Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Revisiting and Reflecting on a Piece Written for Jeri Wine in 1984: "Feminist Issues as They Relate to My Grandmother, My Mother, and Myself"

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Revisiting and Reflecting on a Piece Written for Jeri Wine in 1984: "Feminist Issues as They Relate to My Grandmother, My Mother, and Myself"

Article excerpt


I had my first course from Jeri Wine at OISE in 1984, 23 years ago. When she strode into the room with her long curly hair barely contained around her face I thought, "Who is this?" She was small, she was intense, she brooked no nonsense, and her Oklahoma accent did little to buffer her directness. I was intimidated. I was a new feminist, less than five years into that paradigm then. By the end of that class, though, I was hooked on Jeri Wine. I went on to take four more classes from her during my time at OISE, getting first my M.Ed. and then my Ph.D.

The second class I took from Jeri was a course called "Feminist Issues in Counselling and Psychotherapy." As in many courses, the final was a term paper. Mine was called "Feminist Issues as they Relate to My Grandmother, My Mother and Myself." By that time Jeri had infused in me the many different ways of knowing and of learning. She gave her students wide berth to explore our society and our selves and she made the phrase "critical analysis" mean an insightful but hard and necessary look at whatever we were examining. Under her tutelage my mantra became "the personal is political." Another pillar Jeri helped build for me was that theory should arise from experience, and Jeri valued experience. She also valued creativity and she made a safe environment for me to explore feminist issues, from an historical and personal perspective, that I thought related to my grandmother, my mother, and myself. Jeri believed that exploring ourselves was essential to being a good counsellor, exploring others, our society, and our world.

The core of this article is that paper, edited but not essentially changed. Jeri liked it. Writing it meant a lot to me and she recognized that. This paper represents for me one of the ways Jeri was such a fine teacher - she encouraged her students to have disciplined freedom and to really live the personal is political. The letters in the article are all fictitious, based on oral history and pictures and, having read women's history, I embedded the letters in the social texts of their day and I embedded quotes from women's history text into the letters. How generous of Jeri to let me do this. It was not traditionally, stereotypically, academic. Clearly Jeri was comfortable enough in her own identity as an academic to allow her students considerable freedom to explore their own identity.

I must say that as I re-read this paper I cringed in spots. It is not what I would write today. And Jeri must have cringed too. It is unabashedly heterosexist. I was, after all, a mid-30s mother of two small children, married for the second time to an accountant of all things and living in the suburbs. In parts of the paper I talk about relationships between women, between my mother and myself but I brought no analysis to those comments. I didn't locate myself in that world of heterosexism. In my final letter to my daughter, who was 4 at the time, I refer to her turning to other women for sustenance and support, but I said it in a casual way. I didn't know when I wrote this paper that Jeri had been one of the first academics to come out as a lesbian. I didn't know any of what this had cost her professionally and personally. Re-reading what I wrote 22 years ago I now know that Jeri was a very forgiving woman.

There is no reference to racism/anti-racism, an issue in which I was to immerse myself less than two years later and which was the core of my PhD research and thesis and has been one of my main focusses ever since. I wrote, in 1984, from a white, middle class, heterosexist, ethnocentric focus. I didn't talk much about my mother's bigotry. I didn't talk about my own racism. That self-knowledge came later. In spite of all of this, Jeri accepted me for who I was at the time, and encouraged me to dig, really dig, into my assumptions and my behaviours. The paper reproduced here captures the beginning of that self exploration and critical analysis. …

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