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Terrorizing Gender with Dr. Mia Fischer

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

The United States is a culture built on performances: civility, gender, class, occupation, sexuality, and a million more scripts we follow to communicate who we are. That's why so many of us remember our guardians saying, "get your act together," or "you can't act like that." The world is indeed a stage. And our daily performances make us who we are.

But we aren't supposed to discuss those roles, nor the way we treat those who don't (or can't) perform them in the way society demands. The first rule of Fight Club is never talk about Fight Club. Terrorizing Gender is an artful explanation of what is going on during those performances, and why we acquiesce to cultural demands in the first place. What separates a "good" performance from one deemed unworthy? How is discipline meted out in a culture of unspoken rules? Why do some attempts at cultural criticisms work so much better than others? Check out Dr. Mia Fischer's book⤵️

Mia Fischer (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research and teaching focuses on critical media, queer, trans and surveillance studies. She is the author of the book Terrorizing Gender: Transgender Visibility and the Surveillance Practices of the U.S. Security State. Her work has also been published in numerous academic journals. Mia regularly leads workshops on LGBTQ-inclusive teaching as well as workplace practices. Mia also co-facilitates Denver Pen Pal Collaborative, a collaborative prison-pen-pal project that connects with folks all across the country. If you would like to connect online, you can find Mia on Twitter with the handle @MiaFischer.

In this episode (S2E4), we discuss referential reality (Michel de Certeau), and the way that fictional narratives come to represent real people and spaces in our minds. When we turn on the news (local or national), a fictional television show, or a film, we are bound to see disproportionate representations of black folks as criminals, but few representations of them as police officers or victims of crimes. But the reality is black folks continue to be targeted as victims of crime at higher rates than white folks, and the media's treatment only makes the problem worse. Check out Travis Dixon's work for data concerning over-representation of black folks as criminals, as well as under-representation as police officers and victims of crimes. This trend has shifted in recent years (also covered by Travis Dixon), but whites are still overrepresented as police officers.

In the episode we talk about private prisons. CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is currently the USA's largest owner and operator of private prisons, and business is booming. In December of 2014, CoreCivic (then CCA) operated 64 facilities with more than 82,000 beds. Just three years later, as of November of 2017, CoreCivic operated 91 prisons with a total of nearly 90,000 beds. The private prison powerhouse recently made Fortune 500’s Top 1000 Businesses list, with an estimated market value of $3.8 billion. Boasting a $220 million profit during 2016—more than 30% of the entire private prison sector profit—the company made an average of $2,444 per inmate.

Finally, please consider writing letters to an inmate(s), either through our program, the Denver Pen Pal Collaborative, or through one of the many other programs around the country. You can also reach Mia's pen pal collaborative via email at

Check out Cece McDonald's support page HERE.

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