In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Feminist Pedagogy Meets Feminist Therapy: Teaching Feminist Therapy in Women’s Studies
  • Shoshana Magnet (bio) and Shaindl Diamond (bio)

The affective realm—including sorrow, pain, ecstasy, vulnerability, joy, and rage—is a central component of feminist teaching and learning (Breeze; Durfee and Rosenberg; hooks; Kishimoto and Mwangi). Feminist classrooms are spaces where strong feelings are raised, paradigms shift, and ruptures are created. Coming to feminist consciousness may involve grief, anger, and sadness for students. Speaking about the process of politicization that some students experience as part of their education, bell hooks reminds readers that pain is often a part of this process. Twenty plus years of the journal Feminist Teacher as well as the publication of numerous books and articles have provided feminist educators with excellent pedagogical tools to use in women’s studies classrooms—from strategies on how to build shared commitments to learning environments (Durham; hooks) to ways of theorizing how we might work across differences (Lorde et al.; Fellows and Razack; McIntyre) to specific teaching tools that might help us to engage our students (Miller; Carillo; Turpin). And yet there still remains a paucity of writing about approaches or resources that professors might use to help our students deal with the past and present traumas that arise in women’s studies classrooms. In this article, we argue that teaching our students about the possibilities of feminist therapy is a useful addition to any women’s studies syllabus. Feminist therapy situates individual pain against a larger context of systemic inequality. We are specifically talking about a feminist therapy that understands individual and collective discrimination as trauma that both results from and is intensified by interlocking systems of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and classism. That is, feminist therapists understand that individuals and collective injuries must be situated within specific familial, social, and historical contexts. We argue that feminist therapy can offer an excellent place for students to turn to deal with some of the grief, anger, and upset that may be caused by examining difficult issues in class or that may arise following a shift in student’s thinking and politicization that strains their current intimate relationships with partners, friends, or family.

We came to this project after a visit that Shaindl Diamond made to Shoshana [End Page 21] Magnet’s introductory women’s studies class. Shaindl was speaking about feminist critiques of the psychiatric system. In describing the overincarceration of women and people of color in psychiatric institutions, as well as the targeting of women and the elderly with electroconvulsive therapy, some of the students in the class became upset. A few students approached Shaindl immediately after her lecture, and others waited until they could speak with Shoshana in her office hours about personal experiences that they had had—or that family members and friends had—with the psychiatric system, including psychiatric violence and abuse. This class reminded us of the ways students are often “triggered,” that is to say strongly reminded and thrust back into the emotional space of past events, by many of the topics covered in women’s studies classes. When memories of past events are brought up by topics covered in class, and when these experiences are unprocessed and connections are not drawn to systemic forms of discrimination, it can be a challenge for students to continue to be emotionally present and able to learn in our classrooms. One well-known example for women’s studies classrooms is educational discussions of violence against women—in which some students may be flooded with memories of past experiences of violence. One example that has occurred in our class is a student who became extremely triggered by class discussions of the implications of transphobia for transgender/transsexual (TG/TS) folks. This student was struggling with expressing FTM (female-to-male) gender identity, and discussing contemporary forms of violence against transgender people brought up terrible memories of being bullied and harassed in previous educational settings. This student came to speak to Shoshana about these experiences repeatedly, and she began to feel her own lack of training around these issues as well as the struggle to address these issues on an individual basis in a large class. Students struggling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-6034
Print ISSN
0882-4843
Pages
pp. 21-35
Launched on MUSE
2011-09-22
Open Access
No
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