Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tutorial Time: Fun with Gender & Media

Last year I was a teaching assistant for a course called "Sexuality, gender and society". Since I scored the same assignment again this year, I've already started planning for the kinds of activities and discussions we might be able to have in tutorial.

I wanted to make sure I had a solid list of interesting resources for the class, the kind of stuff that students might "get into" more as it provides examples and context for them and connects more to familiar experiences--shorter commentaries, videos and other media, blog posts, web discussions and so on. I'm thinking about emailing the class once a week with these additional links.

Here's a list of some of the resources I may end up using, depending on the syllabus. Most of these could be fitted into more than on category, so they could be used in various contexts for the course.

Gender essentialism and norms...
..."Women, know your limits" from British comedy show Harry Enfield & Friends skewers ideals of feminine decorum and passivity (and the assumption of superior male intelligence!).
..From the blog Sociological Images, a nice piece on performing masculinity, and one on "McCoy Crisps: Men are stupid, shallow, sexist sport-o-holics." Advertising at its least flattering!
...An episode of This American Life about testosterone. What's it like when your body stops producing testosterone, or when your T levels increase suddenly?
...The "nurture" side of the debate, research showing that gender differences are due to socialisation.
...A relatively recent article about Toronto parents who decided to keep their child's gender secret.
...My Body Gallery blog highlights "what real women look like" by displaying users' photos of themselves.
..Malika's Indian Trangender Blog, and a documentary called Middlesexes about trans experiences and issues; a news piece about how Australia is the first country to recognise a "non-specified" gender.

Pop culture...
...The real reasons why guys should hate on Twilight.
...The Celluloid Closet, a fantastic documentary about the history of queer representation in film.
...Buffy vs. Edward Cullen: guess who clobbers whom in this little encounter? A classic face-off between stereotype-busting Buffy and Mr. Sullen Cullen!
...A threaded discussion about female characters in the Harry Potter series; and a blog post on "The women of the Harry Potter universe". For good measure, here's a video of Hermione Granger, another atypical female character, telling Draco Malfoy what's what.
...Music videos: last year in one tutorial we had an interesting discussion about this, so I'd like to bring it back and ask students to bring in their own examples. The one I used before was Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" in which she draws on the aesthetics of 60's Motown and 50's rocker Little Richard.
...A discussion by a group of Black intellectuals and artists, about misogyny in Hip-Hop.

Gender & work...
...A chart (made from a report from Georgetown University) showing that women need a PhD to make as much as men who have a BA.
...At the same time, here's a contrasting article about Canadian women making more money than their husbands.
...From The Atlantic magazine, "The end of men" looks at a "reversal" in women's fortunes that could lead to female dominance in powerful positions in the workforce.
...In Sweden, more men are taking paternity leave; and in Japan, male "Herbivores" eschew high-stress lifestyle choices of their parents.
...Mary Churchill explains why her colleague feels like she "needs a wife", a great discussion of privilege and gender in the academic workplace, where gender disparities persist.

Women in science & technology...
...Women in science don't have as many children as they'd like.
..."Why Female Science Professor?" in which the author describes her experiences as a female scientist. I brought this to class last year and it was well-received.
...Womens' continuing under-representation in science and exclusion from pay parity in STEM and technology-related fields.
...Articles about the gender gap in Wikipedia contributions.
...The Guardian UK reports on the "lost women scientists" of The Royal Society, including Caroline Herschel.

Gender & violence...
...Fulbright Scholar Rumana Manzur of Bangladesh was attacked and blinded by her husband in June, 2011.
...Article from the BBC: the United Nations has classified rape as a war tactic; and a post from Scarleteen on how men can help prevent rape.
...Homophobic violence: Tyler Clementi committed suicide "after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was video streamed over the Internet without Clementi's knowledge" by his room-mate. This was one of the suicides by queer youth that prompted the "It Gets Better" project.

Experiences of sexism...
...The blog Microaggressions documents readers' everyday experiences of sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination.
...From Hook and Eye blog, "This month in sexism" provides some examples of sexism in academe.

Gender & history...
..."Songs of the Suffragettes": I was given digital copies of these fabulous old songs, which were "rescued" from vinyl by a friend in Toronto. I think in tutorial we could have a discussion about the songs' lyrics, style, and political context.
...Episode "The Damsel" from documentary series Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. This is an excellent little piece on women in Medieval Europe.
...An article about Clemence Royer, the female economist who translated Darwin's Origin of Species into French.
...An account of 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, in "Victoria and her Sisters", an episode of Simon Schama's History of Britain.
...A short piece on Nancy Wake, who was a spy in World War II; at great personal risk, "Wake committed herself to fighting Nazis after she interviewed Adolf Hitler in Vienna in 1933."

Gender & education...
...A blog post from Macleans has a discussion of the animosity towards Women's Studies in Canada.
...In the US, the UK and Canada, women have outpaced men in university enrollments and achievement. This had fed into a more general concern about boys' literacy and the "success" of males in the education system (and in life in general).
...A male author dismisses critiques of Canada's funding for international researchers, an interesting example of the discourse of meritocracy.

I hope you enjoyed the list (which is really just a brainstorm); if you have anything to add, please leave suggestions in the comments! In particular I'm looking for more resources on gender and race--especially indigenous issues--and masculinities/examples involving men (students requested this last year).


  1. This is a great list. I think reading Harvey Mansfield's Manliness could provoke some heated discussions, and it goes will to watch it with Fight Club. Watching/discussing the evolution (and some would say devolution) of Sex in the City is good, too.

    On Twitter, I'd say, @SPARKsummit and @bitchmedia too. @GoodMenProject compelling.

    In fiction, I'm currently writing about Nalo Hopkinson's collection of short stories, Skin Folk, but she is compelling on gender, sexuality, and race in all of her writing. And her art projects (look up her article, Maybe They're Phasing Us In, seriously, it's worth it; she combines a Bratz doll and a My Little Pony).

    Hopkinson, Nalo. "Maybe They’re Phasing Us In: Re-mapping Fantasy Tropes in the Face of Gender, Race, and Sexuality." JFA 18.1 (2007): 99-108.

    What else? My Bad Female Academic stuff isn't so much about sexuality (although, wouldn't THAT drive up my pageviews):

    If I think of anything else, I'll come back and share!

  2. Thanks Lee!

    Here's another one I'd forgotten about: it's an older (1972) BBC documentary called "Ways of Seeing", and this episode is about female nudes; what's interesting is that the documentary host lets a focus group of women do a lot of the talking.