Transforming the way we express equality
Our feminist approach offers students a space to discuss gender and equality through art and design practice.
Equality through art
Inspired by overhearing students saying “I’m not a feminist, but…” senior lecturers Casey Orr, Jo Hassall and Liz Stirling joined forces to form feminist research group F=. The trio designed F= to give students a platform to think about equality. Casey says: “We began to question how we could talk about feminism with students and create opportunities for them to discuss it through graphic art and design, without us just telling them what it is.”
Their combined expertise in photography, fine art and illustration means their individual skills and views complemented each other perfectly. “Our collaborative teaching is quite an unusual approach,” said Jo. “And we work in a playful and quite risky way. I think this has had some influence on the culture of teaching and research amongst people we work with in the school and with colleagues who teach in other faculties who are interested in applying some of these approaches within their own subject areas.”
Recent feminist movements, such as #MeToo and Equal Pay Day, have created opportunities for new discussions around equality, both on campus and across society.
“Our teenage daughters wear feminist t-shirts because it’s the cool thing to do now,” added Casey. “Young people are really mobilised by feminism at the minute. We especially see that with our students. They are constantly talking about it and commenting on feminist politics.” Considering their passion for equality and feminism, it is unsurprising that F= has had an impact on their teaching at Leeds Beckett. Some students may initially think, ‘Why are we doing this?’ but they soon see how inequality has affected everyone’s life in some way,” explains Liz. “Our feminist approach means students now actively want to talk about equality and inequality.”
Jo concluded: “We avoid imposing a fixed curriculum and because we work and learn alongside our students, we are in it with them so they feel comfortable in expressing their ideas. We have helped to make equality more visible - it’s like design activism.”