Prof boasts of fighting 'feminist fatigue' in comms classes

A Chatham University professor recently boasted of combatting the “feminist fatigue” that allegedly plagues many of her female students.

Communications professor Katherine Cruger recently published an article on employing a “feminist pedagogy” teaching technique in her classes, describing it as a necessary response to students’ waning attention to feminist concerns.

Many of her students, Cruger has noticed, “seem to be experiencing a kind of feminism fatigue,” and are “wary to admit that they could ever suffer at the hands (or be the instrument) of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

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This can be problematic for students, she worries, because without a strong understanding of feminism, students may be less inclined to engage in advocacy efforts, and less likely to feel that they could have an impact on society.

She was particularly perturbed by one anonymous student evaluation that was submitted several years ago, in which the student said the class had taught them “that I am allegedly totally oppressed or something,” adding that “these courses are all the same and I am sick to death of feminism.”

To fight this, Cruger implemented a feminist pedagogy tool called “challenge based learning” in her communications classes, asking students to “identify a challenge related to inequality and identity in their community” and intensively brainstorm possible solutions over the course of a semester.

Through the tool, Cruger says her students have learned to better appreciate feminist activism, noting that one student told her after the course that without activism, “we will be stuck in a heteronormative, racist society that never grows.”

After the intervention, Cruger found that students developed more "sophisticated, intersectional understandings of course concepts such as inequality and activism” than did students in her previous classes.

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In an interview with Campus Reform, Cruger explained that many of her students, especially female students, don’t seem to understand why feminism is needed.

“Many of the students disagree with the basic tenets of feminism,” she told Campus Reform. “There's a fatigue as well. For some students, the feeling is that we don't need feminism anymore because we're 'better' now.”

Cruger also argued that adding feminist pedagogy to her communications classes could be helpful, even though that type of theory is normally reserved for women’s studies classes.

“We tend to silo discussions of feminism or inequity or inequality to overtly feminist courses,” she remarked, adding that “I and other educators are trying not to do that.”

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Moreover, she said, focusing on privilege and power can be helpful for students, regardless of what field they major in, noting that "even in courses on communications theory, we try to bring in examples of how differences in the way we communicate, parse out in forms of maintaining oppression and equity."

For example, she worried that traditional ways professors teach decision making and negotiation could help perpetuate male privilege.

"If there is a system in which we are trying to teach students about negotiation and decision making, and we've got this very patriarchal model—you go in, pummel the other person into submission, then you've won—then we're reifying things that are wrong with this world,” she asserted.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen