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2 Maria and Courtney: Former Students’ Interpretations of Engaging with Resistance

2 Maria and Courtney: Former Students’ Interpretations of Engaging with Resistance

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instructors to realize that using resistance as a teaching strategy may be frustrating

or alienating for students who do not fall into that category. As feminist students, we

saw Patti as an ally capable of mirroring or validating our frustrations with day-today gender inequalities. We hoped that she would confront students in the class who

voiced ideas that were intentionally or unintentionally sexist. In fact, when we were

undergraduates taking our first gender class with Patti, we at times felt disheartened

by her ability to remain so collected and fair when confronted with extremely gendered comments from our classmates. Why was she giving him/her a platform to

speak that? How is her blood not boiling or face contorting in reaction to these comments/questions? Why doesn’t she confront them and “set them straight?” We

wanted confirmation that she too was outraged by what we perceived to be ignorance reflected in the comments of our classmates. After gaining a bit of experience

instructing students ourselves, we now see that Patti’s approaches are far more

effective in cultivating a productive learning environment. Further, using student

resistance as a teaching tactic helps students see how their own personal backgrounds, assumptions, and viewpoints can be examined sociologically alongside the

official course material.

For example, Courtney remembers lecturing on Adrienne Rich’s (1980) classic,

“Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” which compelled one seemingly annoyed student to ask, “Why is she (Rich) so angry?” This somewhat mirrors

the charges of “male-bashing” Moore (1997) endured as she taught courses on gender. Courtney’s first thought was to counter the question harshly with something

like, “Well, let me tell you why she was angry!” But, as Moore points out, students

often evaluate women teaching about feminist issues as less scientific, politically

motivated, and biased from the outset. Thus, a harsh response likely would have

brought the discussion to a halt and deterred other sincere questions. Instead, an

instance like this is an excellent opportunity for an instructor to cast one student’s

question onto the entire class to commence a productive discussion and exercise in

self-reflexivity. Using student resistance as a pedagogical tool (as opposed to

explicit confrontation) not only teaches about gender and critical thinking regarding

gender, but it also demonstrates what feminist theory looks and feels like (e.g.,

Carillo 2007). In other words, students are not treated as mere passive recipients of

instruction, but are themselves worthy of sociological reflection and interrogation.

By deliberately making student resistance a topic of classroom discussion, Patti

encourages and promotes self-reflexivity among her students. This is an effective

strategy for easing students into discussions of gender inequality. Popular media

and common discourse frame feminists and gender scholars as bastions of biased

liberal propaganda and anti-male rhetoric (Grauerholz and Baker-Sperry 2007).

However, from our experiences, real-life sightings of such stereotyped feminists

and gender scholars are not unlike those of the Loch Ness Monster. Yet, we know

that many students arrive to discussions of gender with their guards up. Rather than

promote discussion and learning, confrontational approaches to teaching may compel students to disengage or perhaps grow dismissive of their professor entirely.

It is easy for students to forget that our professors have viewpoints. They do not

live and teach inside vacuums; their viewpoints have been shaped by years of



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personal and academic experiences with the topics many of us are only beginning to

read about. Certainly, we hope our professors are conscientious about how they

wield their intellectual power. But sometimes, perhaps more so at the graduate level,

we seek their genuine opinions and where they stand on certain topics or issues. At

this point in our education, we are developing a better grasp of how objectivity and

subjectivity are established and generally treated in academia as binary oppositions.

While a graduate student, Courtney recalls a little disappointment with how seemingly neutral Patti remained in class discussions of controversial topics. Though

interested in what her classmates had to say, Courtney thought hearing Patti’s experiences and perspectives could have provided some additional context and substance

to her graduate seminar discussions. Unfortunately, as Messner (2000) points out,

the success of pushing students to think critically about gender might depend

heavily on the gender (not to mention the race/ethnicity, sexual orientation) of the

professor.

Patti’s practice of encouraging students to interrogate their own resistance led to

enthusiastic and respectful discussions among contrasting viewpoints. It also established a space in which many students heard opinions and perspectives largely

absent in their own homogenous social circles. Oftentimes, as students in university

classrooms, we naively assume everyone thinks the way we do. It is important to be

made aware that that is not the case. Patti’s strategy of encouraging students to interrogate their own resistance gives students opportunities to explain their perspectives. Courtney recalls an undergraduate classroom discussion in which Patti asked

students to discuss whether or not the military physical fitness standards should

differ based on gender. Responses varied greatly, and some clearly relied on assumptions of biological determinism. Never once during the discussion did Patti rebuke

a student or privilege one viewpoint over another. She cultivated a non-threatening

environment in which all students could feel equally entitled to share their viewpoints. After each student comment, Patti asked who agreed or disagreed and why.

She then asked the class to reflect on the potential assumptions of gender underlying

their viewpoints. By encouraging students to voice their perspectives and opinions,

Patti’s strategy opens the door for students to respectfully challenge viewpoints they

disagree with in a safe and productive environment.

Similarly, Maria recalls an experience in an undergraduate gender class with

Patti in which students disagreed with, and even argued over, the notion that gender

was a social construct. In an introductory gender course, it is understandable that

undergraduate students new to sociology will be ignorant of the sociological concepts that more experienced students and feminist students may already be privy

too. At the time, Maria was frustrated that Patti didn’t correct the students authoritatively. For Maria, it was important to confront that kind of misinformed thinking

outright in order to “show them” and make them “get it.” However, Patti’s tactic in

remaining neutral and allowing both sides to discuss the topic of social constructionism, allowed the undergraduates to be more receptive to the evidence

presented.

One strategy that Maria has used in her own student teaching is to use a group

exercise in which she asks students to offer adjectives that describe “acting like a



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lady” and “being a man.” As students offer their suggestions out loud, she writes

them on the board. After, she discusses the two gender “boxes” revealing the gendered assumptions we have about what it means to be a man or a woman. She then

uses sociological evidence and imagery from the media to show how these messages are culturally constructed and constantly reinforced. This exercise encouraged group participation and exploration of student resistance by making apparent

gendered assumptions.

A professor who takes a more authoritarian approach, and confrontationally

shuts down dissent, makes the classroom inhospitable to students with opposing

views. Thus, out of fear of embarrassment or punishment, dissenting opinions are

never voiced. This just perpetuates the myth of homogenous perspectives on gender

and the unintentional (or intentional) “indoctrination” of the professor’s viewpoint.

After taking a subsequent course of Patti’s on gender, Courtney reflected on the

question Patti posed about military physical fitness expectations. She realized that

her own in-class response, that men and women should be measured against the

same fitness standards, was problematic because it ignored the history, structure,

and real-world applicability of such fitness tests. Had Patti challenged her response

a bit more directly, Courtney may have confronted her own gendered assumptions

earlier than she did. Patti’s approach can inadvertently result in some resistant, less

“gender aware,” and/or simply uninformed students, especially those who never

take another course on gender, never knowing their assumptions and viewpoints are

implicitly sexist. Ultimately, for progressive students such as ourselves, it is important we not forget that alternative viewpoints on gender exist even within the university’s walls. By experiencing these strategies firsthand, we have learned how to

more constructively handle dissent in our own personal and academic interactions.



18.3



Conclusion



We continue to mull over a few questions about how best to teach about gender and

engage with resistance. First, what is more important: feminist teaching or teaching

feminism (Weitz 2010)? These two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Instructors can teach in a less authoritarian, collaborative, and feminist manner and

not teach about gender inequality. Likewise, they can teach about feminism in an

authoritarian way without attempting to engage students critically (e.g., do pure

lecturing without discussion). At the undergraduate level, “the F-word” (feminism)

has such a strong stigma that collaborative feminist teaching could have the potential to be more effective than teaching feminism. Even some graduate students (generally those who have never taken a gender course) cling to the tired, negative

stereotypes of feminism.

Second, what happens if resistant students simply do not get it (i.e., are never

able to think critically about gender inequality and decrease antagonism towards the

course material) using the aforementioned strategies? Regardless of how faculty

teach their students, there will be some classes that are more challenging than



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others. In past semesters, some of Patti’s progressive students were disenchanted

with the class. They told her or indicated on student evaluations that her class and

teaching techniques were not radical enough, or, were frustrated that she allowed

resistant students to voice their ideas. Although a rare occurrence, there were other

semesters in which socially conservative students seemed to dominate some of

Patti’s class meetings to the detriment of the lectures and discussions. Fortunately,

instructors can learn from those difficult semesters and “try again.” We can make

notes after each class meeting about what seemed to contribute to or alleviate various forms of resistance and shape discussion questions differently during the subsequent semester. We also suggest that faculty remind students about the diversity of

perspectives in their courses. For example, Patti tells her classes that there is a range

of perspectives on sexuality and gender and that there will be students in class who

think that her class is not radical enough, and others who think that it is extremely

radical. This statement alone often helps students to understand why different

groups of students might feel frustrated with the course material (and for different

reasons).

Third, is it important for professors to distance themselves from their standpoints

while the class is exploring resistance? Whether and how instructors distance themselves from how they “really feel” in relation to the material will vary by the class

and university context, as well as their own status (e.g., untenured faculty might feel

less comfortable and safe, and distance more than tenured faculty), and social locations (race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity).

Finally, as students, we (Maria and Courtney) did feel frustrated at times with the

students who didn’t get it. We also felt frustrated with the less confrontational strategies that Patti used with resistant students. To what extent was that our own manifestation of “difference feminism” and the challenge of seeing others’ standpoints

(see Weitz 2010)? Or was that our own expectations of traditional authoritarian

styles of learning (Carillo 2007)? Students have come to expect absolute objectivity

(and assume it’s possible) within the classroom walls.

Faculty who are teaching about gender inequality can engage with these questions as they deal with student resistance. We do not believe that there is one right

way of teaching about gender, but there are some methods that are more likely to

foster students’ critical thinking. We realize that there are possible criticisms of

Patti’s strategic engagement with student resistance. It can be seen as pandering to

more socially conservative or proudly biased students instead of confronting them.

Perhaps it weakens or softens the social justice message. Likewise, using resistance

as a teaching strategy can be a form of “implicit feminism” (Giffort 2011; Weitz

2010). Despite these valid critiques, we believe that it might also lead to more critical awareness and civility. Each student deserves an opportunity to learn, and the

university classroom is a unique space where such opportunities can safely intersect

with a multitude of, at times, disparate viewpoints. Using student resistance as a

pedagogical tool gets students to reflect on themselves and the world around them

in ways they might not be willingly to do if approached in other ways. In our social

media era where comments to news articles and You Tube clips about gender are



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frequently brutal, ruthless, angry, hostile, and at times, frightening, students must

learn how to disagree civilly and listen to and understand opposing voices and experiences. In our view, we must model that for them.



References

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Bellas, M. (1999). Emotional labor in academia: The case of professors. Annals of the American

Academy of Political and Social Science, 561, 96–110.

Carillo, E. (2007). ‘Feminist’ teaching/teaching ‘feminism’. Feminist Teacher, 18(1), 28–40.

Connell, C. (2015). School’s out: Gay and lesbian teachers in the classroom. Berkeley: University

of California Press.

Copp, M., & Kleinman, S. (2008). Practicing what we teach: Feminist strategies for teaching about

sexism. Feminist Teacher, 18(2), 101–124.

Davis, N. J. (1992). Teaching about inequality: Student resistance, paralysis, and rage. Teaching

Sociology, 20, 232–238.

Ergun, E. (2013). Negotiating the geopolitics of student resistance in global feminisms classrooms.

Feminist Teacher, 23(2), 83–104.

Giffort, D. M. (2011). Show and tell? Feminist dilemmas and implicit feminism at girls’ rock

camp. Gender & Society, 25(5), 569–588.

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recommendations. Gender & Society, 21(2), 272–294.

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Teaching Sociology, 37, 283–293.

Messner, M. (2000). White guy habitus in the classroom: Challenging the reproduction of privilege. Men and Masculinities, 2(4), 457–469.

Moore, M. (1997). Student reactions to course content: Reactions to the gender of the messenger.

Teaching Sociology, 25, 128–133.

Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Signs, 5, 631–660.

Waring, C. D. L., & Bordoloi, S. D. (2012). ‘Hopping on the tips of a trident’: Two graduate students of color reflect on teaching critical content at predominantly white institutions. Feminist

Teacher, 22(2), 108–124.

Webber, M. (2005). ‘Don’t be so feminist’: Exploring student resistance to feminist approaches in

a Canadian university. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28(2–3), 181–189.

Weitz, R. (2010). Teaching dangerously: When feminisms collide. Feminist Teacher, 20(3),

226–236.

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Sociology, 36, 49–57.



Chapter 19



Learning for a Change: Rage and the Promise

of the Feminist Classroom

Deborah J. Cohan



…We’re not making this fight to be fighting but because we want to get to someplace else,

where tenderness is possible. (June Jordan, in A Place of Rage, 1991)



Sociology and gender studies devote considerable attention to the study of social

inequalities and offer something special for thinking through rage. These classes

give voice to conditions, arrangements, and rituals that can otherwise go unspoken

and unnamed. The knowledge explosion generated by feminism, and the activism

that sustains it, is largely fueled by rage. According to Dr. Christine Northrup,

author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional

Health and Healing, anger can be a large part of one’s inner sense of voice in a positive way. She writes:

…anger can be a powerful ally. When we feel angry, the anger is always related to something we need to acknowledge for ourselves…Anger is energy - our personal jet fuel. It is

telling us that something needs adjustment in our lives. It is telling us that there is something we want that we don’t know we want. Next time you get angry, say to yourself, ‘Ah!

My inner guidance is working. What is it I want here? What do I want to have happen here?

Anger is often an expression of the energy required to make that adjustment. This emotion

is dangerous only if we deny it and stuff it in our bodies. Anger and all other ‘negative’

emotions can serve us well when we don’t turn them in on ourselves as depression or lash

out with them against others. (1998, 603–604)



Rage begins the process of educating for critical consciousness and serves as a catalyst for thinking about personal and social change. Talking about rage with students

can be used as an analytic tool to synthesize “personal troubles” and “public issues”

(Mills 1959) and to foster a sociological and feminist imagination to “talk back”

(hooks 1989) to structures of domination. In learning about rage, it is crucial for

students to see the connection between emotion and social structure.



D.J. Cohan (*)

University of South Carolina Beaufort, Beaufort, SC, USA

e-mail: dcohan@uscb.edu

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

K. Haltinner, R. Pilgeram (eds.), Teaching Gender and Sex

in Contemporary America, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30364-2_19



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This chapter offers a new concept, pedagogical rage, for considering the positive

and transformative dimensions of rage in classrooms. The following overarching

questions help to frame my thinking and guide my teaching philosophy and

practice:

1. What is the value in thinking about the emotional life of the classroom?

2. Is the classroom an appropriate site for struggling with intense emotion such as

rage?

3. In teaching and learning about inequalities, how is rage a helpful and necessary

tool for shifting consciousness?

4. How do students come to consciousness around rage and how are discussions

productively and safely negotiated and managed?

Rage is a predictable, desirable, and courageous response to unpredictable,

undesirable, and outrageous social conditions and structural inequalities. Rage is a

dynamic emotional experience that has the potential to move a person out of complacency and comfort, and can be a wellspring of connection, transformation and

love. In class, I try to foster a fundamental paradigmatic shift in the way in which

rage is internalized, used and perceived. Offering students the possibility to work

with rage provides them the opportunity to work with what might move them. To

understand my students’ rage, I make a commitment to be with them as they touch

places of anguish, some for the very first time.



19.1



What Lives in the Room



Some years ago I was at a faculty meeting. Zooming in and out of vision on

PowerPoint slides were dismal projections for enrollment and mind-numbing

assessment criteria. In spite of all the numbers whipping around me, I found myself

distracted and compulsively reciting different math in my head. I was teaching multiple sections of Family Violence. I did a head count.

I was consumed with this: three women students were raped by their grandfathers. Papa. Grampy. Sweet old man. Child molester. One student’s husband played

Russian roulette and put a gun in her mouth. One had a penis shoved in her mouth

while another man raped her. One woman swallowed bleach and tried to hang herself after multiple assaults.

The math in my head told me we need to get angry about the voices muffled by

hands, pillows, penises and fear, about the trauma my students endure that make

their spirits tumble; the voices that make my own heart break over and over but that

compel me to teach. It is like I am doing tattoo removal with colonized people.

Softening the searing marks on their skin, I try, with whatever grace I can muster,

to know, as one former student calls it, “the topography of their scars.” Changing

the message left by the abuser of “I was here” to a new message emblazoned with

righteous rage on the part of the student to reveal, “Hey, you don’t live here anymore. But, I do. And now I really will.”



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It is years later and I find myself teaching in another state, in a different region

of the country, still consumed with all that lives in the room. Recently, a student

said, “Every time I leave class, I think maybe I am in an abusive relationship. It

makes me so angry.” In addition to listening and providing resources, I responded:

“As Gloria Steinem once said: ‘The truth will set you free but first it will piss you

off.’ I am glad I could start by pissing you off.”

Now, I mentor the student who lost her brother in the attacks on the Pentagon on

9/11, and when she tried to end an abusive relationship with her girlfriend, girlfriend

shot her in the abdomen. There’s the student whose mother was beaten in the belly

when she was pregnant with her and her twin sister, the sister died from this, and she

misses the sibling she never got to know. There’s the student whose stepfather anally

raped her so her mother wouldn’t believe she was molested, and when she eventually tried to tell her mother she was told, “But there’s never been bloody underwear.

You’re still a virgin.” There’s the student who was sexually abused when he was

stationed in Afghanistan but had no idea how to tell his wife. There’s the man who

saw his father hold a gun to his mother’s head when he was only 5, and then in his

teens, he was raped by his drug dealer; later when he was 16, he raped a 14 year-old

girl, and due to extreme self-loathing about this, proceeded to cut himself on his arm

147 times later that very same night. There’s the student whose father, a pastor, beat

him with electrical cords. There are the female students stalked by ex-boyfriends

and the students whose mothers were so badly abused that they turned to drugs and

alcohol and have rendered themselves non-functioning parents. There’s the woman

last semester who, when we had a guest speaker come to talk about surviving violence, impatiently asked about victim provocation and how mothers could put their

children through this. And, then on the last day of the semester, she said that despite

how defensive she had gotten previously, she related to all the talk of abuse. She told

the class that as a young girl, she’d retreat to her bedroom to escape her father’s

wrath, and as a way to soothe herself, she sang Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime.”

Then, she treated the class with the gift of song:

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing

And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky

But ‘til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you

With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by.



These are classrooms saturated with heartache, fear, rage, and ultimately, hope.



19.2



Shifting Consciousness Around Rage



In the culture, rage is often equated with a fury of emotions so explosive and undesirable that one rarely differentiates between rage and violence. Typically, many of

my women students have trouble at first imagining their role in assuming a stance

of rage that is not related to being violent. This is largely because rage has been used

against women at every turn. When men’s violence directed at them is incorrectly



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framed as uncontrollable rage rather than understood as part of a patterned, structured system of domination, or when any of women’s emotional or gut-level

responses are minimized or dismissed as PMS raging hysteria, women’s access to

righteous rage related to inequality is extinguished. Students have also learned to

take their rage and channel it inward through debilitating forms of self-harm.

Innovative teaching about rage with women means re-appropriating emotion that is

deemed abhorrent and aberrant for women to express. Teaching about rage with

men means re-directing how they have been socialized, and how they may have

over-conformed, to use rage against other men and women in the form of violence;

thus, fresh energy is spent in my classes on how to become more courageous allies.



19.3



‘Coming of Rage’1



If we imagine that a class is a journey we travel with students, then rage is a compass. It shows us where we’ve been and the direction we’re headed and affords us

the opportunity to transgress, pushing us toward clarity and our eventual destination. In a sense, rage becomes a location, a site that provides a unique vantage point

for self-reflexivity and observing the world. Rage too, becomes a site that births

activism.

I am concerned with how students get to rage and what they do when they have

found it. There is often the sense that rage is not an entirely new-found emotional

state, but rather has remained dormant due to self-imposed restraint coupled with a

lack of support for constructive rage. Consequently, rage initiates a process of reinventing identity. When students come face to face with their rage, its disquieting

effects and life altering possibilities, they begin to recognize rage’s potential for

transforming fear and invisibility. Rage is the cornerstone from which a new selfconcept is carved and redesigned. As students become acquainted with rage, they

often begin to realize that others they are close to may be receiving and perceiving

them differently. Sometimes students are bewildered and pained by others’ reactions. At the same time that tapping into rage is tweaking with their own selfconcept, others’ responses are further tweaking their self-concepts. Particular

attention will be paid to how students make sense of rage through learning about

violence and embodiment. Written documents from former students are a significant source of information that I draw upon here. Such documents include: paper

and journal assignments written especially for my classes, letters that students have

written to me over the years, and editorials that students submitted to campus newspapers. It is important to note that I have never set out to have students write on rage

per se, nor did I purposely orchestrate classroom discussions to suit this study.

Sometimes, the course materials I select have an undercurrent of rage, and at other

times, rage is front and center in the readings. Rage tends to be more explicit and

raw when I assign creative nonfiction, memoir, and poetry. Students become

1



This subtitle is taken from a former student’s paper with the same title.



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grounded in writers’ rage and see how rage generates a sense of meaning and purpose, a way of knowing, a place of being in the world, and the construction of a

theoretical framework. Perhaps, most importantly, students come to trust their own

rage when they can see it as a moral, rational response to immoral, irrational social

conditions. In a world that teaches girls and women to minimize and deny their feelings about their bodies and traumatic experiences, and at a time when our national

campus climate reinforces this, it is no small feat for students to touch and trust their

own, and each other’s, rage.

A student, Rochelle, remarks on her previous urge to make rage go away and her

newfound desire to embrace it. Drawing on a class reading, she underscores feminist theory’s significance in her self-actualization:

Never before had I identified with rage. Not that I do not know rage. I have met rage on the

city sidewalk when a boy I knew, enraged with the world, threatened to kill me. Yet

throughout my life I have rationalized rage to be an immature, irrational response to the

world. Rage that envelops those politicians, those feminist bra burners, those homophobic

hypocrites – not me. Of course, I have fleeting moments of unabashed rage. In Technical

Difficulties, June Jordan remembers ‘the rage that convulsed my body and my mind and my

imagination when I learned about the racist bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

in Birmingham and the murder of the Black children.’ I was not alive to fully engage in that

experience, but I felt anger when my middle school teacher first shocked me with this unexposed history; I clench my fists at racism…the world mocks my moments of rage. .... I ask

myself, how can I not identify with rage? I have a right, as Jordan voices, to ‘the incredibly

outgoing energy – of righteous rage’. (1992)



I invite students to construct projects that maximize on their talents and creativity in

documentary film, poetry, art, and music; consequently, I see students’ work with

rage in a variety of innovative forms. I find that through these alternative venues,

students process rage in ways that reveal strength and vulnerability in their expression and that assist them in discovering their voices. Rochelle wrote, “These things

that I once thought were ‘normal’ or ‘just the way the world was,’ I am now realizing are not the way things should be, and that I do have a right, and even a responsibility, to do something about them.” In the following excerpts from Rochelle’s

poem, she shows how rage challenges her to look at the world taken-for-granted,

especially related to intersectionality and violence:

…And so I realized that I feel rage.

Rage because I denied my heritage.

I always dreamed of the day that I could bleach my skin,

and dye my hair

so that I too

could be beautiful.

I denied the fact that I was Mexican,

‘What are you talking about, I’m not a beaner, I’m Italian.’

And when I went home to ask my mother what a beaner was,

she looked at me as if I had done something terribly, terribly wrong.

‘Don’t say that, that’s a bad word,’ she said to me.

You see,

we weren’t supposed to talk about those things.

Well today, I’m tired of the silence.



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Today I’m ready to cause an uproar.

And so I realized that I feel rage.

Rage because I can’t walk home at night by myself.

I have to call a big strong man to help me.

And rage because when I look outside to see billboards, magazines,

newspapers, television, and advertisements,

I have to see my sex,

my gender

and my body being turned into a commodity.

Rage because hundreds of thousands of girls have to starve themselves,

(I was 15, weighed 105 at 5′4, and passed out daily from starvation),

in order to be beautiful and gain control over some aspect of their lives.

And I feel rage because I wake up every night in a cold sweat,

with looming images towering above

in my mind

because he wanted the ultimate male power trip.

But of course I thought it was me that ‘did something wrong.’

And rage because I grew up saying ‘I don’t want to be a dumb girl’

Where the hell did I learn to think like that?

I grew up thinking that it was bad and wrong to feel anything or to express any emotion –

that would be far, far too ‘girlie.’

And because I still can’t even recognize,

or admit all the ways that I am oppressed simply because

I was born without a dick,

simply because I was born a woman…



19.4



Teaching Rage: ‘A Choiceless Decision’



Not teaching about rage is unimaginable to me because rage has, in essence, become

a “choiceless decision” (Aretxaga 1997). Some students’ writing echoes this lifelong commitment to re-thinking rage and resistance. Here, Jill explains:

I remember my teenage marriage to a man who did not permit me to have friends, who did

not permit me to work and who once told me he wished he could put blinders on me when

we drove in the car so that he could make sure I wasn’t looking at other men…He yelled at

me for putting on lipstick and I turned to him and said, ‘I’m sorry but you have to leave.’

He was so stunned that I suddenly had a voice…I was fired because I was rarely able to

show up; my ex-husband vandalized my car so that it was not able to function…I found

work as a nanny but it was barely paying my bills…I contemplated exotic dancing…I

ended up working as a manager at a men’s clothing store. I received letters from customers

with phone numbers. It was embarrassing, yet upper management was thrilled. Except,

there was a psycho who began putting flowers and cards on my car. I had to be escorted by

security. They threw him out of the store. He would call my house. I was afraid…I left to

sell cars…The harassment there was more than I could take. Then…I was on my way home

from a career fair when I got lost due to construction on the streets. I got out of my car to

go into a store to ask for directions. As I went back to my car someone attacked me…The

police said there was nothing they could do as I could not give them a location of the attack

or a very good description…Now I am angry.... I understand rage....



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2 Maria and Courtney: Former Students’ Interpretations of Engaging with Resistance

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