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Exercises for the First Day of Class

The following are suggested exercises/strategies to use on the first day of a
women's studies course to orient students to feminism.  (The original
query and responses date from 1993; further suggestions were made in
1994, 1998, 1999, 2003, and 2006.) For additional WMST-L files now available on
the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1993 22:59:51 -0500
Subject: first day of class
    The semester is starting.  I'll be co-teaching Psychology of Women
    for the first time in over a decade.  There will be the usual
    mixture of feminist and those who wanted a MWF class at 11:00 a.m.
    What are some suggestions on how to orient students to feminism
    while not scaring off the not-yet feminist students?  What do you
    do the first day of class in "The _____ of Women" that works?
Arnie Kahn, Psychology, JMU, Harrisonburg, VA 22807     (703) 568-3963 - day
fac_askahn    AT    vax1.acs.jmu.edu (preferred)                 (703) 434-0225 - night
fac_askahn    AT    jmuvax                                       (703) 568-3322 - fax
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1993 23:05:57 EST
Subject: Re: first day of class
Hello Arnie, there are a few things I do the first day of class when I know I
have included a feminist component to the class..which I am doing in both my
comparative politics class as well as my latinamerican classes.[the news of
which has generally gotten out since there are no *women studies* courses per
se offered as yet here and there is considerable numbers of *not yet feminist*
folks around.  The first thing I do is remind them that this isn't foreign.....
they all came from mothers, the guys may have sisters, aunts,etc. Then I    rem
remind them of what they already know: men and women look at things differently
and it is the nexus of that Point of View where much of the tension takes place
and then since many of them watch the Rush Limbaugh show whose feminazis jargon
has unfortunately taken off, I tell them a bit about myself..that I am the moth
er of men, have been the wife of a man, am the sister of 10 men, have been the
daughter of men...so I pretty much like men and want only for us to better un-
derstand one another.
Not terribly scientific I'm afraid, but it seems to work..at least for now.
Good luck...and have fun with it!
Patricia McRae
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1993 23:49:37 CDT
From: carole marmell <SOCWLR AT UHUPVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: first day of class
On Sun, 10 Jan 1993 22:59:51 -0500 Arnie Kahn said:
>    The semester is starting.  I'll be co-teaching Psychology of Women
>    for the first time in over a decade.  There will be the usual
>    mixture of feminist and those who wanted a MWF class at 11:00 a.m.
>    What are some suggestions on how to orient students to feminism
>    while not scaring off the not-yet feminist students?  What do you
>    do the first day of class in "The _____ of Women" that works?
Hello, Arnie. I don't teach women's studies (or anything else for that
matter), but the most obvious beginning is you. Catching people off guard
with a male instructor for a feminist class is a great way to look at
their unspoken assumptions.
carole marmell/university of houston/socwlr    AT    uhupvm1
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 08:14:00 EST
Subject: first day of class
Hi Arnie! It is a little late to use Carole Cocoran's method.  She has a
group of very diverse people serve as a panel and has the class play a
version of 20 questions on what they have in common (they are all feminists
of course).  I usually have students introduce themselves and explain what
they want in the course (they don't usually admit it is the time schedule)
and then talk a little about myself and a little about feminism.  This
helps th defuse their fear of "feminist maneaters," but works partially
because I can take advantage of her het (sorry for the mistakes) take
advantage of ht heterosexual privilege as the mother of 2 daughters, a
wife, etc.  It should be very illuminating to find out what they think of
a male feminist or if they believe there is such a "creature."  Good luck!
unger    AT    apollo.montclair.edu    INTERNET
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 09:42:40 LCL
Subject: Re: First day of class
heh, heh.
I have *fantasies* of (someday) being able to start off a class by walking
in & saying:
    "I *AM* one of those maneating 'Feminazis' you've been
    hearing about lately!  If this makes you nervous, GET
    OUTTA HERE & go take something else on MWF at 10:00!
    I am WOMAN; hear me ROAR! RRRrrrrrrrrr!"
It gets a little tiresome to have to keep walking in saying, "Oh, my,
yes, this is a feminist class, but you don't need to be afraid of the
Big Bad Feminists around here. We're all jus' l'il ol' Pussycats, really."
Ruth Ginzberg <rginzberg    AT    eagle.wesleyan.edu>
Philosophy Department;Wesleyan University;USA
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 14:48:00 GMT
Subject: first day of class
I've never solved this on day one, but did by chance on the last day
last year!  I told them I was thinking of teaching a course called
feminism, pornography and civil rights, and suddenly, they all
spoke; and very well, too.
Admittedly I had gender privilege!  However appealing to experience right
away rather than going on about theory - which I did - clearly helps.
It helps me to know these problems exist in the US, too.
Now a general q. for the list.  Political Correctness is little known,
and less understood, in Britain; and two of us have been asked if we
supported it, and we both, for simple reasons of principle, said
yes.  (Maybe over there we might have answered differently.  I don't
know.)  The other woman had a bad time.  I simply had to try to
explain.  But how do you explain how this came about simply?  I
nearly lost them all at that point, because they just didn't
Judy Evans
jae2    AT    uk.ac.york
Politics  York England
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 11:09:36 EST
Subject: first day of class
I never--absolutely never--apologize for being a feminist or for my class being
feminist (not that I necessarily think others do, but it was sort of the tone
of Ruth's message).  Usually I don't even explain that the class will be
feminist.  This may be a function of the places I have taught.  For most of my
career I have taught at small schools where I didn't need to tell students the
class was feminist--they already knew.
An exercise that I use the first day of my women's and gender studies course
may help at least immerse students in the questions you want them to engage
with.  I picked it up--I think--from the Towson State Women's Studies
newsletter (I could be wrong, Iknow it was from somewhere near Baltimore).
You come up with a fairly controversial question--say something like "Are there
any fundamental differences between the sexes that could explain differential
treatment?"  The question isn't all that important; it just needs to be
controversial.  Then you ask them to divide the pages of their notebook into
four columns (Obviously they have to begin on the verso side of a notebook,
with two columns on verso and two on recto).  In the first column they should
write everything they can think of in favor of the question and in the second
everything against it.  In column three they should record any questions they
have or things they need to know in order to answer the question.  What
question would have to be answered for them to be able to answer more certainly
the original question?  Then they pair up and share what they have done.  In
column four they should be adding questions, need to know items, elaborations.
Then in small groups they should go over the materal with the aim of each group
coming up with  two questions that seem to them the most important questions
that need answering.  At the end of the class you collect all the questions and
those questions become the basis for the upcoming unit of study. In my intro
class I have 5 sections and I use this method at the beginning of each.  The
questions generated often become the final writing assignment for the section,
i.e. I will ask them to take one of the questions and answer it based on the
work we have done.  I did find doing it 5 times got too repetitive.  Probably
three times in a semester is adequate.  But it was a very good way of immersing
students in the material by making their agenda the primary one and not mine.
I think as a result they are better able to trust that, even if I am a raving
feminist lunatic, that I won't necessarily be ramming it down their throats.
All this reminds me we start in a week. Ak.  Good luck to all with the new
Laurie Finke
Women's and Gender Studies
Kenyon College
finkel    AT    kenyon.edu
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 09:56:02 CST
From: Stephanie Riger <U29322 AT UICVM.BITNET>
Subject: first day
Arnie, On the first day of class in Psych of Women and Gender, I divide
the class into small groups of 6-8 and ask them to share an important
decision that their mothers made at some point in their (mother's) lives.
STudents have said, e.g.: She decided not to abort me; she left her family
in Greece at age 15 and went to Germany to work so she could send money
home; she decided to get a divorce/go back to work/school, etc.
Students become very involved in this discussion and it gets out alot of
issues that we cover throughout the course.  A warning, though, that
this question can tap into very strong feelings that people have about
their mothers.  For example, once a student said "I don't know anything
about my mother; we have a terrible relationship, etc." and burst into
tears.  You have to be prepared to handle this if it occurs (although
this happens rarely in the several years that I've been asking this
question).  I try to find some themes in the things that people say (eg
choices between self and family obligations, limited work opportunities,
etc.) and refer back to them during the course.  Sometimes on the last
day, I ask them to discuss this again, in light of what we've learned in
the course.

I also, a few days later, talk about the meanings and misconceptions
about the word "feminist", but I think that what you say about this is
less important than how you act.  Students will know, by how you treat
them, whether you are open to divergent opinions, a "man-hater", or all
the other negative stereotypes.  I think it's important to discuss these
stereotypes and how they act to control women, but I also think that
your actions speak as loudly as your words.
Thanks for raising a good question, and good luck in your class.

Stephanie Riger      Univ of Il at Chicago   u29322    AT    UICVM.BITNET
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 14:47:58 EDT
Subject: Re: first day of class
I learned the following technique at a workshop on teaching race, class,
and gender (organized by American Sociological Association).  It's
been written up by Patricia Hill Collins in _Teaching Sociology_,
probably sometime in the late 1980s (sorry about the vague reference).
I've used it in very different courses, and it has ALWAYS worked to
get people interested in what the course is about and to get them
talking to one another.  I highly recommend it.
You write up a short quiz (I usually use 10 to 15 questions) that
covers many of the topics you plan to discuss in the course.  For
instance, in my medical sociology class, I ask questions about
whether women physicians are more "humane" on average than male
physicians, about relative international ranking of the U.S. on
infant mortality, etc..  The directions at the top of the quiz
are that they should answer each question to the best of their
ability, and when all questions are answered, they are to raise
their hand and I'll give them the next instructions.  When you get
two people with their hands raised, you get them together and
ask them to go over their answers and agree on some number
of them (if you have 10 questions, agreement on 7 would be
OK).  At this point, you'll be running around the room matching
people up in dyads -- it feels like Phil Donahue looks sometime.
Once you get the dyads with agreement on 7, they have to
raise their hand again, you match them up with another dyad,
and this new group has to agree on a number of the questions
(sometimes I use the same number, but you don't have to if
time is a factor).
When everyone is finished, I go over the answers with them.
I try to balance the questions that have fairly obvious
answers with some that are likely to be challenging and/or
counterintuitive.  What results is a wonderful discussion
of the course material, students who are energized and
intrigued, and the beginnings of relationships among the
students.  I also find that I can refer back to questions
from the quiz when we get to that topic in the semester, and
students remember those questions.
While you wouldn't have to do it this way, I try to put
some kind of off-beat questions on the quiz.  I get some good
ones from the Harper's Index (Harper's magazine) and a
book that compiled the Harper's Index.  For instance, this
semester's quiz for my soc. of gender class has a question
about how many Betty Rubble vitamins there are in a bottle
of 100 Flintstones chewables (the answer is zero -- I'll
use it to discuss the invisibility of women in certain
spheres of life, and go from Betty Rubble to a discussion
of women in literature, art, science, etc).
If I haven't filled in all the necessary details in this
description, please feel free to contact me privately.
And good luck.
Beth Rushing
Department of Sociology
Kent State University
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 13:27:00 -0700
Subject: Re: first day of class
I've used a technique similar to the one described by Beth Rushing, of
giving a "quiz" that includes some well-known, and some relatively arcane
items pertinent to the course that's beginning, then using a variety of
discussion formats to move from students' answers into the course itself.
Last year, for my Psychology of Women course, I based my quiz questions
on Susan Faludi's book -- some of the items in her first chapter made for
very interesting discussion.  However, this year I may try the "Betty
Rubble vitamin" item instead -- what fun!
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 15:52:20 MST
From: Kathy Nielsen <knielsen AT MATH.UNM.EDU>
Subject: re McRae's first day
>..that I am the moth er of men, have been the wife of a man, am the sister of
>10 men, have been the
> daughter of men..
Is'nt it odd to justify one's self as a feminist with respect to how one
is related to (and serves) men?
knielsen    AT    math.unm.edu
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1993 20:37:30 -0600
Subject: Re: re McRae's first day
I interpreted what Patricia McRae said as an explanation not a justification.
Explaining where one is coming from is not the same thing as justifying
oneself as a feminist.
MFiala    AT    vax1.umkc.edu
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1993 10:15:41 CST
Subject: first day of class
My suggestion for the beginning of class, but not until some sort of
rapport has been established, and only if there are enough students so
that ananymity is assured, pass out a questionnarie asking about their
history of sexual violence and that of their significant others and
friends (including battery)  I only ask for gender and age (since older
women have more experiences usually).  At the next session I put the
numbers on the board so that everyone knows that she or he is not the
only one who...  It is also consciousness raising for most,
unfortunately not all of the men.  I have had great success with this
method, but one of my former students tried it the first day and it
didn't work, which is why I now say what a while.  I  will be glad to
send my quetionnaire, including Diana Russell's porngoraphy question,
out to those who want it.  However, as those of you who have been
folowing this list know, the amount of violence can be shockinly high.
Sexual harassment is almost universal, especially for women who have
been in the labor force.  But it does introduce previously sheltered
people to the nitty gritty of other people's lives.  If you are not
comfortable with this, don't do it.  It has always worked for me.
Pauline B. Bart
U17334    AT    UICVM.UIC.EDU (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Everything is data, but data isn't everything...
Don't kill the messenger!
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1993 13:26:00 EST
From: Joya Misra <SOCAK663 AT EMUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: first day of class
In response to Arnie Kahn's message, I immediately thought of an
interesting article written by Mary Jo Neitz in _Teaching Sociology_
(12[3]339-353, 1985) entitled "Resistances to Feminist Analysis."
Although this article is oriented toward teaching sociology, it
would certainly be applicable to psychology.
Neitz argues that due to real changes in the status of women, and
the fact that the relative status of men and women may be more
equitable in college that any other times in their lives, students
may have trouble perceiving the structural inequalities that we
(feminist) professors present. She argues that three things may
help deal with this issue.
(1) Discuss how things have changed between the last generation and
the present one.
(2) In talking about differentation between the sexes, start in
areas where differentiation is the widest. For example, women students
in my classes will often refuse to believe that they will face any
discrimination as the doctors and lawyers they want to be. However,
they will believe that they have to structure their lives differently
because they fear being raped. By starting with clear-cut cases, you
can build to the more subtle (yet often as destructive) cases of
(3) Be careful in discussing socialization - paying attention to
the differences within sex groupings in terms of race, ethnicity,
class, etc.  Without discussing these intersections, we present too
simple (and then suspicious) a picture.
Neitz ends the article saying
"We have helped construct a world that is different from the one that
inspired our analyses.  Many of our students understand the world
differently that we did at their age, partly because of our efforts.
The analysis that feminists offer of the world beyond their experience
-- how sex differences become more important after college -- gains
legitimacy in the eyes of the students when their understandings of
the world are not violated."
Personally, there are still times when I want to bang my head against
the wall because my students approach gender and feminism from what
seems to me a skewed viewpoint, but at least I try to understand why
they think the way they do. Good luck with the class - hope this isn't
way too late.
Joya Misra
Emory University
>      first day of class
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1993 16:55:38 -0500
Subject: first day of class
I beg the professors on this list not to bend over backwards to spare the
feelings of the men in your classes.  It saddens me to hear that Rush is
popular among the students of some of you, but defensiveness and apology
do not work in the long run.  Moreover, since the focus of the class should be
about women, if it is a class entitled "The _____ of Women," it is a sad
indication of the pervasiveness of the phallocracy that such a course would
begin with attention to the males in the class.
G. Palazzolo
Science & Technology Studies
Cornell University
gvp1    AT    cornell.edu
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1993 18:38:00 EST
From: dl81 <Deborah_LOUIS AT UMAIL.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: first day of class
Re Palazzolo comment:  If one subscribes to the philosophy of teaching (as
opposed to instructing) that it is the responsibility of the teacher to
bring the student from where s/he is to an enhanced level of comprehension
and/or consciousness, rather than perceiving the student's responsibility
as "getting" what we are "giving," then we are often required to create a
comfort level which allows the student to listen, to consider, to suspend
skepticism, hostility, or resistence for long enough for learning--and, we
hope, attitudinal change--to take place.  It is also common to have to spend
more time in explanation of ideas that are alien or counter to what the
student is used to for the simple reason that s/he is not used to them, they
may be emotionally or ideologically charged, and the culture has not
provided much information about what they are or where they came from.
So, for communication to take place, information to be received rather
than summarily rejected, and learning to occur (if that is one's objective)
we pick up the vibes of the situation and respond accordingly.  If that
means extra effort to allay the (predictable) fears of male students, white
students, heterosexual students, Protestant students, affluent students, or
WHATEVER, depending on the nature of the unfamiliar ideas at hand,
then that's what we do.
There is nothing cowardly or compromising in this.
There is nothing "defensive" in this.
There is, rather, an art form in this, and sharing ways one and another of
us has found to accomplish this feat successfully, it seems to me, is one of
the most appropriate enterprises we might engage in as educators.
DEB LOUIS (DL81    AT    umail.umd.edu)
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1993 20:27:07 EST
Subject: Re: first day of class
This is in response to the idea that college students will have
difficulty recognizing structural gender inequality because of the
relative narrowing of the inequality between college-age men and womyn.
It was suggested that we try to get students to perceive structural
gender inequality by looking at differences between generations.
I do an exercise on the first day of my gender roles course
that addresses occupational changes between generations in the students'
families.  Here's how it works:  I ask them to tell me what kind of
work their grandmother(s) do/did (inside or outside the home).
Then I ask them what kind of work their moms' do/did (inside or
outside the home).  Finally I ask them what kind of work they do,
or are training to do, or wish to do.  I write these occupations
on the board in three separate groups according to generation, and
then ask them to analyze the differences between these groups.
The changes are always evident, and they seem more interested
because it relates to their families. (I do try to guide them toward
the recognition that apparent advances in the status of womyn's jobs
are also accompanied with persistent limitations in the kinds of work
we do.)  I have found this exercise useful to get the students talking
as well as getting them interested in the course material. It also
introduces them to the kind of sociological analyses I present
throughout the class. (Also, I usually ask them to consider only their
female relatives, but a comparison between the male and female lines
might also be instructive.).... I hope this is useful to someone.
- Barrie Gewanter
  Department of Sociology
  Syracuse University
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1993 12:28:00 EDT
Subject: first day of class
I am a seven year veteran Freshman Comp. teacher who finally lost composure
when one of these fans of Rush L. emerged from his seemingly innocent
disguise as a student and decided to poke my consciousness with his poisonous
pins. This student, who I later found out had been expelled from the dorms for
writing anti-semitic and obscene remarks on the noteboards of Jewish students,
seemed unable to hand in a paper without using phrases like "of the femme sex"
or "as a male and therefore someone who doesn't know what he's saying" etc. .
I found in fact, that whenever this fellow mentioned women, including his
mother, that he did so with some derogatory undertone. As a male, he felt that
I somehow had him under attack.
Well, this story is very long, and very ugly. It continues with a visit from
the boy's father and the most pent-up and frustrating term I've ever had to
tolerate. The student argued that his sarcasm and condescending commentary were
a part of "free speech", and this Rush  Limbo (I won't remember the spelling)
proved that I was the one who had a problem, since Rush Limbo is acceptable on
radio and t.v..
Although I had a hard time finding a way to simply flunk this kid, I have
reported his behaviour to psychological counseling. I sympathize with fellow
teachers who incite such craziness just because they are female, or because
they assign the work of women. (Believe it or not, this all started in a paper
on Margaret Mead!) My student says that he has a right to say what he pleases
since this is a "free country". In Freshman Comp. I assign papers with pretty
general topics...now I have to consider how to limit the topics in order to
defend myself from being battered by these reactionary, racist, sexist,
imbalanced creeps. Thank you for this opportunity to vent. Good Luck on your
first day of class.
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1993 17:06:00 MST
From: Barbara Roberts <barbarar AT CS.ATHABASCAU.CA>
Subject: Re: first day of class
The horror story about the nasty antisemitic boy brings
up a point I could use some help with, that is not just
a first day of class occurence (they often wait a bit
til they start to carry on), ie dealing with hostile
(or maybe just oblivious) difficult men in WS classes.
Coul dI repeat this request for info re policy or
discussions of the problem?  Private replies to:
Barbara Roberts, Athabasca University,
barbarar    AT    cs.athabascau.ca    Thanks!
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1993 22:04:52 -0500
Subject: what happened in the first class
    Thanks again for all the responses to what to do on the first day.
    Pam and I passed out a questionnaire.  The last three questions
    1. What is a message you received when growing up regarding female
    (or about females if you are male)?
    2. Who is a woman you admire and why?
    3. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
    We then went around the class and asked students to give their
    answers to one of the 3 questions.  Most answered #2, followed by
    #3, with a few (out of about 30) answering #1.
    Now here's what's interesting.  14 of the students responded to
    the last question with a more or less "yes" answer to question 3,
    do you consider yourself to be a feminist.  They were the only
    students to give non-family members names in response to question
    2.  Although most said their mother or some other relative, Anita
    Hill, Margaret Thatcher (really!), Alice Walker, another faculty
    member, a high school teacher and others were named.
    The rest of the students, who either said no, they were not a
    feminist or said they were unsure listed as as woman they admire
    their mother, grandmother, or a sister.  I think there's a thesis
    Interestingly, no one listed either Hilary Clinton or Barbara
    We plan on asking these three questions at the end of the
    semester.  I hope we get some better answers :)
Arnie Kahn, Psychology, JMU, Harrisonburg, VA 22807     (703) 568-3963 - day
fac_askahn    AT    vax1.acs.jmu.edu (preferred)                 (703) 434-0225 - night
fac_askahn    AT    jmuvax                                       (703) 568-3322 - fax
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1993 08:24:46 -0500
From: Melba Cuddy-Keane <mcuddy AT EPAS.UTORONTO.CA>
Subject: Re: Arnie's questions
I'm extremely impressd by Arnie's approach.  Not only do I like the
questions; I like the way students are encouraged to speak right away
(I agree with people who say that the first thing to do is to get the
students to say ANYTHING, just so they can hear what their own voice
sounds like in the classroom); I like the empowerment given to
students by allowing them to choose which questions to answer;  I like
the idea of returning to the same questions at the end of the course,
partly because it helps you to avoid the temptation to bring about any
closure in the answers.  (I have learned a great deal from questions I
couldn't answer or couldn't answer well in my past...I keep answering
question from my Special Field oral exam hundreds of years ago.)
I am interested however in the detail that not many students chose to
answer question No. 1--the most personal one. Perhaps all the more
reason for definitely keeping this question on the list. When you
return to the questions at the end of the year, I would be interested
to know whether more students answer it.  And then, I wonder if you
might ask them why they did at the end of the class and not at the
beginning--that is, how much was reluctance to be that personal in a
strange group--how much was reluctance to face this question--where
that reluctance came from--and how the course helped to overome it.
Thanks for all the great stuff!
Melba Cuddy-Keane, English, U of Toronto
mcuddy    AT    epas.utoronto.ca
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1993 12:25:08 EST
It is always fun to read Arnie's contributions to the list. His students'
response about women they admire reminded me of when I first went to teach at t
he University of Chicago and Jo Freeman was a graduate student there.  As part
of her program to raise my consciousness, she asked me to name 12 women I
admired.  I was stumped. That was 25 yrs ago, but whatever went on in my
education is still going on. Is it simple modelling, so that altho images of
women may have increased, those who refer to them do so without the respect
that is due? Somehow any explanation must include the fact that notable women a
re lost not nonexistent.  any thoughts?
 --103 SIMS IV, SYRACUSE, NY 13244-1230, USA     (315)443-4580          --
 --Bitnet: JLONG    AT    SUVM        Internet: JLONG    AT    SUVM.ACS.SYR.EDU           --
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1993 16:25:12 U
From: Harrison-Pepper Sally <harrison-pepper_sally AT MSMAIL.MUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: RE: first day of class
For a required "Women & Theatre" course I offered last semester to a group that
was 60% women, 40% men, I began the class by handing out two different colors
of paper to the men & to the women (but steered clear of the pink & blue).  I
asked them to fill out the following sentence:  either "As a woman I....." or
"As a man I...."  I gave them 3 minutes or so to write.  Then, so as not to put
people on the spot too early with personal material, I collected and
redistributed the papers, trying to give the men's papers to other men and the
women's papers to other women, but allowing some slippage.  We then went around
the table and each person read the paper they'd received.  It was incredibly
powerful and gave us enough to talk about the whole week!
Sally Harrison-Pepper
School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Miami University; Oxford, Ohio
Harrison-Pepper_Sally.Western    AT    MSMAIL.MUOHIO.EDU
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1993 11:11:50 EST
Subject: RE: first day of class
I begin introductory courses with activities that set the tone.
There are 4 basics:
1.  Questionnaire:  Each student receives a questionnaire with a few basic
questions:  What does being a woman (man) mean to me?
            What do I like most about being a woman (man)?
            What societal attitudes about women would I like to change?
            What difficulties do I face because I am a woman?  (etc.)
After they fill it out, they break up into groups of 5 to discuss their
responses.  Someone facilitates and reports to the large class.
2.  There is a great "turn around reading for personal liberation" that
describes "Mary's" day (role reversal reading).  Students discuss it.
3.  Questionnaire:  ally-building activity follows a brief reading on
Day 2:  Article by Howard theologian, James S. Tinney, on the inter=
connections between racism, heterosexism and homophobia along with
Cooper Thompson's "A New Vision of Masculinity."
I think that it is imperitive to begin an intro course with strong
readings linking the three:  racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Consuelo Lopez Springfield
Indiana University
cspringf    AT    iubacs.bitnet
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1993 15:12:06 -0500
From: "Dr. Roseanne L. Hoefel" <HOEFEL AT ALMA.EDU>
Subject: M/MLA CAll for Papers on Virginia Woolf
I am taking Pam Olano's lead in using this forum for a conference announcement,
but before I do so, I want to express my immense gratitude for the existence
of such an engaging and instructive network.  I am fairly new to it, and have
been extremely impressed with the dedication implicit in the messages and
responses.  Many thanks, especially, for the excellent ideas on "the first
day of class."  On this matter, may I call your kind attention to the most
recent issue of TRANSFORMATIONS vol. 3, no. 2 (Fall 1992); of particular
interest is Sherry Lee Linkon's fine article, "From Experience to Analysis:
Using Student Discomfort in the Feminist Classroom" (57-66).
[rest of message deleted]
Roseanne Hoefel
Hoefel    AT    alma.edu (Internet)
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1993 18:02:36 -0600
Subject: Another First Day of Class Tale
Today was the first day of my feminist philosophy class and I encountered
a situation pretty different from the nightmare Rush Limbaugh scenarios
I've seen described in recent postings to the list.  We concluded with a
fairly freewheeling discussion of the topic question I proposed, "Many people
 think of [blank] as a feminist, but they're wrong because [blank]."  Naturally
Madonna came up and we had a fairly productive discussion.  Then a young
woman told the rest of the class that she works as a stripper and has a
number of friends who do so too, and that the class's objections to Madonna
were offensive to her because she thinks that she and some of her friends
are feminists too!  I found this a very awkward situation because (a) the
other students showed a tendency to want to jump on her, and (b) she is an
Asian-American woman and I had some thoughts about the problematic representa-
tion of Asian women in the male heterosexual fantasmatic world, but did not
think it was yet the time or place to express these.  The reason I'm writing
is because I am still mulling it all over hours later and feeling that I
lost credibility with the other students because I tried to defend her and
allow her position to be heard, but that I also told her I disagreed for
reasons I couldn't get her to see.  Anyway, just another first-day-of class
saga to add to the record, but if you have reactions or suggestions for
how to pick up in the next class, I'd appreciate hearing them.
Cynthia Freeland
phil7    AT    jetson.uh.edu
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1993 22:15:36 PST
From: Harold Frank <hfrank AT BMF.USC.EDU>
Subject: Re: first day of class
> anyone who has suggestions about hostile mysogynist students please send
> them to the list.  lots of us would like suggestions in this regard..
In my experience, dealing heads-on with hostility rarely works;  when
it does, a basis of trust and understanding already exists between the
parties. That doesn't sound like the situation you have referred to.
Appeals to disinterested third parties for an interpretation of the
dialogue between the two adversaries works best if the interpreter is
perceived as unbiased by the adversaries.
Consider, too, that (according to the report of the President's
Commission on Mental Health -- Rosalyn Carter - Chairwoman-Hon) 1 in 7
Americans suffer from a mental illness at any given time (to be sure,
these include disorders of self-control [i.e. addictions, etc.], as well
as what is more conventionally defined as mental illness).
With such odds, and the collection of defenses -- expressed often with
aggressive behavior, employed by sick people to protect against real
or perceived threats to self-esteem, mysogynist views can be a guise
for mental illness.
I hasten to add that it would be unwise to conclude from what I have
said that anyone who expresses mysogynst views is mentally ill.  It
would also be unwise, in my opinion, to exclude such a condition.
The above notwithstanding, a strategy for dealing with mysogynsts
which employs objectivity, empathy, consensual validation and
arbitration which may in the short run be time consuming, in the long
run will effectively dissuade such people from indulging their own
needs at the expense of women; in the process one may also have the
opportunity to show compassion for persons unable to control
hfrank    AT    mizar.usc.edu
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1993 12:20:00 EST
Subject: Bart's Questionnaire
Because of the number of requests for Paurline Bart's
violence against women questionnaire, the questionnaire was
to be posted last weekend for everyone.  Was it not posted,
or did I not get the message?  I am quite interested
in using the questionaire in my Psych of Women class.
      Regarding a second issue currently being discussed,
first day of class, I used 2 of Arnie Kahn's  questions, and
added one of my own.  I did not include the question
asking whether they believed they were feminists, because
I did this on the 3rd day, and had already given my
definition of a feminist.
   The three questions I asked were:
1.  What is a message you received when growing up regarding females?
2.  Who is a woman you admire and why?
3.  What do you feel is the most important (or an important) issue
     currently facing women?
     The most popular question was 1, then 3, with fewest (5 out
of 32) responding to the 3rd.
     This was an excellent idea, and generated discussion on
various topics.  I would highly recommend it.
    Christine Smith
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1993 17:20:10 EST
Subject: Re: Another First Day of Class Tale
I suggest that you paraphrase Voltaire:
While I may not agree with her opinion, I will fight to the death for
her right to express it.
Miriam Morgan-Alexander
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1993 06:02:00 EST
Subject: Arnie's questions
I, too, used the questions from Arnie's first day of class in my Christian
Marriage class (about 1/2 women and 1/2 men) with approx 45 responding that
a woman personally known to them was the one they admired most.  I also asked
what man they admired most and again 45 (not the same 45) responded with a man
personally known. About 20 named public figures.  There seemed to be no pattern
regarding the responders gender.  The reasons given were pretty much along the
pattern of "they have worked so hard and achieved so much..".  Interestingly
Mother Theresa showed up once but Madonna showed up twice.  Gaile
pohlhaus    AT    vuvaxcom
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 1994 21:15:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject: First Day warm up exercise for Intro. course
The following is an exercise that I have used twice as a
discussion opener for the first day of an intro course.  It
went over very well with one class, and not so well with
Some prefatory information:  The first three paragraphs of
explanation and instruction are used only to set up the
situation.  Although when I first made up the exercise I
fully intended to follow through on later surveys, I never
had any real need for the follow-up.  Discussion of how I use
the results of this exercise follows the end of it.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute this exercise as
long as credit is given to the author.
WMS 101 NeSmith First Day Survey -- J.D.'s Story
    From time to time in this class you will be asked to respond
anonymously to  various questions and problems.  There are two
purposes  for these activities.   First (particularly in the beginning), they
help me get to know my audience for this  class in a way that allows you
to be more honest, since after all you don't know me  any better than I
know you.  Second, they provide "ice breakers" and discussion  initiators.
    Because I want to be able to assess the ways that people are
responding to  the class throughout the semester, I want to be able to
connect statements made at  the beginning by each person with
statements each person makes in the middle and  toward the end.  At the
same time, I want to protect your anonymity.
    To make this possible, I want you to make up a name for yourself --
first  and last.  Choose any name you want as long as it's not too common
(e.g., don't  choose Jane or John, Smith or Jones).  Then -- just in case
two people pick the  same name -- put down a two-digit number that will
be easy for you to remember.   You will need to use this name and
number on subsequent surveys in this class.
Fictional name: __________________________________________
Number:  |___|___|
Your age:  _______      Sex: _____
Year in College: _______
    Please read the following "story" and follow the instructions at the
    Once upon a time there lived a child, whom we shall call J.D.
    J.D. was a very bright, active, headstrong child and often got into
trouble  with adults because J.D. was always questioning everything.
    J.D. taught  J.D.'s self to read when J.D. was only five.  J.D. had a
brilliant imagination.  Above all, J.D. loved fairy tales.  J.D. would imagine
slaying  fierce dragons and saving J.D.'s parents from the dragons'
    J.D. loved to run fast and hard across the fields near J.D.'s home.
J.D.'s  body was as strong as J.D.'s mind.
    J.D. was also very kind and gentle.  J.D. was particularly fond of
babies  and small furry animals.  J.D. had several younger siblings and
enjoyed taking care  of them.  Besides protecting J.D.'s parents from
dragons, the imaginary game J.D.  liked best of all was to play house with
J.D.'s siblings.
    As J.D. grew up it became very clear that J.D. was particularly
good at  getting friends and classmates to cooperate with each other and
organize toward accomplishing a common goal.
    J.D. was  very confident about what J.D. could be and do.  J.D.
was good  in science and math, but also could write beautiful stories and
poems.  J.D. was  very good in sports, particularly basketball and
baseball.  And J.D. was a champion  marathon runner.
    But J.D. also enjoyed ballet and was well known for being a
sensitive and  graceful dancer.
    Finish this story.  Give J.D. a complete name.  Describe J.D. and
J.D.'s  childhood and adult life in as much detail as you can imagine.
Keep writing until  you are told to stop.  Use the back of this page and
add any pages that you need.
    Since students are assured of anonymity, I don't ask
them to talk about the stories they wrote.  I just ask
whether J.D. in their stories was male or female, and why.
J.D. follows some stereotypes for males and some stereotypes
for females, so they have to work their way through what
appears to be contradictions galore.  The point of the
discussion is to bring to light the reasoning processes
whereby they assign gender to this child.
Note that it is
not actually necessary to assign masculinity or femininity to
J.D. -- it is possible to come up with a gender-neutral name
and to avoid using gender-specific pronouns, as is the case
in the story itself.  I've not had anyone do that yet, but if
it were to happen, that would further the discussion.  One
can also get into issues of authority and rebellion -- many
of my students have made J.D. naughty and dangerous (whether male or
female) because of the second paragraph.
One could bring in race and class by asking students to assign JD to
whatever racial categories they imagine to be appropriate for J.D.,
and asking students to write briefly about J.D.'s parents, what they
do for a living, etc.  I have not done that yet and I don't know how
it would work.  It was only in the process of setting this up for transmission
that I  realized that this exercise ignores class and
race as elements in the construction of gender.  Homophobia comes up
only if someone decides J.D. is male (because of other clues) but
has to be gay because he's a sensitive, graceful ballet dancer.
I'd welcome any suggestions about how to bring those issues closer
to the center in this exercise.
Georgia NeSmith
gnesmith    AT    acspr1.acs.brockport.edu

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