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Campus Women Lead

Fall 2009

Volume 38
Number 2

Women in Community Colleges


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Feminist Pedagogy

Feminist Pedagogy: Looking Back to Move Forward, Robbin D. Crabtree, David Alan Sapp, and Adela C. Licona, Eds. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009, $35 paperback)

Editors Crabtree, Sapp, and Licona have compiled a useful primer on feminist pedagogy with this collection of articles published in the National Women’s Studies Association Journal between 1989 and 2002. With selections that ask the big questions about feminist praxis (What is it, and what are its implications? How does it negotiate issues of power and essentialism?) as well as focused meditations on specific experiences in the classroom (What happens when an instructor uses consciousness-raising groups? What are the challenges of teaching about domestic violence?), the book documents feminist teaching from a range of angles. The result is a portrait of feminist pedagogy whose individual details are as compelling as its composite image.

In many ways, the book is about the experience of teaching in a feminist framework during the 1980s and 1990s. As a historical study on the development of feminist pedagogy, it has much to offer. As it explores how feminist instructors drew from deconstructionism, intersectional analysis, and the works of Foucault, Butler, and Freire, among others, it both documents exciting movements in the development of feminist praxis and explains important foundational ideas to new practitioners. Beneath the theory, its lessons are sharply pragmatic, as authors explore what worked and what didn’t in their own teaching and share helpful lessons learned from their experiences. With a firm grounding at the intersection of theory and practice, the book provides provocative and practical advice for new and old practitioners alike.

Men and Feminism

Men and Feminism, Shira Tarrant (Seal Press, 2009, $14.95 paperback)

With this concise overview of men’s role in feminism, Shira Tarrant makes a substantial contribution to the project of ally-building across gender lines. Tarrant frames antisexist work as a universal responsibility and highlights numerous examples of feminist men—from Plato to current college students—to normalize the idea that men can advocate for feminism. Exploring both how men benefit from invisible privilege and how strict gender binaries can constrain men as well as women, Tarrant underscores the need for men to act as allies for gender equity. Drawing from significant intersectional, antisexist, and antiracist theory, the book is an informative introduction to feminism in general and to how men stand to gain from it in particular.

Seemingly aimed at young men (including college students) who have not previously grappled with feminist theory, Men and Feminism renders difficult and potentially threatening concepts broadly accessible. It troubles the idea of a single masculinity or femininity and signals the true complexity that informs gendered experience. The book might make a good addition to an introductory course on feminism and could be a helpful alliance-building tool for young women as well as their male peers. With an extensive recommended reading list and a reader’s guide that seems appropriate to young college students, the book prompts movement from contemplation to further research and action. As Tarrant writes, “While men don’t need to blame themselves, we each have a responsibility for eliminating sexism” (120). Her book maps one possible path toward this collaborative change.

Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples

Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples: What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family, Karine Moe and Dianna Shandy (University of Georgia Press, 2009, $19.95 paperback)

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the media have applied much scrutiny to the idea that educated women are increasingly “opting out” of the workforce. But does the trend merely reflect the personal choices of a few privileged women? Karine Moe and Dianna Shandy make a convincing case to the contrary, detailing the occupational and societal pressures that have converged to press women out of high-pressure jobs. Taking the relatively few women who have chosen to downsize their careers as emblematic of the larger conflicts facing all families striving for work-life balance, Moe and Shandy present a smart analysis of the “opt-out phenomenon” and what it means for the American workforce.

Using data and interviews, Moe and Shandy identify a range of factors that beleaguer working parents, including the usual suspects: unsupportive workplace cultures, unsustainable working hours, unaffordable childcare, and unappealing lifestyles. When coupled with a real desire to focus on raising children, these factors can lead women in particular to take temporary or permanent leave from work. While acknowledging that these absences might make economic and personal sense, the authors insist that families should not come at the expense of careers. They underscore the potential for workplace cultures to better support working parents as they maintain or reinvent their professional lives, while also suggesting hard pragmatic lessons for the many workers who don’t have access to these supports. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the perennial and precarious balance between work and family in the United States.

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