Teaching Introduction to Women's Studies: Expectations and Strategies

Teaching Introduction to Women's Studies: Expectations and Strategies

Teaching Introduction to Women's Studies: Expectations and Strategies

Teaching Introduction to Women's Studies: Expectations and Strategies

Synopsis

This edited collection addresses the institutional context and social issues in which teaching the women's studies introductory course is embedded and provides readers with practical classroom strategies to meet the challenges raised. The collection serves as a resource and preparatory text for all teachers of the course including experienced teachers, less experienced teachers, new faculty, and graduate student teaching assistants. The collection will also be of interest to educational scholars of feminist and progressive pedagogies and all teachers interested in innovative practices.

Excerpt

Frances Maher

The major feeling I have after reading through the diverse and stimulating essays in this collection is one of the infinite difficulty and complexity of teaching "Introduction to Women's Studies," and the absolute impossibility of designing a course to fit everyone. For the authors here and for many of us, Women's Studies, and especially the introductory course, represents a primary challenge of our teaching careers--namely how to engage students, often young and privileged women, with the issues of societal power, domination, and resistance that come from studying women's lives. It sometimes seems as if the rest of the curriculum can proceed along the smooth and well-marked paths of celebrating and enacting the points of view of the dominant culture, leaving Women's Studies, like women themselves in most cultures, with the responsibility for all the people at the bottom and the margins, whose lives and truths the dominant curriculum can cheerfully avoid.

Before they turn to their specific approaches, most of the authors in this collection grapple with the paradoxes and complexities of this position. Vivian May describes its incompatible dualisms:

Women's Studies is simultaneously thought to be safe and risky, soft and hard; a place for dialogue and disagreement, a space exemplifying harmony and oneness as well as discord and difference, a biased, subjective area of study as well as an open-minded, analytical discourse; it is both like home and hostile territory. Framed by classic, subject/ object dualisms, women's studies is simultaneously beyond the pale and acceptable: it is both like the witch/bitch of the academy and the fair maiden/fairy godmother.

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