TechnoFeminisms: A Conversation About Pasts, Presents, and Futures

Teaching and/as Feminist

Barbi: Various institutions now, because they’re getting a lot of pushback from social media stories that depict what they’re doing as a type of brainwashing almost, when you’re reading these stories it appears that that’s what they’re trying to say is happening in college and universities with students, with their liberal brainwashing narratives.

Radhika: I think that is something we work with the undergrads a lot, in Bowling Green at least because it’s more close to Ohio. One of the things is this happens also through mentoring. Suddenly your students, especially the female students, suddenly realize a moment of empowerment through something that you’re doing. But I think still there is an issue of subsumption, if I may call it, where what we are doing gets subsumed.

Angela: I’d like to pick up some strands real quick of both Jackie and Radhika and Pam. Feminism is rhetorical, as Jackie’s already suggested. And so I think about different rhetorical situations where it might be sometimes strategic to use or omit feminism versus tactical to omit and use feminism. And for me, working with as many doctoral students as I am, I feel like there’s a strong case, and in fact Sarah Warren-Riley is writing in part her dissertation on this, about how she wants us as a user or now contributor to our discipline to mark our work as feminist. Because as somebody who’s trying to contribute to the good technofeminist work that’s been done over the decade, she doesn’t always know what is technically technofeminist. And so I’m like, “Oh no, really, that’s technofeminist.” She’s like, “Well, they don’t even say feminism.” I’m like, “Yeah, but let’s go back to what values they’re talking about in their methodology or theoretical framework.”

So if they’re saying they value these things, then can we also say that regardless of whether or not they self-identify as a feminist their research is doing feminist work or supports feminist values. But getting students there takes a lot more time and effort than when people mark their work as “feminist.”

I think part of it’s a generational thing where I said, “Fuck people who are going to not give me tenure because I say I’m a technofeminist.” I’ve always been pretty brazen about being a technofeminist and indigenous feminist, and if it gets me in trouble or it doesn’t get me tenure, then so be it. I think that we need to be brave in certain situations. But I also understand that the job market was a lot different 10 years ago than it is now.

So I want to be cognizant of all of these rhetorical nestings, but I think that those of us who can mark our work as such have to do so to make it possible for the next generation. We can’t just think about the students we’re working with, but the students they’ll eventually be working with.

Radhika: And that’s the irony, right? We’re still in a position of defensiveness, we’re still in a position of subversion, and that’s why we’re still feminists. We dream of an  egalitarian society, but there’s always going to be some margins and we will go there. Where are the margins shifting? In that sense if it feels like in certain spaces women are speaking loudly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t other margins. And that’s the promise of feminist methodology, right? Feminist methodology is who’s at the margins—who’s not speaking.

Jackie: I think that’s absolutely true and I think what’s interesting for me is the intergenerational aspect there, too. When the margins are shifting, we may not see them. We may not see them for whatever reason, and so this is all the more reason to talk with our students, our first-year students, talk with our families, talk with people outside of the academy. Because that’s where we will find where those margins are  shifting and then we can go there. Because we’re not going to be able to define the margins from our positions of privilege.

Kris: Well, I think the other thing, too, is to ground it in some of the discourse of the field. Technofeminism should be a set of literacy practices that, whether theoretical, methodological, pedagogical, activist, et cetera, are strategies and tactics that we impart with students. That we develop with them, that we develop intergenerationally, so that the types of contexts that we’re not necessarily a part of in daily life in the academy but our students are, that they have the critical equipment to engage in talking back.

And I think that’s the type of legacy and mentoring we should be doing. And it doesn’t all look the same for each of us. It might occur in administrative contexts, it might occur in classroom contexts, it might occur in community contexts.