Maya Blanchette

The program helps you think about alternative perspective.
- Maya Blanchette ’05, political science major/women’s studies minor

2005: Nora Toomey

June 29th, 2005 by Bridget

I Am A Woman, Read My Blog

When analyzing the Women’s Ways of Knowing study, it is clear that enormous technological advancements have occurred since the study’s completion, and these advancements would seriously affect the study’s results if it were repeated today. The contagious catch phrase, “I’m a woman, hear me roar!” was a memorable byproduct of the 1970’s feminist revolution.  It is interesting then, that most women interviewed for the late 1970’s Women’s Ways of Knowing study, frequently expressed frustrations with finding and expressing their voice. It is my intention to prove that advancements in technology, specifically the invention of web logs, or ‘blogs’ would have created a desperately needed, safe forum for these women that would facilitate their recognition and vocalization of voice. As a result, the way in which women reacted to and participated in their various learning environments would change dramatically. Specifically, women would find a feminine support system through blogs that would encourage them to break free from such Women’s Ways of Knowing categories as Silence. Furthermore, more women would gravitate towards Procedural and Constructed knowing, due to the infinite amount of opportunities for exchanges of original, creative systems of thought and constructive debate that blogs would provide. Blogs would create the kind of environment that women from the first wave of the Women’s Way’s of Knowing study desperately needed. Consequently, if the Women’s Way of Knowing study was repeated today, the results would represent a connection between learning and technology, therefore presenting the modern day woman as a more confident learner and voice oriented knower.

Historically, there have been many trends in the traditional classroom that perpetuate sexism. Most research on gendered education relates the ‘invisibility’ of female students in the classroom. Although they are physically present, they are seldom called on, and more likely to be interrupted or not rewarded for original thought (Sadker & Sadker). It is no wonder then that many females interviewed in the Women’s Ways of Knowing study were placed in the Silence category. An important characteristic of a woman residing in Silence is that she “see’s herself as ‘deaf and dumb’ with little ability to think” (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tavole). Surely a woman’s experience in a patriarchal classroom would abandon her in such a category. Since many women expressed the need for forms of thinking to be showcased as a “human, imperfect, and attainable activity” (Belenky), it is clear that their teaching authorities were not creating the safe venue that their vulnerable voices desired. A woman thriving on the technological bliss that is blogging, however, could attest to the fact that thinking is certainly human, imperfect, and very accessible. In fact, the very act of creating and evaluating knowledge is just one ‘Google’ away. Just by typing in “blogs by women,” a female learner is on the brink of endless support and opportunities to discover and fine tune her own voice. If a woman possesses characteristics of a Silent knower, it is most likely due to previously negative, sexist experiences she has encountered in her education. A Silent Knower might find solace in the candid recollection of one female blogger, Patia. “I was seventeen years old and two weeks into a therapeutic, wilderness survival course when I said something- I don’t remember what-that angered a popular, arrogant boy. He looked at me dismissively and said, ‘skank’” (http://www.sbpoet.com). This anecdote could stimulate a Silent knower into remembering her own experiences that led to an absence of voice. Furthermore, this one experience of reading another woman’s account of sexism could create a tidal wave of enlightenment. If Patia, the blogger, was once silenced, and now creating blogs that are accessible to an infinite amount of learners, and full of a rich, identifiable voice, then why can’t the Silent reader propel herself into new categories of knowing? Surely with enough exposure to strong, feminine voices, the Silent knower would slowly gain her own voice and awareness of the power that language has to create, exchange, and define knowledge.

In addition to the evolvement of the Silent knower, a Women’s Way’s of Knowing study conducted in the current state of technological ecstasy would generate results that placed many more women into the Procedural and Constructed knowing categories. Although there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the phenomenon of computer anxiety is a direct result of styles of computer programming being catered towards a male learner (Cooper), it is clear that computer anxiety would virtually disappear once a female became familiar with the welcoming, user friendly world of blogs. It can then be assumed that a woman’s entire involvement with her education would change. Since computer anxiety has “far reaching and long lasting consequences” (Cooper), it is clear that the elimination of computer anxiety would allow the female to explore a previously male dominated discourse. This opportunity would germinate the kind of nurturing learning experience that many women in the first Women’s Ways of Knowing study did not receive. “The kind of teacher they praised and the kind for which they yearned was one who would help them articulate and expand their latent knowledge” (Belenky).

With qualities that allow blog users to instantly respond to, and receive responses to their writing, women developing their voices could receive instant feedback from other supportive women. A recent post by The Heretic, a self proclaimed feminist blogger, illustrates the kind of discourse that is possible between bloggers. The Heretic writes, “A woman can be everything she wants. Where men are doomed to certainty, women see a world of choices.” Blue, another Blogger responded to The Heretic just five hours later, “I have always liked uppity women. Submissive women are a bore and it is a chore to help them muddle through the chaos that is life. A woman that has no chains and is an individual, true to her core, is a delight” (http://www.mediagirl.org/2005/03/an-uppity-woman-can-be-whatever-she-wants).  The Heretic has received positive feedback that simultaneously reaffirms her own voice while opening an entirely new area of discussion. This kind of academic interaction would propel a woman into a Constructed or Procedural category of knowing. Since a defining characteristic of the Procedural knowing is careful listening, or figuring out why another point of view exists, the safe forum of debate and exchange of knowledge that is generated through blog use, would help to construct a Procedural knower. A Constructed knower’s defining characteristic could also be fostered through blogs. A Constructive knower seeks knowledge and truth by constantly questioning authority and engaging in constructive dialogue. What better venue than the “blogsphere” to cultivate this quality. Since instant feedback and dialogue is a main attribute of blogs, women lingering on the brink of Constructive knowing, would learn to question and share knowledge confidently, thus crowning them a true Constructive knower.

Although the Women’s Ways of Knowing study was a monumental advancement in the feminist movement, it is clear that current technological advancements would seriously affect the study’s results if it were repeated today. The psychologists who designed the study were correct in assuming that women’s ways of knowing greatly contrasted with male’s ways of knowing. However, it is clear that researchers failed to predict the propensity that technology had to influence learning. Women’s Ways of Knowing researchers believed “that conceptions of knowledge and truth that are accepted and articulated today have been shaped throughout history by the male-dominated majority culture” (Belenky).  Surely they did not anticipate the articulate, female dominated voice that is defining blog discourse. It is my belief that blogs are redefining the feminine perspective of learning. Through blogs, women are finding their voice, and familiarizing themselves with other female voices. They are breaking free from such knowing categories as Silence, and are thriving in the enlightenment and opportunity that exists in Procedural and Constructed knowing.

References

  • Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tavole. Women’s Ways of Knowing
  • Cooper, Joel. Introducing the Problem. Gender and Computers
  • Heretic (2005). An Uppity Woman Can be Whatever She Wants. Retrieved March 12, 2005 from http://www.mediagirl.org/2005/03/an-uppity-woman-can-be-whatever-she-wants).
  • Patia (2005) Watermark: A poets Corner. Beauty Dish. Retrieved from March 12, 2005 from http://www.sbpoet.com.
  • Sadker, Maria.,Sadker, David. Confronting Sexism in the Classroom. Gender in the Classroom: Power and Pedagogy. Gabriel and Smithson (Eds.).

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