I Was Not a Feminist

I Was Not a Feminist

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I Was Not a Feminist

I am not a feminist.I do not go to feminist rallies, burn my bra (although I donít always wear one), feel hatred towards men, nor do I spend countless hours with my sisters figuring out ways to tear gas abortion protestors or concocting tortuous plots to abolish the radical right.I am a libertarian who exercises her right to vote and always does her taxes.I read Adrienne Rich and Allen Ginsberg and Ayn Rand and James Joyce with equal fervor.I listen to Tori Amos and Dar Williams and Rush and Metallica.I do not listen to Ani DiFranco; I find her music ìtoo feminist.îI believe John Milton, a dead white male, changed the way western literature relates to philosophy and religion.Stupid male humor amuses me, and I am happy to cook and clean for my boyfriend because I know if I donít, he will eat Wendyís and his house will smell bad.I am a baseball fanatic, and love hockey and college basketball.Softball bores me, and womenís basketball is not nearly as exciting as menís.I enjoyed being the only woman at fraternity Super Bowl parties.I could never not eat red meat because I love the taste of a well-cooked cow.All of these things, I have been taught, do not qualify me as a feminist.

So why do I feel now that these categorizations should not matter?Is it because now I sense all things I am, not the categorizations, are feminist methods of thinking and acting?Before I realized it, I was not only a feminist, but also exercising a feminist pedagogy when teaching writing.Teaching writing is a chance to help students recognize that they, too, can write intellectually about a topic they are interested in and be excited about it.As a social-expressivist tutor, I try to work in a non-directive way, engaging my students in open-ended conversations that lead them to answering their own questions and clarifying their own ideas.When I teach writing, Iíve had students do everything from peer critique to creating movement from sentences to show them that everything is open to interpretation.I use Matisse to explain thesis.These practices in themselves are not necessarily feminist, but the theories behind them, for me, always have been.

Bell hooks writes in Talking Back that ìfeminist education ? the feminist classroom ? is and should be a place where there is a sense of

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struggle, where there is visible acknowledgement of the union of theory and practice, where we work together as teachers and students to overcome the estrangement and alienation that have become so much the norm in the contemporary universityî (hooks 51).In teaching writing, I tell my students that writing is a journey: you start in one place, and something along the way makes you struggle; this struggle makes you end up in a different place from where you started.The word ìstruggleî ? while not the definitive word I use (that word being ìjourneyî) ? is a word essential to understanding my theories of teaching writing.Journey, struggle, and writing are all words that are inseparable in my mind.Struggle helps students understand that they have been sleepwalking through their educations, a theory that often first shocks, then upsets them.Writing is a collaborative effort between the student and teacher where the teacher acts as a guide on the studentís journey towards overcoming her estrangement from her education, from her mind.

As a writing teacher, I am also a nurturer.I had a wonderful professor as an undergraduate who told us that, when commenting on papers, we should find something good to start with, and go downward from there.She had found students were more responsive to her comments when she focused on the good first.If she started her comments by saying, ìThank you for this paper,î you knew you were in trouble because that was the nicest thing she could say ? that you turned it in.Even then, that comment seemed to lessen the blow somehow as she proceeded to tear your paper apart.This professor was the first real feminist I could identify, and I incorporated many of her teaching methods into my own.I support my students, help them recognize they have problems writing but insist they have an active role in identifying and possibly solving them, and I often will refer to my students as ìmy kids.îWhen I read Eileen Schellís article ìThe Costs of Caring: ëFeminism and Contingent Women Workers in Composition Studies,î I realized this is can be an important part of feminist pedagogy as well.Schell identifies nurturing as ìmaternal thinking,î and believes it ìencourages writing teachers to create a supportive, nonhierarchical environment responsive to studentsí needs and cultural contextsî (Schell 77).Reading essays that say nurturing can be an important aspect of feminist pedagogy astonished me; I always thought feminist pedagogy would be defined as something different, something alien and unknown, whatever it was.

After spending a semester focusing critically on feminist pedagogy, I am not much clearer on what feminism is than when I started.I do know that feminism is always in motion; the ideas of contemporary feminists are constantly evolving in new, sometimes completely opposite, directions.We can teach students to write; I think what makes a feminist writing pedagogy consists of many things.Feminist writing pedagogy is about creating a bond between the student and the teacher, one based both on trust and guidance.Both help each other.There is a recognition that something is wrong with the way students have been taught, and we as feminist teachers are here not only to help our students see that, but also to help them deal with the struggle that will result from this recognition.Writing is a process, a journey, not just five paragraphs that fit neatly onto two double-spaced pages.We encourage struggle within student writing; we encourage struggle within the classroom.We nurture; we are hard-nosed, pushy broads.We are women who attend feminist rallies and who cook dinner for the men they love; we are not always both.But we all question the way the dominant culture ? that of the white male supremacist ? has educated our children.And we want to change that.
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