Do you think that feminism deals only with injustices against women? On November 16, Campion College will launch a free, public lecture series entitled Academic Feminism: Not What You Think.
This virtual series invites you to hear from University of Regina faculty members, students, and staff about how feminisms are part of their lives—their personal as well as their academic lives. From theory to data, and in research, teaching, and practice, academic feminisms provide important ways to build knowledge and engage with truth. This series of conversations aims to make academic feminist approaches more familiar and provide an opportunity to consider academic feminist contributions to understanding current social life. The talks are designed to inspire people, include people, build bridges and, most importantly, provide hope and education.
The series includes an exploration of academic feminism’s rigorous approach to such issues as gender equity, poverty, disability, and how racialization and capitalism affect all our lives. The idea is to provide a space for feminist academic work in the context of the Jesuit tradition of education and scholarship.
Dr. Anna Mudde, associate professor of philosophy at Campion College, and Dr. Sami Helewa, SJ, president of Campion College, explain why they created the series and how it fits with the values of the Society of Jesus.
“One of the things we do in feminist philosophy is to think critically about the world, and also about our specific disciplines.” Dr. Mudde
The title of the series is intriguing. Why this approach?
Dr. Mudde: When we started to discuss this series, my colleagues and I thought about our students’ reactions when we teach feminist work or when we talk about feminist issues in various disciplines. Students always say, “Oh, that’s not at all what we thought.” This reaction comes from students who know nothing about feminism as well as from students who think they know a lot about feminism.
Academic feminist conversations often focus on the simple fact that women have been excluded from our disciplines for a long, long time. And so, it’s true, the work that’s being done in this field is partly in response to this reality.
But the main idea is to broadly address feminist issues in a feminist academic context. So we decided to orient the series around this theme.
Why propose a series on academic feminism?
Fr. Helewa: The idea began to emerge last year after we invited an American academic feminist to give a lecture at the College. Before she even arrived, I started to receive emails of complaints. From these I gathered negative understanding of feminism in its relation to academia and Jesuit higher education.
Instead of responding individually to these very strong voices, I decided to respond differently. I thought it would be good to organize a public series on academic feminism to contribute to a better-informed public, to enable people to see the faces of academic feminists, and perhaps also to encourage people to talk about the ideal and spirit of academic feminism, especially the way it tries to speak to and reflect on the experiences of women in academia. In short, I wondered how we, as an educational institution, could respond to the negative perception of feminism in general and academic feminism in particular.
It is a question of education which is part of our work, our ministry, our mission.
I started to speak with Anna, and then I invited other academic feminists into the conversation. I learned a lot.
Dr. Mudde: I wasn’t surprised by the emails Sami received. I shared the idea that we have a unique opportunity to respond to these complaints in a way that is consistent with the mission of the college and with our responsibility as educators. I think it’s a really productive way to respond to these kinds of negative reactions.
How is feminism important today for the Society of Jesus, for society in general, and even for the Church?
Fr. Helewa: This is the fiftieth anniversary of the Society’s apostolic work known as faith and social justice. Where do we stand now, after fifty years? It is important to reflect on the concept of social justice and how it includes justice for women, especially in our ministries and in the way Jesuits often work in partnership with women. In general, Jesuits work in the secular world with its cultural and religious diversity, as well as its diversity of ideas.
The Society of Jesus began to reflect formally on Jesuits and women during GC 34 in 1995 and produced a General Congregation decree titled Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society, a crucial document from the perspective of gender equity or equity in general, and active listening to the experiences of women in society.Finally, as Jesuits we are also engaged in the different academic disciplines.. I remember that in my Jesuit formation, when I studied theology and biblical studies, there was included an angle of academic analysis, which gives an academic feminist perspective on these subjects.
So there are reasons to explore further academic feminism. And feminism is, at its core, very human, which means that “finding God in all things” could be reflected here, too.
What is the desired impact of this series?
Fr. Helewa: We want to help society become better informed about academic feminism and its contribution to academic depth. During the past ten years, the Society of Jesus has talked a lot about depth. And I think that good, solid conversation with women, with men too, can lead us to greater depth. This type of conversation and interaction is very important. I also believe that the serious discussions that we are going to propose will offer a venue through which feminist academic voices can share their experience in academia.