You are on page 1of 6

Brookfields chapter Gendering Criticality examines the assumptions

embedded in critical theory that can render its discourse and practices
potentially oppressive and exclusionary. Although critical theory attempts to
expose and resist dominant ideologies, the thinkers considered foundational
to critical theory have largely been male. As they attempt to theorize about
the human condition in general, their analysis has largely been skewed
toward the male experience, without recognizing how gender is intertwined
with race and class within capitalism. While gender norms such as mothering
and domesticity represent restricting understandings of female roles, using
them as a lens can help deconstruct gender binaries can foster more
nuanced critical perspectives. For example, including the family and
childrearing as topics of analysis can bring to attention to domains that many
theorists have implicitly been silent about. The archetypal gendered units of
analysis reflect a historical and current reality that can only be dismantled
through recognition and critical discourse. This brings to question what
further perspectives are being neglected in dominant as well as critical
discourse. Are there times when one lens is more relevant than the other,
making silence about another perspective appropriate? Or does this silence
only further reinforce existing assumptions? How can one recognize the
systemic interconnectedness among various identities while remaining
focused on a particular topic of analysis?
Many of the feminist theorists cited in the chapter offer critiques that
are connected to, yet extend beyond gender, showing how a gendered lens
can be additive rather than exclusionary and reductionist. In hooks view of
feminism, the fight against oppression involves resisting the interlocking
systems of sexism, racism, and classism. Therefore, feminism cannot be the
focus on gender in isolation because any attempt to challenge sexism also
involves fighting classism, just as any attempt to challenge racism involves
confronting sexism and classism, and so on (Brookfield, 2004, p. 326).
Racism, sexism, and classism, are considered key units of analysis because
of how they are relevant to the identities of each person and organize
societal hierarchies. What are other isms such as ableism and anti-fat bias
oftentimes neglected? These concerns speak to the evolving nature of critical
theory as theorists have emphasized the importance of discomfort and
change. As Sawicki (1991) argues, one must feel uncomfortable with ones
political principles and strategies lest they become dogma (p. 103). Angela
Davis rejects any single definition for the term feminist since it is always
Even with these uncertainties and awareness of the constant struggle
between recognition and inclusion, criticality and certainty, it is important to
be reflexive without being paralyzed (Lather, 2001, p. 191) as one
practices critical pragmatism with a willingness to continuously experiment
with different approaches in the pursuit of a more just society.

It is important to understand that even within criticality there are

dominant narratives that undermine
Weilder fundamental Framing of oppression leads him to imagine the
revolutionary hero as male, existing in the public world rather than another
world of personal reationshisps or of everyday life-the world of women
Lack of self criticality in ciritcal discourse and paternalistic
Lack of specificity around notions of empowerment more rhetorical
than actual
Discourses and practices of critical pedagogy can become vehicles
of oppression
Need to take into account own positionality
Ideology is leanred, Ideological control certainly exists and some are clearly
better than others at detecting its presence. The problem is rather that a
sense of total certainty creeps into the minds of those critical educators who
are convinced of the correctness of their ideological reading of the world
Interesting the focus on critical pedagogy in particular and the
undermining of its certainty
When the agent of empowerment assumes to be already
empowered, and so apart from those who are to be empowered,
arrogance can underlie claims of what we can do for you (p. 61)
(Gores) (1992)
Feminist critics are concerned about the idea of brining students
into voice
Dominant culture neuters criticism while appearing to encourage it
Repressive Tolerance BELL HOOKS
Radical is undermined, turned into a commodity, reinforce dominant ways of
knowing, reification and commodification of blackness
Men experience the bondage of patriacrchy as well
Helping theoretical framework be accessible to a broad group of people while
losing none of its power to critique
How to not essentialize women wile recognizing the alternative
world that is often gendered and not represented

Brookfields assertion that feminists who assume an unproblematized unity

of gender oppression amongst all women have underplayed the potency of
interlocking systems of oppression, neglecting particularly the effects of race
and class (Brookfield, 2005, p. 312) was particularly thought provoking for
me. I feel that the discussion of womens rights has to go beyond the simple
discussion of feminine and masculine roles in society and other sociocultural
factors need to be taken into consideration. Issues of sexual orientation,
cultural, economic, and racial issues are paramount in todays society and
many issues affecting different groups are especially isolating to women. To
disregard these issues, for example, health care in low income areas, is to do
feminist theory a great disservice. Theorists such as Angela Davis discuss
the political forces that have left many women, specifically women of color,
lacking adequate health coverage and have tried to create a bridge for
feminism throughout different communities. (Brookfield 2005) When
discussing Davis, Brookfield states that feminism is a discourse with a range
of positions, theories, categories, and commitments and in her view the most
effective versions of feminism acknowledge the various ways gender, class,
race and sexual orientation inform each other (Brookfield, 2005, p 342). By
making feminist theory accessible to all, not simply the educated elite, ideas
elevating all females can be spread and discussed by all and hopefully one
day acted upon. How would this look in action? When looking at power in
our society, support for ideas and movements is crucial. Alienating different
groups of women seems counterproductive to the struggle undertaken by
feminist thinkers.
Expanding on this, bell hooks goes as far as to say that had poor women set
the agenda for feminist movement they might have decided that class
struggle would be a central feminist issue (hooks, 1984, p. 61) a point which
I have to agree with. These ideas raise many questions for me as an
educator. How can we empower ALL women in our classrooms? What does
feminist theory look like when viewed through other lenses? What action can
we take to help advance feminist thought?
Dear Rachel, you raise interesting questions about how women with different
intersectional identities have the potential to shape the feminist movement
differently. The theorists Brookfields cites emphasize the importance of
building coalitions of people from many different identities for collective
empowerment. By situating your question in the classroom in particular, you
also bring to mind Freirean conceptions of the revolutionary leader whose
role is to help others gain critical consciousness to the oppressed, as if he
has some greater understanding. What does your vision of empowerment
look like? To begin with, I think it is important to recognize the
intersectionalities among various identities along with the fluid nature of
feminist theory, with its continual process of doubt and self-reflection. This
open-ended structure can invite women from diverse backgrounds to use

their identities to inform theory, since each framework is blindsighted in its

own way.
critical pedagogy is never innocent, never uncomplicated, never without
running circles and journaling, students sense of being under covert
critical pedagogy discourse is one of the dominant discourses informing
with around critical reflection and transformative learning
Freire never put forward a self-critique of his tendency to glorify the
revolutionary leader (p.76) Weiler

As a complete side note, after watching the Paper Bag Princess (Munsch) and
reading Davies (2003) subsequent analysis, I was struck by how it was nice
to see a story in which marriage and upholding traditional feminine
expectations were basically rejected. It is also a reality that many young
children will reject these alterations of their perceived roles in society. I often
wonder though what is the best practice in terms of parenting and educating
when it comes to gender stereotypes? Is it direct and explicit discussion or
lightly guiding and exposing them to other aspects of gender?
Brookfield, S.D. (2004). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning
and teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Davies, B. (1989). Frogs and snails and feminist tales: Preschool children and
gender. Boston: Allen & Unwin.
hooks, b. (1984). (Where we stand):Class matters. New York: Routledge
Reply Quote Email Author

Message Read
Mark as Unread

Message Not Flagged

Set Flag

1 day ago

Veronica Szczygiel
RE: Expansion of Feminist Theory


Dear Rachel,

I'm glad you wrote about the need to broaden feminist theory. It is so important to look at
the intersection between various factors: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so
on. Holistic pictures show a more complete and accurate view of problems. I think this

what qualitative research does well. When we ask open-ended questions, explore
phenomena with a wide lens, and tell stories, we can broaden our perspectives and

On the flipside, when we keep complicating our lenses by adding different layers, we can
make problems even muddier. Any type of causality will be harder to find. (Which is why, I
think, quantitative studies try to focus on a limited set of variables). I wonder if we as
researchers can find some kind of balance.


Reply Quote Email Author

Hide 1 reply
Message Read
Mark as Unread

Message Not Flagged

Set Flag

23 hours ago

Carrie Tocci
RE: Expansion of Feminist Theory


Hello Rinat:

I thought of the class struggle too and I had read this in hooks in the past but I had forgotten
she wrote this and it was a good reminder of the distinction that is made in the US based on
class. It reminded me of something a Jesuit told me once, in regard to something called
downward mobility. He said, "If we attached ourselves to the poor we will detach ourselves
from our goods." I thought about that a lot when I was in my 20s. After
reading Brookfield this week, I watched The Wolf of Wall Street. I wanted to see that greed-though fictionalized, he and his coterie were capitalists to the peril of the wealth ofothers. I
wanted to watch it to before the presidential debates especially with the divide between the
haves and have nots in our country. As I reflect, I am being swayed by theory. Maybe we do
need it to help us see, as a society, to see that power relationships are so imbalanced now.

It's not about a white woman speaking for all women as much now, as the chief faux pas, as
an example for example. It seems power is wielded by your salary, your tax bracket--what
one can buy without having to sacrifice basic necessities.

Maybe it's a naive view but the divide between rich and poor may unite some who were
previously divided. Dunno. Just thinking about it.

Thanks Rinat.

Sincerely, Carrie Anne

Reply Quote Email Author

Message Read
Mark as Unread

Message Not Flagged

Set Flag

6 minutes ago

Rina Levy-Cohen
RE: Expansion of Feminist Theory

Hi Rachel,
I liked your idea of expanding Feminist Theory. I agree that by doing so Feminist
Theory might develop in ways never thought of before. The story The Paper Bag
Princess (Munch), brings about the struggle of a white women in a white-royal ideology.
If I build on what you wrote above, what would be the struggle of a black princess or a
homosexual princess look like? Different lenses will bring about different perspectives
and struggles and in return will inform the theory.