My Hysterical Performance

I’m a teacher and a woman, so I’m open to passionate conversations. I teach with intensity and focus. This week’s #moocmooc discussion relates to feminist perspectives in critical pedagogies. Nick Kearney’s comment to Lee Skallerup Bessette’s blog post Pedagogies of Care: A #MoocMooc Post has me responding with passion.

Nick writes “Passion is often related to emotion in opposition of ‘rationality’, but is it not more about intensity of focus, and the honouring of presence?”  The age-old patriarchal view of feminine ‘hysteria’ as an emotional over-reaction to events, issues or circumstances jumped to mind. Is passion a feminist domain? Do passionate teachers reveal themselves to be feminist in nature?  I’d like to think that it is more an intensity and an honouring of our true selves than hysterical response. Many male teaching counterparts who express themselves and explore issues are not automatically deemed ‘hysterical’. Rather they are seen as ‘manning-up’.

Ballet Preparations

Ballet Preparations, Flickr CC

As bell hooks revealed “teaching is a performative act”. Where would the performance be if passion is not revealed, intensity not exposed or emotional involvement not be encouraged. It is in the performance of teaching that the true self is revealed. Teachers (professors) become vulnerable from the ‘stage’ upon which they stand and express their topics, viewpoints, or focus. Yet this is a necessary “catalyst that calls everyone to become more engaged, become active participants in learning” (bell hooks). As a passionate educator, I reveal to my students the interest, opportunity and liberating learning from my perspective, exposing myself to them as a model. Empowering my students comes from my ‘honouring of presence’ with them, with the subject matter and with my ‘self’. This liberation creates a moment in which we can all turn and shift the focus from self to that of others or the subject matter, thus being free to learn.

Bell hooks’ statement “education is the practice of freedom” resonates and connects to this notion of passion. By intensely focusing and honouring the presence of self and others within the learning space, we become free to speak. Deeply listening and illuminating our true self will free us from boundaries set by stereotypes (gender, race, positions), oppressive ideals, or hierarchies of thought.  Are these feminist ideals? Perhaps! But maybe it’s my hysteria showing!


bell hooks. (1994). Teaching to transgression: Education as the practice of freedom.

Skallerup Bessette, L. (Jan. 26, 2015). Pedagogies of Care: A #MoocMooc post.

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