Elizabeth Porter – work-in-progress

I will be incorporating material from our Summer Institute into two of the courses I will be teaching in Fall 2021.

WGS 100: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies

Course description:

An interdisciplinary course that draws on literature, psychology, science, economics, and feminist theory, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies examines cultural assumptions about gender, promoting new ways for students to look at the construction of knowledge from feminist perspectives. Assignments emphasize diverse experiences across gender, race, religion, cultures and economic class; masculinity studies and sexuality studies. Topics include: representation of woman in myth and symbols; historical, cultural and economic sources of gender oppression; history of women’s movements; depiction of gender in the media; gender and sexuality. At the end of the course, students will be able to discuss from a theoretical and personal standpoint how and why gender shapes nearly all aspects of life. In addition, students will gain an understanding of women’s and gender studies, and masculinity studies: their evolution, current debates within the fields, and their application to other fields of study. 

This course has been designated “Writing Intensive (WI)” by Hostos Community College. The requirements include both formal (graded) and informal (non-graded) writing assignments. Both kinds of writing must be done in order to satisfactorily complete the course.

Writing Assignments:

In the Institute thus far, we have discussed the kinds of embodied knowledge we bring to our learning based on the on the intersections of our different subject positions and experiences. In the first formal writing assignment, I ask students to consider the “gender lessons” they have imbibed from various sources (assignment below).

Based on conversations in a small group activity, and some broader discussions with colleagues outside of the Institute, I plan to assign an informal (ungraded) writing activity where students list different aspects of their identity (where they were born, where they live currently, what languages they speak, what kinds of family roles they occupy, and other identities such as religion or identity). They will do some free writing reflecting on how these identity positions inform their thinking in different areas (such as education, family, and civic participation, for instance). Finally, they will write about how these identity positions might inform their participation in the class and their views on gender. I will make clear that students should not feel obligated to disclose any information about themselves that they do not wish to share.

Here are the directions for the formal assignment:

Gender Lessons Essay

We all receive “gender lessons” from the time we’re born. These lessons come to us from family members, from religious leaders, from our teachers, from peers, from gifts we receive throughout our lives, and from the media. These lessons typically involve how we should talk or not talk, in what activities we should or should not participate, what behaviors are considered gender-appropriate, how to dress, how to sit and walk, how to joke, what to wear, what decisions we make about our sexuality, what goals we set for ourselves, work-wise and family-wise. 

Basing your analysis on your personal experiences and the readings/videos we have discussed over the past few weeks, you will write a 3-4-page paper that reflects on what you have been taught and considers what you have been learning and what you still wish to learn.

  • Your thesis statement (at the end of your intro paragraph) should make a claim that captures what you have learned and what you still wish to learn about gender roles. 
  • Your first set of body paragraphs should focus on specific examples of lessons you have learned in your life about gender. Make sure to weigh in on what aspects of these lessons you find helpful and which of them you might want to criticize or rethink. Feel free to use the “I” when thinking about your own experiences (see handouts on summary versus analysis and the MEAL plan for help in constructing your response).
  • Your next set of body paragraphs should address what you have been learning in this course so far. Make sure to provide a balance of summary and analysis when referring to two of our readings/viewings. Think about what you have learned about gender and what specifically has resonated with you. **Make sure to include quotations with appropriate citations to support your points with evidence.**
  • Finally, in a body paragraph or two, think about one or two “lessons” you have learned through life and through the last few weeks that you have found helpful and want to learn more about. Also, identify a few “lessons” that you have reexamined—and perhaps might reject. 
  • End with a short conclusion that looks to the future and identifies a few areas in women and gender studies that you are interested in exploring. You might consider looking ahead at the upcoming readings and assignments in this class to get ideas.

Reading Assignments

Based on our reading assignments and presentations, I am adding some reading assignments to specific units (added readings are starred).

To complement Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury”: **Select poems from Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X

To complement a series of readings from bell hooks: “Homeplace” by bell hooks

I will also include some evocative screenshots from Twitter to enhance our discussions:

For my ENG 110 (Expository Writing) course:

I am thinking about ways to integrate Dr. Jennifer Morton’s work on code-switching and pessimism traps into activities set up over the first few weeks that discuss the college experience. So much of the class is structured around the recursive process of writing, and one of the takeaways is that learning is process-based. We talk about the internal and external barriers to learning that can make a first-year writing course especially challenging.

Additionally, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois is on the syllabus, so the resources from Topic 2 will be useful as we read and discuss this text (and I’m grateful to have learned about the free audiobook version).


  • Angela Ridinger-Dotterman

    While most of the text doesn’t engage issues of poverty (though, one section powerfully does engage assumptions and associations of race and poverty), a text that really responds to the theme of defining gender that I plan to assign next time I teach English 102 is Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath.


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