6th April 2011
PhD students organise UK’s first Feminism and Teaching Symposium
In the wake of last weekend’s headlines created by David Willetts’ comments on feminism and following the sacking earlier this year of two Sky Sports presenters for their sexist comments — the UK’s first Feminism and Teaching Symposium will take place this weekend at The University of Nottingham.
The two day symposium on April 8 and 9 2011 has been organised by research students at the University who formed the Feminism and Teaching Network three years ago. They have brought together scholars and activists who have in common a concern with the introduction and exploration of feminist ideas in the classroom at all levels, from primary school to university and beyond.
One of the organisors, Eva Giraud, said: “One can only wonder what Mr Willetts and similar minded persons would make of an entire academic symposium dedicated to the discussion of teaching and feminism. Our symposium came about as a result of widespread demand from fellow students, academics, teachers and activists who see feminist critique as an indispensible part of education. Through our experiences in the classroom and other places of learning we found that feminist modes of thinking and teaching enlighten and empower learners and educators alike.
“What we want to do is to explore the many and varied relationships between feminism and teaching and offer academics and other educators who are working in this field a chance to reach out to each other.”
PhD students at The University of Nottingham from the Schools of English Studies, Law, Modern Languages and Cultures, and Sociology and Social Policy have been running a feminist reading group and introduction to feminism workshops for undergraduates for a number of years, and formed the Feminism and Teaching Network to encourage the sharing of experience and skills among educators from a variety of fields.
Another of the organisors, Jude Roberts, said: “To us feminism means gender awareness, exploring and examining gender identities, challenging historical and structural inequalities and considering the ways in which gender intersects with other issues such as class, race, age and context. By teaching we mean any engagements with other people oriented around educating, enlightening, consciousness-raising or communicating — academic or classroom teaching is only one example of the many kinds of teaching or public engagement.”
The symposium features an impressive list of high-profile keynote speakers and has attracted delegates from across the UK, Europe, North America, Indonesia, India, Turkey, the Czech Republic
and North Africa. They will be exploring ways in which feminism and teaching relate to each other and the ways in which each term strengthens and/or troubles the other.
Professor Sara Mills from Sheffield Hallam University, whose research interests and current work include language and sexism, will give the keynote speech. She said: “I will be highlighting the difference between 2nd wave and 3rd wave feminism in relation to the analysis of sexism and argue that what we need to do is see feminism and sexism as a site of struggle — neither just resurgence nor backlash. I will use the Andy Gray and Richard Keys story — the Sky Sports presenters sacked for their ‘sexist rant’ — as an example of feminist resurgence and an example from my teaching for backlash. In both cases I will look at the incident in all its complexity and its follow up, rather than examining the incident in isolation.”
They will be examining the link between feminism and teaching in a range of educational contexts.
Professor Gina Wisker, Head of The Centre for Learning and Teaching at The University of Brighton, whose research interests and current work include higher education and contemporary literature, said: “When students engage with feminist theory in their reading of and daily involvement with literature and culture, they make learning ‘leaps’, really questioning, creating, making it new. They suddenly see that values, interpretations, knowledge, decisions are inflected by a whole range of hidden normalising influences, particularly gender, culture, and economics.”
For more information and to keep track of regular blogs from the Feminism and Teaching Network go to: www.feminismandteaching.org