More links

I hope you’ve all had a great spring break! Shame that we’re losing an hour tonight – well, technically, we’re not, but whatever. I’m reluctant to shift out of this (sort of) blissful holiday mode to get back into the swing of things but here’s my effort to force myself out of it.

After scouring the first few (reliable) pages of Google search results from a combination of key words, here are links to some of the works of the authors Ray mentioned in class. Click here for Eula Biss’ essays, here for the only David Shields essay I came across amongst a ton of book reviews, here for an essay by Maggie Nelson, and here and here for Bhanu Kapil’s writing.

Edit: Right after I posted this, I went back to the Capstone blog to see that the post wasn’t there. Of course it wasn’t because I’d tagged it in the Gateway blog. Apparently even my mind is stuck in the past. 🙁

Reading resources for project

The three reading resources that are important in explaining gender fluidity, which is the focus of my project, are available in PDF format. One of the files is quite large as it is a compilation of 15 pages that were “scanned” with a phone app (thanks for the tip, Dana!). As such, I will be sending out the materials via a CTools message (if the attachment limit permits).

Below are my annotated bibliography for each reading to provide clearer context for the material:

How Sex Changed by Joanne Meyerowitz

Chapter 7 (“The Next Generation”) of the book How Sex Changed is particularly helpful in outlining the history of the transgender movement. This chapter discusses the change in acceptance of transgendered people in the US. In particular, it highlights the roles of doctors and scientists as contributors to both sides of the debate. While some surgeons were dedicated to performing sex-change surgeries, others were openly resistant to the procedure. The chapter also discusses the relationship between the transsexual movement and the feminist movement. It describes the tension between the movements as the feminist movement began actively excluding those who were not born with female genitalia but identified as women. Many feminists openly rejected the possibility of others they deemed “not women” as they believed that a man cannot possibly identify as a woman and understand the implications of being a woman. This chapter also discusses an interesting study conducted to show the changes brought about by sex-change surgeries. The study showed that, in general, “sex reassignment surgery confers no objective advantage in terms of social rehabilitation.” However, as the author of the book points out, this study uses measures of “advantage” in terms that favor “mobility, heterosexuality, and patients who avoided asking for help.” These criteria are telling of the pervasive biases of the time.

Situating ‘Fluidity’ (Trans) Gender Identification and the Regulation of Gender Diversity by Erin Calhoun Davis

This article focuses on the issues of gender as experienced by transgendered individuals. An interesting point that this article raises that is particularly pertinent to my project is the inherent restriction in assuming that gender fluidity necessarily means that there are no boundaries to gender diversity. Davis argues that although people can move in and out of different gender categories with more ease now, they are not unbounded within the categories. This can be seen in the gender performances that occur. For instance, some transgendered people who identify as male or female emphasize certain characteristics that are commonly associated with these genders so as to be more socially accepted as either a male or female. However, these individuals do not seek to actively eliminate their gendered history. Rather, they choose their gender presentations based on the social context in which they are involved. This, in a way, brings about a question as to whether or not gender fluidity necessarily implies complete freedom in gender expression or if it further restricts the freedom it seeks to promote.

Patterned Fluidities: (Re)Imagining the Relationship between Gender and Sexuality by Diane Richardson

This article explains pre-existing theories about the intersection (and often also the conflation) of gender and sexuality. The author lays out five main arguments that have been used: “naturalist approaches (principle of consistency), gender prioritized over sexuality, gender as an effect of sexuality, sexuality and gender as separate systems, [and] gender and sexuality elision.” In the article, the author proposes an analogy of the relationship between gender and sexuality to the relationship between the land and the sea. Specifically, she argues that the intersection of gender and sexuality changes depending on contexts influenced by situations, locations, and historical periods. This implies a gradation of change that can happen over time. The author also suggests a “patterned fluidity” in the relationship between gender and sexuality as a relationship that necessarily involves both predictability and unpredictability.

I hope these readings are helpful to you in understanding my project with regards to its historical background and the current debates that surround gender fluidity.

Help with sources

My project explores gender fluidity and what it means to different people. While I am also interested in incorporating anonymity and making connections between it and expression of gender, I am honestly quite lost as to how I should bring it in right now. So my focus is mainly on gender identification that falls beyond the widely accepted binary of male and female. As of now, I am still scouring the library databases for good sources. I’ve found Kate Bornstein who wrote books about her own journey in defying gender norms. I have found a couple more mainstream articles but I’m really not sure if I can even use them anyhow besides using them as a way to gauge the general idea that “the public” has about the topic. So far, I have found a few contacts here at the university that I am looking forward to speaking to about this, but I would love to know if any of you knows someone who has good knowledge and/or experience and who would be willing to discuss this. Also, all recommendations for related readings are completely welcomed. If it helps, I am planning on creating a podcast, a supplemental text, and a photo collage, so I would love to look at works in other media as well.

Aggregators and curated sites

Here are some aggregator and/or curated websites I found while poking around the Internet:

Gojee – This site has some amazing, huge photos of food. Always a good thing (maybe except when we’re hungry). Oddly enough, the company that set up the website added fashion to its website. Something feels odd about seeing food and drinks placed right beside lingerie, which is then followed by heels, dresses, bags, and jewelry. But, I suppose, for a site that celebrates “luxury,” that works…?

Book cover archive – This website houses many book cover designs. It is quite fascinating to look at the variety of designs ranging from very simple, uncluttered ones to very elaborate and colorful ones.

Devour – This video aggregator website is likely one of the best or worst things I’ve discovered. These hand-picked videos from all the popular videos available are bound to entertain. The best part is probably the lack of the often-dangerous comments section.

Infographics – Condensed data with graphics – yes.

Metacritic – Reviews pooled together and boiled down to attach a single numerical value to movies, games, TV shows, and music.

I’m not sure if the next one counts but I can’t resist sharing:

Foodcurated.com – A food blog with nicely done videos telling the stories of people who are deeply committed to creating food out of passion.

Project ideas

After going through my list of possible ideas for the capstone project, I saw the common theme of identity and self-expression in all of them. However, I still don’t have a clear vision of the end product that I’d like to create, so I would appreciate some input from the rest of you!

The first possible topic that I have in mind is gender fluidity. This is an area that I am quite unfamiliar with because it’s something that I’ve only recently learned about through many nights whiled away by clicking on various links. I was intrigued from the first time I read about someone identifying as being of both genders and someone else identifying as being of neither gender. My upbringing has restricted my knowledge of the various facets of identity and self-expression that have seen more public change, so I think it’ll be interesting to learn more about how people identify as being of one, both, or neither gender. The questions I’d like to explore are: how do individuals express gender fluidity, how do they do it, what motivates this assertion, and what are the implications? My biggest concern about this topic is my lack of authority in it. Moreover, I feel that my evaluation has to contribute to the larger conversation surrounding this issue. Here is where I’m concerned that my own personal opinions may interfere with and complicate the research and evaluation.

Another topic I’m bouncing around in my head is body acceptance. The last couple of years have been important in changing my perspectives on how we perceive physical appearance and how we tie it to self-worth. While I have written an essay about how I came to change my mind and to embrace the word “fat” as just another adjective to describe myself, I am interested in contrasting beauty standards that different communities hold and seeing how they function in a society. How do people view differences in color, weight, height, physical ability? Then, what does it mean to defy these standards in rebellion against imposed expectations? How do different people do it and what are their motivations?

When I think about these questions (about body acceptance) altogether, it seems that the project has to be quite extensive to be able to catch all these aspects. However, I’m actually considering creating something that has children as its target audience. This is largely motivated by an urge to give children what I didn’t have – something to tell me that it’s okay to not be like “everyone else”. What we learn in our childhood sticks and affects us for much longer than we’d like sometimes, so I feel there’s a need to stop teaching kids that being different is necessarily a bad thing.

My third idea for the project is the relationship between anonymity and community. After following PostSecret for many years, I’ve become very interested in learning about how taking away someone’s name and face from a confession, in the end, helps foster a sense of identification and community. Many people have come forth, through letters and e-mails and in PostSecret events, to reveal how they have found solidarity through seeing someone else’s secret on the website, a book, or the old PostSecret app. Similarly, sites that encourage anonymous submissions about confessions, secrets, or simple everyday revelations have popped up and gained popularity. Often, people respond by saying how surprised they are that they aren’t alone. Why are we so surprised that there are many parallels shared by different people? Seeing as how we’re so well-connected now (or so it seems), why is it that it sometimes takes complete anonymity for people to understand the truly human aspects of our daily lives? Is there a need for this invisible buffer zone to afford us the ability to comfortably connect with whom is at first a stranger? If so, what motivates this need and how are we creating our own mechanisms to keep up with the needs?

There are many questions swimming in my head now. While it can seem a bit overwhelming at times, I’m excited to see where this will go. Do let me know any suggestions you have!

Learning new tricks

In the midst of wondering why I took on five classes when I didn’t necessarily have to and willing my mind to work faster to meet deadlines, I managed to get an unpaid writing position in a not-for-profit organization. On one hand, I’ve got friends asking if I’m crazy. On the other hand, I actually think this is probably one of the best opportunities I’ve had to put my writing to use. So I’m not going to complain even if I have to spend my weekends writing and editing articles on top of all the writing projects for an English class.

My first task in the job was to write up a businessman’s profile. For a while, I was struggling to simply arrange information in a sensible way. How hard could it be, right? Apparently, it can be quite hard. It’s one thing to write about something that my professors and peers read, it’s quite another to write something about someone who I know is going to read the write-up about himself (especially when he’s a successful businessman with a ton of awards and recognition).

With that being said, the writing process has proven to be a good experience. In trying out a completely new style of writing, I had to quickly learn to adapt and to apply the skills and tools I’d learned throughout all my writing classes. Without feedback from other people, I had to work independently and trust myself to make the right decisions. It was in this decision-making process that I relied heavily on the  many workshops I’ve sat through. To distance myself from the content for a bit, I took a step back and looked at the article as if I were just sitting in class and giving a peer review. It helped me see where to cut content, where to substitute words, how to improve the tone, etc. So I suppose this first assignment was a great reminder that it is necessary to take myself out of the writing and look at it as objectively as possible. It isn’t the easiest thing at times but who ever says that writing is easy? At least it’s rewarding!

Seriously, those reflections help

Recently, I was tasked with writing a case study in my math upper-level writing class. In my attempt to make sense of a long-winded court case and to analyze the case convincingly, I found myself bumbling along quite a bit. When my professor asked if anyone had looked up guidelines or sample case studies, I had to lower my gaze.

Anyone would think that given the number of times I’ve sat through lectures and workshops that always revolve around “do your research, look at examples, learn from them, write your paper, and always revise multiple times,” I should have known better than to attempt a genre without proper research. That incident was enough to make me question where I left my writing toolkit (probably buried under all the squiggles I have to see every day). It was a good check, though, because it helped me see how I was forgetting about the importance of being intentional in my writing.

One of the biggest struggles I had with the Writing 200 (it’s 220 now?) class was the reflection portions of the projects. Before then, I only ever had to be concerned about producing a good essay. But, in 200, I had to justify my choices explicitly and then, after turning in a project, write about what I felt could have been improved. It felt strange having to point out the many flaws in ­my “finished” work. And having to justify my decisions? Can I just be honest and say that sometimes I make some decisions because they “feel right” while I’m writing and editing? But – this realization came sometime during the semester – having to be explicitly accountable for every decision I make in my writing has turned out to be one of the best tools my professor has given to me.

Being intentional while writing may seem to be a no-brainer. But doing it consciously is quite another issue. When I pause while writing to think, “Why am I doing this?” the answer isn’t always immediately obvious. That is when leaving notes in the text or in the margin helps a lot. When I jot down my thoughts concerning why I’m choosing to do certain things, it makes the revision process a lot easier.

This was particularly helpful in remedying my rather haphazardly thrown together case study. Before turning in the draft, I looked back at everything I’d written and questioned myself about things I had barely noticed before. In revising the draft, I could see where my paper became weak and how to fix those spots given my intentions in explaining an idea in the paragraph. The revision became less intimidating and a lot more productive than if I had done it without outlining the reasons for my decisions while writing. Phew.

 

Sigh of relief

Click here to see my e-portfolio that I’ve been working on for most of this semester.

It has certainly been quite an experience working on this project. From selecting a theme I liked enough to commit to, to determining sections and writing prefaces for them, to selecting and adding previously written works, to figuring out how to tweak the layout to make the contents more readable, etc. I have learned to see my writings in a different light. It is kind of exciting to be able to enhance and showcase my works this way. This e-portfolio is definitely about a lot more than just writing. It is also about learning and growing – appropriately so since I intend for my e-portfolio to chart my personal growth as a writer. I hope you have as much fun perusing it as I did creating it.

And not forgetting –

Congratulations, guys, we made it!

Would you do it differently?

My last paper for my argumentative writing class is a personal argument. In class last week, my professor said to take ten minutes to sit and write about a time and our own experiences that formed our perspective of an issue. It could be any issue, big or small. It could be a very personal issue or it could be a general, broad one. At first, my mind drew a blank. I felt kind of silly for simply sitting at my desk while frowning and blinking when other people were writing rather quickly. Everything that popped into mind seemed so bland and not worthy of being dedicated a whole paper.

And then it hit me. I had the perfect topic to write about. So I scribbled the outline of events that made me come to a particular realization. The outline came out so easily. I could already envision the paper. I felt that exhilarating, geeky rush of “I know what I’m going to write – unlike many times before!” That was until the professor said, “Okay, now turn to the people around you and talk about your ideas.” Wait, what? I looked down at my paper and got a sinking feeling. What I’d scribbled was very personal to me. It didn’t feel like something I’d want to gloss over in two minutes simply to “get my idea out there to a small soundboard.” As much as I liked the workshop process (as I’ve said in a previous post from some long time ago), this time I wanted to just not do it. But I did it anyway. I gave the girls beside me the little details of what I’d written down and summarized them in the most incoherent, bumbling way. How am I supposed to write something when I can’t even bear to have it being read by more than just one person? Read More