Teach-In: Expanding the Conversation
Preparing for the Interviews:
For our teach-in, we wanted to explore how we could expand the conversation that we've been having in class to include those outside of Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Epeck, sekang, and I decided to do this by literally bringing other people into our classroom. With a list of questions on the topics that we felt generated the most discussion in class, we went to the 30th Street and Market East train stations to interview people. We chose these locations hoping that their large amounts of commuter traffic would enable us to speak with a population diverse in terms of race, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. Going into this project, we were aware that choosing random people for the interviews creates the problem of selection bias, and so we made a concentrated effort to approach as many people as possible. Of course, we acknowledge that selection bias, despite our efforts, probably still influenced who we spoke with.
We conducted eleven interviews, asking:
1. What is feminism?
2. Who do you think of when you think of feminism?
3. How do you know if someone is a man?
4. How do you know if someone is a woman?
5. How do you express your gender?
6. How do you define sex work?
7. Do you think that sex work can be empowering for women?
Before each interview, we introduced ourselves as students working on a project for a gender studies class. We told the person or people being interviewed that our recording would only be seen in class and would not be available any where else. We also told them that they could pass on questions they felt were too uncomfortable.
During the Interviews:
Surprisingly, at least for me, most people were very open to discussion and did not choose to pass on any of the questions, not even the ones about sex work which I had anticipated would garner some negative reactions. The only exception was one interviewee who passed on the question of whether sex work can empower women, explaining that he didn't feel he could give a thoughtful answer because he had never considered the question before. Upon reflection, I wonder about whether the interviewees' perceptions of us influenced their answers. I found it interesting when two of the men, respectively, stated that there was a "safe" answer and a "better" answer, which none of the women did. Also, thinking back to rayj's setting the scene presentation about the way that tumblr lauds male feminists, I wonder if all of the interviewees' reactions and responses would have been different if we were men.
After the Interviews:
After the interviews, we had to condense over thirty minutes of footage into ten for the presentation. This process reminded me of our discussion during the class session on "Born into Brothels," but this time we were on the side that I had so heavily critiqued. During the editing process, I found that I did begin to develop "favorites," either people or responses that had a deeper impact on me than others, and that I wanted to highlight these people. I gained a deeper sympathy for documentary makers because despite the best intentions, it is difficult not to develop some sort of attachment to people whose faces and voices you've watched many, many times.
The time limit on our presentation as well as epeck and sekang's input balanced out my unintentional favoritism. The ten minute time limit meant that we had to cut out a lot of our footage and had to make decisions about what was the most salient part of each person's response, and by the end, who had the most relevant or interesting answers. Epeck and sekang's perspectives during the editing process made the video as equitable as it could be given the time contraints.