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Critical Feminist Studies

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Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to Critical Feminist Studies, an English and Gender-and-Sexuality-Studies course offered in Spring 2012 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.

Anne Dalke's picture

Our Teach-In

Here's the plan for next Thursday's teach-in. We have eight performances scheduled, for an 80-minute class period, so each one can take up to 10 minutes. And not a moment longer! And this includes set-up! (In other words, be warned: if the set-up gets complicated, you'll need to reduce the length of your performance on the spot, in order to make sure that there's time-and-space for all....).

12:55-1:05 hwink, michelle, JD
1:05-1:15 Colleen and MC
1:15-1:25 S.Yeager and dear.abby
1:25-1:35 meowwalex, mbeale, buffalo
1:35-1:45 pejordan, melal, FrigginSushi
1:45-1:55 epeck, sekang, dchin
1:55-2:05 sara, aybala, bluebox
2:05-2:15 rayj, amophrast, w0m'n

And here's what actually happened--thanks, all!

rayj's picture

male feminist impressions

I don't know if anyone from our class is still posting here but I saw this and thought of our class and the discussion of male feminists, and societal views of them as kind of awesomecoolwow look at you being a great person, compared to more negative views of female feminists

bluebox's picture

Pussy Riot has been censored!

On the front page of the New York Times today, Pussy Riot has been sentenced to 2 years in jail.  We started a class talking about them so I thought I'd share this.

sara.gladwin's picture

Self Evaluation

When I began this class I was just beginning to look at gender from a feminist lens. I had only ever discussed gender within the realm of literature and so this course was really like a window into a wider conversation about gender; one that took place in spaces other than a literary book. I think I am much more able to think critically about gender in a broader way because of this. I have been learning to pay attention to the classroom structure more, the ways in which certain classroom structures can be problematic or the ways in which is it useful for provoking discussion or creative learning.

I think there have been many classes where I spoke a lot and a couple classes where I sat back and did not say much at all. It took me time to adapt to the class structure after it changed mid-way through the semester. After a couple classes I became comfortable and began to participate regularly. I liked the idea of collaborative work both inside and outside the classroom. I love the use of serendip; I feel like it is very well integrated in the classroom, especially because we hear each person’s posts again and can discuss them. I felt as though I could have participated more online than I did.

sara.gladwin's picture

Violating Language

Sara Gladwin

Critical Feminist Studies Final Paper

Anne Dalke



Violating Language

As I was reading a chapter in the book “Feminism is for Everybody” by Bell Hooks, I became inspired to start thinking about the ways in which language was used in the classroom and what effect changing that dialogue would have on classroom experience. I became interested in exploring how language could be used to alter the classroom to become a more inclusive place, where silenced voices are able to have the opportunity to be heard.  Hopefully I could find a way that the classroom could validate students experiences instead of conditioning students to filter out certain parts of their lives from the classroom.

dear.abby's picture

the queer classroom and self confidence

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being “are you even registered in this class? do you know where you are? and 10 being “you are fully present, prepared and engaged”, I would say I was an average of a 6.5 being that some days I was about a 1 and most days I was a 7.5-8. That being said, I was an average of about a 4 in my “real life” this semester 1 being “you are stagnant, you might as well be dead” and 10 being “your life has self motivated forward momentum”.  So my participation and contribution was patchy at best, but you already know that. Though think I was more present in the small discussions than in the larger ones. Everything I did for class was “focused on my own learning” though I am not really sure what else it could have focused on…I was trying to contribute to the learning of others online. By this I mean that I was trying or hoping generally to engage with a discussion in my postings. I don’t think I have been thinking of how I might be contributing to others learning, in the sense that I don’t ever find myself wanting others to come to my point of view or position of understanding—I don’t consider myself a teacher within the classroom.

colleenaryanne's picture

Diffracting - finding my voice and my passion

             This class was a journey in many ways for me.  This is my first Anne Dalke class, and so I have never experienced this type of class structure before.  I certainly have mixed feelings, and my learning process in this class has been shaky and informative at the same time.  As discussed ad nauseum in mine and others’ final web events, the class was structured in such a way that there were vast gaps in understanding and education between many of my peers.  I was unfortunately at the “lower” end of what felt like a hierarchy of education, and so was often uncomfortable expressing my ideas for fear of being looked down upon as less understanding and uneducated.  As an intro course I question how useful it is to have people with extensive knowledge in the class – they were often bored and frustrated with the others (myself) in the class who were still learning.  Having people in the class with higher levels of understanding can be incredibly useful in that it can engender conversation that would not be possible with a group of people new to the topic, and often times the conversation was very interesting because of the levels of understanding some people had.  However, occasionally that left others out of the conversation, because it would go over their (our) heads.  But again, simply listening to other people have these conversations was useful, because I for one learn a lot from listening to other people. 

hwink's picture


When I reflect on the semester and my role in conversation and levels of participation, I have a lot of mixed feelings. I am very regretful of my lack of presence on the course forum-- that was an entire aspect of conversation for the class that I really think I missed out on a great deal. I did engage, but only as a lurker and passive reader, which is certainly a shame because I think one of the lessons of this course was to value your own voice as well as the others around you (something that many conversations in class over the semester would lead me to believe is a feminist project). I think that while I managed to really enjoy the ability to see the thoughts of my peers develop on the forum, I did not really trust in the value of my own words.

In class, however, I definitely feel like I was a pretty active and useful member of discussion. I was always very interested in the voices around me, and, unlike my reaction to serendip, was able to trust in the worthiness of my own thoughts enough to share them. I really hope, and think it is not out of line to say that I think it’s true, that I was a good community member in that I contributed as much as I was taking. Or perhaps, a less possessive and more appropriate phrasing, I engaged fully in the shared experience of conversation and therefore did my best to enrich and be enriched.

hwink's picture

Queering Weakness: The Refusal of Strong Female Characters

She lies there, ethereal, frail, beautiful. High in a tower, or preserved in a glass casket, or trapped in her wicked stepmother’s house, she awaits a kiss from a dashing male rescuer. She haunts our Disney movies and cheesiest romance novels. She is the damsel in distress, and we are sick of her. Feminism has declared the damsel in distress out, and taken up a rallying cry for strong female characters, women who don’t sit and wait to be rescued. Women who kick ass and take charge, who are characterized by strength and impenetrability. But is this really what we asked for, or what we wanted? Who is the “strong female character” that gets produced? What is the nature of “strength” and why do we value it in our female characters?

Kate Beaton, creator of the webcomic “Hark! A Vagrant”, in collaboration with two other cartoonists, Meredith Gran and Carly Monardo, created a small series of comics called “Strong Female Characters”. In the author’s notes on her site, Beaton comments:

“We are professionals in the entertainment industry and we think we know what we are talking about when we say that there needs to be more strong female characters out there and we know just what to do about it. Finally, some women to look up to!”

meowwalex's picture

Mom's feminism vs My Own :-)

Critical Feminist Studies has been one of the most valuable classes I have taken so far at Bryn Mawr. When I entered the classroom, I was a self-declared feminist. Having grown up with a mother and aunt who are both very pro-choice and empowering, I saw feminism as something rather basic  – the act of fighting for the rights of women to be equal to those of men. However, I quickly learned that there are so many aspects of feminism that one has to learn about in order to be able to fight for each of those rights within the larger foundation of feminism. This really made my head ache once we started talking about all the various ways the direction of the class could grow. . . It was not at all as “basic” a viewpoint as I had thought. Everything my Mom had taught me had just been expanded to the utmost dimension. . .ahhh!

S. Yaeger's picture

Self Evaluation

As with all new classes, I came into this class somewhat terrified and overwhelmed and possibly hoping that it would provide me with a space in my schedule where I at least felt somewhat comfortable in the sense of already having an idea about what counts for feminism and what counts for feminist theory. I was also looking forward to learning much more about feminist topics and the ways in which they play out in the world at large.  I feel like this class gave me all of those things, while also pushing me to be more self-aware and more adventurous/creative in my approach to acadedmic work, as well as inspiring me to action as opposed to only working with theory.

In thinking about the edges of my individual learning, I think this class highlighted three posible areas of needed growth for me.  The first, and possibly most important to me, is that it continuosly challenged me to reconsider how I speak, what I speak to, and to whom I address my comments.  It helped me to feel way more comfortable with being unsure and with being criticized, and it also helped me to think through how to have a productive conversation across various levels of understanding, which has led directly to my final project of attepting to institute a changing conversation about gender on our campus and in our community.

dear.abby's picture

TV at the Feminst Table?

Over the past month or so I have been posting regularly about a new HBO program which provoked a lot of public attention, long before it even aired.  I was interested in the show, and I was even more interested in what people in our course thought about it. But my “call to discourse” fell flat, so I have decided to take up the project myself. Now my primary interest in the show was not actually the topic, but the fact that the creator/director/writer was a female, liberal arts college graduate and only four years older than I am.  Go Girls. I am not sure if it is widely understood how rare this is—look up any of your three favorite television programs, and chances are extremely high, regardless of the topic that the “creator/writer/director” of the pilot episode is male. And if you happen to watch a show conceived by a woman, chances are further likely that she has a male partner/co-creator. Shows about Girls, written by girls, created by girls, and directed by girls simply do not exist. The stories we watch and television every day are stories coming from a definitively male perspective. This is not meant as an inciting, insightful statement. It is nothing but and “is”.

buffalo's picture


When I began this project I decided I was going to write about the controversy over the cesarean rate in the United States. I have heard nurses and friends talk about the trend of rising rates in cesareans, and from the conversation I’ve realized it’s a very controversial topic. I am interested in women’s health, so I started asking my health care providers what they thought of the c-section rate in the U.S., and I started seeing a trend that people’s view on c-sections often has do with a more general outlook on obstetrics. Many of the people who I came across that didn’t approve in the increasing rate of c-sections had other complaints about how obstetric units are run. People who disproved of the c-section rate often felt that medicine practiced in hospitals is too ‘interventionalist’ and treats birth like there is going to be an abnormality, when in general births are normal. Of the people that told me they didn’t think there was something wrong with the c-section rate, they often had the outlook that giving birth outside of a hospital puts the mother and baby at unnecessary risk of being without a physician.  After talking about birth and doing a bit of research I decided I wanted to not only do my paper on c-sections, but also on births in hospitals versus non-hospital births. I interviewed two ob/gyn’s and two certified midwives to try and get their opinions on the matter.

melal's picture

Mulan in Real Life: Chinese Women Soldiers and Feminism

   The military has been traditionally defined as a masculine institution; actually it may be the most prototypically masculine one of all social institutions. Therefore, whenever women soldiers appear in public, they seem to be standout since people tend to think that for women to participate, either the military has to be perceived as transform to make it more compatible with how women are, or women have to be perceived as changing in ways that make them more suited for military service. Many changes have occurred in the past several decades. This period has witnessed a mushrooming of attention to women’s contribution to the army. More and more women soldiers are allowed to actually fight on the frontline or engage in violent and dangerous tasks. It seems that society started to recognize female’s ability as protectors of their countries, giving them space to choose whatever they want, including stepping on battlefields. Many people perceive this phenomenon as a huge progress of feminism, while others cast doubts on it. Interested in this issue, I would like to focus on female soldiers, especially Chinese women soldiers, in my webevent.

michelle.lee's picture

Michelle's Self Evaluation

For this class, I always tried to at least comment on one thing throughout the class.  Most of the time, I really appreciated what others were talking about and what they had to discuss about.  I assumed both a passive and active role in the class.  I was always interested in what topic we were talking about, especially since it was all new, but a lot of the times, it was sometimes too new for me and I enjoyed it more when I could learn from my peers.  I think since this was my first feminist studies class and becuase I am a first-year, I offer a new perspective and questions that could help other students reassess their original thoughts of feminism.  

I really enjoyed the articles that we read throughout the year.  The novels were a little harder to process but I think this class helped me to assess novels better.  As a reader, I learned to look at things from a feminist perspective, which interestingly helped me to see how traditional gender roles could be broken and how patriarchal structure could be reconstructed.  I also enjoyed that there were non-traditional forms of reading that were assigned.  Persepolis and watching documentaries were refershing forms of "reading."  It was helpful to learn how to assess those forms as well.  

michelle.lee's picture


Whist ruminating over my web events and the material and discussions of this class, I thought hard about how I have grown as a feminist.  This was my first class that had anything to do about feminism.  I wanted to know what feminism was about, how it was defined and just get a taste of it.  I think I had a naive notion in my mind that I could take one class of feminism and get a fuller understanding of it.  While I feel like I do have a better understanding as to what feminism is, I also think I've become more confused.  But what I've also gained from this class is the acceptance of this confusion.   (which always happens when you take the time to learn more about a subject).  At the beginning of the year, I felt like I didn't know enough to make any statements or say anything.  I felt I was talking more towards the end of the year.    I really appreciate that this class has made me bolder and not afraid to express my opinions.  As a learner, this helps me to explore ideas more since I am not as afraid to venture into different topics and vocalize my opinions.  

michelle.lee's picture

It's Elementary My Dear Watson

Setting the Scene

In my past web event, I addressed the issue of change specific to the context of a situation.  In my case, I looked into homosexuality in the context of Christianity and South Korea.  This stemmed from my desire to reframe anti-gay rhetoric at my high school.  For my final web event, I want to expand on this idea and investigate what queering education would look like not just at my own school but just on a general level.  What does homosexuality look like in schools across the US today and how is affecting students and society?  Why should this be addressed?  Why is there resistance?   


The Other Side

See video
FrigginSushi's picture

Self Evaluation

I guess I assumed there would be more theory reading because it’s an intro course, so when we just dove right into feminism, I was kind of taken back. The whole class was extremely different than any class I’ve taken. It really took discussion classes to the next level. I really hoped to become more knowledgeable of what feminism is and how other people have described it, but I got something really unique. I think instead of getting an introduction to Critical Feminism course, I got a feminist course, that is, a course that in its foundations is feminist. From the not raising hands, to the ambiguous nature of the discussions, to the whole idea that we should read who we feel is important, not who the teacher feels is important because everyone should have a say in this. From start to finish, it was an extremely feminist course and in that respect I think I did get something positive out of this course. Whether it was foundational feminist theory or not, it was something positive and it is something that I will try to keep in mind and spirit for my classes in the future.

MC's picture


In tandem with Amophrast, Colleen Ryanne, aybala05, and S. Yaeger

Continuing conversations for the year

-After the revamped Q-Forum during Customs Week we will have continuing conversations periodically through the year. These conversations will be open to the entire school, not just first years. There will be three larger conversations, one in the fall and two in the spring.




Working title not yet here: what it means to be queer here and not there

How do we translate a queer space into spaces that we are less comfortable in/feel less safe in/etc.?

The first post-Customs Week Q Forum discussion, it will cover issues such as coming out, the idea of being out and all that entails, and talking with people from home/family about queer life at Bryn Mawr. This conversation will take place the week before Fall Break by hall, and will be open to anyone. There will most likely be follow up events hosted by Rainbow Alliance during Out Week (week we get back from Fall Break).

Theoretical Hosts: HA's and CDAs


FrigginSushi's picture

Sex and Work: Japanese Host Clubs and Hentai into Context

            The week that our class discussed sex work was definitely the most intriguing and insightful classes we’ve had this semester. A lot of the discussion revolved around the idea of porn and watching porn. Dchin expressed discomfort while watching the documentary Live Nude Girls Unite! because of specific details while the girls at The Lusty Lady were stripping. It wasn’t exactly the blatant nudity that bothered her, but the scene where one of the customers is watching the stripper strip. She said, “It didn't strike me as odd while watching the film that I wasn't uncomfortable seeing the women's naked bodies but instead uncomfortable watching one of the male patrons watching the women dance.” She explains why saying that it made her feel like she could easily be in the position of the stripper and the power of the gaze would be too invasive for her. She couldn’t imagine being the same place as the stripper and being watched in such an intrusive manner.