Unruly Example

A Handout of Questions, 27 January 2010

class: Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking, Graduate Class
topic: queer/feminist blogging
readings: Rak, Julie. “The Digital Queer” and Berlant, Lauren. “Politics, Desire, and the Ordinary: Two Blog Entries”

  • What are blogs?
  • What troublemaking possibilities do blogs (and other web 2.0 technologies) offer?
  • Have you used blogs (either in class or on your own)?


  • Are blogs online diaries?
  • What is the role of confession in a blog? How do/should blogs communicate “truth”?
  • What do we mean by “truth”?
  • Rak discusses the importance that many queer bloggers place on “being
    real” (174-175) and on documenting that realness through evidence (photos, real names, signatures, “accurate” reportage of experience)? What does it mean “to be real” and authentic on a blog (or in a classroom)? Does troublemaking aim to disrupt this desire for realness or to experiment with new (perhaps troubling ways) to represent it or both?
  • Berlant describes her own blog as being about storytelling or “remediating the stuff of paying attention” (1)? What does she mean by this? What sort of storytelling is she engaging in?
  • Are blogs expressions of selves who are fixed in time/place through their narratives about (ordinary) life?
  • Can we (and/or should we try) to reconcile a need to make trouble for the subject/identity/experience with the need to claim our own personhood (as Butler says: “there is a person here!) and to communicate our own experiences to others?

The Person/personal/identity

  • Are blogs too personal? What does it mean to be too personal?
  • How do we represent ourselves as persons (whatever that means) without getting too personal?
  • How do we represent our lived experiences/material realities/ourselves as bodies on the blog?
  • Does the blog allow us to experiment more with representations/narratives of our selves? Or does it, as Rak suggests, merely reinforce liberalism and its emphasis on the stable individual and their freedom of expression?
  • On 179, Rak writes: “no blogger whose work I read played with representation in a postmodern way.” What does it mean to play with representation in a postmodern way (theoretically and practically)?
  • What distinctions can we draw between queer persons/people and the Queer Person? How does this question get framed through debates surrounding identity politics?


  • Does community = shared identity = sameness?
  • Rak argues that blog search engines and the ways in which they classify blogs (especially through keywords) help to perpetuate sameness among queer blogs/ bloggers. Is this true? What about tag clouds? Are there features of a blog that encourage troublemaking and allow for a disruption/failure to be classified?
  • What potential do you see for creating connections on our blog? Is it community building? Working for solidarity? Developing alliances/coalitions?

Questions Posed Online About Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011

class: Politics of Sex, Introductory Undergraduate Class
topic: Heterosexism and “Straight Thinking”


  • How is Valentine’s Day marketed to/for women? To/for men?
  • Do the advertisements help reinforce strict divisions (straight thinking) between the “sexes”?
  • How do advertisers encourage us to buy their V-Day products?
  • Do their methods work to reinforce harmful stereotypes about femininity? About masculinity?
  • Do they draw upon other stereotypes (racial, ethnic, class) in their attempts to make their product desirable to us?

Labor, production and consumption:

  • At whose expense are we able to acquire the products that we use to “express” our love?
  • Who makes the products that we buy for Valentine’s Day?
  • Who cuts the flowers?
  • Where does the chocolate come from? Are Valentine’s products gendered?
  • How are our expressions of love linked to consumption in Valentine’s Day, where love = the amount of money you spend?


  • When do we start learning appropriate sexual/gender behavior?
  • What is the link between Valentine’s Day and romance/romantic love?
  • How have feminists critically analyzed romantic love?
  • Can anyone be against love? What would it mean to be against love?
  • How does being single get read as failure before/during/after Valentine’s Day?
  • What other ways can we imagine love, intimacy, connection with others outside of heterosexual monogamy via marriage?
  • What configurations of loving community and kinship does Valentine’s Day foreclose with its almost singular focus on romantic love as man + woman = marriage?
  • Are there ways to rethink love and sexuality that make room for envisioning (heterosexual/monogamous) marriage as one option among many instead of as the only (natural/normal) option?


  • How do we negotiate our private lives (our relationships, our expressions of intimacy) in public spheres via holidays like Valentine’s Day?
  • How does our participation in V Day (or other heteronormative rituals like weddings) “signify belonging to society in a deep and normal way” (Warner/Berlant, “Sex in Public” 554)?
  • What are the consequences for not participating in these rituals and not reinforcing dominant norms?
  • Who all is excluded from participating in these public rituals and how are they excluded?

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