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Spring 2018 Syllabus

The Gender, Power, and Sexuality Workshop (GPS) is a free 10-week, small group, discussion-based workshop centering marginalized identities and building community through addressing the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and much, much more! We use personal narratives as a starting point to explore and take ownership of our experiences, desires, and/or bodies.

GPS meets for two hours, twice a week, for 10 weeks in Providence, RI. The workshop is offered every year both in the Spring and Fall. We welcome participants of all backgrounds from the Providence area, and childcare is provided. The workshop is held on Brown University’s campus but is not affiliated or funded by the university.

The Spring 2018 season will run from February 21st to May 8th, 2018

Mon/Wed: 6:30-8:30 PM (POC only)

Tues/Thurs: 7:00-9:00 PM


Section 1: Introduction & Sexuality | 2/21 & 2/22

Welcome to GPS! We will come together as a section for the first time, set ground rules for our interactions, discuss our hopes and fears for the season, and begin exploring, deepening and complicating our understanding of sexuality.

Topics include:

  • Community guidelines for the space
  • GPS Language Tools
  • Our goals, hopes, and fears for the season
  • The circles of sexuality activity

Section 2: Power, Language & Identity | 2/26 & 2/27

This section will focus on naming and defining power and privilege and discussing how our own identities, power, and privilege impact the ways we navigate the world and participate in various communities. We will explore how the different identities we hold might be in conflict with one another politically and personally, within and outside of the GPS space. We will discuss in detail how power dynamics might and will affect the group and how we will communicate and mitigate harm within the space.

Topics include:

  • Brainstorming definitions of important terms
  • Discussion on language and community
  • Discussion of power and our positions within systems of oppression

Section 3: Active Desires | 2/28 & 3/1

We will discuss what it means to think critically about and approach desire. We perceive desire to often be conflated with sex, so our workshop will define desires as not just sexual but also non-sexual (i.e. a desire for certain communication or a desire to not have sex). Participants are asked to write a brief personal manifesto asserting their own rights, boundaries and desires. We discuss what desire means to us, keeping in mind how it ties into five components of sexuality: sensuality, intimacy, identity, reproduction and sexual health, and sexualization.

Topics include:

  • Discussion the decolonization of love and desire
  • Exploring learnt desires and/or beauty standards
  • Celebrating & understanding personal desires

Section 4: Capitalist Cultures | 3/5 & 3/6

This section will address how capitalism impacts and is ingrained in every aspect of society. We will examine the ways various capitalist institutions interact and inflict many forms of harm and oppression. We will discuss how these systems were built on the exploitation of Black and brown people of the world, both historically and contemporarily.

Topics include:

  • A discussion of political purity
  • Capitalism’s role in our everyday lives and attitudes
  • Examining the accessibility of ethical consumption
  • The medical industrial complex
  • Food deserts

Section 5: Desirability Politics | 3/7  & 3/8

This section examines the politics of desire and their intersections with colorism, fatphobia, classism, ability, and much more. We discuss and challenge unrealistic standards for beauty and attractiveness and reflect upon how society has affected (and possibly colonized) our own desires.

Topics include:

  • Brainstorming to define desirability and to answer the question: how is desire political?
  • Reflecting on how our relationships to desirability have changed over time

Section 6: Colorism | 3/12 & 3/13

This section intends to address head on the ways in which we have experienced and/or come to understand racism and colorism. Our conversation will explore how race, racism, and colorism continuously shape the ways bodies interact with each other, the world and communities.

Topics include:

  • Colorism in activist communities
  • Challenging colorism in daily life
  • Naming possible accountability measures

Section 7: Gender Identity | 3/14 & 3/15

This section explores our understanding of gender, prescribed notions of gender, and the full spectrum of gender identities. We will examine how our gender and gender presentation intersects with other identities we hold, such as race, sexuality, and class.

Topics include:

  • Understanding terminology around gender
  • Practice with pronouns
  • Reflecting on our experiences and our gender identities

Section 8: Class Conversations | 3/19 & 3/20

In this section, we will stress honest and transparent communication around class and socioeconomic status. Participants will gain a better understanding of their class background, their class standing, what informs or determines one’s class standing, the difference between finances/financial income and class status, the way class identifications might change for people over time, and more. Participants will explore the ways in which class intersects with other structural identities such as race, sexuality, gender and ability.

Topics Include:

  • Defining the terms class, class background, classism and current finances
  • Discussing and interrogating our personal relationships to class and conversations about class
  • Exploring intersections between class, racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

Section 9: Presentation and Perception | 3/21 & 3/22

We are still in the process of developing this section, but our goal is to discuss the variety of ways in which we present ourselves. How is performance different from performativity and how are these things connected to self presentation? How are presentation and perception connected within and across various structures of power (racism, cissexism, ableism, heterosexism, classism, etc.)?

Section 10: Fatphobia | 4/2 & 4/3

We are still in the process of developing this section, but our goal is to create a space to think critically about how fatphobia manifests at personal, cultural, and institutional levels. We hope to use this section to examine and learn about how certain political structures perpetuate fatphobia and to elevate the resistance and resilience of fat people.

Section 11: Reproductive Justice | 4/4 & 4/5

In this section, we will collaboratively define reproductive justice and what it means to us. We will have readings by Dorothy Roberts and Loretta Ross to provide a foundation for the rest of the workshop’s curriculum. We will discuss reproductive justice versus reproductive rights, learn why GPS attempts to operate under this framework, and familiarize ourselves with the history of reproductive justice in the United States.

Topics include:

  • Reproductive Justice timeline
  • Regulation of families
  • Challenging traditional notions of parenting

Section 12: Communication & Consent |4/9 & 4/10

GPS believes in consent-based interactions beyond the understanding of consent solely in sexual interactions. We will discuss relationship boundaries, how we define consent and nonconsent, methods of communication both verbal and nonverbal, the relationship between consent, desire, and boundaries, and the goals of effective communication in any type of relationships.

Topics include:

  • Exploring and communicating different kinds of boundaries
  • Exploring how our identities might impact our boundaries and how others perceive them

Section 13: Safer Sex (STIs & Sex Toys) | 4/11 & 4/12

This section discusses a wide range of sex toys, as well as the risks, symptoms, and treatments of various sexually transmitted infections. Our discussions in this section hope to work to destigmatize STIs and unpack the way these stigmas are heavily racialized and informed by classist, cissexist, and heterosexist mentalities. A guest speaker will present various sex toys, challenging their stigma, and discuss the important role they can play in people’s lives as well as barriers to access.

Topics include:

  • A guest speaker who will discuss STI’s and practices of safer sex
  • A guest speaker who will present about sex toys
  • A discussion on stigma and past experiences with sex education  

Section 14: Disability Justice | 4/16 & 4/17

We hope to reflect upon our own personal narratives around ability and to define what a disability justice framework looks like. We will work to dismantle ableist language and uplift narratives around disability.

Topics include:

  • Defining disability justice
  • Societal assumptions and/or disregard/stigma of disability
  • Examining and dismantling ableist language
  • Considering how ability is impacted by other identities

Section 15: Mental Health | 4/18 & 4/19

We want to provide a space for participants to reflect on and discuss, if they so choose, their experiences with mental health. We want to open conversation around the way mental health moves differently through various communities  and think more in depth about the relationship between capitalist modes of production and ableism.

Topics Include:

  • Societal disregard and/or stigma of mental health
  • Creating space to think through possible personal experiences with mental health
  • Examining and dismantling ableist language
  • Considering how mental health is in conversation with previous sections/other identities

Section 16: Access to Healthcare | 4/23 & 4/24

In this section we will discuss our personal experiences with healthcare systems and insurance. We will discuss what has been challenging and/or harmful, and brainstorm alternate and ideal systems. We will center this discussion on the medical industrial complex and how it intersects with marginalized groups.

Topics include:

  • Discussion on personal experiences with healthcare systems and insurance
  • Creating a personal healthcare timeline
  • Brainstorming our ideal healthcare

Section 17: Body Reflections | 4/25 & 4/26

This section will allow participants to present a project on their own personal experience with their body. We hope to provide a space for participants to explore their relationship with their body in whatever way feels most meaningful to them in an attempt to allow folks to claim their own narrative regarding their body.

Topics include:

  • Individual creative presentations about one’s body

Section 18: Erotic Media | 4/30 & 5/1

In this section, we will discuss both our personal experience with erotic media and the relationship between sex work and our politics, desires, and sexualities. We will talk about our roles as consumers (or non-consumers) of sexual media, our own relationships and experiences with pornographic mediums, a discussion of the idea of ethical porn, and how we might want to incorporate erotic media into our lives.

Topics Include:

  • Broadening our understanding of what defines erotica
  • Discussing the political and social context of pornography especially in its intersection with desirability politics
  • Creating a personal “fantasy worksheet”

Section 19: Building, Healing & Restoring | 5/2 & 5/3

Here we will discuss violence as a barrier to solidarity and question what communities are to us, how violence affects our own communities, and how we might move forward to heal our own relationships. We will think more deeply about historical trauma, our current personal, communal and societal methods of healing, and the potential for transformative care. We hope to incorporate conversations around organizing for political and/or institutional change and why building, restoring, and healing might be important processes for such organizing.

Topics Include:

  • Exploring notions of self care and community care
  • Thinking through a transformative justice framework
  • Considering what community means
  • Sharing and brainstorming ideas and tangible practices around healing
  • Anti-oppressive strategies to maintaining our “communities” 

Section 20: Final Projects & Final Class | 5/7 & 5/8

In this section, each participant will present their final project, a chance to either reflect on personal experiences of GPS or further explore a topic discussed throughout the semester. In the past, some of these projects have taken the form of visual art, video, poetry, exploring a new source/form of pleasure, dance, and much more. We will reflect on and critique the workshop and think of how to move forward in our lives, relationships, and communities with the information we have accumulated.

Topics include:

  • Affirmations to fellow participants
  • Reflection on the experience of participating in the workshop
  • Presenting final projects