Feminism for Real: Part Two

Feminism for Real reminds me of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Color (1981) edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa and the book is now sadly out of print. This Bridge was written by activists, writers and scholar/activists. And, many were in the early part of their careers. Some had never written before and sure enough the anthology has fielded commentary about the quality of the writing. It was not an academic tome, but as a classic text was used in many Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory courses. I have assigned it in both Women’s Studies and Political Science courses over the years. Feminism for Real is also uneven. Some of the sections offer an important rant and others offer more depth to the section. I would classify Feminism for Real as a must read for the general audience, friends or advocates of feminisms, and for people who actively feel a certain level of distrust or angst with feminisms.

I am a long-time Reader of Racialicious, so I was not surprised at how the Latoya Peterson chapter, “The Feminist Existential Crisis (Dark Child Remix)” was my favourite and the most dog-eared in my book. What does it mean to be a professional feminist? What does it mean to understand something like feminism and also admit to the heavy baggage that comes with it? Peterson wrestles with this in her section. These are important conversations to have. All of the chapters have some merit to them–regardless if they made me walk away from the book for a few weeks. Having a visceral reaction is a good thing.

Students in Women’s Studies or Social Justice Studies have high expectations for the faculty and their classmates. I sense that they might not understand the ways in which faculty (especially pre-tenure) faculty need to balance pedagogy and climate issues in departments and on campus. And, after re-reading certain sections I am convinced that some students will still accuse me of being a Radical Feminist (these students do not know their feminisms) and others will accuse me of being an Asshole Academic, but then another set will note that I challenged their ideas and made a difference. Then, I am doing my job as a self-identified feminist educator. I will add that that the two authors I always go back to for my feminist politics are hooks and Anzaldúa–for whatever that is worth. They are my feminist tome home. I do think that many of us in this line of work–professional feminism, activist politics, higher education–you name it–have certain ideologies that frame our understanding of feminisms. While it’s easy to think about a monolith, I try and argue that there is not.

While some of the chapters of my copy of Feminism for Real is filled with my angry notes or mere comments, I am still grateful to the amazing, Jessica Yee for this anthology. My feminisms is wide enough to know that I can agree with Yee on some counts and then agree to disagree with her in other cases. If a book instills anger, hiding the book for weeks, writing in it, talking about it with students, and friends, then the book is really worth reading. Read the book. It will rock your feminist world (whatever that is for you). The book will also make you think twice as you put your syllabus together—trust me. I revamped one syllabus while reading the book and then took a good look at the other syllabi.

Summer School Tips

Summer School sounds like such a great idea—get through some units quickly! Who wouldn’t like that? Well, the reality is that once the sun comes out Summer school no longer seems like such a good idea. Allow me to give you some words of advice.

Go to class! Yes, this is so old school of me, but actually coming to class can help you with your understanding of the material, get to hear what the instructor has to say, and you also have the opportunity to hear the discussion between the instructor and your classmates.

Do the reading! Oh, I know that this is tedious. The materials are assigned for a good reason. You can read them on the beach, whilst you dip your toes in the warm sand or right before you retire for the evening. Just make sure that you review the course materials. If you have a book assigned—always read the preface or introduction, even if it’s not assigned. The pre-matter helps set up the book and it might offer you the epiphany you need prior to reading the longer chapters.

Go to office hours! Yes, this is not merely for the student who does not understand the material or wants to endear him/herself to the instructor. Office hours is a great place to get to know your instructor better and for the instructor to get to know you and your learning style better. This can make a difference.

Study. I already suggested reading the course materials, but studying is something entirely different. If the class has exams or papers, the instructor assumes that you have done more than a skim of the materials. You need to understand the materials and demonstrated comprehension about them. And, here is where studying comes into play. This might include you reviewing the questions at the end of the chapter or looking at the “for future reference” materials or websites.

This last suggestion was really useful for me in graduate school—look through the index. Notice the sorts of words/concepts that are indexed and choose some to re-read again. This can cement the ideas—oh, like a splinter into your mind that you will pull out during the most opportune time. (I just had to throw in a Matrix reference there).

The last thing—care. Seriously. You don’t have to earn an A or shoot for the A, but treat the entire course experience like it matters and you will most likely be more successful. Remember that going to college is a privilege. You might already be keenly aware of this, but in case you’re not—remember that someone would love to trade spots with you and sit in a classroom, read books and articles and write assignments.