Neither Bitch Nor Mother: Queering Safety in the Classroom


  • Catherine O. Fox



Queer theory, Safety, Feminism, Reciprocity, Pedagogy


Reciprocity between teachers and students has been central to transformative pedagogies since the early work of Paulo Freire. However, realizing students as knowledge-producers is much more difficult. This article argues that typically it is the critical educator who “troubles” students’ ideological assumptions, often with the aim of culturally reproducing ourselves through what Michael Warner describes as reprosexuality. This places teachers at the center of the power/knowledge nexus and can foreclose the possibility of a dialogic relation with students in which the power of knowledge-making is a shared endeavor. Using a case study of a graduate course focused on feminist rhetorics and pedagogies in which maternal nurturance and safety in the classroom were central issues, this article explores how Judith Butler’s politics of recognition and vulnerability can serve to build truly reciprocal student-teacher relations and a renewed vision of the role of safety in the classroom.

Author Biography

Catherine O. Fox

Catherine O. Fox is an Associate Professor at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs in Rhetoric and Writing and her work focuses on the intersections of rhetoric, feminism, and queer theory. Her work has appeared in the journals Feminist Studies, College English, Pedagogy, JAC: Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics, and Third-Space.