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22 February 2012

Teaching Feminism

Teaching feminism can be difficult. Our students, much like the larger population, tend to have a fairly negative reaction to the term itself. Just hearing it evokes a number of stereotypes. Here is a cool way to break down some of those preconceptions. It's a game I call "Spot the Feminist." First, I show this slide:
I ask them, with a show of hands, to vote for A, B, C, or D as the likely and wily feminist. Invariable, the class agrees the answer is A. I then walk them through each picture and ask them how they know. For A--aside from the text on the T-shirt--students say things like "She looks angry." My favorite response to B was "Because you're a dude!" For C, students usually allude to religion or perceived ethnicity. For D, it usually involves statements about attractiveness. After some discussion, the big payoff is that I get to reveal that all four of these people identify as feminists. This is a good time to pause while the students pick their jaws up off the floor. If you're like my students, you're probably curious about who these folks are. A is one of the first returns from a Google image search for "feminist," B is me, C is Shahla Sherkat, and D is Ashley Mears. (I actually don't know for sure that Dr. Mears identifies as a feminist, but I figured it was a safe bet given her field and research.)

This exercise works best on underclasspersons. I used it in a Critical Thinking course that is restricted only to frosh. I imagine that students who have had previous sociology courses would readily notice that I'm setting them up, although maybe I'm giving them too much credit. I also assume that this exercise works better for me being a man. I get to out myself as a feminist. For women instructors, I doubt the payoff would typically be as powerful, but I'd be interested to hear reports from the field.

1 comment:

  1. But feminism is an ideology and I'd rather teach skepticism (debate, logic, etc) and social psychology