Online Gender Workshop: Text Reviews Ahoy, Matey!

Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Crip Dyke.

There are few things more rant worthy than a promise of a blog post on gender-sudoku that gets lost in off-line life.*

No, wait.

There are few things more rant worthy than a really bad text book. That’s what I wanted to say. I would be, of course, more upset at a text book that was terrible in ways I couldn’t identify as those would actually lead me to significant error, not having any reason not to rely on their representations. However, if one can’t identify the errors, one has no idea that one should feel deceived, angry, or ranty. But one should never be deprived of a good rant, should one?

So I’m going to start a new tradition: Dana has her ever-wonderful critiques of creationist geology texts. PZ brings us critiques of creationist biology, overconfident biological errors by scientists of other disciplines [:cough:also engineers:cough:] and various kooks’ egregious bio-errors. Others around FtB also do similar things at times. My budding tradition will be an analysis of egregious errors and harmful ambiguities in the anthropology, psychology and/or sociology of gender. Of the three, the first is one in which I have no expert training, so it will get the least focus, but the overlap between the fields does permit me confidence in making certain kinds of criticisms, and I won’t ignore anthropological books and their errors if I feel their weaknesses are comfortably within the realm of my expertise.

We’ll start with a text that I find particularly galling in its treatment of trans* people and experiences, Mary Crawford’s Transformations: Women, Gender & Psychology. But I want this effort to eventually feature a great many texts used in colleges and universities across the English-speaking world. For that reason, you’re invited to send any text used in any college course to me.

The mailing address for delivery will be up soon. The owner of Big Bro’s Barbershop, in Vancouver, BC has previously expressed willingness to be a way station for these texts so I don’t have to connect my off-line identity too closely with my on-line ‘nym. Big Bro’s Barbershop is a valuable community resource for greater Vancouver’s various trans* communities, currently located just off The Drive in East Van, but likely moving soon to elsewhere in the area, not even certainly still in East Van. Check out their tumblr and their website, and if you have a few electronic dollars loonies, consider sending them their way. I’m trying to clarify if the ambiguity of their physical location will be ending soon, and making sure that any start date for texts arriving works for the amazing and wonderful Jessie Anderson, proprietor and generous person extraordinaire. This post will be updated with that address (though obviously Big Bro’s current address is posted on their website) only when it’s appropriate to start the mail. At the same time, I’ll make a new blog entry with the address to make sure the update doesn’t get missed. But even now, it’s appropriate to disclose that the project is starting and get people thinking about works sufficiently important to deserve commentary. E-mail submissions are appropriate beginning today.

Please physically send only books or other materials that are not available online. Make sure that if you’re interested in a critique of a specific portion, passage, or idea that you’ve carefully bookmarked it and added any appropriate highlighting, bracketing, notes, or questions. I’m not an expert in biology, so also make sure that you are sending texts other than biology texts, and that the texts have actually been used in a discussion of gender in an anthro, psych, or sociology course, or used as an anthro, psych, or sociology resource in another department. Text used in any women’s studies or gender studies courses are mostly appropriate, given the interdisciplinary nature of those departments. Other departments that may at times use appropriate materials in gaining perspective on their own specialty may include departments such as biology, ethnic studies (or studies of a specific ethnicity, e.g. Black or African-American studies), and, rarely, english literature. If you wish to request criticism of a journal article or similar materials that are available online, please e-mail instead.

E-mails reach me when sent to my FtB nym, minus the honorifics, on As a grad student and parent, e-mail is not always checked frequently. Please don’t expect speed-of-light communication, despite the use of technology.

I may or may not take note of comments here that request I look at specific materials, but leaving a note in this thread addressing the call for materials is much more likely to be successful in getting a text onto my review list than leaving an off-topic comment in a review of a particular text. University students and grad students who can forgo the resale value of a text are encouraged to ship recently used texts to me in care of the Big Bro’s Barbershop once details are ironed out or to identify new/up-to-date resources for timely comment. However, I am not writing your papers for you, nor am I offering to prepare your class presentation or lesson plan. While in some cases the response may be quick, too often you may be disappointed in the lag between the request or the receipt of a text and the appearance of my comments and criticisms.

While it may be that a text that makes good points but fails in subtle ways (perhaps by neglecting something, rather than asserting an overt error) might excite me enough to respond quickly, the more rant-worthy texts, on average, will more quickly rise to the top of my waiting-for-comment list (at least on average). In fairness to the authors who write something upon which I’ve commented, I will also move a request to update the review of an updated text to the top of my priority list, even if I find the crucial passages unchanged or even just the same in relevant substance.

Please note:

All submissions should include if at all reasonably possible, your name and your relationship (past or present) to the institution at which the text was used. This need not be public, and your relationship to the institution need not have been official in any way. You simply need to be able to vouch that the resource will need to include the specific question you wish answered about the text

E-mail submissions obviously require the full and correct title of the resource, the full name of at least one author, journal title (if any), the publisher/copyright holder, and an html link.

Lastly, your submission or request will be most useful if you can provide the following information:

1. Institution at which the text was used

2. Department in which it was used,

3. Name and/or number of at least one course in which it was used

4. Most recent year for which you are certain the text was used

5. For textbooks, include the edition and whether or not a more recent edition is available

6. If available, the syllabus for at least one course in which it was used

7 Whether or not you wish your request to be private, in which case I will not reveal your name or institution (and possibly other information, as requested)

8. Any identity you do wish credited (publicly or privately) for the referral/submission

9. For snail mail submissions of texts, include an e-mail if you want to be notified immediately upon posting any comment on your submission.

At this time I will be reviewing only English-language materials, and only those originally written in English or which are so significant as to make commenting on a mere translation worth the time. The Second Sex, for example, might receive comment at some point. I may comment on certain writings by Sigmund or Anna Freud at some point. Beyond that, I’m not prepared to say that I will ever comment on any materials originally composed in a language other than English.

*I’ll get back to it at some point, but life intervened and I lost the momentum.


  1. rpjohnston says

    Not really sure how to start this post, so I’ll just…put whatever, I guess.

    I’m in a Women’s Studies class this semester at my university, George Mason University. (this should satisfy the first 4 numbers in your list). I’ve participated somewhat in these discussions on this blog in the past. Some things have changed somewhat since then, so a few relevant things about me: I am 27 years old, bi…or pan…or something, AMAB, I use neuter pronouns for myself as much as I am able and is practical, and will accept any gender pronouns when referred to, though, I guess I…have a vague preference for female? It’s extremely hard for me to extract what I really feel about things from what I think I feel from who-knows-how-many psychosis relating to being whatever people want me to be to get along (I’m aspie as well and have spent most of my life trying to learn how to be “normal”).

    Saying all that is the setup for this: I am, can pass for, or have been surrounded by virtually all forms of privilege in America. Since graduating from highschool and especially in recent years I have made a conscious effort to look beyond myself and see things from other peoples’ perspective, not merely assume that what I think, in my limited experience, is Right. The point in saying this is this: I have VERY LITTLE experience within communities, even in general, but especially that I am interested in, aside from what I’ve read on tumblr. I’m very hesitant to say “this or that thing I read, this or that thing that my classmate has said, is transphobic because…) because I have so little experience in these communities, and my experience with asperger’s has shown me very clearly that I am VERY poor at determining what other people think and feel.

    If possible, I’d like to get an idea from other people how the resources we are using are received within the trans* community. According to our syllabus, these materials are as follow:

    Seager, Joni. Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. New York: Penguin, 2009.
    Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon, 2003.
    Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. New York: Harper Collins, 2002.

    Due to the fact that I’m not made of money, I have not purchased any of these materials. I am willing to purchase them, and learn from them, if other people can vouch for them. My instructors seem to be intuned to trans* issues; the first couple of weeks of the course are related to trans* issues, and in meeting with my instructor she expressed support when I told her my final paper would likely be on this subject and include culture such as Steven Universe and Dragon Age Inquisition. Even so: The fact remains that due to my isolation and circumstances, my views on our materials are nearly worthless and easily swayed, and I would appreciate feedback from people who I can trust know what they’re talking about regarding trans* issues, to know if these are things that I should take seriously.

    I WANT to learn. But I cannot trust my own ability to distinguish what is right from what I will agree with to not make people angry.

    If there is anything in this post that I have left out that is necessary, I apologize, and will provide requested information forthwith. I apologize in advance for not sending physical copies, as I noted above I don’t want to spend money on “crap”, and am hoping that at least someone will be familiar with these texts as they have been out for several years.

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I’ll take a glance at the Penguin Atlas.