- Technologizing Feminist Pedagogy:Using Blog Activism in the Gender Studies Classroom
Recent research on teaching focuses on integrating technology into the classroom (Chick and Hassel 197; Eisen 350; Eudey 233; Richards 6–7; Sargent and Corse 242; Schweitzer 188). In particular, instructors have developed online class spaces using social networking sites (e.g., blogs, YouTube, Twitter). According to Schweitzer (196), there are two major advantages to developing an online class space. First, the online space challenges the notion that the classroom is limited by physical space and that learning ends the moment class does. The second advantage of an online class space is “to intensify the sense of shared location for a course” (Schweitzer 196). Students undergo an increased feeling of community and belongingness when the learning experience reaches beyond the physical space of the classroom. In addition, even though the instructor is able to view the students’ ideas and thoughts, the apparent lack of surveillance produces a more open atmosphere. Students feel more comfortable voicing their ideas and opinions with one another because the online class space provides a place to exchange ideas seemingly without the direct supervision of an instructor (Richards 14; Schweitzer 206). Thus, online class spaces are more productive than simply creating a democratic classroom (students and instructors share power, and neither dominates the learning process) where many students still feel silenced (hooks 179).
In this article, we demonstrate the importance of online class spaces for teaching feminism and feminist activism. Many contemporary college students do not understand the meaning of feminism or feel that there is no longer a need to fight for a feminist agenda (Love and Helmbrecht 46–47; McCabe 282). Even when students hold views consistent with feminist ideology, they continue to resist the feminist label (McCabe 282). Antifeminist (claims that men and women’s “innate” differences mean they should not be equal) and postfeminist (the belief that equality has been achieved, so feminism is no longer needed) sentiments arise because many students have not directly faced discrimination based on their gender, or they do not understand that inequality continues to exist (Love and Helmbrecht 47). In addition, ideas of individualism and the American Dream [End Page 23] lead students to assume that US culture is a meritocracy where everyone (regardless of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, and so on) has equal opportunities.
In order to encourage students to think critically about issues of inequality, feminist educators have long called for feminist pedagogy. One goal of feminist pedagogy is to relate course material to students’ everyday lives by “bringing the abstract, historical, or fictional out of the ivory tower and into their own backyards, thus making the content more meaningful” (Chick and Hassel 209). As bell hooks argues, by engaging students in the world around them, instructors educate students for “the practice of freedom” (4). This process, what hooks calls “engaged pedagogy,” fosters critical thinking and provides students with the tools to question inequality and social structures. This type of feminist pedagogy inspires students to strive for personal and social change that will lead to a more equitable society (Scanlon 8). For this reason, Scanlon (8) argues that for an educator’s work to be considered feminist, it must reach beyond the doors of the classroom or the semester’s end.
Key to feminist pedagogy is that instructors connect theory to practice. Introducing activism (which seeks to address inequality in society) to the classroom is one way to enact feminist pedagogy (Dugger 1; Eudey 237; Ryan 16; Scanlon 8; Washington 12). Eudey (239) defines activism as “typically an action, but sometimes an intentional lack of action (e.g., refusing to comply with a law/policy), engaged in with a political or social motivation, with the intent to change or maintain conditions, viewpoints, behaviors, or outcomes.” Activism in the classroom is one way to overcome students’ resistance to feminism because students witness firsthand that oppression and discrimination continue to exist (Dugger 1). Students are more likely to embrace a feminist identity when they learn accurate information about oppression and inequality and then apply what they have learned to their everyday lives (McCabe 290; Zucker and...