UCF to offer course on gender identity

By : Anna M. Johnson
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The University of Central Florida is offering an English course that will explore both the oppressive and supportive role of gender in writing. “Gendered Rhetorics” is being offered as a 3-credit class through the Department of Writing and Rhetoric for the Fall 2016 school term.

“We’ll be looking at a lot of public protests or speeches, acts of resistance that are in films, television shows, music and literature,” Dr. Martha Brenckle, who teaches the course, says. “[The class will study] people that really question this whole idea of ‘gender’ and what it means.”

This is the second year the class is offered, the first being Fall semester 2015, also taught by Brenckle. The course description elaborates that the class “will provide an opportunity to explore the connections among gender, rhetoric and public culture.”

The rhetoric of the written word is only one of the many mediums that will be dissected. Brenckle says that the class will spend a lot of time discussing the societal differences that are implicit in so many aspects of the day-to-day American life.

Brenckle describes this as “looking at how language shapes an identity.”

She offers the example of a children’s archery set – the set advertised specifically for young girls is only offered in pink.

The class will examine gendered fashion choices and professionalism in terms of what careers men and women seem to be drawn to. Brenckle says that this year, for the first time, the class will take time to dissect policies forming in government based around gender.

“It’s impossible not to in an election year,” she says.

The issues surrounding transgender bathroom equality and proper pronoun usage will be part of the dialogue. Brenckle says that the widely-accepted standard among scholars is to address a person by the pronoun that that person identifies with, so teaching experienced writers is not a difficult task.

She instead chooses to have the class tackle problems that stem from gendered expectations in American culture. These are expectations that come from writings or phrases that are so common in the American vernacular that their underlying discrimination is no longer questioned.

It’s these social standards that stifle any community’s progress toward equality – not only concerning genders, Brenckle says, but also race and class. The intent of this course is illuminate why words have the distinguishing influence that they do.

“It’s language that shapes our behaviors,” Brenckle says. “It’s language that tells us what to do or not to do.”

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