A Feminist Classroom: The Experience of African American Women
Swope, Kathryn J.
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The current study is a narrative investigation comparing the experience of African American women and Caucasian women in a feminist psychology of women's class at a private undergraduate institution. The historical development of feminism in the United States is reviewed, concentrating on the exclusion of African American women. Feminist pedagogical strategies and the main theories of in-group/out-group formation are also reviewed. The participants were 6 women (3 Black, 3 White), ages ranging from 20-23 (M = 21.6). All women attended the same college and had taken the same class with the same professor, although they did not take the class necessarily in the same year. In-depth interviews with each participant were analyzed using Grounded Theory. The participants were asked a series of questions in five main categories: their feelings about 1) the content of the course; 2) the structure of the class; 3) the relationships that were created in class with classmates; 4) the influence of the feminist content on the class; and 5) how their gender and racial identities were influenced by the class. The results showed that there was an interaction of the three factors that created an environment in which the African American women felt excluded from their peers. First, because the course followed the historical development of feminism, the content of the course made the African American women feel excluded. Second, the feminist pedagogical strategies of discussion-based structure and the sharing of personal information made them feel excluded because they felt there was no place for sharing their personal information. And lastly, the processes of social identity formation in conjunction with the above factors caused the African American women to feel excluded from the bonding of Caucasian women.