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  • Introduction
  • Gayle Gullett and Susan E. Gray

Dear Readers,

The relationship between epistemology and feminism is old and deep. Feminism, with its challenge to so many "truths" of society and concomitant desire to persuade others to accept its values, has long found epistemology, the study of ways of knowing, a most useful instrument. In this issue Kristie Dotson warns feminists of the dangers of engaging in epistemic injustice. While Dotson's article is the only one in this issue formally concerned with epistemology, we (the editors) see in all the pieces a shared interest in epistemology. Admittedly, we perceive this unifying theme because we are following a Frontiers tradition of perceiving all issues, however diverse and disparate their contents, as linked with a common thread. Still, we think that if readers look broadly and generously at this particular issue, they too will see a common thread of epistemological inquiry.

Kristie Dotson begins her analysis with two significant examples of injustice—testimonial and hermeneutical—examined by Miranda Fricker in her book Epistemic Injustice. But Dotson additionally contends that one more type of epistemic injustice must be acknowledged, namely, contributory injustice. Such an injustice occurs when someone's unique knowledge is ignored because of its uniqueness. Others cannot make sense of that knowledge and perceive it as irrelevant. Yet it is precisely their uniqueness that gives these insights their great value. Dotson posits that this kind of epistemic injustice should keenly interest feminists because of what it tells us of knowledge building in our community. When white feminists ignore the contributions by women of color to feminism, for example, the white women are acting unjustly, and their actions have serious consequences far beyond the perpetuation of ignorance. Women of color are marginalized, and feminism as a body of knowledge is impoverished. [End Page ix]

Two articles in this issue addressing feminist pedagogy are also concerned with epistemology. Corrine C. Bertram and M. Sue Crowley advocate that feminist educators teach about sexual violence in the college classroom yet warn that teachers will need strategies (which they supply) to overcome obstacles (they name five) in the way students view sexual violence and, especially, the victims of sexual violence. Bertram and Crowley place survivors at the center of their analysis of sexual violence. They contend that until we see and hear victims/survivors/resisters, we will understand neither sexual violence nor why it remains as pervasive and destructive today as it was in 1970. Bertram and Crowley therefore emphasize the importance of creating classrooms in which survivors can speak and be heard. Until students can listen, taking off the protective armor that declares such things only happen to others, they cannot understand sexual violence.

Cheryl A. Wilson, in the second article of feminist pedagogy, tackles a very different subject, chick lit, that avalanche of books that has filled the marketplace since the 1990s, giving us many formulaic versions of the young white straight woman who seeks professional success and a sensational sex life in the Big City. Wilson, who routinely teaches Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, believes this genre can be used effectively in the feminist classroom. While scholars frequently scorn the value of chick lit as literature and question its relationship to feminism, Wilson believes that asking undergraduates to engage in these questions develops their skill in analytical and, yes, feminist thinking. Wilson observes that chick lit certainly meets one of bell hooks's requirements for feminist pedagogy, relevance, and believes that as students take apart such themes in the books as perennial concerns regarding "fat," they will also, as hooks advises, redefine their ways of knowing.

Victoria Piehowski, in her analysis of Spike Lee's film Bamboozled, contends that viewers cannot understand the descent and ultimate breakdown of the leading black woman character, Sloan Wilson. As a young assistant to a television writer Sloan begins as a successful professional with the moral courage to warn her boss about the racial implications of his newly planned television program, a minstrel show. But over the course of the film Sloan is sexualized, discredited professionally, and silenced. By the end of the film she is hysterical, a danger to herself and others. Viewers are...


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