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Mid-Semester Course Evaluation --> And Planning for the Remainder

Anne Dalke's picture

This weekend, please add as a "new comment" here your proposal for the remainder  of our semester's work together. Begin with a paragraph or two of a mid-semester evaluation of how we're doing in learning together:
what's working? What needs working on? What should we keep, of our shared practices? What might we change up?

Turn then from questions of "form" to those of "content": What other genres, geographies, forms of gender or sexuality studies would you like to explore, if the remainder of the class were an independent study? What do you recommend our exploring together? How action-based or action-directed do you want our work to be? Say "why" in answer to each of these questions (i.e. how do your selections expand/extend/challenge what we have already done?).

I have two more weeks of material planned for after break (wiggle room, to order new books, do some course planning), but we will spend next week selecting material together for NINE [AS YET UNPLANNED] CLASSES.


MC's picture

What Have You

I am happy with this class. While I might not have enjoyed every work we read, I still feel like I/someone in the class dragged something out of it that I found useful or relevant. One thing I'd really like to see more of again are the small groups with open-ended questions. They were really interesting and fun to be a part of, and while everyone reading a line out is interesting because we can see what precisely people were focused on, it is a lot harder to actively engage a person if we found what they said interesting, especially if a lot of people said interesting things. It's kind of like someone flashing a whole bunch of pictures in front of your face, and your mind makes up what they are but you are only given one or two pictures at the end to really look at. On a personal learning note, this style makes it easier (for me) to end up constructing thoughts on what one person said but never have the opportunity to respond because the discussion has already breezed past it, and it is much easier to zone out and not participate at all whether you meant to or not.

I really like some of the suggestions already made, such as sex workers, queer works and/or how the queer movement and the feminist movement interact, non-white feminism, and non-US feminism. melal's suggestions of The Joy Luck Club seems really interesting. I found this essay on the movie adaptation a little while ago and I've been meaning to properly look it up since. I would also be very interested in sekang's idea of looking at representation of women in STEM fields, maybe because it relates so directly to me, a young woman who is very interested in math and science and who is the daughter of a woman with a career in science.

As for my own suggestions, I would be really interested in discussing childhood and how feminism and the world interact with it. How children are gendered and/or not-so-subtly pushed into certain categories, but also how children fight that push, how children and the education system interact (especially with STEM-y things, but honestly I'll take anything), how children develop relationships and whether those relationships fit into the expectations society has of them or not, how disabled children interact/are interacted with--- this list can continue into eternity. Kids. They're weird. We all used to be one. Let's talk about it.

I would really, really like to see us read/watch/listen to media on Native American and other indigenous feminist and otherwise movements. I would not ask us to read the couple of books that I have read previously however, as while they were very informative, well-written, and I enjoyed them (that is really not the right word, but it's what I automatically think of when there are books I read that I found interesting/compelling/some other nebulous feeling. I should find a new, potentially less uncomfortable word), they were also very triggering, and were honestly painful to read in parts. I know of a couple of blogs/essays, however, that are less so, and we would probably feel more comfortable reading and then discussing in class.

I think it might be interesting to bring up music, as amophrast has suggested. Music has historically been used in counter-cultural and otherwise movements, and I'm assuming with a class size as large as we have we would be able to find a wide variety of feminist/feministy/not problematic/sort of problematic/totally problematic music to listen to and discuss. Also music is great and I want more of it. amophrast's other suggestion of comic books could be really fun, too, though I might want to expand that to animation and comics. Alternative or companion topic could be young adult fiction? 

These suggestions are always going to be expanding.

Just a note on this thread: many people seem to be apologizing for being interested in things that directly pertain to them and/or their interests. This part of the class is meant for us to talk about us, and while keeping it as accessible and flowing is awesome, we should also feel completely fine with talking about things that we are involved with/related to/affect us/are interested in/are really personal. Sharing is caring. Let's share.

sara.gladwin's picture

Mid Semester Evaluation

I love the use of digital media in class. I feel as though using digital media in classrooms half-heartedly by professors has negative effects on classroom (tedious extra work, that isn’t used constructively) verses how it is used in our class, where our postings directly influence the trajectory of classroom conversation. It also allows, almost effortlessly, for the student to take the class outside the physical room, to draw on personal experiences and make connections to shape their perceptions of classroom material and discussion. Despite the specific nature of how class time is spent, the supposed “directive-ness” that is associated with phallocentric language and patriarchal oppression,  I believe the classroom environment which includes usage of digital media allows the classroom to becomes a more inclusive, open, “feminist” environment. Along the same vein, I also love the use of multi-media, which helps me and other students to feel the interconnectivity and relevance of our studies to everything.

I do like smaller groups- because I feel as though it creates an opportunity to hear things that may otherwise have not been said during normal class discussion. However, I don’t know how much I like how little time we have during the discussion or how little time we have after the small discussion to reconvene in a larger discussion group. Sometimes I wish I had more time to process discussion, but I also understand we only have a limited amount of time to do everything.

One text and author I would definitely like to look at is Alice Walker’s essay “In search of our mother’s gardens.” I feel like this will give us a chance to have a more in depth look at black feminist movement, as a separate category from the conventional white middle class woman feminist. Also continues the study of tradition in womanhood, of collective stories that we adopt from our parents; Many of Alice Walkers stories, she realizes later in her life, where her mothers stories continued. We are as much the keepers of our parents journey as we are the physical continuations of are our parents. I think this theme is particularly relevant to the things we have already studied.

Something else I think would be interesting to look at would be a comic book called the 99. The author recently came to Haverford and gave a lecture. The comics are secular but based on the 99 principles of Islam. The author created the series because he was worried about the negative images the American media presents of Islam that his children were internalizing and perceiving. The author believes the only way to form understanding between two cultures (to bridge the gap between the normal and “the other”) is through arts and culture, things such as graphic novels. These are the things that everyone participates in, in some form; whether it is through art, music, film, writing or dance. Any form of expression serves as a social connecter. Politics and academia are too exclusive, so much so that significant cultural voices are often forgotten and never considered. I think it would be interesting to consider whether this idea would this be a “feminist effort?” – to reimagine a more inclusive Islam, not the Islam religion that is presented by the American media.

I also hope that we can reach an even broader range of global texts later in the semester but I am not sure what this would include or what it would look like.

colleenaryanne's picture


The format of this class has been almost uncomfortably unstructured for me.  In the beginning I had a hard time adjusting to the environment.  I’m not sure what about the class caused my discomfort – perhaps the focus on the individual and the loss of anonymity.  It took me a little while to adjust, and even now I am slightly uncomfortable during discussion, but eventually the tone of discussion and format of the class became less intimidating.  I still occasionally feel as though I’m not able to contribute anything useful or worthwhile to conversation, but as time goes on and as we begin to hold more discussion that are new to most people, the ground begins to even out.  I always saw the interactions as a hierarchy in which I was at the bottom of the knowledge pyramid, but now the ground is far more even.  This class has not only made me reflect on how I view my education and the classroom environment, which is something that I hadn’t thought about before, but also applies this questioning to the class itself.  One of the things I appreciate most about the class is how it is set up in a “feminist way.”  For example, the quote of MC’s that Anne keeps bringing up is relevant to my initial issues with the class: “…listening, particularly to people who are often given no voice or agency, is a solid tenant of feminism.”  In the classroom setting I have clearly become more comfortable with fading into the background and remaining anonymous in a class full of people (Virginia would be proud).  But in this class, and in a truly feminist way, Anne forces everyone into the spotlight at some point or another, makes an effort for everyone to be known, named, and acknowledged, and listens to what everyone has to say.  This initially made me uncomfortable because I felt pressure to say something that I deemed would be worth listening to, but when I acclimated to the environment I realized that what I say is important and will be heard.  I realized that instead of focusing on trying to come up with a new groundbreaking philosophical feminist theory every time I spoke, I should say what is on my mind and let it be heard.  Yes, perhaps at first I felt uncomfortable, but the more time I spend in class and the more I consider my unvoiced (by choice) thoughts, the more that sharing what is in my head becomes familiar.

I had a very great interest in Regency/Victorian novels (read: Austen and Brontë) in high school, before I had educated myself on the topic of feminism.  It would be interesting to me to read that literature through the different lenses I have now (which, I realize, we did through Spivak’s essay).  I am also interested in exploring gender issues/sexism/feminism within the queer community, and how these issues might be treated differently/similarly within that society.  In particular, looking at “feminism” through a non-cis female perspective (be it trans, genderqueer, cis male [although that is a different kind of discussion], or other) is of interest to me.  I would like to see and explore more about underprivileged women, women in sex work/pornography, and perhaps the development of feminism in other cultures/countries.  I don’t have any books to suggest, but I enjoy reading fiction and would love more of that.

dchin's picture

Mid-Course Evaluation

I enjoy the atmosphere that has been cultivated in our classroom. It feels comfortable and I feel comfortable contributing to it, for the most part. I like how we begin Tuesdays with a look back to the previous week through our posts and then move on according to the outline on Serendip. I really like that the lesson is outlined and also visible, especially in class. Sometimes we move quickly through ideas, theories for example, and it helps to see those ideas in print. However, I do find the practice of not raising hands more anxiety-producing than I do liberating. I understand that this is supposed to make the discussion feel more like a genuine discussion, just a back-and-forth exchange of ideas--and I see its value--but for me, because I need a few seconds to organize my thoughts before I speak, this can be counterproductive. By the time that I'm ready to speak, someone else has already begun speaking, who is then followed by another person, and then I find myself waiting for the end of that person's sentence so that I can jump in rather than actually giving her words the attention they deserve. That I am not comfortable with not raising hands may just be because I am too accustomed to the opposite or because I like structure in everything, even something like this, but I wonder how allowing hand raising would change the atmosphere of our classroom. Would it really be so negative?

Turning from form to content, I would like to explore forms of feminism that are not Western. I enjoyed reading Perseopolis and thinking about nonwhite feminism through that text and I think it would be useful to do more of that kind of thinking. While I would be interested in exploring the feminisms of any group, I would be particularly interested in exploring East Asian feminism. Admittedly, I have a personal interest in this, which I was reminded of when reading "The Book of Salt". There is something very powerful about seeing yourself in a text. Although Binh is Vietnamese, male, and living a completely different life than I do, I could relate to him in ways that I have not been able to do with many of the Eurocentric texts I have read. Furthermore, and on a much less personal level, it is important to explore what feminism looks like in other places because it helps us think about our own relatively privileged subject positions--are we Woolf/in danger of becoming her, examining and proposing solutions as insiders to those who are outsiders? Moreover, I can't stop thinking about the last line of the video that Elana posted, "Why is this video sh*t white feminists say? Because we do not purport to know or even begin to understand the idiosyncratic experiences of feminists of color." This is a statement worth unpacking.

j1377's picture



buffalo's picture

Thinking of the past and looking towards the future...

I’m still struggling with the format of this class, with how unstructured the discussions can get and the online postings -despite the struggling I want to adjust because this is a new form for me! Even though you (Anne) provide quotes and some structure in the online notes for class, the discussions still stray and sometimes it is hard for me to keep up. I think this is more of a personal issue of needing to get used to the possibility of the discussions going anywhere. As for the online postings, I like that we have freedom to post anything that interests us, but sometimes I wish there was a more centered discussion to perhaps get more in depth in one topic-but as I said I think this is just a style I’m not used to so I’ll be interested to see how I’ll continue to react. I don’t want to bring the class down a level, but maybe focusing on fewer topics or aspects of the work were doing in class could be beneficial to help get into more depth that I can understand instead of jumping around; I think the course is purposely designed to give us a lot of freedom in both class and online, but sometimes this confuses me. I would like to work more in small groups because although the class has a very informal tone with no hand raising, I still feel intimidated talking in front of the whole group- so I really enjoyed it when we broke off into smaller units.

I like that we’re getting so many different perspectives on feminism, and that we haven’t focused on putting a definition to the word. I want more information on how to tell if a text is feminist, I know we’ve working towards uncovering all the meanings of what makes a work feminist, but I am still so unsure of what that means. I’d like to continue the trend of having all different types of works, and I’d like us to read a feminist autobiography, perhaps dealing with Islam. I’m interested in feminism’s connection with Islam, so I’d like to explore works, both films, novels, and autobiographies. I’d also like to look more at feminism’s connection to sex work. As for works we’ve done I really liked goblin marker, Persepolis, breast giver, and the book of salt. I struggled with/did not like three women’s texts, three guineas, lifting belly. I’m confused as to why we did born into brothels; it was very enjoyable, but I’m still not sure how it’s feminist. 

aybala50's picture

On Moving Forward

In regards to the way the semester has been so far, I feel that I can't really complain. I've enjoyed our class discussions and love that we go on tangents. I am continuously curious about feminism and it's definition, however do not want to rush to come to a conclusion, or rather I do not feel like I need a conclusive definition for it. Though I have not enjoyed all of the readings (aka Lifting Belly) I like the variety. I've enjoyed the search for a feminist meaning in the works we have read and I love the resistance to it as well as the acceptance. I haven't particularly seen feminism immediately in a lot of the readings, however, I feel like it must be there. 

Maybe this notion of forcefully looking for feminism behind a work is one thing I am having a hard time with. I feel as though I read everything assigned looking for a feministic meaning. There must be something feminist about it, right? Otherwise why would we be reading it? 

What is comforting, despite this search for feminism, is that though I feel like I search for it because I feel like it has to be there, I do not feel a pressure to agree with the work being feminist. I feel like I can disagree, oppose, and argue otherwise.

Where do we go from here? Who do we bring to the feminist dinner table? I don't have much of a background in feminism and so I do not feel like I can suggest specific people etc. However, I would like to see men at this table, and women, and maybe those who are neither men nor women, but are feminists? I would love to read more fiction. Maybe another novel? Maybe on motherhood? 

meowwalex's picture

As we move forward...

I think it would be interesting to see some of the things written by women who are considered prominent voices today but in a very "different" way - the voices of women like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin. . . but then I am not sure if it would be too much to untangle and too politically based.

I just really like going along with what we have already been doing, and hearing different perspectives from a variety of different angles and being able to discuss how these are all part of the broad term "feminism". I enjoyed watching Born Into Brothels, and enjoy having various mediums of work (film, essay, novel) to analyze and discuss. I love working with fiction and would like to see more of this in our coursework...A random thing crossed my mind, when I was younger I read Ophelia Speaks, a response to the book, Reviving Ophelia, (a book that poses the question: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem?) and found the short essays written by other adolescent girls very interesting. Even though these were both bestselling novels, I wonder how inclusive they are able to be and if they are trying to answer this almost unanswerable question in the right way.

hwink's picture

looking forward

The way the class functions right now is mostly pretty comfortable for me. There is a managable workload, the class discussions are always worthwhile and more than half the time quite good, and the atmosphere to the class is pretty great overall. I like many of the texts we read, especially Goblin Market, Persepolis, and Lifting Belly. Our conversations do seem a bit scattered, oftentimes, and it's hard to fully regret that considering the fact that we hit on a lot of pretty interesting threads of thought. However, it may be a good goal to try to work more on letting one train of thought develop a bit more fully.

I find myself a bit frustrated, as FrigginSushi wrote about, when Anne asks us about whether or not the text we're reading is feminist. Without fail, I find myself at a complete loss. I don't imagine a scenario where we simply define feminism and move forward, because that is simply impossible. However, I don't feel comfortable even approaching the discussion. I think that's a discomfort that it would be good to deal with head-on during class.

I think it is really interesting the way people are talking about the physical space that we're in. I am curious to see if we can change that around a little bit more and experiment with how altering our environment could perhaps improve our class discussions.

My biggest criticism of our class discussions is that sometimes I feel shut out by the terminology that gets used or concepts that I am unfamiliar with. I feel like we had entire conversations about imperialism that I sat through feeling a little bit unsure whether or not it was okay that I didn't quite get what was going on. The flip side of this, of course, is that I myself need to work on just asking questions if I don't know what's up! But also this can be a bit difficult to do sometimes when you're worried that maybe you should know what's happening. I think it's something that would be nice to be aware of as we continue through our semester.

Switching gears to content as we look forward to the rest of the semester, I would love to do more of an examination of U.S. feminism over time. That is an area that interests me a great deal, and I think there would be something really fun about looking at a 70's feminist manifesto, or maybe listening to a little Kathleen Hanna or something. This isn't a history course, but I think that a fuller understanding of such concepts could be really useful. I also would like to examine more lgbtqia issues and texts, as many people have suggested.

Amophrast's picture

(As commented on rayj's post)

(As commented on rayj's post) I think we should start a hit list of terms/theories/people that should be covered.

Shall it start with (on the subject of imperialism) Said, orientalism? I think these are useful comments

should it be retroactive and address things related to texts we've already talked about?

Amophrast's picture

Some vaguely unorganized thoughts

I am pleased with this class so far, but I'm more pleased about the large number of classes that have yet to be planned. There's a lot I want to talk about.

In thinking about who I want to bring to the feminist dinner table, my immediate thoughts are:

porn stars (and other sex workers)
trans* folk
and men

and one of my first thoughts was Buck Angel, particularly because he will be in the Philly area in mid-April doing two classes/workshops at Passional. Buck is a famous FTM porn star. However, in interviews he has said that he

1) doesn't identify as "trans" so much as someone who doesn't fit gender norms, and

2) he doesn't claim to speak on behalf of trans* folk.

There are also various trans* and non-trans* bloggers on the internet who have publicly spoken against Buck, most commonly in relation to his support for Dan Savage. However, Buck does identify as a feminist and I think it would be interesting to look at Sexing the Transman (the documentary, not the adult film).
Also, because I think this is awesome: Here is a statue of Buck Angel (the man) and Allanah Starr (the woman, a MtF porn star) with Allanah standing behind the figures.

Other thoughts:

  • Kate Bornstein is a lovely person (who was on campus in Fall '09, though Anne already knows all about this). Kate Bornstein identifies as a feminist and has a lot of thoughts on mental health, sex positivity, and other things.
  • Amanda Palmer: and/or feminism in music. Map of Tasmania is a great song about women and body hair.
  • Comic books? Batwoman, Birds of Prey, or any of the Gotham Sirens (Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy) could be fun to look at, especially in contrast/comparison to Persepolis.
  • Burlesque: gender, performativity, (body image?). Corsets: imprisonment or empowerment?

Areas of the world I'd like to see more of:

  • South America, Latin America, New Zealand/Australia

I want to work with more fiction but I'm biased because I love fiction.

S. Yaeger's picture

Amoraphrast: Do you think it

Amoraphrast: Do you think it might be useful to also take a look at Neil Gaiman's Delirium in relation to Persepolis?  I'm thinking of her in terms of a girl who is altered by trauma and (mal?) adjusts her personality to cope.  Obviously, I'm on board with any comic inquiry.

Amophrast's picture


Possibly useful link

Amophrast's picture

Also, on the subject of

Also, on the subject of French feminists, I read Cixous and Irigaray last semester, but we did not read Wittig so that might be something to look into.

Also I feel like there should be some sort of art project or "bomb" type of project in which we put things around campus or in Philly for exposure. Or maybe I'm just stuck on this exhibition that was done a few years ago. One of the writers was a courtesan too, which I thought was interesting. But these specific sonnets might not be a bad idea. At least one copy of each handkerchief is cozily sitting in Special Collections. Since I worked in Special Collections over the summer I'm tempted to say that we should all look up alums or artifacts/gifts we have. We have a large (300+) collection of local, contemporary women painters and photographers; gifts from Elizabeth Gray Vining, who tutored the current emperor of Japan (the gifts are technically from the emperor); and of course an immense collection of various things (notably ivory tile casts) collected by M. Carey Thomas and Mary Garrett.

We're at BRYN MAWR COLLEGE--why aren't we looking at people very specifically associated with us? Maybe that would be more appropriate in a history class (I believe there's currently one being taught on the history of single-sex school [in the U.S.?]), but honestly I think a lot of stuff related to Bryn Mawr is super cool and that not enough people know about them.

mbeale's picture

Is this a feminist post?

    Critical Feminist Studies is one of the most divergent classes of my academic career as far as openness and a flexible course layout. I wholly appreciate the opportunity to hear everyone's perspectives both offline and online, both as an individual and as a member of a class group. The class environment facilitates an ease to share my opinions with you all and know I am being listened to as intently and carefully as I listen to you. That being said, I sometimes feel our abstractions, valuable as they may be, cheat the texts at times. I hold literary analysis, particularly close reading, to be especially important as a key to understanding the introspections of authors, directors, poets, or otherwise and I am sometimes unnerved by class periods in which we may carry on discussions about a work for an entire class without necessarily referring to the creator's actual textual evidence. Many readings go under discussed, and though I hold myself partly responsible for this glossing over potentially brilliant observations, I sometimes feel our "anything goes' classroom environment holds some stake here.

    However, my biggest quarrel with this course is that I most find myself wondering whether or not "Is this a feminist text?" is the right question to be asking. Without fail, the question makes me feel as if I am being asked whether or not to put the feminist stamp of approval on a work and pinhole such multiplicitous, multi-faceted work into a single function, something I have prided feminism as being the antithesis of. Perhaps, instead of the "Is this feminist" question we could delve into pure analytics and instead of trying to claim material as "with us or against us" feminism and in that way provide an even more open discussion.

    I would personally like to experience a little more multiculturalism in our feminist texts, particularly that of Latin American, African or African American culture. Feminism is not something to be interpreted in one mandate, and I would like to experience texts that delve into different understandings of the discipline as interpreted transnationally and nationally

michelle.lee's picture

Mid-Semester Evaluation

I am so far very much enjoying Critical Feminist Studies.  This course is very different from what I am used to experiencing topic-wise and pedagogy-wise.  Prior to this course, I did not take any courses pertaining to feminism.  I really appreciate how much I've learned so far and I am eager to add more to my own definition of feminism.  I also really like how the class is conducted, particularly, the web-events and online postings.  I feel as though I write more comfortably and am bolder with my ideas since the internet is less formal than a traditional essay format.  I like that the class focuses on a qualitative approach and not as much on a grade oriented approach.  I do feel that this makes me lazy sometimes.  I am guilty of posting later than Sunday 5 pm on several occasions.  But, I do appreciate that it pushes me to do postings and think critically on my own accord instead of by the teacher's request.  I think adding more smaller group discussions could be an improvement to the class.  It can allow for students to speak their minds more freely.  I am more of a vocal thinker so this might be more a selfish request.  I think and process as I speak

 I really want to learn more about how men fit into feminism.  Do men have a place in feminism?  Is there feminism that address men?  How can men help?  I also want to learn more about feminism from different cultures.  While The Book of Salt and Born Into Brothels do have some different cultural aspects, I want to see how feminism is viewed in other countries.  What is feminism in Asia? Africa?  Other than that, I am eager to learn really anything.

sekang's picture

Mid-semester Evalutaion

I like how our class is discussion based. From the discussion, I get to view the books/readings from many different perspectives. All the reading assignments are doable, not too heavy and not too light. Also, I like how we actually spend some time to learn other people’s names. I feel like I belong to the class more. I also like how we focus on learning more than getting better grades. Since the majority of the classes I’ve taken are quantitative, our discussion-based class environment is very fresh and fun. I have always looked to decode the readings or find any symbolism to help me decode. But as the semester goes by, I find that decoding the readings is not that big and important in this class. I feel like being able to talk about the literature and learn from other people’s perspectives is also very important. In the beginning, it sometimes bothered me how we leave the question unanswered. Though it sometimes still bothers me, I’m definitely learning to view the question in other ways and learn to listen to others more. If the remainder of the class were an independent study, I would definitely like to learn more about my web event topic, which is the low representation of women in STEM fields. For example, since when women have been the minority in STEM fields, the statistics of women in STEM fields in other countries and the reasons for the difference in statistics, and how to encourage more women in STEM fields. Another topic that I want to study is about homosexuality. I would like to learn how feminism is related to homosexuality. Lastly, I would like to read/learn about a woman who is a feminist and is currently alive. I honestly really enjoyed reading the book of salt so maybe we can read more books like that.

What I like about this course the most is the web events. I like how I get to choose the topic that I want to study. I also like how “informal” it is. For instance, we can put pictures. I feel like I learned the most from doing the web events. I also like how I can read what other people’s web events. I find other topics that I’m interested in. (for example, I’m really interested in feminism in China and Korea.)

Something that I want to recommend would be that I sometimes wonder if raising hand would help me be more vocal. I really enjoy listening to other people’s opinions. And I’m a type of person who wouldn’t like to talk, unless I’m given the opportunity to talk (for example, by raising my hand). But, I see how talking without raising hands is feministy. It actually challenges me to obtain the “right” to talk by just jumping into the conversation. I see the pros and cons for both raising hands and not raising hands in class. So it’s hard for me to clearly recommend the “raising hands” methods but I think it’s worth a try for one class.

melal's picture

Without almost any knowledge

Without almost any knowledge and concept about feminism, I felt quite uncomfortable when I first sat in the classroom. But as we spend more and more time together and get to know each other better, I feel myself really enjoy what we are doing so far. I really like the way we study about feminism: rather than trying to define the word or figure out what it is, we are more interested in interpreting and capturing it from multiple threads that come out of readings and discussions. I think this learning in such a multidimensional way makes me more open minded and think about issues relate to feminism more critically. I’m especially glad to see that instead of only making our own weekly postings, people are willing to read others’ postings and to interact with each other, which extends our conversations and thinking to outside of classroom.  

However, sometimes I do feel overwhelmed about so much information and so many different perspectives that I received. All threads related to our topic are entangled with one another, making it hard for me to figure out the structure of our class (or, do we need a structure?..). There were times that we deviated from the initial question that we wanted to explore because someone said something controversial, which I think makes our discussions ineffective in a way. If there is something that we might change up, I guess is the fact that we don’t really have clear ‘layers’ within our class throughout the whole semester. If we can wrap up things we’ve already learned and discussed, tightened our circle a bit and try to figure out a theme for each class (or every two classes/wk), it may help us get a clear sense of what we’d better focus on, both in our in class discussions and online forum.

As for what we are going to explore in the following weeks, I would like to recommend The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  Both of the two books, with focus on Chinese American immigrant families, show us how women perform when facing with the collision and mesh of Chinese culture and American culture.

The Joy Luck Club tells stories about conflicts between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters. The mothers, as first-generation immigrants, still firmly hold traditional Chinese values. The daughters born in the United States, although similar with their mothers in appearance, are influenced by American culture and therefore develop totally different values with their mothers. Through conflicts happened between the mothers, we can see their struggles with identities and their deep love for each other. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother describes the efforts made by the author, both as a decedent of Chinese immigrants and a mother of two girls, to give her children what she describes as a traditional, strict “Chinese” upbringing. Noticing that many of us have expressed concerns about being a successful working mom in the future, I think this book will offer us a new way to understand motherhood and definition of successful family education.

S. Yaeger's picture

I love the idea of using The

I love the idea of using The Joy Luck Club to explore Chinese feminism.  I've always wanted to read it, and have also wanted to read the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I know the latter got some bad press in the U.S., but from what I understand, it might be really usefull as a means of breakng us out of our collective American ethnocentrism.

FrigginSushi's picture


Personally, I feel like the weeks we've gone through together have been fun. I always expect decoding the reading peice by peice, but I'm always surprised by where our discussions take us. In some ways, I think it's really interesting to see the stuff that we can pull out from texts and even general themes that appear in our texts. One theme in the book assigned could lead our discussion to totally different areas which is not what I'm used to for English-type courses (i.e. I'm used to a lot of close-reading)

Most of our discussions sort of hit a brick wall when you ask us "so how is this a feminist text?". I still don't feel like I have a handle on what feminism is. I know it's completely subjective to different people, and my idea of feminism is a) pretty elementary and b) distorted/molded by my own experiences. Getting a hold of feminist theory is important to me, because it really sets a foundation to build on. It's hard to talk about a text when you're not sure what your suppose to be looking for. And maybe that's the point.

I know in the notes for discussion, you'll often put quotes from theorist about feminism. I'd actually like to read some of that for the course and deconstruct it in class. I think if this course is kind of considered the 101 of feminism, we should start (or in this case, continue) with feminist theorist.

I really like the way we're heading so far though. Hearing different voices (ethnically, economically, etc) is something I feel is essential to understanding feminism.

S. Yaeger's picture

As others have said, I like

As others have said, I like the conversational aspect of this class, and the breadth of materials, but I would also like to see more focus on queerness, especially nonbinary identities and what they mean, if anything ,for feminism.  I like the historical studies that we have read but I also feel like it might be interesting to take a look at the things over history which have not worked (like the S.C.U.M. manifesto) and to look toward a potential 4th wave future where there is less of a focus on binarism.  Obviously, a natural place to start something like that might be with Butler, but I actaully would rather see us look at some more personal accounts of queerness.  I'm thinking here of stuff like Eli Clare and perhaps some work by AMAB queer folks.  Also, as others have said, I'd like us to look at sex workers a little bit more extensively.

In terms of the classroom, I actually hate that room.  It's too big and echoy and it's extremely dfficult for me to hear everything in there.  I feel most productive in small group activities because of this.  Perhaps we could look at doing bigger small groups with Anne sitting in on them?

rayj's picture


I feel kind of ok about how this semester has gone thus far, although I think I tend to be overly harsh for a few reasons, most of which center about woman-centered language and an unfamiliarity with ideas and texts that I take for granted as true or right or none of that language is what I'm trying to say and I recognize my own privilege and that I am being elitist and not openminded when I voice a desire to have everyone know and understand the things I have read in the way I have done so. So I think that it is more my own problem and an issue of perspective that I need to just deal with. Ideologically, I want to have a lot of voices coming from various perspectives and disciplines and histories of texts or ideas or thoughts, but in practice, I am less than patient and get frustrated with those who are at a different place than I am in their understanding of feminism.

I wish we tightened our circle a bit, phsycially, in the classroom space. I think it increases a sense of obligation and accountability to classmates in terms of doing the work, being a part of the class, which I don't necessarily think is a problem in our class, but I do feel a bit distant from my classmates (again, this is also most likely part of my own distancing from my classmates, so I just think being a bit closer, physically, might help that. Or maybe that's not even possible in that space. Also, I want to have a conversation but I feel like maybe not everyone is comfortable being so conversational in the classroom setting and I don't know how that can be changed.

In terms of content, I would like more emphasis on the queer, as well as on that which is social justice-oriented. I'm not entirely sure what that might look like, but I think more theory-into-practice work or, well to say that is to say that fiction is not practical, and I don't necessarily think that's true.

I brought up Reassemblage in class last week, which is a documentary film by Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh Minh Ha. It seems feminist to me, in the way its gaze is not directed as much as other pieces in the same genre. I would like to look more at film and video art, or at performance art. DivaTV was a feminist art collective that might be interesting to look at, in terms of thinking about new ways of using media for feminism, as feminists. There has been some good work done by artists who challenge normalized modes of production or presentation.

Also potentially not only looking at women as necessarily feminist artists, or feminists of any kind. And that men are equally subject to be/not be feminists. And that there are people who are neither male nor female or both who are feminists, who are not feminists, who want to be or don't want to be feminists for more reasons we can account for and I'm not sure the importance of me stating these things just that they are important and maybe we can deal with what to do about it in class if people are interested.

Amophrast's picture

I think it would be great to

I think it would be great to look at works by Trinh Minh Ha, though I know a handful of people have already seen Reassemblage.

I think re: "woman-centered language and an unfamiliarity with ideas and texts that I take for granted as true or right" it might be helpful to have a day where we have vocab or theory 101, if there's a way we can do this concisely (split into groups, do presentations?). For exposure, at the very least. It wouldn't cover most of the ideas in depth, but I feel like unless there's at least one class in which we get bombarded with a lot of ideas, there's going to be a lot of people who feel like they're still missing or not connecting on what others are trying to say. I felt that way when I struggled to describe the work of Jelinek and Verena Stefan.

bluebox's picture

For the rest of the semester...

I think that the way the class functions works well. I find the workload manageable, and the content generally interesting and relevant. Well, anything can be relevant if looked at in the right way. I feel like the Book of Salt discussion could have been extended, just because there were big questions we were asked. Maybe we would have come up with more ideas in small groups? It's a very dense book, so it may require more thought. Lifting Belly and Canzone were good introductions to Book of Salt, but I felt that Born into Brothels was irrelevant. It was not a feminist film, at least not enough for us, and I was disappointed with the movie for offering such a restricted point of view and not very much information.

Back to the beginning, Goblin Market was wonderful. I was not fond of Three Guineas because it was difficult to read and very...British. It gave us a lot to think about, though.  Persepolis was interesting, both in its content and its medium. Breast Giver and Three Womens' Texts I did not find very enthralling, mostly because it didn't "click" with me.

For the rest of the semester, I'd like to see more. I'd especially like to define feminism in context and see how things (society, institutions) can be changed to be more inclusive. One thing we didn't see much of (besides in Born into Brothels) are sex workers, I'd be interested in a discussion on how feminism and sex work interact. Another option is women in film, since movies and television are incredibly influential, especially to young people. (I recently found out that the biggest opening for a movie directed by a woman was Twilight...that seems wrong to me, since the movie's about an abusive relationship.) I'd also be interested in how children pick up the non-feminist ideals that keep the discrimination going. Children are very important to me, because childhood is where everything starts. One book I wanted to mention is one that I happened to find in Canaday called Feminist Fairy Tales by Barbara G. Walker who, according to wikipedia, is an author, feminist, and knitting expert. I've read it twice, it's an interesting intepretation. I prefer most of the stories to the original patriarchal ones I was told as a child.

Like you said in class, I'm here to learn. I don't know what it is that I don't know, so these are the best suggestions I have.


pejordan's picture

More Novels!

I think that as the semester has gone on, we’ve gotten better at focusing our conversations. At the beginning, I walked out of every class slightly overwhelmed with the breadth of things we discussed, but I think now I’m starting to be able to take specific things with me. Mostly those things are new perspectives, either on literature or an author or society or all of those things at the same time. I like when we split into small groups, but we haven’t done that in a while so it might be nice to bring that in again; however, I do think that sometimes we had too many different points that we were trying to address. I’m still trying to get used to not raising my hand, but I think I’m adjusting to it. Sometimes it does make for an awkward moment when two people start to talk at the same time, but I think it is a good attempt to put everyone on a more equal level. Potentially another way to continue this work would be if you (Anne) sat in the circle with the rest of us? This could continue to move us away from the “pedagogy of the oppressed.”

In terms of content, I would like to read more novels; The Book of Salt was probably my favorite text so far. I think Doris Lessing could be interesting, just because she represents such a wide range of nationalities (she lived in Iran, Salisbury, Zimbabwe, London…) and also because of her involvement with other, more political, movements, like campaigning against nuclear weapons and apartheid in South Africa. For me, that’s something I’m interested in and something that I haven’t really seen addressed as of yet in this class: the link between politics and (feminist) literature, and also feminism and other movements against inequality in other areas. I think this would expand what we’ve already done because we’ve focused a lot on theory, and how thinking differently about the world around us can create change, but I think that political movements can be very interesting as well. Maybe it goes back to Three Guineas, too. I would like to explore these themes together, because I feel that I just don’t have enough knowledge of feminism to figure these things out on my own, and as we talked about at the beginning of the class, I think we should take responsibility for other people’s learning as well as our own. I’m not sure how conducive an independent study would be to that goal.

epeck's picture

I like that the class is

I like that the class is almost entirely discussion based and I love that we are getting to know each other’s names and meeting each other through small group work.  That makes our class feel more like a small community.  I like that the course is not very grade-centered and is more focused on qualitative evaluation.   The things I would change about the course are mainly structural.  I find the forum a little difficult to navigate and would find it easier if each week’s discussion could be more contained (spatially).  I also would like to experiment with raising hands!  I think that it might actually promote more discussion, less empty time, and might encourage people who are less vocal right now to speak more often.  

Realizing that this course is almost halfway over makes me a little nervous when I think about the reasons I initially wanted to take it.  After Bryn Mawr, I want to be able to engage with others in conversations about feminism and be able to look at whatever community I become a part of through the lens of a feminist.  Through this course, I have thought about different and unique perspectives, been challenged to look deeper at everything and tried to really understand what it means for someone to identify as a feminist.  However, we have not read or looked at many canonical feminist texts – and maybe that’s a good thing, I’m not sure.  I am unsure if this class is enabling me to converse semi-fluently about feminism.  It gets me thinking about feminist issues, but more on my own terms than on the terms of noted feminists (although I just read the essay about re-revising curriculum, and my entire frame of mind seems to be stuck in the 2nd stage…where I want to see “successful feminists”).  I’m interested to see what my classmates thought about that article and where our class stands in these curricular stages. 

Without trying to analyze my own thinking too much or why I might want to see the kinds of texts and writers I do want to see, here are some of the things I am interested in pursuing more:  canonical feminist texts, feminism of non-western and non-first world cultures, feminism though male perspectives, how LGBTQ individuals or theories fit into feminism and modern views of feminism/how feminism fits into the sociopolitical climate right now.  I realize that this is an ambitious amount of material to cover, so I’ll leave the paring down to my classmates who have some background in feminist or gender studies.  I also can’t really think of specific texts that would be good for these topics, since I am new to this discipline.  I think that so far, we have read mainly western texts, or at least western interpretations of those texts, and I’m curious to see what else is out there.  We also have read only texts written by women and I would like to see how men fit into the idea of feminism, and what a male writing from a feminist perspective might say.  I am interested in the current events view of feminism because it seems so relevant to our lives, especially in an election year.  I liked watching Born Into Brothels, and would like to see more varying forms of media incorporated into the course.  I think that the overarching goal of this course, for me, is to gain the ability to engage in a dialogue about feminism and hold my own in that conversation and I would encourage any material that will help me do that.