguese put together a graduate student symposium every year to provide a space at the university to share our work and to hear from others in a variety of fields. 

This year, the symposium is on Saturday, March 6th.  The title is "Framing the Human": (De)Humanization in Language, Literature, and Culture", and the plenary speaker will be Deborah Jenson from Duke University.  Professor Jenson will also be giving a talk for IAS on Friday, March 5th. 

While both sponsoring departments work in literary studies, there will likely be people from disciplines outside of literature.  The schedule is not up yet, but will be soon, so keep an eye on the website.  It's too late to submit a paper, but I hope you all can stop by to listen to some of the panels!

"live the revolution" auditions

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I just happened across this notice on the U of M Department of Theater Arts and Dance blog for "live the revolution" auditions:


" I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."
-Martin Luther King

"The spirit of Revolution should always permeate the soul of humanity...Old order should change, always and ever, yielding place to new, so that one "good" order may not corrupt the world. It is in this sense that we raise the shout,
-Bhagat Singh


Colliding together the words of Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Rigoberta Menchu, Bhagat Singh, Subcomandante Marcos, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X, and other important revolutionaries- Live the Revolution is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative piece out to explore the need for revolution and change within our own society.

All of these revolutionary figures went on journeys were they had to inspire, fight, and provoke while constantly revolutionizing their beliefs. The collaboration of Live the Revolution is a creative journey that hopes to not only challenge and stretch notions of theatrical performance, but to engage the theatre and University community in a dialogue about how to revolutionize our own society and world.

In this piece collaborators will be asked- what in world motivates you into action, and what saddens you into silence? What experiences have left you feeling empowered, unstoppable? What happens when someone fights or challenges your beliefs? How do you fight back? How do you resist? Revolt?

This looks pretty cool...

big project

hi everyone, 

i have been brainstorming over the last week about potential projects i could do for our classes final "big project." i realized this morning that almost certainly other people have also been thinking about this. so i wanted to start a thread on here where we could bounce our ideas off of each other and help each other brainstorm. i hope this is okay, and other people are interested...

here are a few ideas i have been thinking about for my final project: 
1. troubling drag: exploring the theoretical implications of "bio-drag" and transgendered performers. is it still drag? is it still queer? or a new level of queer? what elements must be present for it to be so? how do queer people feel about this new turn in queer space/performance? 

2. queering queer identities: last semester in the seminar i was taking, the professor made a dismissive (almost demeaning) comment about how "everyone, even straight people, are identifying as queer now." im interested in the notions of what counts as a queer identity, what that means, how that can be troubled, and if "straight" people are "allowed" to claim that identity despite their heteronomative privileges. to take it one step further, how can queerness look differently than is assumed: lesbians dating gay men, transcouples that appear straight, lesbians or gay men dating someone of the opposite gender yet still identifying as gay? 

thats enough for now. lol. any comments, questions, suggestions? please please feel free to put up your own brainstorming ideas for your project too! 

A great event...

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Check out this great event by GWSS student, Katie Ernst:



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Here is the syllabus.

So, what do your notes look like?

I am always curious about how people think/interpret readings or what their reactions to a film are. What are your methods/strategies for reading a text? Do you take notes in the margins? Highlight? How many times do you read it? What do you look for? Do you have a special pen/pencil that you like to use? What about films? Where there certain ideas/images/scenes from yesterday's film that you were compelled to write about? What sorts of notes did you make about those important moments?

I have just created a new category for this blog: How we think.... I thought we could use it to post questions or reflections about the process of thinking, reading, engaging. Here is my first contribution: An excerpt from my very messy notes from yesterday's film.

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Troubling guilty-pleasure reality TV

Hi All,

So great to meet you all today! I am very much looking forward to this class! Our discussion about reality TV today reminded me of this recent article I saw about the new show "Conveyor Belt of Love." Transman Scott Turner Schofield was a contestant without any mention of his gender-identity. The show is hilariously terrible, and Scott is both endearing and fascinating to watch as he explains that he's on a tour to promote his book about masculinity, without ever disclosing. It's worth watching! (PS: Scott speaks on college campuses about being FTM, so this was not revealed as a scandal....its just that he's well known in queer and trans communities, and he was recognized on the show, hence the blog link below):


So obviously questions about discourse on passing-as-trouble emerge from this example. Judith Halberstam's IN A QUEER TIME AND PLACE addresses how transgenderism is often discussed as trickery and deception. How can we re-articulate passing in a way that does not criminalize transfolk?
I mentioned in class that I had written about the Judith Butler film, "Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind." In case you are interested, here it is: A Disciplinary Problem? The Unruly Child as Troublemaker.

Web Vista

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If you haven't ever used Web Vista, here's how:

  1. Click on myU and sign in (with you x500 and password)
  2. Once you are on your main page, click on the button that says, "my Courses & Teaching"
  3. If you are registered for the class, our course should show up on your page.
  4. Click on the link that says, "WebVista C"
  5. Then click on "log in"
  6. You should now be on your WebVista main site. This site lists all of your courses that have WebVista sites. Click on the one for our class (GWSS 8190 Section 003).
  7. You should now be on the home page for this course. Click on any of the folders to access and download the readings
  8. You're done!

Welcome to our course blog!

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Welcome to the course blog for GWSS 8190: Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking. Here is a description of the course:

What are the political and ethical possibilities for making trouble? How have selves or communities made trouble in effective ways? What would it mean to think about troublemaking as a virtue? What are the limits of troublemaking? What are the links between troublemaking and feminist theoretical activism? Radical democracy? Queer theory and practice? Humor? Critical thinking?  How can we trouble the academy in productive ways?

In this graduate seminar, we will explore all of these questions (and more) as we closely examine the nature and practice of troublemaking. We will closely examine how troublemaking and the troublemaker are represented and performed within specific social contexts and how race, class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity shape our understandings (and evaluations) of them. And, we will critically explore the ethical and political potential of troublemaking, as a practice, method, critical lens and/or attitude. In particular, we will look at how making trouble functions in a wide range of feminist and queer theoretical, political and ethical projects of transgression and transformation. While this course will draw upon a wide range of disciplines and methodologies, we will give particular attention to (1) troublemaking in philosophical and ethical contexts and (2) bringing philosophical/ethical understandings of troublemaking into conversation with specific practices of troublemaking.

Some topics include:

  • Trouble in/troubling the academy
  • Judith Butler and Critical Thinking
  • Staring as specular, spectacle, and ethical encounter
  • Excessive emotion and subjects-beside-themselves
  • Race and Nation Traitors
  • Children, Disciplinary Problems and the Prison Industrial Complex
  • No Future, Cruel Optimism, and Hopeful Troublemaking
  • Sarah Ahmed, Queer Happiness, and the Feminist Killjoy 

How to Blog, a primer

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Step 1: Getting Started or How to Log In and Set up my Alias

1. Go to http://blog.lib.umn.edu/
This is the UThink main site for U of M blogs.
Thumbnail image for image1.png

2. Log in by clicking on the link (login to UThink) located right under About UThink on the right hand side of the page.

3. If you are not already logged into the system, you will be required to submit your x500 and your password. If you are already logged in then clicking on login should take you directly to your Dashboard. Your dashboard will list any blogs for which you are an author (courses, personal blogs).

To access our blog, click on "System Overview" at the top on the left hand side. I have added all of you to our blog as authors, so you should see our course on your list of blogs. Click on it.

4. Now you should be on the author page for our blog. This is where you can create entries, upload files, and edit entries.


5. For those of you who haven't used UThink before: You can set up your own alias for posting. This means that when you post an entry or a make a comment, only your alias will show (not your email address or your name). As the blog administrator, I will be the only person who knows that it is you posting. If you are a little nervous about posting, this is a good way to stay somewhat anonymous. To set up your alias, click on the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, Hi x500 number (in the image above, the link says Hi puot0002). Now you are on the edit profile screen.


Choose your display name. As you can see, mine is Sara. You can pick whatever name you would like.

Step 2: Creating a Basic Entry

6. Now that you are on the author (or, the behind-the-scenes) site for our blog and now that you have signed in and created your posting name/alias for our blog, you can create an entry. Click on create (located on the right hand side right above the course title) and scroll down to entry. Click on it.


7. You should now be on a page titled "Create Entry." You can create a title for your entry by typing in the box, "Title." Then, type your entry in the bigger box below.


8. A note about body vs. extended entry: Above the big box where you type your entry, there are two options: body and extended. If you are writing a particularly long entry, you could post the opening paragraph in the body section and then the rest of the entry in the extended section. When people look at your entry on the blog, they will only see the part you wrote in the body with a link at the bottom that says something like: "continue reading entry x." This can be helpful in making the blog visually more compact, but it not necessary.

9. When you are finished typing your entry, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on save (If you want to preview your entry first, click on preview. This can be helpful in making sure that you formatted everything correctly and that you put in the right address for your links). Once you have saved the entry, click on the view site button which is located at the end of the row that starts with the "create" button.


10. A note about tags: Right after the text box (where you type your entry) is a much smaller box labeled "tags." Tags work like key words and can be used to identify the key topics in your blog. So, if you are writing a blog about Roseanne as a queer character or the Twilight series as reinforcing heterosexual romance, you could tag your entry with the keywords: Roseanne, television shoes, working class, anti-capitalism or Mormonism, heteronormativity, vampires. Type the keywords in and separate them with commas. Put these keywords in before you save your entry. These tags will be reflected in our tag cloud which is located midway down on the right hand side.

Step 3: Creating links, inserting images and embedding youtube clips.*
*These should all be done before you hit save and post your entry.

11. Links: Okay, so now you have typed in your brilliant entry about the representation of feminism in 1970s popular culture, but the whole thing looks kind of...boring. One basic way to make it more interesting (not to mention interactive) is by adding in links to other sources (that you have referenced in your entry or that point to more information on the topic or that offer a different perspective). The way to add a link is to highlight the text that you want to create a link for (like Mimi Marinucci and her great article about third wave feminism and The Brady Bunch).


Then click on the image of the chain (you will find this image in the row of buttons above the text book). Enter the address for the link and then click on OK.


12. Images: But, wait, you say. Links aren't enough. You want more things to add to your entry. You want images.

a. First, find the image you want. Probably the easiest way to do this is by opening up a new tab or window, going on images.google.com, and putting in a key word to search. That's where I have found most of my images...like this one:


Because this is a basic primer, let's stick with google images. So, you have typed in "Brady Bunch" and found a great image of the family that you want to use. Click on the image. Then click on "see full size image". Drag the full-size image onto your desktop. Now you are ready to upload the image into your entry.

b. Switch back to the entry you have been working on. Put your cursor at the place in your text that you want the image to appear (like where you are discussing the Brady Bunch). Then click on the button (which is a few after the link button) that looks like an image and is called "insert image."


Click on the "upload new image" link and then browse on your desktop for the image of the Brady Bunch that you just found on google images. After you have selected the image, click on upload. Now that the new image is uploaded, you will be given a bunch of file options. It is up to you how you want the image to look, but here is what I usually do. I click on "display image in entry," "use thumbnail (with a width of 150 pixels)" and "Link image to full-size version in a popup window." In terms of alignment, pick whichever works best for you.

Finally, click on finish.

13. Youtube clips: Now that you have started adding things, you can't stop. Links and images aren't enough. You want to embed cool youtube clips in your entry. Here's how:

a. First, find the youtube clip that you want. Open up another tab or window and go to youtube.com. You can search for clips. I searched for "feminism" and found this funny video about Ms. Pac Man: A Feminist Hero.

Once you find the clip, you need to embed it. To do this, you need to find the embed box (located on the right hand side in the grey box under the URL), highlight the embed text and copy it.


Note: For a fancier version of the youtube clip you can now customize your embed clips. At the end of the embed box you will find a blue gear image. When you scroll over it it should say "customize." Click on it. Now you can pick a color scheme for the border of your clip (I recommend green to match our site) and a size (I would say 500 X 405). Now copy the embed text and follow the next step.

b. Now go back to your entry and put your cursor on the place that you want to insert the youtube clip. Before pasting it in, make sure that you have changed the format (located above the insert image button) to none (away from rich text or covert line breaks). The embed text will not work in rich text; it will just show up like a bunch of code. Once you have switched the format to none, paste in the embed text. Now you have added a youtube clip