I’m very worried about the way that students in my discipline are approaching issues related to topics like transnational feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and others. There’s nothing wrong with the way that it’s being taught by my professors, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the materials that we’re using. But the way that the students in my class are responding to it is both irritating and troubling.

Today, for instance, my professor was interrupted and then two minutes of class time were taken up by a student who wanted to discuss how she felt if she was in the position of being a trans-national adoptee, what she would feel about it. We finally got a chance to move on, then, like clockwork, another student piped up about how she would respond to a situation of having recently discovered relatives living in poverty in the global south asking her to sponsor/provide for them, as the woman from the film, Daughter from Da Nang, discovered.

Have you guessed yet from my sarcastic italics what my problem is with this approach?

For the first two years of a Women’s Studies degree, professors place a lot of emphasis on making issues of feminism and feminist theory relevant to the lives of their students, who are, on average, white, middle class Canadian women between the ages of 18 and 25. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, it’s important to have people understand that these issues aren’t confined to a textbook or that feminism is only relevant to Other women. However, that means that, by the time they reach more theoretical issues at a global scale in their third and fourth year classes, a lot of these students are practically groomed to see issues exclusively through their own perspectives. They haven’t been given the appropriate tools to imagine cultures, truths, and realities different from their own, and so their default is to go back to themselves as a base for analysis and perception.

I’m hoping that perhaps this year is a stepping stone, transitory year, when students can realize that their own life experiences and their own perceptions aren’t always the best basis of analysis or comparison, and they learn to let go of the idea that it must always go back to them and how they feel about a situation. Otherwise, it looks like I have a long year of “I could never do that!” and “I would do something different!” to look forward to in my classes…

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