Emma Watson is the new UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women. She gave a powerful speech about the “F-word” and women’s issues to launch the HeForShe campaign. The Daily Mail covered her hair. Leonardo DiCaprio is the UN Messenger of Peace. The Daily Mail did not mention his manbun or attire. Compare the coverage for yourself: Her brown locks were swept into a centre-parting and she kept her make-up understated and natural. Completing the look she added a metallic belt and conservative black pumps.   And then this: the passionate environmentalist and “the world body’s new voice for climate advocacy.”     Note: I might getRead More →

Until the end of the last century, women didn’t stand up in front of audiences and give speeches on a regular basis. The women who chose to give speeches struggled with challenging gender norms just like women who entered male-dominated professions. Even today, men far outnumber women as politicians and CEOs, the kinds of folks who give speeches regularly in the public eye with media coverage. Nonetheless, as a 21st-century public, we’re more comfortable seeing women behind a microphone saying serious things. Plus, feminist scholars of rhetoric and feminist historians have uncovered the histories of many women speakers who contributed to US history, so ourRead More →

Bring Back Our Girls As the tragic spectacle of 276 kidnapped Nigerian girls receives international attention, I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach thinking about Nigerian Scams, and the context in which they arise, in the deepest Hunger Games kind of way. As celebrities stride red carpets in stunning pink, carrying bold posters for the cause, I want to root for “our girls” much the way I cheered for Katniss to save Rue in a mediated extravaganza, a spectacle the state designed to distract me from world poverty, hunger, slave labor, and mass slaughter. Hollywood is filled with the scandalous objectification of littleRead More →

Teaching issues of race and other identity categories presents a challenge in a racially mixed classroom. Student responses to race-related topics are unpredictable, and can send irretrievably shut down classroom dynamics for the rest of the semester. Last semester, for instance,  as some intentionally provocative students claimed that black people really do like fried chicken, others genuinely bought into the stereotype, and the class deteriorated into a discussion about fried chicken, rather than the point of stereotypes. Reigning in these kinds of conversations get increasingly difficult, and conversations get more uncomfortable and tense as conservative rhetoric toward people of color gets more hostile. If theRead More →

The Black Doll, White Doll test was used in the Brown vs. Board of Ed case to contest desegregation. A 17-year-old high school student made a documentary, A Girl Like Me, revisiting this test today to see how much things have changed. Not much. The clip is great to show in class for discussions about race and identity. It’s useful for talking about how communication influences perception and the self. The Black Doll, White Doll test asks black children to choose between a white doll and a black doll, asking questions such as “which doll is the prettiest” (they pick the white doll),  “which dollRead More →

I have almost completed the first week of class. I have two more classes to go, but I can safely say that my classes this semester are going to rock. I’m psyched about school now. My students have lifted my spirits. This is why I entered this profession. I just came out of a class where we did the “I am From Poem.” I have written about using this activity in class before. I enjoy this poem because it teaches me about the students’ lives. One of the poem’s stanzas is a list of sayings you heard growing up. Today, I heard some of theRead More →

Today, as an ice breaker to Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies, we did Beverly Daniel Tatum‘s “I am From” poem activity. Tatum, President of Spelman University, wrote the book Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria. I learned about this activity when I attended the POD Conference in 2002 with Dr. Saundra McGuire. I don’t remember the specifics of the activity, but I generally do it like this: 1. Write “I am from” and list the sights, sounds, and smells of your home. 2. Write “I am from” and list your family foods. 3. Write “I am from” and listRead More →

I decided to supplement how Julia Wood’s handles race in her textbook for Gender and Comm. I’m asking the students to read Peggy MacIntosh’s article, “White Privilege.” It’s very old, but still useful. Some links: WMST-L‘s discussion list archive on the article. If you want the whole paper, you can buy it from Wellesley.Read More →

I have half the football team in my class. They greet each other with Sugarbowl-infused respect knuckles. Ten percent of the population is football players, twenty percent is black (which I believe is higher than the college population), and forty percent is male. It’s a difficult demographic for teaching a course topic in a state that denigrates black folk, valorizes football players, and barely acknowledges that women’s destiny can be something other than marriage. As Arsenio said some ten years ago, “hmmmmmm.” Well, this brings up a whole thicket of issues that I don’t know how to address: I wonder how many of them willRead More →