faster feminism

Faster Feminism Spotlight: Dr. Tasia Alexopoulos

Dr. Tasia Alexopoulos is a teacher of gender studies and history and a reproductive justice educator. Her research interests vary from polygamy laws in Canada and the United States to horror films and she has published in Somatechnics, MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture, and Feminist Foreign Policy.

The Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series had the honour of hosting Dr. Alexopoulos as the final speaker of the 2020 – 2021 year. It was especially wonderful to have Dr. Alexopoulos as she was scheduled to give a talk in…March of 2020 and we decided to postpone for a few weeks “to see how the covid-thing would go.” Her talk is entitled “Scorpionflies, Bed bugs, and Ducks: Exploring Polygamy and Sexual Violence in Canadian Legal Policy ,” and she has given us permission to share it with you here. Thank you to everyone who has supported the series this year. We look forward to returning in the fall of 2021!

Dr. Tasia Alexopoulos gave her talk on March 26, 2021.

Keeping Company

This is a companion piece to Lily Cho’s Still Grieving: Atlanta. It is written in consultation with her. All italicized lines are from Lily’s post.

I have been grieving in private, scared alone, but I know that my grief is not my own and I am not the only one who is afraid. 

Lily Cho—Associate Dean, respected scholar, brilliant writer, sartorial witch, colleague, mother, friend—wrote these words. She wrote them a week after a white man shot and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. She wrote these words a few days after an Atlanta police officer referred to this deliberate act of racism and misogyny, this hate crime, as the result of “a bad day.” My friend wrote these words, and in so doing made her grief public. In writing, in making public her grief, which is both fresh and historied, she put into focus what, for some of us may fall outside our immediate fields of vision.

If, like me, you are a white reader, a white woman reading this, a white woman working in the academy, you might recognize some of these griefs. Like me, though, you will not recognize them all. My fear and Lily’s fear keep one another company, but they are not the same creatures. Our fears are not fed and hunted in the same ways.

After reading Lily’s words, I found myself wondering once again with fresh urgency how to keep company with grief that is not my own. 

If you are in a room, virtual or otherwise, with AAPI folks, know that our hearts are still breaking. We are still grieving. Our grief is deep and old. We are still scared for ourselves, our elders, and our children.

I recently attended a virtual lecture by Dr. Sara Ahmed entitled Complaint! According to the host and moderator, Dr. Malinda Smith, over a thousand other people were tuning in as well. Ahmed’s talk focused on gathering the complaints of racialized women in academic institutions, giving them airtime, and thinking through the theoretical, affective, and material labours of making complaints. Complaints about oppressive systems and institutions come from within oppressive systems and institutions, Ahmed explained. Complaints happen behind the closed doors of these oppressive systems and situations. When we start to understand complaint as feminist pedagogy—and especially as feminist pedagogy that comes from a long lineage of Black feminist, feminist of colour, and Indigenous feminist critiques of systems of oppression—we begin to help open the door. We begin to keep company in the rooms of others. We begin to bear intentional witness. 

It keeps happening and then the white world around me keeps trying to make me forget, to make me minimize it, or question the fact of it happening at all

With her permission, I am weaving Lily’s words into my thinking here. Citation is part of academic practice, and citational praxis is a key part of an intersectional feminist practice. When I turn to Lily’s words, I read them affectively and I read them as a literary critic trained in close-reading. I read these words to keep their aliveness and their feeling close to me. Lily’s words remind me what a privilege it is to attend to the experiences and stories of another. What a responsibility this attending-to is, as well. As I do this weaving work, it occurs to me that in my institution making an official complaint is referred to as making a grievance. Grieving. That’s the verb.

I am grieving and I am scared.

This week, students and I are reading Anthesis: A Memoir by Sue GoyetteThe long poem is an act of reclamation through poeisis. It is, she writes, a public response to private questions. I found myself thinking about grief, and then, this: in the introduction, Sue writes about her methodology. The company she keeps and the pedagogy she receives come from an unlikely agave plant, blooming in the Halifax Public Gardens after its crate was badly damaged, and it comes from the J pod Northwest orcas, specifically J35. You might remember J35. In 2018, after her calf died, she carried it for seventeen days over more than a thousand miles. When she was tired her pod took turns carrying the calf to relieve her. 

Here is what Goyette writes:

“I am still intrigued by this for many reasons: by how J35’s grief was shared, supported; by how the whale was relieved, communally, from grieving in solitude; by how her pod participated in her grieving…. I wondered what I could learn from this. What would navigating by my emotional intelligence of this experience look like? What meaning-making would this process create? …. And how might learning with the orca shape a private and then a feminist collective response to (public) grieving?” (11)

What can happen when and if we work–or in some cases, continue to work–to keep company with grief and grievance as a feminist collective response? There is so much grief work to do. To keep company with. To loft into public view and give time, space, respect, and dignity to. To bear withness.

But for now, please let us grieve. Let us stay in it. Don’t move too fast through it. Do not look away. 

As I read Lily’s words, the words and griefs of people who are not me, whose griefs are not specific to my own lived experience, I am learning that keeping these griefs and grievances company, keeping them aloft with my attention and my time, is part of a feminist collective response to public grieving. It is also, I think, a way to stay with the griefs and grievances. For, as Lily writes, moving too fast blurs the details and decades and centuries of grievances that lead to violences and rupture events. And, as she writes and I write with her, there’s been enough of that


Faster Feminism Spotlight: Dr. Stephanie Fearon

Dr. Stephanie Fearon is an arts-based and arts-informed narrative researcher. Dr. Fearon uses storytelling methodologies to guide effective decision making in educational policy. She relies on literary, graphic and visual arts to communicate, in a structured, creative, and accessible form, insights gleaned from stories shared by communities. 

In addition to being a researcher, Dr. Fearon is a program coordinator at the Toronto District School Board. She works with system leaders, school-based educators, community partners and families to implement policies and initiatives in support of student success and well-being. 

The Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series had the great honour of hosting Dr. Fearon on February 19th, and she gave a talk entitled “Let Me Tell You a Story: Black Women’s Motherwork as Educational Leadership.” 

A video recording of Dr. Fearon’s talk is below, and we thank her for her permission to post it here; thank you Dr. Fearon! You can follow Dr. Fearon’s work online here

Dr. Stephanie Fearon’s talk for the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series


As I write this, the last bits of light are fading from the sky. From where I sit at the kitchen table the trees outside my window are that darker shade of black backlit by the deepening blue of the sky. The sky itself is starless; there is a storm coming. Our daughter is watching a movie, there is dinner on the stove. I’m making collards.

We had thought about making the trip to North Carolina this past spring–I haven’t been back to where I mostly grew up and where I did my undergraduate work in a long while. More than a decade, for the part of the state I lived in. I’ve got friends there, still. My closest friends are in their eighties. I worry about them and, while I didn’t grow up with food like collards in my own house I did get them at theirs. They taste like vitamins and memories and velvet to me, even though I don’t cook them right. We’ve been cooking them more lately.

Tomorrow, school will almost surely be cancelled. I know we’re lucky here in Nova Scotia. Public schools have been open. My daughter started grade primary in September and hasn’t yet had to do zoom school. Nonetheless, I will admit that I have to talk myself into the beauty of a winter storm shutting things down for a day. Funny, in a way, to have to pause to get excited about sledding. Even without the kinds of lockdowns some of you are living–have lived–I feel the pressure of time winding itself around my ankles like a complicated cat. In the spring that pressure was more claustrophobic than cat. It was walls closing in. It was guilt at feeling closed in. It was a feeling of never-enoughness. It was a familiar feeling too. The rush, the stolen hours of work squeezed in between taking care of each other, students, kiddo. The initial shutdown felt both disorienting (my first pandemic!) and uncanny. The uncanniness, I think, had something to do with gender.

A cursory search with terms “pandemic” “academia” and
“women” will come up with articles such as these: “Pandemic Imperils Tenure and Promotion for Women,” and “Pandemic will take women 10 years back.” If you widen the search beyond academia the titles are more inclusive, and more dire. After all, not all homes are safe. Not all places are homes.

I oscillate a good deal in my feelings about my own relationship to my work, to my responsibilities at home, and to expectations–that I’ve learned, that are explicit, and that are implicit. Not all expectations are unreasonable or oppressive, though some are. All of them take time. And time has a strange way of moving in these days, as I discuss often with students in our twice weekly discussions. They talk a bit about how time is both expansive and a bit of a trick. Gone in a flash, but how? I talk about how behind I am on my academic research, but how I have become more adept at taking breaks from my computer. What things will we keep in the after times, and what things will work their way into our stories? Sometimes I wonder with excitement. Other times I wonder and worry.

Any seasoned blog writer will tell you that blog post needs to be pithy, clear, and with a point. And yet, though I admire that kind of writing–aspire to it even–and though I am a seasoned blogger, I find I wander more. Reaching for the point, when the point might in fact be the reach. the point of this post was to tell you, readers, that while we’re not exactly on hiatus we are taking the time we need to post, and that time is taking longer than any of us expected. That’s what I was supposed to write, but instead I’ve told you about collards. I’ve done a small google search about gender, mothering, academic work, and the pandemic. About a few of my own companion worries. About time, and how student and I talk about it slipping through our fingers. All this time my daughter has been watching a movie, and while that’s good and fine I have also been thinking about screen time.

And just now, a small notification: schools are closed tomorrow.

The point of this post, reader, is this: we’re going to take the time we need here. We’ll post as we are able, and as we feel. I’ll keep posting the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series talks. We’ll take guest posts (email me!) if they come, though we’ve not had many in the last year and that doesn’t surprise me or even worry me a bit. And when we’re ready, if it makes sense, we’ll make a new schedule. Maybe. But for now, we’re taking the time we need, and we are reminding you that you can put a few things down too.


Faster Feminism Spotlight: Dr. Lisa Binkley

Welcome to 2021! Sure, it is a bit late in January to welcome you, dear readers, to this new calendar year, but hey. We’re doing what we can and I wager you are too. So, happy new year, we’ve got something really special for you.

Last Friday Dr. Lisa Binkley gave a talk at the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series. The Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series is a series of informal discussions about feminist scholarship being conducted by faculty and students at Dalhousie University, our colleagues at other universities, and community members. Founded in 2015, the seminar series provides opportunities for socializing and conversation among those interested in gender and women’s studies. Until this year we were a committee of two. Dr. Catherine Bryan and I are delighted to be joined by Dr. Asha Jeffers, Dr. Eli Manning, and supported and in formal collaboration with Dr. Liesl Gambold and the GWST programme here at Dalhousie. 

Given the, ahem, constraints of this particular year, we feel fortunate to be able to move the series online. We’re especially grateful, because when the speaker’s grant us permission, I will be archiving the talks here so that more people can access them. Let me introduce you to Dr. Binkley.

Dr. Lisa Binkley is Anishinaabeg-Algonquin and settler, and an Assistant Professor in the History Dept. Her work focuses on Indigenous and settler textiles as material culture, and repatriation. She has published on settler and Indigenous quilts, Haudenosaunee quilts and public exhibitions, Star blankets and critical Indigenous heritage. She is currently part of three SSHRC-funded projects that explore a disruption of the Western literary and art historical canons through Indigenous perspectives, Climate Grief, and the examination of textiles and architecture through augmented reality. She is working on two new projects. A research project that aims to decolonize and remap the fur trade route through an interrogation of handmade footwear. A partnership with the Mi’kmawey Debert Centre that aims to repatriate, digitize, and share community histories and knowledges.

Dr. Binkley’s talk is entitled “Re-viewing a 1960s Mi’kmaq Ribbon Skirt: Reclamation, Resilience, Resistance.”


Faster Feminism Spotlight: Dr. Lynn Jones & Archiving as a Means of Liberation

If you’re not familiar with the incredible life and work of Dr. Lynn Jones, then hold on to your seat. Or your hat. Or just let go and listen.

Last Friday Dr. Jones was the guest speaker for the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series. The Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series is a series of informal discussions about feminist scholarship being conducted by faculty and students at Dalhousie University, our colleagues at other universities, and community members. Founded in 2015, the seminar series provides opportunities for socializing and conversation among those interested in gender and women’s studies. Until this year we were a committee of two. Dr. Catherine Bryan and I are delighted to be joined by Dr. Asha Jeffers, Dr. Eli Manning, and supported and in formal collaboration with Dr. Liesl Gambold and the GWST programme here at Dalhousie. 

Given the, ahem, constraints of this particular year, we feel fortunate to be able to move the series online. We’re especially grateful, because when the speaker’s grant us permission, I will be archiving the talks here so that more people can access them. Let me introduce you to Dr. Lynn Jones.

Dr Lynn Jones is a community and labour activist who grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia. 

From the time she was a child, she struggled against racism and segregation. She protested against the Vietnam and Nigerian Biafra War in university, and advocated for better access to post-secondary education for Black and Aboriginal students. 

Jones became a strong labour activist with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and then became the first woman of colour and African Canadian to be elected Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.  

Throughout her life, Lynn has been active in the pursuit of justice, working tireless for many causes and organizations that seek to eradicate racism, secure human rights, and achieve fair labour practices. She has been active in the environmental racism and justice movement and helped craft the first environmental racism bill in Canada. 

In 2016, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Acadia University. On Friday Dr. Jones revealed that she’s recently been granted another Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Mount Saint Vincent University.

Currently, she is working to obtain reparations for Afrikan People & highlighting the crimes that occurred during and post Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. She has created the Lynn Jones African Canadian & Diaspora Heritage Collection (LJACDHC) at Saint Mary’s University, which is available to the public including researchers, community members tracing a family tree, educators and students, and community organizers.

The title of her talk is “Archiving as a Means of Liberation

Dr. Lynn Jones gave this talk on Friday November 27th as part of the 2020-2021 Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series.


Faster Feminism Spotlight: Dr. Marquita Smith

One of the great joys of my work-life has been (& is) co-organizing the Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series.

The Dalhousie Feminist Seminar Series is a series of informal discussions about feminist scholarship being conducted by faculty and students at Dalhousie University, our colleagues at other universities, and community members. Founded in 2015, the seminar series provides opportunities for socializing and conversation among those interested in gender and women’s studies. 

Until this year we were a committee of two. Dr. Catherine Bryan and I are delighted to be joined by Dr. Asha Jeffers, Dr. Eli Manning, and supported and in formal collaboration with Dr. Liesl Gambold and the GWST programme here at Dalhousie. 

A silver lining of our current covid-context is that we get to extend invitations to thinkers who are beyond the geographical proximity of Halifax–and this brings me with delight to the point of this post. Each time one of our speakers gives us permission, I will post their talks here to share with you all!

On Friday November 13, 2020 our speaker was Dr. Marquita Smith. Dr. Smith graduated from Rutgers University, Newark with a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in English, and she received her Ph.D. from McMaster University in 2015. Her book project, Through the Glass: African American Literature and Carceral Feeling, offers an exploration of how contemporary African American narratives represent the impact of carcerality on the intimate, interior lives of vicarious carceral subjects—those not imprisoned yet deeply affected by its power. Her published and forthcoming work on the intersections of sexuality, race, and gender in African American and Black diasporic literature and culture appears in venues such as Postcolonial TextJames Baldwin ReviewPopular Music and SocietyThe Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and GenderPopular Music and the Politics of Hope: Queer and Feminist InterventionsThe Puritan Magazine, and The Black Scholar. Her teaching and research interests include African American literature and culture, hip-hop studies, gender and sexuality, and critical race studies. She was awarded a Career Enhancement Fellowship by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in 2018. ​

Her talk for the series is entitled “[Black] Bodies Remember: Black Women Writers and Strategies of Survival.” You can watch it here! Thank you, Dr. Smith!

academic reorganization · change · guest post

Guest post: Emilie Pine on how “later” is now.

Later. Is there any more seductive word?

I have been teaching post-PhD for 15 years. And for at least the past five years I’ve been intending to look at what I teach and how. Each year the teaching term seems to arrive before I’ve quite got around to it, and so each year I put it off until ‘later’, promising myself that next year will be the one. And then all my teaching went online. It turns out, ‘later’ is now.

I used to see the online module dashboard as a place to throw up the course outline, a few PDFs of secondary readings, and assignment instructions. When students asked if, maybe, I could share some links to performances or bibliographies, I would tell them (not unkindly) that these were research skills they were meant to learn themselves as part of the course. And, in an environment where they could drop into office hours easily, or stay after class for a chat, or where they were going to see real life shows at Dramsoc, I didn’t think that was such a problem. 

My online format is different now. With the zeal of the convert, I have adopted scaffolding, whereby every seminar is presented as a unit. Yeah, a ‘unit’. ‘Ugh, my class is not a “unit”,’ I muttered during one training webinar about remote learning. Except, of course, it is. 

Each unit begins with a welcome message, an overview of what we’ll cover, and the main learning outcomes for that week. There are learning checklists, alongside links to performances, production images, ‘refresher’ discussion questions, and a mindfulness exercise.  I have posted mini videos talking through each of the assignments, and I’ve started a weekly newsletter for each module (aka ‘an email’). All of this self-improvement has not been achieved solo, of course. I am gratefully dependent on my colleagues’ leading-by-example and the extra training created by my university’s educational technologists. Following these lessons, and belatedly using the online dashboard not just as a noticeboard, but as a platform for structured and asynchronous learning, is a practice I should have adopted a long time ago. These are the kinds of support structures that students need whether we’re teaching face to face or not.  

And I have learned another belated lesson – that the online format is actually better for those students who struggle to find their voice in a crowded classroom. These students now type comments in ‘chat’ and I read them out. This way of contributing makes the students more comfortable and, though it seems paradoxical, they say they feel more part of the course. One student even emailed me to ask if there’s a way, when we go back to face to face, we can keep up the practice of written comments. 

In all of this, I don’t aim to fetishise the online format – it is a ton of work, it is draining in ways I have never experienced when teaching before, I hate looking at myself on screen for hours at a time, and I hate talking into a void. Most problematic, many of the students who keep their cameras and microphones off are not, in fact, feeling ‘more part of the course’ but much, much less. For most students, university is a social space they appreciate being welcome in. But, for some students, university is the safe space they desperately need. Online teaching is a big loss for them. 

Still, I am counting every win. Not least because I am working in a context that does not seem to want me to.

My university’s response since the summer has been denial (advertising in July that we would resume 60% face-to-face undergraduate teaching and 100% graduate teaching), insufficient support (when staff asked if there was a protocol for returning to campus, we were told not to fret, there were ‘plans’ but what those were remained a mystery), and inadequate communication (bulletins from the University Management Team mention the word ‘health’ only in relation to government guidelines, never with any concern for, you know, our actual health, mental or physical). The only reason our campus is even vaguely safe for those staff and students participating in face to face teaching, is because the majority of us have chosen (before renewed government restrictions mandated us) to work remotely. Against this background, it feels like a wilful act of necessary optimism to be inspired by what we can achieve through online teaching. 

But it is not only anger at one university’s callous approach driving me to suggest that we celebrate and mark the many goals we are striving for in remote teaching, learning, researching, and administering. 

Most of all, I am stressing the good because it is a necessary reminder that even though everything has changed, some things remain the same. And I feel that if we don’t make space for this kind of reminder, that may go unsaid. 

Here’s the thing: We still love what we do.

And here’s the other thing: We are still good at it. 

In a discourse of crisis, these facts are far too easily forgotten.  

Emilie Pine is Professor of Modern Drama in the School of English, Drama and Film in University College Dublin and Editor of the Irish University Review. She has published widely as an academic and critic, most recently The Memory Marketplace: Witnessing Pain in Contemporary Theatre (Indiana University Press, 2020), and the multi-award-winning Notes to Self: Essays, which has been translated into fifteen languages. 


So…how are you?

Last week my friend S. sent me this meme and a message that said “Sending you love and laughs, friend.” I wrote back “OMG. Amen.” I felt so seen, and so in commiseration with her. Why? Because S. is a student, and I am a professor.

Here is a bit of context: S. and I met because our kiddos went to the same daycare. We learned, after a while, that we’re at the same university. She is in the sciences, I’m not. I’m a prof, she’s a student. She has classes on neuroscience and I teach creative writing and literature courses. In many ways it might seem we’ve not got a lot of commonality, but let me tell you: it feels good to compare notes. When we aren’t chatting about kids and their experiences this fall, we’re talking about how challenging it is to be on either side of the classroom this year. She is taking all her classes online. I am teaching all my classes online. We laugh about the difficulty of navigating bizarre and clunky pedagogical platforms (and then usually deferring to zoom in the end). We talk about how unexpectedly draining it is to talk to a computer screen (me) or stare at a talking head on a computer screen (her). And more than anything what we are noticing is that the increase of screen time and the near to totally deficit of face-to-face instruction is depleting.

I knew that the move to online teaching would be difficult. Unlike many of my colleagues, and indeed many regular Hook & Eye readers and contributors, I am not a particularly digitally-situated pedagogue. I rely, I realize, on the kinds of teaching tools that I haven’t yet found ways to translate into the online platform. I knew, though, that in many (most?) ways, online teaching would be more work. For example, my courses are all asynchronous. It is important to say that this is the case for really good reasons: students are taking them from all over the world, meaning time zones are a real factor in accessing the material. Some students don’t have enough bandwidth for synchronous teaching. Accessibility is an issue across a range of specificities. And, unlike with synchronous and in person teaching, this means that my lectures are scripted, with slides. It is just a fundamentally different mode of teaching for me, and it takes a lot more time to prepare a lecture. These are just a few very small examples, but suffice to say I knew this would be different and that it would be more work.

I did not anticipate some of the ways in which it would leave me feeling both over extended and, strangely, simultaneously feeling isolated. I think students are having similar experiences, at least some of the time.

In the coming weeks we’ll have a suite of guest posts from writers who are focused on the nuances, complications, opportunities, and silver linings of this online year. Stay tuned, and let us know if you would like to pitch a post. I, for one, am keen to connect.


Becoming “The Man”: Our own Lily Cho is interviewed by Hannah McGregor on Secret Feminist Agenda!

So, did you know that friend of the blog and sometimes-contributor Dr. Hannah McGregor hosts a peer-reviewed feminist podcast? She does. It is called Secret Feminist Agenda, and you can catch up on all the incredible interviews here.

Last week, Hannah interviewed our own beloved and brilliant Lily Cho about mentorship. Here’s how Hannah describes the interview:

“In this episode I sat down (virtually, of course) with Lily Cho to talk about feminist mentorship, the importance of boundaries, and trying to make change from within institutions. What if mentorship wasn’t based on intimacy but on clear boundaries and structures? What if the best way to transform the university is to really understand how it works? What if you clicked on these links?”

Give yourself a gift and listen to this conversation. Then, give yourself another set of gifts and listen to all the episodes!