Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Creating a Global Consciousness by Embracing a World of Women: A Pedagogical Strategy Dedicated to Regaining the Momentum for Women's Rights

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Creating a Global Consciousness by Embracing a World of Women: A Pedagogical Strategy Dedicated to Regaining the Momentum for Women's Rights

Article excerpt

Introduction

When asked if they are "feminists," the answer my students at Assumption College almost always give is a resounding, "NO!" They go on to tell me that they no longer see a need to work for women's rights because, they assert, gender no longer limits their opportunities. In answering this question, they also show difficulty in stepping outside their own circumstances to recognize that, even if total equality has been achieved for them (itself a dubious assertion), such is not the case for women in less advantaged circumstances.

Given this context, questions about how to "regain the momentum" for women's rights, how to inspire young women to critique their world views and to work passionately for social justice are, to my mind, crucial and deserving of serious and sustained thought. What follows is the outgrowth of my attempts in the past few years to address these questions and to develop some initiatives for change.

One Potential Strategy

It is my contention that instead of trying to convince young women that their perceptions of gender equity in America are incorrect, it is more effective to emphasize in our teaching the challenges still facing women in many parts of the world. If we can help students feel a sense of connection to the concerns of women living in circumstances that clearly limit their development, we may re-awaken the spirit of sisterhood which has energized feminism throughout history and we may foster within our students a willingness to embrace Adrienne Rich's maxim "that no woman is liberated until we all are liberated" (Rich 1986, 8).

To assure progress toward this goal, those of us in academia with an interest in regaining the momentum for women's rights by focusing on the lives of women around the world, must begin to develop courses which look at women's rights within a global context, using materials that generate deep and thoughtful engagement on the part of our students. Finding course materials with a global perspective and an emphasis on the challenges facing women is not difficult, in fact, quite the opposite problem exists--the amount of information available is overwhelming. The challenge comes in finding materials that will resonate with students, that will respect the fact that their knowledge of international affairs is often limited, and that will help foster a sense of connection with and respect for, rather than a feeling of superiority over or alienation from, the women they are reading about.

To this end, two colleagues, (Deborah Kisatsky from Assumption College's History Department and Steven Farough from the Sociology Department), and I initiated a search for published materials addressing globalization and its impact on the lives of women, that we thought our students would understand and find engaging. From this search we concluded that while an extensive list of scholarly articles and discipline specific texts exist, very few resources of the type we envisioned were available. This finding in turn led us to begin the process of developing our own interdisciplinary anthology, focused on the lives of ordinary and extraordinary women from all parts of the developing world.

We decided to model our anthology on the book, Images of Women in American Popular Culture, edited by Dorenkamp, McClymer, Moynihan and Vadum (1995), which is used to teach the gateway course into Assumption's Women's Studies Program. This text, which includes a variety of materials, such as speeches, poems, essays, documents, etc., has been highly effective in illuminating the issues and concerns central to the American feminist movement, and it is our hope that our anthology will accomplish a similar awakening of curiosity about the lives of women around the world. The Images anthology is so effective because its entries are relatively short, come primarily from the popular press and assume very little prior knowledge of the issues addressed, thus making them very accessible to students. …

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