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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CEP 818: How do I love Thee: Play

In performing all of the previous activities in this class, as well as the modeling chapter being the "freshest" on my mind, I came across an older publication that I really feel is a culmination of all of the prior activities. I read "Simple Games for Teaching Sociological Perspectives: Four Examples of the Do-It-Yourself Approach" by Roger Straus and was very impressed with the design of these role playing games to illustrate sociological perspectives. Although the interactive games I previously posted are very well designed and teach similar ideals, the way these role playing games are designed allow for much more creative freedoms for the players.

The first game he discusses is a "Gender Reversal Game".  Here are the guidelines:

The Gender Reversal Game
1. On cue, all males in the class become
females, all females become males.
(The Gender Reversal Game has, since original
submission of this paper, been selected for publication in
the A.S.A.'s syllabi and teaching materials set for sex
and gender--Thorne, et al. 1985).
2. You are expected to act, talk, interact like a
person of the gender you have assumed. This
is to include body language, speech mannerisms,
interaction patterns, walk-EVERYTHING.

3. For about five minutes there will be a trial
period during which you are to practice
acting like the opposite sex. For these five
minutes you are to help one another get into
your new gender roles by coaching, modeling,

4. Everybody is expected to participate. Wallflowers
will be harassed by the instructor.

5. When the five minutes is over, you are to act
like a typical member of the opposite sex at a
Friday night party. This includes flirting,
dancing, doing all the things men and women
do at parties around here the way they
actually do them.

6. The primary goal of this exercise is to try
behaving like a member of the opposite sex
as realistically and as completely as possible,
to not only act but think and feel like one.

7. Therefore you are to monitor one another's
performance. If you spot any student who is
not doing a realistic job of acting your own
"natural" gender, you are to confront
him/her with what is being done incorrectly
(e.g., stance, talk, interaction) and she/he
gives you 10 credits.

8. A secondary goal of this exercise is to amass
credits, so try to catch people blowing their
role (or even see if you can trip them up)
Assignment: You are to turn in at our next
meeting a write-up including a) what it was
like for you, b) how you played your role, c)
how it felt, how you found yourself reacting,
d) any problems you had in taking the
opposite gender role, e) what you learned
from the experience, and f) anything else
worth mentioning.

I found this game very interesting for a few reasons.  First, the "gender roles" we have defined by society are changing-and in fact have changed drastically since this publication in 1986.  My thoughts on using such a game in the classroom would be to add a decade and give specific scenarios to re-enact.  In other words, behave like a member of the opposite sex in the 1950's in the scenario of "dinner table" or "date night" (men would be acting like women from the 1950s and women acting like men from the 1950s in those situations).  Of course the game could still be used as intended and ask them to take on modern day gender roles-but have the lines between men and women been blurred to the point of not knowing where that line is? For example, working moms weren't as common 20 to 60 years ago as they are today-so if you are acting like a modern day female at dinner time would you take on a different role than acting like a 1950s female? A 1950s female reenactment of dinner time may including the female putting the dinner she prepared on the table and asking how her husbands day was.  A modern day female reenactment of dinner time may include asking her stay at home husband what restaurant they are eating at. Although these two examples could occur in any decade-which decade is each scenario more prevalent in and would that effect the roles the game players choose. Will the students construct their roles differently if they are given a scenario and a decade?

I am a firm believer in the theory that if really want to learn about a person-their world view, character, values and so on-play a game with them for one hour. Although I don't have a classroom to really test out this particular variation of the game I believe that it would be a very valuable introductory activity for the class. Putting people outside of their comfort zones by asking them to pretend to be something they are not can really open up their eyes to their own stereotypes and labels of others. It can teach them a lot about their own world view as well as allow them to explore other views.

This activity could also be done in an online environment. A virtual room could be used where students create an avatar that fits the character they are supposed to play. Design elements on how they create their avatar can be considered the same way the "body language" element of the in person activity was to be considered. They could talk in a forum setting after being given a prompt about the activity and their interactions would follow the same guidelines as the in person activity but take longer to complete (a week as opposed to an hour).

I think this activity would be very beneficial to introducing the students to social injustice as well as inequality. It would also be beneficial to the instructor as it would provide a creative way to do a per-assessment on the students.

Give the article a read, it lists 3 other games that could be modified as well and provides the "goals" of each game/exercise.

Simple Games for Teaching Sociological Perspectives: Four Examples of the Do-It-Yourself Approach
Roger A. Straus
Teaching Sociology , Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 119-128
Article Stable URL:

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