The hits keep on coming. I have had as many folks visit my blog in the past six days as I have had in the previous three months. Over 2600 now within the past day. That certainly says something about the prevalence of porn in cyberspace! All presumably still looking for this.
In the comments at History News Network on my post immediately below, Ophelia Benson wrote:
I'm a grizzled ol' feminist myself, but I've grown increasingly dubious about that 'the personal is political' mantra in the last ten years or so - partly because I know all too many women who take it all too literally and apply it all too extensively - who, in short, seem to be completely incapable of talking or thinking about anything that's not personal. That is unbelievably limiting, obviously. In many ways Second Wave Feminism seems to have pushed us back into a cage as well as letting us out.
So, in short, is the historical always the personal? Is that a sine qua non of gender studies? If so, why? And does that seem to result in a narrow, parochial view of what history is in students who buy into it?
And as for therapy - that's the first thing I thought when starting to read the post. Frankly the whole subject sounds perilously close to therapy. And...I have a lot of problems with that. It seems so infantilizing, for one thing. And so (again) parochial, for another. I mean - it is an important subject (I've read the Brumberg book) but is it an academic one?
Ophelia asks some super questions, and I tried to answer them briefly at HNN. I've taught a series of courses that apply this brand of "feminist personal history", including one last semester on Men and Masculinity. My pedagogy is one that proudly (perhaps blatantly) seeks to integrate personal experience with whatever subject matter we happen to be dealing with. Kathleen Weiler puts it nicely:
In terms of feminist pedagogy, the authority of the feminist teacher as intellectual and theorist finds expression in the goal of making students themselves theorists of their own lives by interrogating and analyzing their own experience.
With every fiber of my being as a teacher, I believe that one of my highest responsibilities is to make my students "theorists of their own lives"! To some degree, that is of course going to be therapeutic in both practice and intent. I am not a trained therapist (though in doing gender studies work, one is naturally exposed to a great deal of psychology!) But I also know that for most of my working-class community college students, long-term therapy is simply never going to be an option in their lives. It is cruel and unreasonable to assume that they should have any other forum for wrestling with and analyzing their own experiences! A feminist classroom should be a safe place for students to share these experiences. It should also be a challenging place, where students' traditional assumptions about themselves (and in the case of my course, their bodies) are called into question.
Now what it means to have a male teacher try and employ feminist pedagogy, that's another discussion altogether.