- Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism by Victoria I. Bromley
Many students new to feminist theory enter the classroom with preconceived notions that may be difficult to address. Nurtured by society’s backlash against feminism and the media’s negative portrayal of what it means to be a feminist, students may be initially skeptical about feminism. In Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism, Victoria Bromley begins by registering her understanding of this context and presenting the structuring of her content as strategic. In the first chapter, she initiates a discussion of the connotations surrounding the word “feminism,” the backlash set against it, and the ways in which masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. In subsequent chapters, Bromley continues the discussion by outlining accomplishments that feminist activism and theory have already achieved, ways of thinking about research and theory, the history of the women’s movement, the role of men, and finally, the women’s movement today. The success of Feminisms Matter does not reside in the ideas put forth; rather, it is constructed to maximize student learning and instructor flexibility.
The student-centered structure of the text is what makes Bromley’s work a candidate for a feminist classroom. By starting with conversations about feminism to which students have been introduced in the media, Bromley builds on students’ previous knowledge. She ties her overviews of the movements and theories to students’ immediate concerns and questions to then create a structural foundation that scaffolds student learning. In addition, Bromley dedicates a chapter to introducing the ways in which feminism intersects with other theories. There are frequent references to the intersectionality of gender with other identities and social categories, including race, sexual orientation, age, ability, nationality, etc., throughout the text. While the book does not cover many issues in great detail (such as neocolonialism, ableism, or Eurocentrism), it introduces the concepts and allows teachers to then customize the focus of their courses. The brevity of the text along with its organization allows teachers to easily introduce additional, supplementary texts in their courses according to their discretion and student interest. Feminisms Matter can be a useful tool for facilitating students’ connections between readings and larger contexts.
For instructors who wish to acquaint students with feminism and critical thinking, this book may be somewhat useful. In the third chapter, Bromley introduces students to terms and concepts to help them learn about and engage in critical thinking. For example, she outlines the difference between subjective and objective thinking, [End Page 88] explaining that subjective thinking is influenced by individuals’ perspectives. In addition, she explores the concept of theory, explaining that “theory is always about something and for someone. This means that theories have power. They are not neutral or objective; rather, they are contextual and subjective” (43). Introducing students to ways of thinking remains a priority of the text. There is an implicit and explicit message to students throughout the book: seek truth by asking questions, examining details, and seeking out potential bias.
Unfortunately, Bromley cannot seem to recognize her own bias at times. In her discussion of science and the scientific method, for example, she draws attention to false and biased conclusions that have resulted from the misuse of science, but her own frustrations bleed into her discussion of the scientific method. Her passionate discontent with the misuse of science reads as a frustration against science as a whole, and anyone who teaches with this book should realize that Feminisms Matter will not always exemplify thoughtful analysis. In fact, Bromley loses credibility when she makes use of an ardent rhetoric that can often result in the blurring of fact and opinion. Instructors using this text should know that it was not necessarily written to persuade those who disagree with Bromley’s points, and students may have fervent opinions to express in response to their reading. This book will engage students in dialogue and active thinking, even when the writing may not always exhibit the habits of mind students need to learn.
The questions at the end of each chapter are well designed to engage students...