Feminist Pedagogy Matters

“Isn’t the whole point to have a voice?”-Marnia Lazreg

Life in Moments

Life in Moments

It’s the season of gratitude. What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for students who ask critical questions, for students who brave critical analysis of social topics that matter, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to teach. In recent conversations with students, the Israeli-Palestine Conflict came up in the classroom. It was one of those times when a huge subject matter comes up but the clock has ticked away and there are only moments left. Moments. I flashbacked to my experience in a course on Transnational Feminism taught by Dr. Chandra Mohanty and recalled how in moments my thoughts on the occupation of Palestine was transformed—if you can, you might also watch the documentary shared in that class: Life in Occupied Palestine which can be found at http://vimeo.com/6977999  In this documentary, Anna Baltzer of the International Women’s Peace Services (IWPS) documents the human rights abuses that are endured daily by those living in Occupied Palestine.  Moments. Moments of assault that reflect a lifetime of occupation. When looked at in moments one sees an assault or the call for a government reaction/retaliation; but when looked at as moments that make up a lifetime then one can see the occupation and the assault on the dignity of Palestinians’ lives. Lifetimes. What do we know in our lifetime? Peace? Violence? Oppression? Liberation? Transformation? In those moments in my classroom, I thought of a recently shared YouTube clip shared by a Facebook friend and University friend and so I chose to show a four-minute clip to a classroom of students who were pondering recent news on the Israeli-Palestine Conflict and the U.S. involvement while wondering where to start? Where do we all start? We start WITH LIFE. Please take a few moments to watch this riveting clip in solidarity with Palestinian occupied lives. The speaker is Canadian-Palestinian activist and spoken-word artist, Rafeef Ziadah.  She presents her poem, ‘We teach life, sir’ in London, 12.11.11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKucPh9xHtM”></a> After watching the clip, and turning on the lights, I noticed students wiping away tears. There was a cloud of silence drifting through the classroom. Silence speaks, this we know. This wasn’t a classroom silence of apathy or unpreparedness, but rather, this was a silence of transformation. “Does anyone want to share their reaction?” I asked. A young woman in the back row raised her hand. She reflected back to the previous unit of study in Sociology 101 on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality. She said seeing this reminded her of what we had learned about the misrepresentation of females in the media. The connection? Women are misrepresented in a way that leaves them voiceless to the rest of society—and when they speak and need for it to matter, really matter, there is always the underlying danger that their words will go unheard. In fact, their voices have been occupied by our patriarchal society. This, she said, was similar to Palestine, wasn’t it? It was. It is. For when media chooses to show one narrative about Israel-Palestine, and when we consumers of media take in only the words and meaning of one nation-state, and  when we think of Palestine as simply a geographic place, a stretch of land, a strip, and do not see it as home to human lives because we have not heard the voices and stories of those human lives, then we are participating in the silencing of people.  Of life!  Of course there are alternative narratives about the lives of Palestinians—if we pedagogically choose to share those narratives then we can also participate in transforming the view of this conflict, can’t we? to one about occupation and the implications for dignified human life.

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Social Media Feminist Pedagogy

In this Youtube video clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQhxeywTlXI, (also embedded in this blog site in the following blog post—please scroll down) you will find Dr. Alexandra Juhasz’ Introduction to the lecture, “SOCIAL MEDIA PEDAGOGY: FEMINIST TEACHING ONLINE AND OFF,” she delivered at Scripps College Humanities Institute’s series for Social Media/Social Change, on September 25, 2012.  I found her introduction intriguing because, for me, it was a critical insight into the importance of issues like access, the strengths of video and captioning in terms of archiving and translation, and the ways online spaces offer participants a mode of communication that can be more brief and entertaining, yet still pedagogically significant.  This short clip raised questions for me as I think about the blog I am using in an undergraduate course in Sociology: what does it mean for me to teach in two spaces: classroom and online?; what are the strengths and limitations of both my physical and online presences?; and what is the pedagogical relevance of intentionally merging both spaces?  I will use self-reflexive narrative to answer questions like those in the space on this blog called Feminist Pedagogy in Action!, and I hope you will join me in reflecting on this video clip as well.  Thanks!

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On Social Media Pedagogy: Feminist Teaching Online and Off

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Feminist Pedagogy Theory

Same Side of the River

In “Transformado fronteras: Chicana feminist transformative pedagogies,” Elenes (2001) considers how best to apply border/transformative pedagogies to classroom spaces where many ideologies exist.  How does one promote classroom dialogue where multiple ideologies and viewpoints interact while producing a discourse that is positive/liberatory/transformative, especially in the presence of classroom settings that are contradictory to the process and goals of democratic educational experiences?  And in such settings where women of color, specifically Chicana faculty, find themselves situated in stressed relationships with White female students, how do  women of color faculty negotiate acts of racism that permeate the educational space?  Elene’s work tackles these critical questions–Across her pages, there was one section that I felt most drawn to.

“Moving to the same side of the river,” (Elenes, p.693). Elenes draws from the words of Gloria Anzaldua (1987) in relation to her concept of mestiza consciousness which aims to transform the social and political inequalities through an undoing of “dualistic thinking in a variety of discursive practices such as identity formation, and feminist and ethnic/racial oppositional movements,” (p.693).  Wrote Anzaldua,“it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal white conventions.  A counter stance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator for violence (p. 78).”   One goal of Elenes  is  to implement a feminist pedagogy in educational settings where by self-reflection she addresses her own participation in dualistic thinking in the classroom, and her commitment to creating spaces that aren’t “comfortable” per se, for the sake of multiple viewpoints being shared across ideological borders.  As a feminist pedagogue, I am taking with me a strong message from this piece: it is necessary for me to be in a constant state of self-reflection on my own participation in dualistic thinking, address it when I note its occurance, and continuously work to create spaces of dialogue and communication so that all students may express themselves, even when their viewpoints are oppositional to others in the class.  Self-reflexivity for Elenes also meant a critical review of her course evaluations which included one student feeling that “there was no balance in presentations…..that opposing viewpoints could not be articulated,” (p.693).  The reality, as Elenes (p. 693) notes, is that to implement a feminist pedagogy means to be in a continuous negotiating state…but the reward is priceless: consider the potential for a community of learners representing a multiplicity of ideologies and shifted in space to the same side of the river—the side that acknowledges that the river (of racism, of unequal treatment, of hate), that river runs deep, but there is that fine possibility for each of us to barrel across the oppositional current and find ourselves in solidarity with those on the other side.

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Feminist Pedagogies: What are they?

Greetings! Let me begin by saying that I am not an expert on Critical Feminist Pedagogies, but that I do care deeply about understanding Feminist Pedagogies, being deliberate with my practice of Feminist Pedagogies in the undergraduate classroom, and creating a space such as this where others may actively communicate about Feminist Pedagogies.  So, what are Feminist Pedagogies anyway??  I’ve recently been immersed in readings on the topic and I’m reminded how beautiful learning is when we see our experiences named.  In many ways, I have been an active participant in feminist pedagogies-as student and teacher-without even knowing to name the experience as such.

To me, Feminist Pedagogy is the theoretical study of teaching in a way that says women matter.  Women matter as students engaged in classroom learning, and women matter as educators creating spaces where democratic learning is possible, where all students voices are deeply engaged and participatory in the making of knowledge.  Feminist pedagogy is me saying that the students in my classroom, female, male, and/or transgender, matter so much that I absolutely must create the opportunity for each of their voices to be heard. Below is a list of some elements of feminist pedagogy.

Feminist Pedagogies promote:

1.      The use of positionality in context of gendered experience in position with race, class, etc.

2.      Classroom observations which reveal the concern of enacting and achieving feminist goals in pedagogy

3.      Exploration of curriculum content, classroom pedagogy, and relationships in the classroom

4.      Education as the recreation of practices of freedom

5.      Feminist Pedagogy practices that support of all voices being recognized, deservingly so, the maintenance of a classroom where all voices may be heard safely, and the awareness of the vulnerability that marginalized persons feel when their stories are brought to light

6.      Pedagogical necessity for reflection on one’s own self-image and silence if the construction of new pedagogical realities is to follow

Feminist Pedagogy cannot be contained in one neat box as it will intersect differently with each of us.  I look forward to writing my next blog as a reflection on the writings of:

Barbara Omolade, “A Black Feminist Pedagoy,” Women’s Studies Quarterly Vol. 15, No. 3/4, Feminist Pedagogy  (Fall – Winter, 1987), pp. 32-39

and

C. Alejandra Elenes, “Transformado Fronteras. Chicana Transformative Pedagogies,” Qualitative Studies in Education Vol. 14, No. 5, 2001, pp.689-702

I hope you can also read them and check back in on the blog.  Your responses are always welcome!

~Meredith

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Beginnings

It began in 1998.  My senior year in college.  I was a sociology major at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Senior year and I needed an elective.  Where to begin? I wondered as my eyes scrolled the course listings.  The Female Experience.  Women’s Studies.  This might be interesting, I thought as I filled out the registration form and made my way across campus.  And that was my beginning.  I had signed on for a course that would help me discover my voice in the undergraduate classroom, no matter that it was my senior year.  No matter, because though I was ending my undergraduate years, I was only just beginning the education of myself.  Who was I?  I was all of a sudden a young woman who bore the name feminist.  And for my life, that mattered.  As I embarked on my graduate experiences at Syracuse University, my interests leading toward sociology of education, and women’s and gender studies, the intersection of these disciplines has delivered me to the moment of crafting this blog: Feminist Pedagogy Matters.  It is in this public space that I hope to connect with others who are interested in Feminist Pedagogy in theory and in practice.  I hope to create a space for diablogging on critical feminist pedagogy as it matters in the undergraduate classroom.  I  will lend critical attention to the ways the Feminist Pedagogy challenges traditional/privileged claims to epistemic authority, disrupts and dismantles classroom hierarchies, and constructs and sustains classroom environments where students are able to suspend judgments, and where all students’ voices are actively engaged in dialogue on critical social matters.

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