Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Week 11--In (and out of?) the Beehive

Anne Dalke's picture

For the remainder of the semester, we turn our attention to questions of education: how can we most effectively talk/write about/represent/act on the issues we've been discussing? What are the implications for your own educational trajectory latent in the material we have encountered so far?

This week, we are reading McIntosh's call to curricular revision; Sosnoski's similar invitation not to participate in what he variously metaphorizes as a "competitive family quarrel," "contest for a prize," and the "mindless man-driven theory machine"; and Derrida's related challenge to women's studies not to become just another "cell in the beehive" that is the institutional structure of the university.

How can you make use of these analyses? How might they help us select together a final text for the course? Where-and-how do they intersect with--and where do they fail to--with your own experiences in the academy, and anticipation of your life after you "get out" of it? What larger challenges (or affirmations) do you see to the way the College, and the world it studies and participates in, conducts business?

ssherman's picture

I got Kathleen

I got Kathleen Hanna.


McIntosh essay was very interesting to me, and it got me thinking about how people were feeling that there wasn't enough representation of men in our class.  I realized I don't really pay attention to whether texts are written by men or women or which gender gets mentioned more in class.  I've noticed that most figures in politics are men, and I've gotten over it.  It doesn't really phase me anymore.  I'm wondering how much of a feminist I can be if I don't notice that I'm reading more texts by men then by women or vice versa.  How can I fight for women to be included more in classes, when I don't always notice their presence?

rchauhan's picture

Overall I really liked

Overall I really liked McIntosh's essay. I think she had some really good points about the pyramid and she pointed out some things that I never really thought of. For example, in Phase 2 "it conveys to the student the impression that women don't really exist unless they are exceptional by men's standards." When I think of all the important women, they all do fit that notion she claims. For example, the new president of Harvard University, she was seen as a woman who broke the glass ceiling in education. She's on the same level with men. There aren't really any women who excel by women's standards, but then again I feel like women have always been competing with men and proving they are equal, so i guess there wouldnt really be a woman's standards. Also in phase 2, she mentions that only the very important women who have excelled/ are at the top of the pyramid are mentioned and not women who have done great things but in a more ordinary lifestyle. It's true, in history one only gets the recap of the best but then again aren't people only really interested in the best? People look up to others who are on the top and sometimes think of them as role models/mentors. 


 and i got Gloria Steinem 

jzarate's picture


aaclh's picture

practically speaking...

I feel confused as to what to do. In reading this week's set of readings I understand that there is a problem in current social structures or current value structures, but do not see a way to change this. How does one change a value system? I think it was interesting when McIntosh sums up the women's experiences, she describes the education *being done to* the women.

Perhaps I do not understand the problem (problems?) clearly enough to see a way around them. 

I think my education has mostly been phase 1, occasionally phase 2 in terms of women.  I disagree with skumar (Sonal?) that a math class cannot be in phase 5. If there is no way to include women or people of color in math then there must be no way to include any people at all in math, but some groups of people do feel included in math. At times I have felt included and at others excluded by math classes. 


How does one apply this theory? Is there a way to value diversity? If we say our main goal is to value diversity haven't we failed already?

EG's picture

call me kathleen

You are Kathleen Hanna! Poster child of the riot grrls, you've grown up a little in the last few years. You've brought rape, feminism, sexuality, and wymyn surviving hard shit into the mainstream through art, music, and spokenword. You're PUNKROCK! But, like, for real.



Dawn's picture

Results for Western Feminist Icon

Kathleen Hanna
skumar's picture

results for quiz 3

Are you a feminist?
Your Result: You are being held back by society's constrictions

You're not really sure what a feminist is by definition but do not want to have any part of it. You think a feminist is a man-hating lesbian who never has a date on Saturday night. If guys want you to play dumb and agree with everything they say, you'll do it even though that's not really you. You don't realize that identifying with you're sexuality gives you a stronger understanding of yourself and an awareness of the confining and asphyxiating society around you that limits you because you are a woman. Why should women always be more passive, less aggressive, less talkative and less opinionated than men? And why, when these women go against these "gender roles" that society places for them, are they criticized? You fear being criticized but by feeding into the roles made by society you are only belittling yourself.

skumar's picture

Quiz 3


Are you a feminist?

Maybe you think feminism is dead. Maybe you think it was a fad, something that was all the rage in the 60s but now women have all they need. On the other hand, maybe you think that women still have a long way to go.

Maybe you don't care.This quiz will prove whether or not you do. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Do you think you know what it means to be one? Take this quiz and find out.

What is your age?
  Under 18 Years Old
  18 to 24 Years Old
  25 to 30 Years Old
  31 to 40 Years Old
  41 to 50 Years Old
  51 to 60 Years Old
  Over 60 Years Old
What is your gender?
What is a feminist?
  Someone who hates all men.
  A woman who thinks women are better than men.
  A woman who wants to improve the role of women in society.
  A lesbian with an attitude problem.
  A girl who can't get a date.
Gender roles are...
  accurate. Women should be passive, quiet and less opinionated and men should be aggressive and the decision makers.
  something we are born with. Women are naturally passive, weaker and submissive, and men are naturally aggressive and stronger.
  completely man made. There are no such things as gender roles.
  Ingrained in our brains as little kids so that they become second nature, but actually they limit and constrict women and assign them an imaginary role.
  good so that women know that men are in charge and that their role is at home and in the kitchen.
If you discover that you and your friend are both interested in the same guy and he is playing mind games with both of you...
  Suddenly the guy becomes more important to you than your friendship and you would rather have her mad at you and get the guy than keeping her as a good friend.
  You realize that society always has women in constant competition with one another and turns them against eachother, so instead of chasing after this guy you decide your friendship is more important.
  You attempt to sabotage your friend so that the guy ends up not liking her.
  You don't say anything and let the guy continue his game but all the while develop a strong anger for your so called "friend."
  You and your friend decide to confront this guy and tell him he either chooses one of you or gets neither because you refuse to let him tear your friendship apart.
You and a few of your pals are watching a typical movie where the guy is the superhero and the girl is desperate and needy, can't do anything for herself and has her chest plopping out of her shirt for the majority of the film, you..
  don't worry about it and enjoy watching the movie.
  Feel anger inside of you that women are always depicted this way but keep quite as to not look wierd in front of your friends.
  Are appalled that your girlfriends can just sit there eating their popcorn without once realizing that little girls around the world are watching this, thinking that this is all a woman can and should live up to be.
  Enjoy the woman's role in the movie and wish you could be playing her.
  Wait till the movie is over than have a discussion with your friends over the sexually demeaning way that media portrays women, over a cup of coffee.
  Hope that she, along with the other women in the movie, somehow get killed before its over.
Your friends decide to rent a movie, kind of like the other one, except the only difference is that a woman is playing the role of the superhero. You..
  think its stupid. Women could never be superheros.
  Still feel uncomfortable that the superhero has huge breasts.
  Angry that this actress is only adopting a "masculine" persona instead of creating a personality showing her to be a strong female. She is only acting in a "manly" way which only stresses the roles society has created for us, instead of breaking free fro
  Excited that a woman is playing a man's role for a change.
How do you feel about abortion?
  I am pro-choice. It's a woman's body and its her choice.
  I am pro-life. Abortion is murder.
  I think the government should decide that.
  I am pro-life unless the woman was raped.
  I dont have an opinion.
  Women who choose abortion are just promiscuous and heartless.
How do you feel about the birth control pill?
  It was a big step for the sexual freedom of women.
  Men in the government approved it at that time not because they agreed with women's rights but because the population was getting out of control and this seemed like a good way to control it.
  Its a way for women to sleep around and not get caught.
  I don't really think anything about it. I just use it.
Your boyfriend does something that really angers you, but when you start telling him why you are upset he interupts you and asks you if you are on the rag or something. You..
  Ease up. Maybe he's right. Maybe you are just pmsing.
  Can't believe that he thinks your anger insn't legitimate and he's trying to blame the fact that your a woman for as the reason for your outburst.
  would never date someone who would say something like that to you and who believes the sterotype that women are overemotional and hysterical.
  Are hurt by it, but let it go. If he gets angry he might leave you and then what will you do?
You dream of being...
  a hairstylist, a kindergarden teacher, a secretary...
  a model, a singer, an exotic dancer...
  a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer, a CEO...
  a mother and a housewife
  anything my husband/boyfriend wants me to be.
  anything I want to be because only I decide.
a group of women are holding a march advocating more sexual awareness for women in Africa. You..
  join right in. It's not fair that women in underdeveloped countries do not have the education or materials to practice safe sex.
  agree with their views but watch from a distance.
  Cheer them on but duck when the news camera focuses on you.
  Don't stop to find out what the fuss is about. You have better things to do.
  Wish that these lesbians had something better to do.
  Throw something at them.
A woman is running in an election. You..
  are glad that a woman is a candidate but don't think it would be so wise to vote for her.
  don't bother yourself about it. You don't vote anyway.
  Are completely against it. She would be completely against fighting back against terrorists. We need someone strong in the office during these troubled times! Only a man could do the job.
  Proud to see a woman running but wait and see both viewpoints before you make a decision.
  Vote for her all the way. If a woman is president it would be a giant step for women everywhere.
If you had a daughter you would...
  Dress her up in pink and only let her play with dolls.
  Tell her she is so pretty and will one day make a good wife.
  Let her wear what she wants if its reasonable and let her choose whatever toys she wants to play with.
  Dress her in yellow as to minimize the amount of gendered comments she recieves which can shape her self-image negatively even at a very young age.
  Tell her to be quiet and reserved at all times, at to keep her opinions to herself.
if you had a son you would..
  make sure he had a toy gun to play with and try to explain to him that it can be taken as a phallic symbol.
  Make sure you teach him that he is the boss and girls should listen to him.
  explain to him at a young age that women should be treated with respect.
  Let him do what he wants. If he turns out to be a lady's man good for him.
you think that women...
  are too petty to ever get along.
  are too dumb to ever come to a logical agreement.
  are fine on their own but need a man to complete them.
  have been beaten down by society to turn against eachother but need to come together despite their differences.
  have come a long way and have finally reached equality.

Create a quiz on GotoQuiz. We are a better kind of quiz site, with no pop-up ads, no registration requirements, just high-quality quizzes. Hey MySpace users! You can create a quiz for MySpace, it's simple fun and free.

GoTo Quiz
skumar's picture

Results of Western Feminist Icon

...Gloria Steinem? It says I am "the McDonald of Feminist Icons."

Hmm... I don't agree with my results. Steinem was an activist and started a fe minist magazine...I can't see myself doing that. Again, the quiz assumes I am a feminist and the results indicate one's intensity of feminist ideals or what gradation of feminism you lie within. I had trouble answering the questions, especially the first one about marriage/kids/sexuality. I had to chose the followng because I felt there were a lack of options for the non-feminist or the inbetween feminist: "I am a heteorsexual woman. I once thought marriage was prostitution, but got hitched".


I am going to try to find another quiz...

Anne Dalke's picture

another quiz...

As a follow-up to skumar's quiz, which will tell you if "you are a feminist," you might want to try out this other quiz , which will tell you which western feminist icon you are (be sure to report in here....)
skumar's picture

F-word forum

Ask a feminist - The F Word problem page

How can I tell if I am a feminist? Can I be a married feminist with children? Check out The F Word’s new ‘ask a feminist’ feature for more

askafeminist.jpgBehind the scenes here at The F Word, we often have readers writing in and asking us for advice on what to do, to explain a concept or to give our opinion. Being generally an opinionated bunch of people, we very often reply. But now we want to try something new - a regular F Word feature, fielding your questions in public, so everyone can see our answers.

Answers will be written by regular F Word contributors, and represent only their own potentially fallible opinions. In the spirit of pluralism, we will try and work in more than one response if we can. There is no definitive ‘F Word line’ or ‘feminist line’, and our answers are given in that spirit.

Of course, we will never publish anyone’s name or identifying details. If you want to ask us something, please just use the comment link at the bottom of this page.

Dear F-Word,

How does one know if they are a feminist? I have a funny feeling I might be, but I’m not sure..

- Am I A Feminist


Generally speaking, if you reckon something is wrong when you see

1) men as a group being framed, by default, as the ones who should be seen to be in charge of making things happen and

2) women as a group being framed as their natural rightful supporters in the background

…you’re probably a feminist.

Those of us who identify as feminists are often as different as we are similar. The issues that any one feminist sees as the most pressing won’t be the same for all feminists. Basically, it’s not about what you think needs to be done to change society that would make you a feminist but your belief that

1) There are areas in life where women are generally held back or shown a lack of basic respect because of some form of prejudice and;

2) Your resistance to such stereotyping. (By the way, you can still be a feminist if you also happen to think there are areas where men suffer this too.)

Overall, I would say people who don’t believe women are held back anymore generally aren’t feminists and people who believe they never have been definitely aren’t. Obviously, it would be fair to say that people who believe women are indeed held back by prejudice, but think this is entirely justified aren’t feminists either. Then again, some people might say such prejudice can be justified in some areas but not others. I personally disagree but, to be fair, they might be feminists.

Ultimately, I would say you know you’re a feminist when you want a society where it is taken for granted that women’s competence, control, presence and influence extends to all areas, not just those directly connected to bum wiping/multi-tasking/doing the things apparently important people reckon they don’t have time to do. (A lot of feminists, including myself, would also like to see a society where men are as encouraged to care for others in a domestic setting as women are.)

Short answer: Does your enjoyment of a book tend to be somewhat hampered if its references to the general reader or subject constantly default to the pronoun ‘he’? If so, you’re probably a feminist!

ebock's picture

what now?

Thinking now about our discussion about the word "feminism" and "essence" of feminism and coming up against being categorized as a "man-hater," I can't help but think, "So what?"

Someone might think that I'm a "man-hater," but so what? That won't keep me from living my life as a feminist, and "valuing the devalued" as a professor of mine said so eloquently last night at a Women in Action meeting at Haverford.  If someone says that to me, and doesn't respect me enough to listen to my personal definition and listen to the fact that there are so many different levels to "feminisms," then I don't need to be spending my time with them anymore.

Why should feminists try to change the word "feminism", why alter it, for those who don't identify as feminists, and that probably never will identify as feminists? Why try to create an "essence" so that we can be easily identifiable?

Shouldn't a "goal" for feminism be to remain ambiguous, to be flexible, or as the Quakers say, be subject to "continuing revelation?" Feminism is something different for everyone, and even individual definitions will change over time. Why try to narrow it down? Isn't the beauty of feminism that it subverts the idea of a rigidly (traditionally male) academic definition process?


And what do we really think about the gen & sex  program in the bi-co? Are we creating just another cell? I'm curious to hear what other people think; I personally don't think we are. I like that fact that the two classes I'm taking this semester for the gen&sex concentration (Quaker Social Witness @ HC, and Critical Feminist Studies @ BMC) have both been almost seeping into one another.  I feel like they have been feeding into each other all semester for me, and it's really freakin' cool!

QSW is about social justice: creating a definition, discerning our own definition, identifying our own issues of concern, learning about Quakerism's historic and contemporary issues of social concern, etc. 

I feel like our class has a similar theme. We are trying to "discern" our own definition of feminism (if one is a feminist... or not?), identifying our own areas of concern within feminism (our papers were about all kinds of neat-o things), and learning about feminism's attention to specific issues historically (1st, 2nd wave) and contemporarily ("3rd wave").

The gen&sex program is superbly interdisciplinary. There are classes from nearly every department that will fit into the requirements, and the requirements themselves are relatively flexible. That feels really progressive to me; it feels like  it isn't limited to a really specific curriculum or subject matter, so I don't think that it's re-creating "the law" -- in the same channels of the traditional patriarchal structure for academia.

Are there other gen&sex people in the class or people that know about it/have an opinion about it? I'm really just curious to see what other people think.



skumar's picture

"living life as a feminist"


   You say that someone calling you a "man-hater" will not "keep you from living [your] life as a feminist." If you do not mind me asking, how exactly do you, as a feminist, live?

 By answering this question, aren't you giving me a definition of "what it is to live like a feminist" ? This gets me back to my point about "voting/chosing like a feminist." Is not chosing in a specific, feminist way or living in a distinct, feminist way just another way to define feminism?

I am getting the sense that feminists do not want to give feminism a definition. I think one cannot rely on the ambiguity of feminism to resist distinguishing feminism. I get that feminists don't define or characterize or give titles or generalize so to resist the "male definition process," but I think not defining, not characterisizing, not giving titles is 'a feminist way' to do things. Isn't 'the feminist way' to live (as you say) and to vote (as Anne says) a way of defining what it is to live and what it is to vote as a feminist? There are certain things feminists do or certain things feminists don't, how is that not just another form of a definition?



lrperry's picture

Hi skumar, I know we've

Hi skumar, 

I know we've talked about this before, but I wanted to respond to this post because this is something I feel strongly about.  

I think I might attempt to tackle Anne to the ground if she started to "explain what it is to be a feminist". The whole process you've been going through this semester, between thinking you have a definition, then totally contradicting that definition, then finding new ones and questioning definitions themselves... is totally awesome, and I would hate to see that ruined or invalidated by someone "EXPLAINING" to you what feminism is.

I don't think Anne can, or should, explain to us what feminism is. And I think looking at the way that Mcintosh approaches Phase 5 curriculums, she would agree. It's not a topdown, authority from the professor, kind of situation.

I do agree that we should not assume that everyone is a feminist, and should wait to hear how they describe themselves. And part of being able to describe yourself, in a meaningful way, is arriving at that understanding through your own reflection, not because someone gave you the answers. 

Would you let Anne "explain" to you what it meant to be a woman? or patriotic? or liberal? These things all used to seem easily defined to me too, but I think part of education is coming to question those very foundational aspects of our lives - of examining our previously unexamined assumptions.


skumar's picture

Feminism versus patriotic

Hello there, Laura,

You are always keeping me on my toes. Your responses encourage me to be more speculative and thoughtful, so thank you!

In regards to your reply, I see what you are saying that there is no way to explain feminism, but I think that is only because feminists rather not articulate the essence of feminism because everyone's 'feminism' varies.

I would not want anyone to explain what it means for me to be a woman now, at 19 yrs old, because I know what it means to be a woman. This feeling of womanliness, however, was first explained to me by several people: my mother, my high school health teacher, my doctor etc. When I was younger, my mother sat down with me and explained to me the transition from teenager to womanhood. In health class, I learned about hygiene for woman. All of these issues, I know now, are part of what it means to be a woman.

I do not have a diathesis towards feminism as I do with womanhood; I was biologically born as a woman and I socially identify as a woman and this is not the case for feminism. I was not born a feminist (Is anyone?) and I often doubt whether or not I am a feminist. Thus, to be a woman and to be a feminist are two VERY different things. So to answer your question, Laura, YES; I would need someone to explain to me what it means to be feminist just as I would need someone to demonstrate liberalism or patriotism. In fact, I did have others explain to me what it means to be patriotic and what it means to be liberal; it is not a feeling I had that told me that I was one or the other. I know I learned about patriotism when I first read it in a history textbook. My teacher explained it to me. Liberalism was also explained to me in a similar context: a history course. I learned what makes someone 'liberal'. later on in life, observing political debates and presidental elections... I learned why people identify as liberal or conservative. I learned the ideals that  make someone a democrat or a republican.

If someone were to come up to me at this age and ask me "what is like being a woman?" or "how do you feel being a woman?" I would be able to answer it confidently. The answer, however, would differ if asked to other woman. Similarly, if someone walked up to Obama and asked "Why are you a democrat?" or "Why are you patriotic?" I am sure he could artriculate what it means. What's so special about feminism? Why cannot a feminist explain to someone the issues that concern a feminist? 

Feminism may be something so natural to you that the concept is unexplainable. I, however, was first introduced to feminism in this course, so everything is confusing and entirely ambiguous. The issues raised in this course are ones that I was not familiar with until attending Bryn Mawr.

To better understand, though, I am "questioning the foundational aspects of my life" when I ask others to tell me about the reasons they identify as feminists. I do not think that I will continue on with my life day, suddenly, I will have the feeling-- that particular feeling that tells me I am a feminist. Or will I?

EG's picture

to respond to lperry and skumar

I too was struck by the caption "How Feminists Choose a Text" or whatever it was, and I think reminding everyone that we are not necessarily all feminists is a valid one to make. 

But I'll agree with lperry (is that Laura?), though, that it is neither fair to Anne, nor to anyone else in the class, to demand a definition of feminism.  I disagree with you (skumar) when you say we haven't discussed what feminism is.  I came into the class having absolutely no solid concept of "feminism" and now I feel like I can describe to you, specifically, my take on on the term, after much reading of others' interpretations.

It would be well to call on Sosnoski, here, to remind that this should not be a competition or game of finding the best definition of "feminism."  I think that Anne has done just the opposite: presented MANY lenses that we might look through in order that we feel compassionate, and, as a result, more knowledgable, about feminism and our own interpretations.


skumar's picture

Response to Eve


    Firstly, thank you for replying to my post and thank you for starting your "kick-off" with my suprisingly controversial post. Secondly, I would like to clarify my concern...perhaps I was not entirely clear when I said I am searching for a definition. While I do understand that feminism entails a lot more than what I had originally imagined at the start of the course, I am just not sure I want to incorporate all of it into MY interpretation of feminism. You say that we have become "more knowledgeable about feminism and our own interpretations."  I still think, though, that many would disagree with me if my interpretation of feminism was only to include les femmes. Would you disagree? How would it make you feel?

 Additionally, I was searching for a "feminism is..." so that I better understand where I stand in terms of how I identity myself, as a feminist or not. This is my personal opinion, but I prefer to identify within a binary--either a feminist or not a feminist. I am not trying to figure this out right now, not searching for an answer by the end of the course. CFS taught me to be more speculative of definitions, of certainty. Still, however, I find definitions useful in numerous contexts. While definitions may not be entirely informative or correct, I think they are productive. We can always agree or disagree with communally-driven definitions, but that would be our interpretations of the concept, our opinion. All things considered, I understand that it is quite the challenge to universalize feminism. Nonetheless, I am looking for something--if not a definition, then our class' interpretations of feminism. 

     Maybe instead of a "Feminism is..." it would be benefical to  think of "Feminism is not..."  (even though that too could be considered a reverse defintion). Maybe it would help me to know why people in the class identify as feminists? or don't identify as feminists?  I refuse to either call or not call myself a feminist based on the readings of the course; my identity formation will occur after the course. I am going to take my inquisitiveness out into the world, engage with people, and then be able to assess my identity as a feminist because I will have a strong sense of my values and the issues that I am concerned with. It is only then will I truly know what it is to be feminist.

skumar's picture

Bone to pick with Anne

Dearest Anne (or those who wish to defend Anne on this one...),

We seem to be talking quite a bit about cirriculum revision and about education as a means of empowerment. So, I thought it be productive if I post my thoughts on one of the few ways I feel disempowered in this class in particular. It is, in fact, what we will be discussing in class today: about selecting future texts.

In class Tuesday and in your class notes for today you ask "How do feminists make decisions?" While I respect the fact that you as well as numerous others in the class identify as feminists, I am not entirely sure this was the best way to ask "How will we all--as a group of undecided and declared feminists-- decide on texts to read?" I distinctly remember you saying, Anne, that your goal in this course is not to "...make [us] all feminists." Why, then, did you/ do you continue to make the generalization that we are all feminists? This disempowers me especially because I am an undecided, that makes me question my authority. I wonder: Is my way of voting, of deciding not the right way? It makes me feel like my voice doesn't matter...although my post (my "e-voice") is put up on today's class notes... I am not quite sure you are "empowering [me]," as you said you seek to do.

And another thing, the question "How do feminists vote" is a puzzling one...especially since we have not discussed what feminism is. I agree with Allie in that I find the class puzzling because we have seen several lens to feminism, several subsections of is that feminism? Is feminism all-encompassing? I am unsure of how to answer the question that you propose. Please do enlighten me (us?), and explain to me what it is to be a feminist.



A Feminist..?

kgbrown's picture

McIntosh and Derrida's Oversight

The issues that McIntosh raises questions about reforming higher level education, but seems to ignore entirely the greater issues of the "mountainous and pyramidal form of our society" (McIntosh 5).  By ignoring the larger issue and focusing on the issue of curriculum, is she saying that college based curriculum can and should be changed as a method of changing society as a whole?  I think that she also ignores the problems of education that comes before college.  We spend 13 years in elementary, middle, and high school (no doubt a pyradmidal system) and then in 4 years we are supposing that we can un-do all of the learning that has been a major part of the formation of identity.  Derrida also seems to overlook this issue, saying that the formation of a women's studies program should not fit within the existing institutuion, but should instead challgenge the institution at its very foundation.  The foundation of the institutions though, "the masuline directors of the university--masucline whether women or not," (Derrida 191) have been formed based not only upon higher level education, but, more importantly perhaps, societial education and lesser eduation.  I think that the idea of being able to change a societial system with higher education overlooks the foundations that this curriculum is based upon.  I think that we need to focus lower, in earlier education and acknowledge the contradictions of attempting to undo all that has been done in 18 years of education in 4 years of undergrad or even 5+ years of graduate or post-graduate work.  Perhaps Derrida's question about whether or not reforming women's studies programs is "a question of filling a lack in a structure already in place, filling a gap?," (Derrida 190) by which he means the gap in college curriculum, would be easier to answer if this gap did not exist on in "lower" education.  How can we apply the issues that both McIntosh and Derrida address to pre-collegiate education?  After doing so, are the questions they ask easier to answer? 
Dawn's picture

McIntosh vs. Sosnoski

McIntosh talks about horizontal achievement and how that should be striven for as opposed to the vertical. Is the vertical in Sosnoski's "A Mindless Man-driven Theory Machine" what she was arguing against? I'll admit that Sosnoski's essay was not the clearest thing for me to understand.
stephanie2's picture

McIntosh and Curriculum Change

I really enjoyed McIntosh's essay on the fives phases of progress, or lack thereof, in curriculum revision in institutions of higher learning. As a junior at Bryn Mawr, I am questioning the notion of higher education and what the "higher" part of it really means or refers to. I have found out that some professors, those who profess to know or have knowledge, can sometimes be very and openly ignorant. Although we all have some ignorances, I have been surprised at the varying levels of ignorance and professors' oblivion to such ignorances. I really like how McIntosh mentioned the horizontal versus vertical cornerstones of social/personal/academic achievements. I had heard it referred to some time before, and was happy to have it reiterated. McIntosh's speech reignited the respect I have for those who open minds by teaching and teach with open minds.
lrperry's picture

A connection

When Derrida says:

We have to negotiate. To maintain, for instance, Women's Studies as a classical program, a now classical program, and at the same time to ask radical questions which may endanger the program itself. (202). 

I think of Judith Butler, and how she says: 

"Within feminist debate, an increasing problem has been to reconcile the apparent need to formulate a politics which assumes the category of "women" with the demand, often politically articulated, to problematize the category, interrogate its incoherence, its internal dissonance, its constitutive exclusions." 



lrperry's picture

At one point in the

At one point in the dialogue, the questioner refers to Derrida’s description of two kinds of feminism: one as emancipatory and progressive, but boring, and the other as “the maverick feminist who dances” (191). The first kind of feminism is “very necessary but also not imaginative”, while the second kind of feminism can “think almost beyond, or re-think the existing structures”. This idea excited me, but I wanted to understand the questioner’s rather peculiar choice of phrasing, so I did some nerd research and found the original article that the questioner references, an interview with Christie McDonald: “Choreographies”. Below is an excerpt of their opening dialogue which puts the phrase in some context:


MCDONALD: Emma Goldman, a maverick feminist from the late nineteenth century, once said of the feminist movement: "If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution. [….]

DERRIDA: It was a good idea to begin with a quotation, one by a feminist from the end of the nineteenth century maverick enough to ask of the feminist movement its questions and conditions. Already, already a sign of life, a sign of the dance.


Though it’s now hard for me to hear the phrase “maverick” without thinking of the McCain/Palin train wreck, I love Derrida’s distinction between the “very necessary” feminism, which works within society to gain women more access to traditionally defined modes of power (e.g. voting, equal pay, reproductive rights, etc), and the “maverick” feminism, which questions the trade-offs that this movement makes in its quest for power.

Goldman’s quote also brings up something which I found myself somewhat writing about in my recent paper – the necessity for “play” in any movement or philosophy. As Sosnoski suggests in his article, “theory-making is patriarchal”, but “theorizing” helps performances become more effective (74). I think this is part of what Derrida enjoys about the “feminist who dances”, that she challenges the static, repetitive movements of the feminist movement, and remains in motion, rather than resting on one condition or idea.

anorton's picture

Back to the beginning

The selection from Derrida reminded me of my first introduction to Three Guineas.  It was in Methods, and though we didn't read it formally, the professor encouraged us to read it on our own because it is, in his opinion, both birlliant and devastating.  He summed up Woolf's argument as saying that disempowered, marginalized women absolutely need to gain power and recognition in the dominant power systems of their society; but—and this is the devastating part—in order to not become patriarchal oppressors themselves, they must maintain their outsider status.  This argument is especially apparent when Derrida says things like "if the success of women's studies would be to constitute men as an object of study, and women as mastering subjects, nothing will have happened.  It is necessary not to reproduce the same structure" and asks, "What are the risks and stakes of the institution of women's studies?  Do the women who manage these programs, do they not become, in turn, the guardians of the Law...?" (203, 190). 

Why I've been having so much trouble this semester—or, at least, in the first third of this semester—defining this course as feminist seems precisely to go along with Derrida's insistence that women's studies not become an oppositely-sided but identitcal version of the current system of academia.  That is, this course has not perpetuated the objectification or subjectification of women only; instead, it has pushed at the bounds of sex, gender, and identity in a way that makes it about far more than "women's studies."  

In our class, we've talked about gender, sex, and sexual preference; we've read texts about and/or met people who are classified or classify themselves in different categories of these identity-determiners.  Despite efforts to be multicultural and to pull groups from the margins, much has been excluded; this is inevitable, given time constraints.  On Tuesday, I voted for Becky's poem idea, and I maintain that vote.  It allows the greatest number of voices to enter the classroom without assigning special importance to one over another, and it further means that each of us contributes to constructing the curriculum.  Unless everyone absolutely agrees, a democractic vote still means that some people lose while others win, that some have to settle.  I believe it was Kendolyn who expressed concern about silencing the minority groups; selecting one majority-determined text does not seem a particularly empowering end to our class.

As I'm writing about exclusion, I'm thinking more about how Bryn Mawr is such an interesting location from which to consider women's studies.  I was worried when I applied, but I really like that Bryn Mawr is a women's college.  I like the environment that it fosters and the sense of community that I didn't feel when I was a freshman at NYU.  You could argue that it's a matter of size difference, but I inherently know that it's not entirely.  But in our post-modern world, how can Bryn Mawr justify discriminating on the basis of sex/gender?  How can we, in a (western) feminist studies class, work at breaking down the barriers between identities while our mother institution rigidly upholds them?  Is our class pioneering the future of Bryn Mawr?  And how will I feel if, fifty years from now, there are no more women's colleges, no where for women to go to find the environment and experiences I have right now?


Dawn's picture

So That's What he was Getting At!

Your connection between Derrida and Woolf's "Three Guineas" actually helped me to really make sense of something that I was not so clear on. I had a hard time grasping what Derrida meant when he was talking about Women's Studies using men as the subjects and women as the ones mastering those subjects not making progress. Now I see that they would just take on the role that men had in disempowering, meaning that the outsider status is in fact necessary. Thank you!

skumar's picture

2nd half of "kick-off"

As a means to take initiatative and to re-empower ourselves, I would like to post here what Janet and I had originally planned to do in class on Tuesday. Our first activity, as you all experienced, was a way to get the discussion rolling. We thought McIntosh's argument was personable because it would be quite the challenge to divorce our own educational experiences from the abstractations of the cirriculum phases and cirriculum revisions that are of the essence to McIntosh's claim. Therefore, we asked the class to write up on the board an educational experience that was either empowering or disempowering. The results, as we discussed, were fascinating. Some felt empowerment in particular classes, some felt empowerment in particular assignments; there really was no way we could effectively synthesize or generalize the experiences within the class population,a  small data set.

As a way to continue the discussion, we planned to get everyone talking! We made an envelope with slips of papers with quotes, questions, or food for thought. These were drawn from the reading and the posts about McIntosh. Below you will find a few (I threw out, by accident) of what was written on those pieces of paper:

Blank: Talk about whatever you want in relation to your education, but be sure to relate it to our reading of McIntosh.


Blank: Talk about how your educational experience at Bryn Mawr/haverford/Swarthmore...and beyond? What did you think were McIntosh's claims for college education? How does your experience differ or not differ from McIntosh's experience as a college student?


"In McIntosh's discussion of the phases of education, it struck me just how stuck in Phase 2 I was in all throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, and just how stuck in Phase 3 and most of my courses at Bryn Maw have been."(post by Sarah K) Please talk about your reaction to this post and/or discuss the phases you have been.  What is your ideal phase to be in? The most empowering phrase? the most disempowering phase?

"When a professor relies on her students to learn something new, my first tendency is to think that the class is less formal or that the professor in reality is never learning something new." (post by Sarah K) How do you feel that relates to this class, Critical Feminist Studies?  Talk about your experience when in a class where a professor actually learning something/said they were learning but never did. How does empower/disempower you as a student when a Professor is "learning" too?


"It seems to me that most women in the world today, at least women over 40, are megs. And most women's hopes and dreams are not shattered when they divorce from their husbands. Is McIntosh belittling the efforts of Phase 1 education and assuming negative outcomes that are not always true?" (post by Sarah K) Answer the question that Sarah has rasied in her post. Or raise a new question.


Blank: Talk about in what context you disagree with McIntosh.


Blank: Talk about in what context you agree with McIntosh.


"The result of phases of education...even though it seems [to be studying oppresion] and learning from power structures, it is actually just perpetuating thsoe structures and reinforcing the "win or lose" and "making it syndrome." (post by Sarah K) Do you agree? disagree? Why or why not?


"Years later, I began to realize that all teachers are trained to isolate bits of knowledge and that this very training keeps their students in turn oblivious of the larger systems which hold pyramids of power in place." (McIntosh 13) What is McIntosh saying here? What is your reaction to this quote?


"And that has meant that we have developed skills in keeping the human race alive which are the basic indispensable skills in an age of nuclear weapons (McIntosh 17)."  Decode McIntosh's statement and extrapolate something from this to bring to the larger group discussion.


"It is traumatically shocking to white women teachers in particular to realize that we were not only trained but were as teachers unwittingly training other to overlook, reject, exploit, disregard, or be at war with most people in the world (McIntosh 9)." Hmm.. Race in education! Share an experience where race has affected yours or someone else's educational experience...either positive or negative.

Blank: Talk about what interested you about the McIntosh reading.

"McIntosh also writes that the language used by college admissions "masks...the actual liberal arts function, which is, at present to train a few students to climb up to pinnacles and to seize them so as to have a position from which power can be felt, enjoyed, exericised, and imposed on others. "(Melissa Pottah post). *For this question, we had a photocopies of select section of admissions manuals from 5 renowned women's colleges: Barnard, bryn mawr, wellesley, smith, mt. holyoke.

Blank: Talk about what bothered you in the reading.

"The liberal arts cirriculum has been particularly concerned with passing on to students the image of what the 'top' has been." (McIntosh 5). As students of a liberal arts college who experience the sort of l.a. cirriculum McIntosh refers to here, tell us when the cirriculum has NOT showed you 'what the top is like'. 


"While the actual structures may be social constructed, the need for such hierarchies may be innate. Thus, the more challenging issue is how to address this need without empowering some groups and dienfranching others." (Julia Lustick post) Do you even think this is a challenge? Why/Why Not? Either way, do you have any suggestions on how to address this "need" Julia refers to?


"That's the truoble with Phase 2 History. It conveys to the student the impression that women don't really exist unless they are exceptional by men's standards." (McIntosh 8) Reactions?


"It seems like [bryn mawr] is constantly moving between phases 3,4,5." (Julia Lustick post). Do you agree with Julia? What is the ideal phase for BMC? Would this be a univeral ideal...for all colleges not just woman's colleges? In answering this question, reflect on Alex Tisman's "ideal admissions policy." How would this change in admission (change in college community) influence the phase we want to/should be in?

"McIntosh's discussion of Phase 2 cirriculum development was very intriguing tome. It all made sense as I read it, and itshould have occured to me before, but somehow it failed to. [This] reminds me of my AP US history class in high school...majority of the class was focused on people with the best access to political power: men." (Dawn's post) Where your experiences similar or different to Dawn's in high school? What would McIntosh say about the phases your high school was in?

_end questions_

Lastly, we wanted to know if anyone went to the McIntosh lecture. Was it interesting? After her talk, did her argument seem more convincing? less convincing? We would be interested to know what you thought, so please post your comments/thoughts/reactions to either our "kick off" or McIntosh's talk on Tuesday night.

skumar's picture


I voted for poetry selections and Born into Brothels. Below is my rationale:


Poetry selections: "Lifting Belly" and "Canzone," although interesting, were incomprehensible texts. Becky proposed a really productive exercise of posting poems (with authors staying anonymous) on Serendip and discussing the "gender" in poems. We only briefly discussed gendered language in relation to an article we read, so this would introduce the class to a new form of feminism? I think everyone enjoyed Spivak's purpose to "invaginate" her writing....I would love to explore this notion of gendering language and if you would, too, then VOTE for Poetry day!

Born into Brothels: Exploring the red district in Calcutta can be a way we can explore identity and feminism(?) in children. The content here would productively parallel the "Breast Giver" and Jashoda's story of detaching herself from her body as prostitution, too, treats the body as a distant object from the self. As we analyzed Jashoda's emotional/psychology attachment to to her "job," I look forward to understand how, if ever, children become somehow attached to/ dependent upon prostitution. If you are interested in mind-body distinction, enjoyed "Breast Giver," find introducing yourself to different cultures fascinating and /or want to see identity exploration/ forceful societal regulations upon children.....VOTE for BIB.

skumar's picture

To be signed...

"To be signed with a woman's name doesn't necessarily make a piece of writing feminine. It could quite well be masculine writing, and conversely, the fact that a piece of writing is signed with a man's name does not in itself exclude femininity."

-Helene Cixous, "Castration or decapitation?"

Anne Dalke's picture

I promised... interim report about where we are on choosing a text together to finish off our sharing reading/watching/exploring of feminism. What I copied from the board was

1 vote for 1984
1 vote for What Happened to Lani Garver
1 vote for Middlemarch
4 votes for Transparent (the film)
5 votes for poetry selections (see Becky on this one)
7 votes for Born into Brothels

Please post below any further thinking you might have about any of these selections--and come to class on Thursday ready to explain your vote: what are the reasons (pedagogical, political, feminist?) for attending to this material, not to other stuff (what "phase" does it represent? what aspect of feminism not attended to, that we should look @? what aspect attended to, that we should look @ more?)--and be prepared to help us move toward consensus.

kscire's picture

Book Suggestion

I voted for the move born into brothels in class today but I know someone who is about to read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore and it seems very relevant to our class and the ongoing gender debate. Gilmore presents gender as a social construction and not something that is present from birth. The novel has a lot of gender reversal and is somewhat similar to the three guineas in that there is the discussion of a utopian society-there is no war etc.
skumar's picture

Response to Lustick and McIntosh

Lustick writes in her post, "..the more challenging issue is how to adress this need without  empowering some groups and disenfranchising others." I agree that McIntosh leaves out (purposely?) the restoration of a 'happy medium' in cirriculum. This idea brings me back to the general phenomenon we have been exploring in CFS thus far--that there exists no certainty, no fixedness. To address the need that Lustick presents is, perhaps, counterproductive. I say this because I do not think it is possible to empower every group in a single course; there will always be a sort of disenfranchisement that disregards some groups. That, I think, is the essence of the challenge McIntosh is dealing with in her paper.

For example, let us take this course: Critical Feminist Studies. While the course suggests feminism as an umbrella term, as a notion that applies to  races, to genders, to cultures, to homes, to indentities... I do not think the cirriculum does  "justice" to every group. We got a glimpse of Latina feminism and maybe south asian feminism, but what about jewish feminism? chinese feminism?. Particularly, though, I think CFS cirriculum ignores the voice of males...not F-to-M males or M-to-F males but individuals who biologically and socially identify as male. Bind was a homosexual male...but does Binh stand for all heterosexual males?  In relation to McIntosh, she mentions that in seminars some (academic) groups will say that they cannot "get further in [their] field." I agree more so with this seminar group than with McIntosh. I felt like McIntosh was a little too idealistic, and much less realistic than I would have liked. She mentions math and biology, but natural science and math cannot explore women's perspective/women's issues in math. Having taken math courses at Bryn Mawr, I did not notice a way in which the department has tried to incorporate the voices of women. Sure, there may be more opportunities for "gendered" summer programs or funded grants or scholarship, but in terms of actual classroom instruction, I do think a professor's teaching instruction is altered in any way (the classes/the department is not any less challenging to better suit an all-woman atmosphere). How can you have a math class that integrates discussion of race? It is the nature of the subject, the content of the area of study, that intrinsically inhibits inclusion of all groups. I think that is another dimension of the challenge McIntosh is facing in this endeavor--the challenge to include everyone.

sarahk's picture

McIntosh's essay shed so

McIntosh's essay shed so much light on the different types of education I have been receiving even in my different courses at Bryn Mawr and throughout my entire educational career. In APUS History, I wrote many essays I will never forget, but in the end they were really about key terms that treat the other as just that: an other. I wrote about the co-optation of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which is pertinent, but only so pertinent UNTIL we move beyond Phase 2 Education and stop considering the history of African Americans as the history of an oppressed other - without the other, the term co-optation would be irrelevant. 

In McIntosh's discussion of the phases of education, it struck me just how stuck in Phase 2 I was all throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, and just how stuck in Phase 3 most of my courses at Bryn Mawr have been. There is a tendency, because of the traditional pyramid structures of "winning" and "losing," as McIntosh would say, to consider discussions in class that are based on non-traditional texts, or texts that students know just as much or even more about than Professors, as unimportant discussions or unofficial discussions. I still think to myself that when I am discussing in class a work by a famous classic author, such as those books Meg read in her college career, that discussion is for some reason more important than a discussion in which immigrants share their personal literature about their histories (Phase 5). When a Professor relies on her students to learn something new, my first tendency is to think that the class is less formal or that the Professor in reality is never learning something new. I am afraid this says I am still stuck in Phase 3.

The only qualm I had with McIntosh's essay is, in the end she describes the outcome of the different women's lives, and Meg is absolutely miserable. Are the Megs of the world miserable? It seems to me that most women in the world today, at least women over 40, are Megs. And most women's hopes and dreams are not shattered when they divorce from their husbands. Is McIntosh belittling the efforts of Phase 1 education and assuming negative outcomes that are not always true?

The type of education that most spoke to me was the one that Amy received. Amy tries to "make it" as an artist, because she believes firmly in the pyramid structures of power. She thinks life is about winning. "She thinks if you're good enough you'll get recognized and that if women would only pull 'their' act together and stop bitching, her chances for recognition would improve." The result of this phase of education, even though it seems to be based on studying oppression and LEARNING from power structures, it is actually just perpetuating those structures and reenforcing the "win or lose" and "making it" syndrome. Most importantly, it causes Amy to lose faith in even her own group of "others," - women.  

Dawn's picture

Phase 2: Women in History

McIntosh's discussion of Phase 2 of curriculum development was very intriguing to me. It all made sense as I read it, and it should have occurred to me before, but somehow it failed to. The discussion of Women in History strongly reminded me of my AP U.S. History class in high school. The majority of the class was focused on the people with the best access to political power: men. However, my teacher was convinced that since the class consisted of one man and ten women he would never get away with just that version of history. He was right. However, his version of a "feminist" history was talking about women in history. At the time I believe I felt that it was better than nothing, but now I see that it was no better than the first version. Phase 2 is just exploiting the women that made it to the top of the pinnacle and did something that was considered extraordinary by the men of the time. The only other alternative is the study of the consorts, women who were only considered important because of their relationships with important men. The majority of women were completely ignored.
mpottash's picture

Curricular Revision and Bryn Mawr

McIntosh's essay led me to reflect on my Bryn Mawr education, and the kind of ideas that Bryn Mawr does and does not enforce or try to teach its students.  McIntosh writes that "the liberal arts curriculum has ben particularly concerned with passing on to students the image of what the 'top' has been" (5).  Is this the case for Bryn Mawr, or to Bryn Mawr classes try to encourage us not only to look at the construction of the 'top', but also at the what forms the 'bottom'?  I feel that many of my Bryn Mawr classes ( this class included) have encouraged me to look at society, and that way in which it is built, in new ways, often paying close attention to those that are left out of the dominant narratives or hegemonic structures.  The fact that I have been taught that these structures and cultural norms are socially constructed speaks to the degree to which the Bryn Mawr curriculum has attempted to dissemble this pyramid.

McIntosh also write that the language used by college admissions "masks...the actual liberal arts function, which is, at present, to train a few students to climb up to pinacles and to seize them so as to have a position from which power can be felt, enjoyed, exercised, and imposed on others" (6).  This statement, I think, is partially true of Bryn Mawr, and so many other colleges.  What stuck out to me when reading this was the focus that so many schools have, Bryn Mawr included, on famous alums (think of how visible Katherine Hepburn is in BMC's culture).  I think that this emphasis on success is due in part to the fact that whether or not we are taught to dissemble the pyramid, and the extent to which we learn about those on the bottom, we are still forced to live in a society that accepts this hierarchical structure.

As a history major, I was also interested in McIntosh's discussion of the ways in which history is taught.  She writes that "history is usually exclude those who didn't possess a good deal of public power." (7).  This is true in some history classes.  Often, history focuses on the "great man theory, the idea that a select few, the powerful men in society, have shaped history.  However, many history classes take a bottom-up approach, looking at the ways in which the people, those on the ground, have shaped history.  This is often the case in cultural history.   

In terms of another suggestion for a text to read: I was recently at a used bookstore and bought a book called Woman's World, by Graham Rawle.  The author has written the book entirely out of cut-out words from British women's magazines. 

skumar's picture

Second vote for Woman's World

Thank you, melissa, for suggesting Woman's World. Graham... is that a male author? I would LOVE to hear more from a masculine/male voice. Binh's narration in The Book of Salt, I think, was not enough. There are plenty of men, I am sure, that advocate feminism as strongly as do women. Although Anne established that feminism includes a range of genders and races, it seems as though the male voice was suppressed in the course; in other words, men seem to be marginalized. I also like the text you suggested because it combines words and images--a debate I was particularly interested in . In this text, it seems words serve as textual images. I would love to explore the costs/benefits of such a genre (as we have done in Persepolis)... and explore how the genre "does justice" to womanhood.
Dawn's picture

The Male Feminist

I have never heard of Woman's World, but it sounds interesting. I do agree with you and Melissa, however, that it would be interesting to hear a voice from a different angle, the male feminist. I know he's out there, but it's true that we haven't heard that much from him this semester.
jlustick's picture

Thoughts on McIntosh

The McIntosh essay on curricular re-vision was intriguing but somewhat unsatisfying. While I found her discussion of the five curriculum phases to be a helpful contextualization of her ideas, I think that she spent too much time dwelling on abstractions. It is not until the last few pages of her essay that she provides us with concrete examples of the sort of curriculi she is addressing. Thus, we spend most of the essay hearing about the phases in abstract terms, lacking any real sense of how they play out in real life. For example, on page 13, McIntosh states that "all teachers are trained to isolate bits of knowledge and that this very training keeps their students in turn oblivious of the larger systems which hold pyramids of power in place." Can she describe this training? Can she describe how this plays out in the classroom? By staying in the realm of abstract theories, McIntosh evades reader criticism...her ideas sound good, but she gives us an insufficient amount of information to decide if they are actually valuable. In other words, can she suggest a new kind of training for teachers?

I was also interested in McIntosh's statement that "the mountainous and pyramidal form of our society and of our psyches is a social construct invented by us" (5). While I agree with her point that power structures are social constructs, I am uneasy with her implication that this "unnaturalness" makes themunjust or invaluable. While the actual structures may be social constructed, the need for such hierarchies may be innate. Thus, the more challenging issue is how to address this need without empowering some groups and disenfranchising others. 

I liked the way that McIntosh summarized the five phases on page 3, because they seemed to model the movement of the more general feminist mission. In other words, the waves of feminism seem to progress in a similar manner to the phases of curriculum.

Finally, I couldn't help but read this article and consider which phase Bryn Mawr was in. It seems like we are constantly moving between phases 3, 4, and 5. One question I have is whether it is possible to jump to a higher phase or whether the earlier phases must be tackled in order to move to a higher level. In speaking of levels, I can't help but address the slight paradox here- isn't McIntosh herself providing us with a hierarchy, a sense of good, better, best?