My definition of Feminist Pedagogy
Defining “feminist” alone is a difficult and probably impossible task, but for of letting you in on what my personal view is, let me give a whirl at defining both “feminist” and “feminist pedagogy.” Some of what appears below comes from my field statement for feminist and gender theory, which I wrote in preparation for my PhD exams.
I fully support a range of voices making contradictory feminist claims, but this seeming incongruence highlights the need to specify my own political orientation. Feminist pedagogy does not stem from women’s theory or theory about men and women. Rather, it’s based in theory with a distinctly feminist political edge. The source I use to define feminist politics comes from Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, in which bell hooks argues for a solid definition of feminism that would encourage the movement to remain politically radical. She writes:
Feminism is a struggle to end sexist oppression. Therefore, it is necessarily a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels, as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires…A commitment to feminism so defined would demand that each individual participant acquire a critical political consciousness based on ideas and beliefs. (26)
hooks defines feminism in these terms as a way of escaping the common assumption that feminism concerns only women or that biology represents the common bond between feminists. Later in the same chapter, hooks reveals her understanding that feminism is about working toward justice specifically for women, but the carefulness of her definition above has helped me solidify my sometimes vague notions about what that feminist political edge is really about and whose justice it’s fighting for. If feminism is about ending sexist/gendered oppression, then the task of feminism is large indeed, and the theory behind it can be as diverse as the kinds of gendered oppression suffered by persons of all material and social types.
Having a feminist pedagogy means teaching in such a way that you promote the kind of critical work necessary for ending sexist/gendered oppression and that you accommodate and affirm all types of gendered identity and expression in your classroom.