Thursday, May 17, 2007

how feminist is Smoo?

I work at a women's university that markets itself as the place where young ladies come to learn "leadership." I have yet to hear this concept clearly defined, though I admit this is partly because I haven't actively sought the definition out myself.

We have several professors here who have written about or within the feminist tradition, and I have long had the impression that Smoo was or had become, essentially, a feminist school.

But some of my students brought me up short this week and recoiled at the notion that Smoo was a bastion of feminism. One student was bold enough to say that, after four years of hearing the "leadership" mantra, she was sick of the idea of women as leaders, and she simply wanted to lead a "normal" life. Whatever that might mean.

I'm not sure what to make of this, and think I've stumbled onto what might be a sociologist's dream. The students' remarks represent a school of thought that is likely only one of several swirling about the campus; I've taught enough students here to know that their personalities and convictions come in all shapes and sizes. We definitely have feminists here.

It might be cool to conduct a survey of student attitudes toward feminism, but I'd need to think about how to go about this. The first and most obvious question is to what degree it is legitimate to conflate leadership and feminism. Training women to be leaders isn't synonymous with inculcating feminism, even though there has to be plenty of overlap between the two agendas. Another question is what definitions of feminism should be used in such a survey.

Still, it would be neat to explore this question more deeply with my English students and possibly with the campus at large.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I smell a book that will call to a wider audience...