Class Notes on Gender // 6-1-16

In case you missed Wednesday’s class, or just wanted a reminder of any writing prompts you might like to take up in your free time, here’s what we did.

A Conversation about Conversations

We started with a meta-conversation about what makes for a good conversation! We agreed on a list of characteristics that reflect the discussions we’d like to have with each other in class.

Here are the must-haves we came up with:

  1. Openness to a variety of opinions, with an aim not to demean anyone’s opinion
  2. Playing devil’s advocate as a way to push our thinking and grow as writers
  3. Recognition of each other’s contributions as essential evidence for active listening
  4. One mic, or step up/step back: a promise not to talk over each other, or talk too much
  5. Complete confidence in expressing and defending our opinions, or a willingness to admit we’ve changed our minds
  6. No judgment for people who prefer to be quiet and listen

Pseudonym Creation

Because most of us aren’t actually adults, we generated and shared possible pseudonyms for the writing we’ll post on this blog. If you missed the session and don’t have an idea already, here are some exercises that might help you brainstorm:

  • Celebrity that you admire, find attractive, intriguing, etc. (Marilyn Monroe)
  • Fictional character who you relate to, who is a role model. (Annalise Keating)
  • Crayon color you like (or whose name you like). (Chartreuse)
  • Place where you have good memories, or where you’d like to go. (San Francisco)
  • Vocabulary word, in any language (not necessarily English), you think is beautiful (Aurora)

Some examples form above: Marilyn Chartreuse, Aurora Monroe, Annalise Francisco

Next week, everyone should come in with their final choice for a pseudonym that they’ll use to post their work throughout this semester.

Gender, a la Lysley Tenorio and Jamaica Kincaid

Short stories from contemporary writers Lysley Tenorio and Jamaica Kincaid jumpstarted our conversation about gender.

Jamaica Kincaid

“Girl” is a piece of flash fiction by Jamaica Kincaid, a world-renowned novelist, essayist, and former editor of The New Yorker from Antigua. Her thinly veiled, semi-autobiographical piece lists the many gender-based rules that define one young girl’s existence in the Caribbean. For more on Jamaica Kincaid, check out this interview and this video.

Born in the Philippines, Lysley Tenorio is openly gay and lives in San Francisco. “The Brothers,” a short story from his new collection, Monstress, discusses transgender identity from the perspective of a traditional Filipino-American family. The story follows the family’s inability to accept their loved one’s gender reassignment, even in the wake of her sudden death. You can read interviews with Lysley Tenorio on writing here and here.

Lysley Tenorio

With Kincaid’s and Tenorio’s help, we discussed everything from gender roles, to gender inequality, to gender identities, to sexism, stereotypes, power, shame, and prejudice.

We closed with two writing prompts, at least one of which you should feel free to pick up at home, if you haven’t already!

  • After Kincaid, write a flash fiction using the imperative tone (i.e., commands) and repetition to reflect on your own gender identity. Think about who has helped determine your gender identity, who has bossed you around, and whatever rules you have been told you must obey. Title the piece after your preferred identity label or pronoun (ex: “Boy,” “They”).
  • After Tenorio, write a short story or poem reflecting on your relationship to a family member (sister, cousin, brother) in terms of gender. How is your gender identity the same or different? Title the piece after your relationship to the person who inspired your writing (ex: “The Siblings,” “The Twins,” etc.).

Next week: Language with readings from Sandra María Esteves, Hemayel Martina, and Carol Lee Sanchez


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