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Home arrow Sociology arrow Being an Early Career Feminist Academic: Global Perspectives, Experiences and Challenges
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You Can’t Challenge What Remains Unsaid

While it is often personally challenging to hear anti-woman, sexuality- shaming, victim-blaming, and rape-apologist sentiment, I encourage my students to be honest and open about the thoughts they are coming into the classroom with or with which they are struggling. It would be infinitely easier to teach the content without acknowledging popular rhetoric; however, there are few real educational benefits to this. While the line between building a safe and inclusive classroom and allowing expression of such sentiments in class is tenuous, we must remember that ‘[f]eminist pedagogy acknowledges that the classroom is a site of gen?der, race, and class inequalities, and simultaneously a site of political struggle and change’ (Briskin and Coulter 1992, p. 251). Oftentimes students do not realise what they are saying, as certain language and discourse is not only popularized but normalized. To me, these are teachable moments. For instance, while articulating a reflection on global differences of how the racialized, sexualized ‘other’ is constructed in my course on human trafficking, a student inadvertently made a racialized remark (of the sort that homogenized and stereotyped an entire group of people) in passing. I allowed the student to continue, thanked them for the contribution to class discussion, and then indicated that before continuing on with the substance of the comment, which was focused on the rise of precarious employment opportunities on the global scale, that I wanted to unpack the language of the singular remark made. Of course the student was apologetic, indicating that they did not intend any malice, and that it was just a common idiom. However, in order to make it a teachable moment, I asked the class questions like, Where does that come from? What does it mean that it is a normalized way of speaking? I impart to my students that we need to become critical consumers of language and not just tacitly accept that words are neutral or devoid of meaning or history.

 
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