Ideas for first day of feminist philosophy class?

A reader writes:

I will soon be teaching a class on feminist philosophy. It has been a while since I taught this class. I was wondering what people do for the first day of class? I am thinking of asking people about what they think feminism is, but I’d appreciate hearing other suggestions.

For the first day, I thought about talking about some topical news things e.g. the media reaction to Caitlin Jenner’s coming out. But I wonder if that is too much too soon, especially since there might be trans students in class for whom people’s comments could be taken deeply personally.

In general, I am wondering how to encourage students to think analytically and philosophically, and expect to have their personal views challenged, but also bring their passion to the topic. If there is something that has worked for you, I’d love to hear it. Thanks!

Btw, I am using the _Feminist Theory_ anthology by Ann Cudd and Robin Andreasen, and also _Feminism: Issues and Arguments, by Jennifer Saul, plus PDFS of some articles.

Do leave your suggestions in comments!

9 thoughts on “Ideas for first day of feminist philosophy class?

  1. Last time I taught it, I had students write in their own notebooks what they thought feminism was, but then I told them we’d return to those on the last day of class, which we did. I told them to do the same thing, without looking back at what they had written earlier until they finished writing their thoughts. We then talked about not just the differences between their thoughts earlier and later in the term, but about what readings and discussions had most transformed their thoughts and what they wish others knew about feminism.

  2. I prize in-class discussion and so I want to get them talking from the very beginning. So in feminist philosophy classes I play music videos from different decades and just let them discuss the role of women and men depicted in them.

  3. I tend to start a feminist philosophy course with giving a preview of what’s to be covered, then about an hour’s discussion of feminism and whether people are feminists, or not, what they take feminism to be; and then for the last half hour or so go on to introduce them to feminist philosophy and get their initial responses. I’m thinking this coming year of taking along a ‘fact-sheet’ about things on wage inequalities, etc., because I find that every year certain things come up again and again, in the first session, namely people being surprised at the extent of gender inequality that still exists. On the other hand, I don’t want to close down discussion, so I’m not yet decided how to handle this.

  4. Jill, I love your idea. I’ve had students do log-books before which worked out similarly but I think I’ll adopt your idea this time!

  5. I do a variant of the fact-sheet. I have some facts, but with blanks for the students to try to guess the right figures. Then we discuss what surprised them.

  6. I would probably construct a narrative of history and waves of feminism, rights fought for, thinkers associated with their respective eras, up to contemporary feminist thought.

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