Zine about Feminist Pedagogies: Discussing Intersectionality, Accessibility and Feminist Labour

i. Introduction

Last time we held a lecture together, for a group that we didn’t know beforehand, we noticed that our presence and the topic of our talk was somehow provocative and caused some emotional resistance. This is of course our own interpretation, as direct feedback in the classroom or after the lecture was never given to us. 

Our topic for the three-hour lecture was “feminist pedagogy”, and it was held in a Finnish university.

We had received an email invitation to give a lecture a little shy of two months before, asking if we would be interested. They let us know that we would have a three-hour slot for our contribution in the program and that we would also be paid for that three-hours (including  the planning of the lecture). We answered them saying “yes”. 

The main lecturer in charge of the whole course program sent us another email containing a draft schedule of the course that included the names of the other speakers and a list of the topics that they were going to discuss. They let us know that there would be around 30 people on the course, both bachelor and master students.

While we were trying to figure out our approach, the context of our lecture, the wishes and needs of the group and the amount of work suitable in relation to the fee that we would be getting out of this based on this information and email communication, we realized this would be an impossible task. The situation in itself and the whole structure of the course and more broadly the structure of the studies were anything but feminist. 

How, then, to discuss feminist pedagogy in an environment that doesn’t support it?

We decided to take this as a starting point and write our contribution for the lecture based on this issue. We decided to take on a collegial approach as we thought that these kind of situations would also be part of the every day of the people that we were giving the lecture to, as they were also studying to become teachers. We decided to make it a discussion-based lecture as we thought that it would be nice to hear what the students think about these issues and their future profession. 

At the beginning of the lecture we introduced ourselves and our practice. This invited in critical feedback, which was encouraged and lead to an important discussion.

We then continued to the discussion workshop part of the day. We introduced two words “accessibility” and “accountability” and their definitions as a starting point for the discussions. We also wrote a couple questions to support the discussion that would happen in small groups.

The discussions didn’t flow. There was no enthusiasm. People seemed confused and uninterested. The atmosphere didn’t get any better after the discussion or towards the end of the lecture. The main lecturer, who had remained mostly silent during the whole time, said “thank you” and we left the room, while the rest of the group went on with their course program. We didn’t receive any feedback or comments or questions, as we already mentioned. 

We went to sit somewhere to reflect as we usually do everytime we teach or guide or whatever together. We both felt bad, as if we had failed. This was an amazing opportunity to give and take up space for feminist issues and approaches, and we were the (privileged) ones invited to teach and we blew it.

Both of us had noticed or felt the resistance, assumed defeatedness, anger and annoyance of the group during our lecture, but we just couldn’t do anything about it.

It was something during these three hours that had gone wrong and it felt hard to grasp it. We have been discussing this incident many times afterwards. The most recent time being today, the 25th of April 2020. The lecture was held six months ago.

During our subsequent discussions we have been thinking the following:

  • It is provocative and mutually frustrating to discuss feminism in situations and environments that are not feminist.
  • It can be irritating to hear about feminist approaches when…
  • You are not given examples or practical advice in how to apply them in your own every day work.
  • You are in a context where they seem too idealistic, unrealistic and even utopian.
  • You feel like you know these things already and think “who does this person think they are?”
  • The situation happens in a framework and pedagogical setting that doesn’t encourage participation or dismantling existing hierarchies within teaching.
  • You feel like the person who is speaking is speaking from a privileged position. In this case meaning that we two working in a museum field do not have to deal with the everyday hardships and workload present in schools. 
  • It feels conspicuous and ungenuine, all talk and no action.
  • All of these are our assumptions.

This lecture and the discussions that followed describe well the feelings, situations, contradictions and contextual intersectionalities (privileges and oppression), that are constantly present and always related to feminist labour, pedagogy and leadership.

This also describes our work as a pedagogical duo, how and from which perspectives we approach it.

In this material we want to address these issues more in depth, offer possible thoughts, tools and resources to support feminist labour and provide a platform for discussing these problematics.

Let’s see how it goes this time.

Sivut: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8