16 Jun

I Learned How to Apply a Feminist Sociological Imagination to My Daily Life

Posted By Politybooks

Investigating Gender author Martha Thompson recently had the opportunity to discuss introductory gender classes and teaching with Emily Ruehs who teaches a Gender and Society course at the University of Illinois Chicago. Deciding what topics to cover – and more importantly how to cover them – in any introductory class is always tricky, especially for such a broad-ranging subject as gender. Indeed, Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources published by the University of Wisconsin recently had a lengthy review dedicated to exploring the challenges of teaching this class.

[See the article at http://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/69374/FC3.1-2.TXTBKReview.pdf?sequence=3]

Among the key features looked for by the University of Wisconsin Women’s Consortium were textbooks that provided a critical apparatus for students to think for themselves, and also a pedagogical apparatus to enable readers to engage with key concepts. Emily at the University of Illinois Chicago shares these demands: she wants her students’ assignments to demonstrate that they understand and can apply a feminist sociological imagination to their everyday lives. And, of course, this is what students want from class, too! To be able to understand and grapple with these issues, not just learn about the subject as though it were a cold collection of facts.

As some of Emily’s students commented (having used Investigating Gender):

“I am more critical of things that society tells me is ’status quo’ or ‘normal.'”

“I like the different stories in the beginning of every chapter—it engaged me and personalized the text.”

All instructors are different, of course, and have their own focus points for teaching gender. Emily particularly made reference to her classes looking to raise students’ awareness of gender inequality and injustice, and how it intersects with other social locations, and its global context. In response to a questionnaire about Investigating Gender, Ruehs’ students commented:

“The book opened my eyes about the need to address inequalities in the opportunities, rights, and concerns of women.”

“I learned that a social phenomenon cannot be understood by looking only at one area but only by intersecting it with other concepts.”

“I have learned to think more about feminine oppression in the context of injustices that exist worldwide.”

It is encouraging to see that students are looking for the same things from taking gender classes as their instructors want to pass on!

It is critical that we don’t lose sight of how the world outside academia talks about gender and feminism – as we all know, the gender revolution still has a long way to go, in ways that might surprise those of us who have spent many years engaging deeply with these themes. As one of Emily’s students said:

“One of the things I will take away from this book is that being a feminist doesn’t mean that you hate men or you are ugly. Feminists only want to raise awareness of the inequalities in our society based on gender and other characteristics.”

Taking gender studies to a new generation is an exciting endeavor. We, the authors of Investigating Gender, welcome feedback from other students and instructors here on the blog.