Reading Gender


This Study Guide prepared by:

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Elaine Bontempi, M.Ed.

Catherine Kerley




Deborah Tannen, "Marked Women, Unmarked Men" New York Times Magazine June 20, 1993.


Deborah Tannen is best known as the author of You Just Don't Understand, which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for nearly four years, including eight months as No. 1, and has been translated into twenty-six languages. It was also on best seller lists in Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, and Hong Kong. This is the book that brought gender differences in communication style to the forefront of public awareness. Her book Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men in the Workplace: Language, Sex, and Power , a New York Times Business Best Seller, does for the workplace what the earlier book did for women and men talking at home. She has also made a training video, Talking 9 to 5. Her book, The Argument Culture, received the Common Ground Book Award. Her newest book, I Only Say This Because I Love You: How the Way We Talk Can Make or Break Family Relationships Throughout Our Lives, was just published by Random House. Deborah Tannen is a frequent guest on television and radio news and information shows. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 20/20, 48 Hours, CBS News, ABC World News Tonight, Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, Larry King, Hardball, and NPR are among the major television and radio shows on which Dr. Tannen has appeared. She has been featured in and written for most major newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today, People, the Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review.


Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. The term “marked” refers to

(a) the way a word carries the meaning that goes without saying.

(b) verbs in the present tense.

(c) the way language alters the base meaning of a word.

(d) words that convey male.

(e) words written on a wall.


  1. Word endings like ess and ette mark words as

(a) male.

(b) female.

(c) non-gendered.

(d) unmarked.

(e) dull.


  1. Unlike women, men have the option of being

(a) unmarked.

(b) incomparably narrow.

(c) marked.

(d) not quite serious.

(e) insane.


  1. Some men see women who go without makeup as

(a) conservative and married.

(b) glamorous and available.

(c) hostile and refusing to please them.

(d) boring.

(e) easy.


  1. For men, not wearing makeup is

(a) marked.

(b) hostile.

(c) mind-numbing.

(d) unmarked.

(e) unacceptable.


  1. Checking “Ms.” on a form marks a woman as

(a) married.

(b) liberated or rebellious.

(c) single.

(d) unmarked.

(e) conservative and married.


  1. All married women’s surnames are

(a) unmarked.

(b) spelled wrong.

(c) marked.

(d) assigned by the court.

(e) confusing.


  1. Fasold says that it is the ______ who is biologically marked, and that language and culture are _______ in marking the _______.

(a) female, fair, female.

(b) lizard, silly, female.

(c) male, unfair, female.

(d) male, correct, male.

(e) female, wrong, male.


  1. Fasold says that if grammar books reflected biology, the books would direct writers to use ________ to include males and females instead of ________.

(a) us, them.

(b) they, it.

(c) he, she.

(d) she, he.

(e) she, they.


  1. Deborah Tannen claims women do not have the _______ to be unmarked that men have.

(a) freedom.

(b) right.

(c) need.

(d) time.

(e) buying power.


Before You Read

What are the linguistic and cultural signs that indicate gender? List five ways that the English language indicates gender.  List cultural features that are gender-specific.

After You Read

Do you agree or disagree with Tannen's position?  List five elements of her argument that you either agree with or disagree with, and explain how and why you think the way you do.

Web Links


Symbolic Exclusion in Statistical Literature: The Impact of Gendered Language Linguistic Sabotage

Concept of gender as a social category

Gendered Terms and Nonsexist Language

English Covert Gender



Holly Devor, "Gender Role Behavior and Attitudes” excerpt from Gender

Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1989.


Dr. Holly Devor is professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, Canada. She specializes in the study of gender, sex, and sexuality in lesbian women, transgendered females, and female-to-male transsexuals. Her first book, Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality , in which she coined the phrase Gender Blending , examined the social construction of gender in society and its implications for the lives of females whose gender presentations mixed masculinity, femininity, and other characteristics to the point that their gender was not always recognizable to observers. Dr. Devor's second book, FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society , provides a detailed, compassionate, intimate, and incisive portrait of the life experiences of 45 female-to-male transsexuals and suggests new theoretical frameworks for understanding the interplay of gender, sex, and sexuality. Her current research focuses on Reed Erickson , a transsexed man and founder of the Erickson Educational Foundation, who was instrumental in bringing issues of transgender and gay rights into public awareness. Dr. Devor is a renowned public lecturer and has made numerous appearances on television, radio and in print media. She is available for research, consultation, and educational work concerning female or male transgendered or transsexual persons.


Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. In some cases, cross-gendered behaviors are ________ by observers, and do not compromise the ______ of a person’s _____.

(a) closely observed, problems, cultural identity.

(b) praised, fluidity, gender display.

(c) ignored, integrity, gender display.

(d) laughed at, insanity, gender identity.

(e) ridiculed, availability, wardrobe.


  1. According to Devor, subordinate persons of either gender tend to use influence tactics and verbal styles considered to be the

(a) province of men.

(b) realm of madness.

(c) province of women.

(d) province of the future.

(e) realm of power.


  1. Feminine characteristics are thought to be intrinsic to the female facility for _______ and _______.

(a) childbirth, breastfeeding.

(b) aggression, dominance.

(c) homosexuality, child care.

(d) logic, reason.

(e) community, cooking.


  1. The goals of femininity and all biological females are presumed to revolve around _______ and ________.

(a) shopping, cooking.

(b) heterosexuality, maternity.

(c) gossiping, sewing.

(d) homosexuality, basketball.

(e) heterosexuality, aggression.


  1. Warm and continued relations with men and an interest in _________ require women to be heterosexually _________.

(a) sports, oriented.

(b) shopping, charged.

(c) aggression, oppositional.

(d) fashion, active.

(e) maternity, oriented.


  1. Masculinity requires its actors to _______ and their society in a hierarchical manner so they are able to ______ the achievement of success.

(a) organize themselves, explicitly quantify.

(b) be scattered, ignore.

(c) organize others, qualify.

(d) wear dresses, celebrate.

(e) control women, brag about.


  1. Masculine body postures tend to be ______________ and __________________.

(a) warm, cuddly.

(b) subordinate, minimizing.

(c) fake, rigid.

(d) expansive, aggressive.

(e) ridiculous, overdone.


  1. Other people tend to stand ___________ people they see as feminine.

(a) away from.

(b)in front of.

(c) closer to.

(d) behind.

(e) on top of.


  1. Femininity attempts to ______ the masculine vision of heterosexual _________.

(a) dissolve, demands.

(b) satisfy, attractiveness.

(c) illuminate, role play.

(d)satisfy, fashion.

(e) make fun of, mind games.


  1. Gender role characteristics reflect the ideological contentions underlying the dominant gender scheme in

(a) European culture.

(b) Asian society.

(c) North American society.

(d) Native American culture.

(e) 19th Century British literature.



Before You Read

How do you convince a person or a group to do something if you do not have power?  Do you speak directly, or do you tend to use indirect methods.  When and why?

After You Read

After reading this article, describe three situations from your life in which you have witnessed people using different influence tactics to obtain a desired result.  Did gender or sexual orientation make a difference?  How?

Web Links


The Genesis of Gender Identity in the Male

Reciprocal Relations Between Gender Role Attitudes and Marriage in Early Adulthood

Human Nature and Cultural Diversity

Student Gender Differences

Gender Issues and Actions: A Community Encounter


Margaret Atwood, "The Female Body" Michigan Quarterly Review 29 (1990): 490-94.


Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario on November 18, 1939. She is the author of more than twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Among her most recent works are the bestselling novels Alias Grace, Cat's Eye, and The Robber Bride, and the collections Wilderness Tips and Bluebeard's Egg. Among the many honors she has received are the Canadian Governor General's Award, the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., and Le Chevalier dans l'Ordre de Arts et Les Lettres in France. She lives in Toronto with the novelist Graeme Gibson.



Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. Atwood says the in the morning, her “topic feels like”

(a) glue.

(b) comfortable shoes.

(c) stale beer.

(d) hell.

(e) it’s nearsighted.


  1. The Female Body is made of

(a) sugar and spice and everything nice.

(b) transparent plastic that lights up when you plug it in.

(c) snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

(d) barrettes, beads, and feather boas.

(e) 98% water.


  1. The reproductive system is _________ and can be ____________.

(a) unnecessary, uncomfortable.

(b) blue, changed to purple.

(c) mandatory, manipulated.

(d) optional, manipulated.

(e) optional, removed.


  1. Not only can the female body sell, it can be

(a) traded in for a newer model.

(b) squeezed into jeans two sizes too small.

(c) sold.

(d) bought.

(e) trained to breed sublimation.


  1. Pleasure for females is

(a) required.

(b) a renewable source.

(c) handy.

(d) not a requirement.

(e) capable of reducing the national debt.


  1. The male brain has a ________ connection while the female brain has a ______ connection.

(a) thin, thick.

(b) lack of, strong.

(c) thick, thin.

(d) limited, constant.

(e) cable modem, dial up.


  1. The male brain is

(a) worthless.

(b) objective.

(c) powerful.

(d) passionate.

(e) without reason.


  1. Repression breeds

(a) passion.

(b) chaos.

(c) glued on underwear.

(d) potted azaleas.

(e) sublimation.


  1. Young girls have _________ beauty.

(a) an accurate notion of.

(b) a handle on.

(c) a false sense of.

(d) a naked sense.

(e) natural.


  1. Men ________ because women don’t understand.

(a) grind their teeth.

(b) wear pants.

(c) don’t wear skirts.

(d) drink too much.

(e) ignore their wives.


Before You Read

List five examples in which the female body is used to either sell or promote an item or concept.  What do these examples have in common?

After You Read

What are the consequences of using the female body for selling, promoting, as barter, or as a symbol of values or an ideal?  List the consequences in terms of self-esteem, society's idea of what a woman should look like, how society believes a woman should behave, and men and women's relationships in the domestic sphere.

Web Links


The Atwood Society

The Body Eclectic

Ophelia Has a Lot to Answer For

Feminism in Canada

Margaret Atwood Speaks to the Toronto Council of Teachers of English



Paul Theroux, "Being a Man" Sunrise with Seamonsters. Houghton-Mifflin, 1984.

Paul Theroux is one of seven children.  He was raised in Massachusetts and in the early sixties, he joined the Peace Corps.  Theroux is a prolific writer and has authored over forty books and has published articles and short stories in a variety of newspapers and magazines.  He has traveled throughout the world and has a tremendous reputation as a travel writer recounting his travels with humor and intelligence.  Theroux divides his time between London and Cape Cod. His novels include Chicago Loop and Mosquito Coast and travel books such as The Old Patagonian Express.  In Sunset with Seamonsters, he has taken a look at the countries and cultures that ring the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar through the Balkans and back to Tangier, including conversations with American expatriate author Paul Bowles and Naguib Mafouz. His itinerary is never known to him, and his picture of the world is not one of plush resorts, slaphappy tourists, and ancient ruins in the tradition of the Grand Tour, but rather of life at street level.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. According to Paul Theroux, America’s version of masculinity is a little like

(a) spending every night with his mother in Queens.

(b) killing lions.

(c) proving that he’s just as much a monster as the next guy.

(d) having to wear an ill-fitting coat for one’s entire life.

(e) mounting his horse and going fox hunting.


  1. By contrast, Theroux says femininity is

(a) a big fun party.

(b) an oppressive state of nakedness.

(c) an excuse for boot camp.

(d) insulting and abusive.

(e) a hideous and crippling lie.


  1. Boys who are subverted into believing in the masculine ideal are effectively separated from women and spend the rest of their lives believing women are

(a) a male affliction.

(b) destroyers of nature.

(c) only interested in clothing.

(d) sexually dispensable.

(e) a riddle and a nuisance.


  1. Theroux claims that femininity implies needing a man

(a) to celebrate the exclusive company of men.

(b) as witness and seducer.

(c) to deny the natural friendship of women.

(d) to be a poor loser.

(e) to play a subtle power game.


  1. Theroux regards high school sports as

(a) a drug far worse than marijuana.

(b) creating bad marriages.

(c) creating pathetic oafs.

(d) breeding moral degenerates.

(e) an objective study.


  1. Any boy who expresses a desire to be alone seems to be saying that there is

(a) an L. L. Bean catalogue on the counter top.

(b) no book-hater like a Little League coach.

(c) nothing more unnatural or prison-like than boy’s camp.

(d) something wrong with him.

(e) a female version of the male affliction.


  1. Theroux claims American culture does little more than prepare men for

(a) the Marines.

(b) bad marriages.

(c) a modeling job in the L. L. Bean catalogue.

(d) sadistic behavior.

(e) inadequacy.


  1. All the bull-fighting and arm wrestling and elephant hunting diminished Hemingway as a writer, but it is consistent with a prevailing attitude in American writing that

(a) Hemingway was too tedious to go there.

(b) a man should carry a knife to defend himself.

(c) everything in stereotyped manliness goes against the life of the mind.

(d) there is a heartiness about journalism that makes it acceptable.

(e) one cannot be a male writer without first proving that one is a man.


  1. Fiction writing is equated with a kind of dispirited failure and is only manly when it

(a) is romantic.

(b) involves excessive drinking.

(c) roisters up and down Manhattan in a lumberjack shirt.

(d) produces wealth.

(e) contains oppressive role-playing.


  1. Women’s lib has done much more for _____ than for ______.

(a) men, women.

(b) William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway.

(c) women, men.

(d) novelists, journalists.

(e) men, cross dressers.

Before You Read

When have you heard men complaining about the pressure involved in being a man? Are they joking? Is there something valid in their position?  What is it and why?

After You Read

Describe three men and situations that illustrate the points that Theroux is making.

Web Links


Men’s Stuff

Paul Theroux: His Secret Life

Refusing to be a Man

Women, Men, and Feminism

It's Still a Man's World (by Design)



Susan Douglas, epilogue from Where the Girls Are. Times Books, 1995.


Professor Susan Douglas has been with the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan since 1996. In 1999, she was awarded the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship for her outstanding contribution to undergraduate education. Professor Douglas is currently serving as the director of the Ph.D. Program in Mass Communication. She has written many books, including Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media; Inventing American Broadcasting; and Listening in: Radio and the American Imagination, which won the 2000 Sally Hacker Popular Book Prize for the Society for the History of Technology. Media critic, American Studies professor, and author of Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, Susan Douglas reveals how television and advertising target images of women. She is presently researching an examination of how motherhood has been portrayed in the mass media from the late 1960s to the present.


Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. According to Susan Douglass, girls, as early as the age of four, can understand

(a) Saturday morning cartoons.

(b) our commodity based culture.

(c) how pretty Barbie is.

(d) the semiotics of gender differentiation.

(e) that action figures are yucky boy stuff.


  1. After 20 years as a feminist, Douglass still finds herself

(a) wanting to be like June Cleaver.

(b) hating men.

(c) learning feminism will never work.

(d) giving in to cultural stereotypes.

(e) with a daughter who wants nothing more that a Barbie.


  1. Douglass claims that television cartoons still treat females as either _______ or _____.

(a) nonexistent, ancillary afterthoughts.

(b) strong, necessary components.

(c) strong, appealing characters.

( d) enterprising, invisible.

(e) beautiful, able to change a tire.


  1. Another aspect of female representation during Saturday morning cartoons is that almost all female are

(a) scared.

(b) white.

(c) stupid.

(d) silly.

(e) superheroes.


  1. Most female Disney characters are only fulfilled through

(a) singing.

(b) defeating the sadistic, evil demon.

(c) selflessness.

(d) marriage.

(e) reading good books.


  1. Feeling voiceless, and experiencing a severing between true feelings and their own voices is a central _______ for adolescent girls in America.

(a) psychological drama.

(b) necessity.

c) life preserver.

(d) theme in Disney films.

(e) focus.


  1. According to Douglass, it is important that we teach our daughters

(a) to shop sale racks.

(b) to sing like Belle.

(c) how to embrace the notions of mass media.

(d) how to blow things up like boys do.

(e) how to talk back and make fun of mass media.


  1. Ads geared to each gender encourage children to dehumanize themselves and one another, to regard people as

(a) awesome spectators.

(b) objects to be acquired or discarded.

(c) vengeful manipulating enemies.

(d) sex objects and moms.

(e) action figures.


  1. In order for a girl to be a desirable commodity, she must

(a) consume the right goods.

(b) practice shopping.

(c) get a VISA card early in life.

(d) resist socialization.

(e) be smart and brave.


  1. Douglass describes girls - as portrayed by media - as

(a) being smart, brave, and assertive.

(b) hurling projectiles at things.

(c) dropping like a sack of onions.

(d) monsters who crave too much power.

(e) flat, shiny surfaces who reflect coolness back on the boys.


Before You Read

List five female characters from Disney cartoons or animated films.  What are the primary attributes of each? Do you think these characters reinforce values found in the culture?  Are they up to date values, or are they something from the past?

After You Read

After reading the essay, list five examples of ideal women as represented by cartoons, animated films, television, or film.  What values and behaviors do they reflect? Are these harmful or beneficial to society?

Web Links


From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games

The Barbie syndrome

Desperately Seeking Difference: ABC Finds Biology Is Destiny

Gender and Stereotyping in Children’s Toys

Cartoons Still Stereotype Gender Roles





Alfonsina Storni, "You Would Have Me White," in ed. Benson, Rachel. American Poets (A Verse Translation), New York: Las Americas Publishing Co., 1968.


Alfonsina Storni was born in Sala Capriasca in the Swiss canton of Ticina on May 22, 1892.  At the age of four, she moved with her parents to Argentina.  She lived in Santa Fe, Rosario, and Buenos Aires.  She ended her life by suicide, drowning herself in the Perla Beach area of El Mar de Plata on October 25, 1938.  Alfonsina Storni located herself in the middle of two epochs:  modernism and avant-garde.  However, she established a base upon which postmodernism could be constructed.  Other influential poets with whom she has been affiliated or considered an inspiration include Delmira Agustini, Juana de Ibarbourou, Gabriela Mistral, Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, and Dulce Maria Loynaz.

Multiple-Choice Questions

1.      Alfonsina Storni was born in

a. Argentina.

b. Germany.

c. Switzerland.

d. Chile.

e. America.


2. When Storni was fur years old, her family moved to


a. Switzerland.

b.  the United States.

c. Argentina.

d. Chile.

e. France.


3. How did Storni die?


a. Old age.

b. Electric chair.

c. In a Nazi concentration camp.

d. Suicide by drowning.

e. Suicide by hanging.


4. Storni's poems were written in


a. code.

b. English.

c. Spanish.

d. an archaic version of Italian used in southeast Switzerland along the border region

e. Arabic


5. You want me white refers to a man's desire to have a woman be


a. racially white, thus descended from Europeans.

b. pure.

c. forever virginal.

d. all of the above.

e. non of the above.


6. For Storni, white can also refer to the color of a woman who is


a. hot tempered.

b. on a diet.

c. dead.

d. frustrated.

e. a bleached blonde.


7. This poem shares aesthetic characteristics with


a. poets such as Rimbaud and Baudelaire, who wrote about death.

b. French symbolist poets.

c. Shakespeare's description of Ophelia in Hamlet.

d. all of the above.

e. none of the above.


8. The poem is addressed to


a. an old schoolteacher.

b. a male, probably her lover or husband.

c. the florist who lives on the corner.

d. the seamstress who is making her wedding dress.

e.  a waiter at the coffee shop she goes to every day.


9. Storni is considered modernist because of


a. the form of her poems.

b. the themes she deals with in her poems.

c. direct allusions to philosophical concerns.

d. all of the above.

e. none of the above.


10. Storni's poem is


a. cheerful, probably used as an occasional poem for a birthday card.

b. commemorative, dealing with Mother's Day.

c. written as an allusion to the Holocaust.

d. a view of the double-standard used to measure women.

e. both c and d.


Before You Read

List five attributes of a woman who is "white." Provide an example for each.

After You Read

Reread the poem, considering the idea that white represents death.  What additional interpretation and meanings come to the surface if you use this interpretative strategy?

Web Links

Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938)

Female Stereotypes in Literature (With a Focus on Latin American Writers)

Alfonsina Storni

Alfonsina Storni

Selected poems of Alfonsina Storni



Jill Birnie Henke et. al. “Construction of the Female Self: Feminist Readings of the Disney Heroine” (1996).

Jill Birnie Henke teaches in the Communication and Theatre Department at Millersville University, Millersville, Pennsylvania.


Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. Disney’s interpretation of children’s literature and history remain those of

(a) the Imagineers.

(b) white, middle-class, patriarchal society.

(c) American folklore.

(d) the cultural experience of American children.

(e) a cultural repertoire of ongoing performances.


  1. Disney’s stories present

(a) inaccurate retellings of ancient myths.

(b) the genius of the Imagineers.

(c) positive gender roles.

(d) glimpses of matriarchal society.

(e) powerful and sustained messages about gender and social relations.


  1. Orenstein claims that gender is constructed in the classroom to maintain a hidden curriculum that teaches girls to

(a) be compulsive shoppers.

(b) view silence and compliance as vices.

(c) view silence and compliance as virtues.

(d) be competitive academically.

(e) dress like boys.


  1. The perfect girl, in white-middle-class America, is

(a) always kind and nice.

(b) bossy and rude.

(c) hides under her desks.

(d) speaks only when spoken to.

(e) demands attention of everyone around her.


  1. Brown and Gilligan argue that on the way to womanhood, a girl experiences

(a) too many VISA applications.

(b) an assurance of self.

(c) the realization that being silent is boring.

(d) other girls can be really mean.

(e) a loss of voice and a loss of self.


  1. Girls learn that speaking up can be _________ because it might _______.

(a) fun and empowering, help them be respected.

(b) dangerous and a waste of time, get them in trouble.

(c) painless and safe, get them a scholarship.

(d) disruptive and dangerous, put relationships at risk.

(e) rude and bossy, cause them to lose friends.


  1. Disney’s early heroines, Aurora and Cinderella, are portrayed as

(a) strong willed and obstinate.

(b) helpless, passive victims.

(c) fat and ugly.

(d) crying all the time.

(e) smart and industrious.


  1. Of all Disney’s characters, Pocahontas seems to

(a) break new ground.

(b) be the most insulting.

(c) be the most historically accurate.

(d) be the most passive.

(e) have the most realistic body type.


  1. Cinderella best illustrates the Disney pattern of

(a) depicting positive female role models.

(b) liberating women from traditional roles.

(c) racial stereotyping.

(d) subjugating and stifling heroine’s voices and selfhood.

(e) accurately depicting step parents.


  1. The growing empowerment of Disney’s female characters can be seen in the shifting depictions of their

(a) clothing.

(b) intimate relationships.

(c) racial profiling.

(d) animal friends.

(e) body types.


Before You Read

List five "classic" female Disney cartoon characters, and three from the post 1980s female Disney cartoons characters.  What are the predominate attributes of each?

After You Read

Compare and contrast the "classic" female Disney cartoon characters with post 1980s characters.  How are they similar?  How are they different?  What do you believe accounts for the changes?  Do these correlate with changes in society, or do they reflect nostalgia for past values?

Web Links


Disney Movies

Gender Through Disney’s Eyes

Teaching Gender Roles: Fairy Tales and Beyond

Determinants of Gender Roles

Mulan Vs. Sleeping Beauty

The Cinderella Story and Postmodernism

Feminism and Post (19th Century) History in Eastern Europe

Men’s Gender Roles

Gender Roles in Disney Movies


Jane Yolen, "America's Cinderella" Children's Literature in Education, vol. 8 no. 1 (1977) pp 21 ñ29.


Jane Yolen is an author of children's books, fantasy, and science fiction. She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children's literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Jane Yolen's books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoetic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award. This web book presents information about over two hundred books she has written for children. It also contains essays, poems, answers to frequently asked questions, a brief biography, her travel schedule, and links to resources for teachers and writers. It is intended for children, teachers, writers, storytellers, and lovers of children's literature.


Multiple Choice Questions


  1. Yolen finds the origin of the Cinderella story in

(a) Germany.

(b) ninth century China.

(c) Greek mythology.

(d) Norse mythology.

(e) American folklore.


  1. Yolen describes American’s Cinderella as a “nice” girl who awaits

(a) her prince while doing her chores.

(b) her step-mother’s next demand.

(c) midnight so she can sneak out of the house.

(d) rescue while performing rites and rituals at her mother’s grave.

 (e) her rescue with patience and a song.


  1. Making Cinderella into the Disney version

(a) cheapens our most cherished dreams and makes a mockery of the true magic within us all.

(b) is the adolescent dream come true.

(c) gives the story the staying power it never would have achieved without Disney.

(d) finally brought the long-loved story to life.

(e) proves that a “naked shoeless race could not have invented Cinderella.”


  1. To truly mark the change in the American Cinderella, one must turn to

(a) German folklore.

(b) Disney.

(c) mass-market books.

(d) Rogers and Hammerstein.

(e) the Brothers Grimm.


  1. The point of the Cinderella books is not the story, but the

(a) gimmick.

(b) illustrations.

(c) lack of forgiveness.

(d) sentimentalized pretty girl figure.

(e) emphasis on living happily ever after.


  1. Most Cinderella tales are missing the __________ that was present in the original.

(a) forgiveness.

(b) retribution.

(c) cute animals.

(d) kind step-mother.

(e) witchcraft.


  1. Yolen points out that Cinderella’s identity is known only when

(a) she’s covered with soot.

(b) the clock strikes midnight.

(c) her clothes are magically transformed.

(d) her step-sisters cut off parts of their feet.

(e) the mice tell the prince who she is.


  1. Yolen claims the mass-market Cinderella presents American children with

(a) fun costumes.

(b) an excellent role model.

(c) the wrong dream.

(d) free tickets to Disney World.

(e) the magic they were missing.


  1. The American Cinderella is

(a) a strong heroic model for little girls.

(b) a useless ninny.

(c) the model for Xena.

(d) a sorry excuse for a heroine.

(e) a drill sergeant.


  1. Yolen considers the Disney version of Cinderella to be

(a) a triumph.

(b) a disaster.

(c) boring.

(d) risqué.

(e) perfection.

Before You Read

What are some "life lessons" that the Cinderella story teaches young girls and boys?

After You Read

Do you agree or disagree with this essay?  List five reasons, with an example from the text to support each of your points.

Web Links



Phallus Tales: Gender Roles in the Brothers Grimm

Cinderella with the Prince: Towards a Partnership Model and our Potentialities - Living Happily Ever After

Gender Equity: Political Feminism Goes to School

Cinderella Syndrome



Maxine Hong Kingston, "No Name Woman" from Woman Warrior. Vintage Books, 1986.


Maxine Hong Kingston was born on October 27, 1940 in Stockton, California. She was the first of six American-born children; her parents, Tom and Ying Lan Hong, had had two children in China before they came to America. Her mother trained as a midwife in To Keung School of Midwifery in Canton. Her father had been brought up a scholar and taught in his village of Sun Woi, near Canton. Tom Hong left China for America in 1924, but finding no work for a poet or calligrapher, he took a job in a laundry. He was swindled out of his share of the laundry, but Ying Lan joined him in 1939 in New York City, and they moved to Stockton where Hong had been offered a job in a gambling house. Maxine was named after a lucky blond gambler who frequented the establishment. In 1976, while Kingston was teaching creative writing at the Mid-Pacific Institute, a private school, she published her first book, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. One reviewer, Michael T. Malloy, described the book as having an exotic setting but dealing with the same subjects as mainstream American feminist literature, specifically the "Me and Mom" genre. Other reviewers were surprised by its fresh subject matter and style, and they sang the praises of this poetic, fierce, delicate, original novel/memoir. Kingston strove for a Chinese rhythm to her voice, a typical Chinese-American speech, and rich imagery; her first book was a great success. In the end of Woman Warrior, her shy girl character finds resolution as she breaks female silence and inherits an oral tradition that she carries on as a written tradition. 

Multiple Choice Questions



  1. Kingston says that her mother told stories like the one about her aunt to

(a) confuse the gods.

(b) mark the beginning of menstruation.

(c) distinguish Chinese traditions from American traditions.

(d) test their strength to establish realities.

(e) scare girls into protecting their virginity.


  1. According to Kingston, Chinese emigrants confused the gods by

(a) threatening to convert to Christianity.

(b) misleading them with crooked streets and false names.

(c) shouting their real names in the rice fields.

(d) spelling their names incorrectly.

(e) acting insane.


  1. Daughters-in-law lived

(a) with their husband’s family.

(b) with their brother’s family.

(c) with their own family.

(d) in a separate dwelling.

(e) in the middle of the courtyard.


  1. The parents of a woman’s husband had the right to

(a) stone her.

(b) sell her.

(c) educate her.

(d) mortgage her.

(e) a, b, and d.


  1. If women cared about their appearance, they were labeled

(a) fashionable.

(b) boring.

(c) eccentric.

(d) invisible.

(e) proper wives.


  1. Chinese goddesses and warriors stood

(a) with straight backs.

(b) with their backs bent in the shape of a question mark.

(c) in front of a mirror for most of the day.

(d) facing away from their enemies.

(e) is a hip shod stance like classic Greek sculpture.


  1. During her pregnancy and labor, Kinston’s aunt _________ her inseminator.

(a) openly accused.

(b) couldn’t remember the identity of.

(c) lived with.

(d) blessed.

(e) protected the identity of.


  1. Kingston would add “brother” to the names of the boys she knew because

(a) she wanted to be a boy.

(b) it made them less scary.

(c) she wanted to be able to dance with them.

(d) she thought they were all ugly.

(e) she was trying to trick the gods.


  1. Among the very poor and the wealthy, brothers

(a) married their adopted sisters.

(b) were allowed to beat their sisters.

(c) had to pay their sister’s dowry.

(d) had to find husbands for their sisters.

(e) could only dance with their sisters.


  1. Kingston believes her aunt’s child was__________, because _________.

(a) still born, she killed herself.

(b) a boy, she might have been forgiven if it were a girl.

(c) a girl, she gave birth in a pig sty.

(d) a girl, she might have been forgiven if it were a boy.

(e) a boy, she killed it.


Before You Read

List what you consider to be stereotypes surrounding Chinese women.  How di you form these ideas?

After You Read

Some writes have argued that Maxine Hong Kingston reinforces racist stereotypes regarding traditional and immigrant Chinese cultures, and in particular about Chinese women. Do you agree? Disagree? Does this essay portray itself as being a true representation of Chinese women's collective heritage?  Does it present women in a positive or negative way?

Web Links


Feminism in China

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color

The Fictive Documentary: Maxine Hong Kingston's "No Name Woman"

The Woman Warrior

The Good Life



Sandra Cisneros, "Woman Hollering Creek" from Woman Hollering Creek. Vintage Books, 1992.


Throughout Sandra Cisneros' life, her Mexican-American mother, her Mexican father, her six brothers, and she would move between Mexico City and Chicago, never allowing her much time to get settled in any one place. Her loneliness from not having sisters or friends drove her to reading and burying herself in books. In high school she wrote poetry and was the literary magazine's editor, but according to Cisneros, she didn't really start writing until her first creative writing class in college in 1974. After that it took a while to find her own voice. She explains, "I rejected what was at hand and emulated the voices of the poets I admired in books: big male voices like James Wright and Richard Hugo and Theodore Roethke, all wrong for me."(Ghosts 72). Cisneros then realized that she needed to write what she knew, and adopted a writing style that was purposely opposite of that of her classmates. Five years after receiving her M. A. from the writing program at the University of Iowa, she returned to Loyola University in Chicago, where she had previously earned a B.A. in English, to work as an administrative assistant. Prior to this job, she worked in the Chicano barrio in Chicago teaching to high school dropouts. Through these jobs, she gained more experience with the problems of young Latinas.

Cisneros' writing has been shaped by her experiences. Because of her unique background, Cisneros is very different from traditional American writers. She has something to say that they don't know about. She also has her own way of saying it. Her first book, The House on Mango Street, is an elegant literary piece, somewhere between fiction and poetry. She doesn't just make up characters, but writes about real people that she has encountered in her lifetime. Cisneros' work explores issues that are important to her: feminism, love, oppression, and religion. In Ghosts and Voices: Writing From Obsession she says, "If I were asked what it is I write about, I would have to say I write about those ghosts inside that haunt me, that will not let me sleep, of that which even memory does not like to mention."(73).

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. In the town where Cleófilas grew up, there isn’t much to do except

(a) play cards with her aunts and godmothers;

(b) go shopping.

(c) make new dresses.

(d) work in the garden.

(e) make pottery to sell to the tourists.


  1. What Cleófilas has always waited for is

(a) to get away from her father.

(b) a trip to America.

(c) a color TV.

(d) passion.

(e) to have her own children.


  1. The natives called the creek they crossed on the way to San Antonio

(a) arroyo.

(b) Woman Hollering.

(c) Soledad.

(d) Dolores.

(e) telenovelas.


  1. Dolores’s house smelled like

(a) grief.

(b) rice and beans.

(c) her garden.

(d) too much incense and candles.

(e) stagnant water.


  1. The smell of roses reminded Cleófilas of

(a) home.

(b) her mother.

(c) the dead.

(d) her wedding.

(e) soap operas.


  1. Dolores’ garden was famous for its

(a) medicinal herbs.

(b) stone path.

(c) labyrinth.

(d) roses.

(e) sunflowers.


  1. The first time Cleófilas’ husband hit her, she

(a) hit him back.

(b) shot him.

(c) did nothing.

(d) called the police.

(e) ran away.


  1. Cleófilas decided the men in her town were trying to find

(a) truth at the bottom of a bottle.

(b) sudden wealth.

(c) a way to get the rest of their families to America.

(d) better paying jobs.

(e) a way to get a college degree.


  1. Cleófilas decided Woman Hollering Creek is named for

(a) a Mexican saint.

(b) Erzulie.

(c) Medea.

(d) La Llorona.

(e) Dolores.


  1. Felice says women can only be famous is they are

(a) wealthy.

(b) fertile.

(c) a virgin.

(d) murderous.

(e) independent.


Before You Read

List the stereotypes or ideas from current cultures that you have formed with respect to Latina women. Where di you obtain the information for each?

After You Read

Examine how this essay presents a new way to protest the status quo, and to fight for human dignity.  How do women attempt to rehumanize themselves?  Is it an easy task? Why or why not?

Web Links


A Formalist Reading of Sandra Cisneros's "Woman Hollering Creek"

Hispanic American Literature: Sandra Cisneros

La Llorona: A Hispanic Legend

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color

Online Literary Criticism Collection

Visual Analysis


Mother and child, Tehuantepec

Tina Modotti. Mother and child, Tehuantepec, 1929.

Essay Questions

1. What des this photograph suggest about women's roles?

2. Notice how the face of the woman has been cropped out, as well as her legs, leaving only her torso and one arm.  What does the viewer's gaze rest on first?  What is second? What are the messages implicit in this photo, and how are they reinforced by the way that the photograph has been cropped?

Woman of Tehauntepec carrying jecapixtle

Tina Modotti. Woman of Tehuantepec carrying jecapixtle, 1929.

Essay Questions

1. Describe specific details in this photograph that suggest that the woman's main role in life and her identity revolve around work, service, and servitude.

2. What are the gender specific items in this photograph that allow you to determine that this is a woman?

Sherman, Untitled Film Still #14

Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #14, 1978.

Essay Questions


1.  Look at the mirror, the photograph, and the woman's expression.  How does this photograph reinforce ideas about the impact of the gaze on the female's sense of self (the idea that a woman knows herself primarily by how she is perceived by others, and reflected in the world around her)?


2.  Write a creative essay or a story that frames what is occurring in this scene.  Imagine that the woman is speaking to a man who is looking at her.  What is her position in relation to the man?



Sherman, Untitled #50

Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #50, 1979.

Essay Questions

1.  Look at the elements in this photograph.  Is the setting "feminine" or "masculine"? How do you know? What are the clues? Describe the furniture, the sculptures, the lamp, the table, the ashtrays, and the rugs.  What makes them seem "masculine" or "feminine"?

2.  Write a creative essay or a story that frames what is occurring in this scene.  Imagine that the woman is speaking to a man who is looking at her.  What is her position in relation to the man?  How does this women differ from the one in the previous photograph?

Sherman, Untitled #96

Cindy Sherman. Untitled #96, 1981.


Essay Questions


1.  What is this woman doing? What is the expression on her face communication to the viewer?  Does she seem receptive and/or passive, or pro-active and closed? Why?  Is this a character of photographic approaches toward the female subject?  Contemplate this thought:  Voyeurism is implied violation.


2.  Write a creative essay or a story that frames what is occurring in this scene.  Imagine that the woman is speaking to a man who is looking at her.  What is her position in relation to the man?  How does this women differ from the one in the previous photograph?


Read and Respond

Jacquelyn Kilpatrick. “Disney's 'Politically Correct' Pocahontas”
(Race in Contemporary American Cinema: Part 5) Cineaste v21, n4 (Fall, 1995):36.


Katherine Kim.  “The Disney Peril” Mulan Through the Looking Glass:  Mothers Who Think.

Danielle Crittendon.  “Cinderella as Role Model”  The Women’s Quarterly:  Independent Women’s Forum.

Essay Question

Imagine that you are embarking on an experiment to model your life after a Disney character: Pocahontas, Mulan, or Cinderella.  Write a scene from your life in which you, as Pocahontas, Mulan, or Cinderella, do teh following:

·        purchase clothing for a special occasion

·        change your hairstyle

·        visit a career or guidance counselor

·        decorate your home for a special occasion to which you had invited visitors. 

Be as true to Disney as you possibly can.  Would anyone notice the difference in your behavior or taste? Why or why not?



Woman as Goddess:  Camille Paglia Tours Strip Clubs. Reported by Melanie Wells from Penthouse Magazine, October 1994, page 56.

Interview with the Vamp: Why Camille Paglia hates affirmative action, defends Rush Limbaugh, and respects Ayn Rand Interviewed by Virginia I. Postrel.


Kevin Michael Grace.  Sex kittens with painted claws Are the Spice Girls Feminists or Bimbos? Or Both?”


Reena Mistry.  Madonna and Gender Trouble.


Annalee Newitz  “Madonna’s Revenge”  Bad Subjects Issue # 9, November 1993.


Wendy McElroy.  “A Feminist Defense of Pornography.” Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 17, Number 4.


Caitlin Flanagan. “The Wedding Merchants” The Atlantic Unbound.


Rebecca Taylor.  “My So-Called Wedding.”