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Home arrow Sociology arrow Being an Early Career Feminist Academic: Global Perspectives, Experiences and Challenges


Based on my own experiences, I have found that teaching and researching topics at the margins of a discipline—and for my students, at the margins of gendered expectations—simultaneously involves frustration, contradiction, and potential opportunity. Given the positive feedback received from students as well as fellow colleagues, in my estimation, I have navigated this (oftentimes) contentious terrain with success. This is not to say that pedagogically I have nothing left to learn, or that I have contemplated responses to every question that will arise in the classroom setting, as with every new cohort of students comes a new set of unanswered questions or ideas to contemplate. In reality, my status as an early career feminist scholar is/was a significant motivating factor in quickly developing, and consistently reflecting upon, a pedagogical approach that would ensure I present theories, concepts, and gendered content in an engaging, provocative, yet non-confrontational manner. Equally though, as an early-career scholar, and new member of the faculty, I felt the need to be someone that students wanted to take classes with and learn from, as I realised that ‘teaching evaluations are used in promotion and tenure decisions’ (Baker and Copp 1997, p. 41).

Teaching from a feminist pedagogical perspective has been identified as not only empowering students and encouraging them to think critically (Copp and Kleinman 2008; Markowitz 2005), but also empowering and encouraging for feminist scholars themselves (Sharp et al. 2007). Literature also exists on how to use and foster applied feminist principles with and among students (cf. Baker and Copp 1997; Copp and Kleinman 2008), although this is underscored by discussions of how to minimise the potential professional repercussions of doing so. For instance, Baker and Copp (1997: 41) note that faculty members are often ‘evaluated by teaching criteria under the presumption that they are gender-neutral, without considering that students hold different expectations of men and women’. Given this fact, faculty members involved in tenure and promotion decision-making, should consider a) the supposed ‘objectivity’ in gender-neutral language and criteria used in evaluations and b) the implicit gender biases students may (un)consciously rely upon when interpreting student evaluations of their professors. It is understandable, however, that early career scholars should be concerned about their career trajectories and the ability of tenure and promotion committees to properly judge student evaluations when assessing teaching performance.

Engaging in a continual process of self-reflection and relying upon the pedagogical practices I have highlighted above, I have sought to ensure that my students are able to critically think about the gendered expectations and biases that they may hold and through which they interpret the world around them. Similarly, by commencing from the students’ standpoint—relying upon topics and media that are currently trending or that they themselves point out for use in the class—I have endeavoured to create an environment whereby I am engaging with, and not only lecturing to, students. While my pedagogical decision-making is guided by my genuine interest in what my students have to say about various topics, as well as my passion for the areas in which I teach and research, it is also pragmatic. While teaching is not the only factor through which my performance is evaluated, given the courses I teach (some of which are race and gender related, both rife with controversy, especially in the context of criminology), minimizing the negative biases students may already enter the lecture room with as a result of preconceived notions of ‘courses on gender, class and race as more emotional and less ‘rational’ than other course[s]’ (Markowitz 2005, p. 41), not only encourages receptive, positive, and contemplative student engagement, but (hopefully) elicits evaluations in which negative responses to personally challenging course content are not projected onto me as an individual. Thus far, though full of its own complexity, my professional entry into the academy has been overwhelmingly positive and invigorating.

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