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self evaluation

Celeste's picture

When I signed up to take Critical Feminist Studies at Bryn Mawr College, I’ll admit that I had some images of what the class would look like.  But I’ll only tell if you promise not to laugh.  I imagined reading novels by Virginia Woolf and talking about the big bad man.  Of course, we would read Gloria Steinam and “empower” each other, all while nestled into the ever present gender binary, discussing issues that really affect only mainstream identities—all, of course, in the name of goodness and equality for all beings. Ha!  I remember it so clearly!  I was sitting in my chair on the first day of the class.  My hand was raised.  Anne called on me and bluntly asked, “Is it feminist to raise your hand?”.  I had no idea how there was any connection.  In fact, I thought the question was “stupid” and didn’t make any sense.  Herein lies where my experience quickly became what I least expected from the course.  Believe me, I am very happy about that.


It soon became obvious that the course aimed to understand concepts like gender, sexuality, intersectionality, and lastly feminism by first deconstructing their meanings and then applying them to our everyday lives and our more abstract academic thinking.   At first, it was really hard to, say, question the gender binary.  I was initially resistant to such modes of thinking. It got in the way of my learning.  But eventually, I relented and decided to let go, instead trying to believe something and understand it, rather than immediately find it problematic and contest it.  The readings were immensely difficult to understand at first.  Kathy Acker blew my head off.  But nonetheless, I perservered, reading more than once if neccessary, and slowly built up the ability to understand theory a lot better.  I can now read a much wider breadth of literature because I was exposed to different modes of reading it.  That is a big, big, big step up for me.  I also *wanted* to understand the ideas at least enough to talk about them and thus pushed myself to do so.  I wasn't always successful, but any work on focusing skills is good work for me.


As for my performance in the class room, I decided early on that I was either going to go all in and make myself known in the class room, or I would leave.  Taking a class that directly deals with touchy subjects do not lend themselves well to silence and a lack of conversation.  The only way to avoid ignorance is to address it and try to move past it through communication.  Most of the time, I think I did this reasonably well.  But there were times when I could have spoken more, and could have asked questions.  Like many have admitted, I had the fear of political incorrectness holding me back.  If I was wrong, I thought I would perhaps burst into flames, or on a good day, skewered by my classmates and sacrificed to Athena.  Granted, that never ended up happening, and it became obvious in my few weeks of silence that it would not happen, so I continued to contribute to the classroom dialogue.  I believe that it would have been a waste of my time to stay silent the whole semester—but then again, I do not have the context of truly struggling to not be silent in my past.  Forgive my insensitivities if I have offended, but this is my viewpoint on the issue.  I would like to think that I made valuable contributions to the classroom environment, and greatly enjoyed learning with such an interesting and diverse group of people this semester.  I specifically enjoyed our conversations (or lack thereof on some days) about transmen on the Bryn Mawr campus, and was glad to have the oppurtunity to ask Sam about his perspective on some of my questions.  I think that a lot of people had specific interests that shined through at certain point in the semester.  A few come to mine: Kelly and intersectionality, Erin Penney and feminist political, Elizabeth Vandenberg and her contributions to our classes on queer time and queer culture.  It was great to hear people talk about ideas that interested them.


For readings, I was mostly good.  There were times when I struggled in my mind a lot this semester, and as a result, was not as present as I could have been in the classroom or in the readings.  I will have to work on that in the future, but I wanted to be honest about it.  I almost always had the text with me, save for a few embarrassing instances.  As for homework and postings, I also could have been more vigilant in making postings on time.  After taking a look at my portfolio, I noticed that I made a few on Monday, rather than Sunday night.  However, I recall Anne saying in class that as long as a posting was made by Monday, it wasn’t too “late”.   Web events have always been hard to turn in on time because I stress out about deadlines often.  The second web event we had due was by the latest—the others have either been on time or late by a few hours.  No more than a day.  For me, I care a lot about doing a good job, and trying to do a good job.  If it takes a little more time, I am more willing to give myself that time instead of turn in something I don’t like.  It always seemed as though a few hours would not make the difference to my teacher, as she had mentioned more than once in class, and therefore took that time in the moments that I needed it.  Thankfully, Anne is very understanding about “queer time”, which was a great help to me this semester.  I felt understood, appreciated, and respected in a way that I previously had not by a teacher.  For that, I’m thankful.  I feel that because the teacher/student relationship was established with first names, honest conversation, and less of the pretentious hierarchy of power in the classroom, my learning experience was positively affected.  I felt safer to take risks, to express my opinions, and to fail.


Overall, I am taking away the ability to think more critically about systems of power and identity from this class.  I understand my feminism more than before, and now identify the term with equality for all genders, rather than the female identifying gender.  I will take great joy in thinking more about the word ‘feminism’, and would not have asked for any different course in beginning that personal journey.  I know I have grown intellectually, and outside of a grade, I know that the way I think has been affected positively by taking this course and having this experience.  I feel more confident in my writing and my ability to speak in classes (especially on difficult, confusing issues).  Although I could have paid more attention to strict deadlines, I think I made certain growth in this course, even if it was a small amount of growth. This is the academic climate I prefer: honest conversation on an equal playing field.  I hope to have that again someday.