George, “Taking Women Professors Seriously”

George, E. Laurie. "Taking Women Professors Seriously: Female Authority in the Computerized Classroom." Computers and Composition 7
(April 1990; Special issue): 45-52. <>

George attempts to reconcile the principles of feminist pedagogy promoted by Adrienne Rich in her 1979 article, “Taking Women Students Seriously,” with the tensions she experiences when teaching composition at the New York Institute of Technology. George acknowledges that the working conditions for women professors have improved since Rich presented her work; yet, it is not always so simple to relinquish all power and authority to students who tend to let loose with unfiltered crudity when they are asked to discuss topics using a LAN chat room. She refers specifically to a case where one student jokes about getting beers for class and then inquires about the teacher’s sex life. George also includes a transcript of an interchange from a class taught by Kremers, a colleague of hers at NYIT. When several students begin to engage in an explicit sequence of the dozens, the teacher intervenes with, “Someone comment on how the dialogue is going.” Next, a student remarks, “I think this is a sick bunch of students.” This is a fairly complicated interchange. From it, George works toward claims about the challenge of balancing her principled feminist pedagogy with measure of control and authority: “My overall point here is that, as numerous theorists of collaborative and feminist pedagogy concur, students who have been culturally programmed and disempowered for so long have a great deal of trouble knowing what to do with power once it is given to them” (para. 17).

At the end of this short article, George asserts that it is a matter of responsibility to “tak[e] seriously my authority to control those reins” (para. 19) where students are “wilding” or acting up, particularly in those environs where authority is shared or where conventional authority structures are loosened. This argument runs parallel to Kremers’ article in the sense that the giving over to underlife is never wholesale; some aspect of authority is withheld. And it would stand to reason that this could be made explicit–that everyone involved could be forewarned. Of course, these early networked conversations were relatively contained. The disruptive/contained dyad pertains here because the network does not span beyond the classroom scene.


The democratic principles of feminist pedagogy are also fostered by student work spaces, for they are much more ample than those in the traditional classrooms, indicating a professional respect for the students’ authority. (para. 7)

This practice of privately consulting each student as others write independently reinforces to the entire class that a communal activity need not be equated with rigid repetition of boring drills, just as it proves that there is room for individuality and even privacy within group work. (para. 8)