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WS 2013 UT at San Antonio The Rise of Fair & Flexible Gender & Sex Notions Essay

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Background:

Gender is a basic category of social life. Modules 3 and 4 help us understand how gender and sex shape our everyday lives and manifest in ways that appear normal and natural. Our module readings push use to consider the everyday performative nature of gender (“doing gender”) from a social constructivist perspective. We also covered how WGSS scholars reject these essentialist and/or biological deterministic understandings of gender. From our readings and discussion, we have awareness that social institutions, particularly culture, health, and legal, compel or restrict particular gender performances. 

Gender, sex, and sexuality norms are continuously policied and surveilled. We can consider how gender is inhibited and restricted by our cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity. Modules 4 explored the ways in which transgressions or violations of gender and sex norms reveal the social construction of these constructs. Disrupting the sex/gender/sexuality system and sex and gender binaries calls into the question the very “naturalness” of gender and sex.

Prompt: In this assignment, you will create a digital photo essay and critical analysis of “doing gender” in everyday life, from a performative and social constructivist perspective, as well as document gender and sex transgressions (“undoing gender”). Capture 6-8 original photographs in public, private, and digital spaces. Be sure to capture photos that document 1) gendering and gender performativity in our everyday life and 2) gender and sex transgressions (“undoing gender”). Next, write a 750-800 word short essay that engages in a critical analysis of the images, provides contextualization, and draws on Modules 3 and 4 concepts/terms to deconstruct the images. Please embed the images and captions in the appropriate section of your essay.

What is a photo essay and critical analysis?

A photo essay is a series of photos with captions and accompanying text that critically explores an overarching theme/topic. Students produce their own images, caption the image, and create a critical analysis of the images. The critical analysis may address the historical or cultural context and consider the following questions:

How do I take effective photographs? Apply Rule of Thirds!

A image is split into nine equal blocks to form a grid. Your goal is to get the most interesting parts of your image near the corners of these line segments. Your smartphone camera app comes equipped with these grids in the settings. You can learn more about rule of thirds in the Resources section below.

Assignment Directions:
  • Capture 6-8 original photographs in public, private, and digital spaces. Our private spaces are rife with evidence of how we “do gender” and strive for ideal femininity and/or masculinity. You might also use childhood photos. Be sure to capture photos that document 1) gendering and gender performativity in our everyday life and 2) gender and sex transgressions (“undoing gender”).  
    • If navigating a public space, be sure to prioritze your safety and adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines. 
    • If taking photos of people, please obscure the subjects’ identity and request explicit permission to use the photo for a class assignment.
    • For each image, create a detailed, explicit caption and corresponding arabic numeral (no bold or italics), followed by a period, e.g. “Fig. 1. XXXXXXXXXX”. Capitalize “Figure” and “Fig.”
  • In a Word document, please write a 750-800 word short essay that engages in a visual critical analysis of the images, provides contextualization, and draws on Modules 3 and 4 concepts/terms to deconstruct the images.
    • Identify a central argument/thesis in the introductory paragraph.
      • Be sure to avoid overly broad (or not specific enough) thesis statements.
        • Example of a weak thesis: [Broad Noun] + [Weak Verb] + [Vague Adjective]  (“Gender norms are bad.”)
        • Example of a strong thesis: [Specific Noun] + [Active Verb] + [Assertive Prediction] (“Gender norms related to ideal femininity are oppressive and limiting to many women but can be challenged by resisting beauty norms.”)
    • Embed the images and captions throughout your body paragraphs.  
      • When referencing the images in your essay, use “see fig. X” and do not capitalize fig., e.g. “Toy companies reproduce gender binaries by rigidly ascribing to feminized and masculinized professions (see fig. 1).”
      • It is appropriate to use first person “I” when discussing your images.
    • Contextualize the images and critically analyze its underlying meanings: 
      • Is there a story behind this image?
      • Where did these meanings come from?
      • What is the historical context in which this social reality was created?
      • Why did I choose this particular piece of evidence?
      • Why do these images/artifacts matter to my argument?
    • Be sure to discuss and cite Module 3 & 4 learning materials; no outside sources necessary. 

OPTIONAL: Rather than submit a Word doc, you may chose to use a website creation tool such as Microsoft Sway, Adobe Spark Page, Wix, etc. and submit a URL link in Blackboard.

Examples of “Doing Gender” Photos

gender toys cheap onliner/Cringetopia - Just no.Concha Nacar #3 (Bleach) 2 Oz - Walmart.com - Walmart.com
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Fig. 1. Image from [store] of a boy and girl toy set. The boy toy set reads “Jr. Doctor” and the girl toy set is for “Li’l Nurse”. Photo taken on 09/01/2021. Fig. 2. Image of kids t-shirts sold at [store]. A black t-shirt reads, “Lock up your daughters” and a pink t-shirt reads, “Does this diaper make my butt look big?” Photo taken on 09/01/2021. Fig. 3. A product image of a popular skin-whitening beauty product sold throughout Latin America. The label reads “La Original Concha Nacar de Perlop, Creme Aclarante con Ingredientes Naturales.” Screenshot taken on 09/01/2021. Fig. 4. A childhood image of me, the author, sitting beachside in the shade. I am wearing a long-sleeved blouse and hat illustrating the measures I was encouraged to take by extended family as a dark-skinned Latina. Photo taken circa 1990.

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