Identity and the Storm

Of our assigned readings this week, I responded most strongly to "Butch, Bi, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality" by Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meen.  I think this article is especially relevant because of the current political storm, which makes the divided and contradictory nature of our country all too apparent.  Identifying as an American, or even as a Democrat or Republican, has transformed from an answer to a prompt for more questioning.  In many ways, academia as it is presented by the three authors in the article, can be viewed as a microcosm for our country as a whole.  Now more than ever, Americans are being questioned about their dossiers, about what makes them a valid citizen of the country. 

When discussing class distinctions, the author that identifies herself as Bi mentions that the social narratives about one's class identity "are [...] fairy tales; the reality is an identity that never quite fits, is never quite comfortable, authentic, or believable" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 73).  This doesn't just apply to class identity, but to any identity, most notably writer identity.  I think that a lot of students believe a "fairy tale" about identifying as a writer.  In their minds, a writer is an amalgamate being composed of so many dust jacket pictures and coffee-scented stereotypes.  It wears a turtleneck sweater, speaks in beatnik riddles, and keeps a bandolier of ink quills and effortlessly brilliant papers on its chest.  It may or may not have a moustache and the brooding eyes of a pachyderm.  Seeing that they're not this mythical creature, these students decide to reject "writer" from their identities.  That, or they try to quantify the writer identity: "Well, a person is a writer once they're published."  "A writer has an MFA."  "A writer works at a newspaper."  The truth is that those are fairy tales too.  There are plenty of published, MFA-holding newspaper journalists that don't feel comfortable calling themselves writers.  It's almost a paradox.  A writer is someone who writes, yes, but also someone who is comfortable "lying" about being a writer.

Another quotation from the same part of the article actually made my eyes tear up as I thought of it in relation to my own identity: "I can talk or write about my working-class past, but I no longer live in it. I have no real identity there, and I have no real identity in the professional class; I only have the dream" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 74).  I feel this way at the current hour of my life.  I struggle to identify as a graduate student because of the difficulties I'm having adapting to grad school life; I also know that I'm no longer an undergrad, and I'm certainly not a professional anymore (despite working a full time office job for 6 years before focusing on school).  I'm not really an adult, but I'm not a child.  I'm just kind of here, dreaming of becoming something, and wondering when any moniker will fit without bunching at the seams or draping like a tent.

Going back to the whole political theme (I know this blog has been disorganized; forgive me), I think something said by "Bar Dyke" toward the end of the article can be taken as the best advice for all of us. "I believe that constructing and performing our nontraditional identities through personal experience is an inherently political act designed to transform the public spaces we inhabit from oppressive realms into inclusive realms" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 92).  There is a chance that in the coming years, the social climate of our country will change drastically, that many more identities will be seen as "nontraditional." The best thing we can do is perform our identities, whatever they may be, as authentically and loudly as possible.  We must show the nation and the world that we the people will tolerate nothing less than "inclusive realms," even if oppression becomes the norm.

Identity and the Storm

Of our assigned readings this week, I responded most strongly to "Butch, Bi, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality" by Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meen.  I think this article is especially relevant because of the current political storm, which makes the divided and contradictory nature of our country all too apparent.  Identifying as an American, or even as a Democrat or Republican, has transformed from an answer to a prompt for more questioning.  In many ways, academia as it is presented by the three authors in the article, can be viewed as a microcosm for our country as a whole.  Now more than ever, Americans are being questioned about their dossiers, about what makes them a valid citizen of the country. 

When discussing class distinctions, the author that identifies herself as Bi mentions that the social narratives about one's class identity "are [...] fairy tales; the reality is an identity that never quite fits, is never quite comfortable, authentic, or believable" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 73).  This doesn't just apply to class identity, but to any identity, most notably writer identity.  I think that a lot of students believe a "fairy tale" about identifying as a writer.  In their minds, a writer is an amalgamate being composed of so many dust jacket pictures and coffee-scented stereotypes.  It wears a turtleneck sweater, speaks in beatnik riddles, and keeps a bandolier of ink quills and effortlessly brilliant papers on its chest.  It may or may not have a moustache and the brooding eyes of a pachyderm.  Seeing that they're not this mythical creature, these students decide to reject "writer" from their identities.  That, or they try to quantify the writer identity: "Well, a person is a writer once they're published."  "A writer has an MFA."  "A writer works at a newspaper."  The truth is that those are fairy tales too.  There are plenty of published, MFA-holding newspaper journalists that don't feel comfortable calling themselves writers.  It's almost a paradox.  A writer is someone who writes, yes, but also someone who is comfortable "lying" about being a writer.

Another quotation from the same part of the article actually made my eyes tear up as I thought of it in relation to my own identity: "I can talk or write about my working-class past, but I no longer live in it. I have no real identity there, and I have no real identity in the professional class; I only have the dream" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 74).  I feel this way at the current hour of my life.  I struggle to identify as a graduate student because of the difficulties I'm having adapting to grad school life; I also know that I'm no longer an undergrad, and I'm certainly not a professional anymore (despite working a full time office job for 6 years before focusing on school).  I'm not really an adult, but I'm not a child.  I'm just kind of here, dreaming of becoming something, and wondering when any moniker will fit without bunching at the seams or draping like a tent.

Going back to the whole political theme (I know this blog has been disorganized; forgive me), I think something said by "Bar Dyke" toward the end of the article can be taken as the best advice for all of us. "I believe that constructing and performing our nontraditional identities through personal experience is an inherently political act designed to transform the public spaces we inhabit from oppressive realms into inclusive realms" (Gibson, Marinara, and Meen 92).  There is a chance that in the coming years, the social climate of our country will change drastically, that many more identities will be seen as "nontraditional." The best thing we can do is perform our identities, whatever they may be, as authentically and loudly as possible.  We must show the nation and the world that we the people will tolerate nothing less than "inclusive realms," even if oppression becomes the norm.

Identity & Assessment


 An increasingly prevalent topic in writing that we have not yet discussed in this course is gender identity. Thank you to Hailey for bringing this important issue to our class discussion by selecting this week’s reading, Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Michelle Gibson, Matha Marinara, and Deborah Meem. This article was unique in the perspective from which it was written -- three female theorized narrators speaking as “I.” I appreciated the different approach to a theoretical article. Thanks to this intimate narrative style, the theory really came alive through personal anecdotes. The authors provided a critique of how academia neutralizes sexual identity by sharing their experiences teaching college writing courses.

Of the three experiences, the one that stuck with me the most was the second narrative, “Butch: personal pedagogy and the butch body.” The author described herself as having “multiple, incongruent identities” (79). I appreciated this insight because the author created terminology for something I have also felt but struggled to understand. Although our society has made progress, there is still much to be accomplished in the way that we view others. As the author describes, we still associate certain characteristics with specific labels such as having children with being “feminine.” In reality, people can take on many identities as the same time even if those identities are considered to be incompatible. Interestingly, the first author described a similar phenomenon. She noted that her “students also feel the pressure to give up something about their lives in order to take on the new, professional roles or careers that they are trying so hard to achieve” (76). Once again, there is this idea that women can not have multiple, perhaps contradictory (to some) roles at the same time. This reminds me of our reading from last week on multiculturalism. We discussed how generation 1.5 students are not only bilingual but can also be bicultural. These students do not fit neatly into the division of college writing courses. Similarly in this reading, all three women described a more complex identity that society generally recognizes.

Although a completely different subject, our second reading for this week also addressed a topic our class has not touched too much upon -- assessment. In her article, “Looking Back as We Look Forward:  Historicizing Writing Assessment,” Kathleen Yancey traced how writing assessments have changed since the 1950s. One aspect of my learner identity that I have discovered through this course is that the history of education does not interest me too much. As a current practitioner, I much prefer practical articles that I can immediately use to better my instruction and to help my students succeed. However, I do recognize that we must know where we came from in order to craft a better vision for our future. What I found most interesting about the historical background of assessments is just how much has changed and is still changing about the way educators measure what students learned. For instance, Yancey discussed the rise of portfolio assessments and the increase in student reflection. Both of these movements were popular when I was a student. Personally, I found them to be effective. I enjoyed looking through my portfolio to see my writing progress. During graduate school, reflection was a key component of my program. Through reflecting, I developed a valuable skill that continues to benefit me in the workplace. As a current educator, I also know that writing assessment is continuing to evolve. For instance, the PARCC test is now a graduation requirement and requiring educators to adapt their instruction to this new assessment. It will be interesting to hear how scholars view today’s assessment methods years from now.

Identity & Assessment


 An increasingly prevalent topic in writing that we have not yet discussed in this course is gender identity. Thank you to Hailey for bringing this important issue to our class discussion by selecting this week’s reading, Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Michelle Gibson, Matha Marinara, and Deborah Meem. This article was unique in the perspective from which it was written -- three female theorized narrators speaking as “I.” I appreciated the different approach to a theoretical article. Thanks to this intimate narrative style, the theory really came alive through personal anecdotes. The authors provided a critique of how academia neutralizes sexual identity by sharing their experiences teaching college writing courses.

Of the three experiences, the one that stuck with me the most was the second narrative, “Butch: personal pedagogy and the butch body.” The author described herself as having “multiple, incongruent identities” (79). I appreciated this insight because the author created terminology for something I have also felt but struggled to understand. Although our society has made progress, there is still much to be accomplished in the way that we view others. As the author describes, we still associate certain characteristics with specific labels such as having children with being “feminine.” In reality, people can take on many identities as the same time even if those identities are considered to be incompatible. Interestingly, the first author described a similar phenomenon. She noted that her “students also feel the pressure to give up something about their lives in order to take on the new, professional roles or careers that they are trying so hard to achieve” (76). Once again, there is this idea that women can not have multiple, perhaps contradictory (to some) roles at the same time. This reminds me of our reading from last week on multiculturalism. We discussed how generation 1.5 students are not only bilingual but can also be bicultural. These students do not fit neatly into the division of college writing courses. Similarly in this reading, all three women described a more complex identity that society generally recognizes.

Although a completely different subject, our second reading for this week also addressed a topic our class has not touched too much upon -- assessment. In her article, “Looking Back as We Look Forward:  Historicizing Writing Assessment,” Kathleen Yancey traced how writing assessments have changed since the 1950s. One aspect of my learner identity that I have discovered through this course is that the history of education does not interest me too much. As a current practitioner, I much prefer practical articles that I can immediately use to better my instruction and to help my students succeed. However, I do recognize that we must know where we came from in order to craft a better vision for our future. What I found most interesting about the historical background of assessments is just how much has changed and is still changing about the way educators measure what students learned. For instance, Yancey discussed the rise of portfolio assessments and the increase in student reflection. Both of these movements were popular when I was a student. Personally, I found them to be effective. I enjoyed looking through my portfolio to see my writing progress. During graduate school, reflection was a key component of my program. Through reflecting, I developed a valuable skill that continues to benefit me in the workplace. As a current educator, I also know that writing assessment is continuing to evolve. For instance, the PARCC test is now a graduation requirement and requiring educators to adapt their instruction to this new assessment. It will be interesting to hear how scholars view today’s assessment methods years from now.