Review of CCCC Feminist Workshop 2017: Intersectionality within Writing Programs and Practices

white program with the words The feminist Wrokshop, standing group on the status of women in the profession

Image of The Feminist Workshop Program and buttons.

By the co-chairs of the CCCC Feminist Workshop

The Feminist Workshop at the 2017 Conference on College Composition and Communication held in Portland, Oregon titled, “Intersectionality within Writing Programs and Practices” explored intersectional feminism(s) and social justice in teaching, administrative work, and rhetorical practices. For the 2017 conference organizers, including Lauren Connelly, April Conway, Nicole Khoury, Jennifer Nish, Lydia McDermott, and Patty Wilde, intersectionality was an important theme to revisit, in light of the current national, political, and social discourse.

Founded by Gesa Kirsch and Patricia Sullivan in 1991, the CCCC Feminist Workshop, sponsored by the CCCC Feminist Caucus Standing Group, was launched to provide scholars a space to discuss feminist issues within the field composition-rhetoric. Kirsti Cole’s 2014 Feminist Workshop presentation, a historical analysis of the Feminist Workshop, observes that intersectionality and diversity recur as major themes of the workshop. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the term “intersectionality” addresses the importance of acknowledging how different oppressions interact and recognizing intragroup differences in experiences of oppression. Gender and race, Crenshaw argues, need to be addressed in tandem in order to understand the unique experiences of sexism and racism that women of color experience, which aren’t reducible to racism or sexism alone. Crenshaw’s theory has since been taken up widely to explore how gender interacts with other sites of marginalization, including race, ethnicity, nationality, class, ability, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

The 2017 workshop featured two panels, “Intersectional Feminist Practices and Ways of Knowing” and “Intersectional Feminism and Social Justice,” with breakout groups for writing and activism discussions between panel presentations.

The workshop day started with Cristina Ramirez’s presentation, “At the Center of Our Writing, Working, Listening & Learning: Intersecting Leadership Skills with Feminist Praxis,” which raised questions about the weight of our decisions, actions, and words as rhetorical scholars, pedagogues, and administrators. Cristina provided examples from her own practices as feminist scholar / researcher and shared how bringing our feminist ways of knowing to bear upon daily practice of work (teaching, administration, and writing) can serve as a positive change in our work environment. The presentation included audience-centered and participatory discussion of our own ideas of feminist praxis, and Cristina shared a bibliography she complied on Intersectional Feminism, found here: Intersectional Feminism Bibliography Compiled by Cristina Ramirez.


Nicole Gonzales Howell’s presentation, “Intersectional Research Methods: Sharing Identities, Changing Identities,” challenged our traditional understanding of ethos and genre through a historiographic study on social justice activist Dolores Huerta. Nicole took up the difficult, but also rewarding ways in which examining how Huerta’s intersectional identities influence her ethos construction and how any such examination requires careful consideration of research methods.

Tara Wood explored the intersections of feminist/disability theory/experience for women working in academia in her presentation titled “Harnessing Intersectional Energy: The Parallel Rhetorics of Femaleness and Disability.” The interconnected rhetorics of disclosure (disclosing children on the job market, disclosing pregnancy, disclosing marital status, disclosing disability, disclosing need for accommodation) and the perception of instructor ability (teacher’s bodies, student evaluations, etc.) were of particular note. Interrogating the parallel rhetorics of femaleness and disability, she maintained, allows us to expose oppressive sexist/ableist barriers to being a working academic.

Ersula Ore’s presentation titled “Reflections from an Academic Jaywalker” lead the second half of the workshop on the panel, Intersectional Feminism and Social Justice, by synthesizing work and testimonies of faculty women of color with the purpose of outlining strategies for negotiating one’s place within the academy. Ersula’s talk focused on  the ways in which faculty women of color both combat and succumb to the academy’s “crazy-making” space, and asked participants to engage in a lively and  interactive discussion on the challenges we face as feminist academics.

Karrieann Soto’s “Networks of Struggle, Networks of Solidarity: Intersections of a Diasporican,” explored the process of writing a feminist rhetorical history of Lolita Lebrón, the late Puerto Rican nationalist woman whose advocacy speaks to the long-lasting effects of colonialism and U.S. imperialism. As a Puerto Rican woman in a continental U.S. academia, Karrieann’s research traced contemporary repercussions of the issues that Lebrón’s social justice rhetoric meant to highlight. The presentation demonstrated how feminist histories can be applied to contemporary social justice rhetoric, specifically focusing on a Puerto Rican geopolitical perspective.

The workshop concluded with group discussions that examined how we could use theories of intersectionality to address some of the inequities that we witnessed in the classroom, our institution, the field, and communities. projects.

Continuing the emphasis on intersectionality, the 2018 Feminist Workshop, “Feminist Rhetorics of Resistance and Transformation,” seeks to address how intersectionality can help scholars recognize, challenge, and change the inequities we encounter in the everyday labors that we conduct as feminist teachers, administrators, scholars, and rhetors.  We encourage your attendance, as we will offer opportunities to discuss activist strategies as well as writing workshops.

Archived live Tweets from previous years can be found at #4C17femwk  #4c16femwk  #4c2015femwork

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Feminist Workshop 2018 Co-Chairs,
Lydia McDermott, Whitman College
Patty Wilde, Washington State University Tri-Cities
Nicole Khoury, University of Illinois at Chicago
Sherry Rankins-Robertson, University of Arkansas
Angela Clark-Oates, California State University, Sacramento
Kate Pantelides, Middle Tennessee State University
Karla Knutson, Concordia College
Rachel Chapman, Texas Christian University