readin woman 3“This course far exceeded my expectations. I wanted to revisit the ‘waves’ and understand anew the complexities of second wave theory. I came away with so much more.

I LOVED being part of a small seminar style group—what smart women and what a brilliant (and hilarious) seminar leader! Jane is so gifted in pulling the ‘good stuff’ out of each of us and ensuring everyone gets a chance to contribute. She is one of the first teachers I’ve had comfortable enough…to think with her students.” Virginia, 59, academic

 

“I wanted to participate in the course to learn more about the historical roots and theoretical foundations of feminism. I wanted to understand more about the context and development of feminist ideas, and how they relate to current discussions in and around feminism.

I have received all this and more from this first course. The course design is excellent and densely packed with original feminist texts. In discussing this course with other people I’ve likened it to the difference between visiting an art gallery and having a personal tour with an expert guide. In both cases you’ll learn a lot and experience wonderful art. But with the expert guide, you more fully understand and appreciate what you’re seeing, and your guide can shape your tour to bring out a narrative or highlight details that on your own you may overlook completely.” Diana, 41, teacher

 

“This course has been a treat from start to finish. I loved the reading lists and weekly course packs which were incredibly well thought out and stimulating. I also loved the online seminar format, where we got the chance to talk with the other course participants and share arguments with Jane and each other.

The range of readings were clearly thought through by an expert and expanded my knowledge and understanding of the first, second and third wave of feminism. The course helped me deconstruct ideas I’d absorbed about my identity and so-called empowerment, and reading Marxist theory and Engels was a revelation.” Rosie, 43, artistic director

 

“I’m not sure I can express what a relief it has been to speak with other women freely. To read the free thoughts and words of other women, to think about their ideas and how they apply to us now, what we should keep, what we could change. I know that my feminist education is just beginning, and I’m excited to dive further into the texts we’ve talked about and the ones I haven’t read yet. I believe more and more that knowing our history as women is essential to getting us out of the mess we’re in today. I see many younger women, even ones who haven’t joined all the dots, realizing the limits of the consumer-friendly, objectification-is-empowerment, men-are-feminists-too ‘feminism’ they’ve inherited, and I know that they’re looking for something more. Sometimes I wonder if another wave is swelling.” Paula, 41, book editor

 

“I found the course wonderful. I could intuitively grasp why the material had been chosen and ordered in the course packs, which made the whole thing easy to follow, satisfying and coherent. Deborah Cameron’s book is brilliantly lucid. The amount of reading was more than I expected, but still reasonable. I was quite quiet in the seminars – a combination of shyness and because my brain was whizzing. Jane is a ferocious, inspiring thinker and it’s a pleasure to study with her!” Sarah, 29, student

 

“The reading booklet that was provided to students is an invaluable toolkit to keep for future reading and research. Although I’m pursuing university education, I’ve not been formally educated in feminism and such a detailed course pack is precisely what has been missing. I particularly appreciate the range of material, from film suggestions to online articles, to more traditional academic essays.

The structure of the course pack was well thought out, beginning with discussions on feminism’s ‘waves’ and the ways  both society but also feminist discourse has shifted. I was especially interested in the sections dealing with sex wars, social reproduction theory and queer theory. Without a doubt I will be revisiting many of these readings.” Bec, 26, research student

 

“I really enjoyed the course and found the structured reading and questions very helpful.  I’m out of practice in reading feminist theory and found it useful to formally go through the material. My reading in recent years has tended to be on specific issues I’m working on, rather than feminist texts. I have made a few attempts to read some third wave writing but have let this go, I can’t make this material useful in my day-to-day job of running a women’s organisation and I strongly disagree with many of the positions emerging from these writers.  It was helpful to go back through second wave texts to find the approaches I found most useful when I was active in university feminist groups back in the 80s.  These approaches require re-reading in the current circumstances.  I found it particularly useful to revisit liberal feminist theory from the second wave to inform understanding of current liberal feminist thinking. I also enjoyed the critical engagement with radical feminism.  I’ve always been more comfortable with socialist feminism, finding many of the radical feminist writers to be quite rigid and prescriptive on issues which seem to me to be more nuanced.” Ros, 53, manager

 

“Participating in this course has been momentous and perspective-altering for me. Jane is absolutely amazing. I could listen to her speak for hours and hours because she has this rare and marvellous ability to parse and translate complex, systemic concepts into an intelligible stream of truth and clarity.” Rebecca, 37, travel adviser

 

I’m part of a local feminist group and joined this course partly to brush up on my feminist theory and partly in the hope that the course would help with the group. I found the course thoroughly mind-blowing and didn’t want it to end! It’s inspired me in my activism but also to go back to university. I relished the reading and felt totally submerged in the experience from start to finish. The seminars were a highlight to my week! Claire, 42, engineer

 

“When I was a child, I’d find all sorts of fossilised ferns in a local quarry and I’d take my collection of treasures to school excited to share them with everyone. And most kids were excited. I had always heard the whispers from some adults, ‘she’s a tomboy’, and they got louder as I got older. I remember with acute shame when my friend’s mother discouraged her daughter from joining a fossil-finding expedition with, ‘you’re such a nice little girl, you don’t want to get dirty fingernails like her’.

It had been dawning on me for some time that some things were okay for boys, but not for girls. It turned out that geology was a boy-thing, but no one could tell me why. This pattern repeated itself with many of my other interests, while, at the same time, I could not feign interest in what I came to understand as permitted activities for girls my age – practising hair-dressing, planning mock-weddings, embroidery. As a child, I understood all this to be unfair, but I thought that I was alone in thinking so. I buried my thoughts, like an ancient fern, under protective layers of internalised misogyny.

When I grew up to be a woman, I studied natural sciences, and got grant-funding to do post-doctoral research. For most of my career I was either the only woman in the lab, or one of a minority of women. Partly because of this, I continued to believe I was alone in my thoughts, and I did not seek out other women to talk with or learn from. But all the while, the layers of my internalised misogyny were eroding. Part of this was through slow attrition with reality and part was experiencing the devastating power of male dominance when an individual man violates an individual woman, and the loneliness of living in the wreckage that gets left behind.

I can now name this system of oppression as patriarchy. De Beauvoir wrote that part of the mechanism of othering women is to place women as objects with ‘no past, no history, no religion of their own’. This course has introduced me to a group of smart and accomplished women and to feminists who were writing, analysing and organising long before I was born. It has given me a past and a history, and with that, a language and a coherent analysis of why I’ve felt like a rootless other. That language and analysis is radical feminism.” Kate, 38, trainee solicitor