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In our last committee meeting you asked me to better synthesize my portfolio content, and to start making the turn towards articulating why this work – queer video – is important and necessary to the field and what it is this work is trying to do.

I hate it when you’re right.

I want to start with Jackie Rhodes, who visited MSU in November when she gave a talk, “Writing Feminist/Queer Lives” and visited Queer Rhetorics; additionally, a couple of weeks after her visit she Skyped in to Composition Studies. This was a great opportunity to engage with and learn from a scholar doing queer and feminist rhetorics. But first let me back up a bit and bring in the study design I did for The Gender Project in Research Methodologies. In my study design I was attempting to use Jackie and Jonathan Alexander’s JAC article, “Queerness: An Impossible Subject for Composition,” to point to the “impossibilities of self-identity and research.” However, as Jeff pointed out in his response, The Gender Project actually moves toward queer composition as possible. I knew this when I was writing it, the idea kept popping up and I kept writing around it because I really really liked the article, and still do, and very much wanted to agree with them. But now I see it as an opening to start talking about queer composing practices as knowable, and I think the way to do this is first through butch, then opening further beyond that with The Gender Project.

In my CCCC presentation last year, “Butch Rhetoric: Queer Masculinity in Rhet/Comp,” I really tried to play with the performance and delivery of the presentation as a way to “show” butch and butch rhetorics. I privileged the moment of the presentation, thus the moment of being seen and read as butch, by performing my presentation in a spoken word style. Add to this a beat heavy soundtrack and a video cycling through archival footage of composing practices made queer through their arrangement and inclusion in this video. I have been working on a publishable version of this presentation. The version I’ve included in this portfolio I consider a second draft, which I worked on in Visual Rhetorics over the summer. The feedback I’ve received from Queer Theory Playground is that my body, my butch body, is missing from the piece. So the third draft will work towards this.

In the Q & A after Rhodes’ talk I asked her about her thoughts on butch, which she also identifies as/with; she said, “Butch lesbians are vanguards in queer” [*smile*swoon* flutter*]. Jackie (we’re on a first name basis now) also said that she isn’t sure how butch informs her work, yet it’s a word she used in her talk to identify her self – to compose her identity. Hearing this was a validation of what I’ve been doing, as well as a both an entry point and starting place in beginning to talk about the possibilities of queer composing.

Jackie Rhodes also visited Queer Rhetorics, where my classmates asked some great questions about methodology, queer theory, sex, invention, rhetoric, composition, performativity, the archive, and more. What was most profound for me was her thoughts on queer methodology, saying that queer methodology is “looking for stuff that’s not supposed to be there, putting stuff there that’s not supposed to be there.” In other words, “troubling your reader.” This has been my thinking in working with video, which is what I was gearing up for at that point in Queer Rhetorics, an addition to The Gender Project. My focus this time around was very much on methods because of my attempt at a study design in Research Methodologies, and subsequent proposal to, and now upcoming presentation at, CCCC 13 on the same topics.

It’s been a few years since the last time I created a piece for The Gender Project. I was unsatisfied the last time around (Fall 2009) but wasn’t sure why and wasn’t able to productively articulate the frustration. Over time I realized I was bored with what I’d created, bored with the methods, bored with the project. This time I was ready, excited actually to dig into the project again, try some things out, do some “troubling.” I asked Katie, my partner, to be my participant this time around. Together we created “Femme: Doing it Wrong. “

Katie was also my first participant back in 2008, but she’d asked me to take her video down a couple of years ago because, one, she no longer felt it was representative of her identity(-ies), and two, I made a crucial error in editing the video – I included a portion of the video that I said I wouldn’t, and even included in the final product myself saying that I wouldn’t. This mistake is fundamental to my insistence now on showing and seeking feedback from the participant on multiple drafts before a final product goes live. This inclusion of the participant is a major methodological shift in this project, something even my IRB commenter’s attempted to convince me not to do. This is an example of Rhodes’ “putting stuff there that’s not supposed to be there,” in this instance, making space for the agency of the participant in the analysis. The next thing I want to pay attention to with The Gender Project is “editing as analysis.” I think that being able to articulate this through a queer lens will be a significant contribution to the field.

Alongside Jackie Rhodes, a piece of scholarship that’s been influential to me this past year is Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch’s Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. In this book, Royster and Kirsch lay out a feminist way of being and doing, of coming to knowing, that coalesces feminist rhetorical work into an actionable framework that can be applied across the various types of work in rhet/comp – teaching, researching, writing, being a colleague, administrating, mentoring, etc. In the Leadership Philosophy I wrote as a “disciplinary discourse” assignment I used Royster and Kirsch’s “ethics of hope and care” to ground my sense of critical leadership in feminist practice.

I’ve had numerous opportunities over the last year to practice critical leadership. Here I focus on my role as Media Coordinator at The Writing Center where I lead a team of writing center folk who run, write for, and promote our website. As such I also led a team of videomakers in planning, filming, and editing a video promoting our satellite locations. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go With Your Writing” is a journey across campus lead by many of our consultants. The video visits all nine locations, celebrating campus landmarks along the way. In my practice of critical leadership I relied on the ideas, suggestions, and talents of the consultants at each satellite. My role was to create a space they could be silly, and my intention for doing so was to gather footage that conveyed an authentic sense of play and informality that is fundamental to our sense of ourselves as a center.

Before I get to the part of this reflection where I tell you what I see as my next steps, I want to close with my work with Queer Theory Playground, which is the absolute heartbeat of my scholarship right now. We officially gather once a week, but in that often too short hour we create queer community in a generally hostile and/or dismissive environment. We support each other’s individual work, providing each other a set of queer-minded readers, writers, and thinkers. But we also look for opportunities to work collectively, like the zinemaking workshop we facilitated at MBLGTACC (pronounced “mumble-tack”), our proposal to FemRhet ’13, and the kids zine workshop we’re proposing for the Allied Media Conference this summer. In short, thank the goddess for QTP.

And now, the part where I tell you my next steps. First up, CCCC in Lez Vegas where I’ll be presenting “Queer Methodological Praxis: A Look Into The Gender Project.” Working on this presentation has taken me back to the study design from 870 that I can now revise with the actual making of “Femme: Doing it Wrong.” I want to revisit Rhodes and Alexander’s notion of queer as impossible in composition and see how I can turn towards thinking of queer as possible (or maybe I’m missing their point). As I mentioned before, a way I see through this approach is with butch. As such, in April Katie and I will be taking our show on the road to the UNC Asheville Queer Conference where we will be performing “Undisciplined,” a multimedia performance remediating the topic of butch/femme persuasion and desires. Hot! I’ll also be continuing my work on the “Butch Rhetoric” video and look for online academic journals to submit to. Additionally, I’m also interested in submitting my video work to film festivals. I’ve just recently submitted “Femme: Doing it Wrong” to the Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival, and will continue to seek these opportunities.

In closing, I am beginning to situate queer video work in the field through Jackie Rhodes, Jonathan Alexander, and Royster and Kirsch’s Feminist Rhetorical Practices. I’m also very excited Alex Hidalgo is joining the department with her feminist film work and experience (like A LOT). But the answers to the questions of why this work is important to the field, and what exactly this work is trying to do, are still murky, though less so than last year.

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