Recently I participated in a discussion about Feminism and Feminist pedagogy in the classroom. I contributed very little, because I realized that despite being a woman and advocating for equality, I knew nothing about feminism. This project is the beginning of a journey. My primary goal was to define feminism for myself and to learn about its history as a reference point. Subsequently, I will continue to read more literature about feminism. Additionally, I would learn how to incorporate feminist pedagogy into the classroom, and follow present-day media to stay informed about the developments in feminism. I took on this project to help myself learn more about the subject but also as a way to measure my own development and growth. I need to take ownership of my ideas; but, also understand that ideas can change and adapt over time.
After hours of research, I found a definition that encompassed the grounding ideas of feminist pedagogy. In its broadest terms, it is a “set of ideologies and movements that focuses on defining and achieving social, economic, and political equality for women” (Harley, 2018). As a broad definition, I understood the values of feminism; but, as I continued to read journal articles, it was clear that feminism has been categorized to include: essential feminism, liberal, social and radical feminism, empiricist, standpoint and post-modernist feminism. Each with their own definition and idea of what feminism should look like.
In the United States, there have been three waves of feminism, arguably four waves.
“The first wave occurred during the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries and was prominent in the U.S. and the U.K.. Activities focused on women’s suffrage, or equal voting rights, as well as equality in marriage, sexuality, property ownership and economic matters” (Harley, 2018). It’s important to note, during that time women were not able to divorce or leave their husbands.
The second wave began in the 1960s in the United States. This wave focused more on the “reproductive rights, family issues, domestic violence and workplace equality” (Harley, 2018). Despite the important issues this movement tackled for women, the movement was criticized for excluding other ethnic groups. The movement focused mainly on white, upper-class women.
The third wave of feminism sought to improve upon the limitations of the second movement by focusing more attention to other ethnic groups. Moreover, the “movement challenges definitions of gender and promotes sexuality as female empowerment” (Harley, 2018).
Finally, some historians suggest that there has been a fourth wave of feminism associated with social media. This wave advocates against workplace harassment, sexual assault and rape culture.
Right or Wrong
Over the course of its history, feminism has inspired controversy and even evoked fear to part of the general public, according to Karen Offen. “If words and the concepts they convey can be said to be dangerous, then ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’ must be dangerous words, representing dangerous concepts” (Offen, 1988). Roxane Gay, an American writer and professor, wrote about how women who advocate for women’s rights and push beyond social barriers, are refusing to label themselves as feminists. She explained it was for different reasons in each case; however, the main reason was that they believed there was a right and wrong way to be a feminist, or that they would be categorized. In my opinion, I don’t think this is the case. I think that feminism is a journey. The concept changes as society changes; therefore, the ideology is constantly evolving. In reference to Gay’s essay, by categorizing feminism one risks excluding the importance of intersectionality.
I think people pick and choose what they want from an ideology or concept. Gay explains that she enjoys wearing dresses and other “not feminist things,’ but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t support feminist movements. I don’t think that liking those things makes me a bad feminist. I think part of the problem is that writers, politicians, and even the media have placed this dark cloud over feminism. It blocks out the light of major issues that are being discussed. I think by changing the way we think about it will help foster change in the attitude towards the word ‘feminist’ and ‘feminism.’ One way we can do that is by incorporating feminist pedagogy into the classroom. ‘Feminist, culturally responsive, dialogical, engaged, and critical pedagogues all examine the canon of knowledge and ask, why this knowledge and not that? As bell hooks notes, the classroom should be ’a place where difference could be acknowledged, where we could finally understand, accept and affirm that our ways of knowing are forged in history and relations of power’ (Gigiovanni & Liston, 2005). As educators, it’s important that students learn about this from an early age. It’s important that students see themselves reflected back in the curriculum. This means including related reading materials and working to facilitate cooperative learning amongst students.
I have described learning about feminism as a journey; both academically and artistically. Before reading and learning about feminism, I drew what feminism looked like to me. My drawings reflect fourth wave notions, like sexual harassment and body positivity.
Throughout the course of my research, I have developed a more rounded perspective. It is my opinion that feminism isn't one thing, nor can it be. Moreover, feminism is an ideology that is tied with intersectionality. I will not tell you how to look at them, instead I would like you to interpret them for yourself, and then reflect on your perspective of feminism.
Bianco, M. (2015, March 6). 6 Battles Feminists Everywhere Are Still Fighting for Women's Rights . Retrieved November 28, 2018, from MIC: https://mic.com/articles/111530/6-ways-women-s-progress-is-being-stifled#.yxrrZAfaJ
Gay, R. (2014). Bad Feminist: Essays. New York: Harper Perennial.
Gigiovanni, L. W., & Liston, D. D. (2005). Feminist Pedagogy in the Elementary Classroom: An Agenda for Practice. Feminist Teacher, 15(2), 123-131.
Harley, R. (2018). Judith Butler on Feminism: Theory & Overview. Retrieved November 28, 2018, from Study.com: https://study.com/academy/lesson/judith-butler-on-feminism-theory-lesson-quiz.html
Offen, K. (1988). Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach. Signs, 14(1), 199-157.