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.”


Resilient Pedagogy for Fragile Times

Teaching is a practice, not a perfect. This is a lesson that nearly all of us are currently working through, as near-universal campus shutdowns mid-semester pushed everyone suddenly and completely out of the classrooms we knew and into emergency remote teaching. Spring semester for many has been some hybrid of emergency and intention, a steep learning curve managing curricular expectations with the fallout of a near-total economic shutdown, waves of illness and displacement, the collapse of our support systems for everything from personal care to child care.

I don’t know about you, but as empowered and fortunate as I am in my life, my personal resilience has been sorely challenged by our Current Situation. It’s hard to transform my teaching when I can hardly manage to answer an email some days–and many of my students are in the same boat, that’s got a leak, and their bailing bucket is a thimble. I have to find a way to make it work, flexibly and compassionately and nimbly.

A discussion of resilient pedagogy is flowering online this week, like some kind of strawberry plant whose dormant rhizomes invisible under the soil all spouted up into the light at once, distinct and individual but still connected.

Like here: https://twitter.com/joshua_r_eyler/status/1270049889678999552?s=20

And here: http://www.cal.msu.edu/about/longview/imagining-resilient-pedagogy

And here: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/learning-innovation/preparing-future-disruption-hybrid-resilient-teaching-new-instructional

And here: https://twitter.com/aktange/status/1270328802820984833?s=20

I think I might be a strawberry plant, too–I recognize in some of the blind underground grasping I’ve been doing to transform my own teaching over the past several years might in fact be part of a larger, coherent set of practices we could collect under the resilient pedagogy umbrella. Spurred by my own mid-career ADHD and ASD diagnoses into a re-evaluation of my work practices and beliefs, and a growing attention to the necessity of a teaching praxis rooted in universal design–a teaching focused on a much broader kind of accessibility and inclusion for all rather than accommodations for individuals–I have been rebuilding my courses from the ground up. And it turns out that I have been building resilient courses.

There are some things I’ve never been good at: answering a bunch of specific emails; writing lectures; getting everything completely arranged in advance; having “lecture notes” to share with students; tracking daily details; remembering thing; managing my out-of-class time to produce things for class. There are some things I’ve always been very good at: lively in-class interactive activities; responding to current events in real time and producing lesson plans incredibly quickly; motivating students. And so, I started rearranging my teaching to mitigate my weaknesses and play to my strengths. At the same time, this offered a lot more flexibility and utility to students. Then I won a big fellowship that necessitated a lot of mid-semester travel, which reduced my ability to be physically present, often. And then my mom’s terminal cancer entered its end stages, which greatly impacted my emotional and cognitive availability, and also sometimes required trips with no notice.

What I came to, in the most general sense, was that the goal of my relationship with students was to empower them to become literate in a given domain of knowledge so that they could eventually direct their own learning, as curious critical thinkers. It struck me that creating a new course and then teaching it was the main way that I learn new material: I decided that course prep is probably the highest value learning activity of a given course, and that I would stop hogging it to myself and start downloading it onto students. So I would have way less prep to, could be a lot more available for interactions, and would empower students to come into their own critical literacy. As it turns out, I turned a highly bottlenecked and teacher-dependent classroom into a mesh network of massive parallel processing where the burdens of teaching and learning were distributed much more diffusely across participants, across the span of the semester, and across modalities. I built resilient teaching.

Here are some things that I do, that give a lot more flexibility for everyone to do their best and learn the most, even when disaster or absence or illness might knock one or some or all of us of course, more or less severely. Forthwith, one post on each topic, because I HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT THIS STUFF.

  • Stable, semester long groups
  • Collaborative class notes
  • One-page reading summaries
  • Short assignments, different modalities
  • Short assignments, not sequence
  • Flipped classroom: pedagogy of gentle provocation
  • Meta-cognitive classroom: teaching the teaching

Today I’ll write about the stable, semester long groups

At the beginning of the semester, I put students in groups of 3-5 people, depending on the class size, so that I wind up with 5-8 groups of students. These groups are stable over the term. They are crucial to everything that follows. Groups chunk grading; groups become a small network of accountability and support for students in them; if one member of a group cannot participate in a given activity, others can cover; groups allow students to focus on their own strengths as they negotiate roles with group members; groups help shy students feel safe in discussions because they’re smaller than The Entire Class; groups make learning social and peer-driven; groups are easier in all ways for me to manage than atomized students.

This is where it gets exciting, though: the kinds of work I assign to groups. Yes! It brings out my strengths and theirs, covers my weaknesses and theirs, and is both decentralized, redundant, and robust. WINNING!

I’m bad at planning detailed lessons in advance, but I’m good at producing frameworks. At the beginning of the term, the main topic and readings of each week are laid out. I teach social media, so that means I assign the scholarly readings for the whole term in advance, but explicitly leave space for me to chuck in all the primary texts week by week, based on What The Hell Is Happening On The Internet Today. I am also good at producing lesson structures. I know that each week in my selfies class, for example, each of the secondary readings will need a one page summary (produced by a group), each topic will need some relevant primary texts (found and shared by a group), each class meeting will require a detailed set of lecture notes (captured, organized, and edited by a group). Each group rotates through each activity at least twice, and the dates are set on day 1, so they can all mark them in their planners. And then we spend half a class discussing how they might organize and apportion the work, how they can publish their documents to the course CMS in the proper lesson, and how they can get help from me.

For example, group 1 might have four students in it. In week 2, they might be taking class notes. In week 3, they might produce a structured one-page summary of a critical reading. In week 7, they might be responsible to find three examples of Instagram influencers who suffered backlash over undisclosed #sponcon. At the end of the term, each group member reports on their own participation and role in the group, and assesses their group mates.

We explicitly learn how to work in groups, how to assess the strengths and challenges of each group member, and how to negotiate communication modalities, communication styles, work flow, and roles. We discuss how to accommodate one another and how to build each other up into a group that is greater than the sum of its parts. We discuss the power of both diversity and inclusion in group work, how many hands make light work but many brains make better ideas.

I am always going to do this forever. First of all, these are writing assignments that have actual real world value: these documents the groups produce are useful to and used by everyone in the class, including me. The materials they produce are embedded in the actual content pages of the CMS, not dropped into the black hole of a dropbox to be read and graded by me. This is living writing. Second, this has greatly increased the course accessibility, for all of us, because it reduces the responsibility of any given individual to need to perform in any class, and spreads the work around. Thirdly, it means any or many of us can flame out of any given day, lesson, or assignment, and the course rolls on, fully functional, even if, as happened this winter, the instructor leaves the class for six weeks, mid-semester, on a short-term disability leave.

How? Well, tune in for my next post, on the collaborative class notes assignment that groups complete.


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!


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!


We’re Here: A Welcome and a Welcome Back

Every September, for the past ten years, we’ve been blogging here.

That’s right. Ten years of a feminist academic blog.

We’ve experienced enormous personal change. We’re not the same we who began this blog a decade ago. We’ve been many regular writers and many more guest writers. We’ve been precariously employed, unemployed, and in different stages of tenure track careers. We’ve left faculty positions for administrative ones. We’ve left academia entirely, and not always (or often) on our own terms. We have had children. We have lost loved ones. We have written, often in personal and vulnerable-making ways about out struggles, hopes, and concerns. We have raged. We have protested. We have despaired. We have hoped. We have written articles, and we have written posts about not writing. We have made mistakes. We have begun again, resolved to keep learning. We have held each other up. We have hoped, feared, and worked for and with students.

And now, this September, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, amid climate crisis, amid the intersecting pandemics of racism and hate, we are here again. And we will try to write and think and rage and hope and cry and worry and research and teach here with you.

Ten yeas ago “slow academe” was an idea linked both to sustainable slow food movements, and resisting the neoliberal imperative to produce. Now, here, in all the places and particularities that make up our divergent and necessary lives, “slow academe” might be a place to return our thinking. We’re here, and we hope you’ll meet us here from time to time, too.

For surely we need one another now as much as ever.

academic publishing · academic reorganization · collaboration · Uncategorized

A little good news! The Radical Publishers Alliance

Hi folks — today a PSA in lieu of a post: Fazeela Jiwa, amazing book-editing human and friend of the blog has alerted us to The Radical Publishers Alliance. This newly-formed coalition of left-wing publishers have joined together to support each other during this global pandemic.


Here is a bit about the Alliance from their press release:

With the entire book industry in jeopardy, the only response can be one of unity and solidarity.

Independent radical publishers struggle for survival in the best of times and with the book industry facing huge challenges as a result of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown, a group of radical publishers in the US, UK, and Canada have come together to share advice on publishing during the crisis and to encourage readers to support radical presses.

Left publishers in the Alliance share online promotions and author events of fellow presses, work together on virtual panels and book launches, and maintain an online hub for readers to find their next great radical read from a left publisher. You can find all of the publishers participating in the Radical Publishers Alliance, along with their discounts for readers, on the Left Book Club partners page .

The first initiative of the Radical Publishers Alliance is #RadicalMay , an online radical book fair featuring panel discussions, talks, and teach-ins with authors from 50 radical publishers from the US, UK, Canada, France, Spain, Catalonia, Basque Country, Italy, Germany, Argentina, and Indonesia. The book fair, held in partnership with LITERAL , a radical festival of books and ideas that’s held annually in Barcelona, kicked off May 1 and will continue throughout the month.

Participating English-language publishers include AK Press (US), PM Press (US), Verso Books (US and UK), Haymarket Books (US), The New Press (US), Seven Stories Press (US), Beacon Press (US), The Feminist Press (US), O/R Books (US), Between the Lines (Canada), Pluto Press (UK), New Society Publishers (Canada), Fernwood Publishing (Canada), Myriad Editions (UK), Repeater Books (UK), and The Evergreen Review/Foxrock Books (US).

More information about #RadicalMay as well as a schedule is available here .

As the Radical Publishers Alliance Writes:

In this moment of crisis, the need for critical left thinking is more urgent than ever. Our aim is to lift up the voices challenging our broken social and economic systems and to come together around radical ideas for a more just and equitable world. By supporting fellow left publishing houses during this dark time, we hope to emerge from the crisis intact and more organized for the long fight against capitalism still ahead of us.

If you are able, support your local booksellers and small presses! And, regardless, if you’re curious go check out the events that are available through #RadicalMay