Saturday, May 05, 2007

Reading Groups?

In the past year or two, I've become aware of several sponsored reading groups on campus, and have been participating with one. (Whether I became aware when they started, or not, I'm not sure, but they're pretty new.) The one I read with is sponsored by a women's organization through a grant. One of my colleagues gets with a committee, chooses a book, then sends out an email inviting participation. Once she's got a list, she sorts us into groups by time availability. We buy the books through the organization, so that we pay less for them.

Last year, my group was really interesting, especially because I met some women across campus that I hadn't met before. We have a silo approach, produced in part by our physical layout, that tends to separate people, but the readings groups got people talking to new people. Also, the groups are open to anyone on campus (though men tend not to sign up), so we have faculty folks, staff folks, administrative folks, depending on who's interested.

At the end of the semester, we all get together and talk as a larger group. And suddenly, with the appearance of food, men show up and suddenly dominate the conversation. In part they dominate because our discussions provoke questions for the upper administration, and without exception, everyone with real power on this campus is male. (Alas, my campus seems to be taking backwards steps into more overt sexism.) There's a certain level of irony in hearing a male whom I've heard make some stupidly sexist comments in public forums wondering how anyone could believe that men on campus aren't totally supportive of women. It's not funny ironly, though.

The first year I did this, we read a book on gender and negotiation, which everyone in my group found informative (sometimes in horrifying ways) and interesting. The book gave us lots to talk about.

This year, I had a sort of unique group, informed feminists who'd read a lot of theory and such, and one old school feminist who'd been through consciousness raising and had a lot to contribute through her smarts and experience. We had tons to talk about, but the book was less than wonderful, too full of unsupported generalizations and sort of boringly written.

Here's the question of the day, should anyone care to help: What would be a good book for next year's reading?

The book has to be useful for people at different career stages and in different careers. We're at different places in our feminism, some folks are used to reading and thinking theoretically, some aren't. What we have in common are interests in women's issues and education.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to a good one--not terribly recent, but still relevant: