Feminist Theory: A College Forum

January 6, 2014
By

Last semester, I taught a course in feminist theory. The primary goal of this course was to have students read feminist theories, but with a constant eye not only on the centrality of the category called “experience” in the formulation of these theories but also their own sets of lived experiences and struggles in meaning-making. By keeping “experience” center-stage, students learned to approach feminist theory critically.

The students were asked to understand that no theory explains everything and no feminist theory encapsulates every “female-woman” experience that has existed or exists today. These theories can also become dated, because each one is responding to its context and time. However, every contemporary feminist theorist, since Simone De Beauvoir asked us to consider “what is a woman and not who is a woman,” has been concerned with the “woman question.” Feminist theory has tried to address the cultural, social, political, economic, and psychological dimensions of this question in national and transnational contexts. The answers have led to movements, and the movements have led to changes in women’s condition. So theory leads to praxis and praxis in turn changes theory. Feminist theory and feminist praxis thus enrich each other.

In my course, students learned about the art and craft of feminist theorizing and praxis—how theory is created, how it is sustained, how organic it is, how powerful it is, and how it has the potential to change everything, including the way they think and perform their own lives. The students at the outset were asked to begin penning their lives thus far, focusing on critical moments that set their lives on a certain trajectory they still find difficulty comprehending. Why are they here, they were invited to ask themselves. They replied, “I don’t understand. What do you mean why am I here?” As if the answer was apparent to everyone including them, when in fact it was not apparent at all.

The six narratives you’ll read today and across the next few days in our College Feminisms column are testimonies to the students’ semester long tussle with exactly the question above. They still don’t have an answer, but it’s okay, because at least they asked the question–the hardest task of all. They know the answers will follow, slowly but surely. I hope you, the readers, locate your own life questions in these narratives and are inspired to do the work of self like never before.

Thank you for reading, and good luck with your own “homework.”

Tags: ,

One Response to Feminist Theory: A College Forum

  1. Omenita on January 6, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I have mapped this year out to discovering me & my purpose going forth. This forum shall be of assistance.

Follow The Feminist Wire

Arts & Culture

  • Remembering and Honoring Toni Cade Bambara Sanchez

    Sonia Sanchez: What are we pretending not to know today? The premise as you said, my sister, being that colored people on planet earth really know everything there is to know. And if one is not coming to grips with the knowledge, it must mean that one is either scared or pretending to be stupid.

  • Hunger Kwame Laughing Foto

    They say you had the eye; they say you saw
    into people. They say you came before as shaman
    or bruja and returned as priestess; they say you were
    stonebreaker. But for me, you were a big sister
    feeling for a lonely brother with no language
    to lament, and you gave me more days, and
    more days. Yes, they could have called you
    Grace, Bambara; they could have called you that.

  • Stroller (A Screenplay) Black families and community

    Roxana Walker-Canton: Natalie sits in her own seat in front of her mother and looks out the window. Mostly WHITE PEOPLE get on and off the bus now. The bus rides through a neighborhood of single family homes. A BLACK WOMAN with TWO WHITE CHILDREN get on the bus. Natalie stares at the children.

Princeton University Post Doc: Apply Now!