Teaching Gender Diversity Through Contemporary Media: Role Models, Irony and Non-Conformity

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Gender and Education Association Conference:Compelling diversities, educational intersections: Policy, Practice and Parity

Dates: 23-26 April 2013


Forming part of a contextual research project that is engaging teacher practitioners within secondary school relating the use of media as a tool to discourage bullying with regards to social and sexual diversity, this paper considers the teaching of irony in gender representation. Contiguous to ideas of queer theory, where the idea of gender fluidity is politicised as a meaningful construct in developing new understandings of sexual identity, this paper considers how gender and sexual diversity might be taught to diverse student populations. In this sense ‘reading against the grain’ is encouraged, stimulating diverse potentials of critical enquiry.

Relating postmodernity to mainstream culture, where as Claire Colebrook (2004) tells us ‘[w]e live in a world of quotation, pastiche and simulation and cynicism: a general and all encompassing irony’ (p. 1), a central intention is to consider how ‘literal’ and ‘ironic’ role models may be related to issues of identification. To explore this, two case studies are presented which might have resonance for secondary school students. The appearance of Rylan Clark and JDA, respectively, within the light entertainment television shows the XFactor (ITV, 2012, UK) and American Idol (Fox, 2013, USA) as queer social actors blending masculine and feminine performance traits, and an examination of gay and lesbian youth narratives within the television drama Glee (Fox, 2009-present, US). In these instances irony potentially plays a central factor in reading the narrative construct with regards to gender non-conformity, and sexual diversity. At the same time although ‘fixedness’ is apparent, mobility and re-reading are more central.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen