We Walked Out

April 5, 2011

About an hour into my course on Feminist Spaces Online a student informed us that an absent class member had just texted her suggesting that we should leave class and join her at the USC Walkout for a Safer Campus. This we did, and I couldn’t have scripted a better “teachable moment” for our class.

While we are certain that the distinction between online and offline experience is no longer useful to describe most of our lived experience of self or community, in our many conversations about place, activism, self-authoring and self-representation, I have always held the protest up as a sort of litmus test of embodiment. Given that the vast majority of my students had never been in (or witnessed) a protest, the sustaining  gap between (my) lived, bodily experience and (their) experience via representation would then function in our classroom to authorize and alienate, albeit kindly. That is, until they voted to walk out.

The heat of the sun, the surge of eighty voices together, the stares of suspicious classmates and smiles of fellow protesters, the sense that we had transformed a normative space along feminist and anti-racist values, the understanding that many bodies are both more visible and also more safe than any one alone, the pride in taking action in the name of principle, and the weak and strong pull of the ever-present media in relation to these actions and experiences taught my students and I about feminist place and the Internet in a way that this blog (and my classroom teaching, and our books, and incessantly accessible protest videos) will not, can not, and need not.

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