"I need to hear someone with skills articulate why "feminism isn't just for
feminists" in the world of education. At my school it is just dismissed.
We are undergoing our "self-study" for re-accreditation. I asked my
committee what part of that study examined diversity/equality issues. The
response? That would probably be the one which deals with fair hiring practices.
Obviously, my colleagues do not see this little community college as having
anything at stake in these discussions. We don't see ourselves as stakeholders
in gender/race discussions (let alone transformations).
I want to claim otherwise and when I read the third paragraph of your post
this was the bell it rung for me. You are writing about the impact of feminism
across the the curriculum (and beyond).
What would you say to me and my colleagues about our stake in this?"
Wow. Well, this is a lot to answer. I suppose the best that I can do is to tell you what I think, and then I'll leave the floor open for my fantastic readers to chime in with their thoughts on this, as I'm sure all of you will have something to say.
I guess the first thing that I'd say is that the reason that feminism isn't just for feminists, or shouldn't be, in the classroom is the same reason why the Holocaust isn't just for Jews or the Civil Rights movement isn't just for African-Americans or homophobia isn't just for gay people: because if as citizens we believe in equality and if we believe that all people should be treated in a fair and just way, that these issues aren't ones for special interest groups but rather that they are issues that have to do with the deeper values of our society as a whole. If we say, "oh, let the feminists teach feminism," or "let the lesbians teach queer theory," or whatever, then what we're doing is reinforcing the structures of inequality and the hierarchies in our culture that go against the "equality" we claim to value. Putting women or children or gay people, or Jews or Muslims or whoever in a ghetto of their own doesn't teach or increase diversity on a broader scale. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for special interest departments (like women's studies departments) or classes (like classes in Arabic literature), but if those are the only places in which these ideas and topics are explored, then those most likely to hear the message are those who need it the least. The student who needs feminism most is probably not the girl who will sign up for introduction to women's studies, you know?
But here's the problem. I think that because of the way that departments have developed at colleges and universities, it's not so easy as to say, "we all should teach about these things that are related to diverse groups and perspectives," and not only because of the curmudgeons who want to pass the buck to their colleagues in women's studies. Part of the problem is the way that as academics we like to take ownership over whatever our "thing" at the university is. For example, I've got a colleague who teaches [minority] literature. There had been a survey of this [minority] literature on the books for years and years, which was "my colleague's" course. We then hired another person who also wanted to teach the course, and my colleague's response was to split the survey into two halves, so that she could continue to be sure that she would teach it every semester, even though new colleague and she could have just traded off. Was there demand for this split by students? Not really. The point wasn't about bettering the diversity offerings for students; it was about marking intellectual territory. So before we chastise our colleagues who try to pass the buck about teaching about feminism or racism or whatever in their classes, I do think that it's important to see the ways in which they may have been discouraged from incorporating those things into their classes both by institutional structures as well as by those colleagues who "own" those topics.
So how to make one's colleagues see that they have a stake in race/gender discussions and/or transformations? Honestly, I do think that this begins from the ground up and not from the top down. I think it begins with one faculty member approaching some students who might be interested in forming some kind of a club, or it begins with one class developed by one faculty member and then those students going to the administration and asking for more classes like that class or for more of that material to be incorporated into other classes.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the way to make them see it is to look at the 4-year schools to which your students transfer, and to point out to them the diversity agenda of these universities, and to suggest that greater diversity at the community college would facilitate these students' success in their future endeavors.
I don't know. What do you all think?