In my Women's and Gender Studies class this week, the students are learning about systems of privilege and inequality. Intersectionality is a central concept of feminism- and I wanted to ensure that my students had time to think critically about what a theoretical concept like intersectionality would look like practically. I decided that I wanted to try an active learning activity. Luckily, I found an activity from AVERT Family Violence: Collaborative Responses in the Family Law System that I could adapt to fit my learning goals. The end result was a fun yet meaningful class activity!
5. When students started to run into the "American Dream" Wall, we stopped. I had the students go down the line and read their flash card identities, starting with the most privileged first. We then headed back into the classroom to discuss our reactions to the exercise.
I asked the class, "Did this exercise help you to visualize the reality of intersectionality?"
The answer was...yes! Of course, they could have been humoring me.
Many of the students agreed that the exercise helped them to think beyond the initial privileges that are generally taken for granted and envision a bigger picture. This activity launched us into a great class discussion about privilege, horizontal hostility, the mythical norm, internalized misogny, and the five faces of oppression (particularly cultures of silence). Students shared a lot of very personal experiences, and I wonder if their comfort with sharing was (at least partially) due to starting the class with an activity that required reflecting on personal experiences.
Verdict: I can't wait to devise more of these activities! The students really seemed to enjoy it, and the discussion that followed had almost 100% participation. Hopefully, I can make a habit of starting class with an active learning activity!