Feminist Eyes: Engaging in Analysis of Popular Media
Five Faculty of Education students earned Undergraduate Research Awards this summer. The award is valued at $7,000 each, the opportunity opens them up to new possibilities for a research career in either government, academic or industry sectors. Three of the summer students worked as part of a collaborative research team with assistant professors Shannon Moore and Jennifer Watt.
As a preservice teacher, I wanted to work as a URA this summer to expand my skill set and knowledge base within a professional setting. Due to the fact that this is a shorter program, I was looking to gain additional qualifications and awareness to best prepare myself as a future educator. Upon meeting Dr. Watt and talking about her research with her I knew immediately that I wanted to be apart of her research. Not only is Dr. Watt’s research so incredibly important, but her passion and devotion to this research inspired me to feel the same way.
This past summer, I was able to work with a collaborative research team that explored how engaging in analysis of popular media using an “I Spy with my Feminist Eye” framework too might provide pedagogical possibilities for other educators to address gender based sexual violence. I focused particularly on how to expand this conversation to include a much-needed examination of what pedagogical conversations, resources, and approaches are needed within the context of sport for athletes, coaches, and parents
From this experience, I was not only able to acquire new understandings about gender based sexual violence in schools, but I believe it has helped me become a more aware, thoughtful, and knowledgeable preservice teacher. Additionally, as a retired student-athlete, who plans to coach a variety of different sports when I begin my teaching career, I feel that this opportunity has better prepared me to enter into a coaching position. This opportunity has aided me in obtaining new understandings about sport, coaching, and supporting student athletes in a safe, healthy, and meaningful way.
I spent this summer as an URA student with Dr. Shannon Moore. I feel as though working on campus encourages intellectual curiosity and allows me to maintain focus on my studies. Having a URA position gives the opportunity for meaningful employment, and fulfills the desire for knowledge. Dr. Moore makes learning both engaging and meaningful. As a student in the field of education, I look up to her expertise and the approach she adopts to her research endeavours.
The research analyzes popular media with a tool that was created by Dr. Moore and Dr. Watt, which helps to highlight the many occurrences of gender-based violence within certain pieces of media. Making this violence apparent allows for fruitful conversations to occur between teachers and students, and could potentially help to prevent prejudicial thinking. For myself, I chose to focus on Dave Chappelle’s The Closer which has been under much scrutiny for some time now. From this experience I have continued to learn about my place and privilege as a straight, white, cisgender, and able-bodied man within Canada and the world at large. As such, it is important that I am aware of the social injustices imposed on women, Transgender people, and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
I am thankful to have been exposed to new perspectives and now being more aware of these social injustices. There is still much to learn as this is a prominent social issue that effects everyone, whether they know it or not. I am looking forward to seeing what comes about from this research as it is quite pertinent for the current social climate. Being more knowledgeable about these issues has made me feel more strongly on the idea that everyone deserves respect and to be treated in the most humane way possible. This sort of sentiment can easily be stated without any forethought or awareness, but I recognize this sentiment to not only be true but special. Now I just need to put these words into action.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Dr. Watt during the 2022-2023 academic year. I was already part of the Gender Based Sexual Violence Research Collective she was leading, and she approached me about the opportunity to do my own research over the summer. I have always been interested in conducting my own research, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to better develop my skills and expand my knowledge. When I first met Dr. Watt I could instantly see how passionate she was about the research she was doing. As a first-year student, I was struggling to find people who were willing to have conversations about the education surrounding Gender Based Sexual Violence (GBSV) in schools. As a proud feminist, I was surprised that conversations surrounding these violences were not occurring in any of my classes. In my efforts to find resources that I could use as a preservice teacher, I learned about the research Dr. Watt and her team were already conducting surrounding GBSV and was lucky enough to be invited to join their research collective.
The collaborative research team that I was a part of over the summer explored how we can pedagogically use popular media to address Gender Based Sexual Violence. We used the “I Spy with My Feminist Eye” tool, a work-in-progress feminist media analysis framework based largely on Sara Ahmed’s (2017) intersectional, everyday feminist theorizing to force a feminist lens on the media we looked into. I chose to look into toxic masculinity and male media influencers, with a specific focus on Andrew Tate and how he uses his platforms to spread anti-feminist misogynistic rhetoric. By avoiding educational opportunities for dialogue about feminism and/or gender based sexual violence we allow negative ideas about feminism to persist, creating spaces for people like Andrew Tate to spread their anti-feminist misogynistic rhetoric. As educators we need to force intersectional feminism to the forefront of our teaching and learning so that the patterns and regularities of violence become more visible so that we can work toward eliminating them. Feminism is not an unnecessary or resolved topic. Educators need to take pedagogical action to critically counter the discourses of violence and hate that students encounter in media as ways to both notice and disrupt the violence and inequities encountered by female or femme individuals both within the K-12 system and beyond.
I am looking forward to being able to continue this research with Dr. Watt over this new academic year. There is always more work that needs to be done in order to counteract the violence that female and femme individuals encounter on a daily basis. I look forward to helping create more pedagogical tools and opportunities for other preservice teachers to learn more about GBSV and be comfortable enough to teach their students about the harms of GBSV. The main reason I pursued this opportunity was because these important conversations were not occurring in my classes. I am excited that the research and conversations that occurred over the summer have led to the creation of various informative sessions for preservice teachers that will be occurring in the faculty over the next year.