Transgender People in Advertisements, Transnormativity, and Corporate Wokeness
by Zoe Hermer-Cisek
Research Essay | UWS 16a Sex and Advertising | Doug Kirshen | Fall 2019
This paper has been temporarily removed. It will return here on May 1, 2021.
About This Paper
Research Paper Assignment
Instructions. Write a 10-12 page paper using at least four scholarly sources that relates to the themes of the course—namely intersections of advertising with sexuality and/or gender You are not required to stick precisely to the project and sources you presented in your research proposal, but if you plan to deviate from it substantially you should discuss it with me. You are not prohibited from using non-scholarly sources, but you are responsible for the quality of the sources you choose. If you use a dissertation or thesis as a source, make sure it is for a doctoral degree; do not use undergraduate papers as sources! As always, you must evaluate sources to determine their quality and usefulness. For every source, you must know who wrote it, what their qualifications are, and what their point of view or biases are likely to be.
This is a thesis-driven paper. As in the lens paper, you must take a stand, a position on some issue, and it must be motivated—in other words, you must convince the reader why it is important to find out what you have to say about it. You must also locate your argument relative to an ongoing discourse on the same or a similar topic. What contribution is your paper making to that discourse? Keep in mind that this is your paper—not your sources’! When you summarize, paraphrase, or quote from a source, always make clear how that evidence fits into your argument. You can support or challenge any source’s arguments, as long as you present evidence of your own to support your stance. Put your sources into a conversation with each other and with you. Think carefully about what ads you want to focus on: decide on a small group, show how they are related, and examine them in depth. Write more about less: ten pages is a very short paper. You must define your topic narrowly enough to do justice to it.
Audience. Think of your audience for this paper as members of the class who have done the readings and assignments.
Citation. Use APA format.
Cover Letter for Draft
With the rough draft of your essay, you are required to write a cover letter, addressed to your readers, in which you reflect on your process, answer the following questions and present any other concerns.
- What point are you at with this draft? If you had more time, what more would you do?
- What is your thesis? (quote it from the draft)
- What is your motive? (quote it from the draft)
- What are the biggest problems you’re having at this point in the writing process?
- What is your favorite sentence? What is your least favorite? Why? (Quote directly from draft.)
- What is your #1 concern about your essay—sources, thesis, structure, evidence, persuasiveness, style, and so on?
Revision Cover Letter
Reflect on your re-thinking and revision process from the draft to the final version. Write a cover letter describing this process and turn it in electronically with the final version of your paper.
- What did you set out to accomplish in this revision? Do you feel you succeeded?
- How did your thesis or motive change? Please explain. Note: you must show change or development of your thesis since the draft.
- What steps or stages did you go through in your revision process?
- Did you use the Writing Center? If so, please describe your experience.
- Comment on the pre-draft, peer review process, and your conference with the instructor. Were these helpful to you? What could have been done to improve them?
- Please add any further comments.
- Please do not resubmit your Draft Cover Letter.
Zoe Hermer-Cisek and instructor Doug Kirshen discussed Zoe’s paper with James Mandrell, Director of the University Writing Program.
Zoe Hermer-Cisek and instructor Doug Kirshen discussed Zoe’s paper with James Mandrell, Director of the University Writing Program.
James Mandrell: Hi I'm James Mandrell director of the University Writing Program and I'm here today with Zoe Hermer-Cisek and Professor Douglas Kirshen to talk about Zoe's paper "Transgender People in Advertisements, Transnormativity, and Corporate Wokeness" which they [Zoe]wrote for a University Writing Seminar with the topic of Sex and Advertising. Why don't we start with Professor Kirshen. Doug, can you tell us a little bit about your UWS topic, and this assignment and what you were hoping students would be able to do with it.
Doug Kirshen: Sure, Jim. So Sex and Advertising‚ sex obviously gets people's attention and advertising turns out to be a great way to teach close reading. There's a lot to see an advertisement, more than one person can see, even watching a good ad over and over, and if you think about a million dollar Super Bowl ad ... a lot of care goes into that. Nothing is nothing is left to chance there. So it's a good way to teach close reading and then besides that all advertising is ideological, it always teaches values, so once you figure out everything you can see or notice in it, then there's still more to talk about because you can think about what values is this is teaching me, how is it telling me to behave as a human being?
James Mandrell: Zoe, could you tell us a bit about the topic of your paper and how it developed.
Zoe Hermer-Cisek: Going very much off of what Professor Kirshen just said, I was really interested in looking at the way that advertising teaches gender and proper gender roles and norms. As well as the ways that men and women are portrayed in advertising tends to be very traditional and by the numbers, and I was really originally curious about whether or not there had been any portrayals of non-binary people. So looking at how people between the binary were portrayed in advertising, since they didn't fit into either of those like regimented norms. From there, I found there really weren't many to speak of, so I couldn't build a whole paper around that, and so I went to just transgender people generally and advertising and looking at how transgender people are portrayed in ads.
James Mandrell: You took away my follow up question because I was wondering if there were many transgender people in advertisements at this moment in time, because I don't recall seeing many and you answered that for me. But following up a bit, could you speak about how you get started on a paper, more generally, and about your process of writing and revising.
Zoe Hermer-Cisek: I have a pretty a pretty regular way that I do research papers, I like doing a lot of research, before I start building writing anything so a lot of my process was just trying to find ads that fit my topic, which was fairly hard. So a lot of what I had to do was find news stories reacting to those ads and then going back and then finding the ads they were talking about. I also tried searching different trans celebrities and trying to see if they had done advertising so it's like trying to pivot into a different way of trying to find the ads and then trying to find papers written about transgender people in advertising was very difficult, I only found one piece written on that, I think that was written in the very early 2000s so things have changed quite a bit since that paper was written, so I ended up using it more as an introductory piece looking at how things had been and then my paper was more about how they are now.
For writing what I tend to do is I’ll take a bunch of notes about each piece, many of them I don't even end up using they're just kind of to keep my thoughts straight. And then I'll color code the notes, so one color for each source and that keeps it so that I don't end up plagiarizing anything if it came from another source it's in [another] color, and so I can't mess that up and I can't accidentally cite it to a different source, and so I do my own notes and my own thoughts in black and then I can keep those separate and I end up just kind of writing a bulleted list of everything that I need to say in the paper, and that also allows me to move things around. So if I want to switch up a couple of different points I can just take the bullet note drag it up drag it down and then I take all my notes and turn them into sentences, paragraphs, reorder things, restructure and then edit it as a final paper.
James Mandrell: You mentioned that taking notes is a way of thinking about the paper for you and, and I find that when I write I'm actually kind of thinking on paper as well. Did your ideas evolve or change while you were writing and, if so, in what ways?
Zoe Hermer-Cisek: Yeah things changed for me fairly drastically after finding one of my sources by Austin Johnson who coined the term transnormativity, and it was something that, as a trans person myself, I had known about just as a function of going through society but I hadn't known the word for it or read it as a structured way of viewing the world and it's kind of like a lens to look at stuff through, so finding his paper and finding that term really allowed me to clarify the way that I was thinking about these ads. His paper was on specifically trans men in documentaries so things were a bit different, and I did have to pivot his ideas a bit to fit advertising, rather than more factual retellings but that did really allow me to clarify my thoughts about things and kind of hone in more generally on a specific topic, instead of just trying to bring in too many different ideas.
James Mandrell: I want to follow up on the question of sources, you mentioned that there wasn't a lot of material for you to find but you found an article from the early aughts. I'm wondering, though, are you finding do you find that discussions of transformativity or transgender people to be more common on the Internet at this moment in time, instead of in print sources and, if so, how did you negotiate working with online sources?
Zoe Hermer-Cisek: Yes, I have definitely found a lot more information on trans theory and trans thought online I didn't end up finding much of anything about advertising, though, interestingly. Most of the sources, I found that weren't scholarly sources were written in like magazines or newspapers and they tended to be also written by cis-gender people more reacting to how like nouvaux it is to be seeing trans people in advertising and not really honing in and looking at the way that people are being portrayed. So I didn't end up using pretty much any of those sources and they tended to be more cursory and reacting more to the fact that there was a trans person in an ad and not really looking at more specifically what that was doing in the ad.
James Mandrell: Okay, thank you. What advice would you have for future students doing this kind of assignment and what suggestions, would you have for them, maybe with respect to topics they might want to explore?
Zoe Hermer-Cisek: I think that, and this is advice that I've gotten from many people, … pick a topic that you're going to be okay living with for like a month. Because if you start writing something and you're already a little bored with it, by the time that you're done with the research problem you're not going to love writing the paper because you're going to be dealing with it for another couple of weeks by that point. So I think that picking a topic that you're really interested in and also something that you might not already know a bit about, that's going to make the research, paradoxically, a bit easier, because everything that you know is in the research that you're doing currently, and you don't have to go back and find things that you had found maybe like a year earlier, a month earlier.
I also think that finding just a way that works for outlining, I find that that's where I tend to do most of my writing, and most of my thinking and then finding a way to make sure that all of your notes stay organized in a way that works for you and also keeping all of the sources separate and so you can go back and not have to worry about accidentally plagiarizing, or Oh, where did I get that idea where if I find that it's all in your notes already.
James Mandrell: I think those are three excellent pieces of advice and I give the same advice about picking a topic to people as well, that if you don't enjoy what you're working on by the end of the project you're going to be really, really miserable and it inevitably turns up in what you're writing. But I also think touching on outlining or figuring out how you want the paper to develop is critical, as well as organization. I think organization is just so important, particularly when you're working with a number of different sources, so thank you for those three important points. Doug, I'm turning to you again, could you tell us What surprised you about Zoe's paper why you were so engaged with it.
Doug Kirshen: Well, I wasn't at all surprised that Zoe had a lot of interesting things a lot of interesting ideas, a lot of things to say. This was actually the second paper, this was the research paper, so there had been a lens paper prior to this and in that paper Zoe actually had more than could fit into the paper and the difficulties were in trying to figure out what to put in and what to take out to make it fit. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the research paper came out in in terms of just being a very neatly organized package, a really elegant piece of work. Two things that really helped in that were coming up with two really good hooks. The transnormativity [concept] which is something that could kind of wrap around the whole paper. And then you had another hook, which was about corporate wokeness and how corporations, maybe sort of using non-heteronormative people in general and trans people in particular to serve their agendas —and then, what do we think about that. Between those [two hooks], you had something that really organized everything and brought it together very nicely, so that was really impressive.
James Mandrell: So, in other words, it was a satisfying paper for the author and the reader I think that those are two really important things. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness in terms of the answers to the questions and I was just wondering if there's anything either one of you would like to add, as we close up. I think that the lens paper that was earlier really helped me in the writing of it, I hadn't ever had to find sources that didn't neatly fit with what I was writing before and I think that really helped me kind of grow as a researcher and learn how to apply more disparate tools to work for my own writing, and for my own purposes and that really helped me a lot. In this particular paper trying to find writing on something that hadn't really been written about much before and so that was really useful for me.
James Mandrell: I think that's really important that's the case in some respects the difficulty of being original that when you're finding new things, or when you're approaching a new topic, you're not going to find evidence or supporting sources that are going to touch on what you're doing, so you have to find a way to translate or negotiate between what's been done and your new ideas which you really did successfully in this paper, and I think that's an important thing to learn. Doug did you have anything that you wanted to add?
Doug Kirshen: Just keep open to new ideas, be intellectually curious, and don't stop that when you're writing your paper. If you can do that and be open to making connections that are different and not obvious and therefore have a richer range of [ideas] to bring into your research paper, that's quite a thing to be able to learn, and it's something I think we all aspire to.
James Mandrell: Well I'd like to thank both of our guests and I hope you enjoyed listening to what they had to say about this paper it's an example of the fine work that's being done in our university writing seminars and I'm grateful to both Zoe and Professor Kirshen for joining us.