There's a gender-tastic new book coming out, hopefully in the spring, called The Gender Book. The project is the work of Mel Reiff Hill and Jay Mays along with, in their own words, "a whole big beautiful community." This "whole big beautiful community" of folks have contributed both content and financial resources to the book, which is being funded via an Indiegogo campaign (you can join in the effort HERE).
How I did not know about this project until this week is beyond me - I must have spent this whole fall with my head under a rock - but I know about it now and I have to say that I am pretty stoked. I have been waiting for something like this for a long time.
The aim of the project is to make gender theory and concepts like performativity accessible to everyone. The book uses original artwork along with text to convey its message that gender and sex are complex, fluid, and culturally specific. The authors explain in plain language - but without unnecessary over-simplification - how gender is constructed, how gender differs from physical sex, how gender socialization happens, how different people express gender identity, and so on.
The Gender Book will be important for lots of reasons, but I'm most excited because I often feel that the complexities of gender theory fall exclusively within the purview of academics. I finished my master's degree in 2009 and since then have done relatively little academic reading and writing, but some months ago I pulled a feminist studies reader from the bookshelf and starting slogging through an article on gender identity and performativity. Having not exercised my scholarly prose muscles for a while, I was a little rusty and found myself doing that thing where you read the same sentence over and over again without absorbing any meaning. In the end, my brain warmed up and I was able to get through it and pull out the main arguments, but not without some effort. I sat there wondering if I - a person ostensibly trained to decipher such texts - struggled with this, how on earth would we ever convey these ideas to the mainstream? I was worried because this stuff is so important and yet almost everything written about it sounds like academics talking to each other and nobody else. Academic work is important - it helps push the limits of our understanding of history, culture, power, and the assumptions we take for granted, but that work is enhanced when it is also accessible to everyone. Projects like this invite everyone into the conversation.
The finished book will be available online for free in its electronic version, but if you want to get your hands on some hard copies, you can pre-order via the Indiegogo campaign (see link above). The campaign runs until the end of December, so there are only a couple of weeks left to contribute. The book is projected to be completed and ready to print by March 2014. I'll be counting the days.
For more info (and more previews from the finished book!), visit: www.thegenderbook.com