We encourage people to download and make use of the Bringing CWILA into the Classroom pedagogy resources:
Slideshow: Bringing CWILA into the Classroom_SLIDESHOW
Instructor Notes: Bringing CWILA into the Classroom_Instructors Notes
Appendix 1 – Suggested Readings: Bringing CWILA into the Classroom_Appendix 1_Suggested Reading List
Prepared by Magnolia Pauker and Laura Moss with support from the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice – CWILA Research Network at the University of British Columbia.
An Interview with Magnolia Pauker
Can you start by telling our readers a bit about your project with Laura Moss on bringing CWILA into the classroom?
I am a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and I was very fortunate to be the Graduate Academic Assistant for the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice-CWILA Research Network at the University of British Columbia for the 2013-2014 school year. In our first meeting together network leader Laura Moss and I decided that it would be useful to work on a teaching unit that could bring together CWILA and my own teaching of feminist, gender, and cultural theory at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I was excited to learn about CWILA’s activities, which are particularly important in light of media representations of feminist activism as a historical fait accompli amidst the swell of neoliberal postfeminist rhetoric of ‘equality’ and ’empowerment’. Many of us know well that reality is otherwise, but mainstream media tells another story and contemporary feminist activism is often either vilified or erased altogether—sometimes simultaneously. I teach this in theory at Emily Carr and the CWILA Count illustrates it in practice. As Laura pointed out, part of the CWILA-Network’s mandate is to help create resources for the community so working together to create a teaching module joining theory, practice, and activism seemed ideal.
CWILA’s work offers another story that underscores the complexities of the present cultural moment, while providing us with good reason to believe in the potential for ongoing change resulting from social justice advocacy. It is this latter aspect that I have found often difficult to address and detail in the conversations I have with my students at the Emily Carr. CWILA and, particularly, the impact of the Count, offer clear examples of how feminist theory and activism intersect, provoking dialogue and producing social change. The teaching module seeks to present CWILA’s work in order to activate students from a variety of backgrounds and whose political interests and commitments are likewise diverse.
How did you distill CWILA’s data in ways that will translate to diverse classroom levels?
In many ways CWILA had already done this for us—the charts and graphs from each of the yearly counts tell a number of stories about gender inequity in the Canadian literary community that can be extrapolated for thinking about relations of power and domination in other contexts. In short, CWILA’s data gives us another way of looking. As I mentioned before, I teach at an art and design school so I am always working to find ways to speak with people whose interests and engagements are diverse and I am also invested in thinking about information as a flow that is visual, oral, and textual in an attempt to think critically about the relations between representation and material reality. Laura’s input was particularly incisive with regards to slowing the flow of information, making room for questions and discussion, ensuring that students would not simply receive, but engage with the material.
It feels to me like the data is already speaking, asking questions of us. For example, when we look at the relationship between the gender of the reviewer and the gender of the author reviewed, there is a clear and really uncontestable story being told about the silencing of women’s voices and work. I return to bell hooks’ insistence that we must first think about our own actions and practices if we are to engage feminism as a transformational politic. In the context of CWILA’s Count, this means asking not only how, but who we read as well as who gets read by whom. Of course, these are questions that anyone can answer and asking them will hopefully provoke not just further thought, but perhaps changes in practice. How many of us must admit to serious gaps in our own reading practices and experiences, not just in terms of gender, but equally important, with regards to ‘race,’ ethnicity, sexuality, etc.? The CWILA-Network has tried to extend discussion to these other kinds of inequities as well. Drawing out and discussing difficult questions that require we think about our own complicity is precisely what needs to happen in our classrooms and this can be done at every level. I hope that the teaching module will be of use to educators and students who are interested in critical pedagogy not only at the university and college levels, but in high school as well.
Why do you feel it is important to bring CWILA’s data into classrooms?
Introducing students to CWILA’s activities and initiatives can open up timely conversations touching upon the complexities of feminist activism, presenting a contemporary example of an organization that is seeking to address these complexities while effecting social change. Bringing CWILA into the Classroom offers an opportunity to think through the problematic conditions of the present, while also seeing the impact that advocacy has had and therefore hopefully inspiring a new generation of feminist activists to think about how and where they will choose to do activism. At its core, the project seeks to promote consideration of the relationship between feminist theory and practice today, a relation whose ongoing activization is crucial. This means by necessity being willing, as CWILA is, to address the conditions of the present for the sake of a future that remains to be determined.
What would you say to teachers who are interested in discussing gender equity in Canadian literary culture, but who don’t know where to begin?
Begin. And then begin again. I think that we cannot ever speak only about gender inequity, and nor should we. Gender is not a discrete experience and must be considered in relation to other social determinants—‘race’ and racialization, class, sexuality, ability, etc.—with which it is inextricably bound up. Addressing these complexities is not easy and we never know how the conversation will unfold. But practice helps. Listen to your students. They are great teachers. Asking questions and listening, being honest even when it feels risky are the best approaches I know to creating the conditions for conversations that are critical, empathetic, and potentially transformative. A teacher might begin by asking students to list the last 10 books they have read or to name 10 writers. See if there are any disparities there. Or, ask the students to scan the local newspaper reviews for a week and do their own count. Extend the discussion to music or art. When students are asked to come up with their very own count, it is amazing what kinds of doors open and conversations begin.
I am hopeful that Bringing CWILA into the Classroom can help to spark some of these conversations and each slide is packed with information (I can’t help myself), but ultimately each of us will and, in fact, must take up these conversations in our own ways.
Laura Moss (professor at UBC and founding Board Member of CWILA) and Magnolia Pauker (PhD Student at UBC) worked to create the pedagogical unit on Bringing CWILA into the Classroom.
We acknowledge the support of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice – CWILA Research Network at the University of British Columbia for making this project possible.
Published on November 27th, 2014