Apparent Feminism

Apparent feminism is my response to a particular kairotic moment in which the idea of “post-feminism” is often invoked. This methodology is needed because of current political trends that render misogyny unapparent combined with uncritically negative responses to the term feminism. I am particularly concerned with a relative lack of feminist work in technical communication over the past 15 years. That is to say, although there are a number of feminist technical communicators doing important work in that area, the field as a whole seems to be no longer concerned with “the woman problem.”

However, I’m happy to report that my dissertation, Theorizing an Apparent Feminism in Technical Communication, won the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication. This indicates to me that work in this area is relevant to many members of the field–and, thus, I hope to help sponsor more conversations on the subject.

To learn more about apparent feminism, check below for its Major Features or the Research Questions I was trying to answer when I came up with the idea. Or,  learn how to Take Action. If you need some convincing that sexism is a modern problem, you might also check out a few of the Highlighted Posts from my blog.

Major features

In brief, apparent feminism seeks to:

  • make more obvious the need for feminist interventions in everyday life as well as in academia. So, an apparent feminist would be devoted to making apparent the urgent and sometimes hidden exigencies for feminist critique of contemporary politics. In addition, apparent feminists seek to respond to the reactionary ways in which feminism is often attacked. The notion of apparency in its incarnation as denoting something potentially false calls subversive attention to attacks on feminism. Apparent feminists are concerned with responding persuasively to attacks on feminism while still making apparent their self-identification as feminist.
  • use rhetorical techniques to call upon audiences who do not usually self-identify as feminist. That is, apparent feminists are interested in coalition with those who might appear to be feminist in their activism or ideological perspectives, but for whatever reason do not embrace that label.
  • demystify the relationship between feminism and efficiency. As has often been noted in technical communication and rhetoric scholarship, terms that are invisibly and especially valued should be troubled. The ways that we understand efficiency and how it bears on our use of other terms limits our understanding of those terms; that is, our choice to continue using the term feminism depends upon our determination that it is efficient to do so. I argue for explicit analysis of the term efficiency in order to show that it actually relies upon perhaps unexpected concepts—like diversity—for its value. (For example, we might re-imagine efficiency as audience-focused. The most efficient message is one that is the most effective for the largest amount of people.)

Research questions

My dissertation seeks to establish apparent feminism as a means of investigating the following research questions:

  • Do feminisms provide an efficient critical framework for supporting social justice agendas in technical communication?
  • Do feminisms provide a strong but flexible foundation for challenging social injustices?
  • How important is it for feminist technical communicators to be explicit about their feminism? In what circumstances?
  • How might feminist technical communicators and allies respond persuasively to allegations of feminist bias? How might feminist technical communicators respond persuasively to allegations of bias based on oppressive intersectionalities?
  • Should feminist technical communicators be welcoming of allies in social justice work without demanding allegiance to the term feminism? If so, how?
  • Is efficiency a relevant measure by which to justify feminism’s value for technical communication? What sorts of re-imaginings of efficiency might this invite? What might it preclude?
  • What are the limitations of understanding feminisms, feminist, social justice, bias, and efficiency in the ways I am suggesting? What important elements of the situation does my approach leave out?

Highlighted Posts

The following posts are just a very few examples of why feminisms are still relevant, important, and necessary today.