By Lindsay McNeish
This semester Communication Studies special faculty Dr. Carolin Aronis gave her SPCM 335 Gender and Communication students a simple assignment: take a piece of paper and visually describe a definition of sex and its relation to gender. She explains that while usually medical language would define our biological sex as female or male, our identities as women, men, queer, transgender etc. open up an unlimited opportunities of “doing” gender. Her assignment requested from the students to think how to describe the relations between our bodies and our gender we perform and do.
“My original intention was to discuss of the impossibility of this kind of description, as these visual descriptions always perform a reduction of the rich reality,” Dr. Aronis said. “However, I was surprised to see such great thinking and creativity, much more than I expected. Each little piece of paper has its own point of view and its own meaningful message to the world.”
SPCM 335, Gender and Communication, is designed to increase students’ understanding of relationships between gender, communication, and culture. It is also designed to develop awareness, academic thinking and research skills concerning gendered issues in personal and public life.
One of Dr. Aronis’s goals for the course is to enrich her students’ views about what is gender and what is the relation between gender and sex. “I want to show them how the difference between sex and gender is very fluid, diverse, and performative too. Gender is something we create and something that we decide to create,” said Dr. Aronis.
“I want my students to finish the course feeling confused and enriched with a lot of points of view. I want them to feel overwhelmed–that sounds negative, but in a positive way,” said Dr. Aronis. “I want them to understand that the relationships between gender and communication are much more complicated, rich, and diverse than what they thought before the course.”
“I think that publishing this project, not only shows subversive and creative thinking–but also will challenge people, from the wide community, to think about the relations between our bodies and our performed and expressed gender. Two good things all at once,” said Dr. Aronis.
Claudia Quiroz, a student in SPCM 335 has really been enjoying it. “It has surpassed any expectations I had before I entered the class. I am now coming to the realization as to how gender and other aspects like this play a part in society. Professor Aronis is extremely passionate about her work and encourages everyone in her class to think critically,” said Quiroz.
The following drawings and quotes are by a few students in SPCM 335 describing the relationship between sex and gender in their own, creative ways: