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2009 January 25
by Melinda C.

Hi there! My name is Melinda, and I’m a sophomore at Bryn Mawr. I am an English major and education minor, but I am also very interested in gender/sexuality studies and most of my English courses are cross-listed as such. Last year, I took Critical Feminist Studies with Anne, and I found it a little scary to post all of my thoughts online, and even scarier to voice them in class. I tend to be a little shy in class discussions, though I have been trying to get better about that. I prefer to express my thoughts through writing, so I’m glad that we have the blog as another place to carry on the conversation. Of course, I know that I need to keep trying to get more comfortable with verbalizing and putting my thoughts out there even when they aren’t perfectly crafted and refined – that’s always been a big challenge for me, both in person and through writing.

In class on Wednesday, I had a hard time pinpointing the first time I remember being gendered. I described an instance in which my mother bought two different sticker books for my friend and me, one that was pink and had ballerinas and other typical “feminine” things in it, and one that was blue and featured dogs and trains. She had intended for me to pick the second one (since I did really like dogs and trains), but I remember consciously picking the first even though I didn’t like it as much. That kind of thing happened a lot when I was little – I often made conscious decisions to choose and do things that seemed more “girly” because I didn’t want to seem weird for not liking things like dolls and makeup and the color pink. Honestly, though, I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t aware that I was a girl and that being a girl was different from being a boy. The first time I remember becoming aware of the biological difference was when I was 8 years old and my mom was teaching me how to change my brother’s diapers. I don’t remember being shocked that male and female people were anatomically different, probably because I had already learned that they were different in lots of other ways, too, and somehow it made sense to me that we had different body parts. I have struggled at times to negotiate the social expectations of a biologically female person, especially since I do not agree or wish to comply with a lot of them.

As for a profound early experience with technology… the first thing I thought of is when my family first got a computer and I started interacting with people online. I often went to chat rooms and talked to other people over IM, and over time, discovered a sense of comfort in the relative anonymity of the internet. In real life, I was a socially awkward, shy, self-conscious girl with big glasses and very few friends, but online, no one could see any of that unless I told them (which I usually didn’t). All of my interactions were language-based (I refused to show pictures of myself to anyone online), and thus I was able to present my personality in a way that I felt too inhibited to do offline. Between the ages of 13 and 15 (an awful time in my “real” life), I went by the name “Angie” online and basically had a secondary life on the internet. Now, as a 20-year old college student who is pretty happy with where she is and who she is, my relationship with the internet has changed a lot, and the person I am online is essentially the same person I am offline – but I still find it fascinating that technology has made it possible to fashion an entirely different identity for oneself.

This past summer, I worked with three other students in an on-campus internship with the TLI, co-teaching classes about the new email system and collaborating to create documentation for it and work on other projects. This year, I am also working with the TLI as a co-teacher for the staff Computing II class (which focuses mainly on the Microsoft Office programs, blogging, and advanced internet topics of interest). And in my education classes, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the connections between technology and different discourses and literacies. Through all of these experiences, I’ve begun seeing lots of connections between technology and education, of how technology can be enabling and disabling, empowering and disempowering. Technology has such potential to allow people to connect to one another, to extend the dialogue to those who might not typically be included – and that is what I love about it. In a sense, I suppose that my interest in technology is not in technology for its own sake, but in its potential to positively impact the people who use it and create it… if that makes any sense at all.

At this point, here are some of my questions: What role can/does technology have in the physical and emotional (re)presentation of one’s gender, and how does one’s gender shape and influence one’s relationship with technology? How can an educator understand and intervene in the connections between gender, technology, and education in the classroom? And how does all of this tie into the construction of an individual’s sense of identity?

I’m looking forward to our class this semester! See you all tomorrow!

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