Sunday, April 29, 2012

End of semester thoughts

Seeing so many facebook statuses about scrambling to finish end of semester papers, I'm feeling incredibly grateful to only be auditing a course this semester.  Not having papers to finish is quite a relief, though one slightly offset by having two sections of papers to grade.  I just finished reading rough drafts, and it was a bit exhausting.  My student papers really are all over the place--I have some really polished, well-argued, well-researched papers, some that show promise, and some that are half the required length which don't seem to be arguing anything.  I'm trying to keep my focus on the fact that I do see an overall trend of improvement in most of my students.

I'm also proud of the fact that at least a couple of my students went into their research with opinions which changed over the course of their research.  In all of my teaching, my greatest feelings of pride are in those students who have changed their mind doing research.  In fact, while I was at the Unite Women rally yesterday, I reflected on the fact that I really feel that the most useful activism I am engaged in is teaching.  If I can teach students to identity argument fallacies and to keep an open mind while researching an issue, I think that's much more effective than waving a sign around.

Still, I went to the rally yesterday and held a sign and worked the Clothesline Project table.  (And no, I did not "woman" it.  I have such a negative response to the word "woman" as a verb.)  My cynicism continued, though I do feel a bit hopeful about the idea of starting a serious campaign to revitalize the ERA.  (Once again, I feel like teaching is the most effective means of activism for me--on my Intro WGS exam, students had to identify the text of the ERA--and once students learned the actual text of the ERA--it doesn't say anything about bathrooms!--they were generally in support of it.)  And working the table a couple of times now, I do think that it does raise awareness of domestic violence--but I would still like to have a conversation about clarifying how it works, because it also at times flirts with flippancy, or has the potential to make participants uncomfortable if asked to talk about their participation. 

In terms of feminist activism, I'd prefer to get away from the kinds of activism which seem to be reinforcing binary gender stereotypes, and instead has the potential for more measurable efficacy.  Voter registration, for example.  I do realize, though, that these more confessional, interactive events are in fact meaningful for many--as is probably apparent, I'm feeling rather conflicted about it.  I want to say that I hope others will continue to work on these projects as long as people find meaning in them, and that I wish to focus my energies on projects which I find meaningful. 

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