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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 9 months ago

Toward the end of teaching Definitional arguments, I assigned this year's Penn Statements essay "What Does A Feminist Look Like?". (I had assigned the previous definitional essay, "Have You Xanga'd Today?" the week before.)


The students were to have read the "Feminist" definitional essay. When class began, I had them break into small groups, prefacing this move with the idea that the issue of gender and feminism had come up spontaneously in the past this semester, and I wanted students to feel comfortable to speak their minds; being in a smaller group might help them be themselves without the added pressure of answering to an audience made up of the entire class.


To get them rolling, I wrote 3 basic questions on the board:


Are you a feminist? Why / why not?

Can a man be a feminist?

What does feminism mean to you?


I then floated among different groups, asking questions, listening, providing some feedback as necessary. I thought the discussion was mainly productive. Some quieter students got a chance to articulate their impressions of the reading and of the issue.


Their homework assignment was to blog 50 words or so about their own attitudes and beliefs after the discussion on feminism. I prefaced this by saying how group norms, especially in mixed-groups (the class is basically 60-40 male-female ratio), tend to drive towards consensus, and I wanted each student to reflect on their own experience and think through the issues raised by writing about it. see one blog here


The next class period, I spent the entire class going over individual students' feelings about the small-group discussion. This large-group discussion centered around students' personal experiences around the gender divide. One lesson I wanted to impart involved how many times arguments break the world down into opposing sides (e.g., anti-chauvinist vs. anti-feminist in this case) and how a way out of this would be to pick a third way: an example was how both a female and male student discussed being taken advantage of, and how as individuals we want not to be exploited when we are most vulnerable. So by taking the issue out of polarized opposites (male/female) and finding common ground (individuals), we can craft a more convincing argument for a mixed audience with strong feelings on both sides.


(This second period wasn't entirely the most productive lesson-wise, but did allow one student who performed in the Vagina Monologues to say her piece, and generally fostered the same kind of "it's ok to articulate even if it's not entirely p.c." that we started in the small-group format the class before this one.)


rew WritingthroughReading

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