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Archive for March, 2011

What is Feminism?

What is Feminism?

Written by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Rogers

Baumgardner and Rogers take the reader back to a simple definition of what feminism; simply put, feminism is seen as “each and every politically and socially conscious women or man who works for equality either within or outside of the movement.”  In many of my discussions with my friends on what feminism is, the common reaction is that feminism is a group of angry, male hating women.  Not so.  Feminism may encompass both men and women working for equal rights, and not all women strive for the same goals as one another.  Feminism is often derived from personal experience, therefore the pursuit of goals are often different. Women in feminism are often seen as an all encompassing term that includes women of all races, religions and classes and as “an organic intertwining of movements for racial and economic equality, as well as gay rights inherent in the feminist mandate.”  Throughout history, this has not been the case.  In the 1950s and 60s, a white middle class woman could not argue for the same freedoms and social equality as a black woman.  Perhaps one woman was in favour of birth control and another woman was not.  One woman may be arguing for equal pay in the work force, while another may be arguing for the right to be a lesbian and a mother.  Feminism should not be used as an umbrella term when describing the different issues that pertain to women.  As such, Baumgardner and Richards set up a simple definition of feminism as a movement of people working to accomplish the same goals, and accomplishing these goals through social and political change.  Feminism wants you to be who ever you are but with a political consciousness.  At the same time, you may be a feminist because you want to be exactly who you are.  You may rather centre your life around other things meaningful to your life.

I think it is important to distinguish the different levels that are contained within the definition of feminism.  Baumgardner and Rogers do an excellent job of setting up a more realistic definition of what a feminist is; one that any modern man or women may identify with.  Essentially, being a feminist entitles you to live the life you wish to live and center it on things that are meaningful to you.  If we begin to strip the negative connotations that are inherit to specific terms, then we may begin to see that these are common goals to everyone, and everyone has a role to play in feminism and the pursuit of equality.

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Women’s Issues, Then and Now: A Feminist Overview of the Past 2 Centuries

By Elizabeth Horany

Through education, women have come to realize their self worth and break free from the social constraints that have held them back, such as not being able to vote and hold property.  Through education, women have gained a sense of worth and the ability to change history.  Higher education leads to the empowerment of women today.  In the past, receiving an education would be seen as breaking away from the role society expected of women; in fact it would create free thinking individuals, an act of nonconformity.  Education for women was thought to disrupt the social balance of the time, and women were educated only on the fact that they were the mothers and educators of men, a stepping stone to male knowledge and power.

A noteworthy historical event in regards to education for women was at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, where women’s rights was modelled after the Declaration of Independence, including suffrage, education and employment.  In 1920, women’s suffrage was achieved, giving women a strong foothold in society.

Some statistics in women’s education point to the fact that although there is almost equal men and women at Universities, there are still male dominated faculties such as engineering and architecture.  However, on average, the grade point average of women is higher, making it clear that it is not a discrepancy of grades that keeps women from pursuing these vocations.  It may be a factor that women seek out fields of study and professions that they feel most comfortable in, perhaps resulting from the social expectations of women.  The battle for women’s education will not be over until they feel comfortable to pursue any field of study.

Elizabeth Horany makes some interesting points on the fact that some areas of study at the University are male dominated because women do not feel comfortable pursuing a degree in these faculties, whether it be the attitudes of her colleagues or the gender role society has placed on her.  While this may be true in some cases, I did not find this true for myself.  I was enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture for a year at the University of Manitoba, but found that my passion and interests lay in education.  While education is seen as a “women’s job”, I have a fair number of male colleagues that work in the high school setting.  But I do think that there is a clearly defined gender bias towards early and senior streams of education.  Teaching younger children seems to be a role taken on primarily by women. Why this is, I do not know.  Young children need strong male role models and equal learning opportunities from both men and women.  What better place to start changing ancient definition of gender roles than at the elementary level?

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In this TED talk, Benjamin Zander discusses having the ability to reach those around us, in particular with classical music.  He states that “everyone loves classical music, they just haven’t discovered it yet”.  This is a wonderful motto that we as teachers may take as inspiration into our classrooms.  Everyone loves art, music, literature…. they just haven’t discovered it yet.  It is our jobs as educators to awaken that interest that lays within each of our students, and turn it into a life long love.

Zander states that “it is the characteristic of a leader to not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he is leading to realize whatever it is he is leading”.  As teachers, we have to have the confidence and assurance that what we are teaching is valuable and has meaning to our students.  With guidance and passion for our craft, we can turn skeptics into believers.

Zander also states “who am I being that my children’s eyes are  not shining?”  When a child’s eyes are shining, they are realizing what it is that we are trying to lead; they are inheriting something bigger than ourselves.

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Imagination

The assignment for my computers class was to take an image and combine it with inspirational text.  The quote is by George Scialabba, an American book critic, and the photograph was taken from online, originally by a mother who photographed her young son as he explored one rainy afternoon.

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This image may sum up perfectly one of the main reasons I want to become a teacher!!  One of my biggest fears is to end up in a cubicle where ‘creativity’ is expected, yet rarely rewarded. My past experiences with certain jobs is that creativity is never truly wanted or appreciated, rather, those who conform to company rules and expectations are highly valued.  However, this is not the case with teachers. The success of our careers largely depends on our ability to think outside of the box; as our students come in all shapes and sizes, rarely does the square peg fit in the round hole.  Never will I be placed in the solitary confinement of a cubicle; I will be free to interact and engage those around me in the pursuit of self discovery and expression 🙂

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This video facetiously discusses the class warfare that is taking place in the United States, and some solutions that have been proposed.  One absurd solution was to cut the salary of teachers as they work shorter days and have their summers off, while passing over more obvious solutions of targeting banks and corporations in the top 2 earnings percentile.  Overall, the video takes a humorous look at some of the flaws and solutions of corporate America.  As a teacher, it makes me laugh that sacrificing eduction and the funding that aids it would be suggested as a reasonable means to boosting the economy.  Get real!

http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/#clip425207

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So, my latest endeavor as a student/teacher comes from my pre-internship at F.W. Johnson Collegiate in Regina.  I am creating a mural with my grade 12 class in the education student’s lounge at the University of Regina.  The purpose of this assignment being to show young adults the importance of the arts in the community, and how they as artist’s have a role within society.  The theme of the mural is ‘Accept the Challenge’, a fitting subject for students and future teachers alike.

As part of the assignment, students were asked to reflect on what challenges they are facing as young adults about to graduate, taking the next step on the path of life.  Where are they going next?  Is it university, or do they have plans to travel or stay and work?  Perhaps the challenge is the unknown….

Some of the deeper themes explored when asked what ‘accept the challenge’ meant were life and death, religion, and self exploration.  One of my students is soon to be a mother, continuously thinking of the challenges that lay ahead.  Another student has the goal of becoming a health care worker, and considers the reality of illness and the fragility of life with the patients she will be caring for.  What does ‘accept the challenge’ mean to her?

Once students considered their personal challenges, they were asked to draw an image symbolizing it in the style of author and illustrator, Leah Dorion.  In by doing so, the students will be creating a unified and cohesive image, combining several unique experiences to a single theme.

Next class we will be assembling the images to create a rough draft for the final work, and choosing a colour palette.

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