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

v. Feminist Pedagogy+Leadership

A skillful leader is also a skillful feminist pedagogue.

To help understand what kind of feminist pedagogy one needs in various situations, we have found the following typology useful. North-American educationist Kevin Kumashiro divides anti-oppressive education into four types in their book “Troubling Education: Queer Activism and Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy” (2002):

  • Education (or leadership) for the Other
  • Education (or leadership) about the Other
  • Education (or leadership) that is critical of privileging and othering
  • Education (or leadership) that changes students and society

While Kumashiro writes specifically about classroom politics, these approaches can be applied in other feminist pedagogical contexts as well. Here we introduce them as they would be relevant for feminist leadership. Each approach may not be sufficient alone but needs to work as part of a comprehensive anti-oppressive movement.

1) “Education/Leadership for the Other” comprises practices that aim to improve the experiences of the marginalized people in the organization. This includes safer space guidelines for audiences and employees alike, accessible spaces and resources and emphasis on marginalized perspectives. The approach should be considered insufficient alone, as it may see the marginalized people as “the problem” without changing the oppressive norms of the society or communities that perpetuate exclusion and hostility. It may also prove difficult to analyze the needs each oppressed groups and individuals without specific structures that already abolish the Normal-Other dichotomy.

2) “Education/Leadership about the Other” focuses on educating people about the experiences and perspectives of the marginalized instead of carrying on as if there were no problem of oppression in the society. This approach may spark empathy towards the othered people but the problem of patronizing is obvious, and another risk is to force marginalized people into being educators without their consent or proper compensation for the work. All in all, this approach is also based on the modernist ideal of the “perfect and complete knowledge”, which in our view is not compatible with the diversity of social reality.

3) “Education/Leadership that is critical of privileging and othering” exposes the inequalities by focusing on privileges and structures that create privileges to some but marginalize others. This requires learning about oppression and structural inequalities, unlearning oppressive habits and analyzing one’s own complicity in oppressive structures, and learning critical thinking and emotional labour so that all of the above would even be possible. The advantage of this approach is that it brings educators or leaders to a more active role of changing society and taking responsibility, and enhances the skills of critical reflection for everyone to disrupt oppressive behaviours in themselves and others. However, there remains “the problem of the universal patriarchy”, namely the fact that oppression affects different groups and individuals differently across varied contexts. There is also an underlying positivist thought that the mere information about oppression would cause people to change their ways, which is not the case. Learning about one’s own complicity to oppression often sparks dissonance and discomfort (“the crisis of unlearning”), and may result in defensive backlash, moral regression or nihilism.

4) “Education/Leadership that changes students and society” is the fourth pedagogical approach, and it sees oppression as a discursive practice that perpetuates inequality in (often implicit) meanings. Oppressive meanings are “cited” across social contexts and continue to hurt marginalized people on a daily basis. Therefore the goal is to change the course of that process and stop the continuum of discursive oppression. Here, oppression is understood thoroughly as a context-sensitive issue and it varies from situation to situation, from group to group, and from individual to individual. In this approach, it may not always even be fruitful to forbid the hurtful discourses but rather overturn them through reappropriation, counter-performance, creativity and wit. A central part of this approach is also the focused efforts to facilitate the “crisis of unlearning” that disrupting oppressive patterns may produce, and the central role of the educator or leader is to help everyone through the difficult emotions and discomfort. This requires abandoning conventional hierarchies and admitting that no one individual has all the necessary information or all the right values to change society. The platform is kept open as well as constantly and actively remodeled through shared motivation and communication.

These four approaches above are theoretical examples, and often good feminist practice needs to handle them all in appropriate situations and with people in different positions. As an educator as well as a leader it is important to understand one’s own position in as many ways as possible. This helps to understand the limits of one’s own expertise and social status and, at the same time, provide possibilities to create room for others who need it — one person is always not enough as we have different strengths and weaknesses.

What other kind of anti-oppressive approaches there might be?

Emotions and Emotional Labour – A Little Glossary

In our pedagogical work, we have realized time and again how central the facilitation, communication and handling of emotions is almost to any goal of any community. Here we share our thoughts on what we find as culminating emotions in feminist work and what the direction with these emotions could be, pedagogically speaking. This small glossary only scratches the surface of the politics of emotions, and from our personal/professional point of view, but the discussion about their role is gaining ground in feminism and hopefully continuing to move forward.

Anger and Being “Pissed Off”

Anger is a complex emotion that can be caused by reactions to various happenings and situations. In our work, being “pissed off” (which we understand is a form of anger) plays an important role of our own motivation and can sometimes also be felt from others in the situations. Just like many other emotions, anger contains an initiative to change something, so it can be useful in feminist work against oppressive structures (“moral outrage”). It has its dark side too, as anger is not far away from bitterness, vindictive fury or hate. That’s why it’s important to allow appropriate space for anger in oneself and others and avoid public shaming or judging, as anger is not easy to manage alone. Anger is also an understandable reaction to the shortcomings of an oppressive society. This sometimes manifests as frustration when talking about social justice issues in a situation/place/structure/institution that is not thoroughly committed to feminism, and as an educator or a leader it is important to share power and platform in those situations and acknowledge that frustration.

Resistance and Crisis

Similar to anger, resistance as a clear reaction to something is important to analyze as a pedagogue or leader. If people in a given community resist change, the reason should be explored and discussed in an understanding atmosphere that gives room for reflexivity, criticism, trial, error and acceptance — and plenty of time. These are necessary conditions for any learning and change. Resistance can be caused by fear, anger, sense of justice, misinformation or discomfort/nuisance. Avoiding defensive settings is crucial and this can be attained by creating morally just, transparent and responsible communities.

Shame and Failure

Shame is an extremely powerful political factor in society. Sadly often used as a silencing mechanism, shame contains an impulse to hide and is therefore counterproductive to community building. In feminist context, shame is often present in internalized oppression where we have lived through unfair and unjust social situations and retained oppressive language and meanings that hurt others as well as ourselves. Another kind of shame is the fear of being publicly shamed (or even “cancelled”) about one’s contribution to feminism and social justice. This kind of discourse can be harmful to the community and prevents many important critical discussions from taking place. Failure is an inevitable part of feminist work in a society that has so many oppressive structures and traditions, and for marginalized people failure can also be one of the few ways of existing in that society.
To be clear, avoiding public shaming does not mean avoiding accountability and responsibility, which should be based on constructive criticism.

Joy and Pride

Joy in times of crisis is important community care: how to rejoice while simultaneously remaining critical and aware of the flaws? Joy is not synonymous with toxic positivity that renounces negative emotions.Political counterpower of Shame is Pride, which in (queer) activism since 1960’s has been impactful. Pride activists are the ones who extremely boldly reclaim marginalized and oppressed identities and behaviours and make them livable and celebratory. Pride is a radical movement, which is why it should not be confused into capitalist pseudo-acts of pink-washing and commodification. The responsibility of institutions is to acknowledge the pain, loss of freedom, health and life that it has taken for activists of various kinds to take our societies to this point where Pride flags can be flown with relatively low risk of violent aggression or public shaming.

Filtering and Regulating Emotions

Regulating emotions is a huge part of feminist work and still often little discussed. In community work, regulating skills are crucial as they accept the (difficult) emotions of others that are actually present as existing parts of the situation at hand. Stepping aside for a moment, giving platform, space and time for the emotions of others is important for validation and building trust and safety. However, no-one should be expected to regulate their emotions at all times. There is also a real need for spaces to express non-regulated emotions, where marginalized people shouldn’t be afraid of losing their jobs, getting publicly shamed or ridiculed when they express how they feel facing oppression. Creating these spaces is what a responsible educator or leader does.

Reward and Honor

In institutional framework, unhelpful systems of rewarding are often used to fuel “social responsibility”. As institutions compete for cultural legitimacy and economical balance, it can be hard to stick to actual feminist work which can at times be very much unrewarding. Sometimes this leads to politics of spectacle where showing outcomes in hopes of short term gratification is favored at the expense of the things that should actually be changed, however detrimental they would be to the neoliberalist ecstacy. Another form of this spectacle is celebrityism, which the act of putting certain people inside the social justice movement on the pedestal and publicly lining up with them (until they do or say something one doesn’t agree with). This kind of culture does not enable us to fully take part in the complex conversations of feminist politics as a whole.

What tools do we have, then, for creating room for complex emotions?

  • Discussing expectations beforehand to give everyone time to orientate to the shared situation and to avoid misunderstandings that can be derailing.
  • Providing a way to give anonymous feedback on several occasions, not only after the situation but also before and during. E.g. online feedback forms that are accessible all the time or post-it notes and pens that are collected anonymously.
  • Providing multiple ways of participation that don’t require verbalising or performing in front of others. E.g. written contributions and silent moments.
  • Avoiding “toxic positivity” or evaluating emotions by their market value. E.g. Refusing to ease the tension by “wrapping the situation up.”
  • Rescheduling discussions for processing emotions at a later time that suits for all participants so that it is possible for everyone to prepare.

Thinking About the Other  – A Little Exercise

At the end of this dense package of feminist pedagogies, we propose a small exercise in becoming more aware of our constant social presumptions and their effects to the hierarchy and structure of our communities. This is one of many creative ways to “make room inside ourselves” so that we can learn, unlearn, change ourselves and the society.

Imagine if in every event or gathering there would be a chair that was dedicated for the most marginalized and vulnerable that would stay empty.

How would our perception of the event, moment and gathering change?
Would this help us not to forget and to be more empathetic?
Would this help us change our reality?

Sivut: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8