Friday, October 17, 2008

Race and Causality

Hello students.  We've discussed two kinds of arguments in the last week: rebuttal arguments and causal arguments.  For your next essay, you have to chose to craft one of these kinds of essays (although, please remember, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive).  In this blog posting, I am going to pose a provocative question, and since everyone needs to mandatorily post a comment to this, I want you to think in terms of causality here.  In Shelby Steele's essay "I'm Black, You're White, Who's Innocent," he early on uses the expression that a party of his was doomed as a result of "an abrupt and lethal injection of the American race issue" (603).  I am going to ask you a question that might at first seem vague but will perhaps help us to come to a better understanding of something that still very much concerns us an Americans precisely because of its enigmatic and inarticulable nature.  What is "the American race issue" today?  And, secondarily, as this issue exists today, what causes its perpetuation as a "topic" of continued relevance in our society?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Based on our in-class discussion today, it seems to me that many of you think that advertising images at the present time are less "sexist" than the ones that Kilbourne published in her article.  Many of you did find offensive many of the images she used that depicted women as the victims or potential victims of violence but you believed that we see fewer such images now, in 2008.  Please try to find examples of advertisements that DO show women as any of the following: a) recipients of the male "gaze" (this was the idea that it is men who are painting or photographing or producing these images), b)  open targets for sexual advances, c) inviting sexual advances, d) persisting is the role of "inferior," in terms of power, to men, or e) themselves in the position of power over, or ownership of, the "gaze." Please also explain your choice of advertisement.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Devor Group

Devor's Claim:  Children learn to identify genders by the roles of those in their environment and by the norms enforced by society.

Rebuttal:  Though a child's recognition of gender is inspired by roles played in society, a child identifies him or herself with a particular gender because of an inherent disposition towards that gender.

(Note from Newmark: I will say that surely Devor's claim is a bit more elaborate than this, but this is a concise rendering.  Please consider what this group means, in their rebuttal, by "inherent dispositions towards [a] gender."  Be sure to evaluate the rigor of this argument and determine whether it is or is not a clear "rebuttal" of Devor.  Review the Rebuttal Argument Worksheet that I have posted online.)

Cofer Group

Cofer's Claim:  Ideals and perceptions of an individual change from culture to culture.  Talents and abilities do not change, but appearances do, depending on the time and place.  In order to cope with these changes, one may choose to either be a part of them or to isolate him/herself from them.

Rebuttal:  While it is true that perceptions chance, Cofer too becomes brainwashed about appearances and she ends up being no better off than everyone else.

(Note from Newmark: this writing suffers a great deal from vagueness!  So, those of you who are responding, do your best, based on your reading of Cofer, to decipher the vague language that this group uses. Also, please be sure to consider whether the group does or does not offer a viable "rebuttal" argument here, based on the parameters laid out in the Rebuttal Argument Worksheet that I have posted online.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

American Gender

So, we had a lively, if somewhat erratic, first discussion about American gender, and gender expectations, on Wednesday.  Thank you all for your contributions!  I think our discussion of whether young men could envision themselves as, in the future, "stay-at-home dads" really set some of the deeply entrenched American attitudes about gender roles into stark relief.  We briefly landed upon the issues of ideal physical appearance for men and women, "sexism"in general, men and women in politics, and societal expectations for the roles of men and women in "American culture."  What specific issue that falls beneath the larger heading "Gender Relations and Expectations in America Today," is of the greatest concern, or is the most interesting, to you?  Why?  I am anxious to read your ideas!