Reader query: rules for classroom discussion?

A reader requested some discussion of how best to run seminars in such as way as to make female students feel maximally comfortable. Are there any “rules” that people mention to the students, beyond the usual suspects (let people finish talking, don’t dominate the discussion, be charitable etc.) Or any other tips and tricks?

Men Writing About Sexism (Well) and the Phenomenology of Doing Feminism

This recent article from the video game site Rock, Paper, Shotgun (RPS)  is a well-written article about sexism in the gaming industry.  (All quotes below are from the article.)

Game Developers Conference 2013

Even if you are not particularly interested in the intersection of feminism and video games, the article touches on an emotionally charged sub-topic: the phenomenology of social justice, a.k.a., the weird psychological and epistemological stuff that happens when we partake in these discussions.

“In having written about the subject of women and games over the years, I’ve received a significant amount of abuse. (I’m not going to fret about saying, “But of course not as bad as…”, because of course it’s not as bad as…) Most of the abuse I receive is lazy insults, and until recently I tended to assume them fairly innocuous. Some has been extreme, such as forum threads dedicated to associating my name with acts of child molestation to skew Google results, personal threats, and deeply personal insults. All of it has one purpose: to intimidate.”


It is reassuring and interesting when other people talk about the psychological effects of the backlash for talking about the -isms.  Also, it’s impressive when a guy writes about the backlash he receives and I find myself genuinely sympathetic because he ‘gets it’.


“Generally the motivation for my writing any sort of polemic on RPS is because I’m angry about something – constructively angry about something a person should be angry about – and I want to see positive change. That’s what causes me to start typing, including this piece. But as I go along, those words creep in. “You’re just saying this to win the approval of others.” “You’re just trying to make girls like you.” “You think women need you to stand up for them.” And so on. They get to me. They’re getting to me right now. They’re evil spells, cast to insidiously infect.”


So I want to ask people about their own experiences with studying the -isms.  I find the phenomenal and psychological aspects of engaging in social justice projects fascinating because I am going through a (for lack of a better term) paradigm shift in how I understand the norms of human action.  In short, I’m shedding the worldview of pull-your-self-up-by-your-bootstraps atomized individualism that I grew up with and adopting a more…sociological?…understanding of human interaction.  Things I used to hold as mantras I now see as false:  It does matter what other people think of you; words can do more than break bones–they can rend souls; and there is no such thing as a self sufficient person–only a really privileged person who gets to enjoy the illusion of self sufficiency.


Have other people experienced things like this?  Do you look back five or ten or twenty years in the past and realize you had a completely different understanding of how the world works?  Do you struggle with managing the psychological aspects of using feminism in your work? (e.g. intimidation, isolation, social disapproval, wondering if you are insane or totally misled, etc.)  I find these things creeping in whenever I write or say anything about the -isms. They get to me.  It helps to know they get to other people, too.