This project, for me, illustrates the perfect example of a kairotic moment. The idea to do an expansive, feminist-focused review of Kairos webtexts had been on my radar for a while, but I had gotten sidetracked as I moved across the country and transitioned into a new department.
When I was assigned a new course, Feminist Rhetoric, I struggled to design content for the course that would cover everything from Aspasia and the Seneca Falls Convention to Ginsberg and Beyoncé.
Yet, the kairotic moment presented itself just as Kairos prepared to celebrate 20 years of influence in our field; I realized that my students and I could look back and re-envision a decade of Kairos webtexts through a feminist lens.
What follows is a retrospective of the scholarship published in Kairos from 2002–2012, but with the added intention of revealing the unseen feminisms at work in the journal. My students and I identified implicit strains of feminism embedded in Kairos webtexts from that decade and then related them directly to a definition of feminist rhetoric that we built from our study of ancient and modern works. Though the majority of the authors of the scholarship we analyzed did not—and may not—identify as feminist scholars, it is our hope that our analysis will create new bridges between those who may be united by some of the core values and characteristics we identify here. As Kairos readers look back and celebrate two decades of work, we hope that this analysis reinvigorates and repositions not only the work in this journal but perhaps also the sometimes less-than-celebrated feminist label.
–Jen Almjeld, Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication at James Madison University
We come from the Women and Gender Studies program; the Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication program; and the School of Communication at James Madison University.
Our review essay has been designed as a tool to highlight the feminist perspectives already at work within Kairos by identifying webtexts of particular interest to scholars seeking a feminist perspective.
We recognize that our voices do not represent the entirety of Kairos's academic discourse community. Some of us are rhetoric majors, as is our professor; however, many of us are in other fields, such as social work, women and gender studies, English, politics, justice, and communication studies.
Each of these fields represent a different set of scholars, methods, and conventions, so while many of us may be considered outsiders, we claim that outsider status and the way it rhetorically colors this webtext. We bring a fresh perspective to the scholarship in Kairos.
meet the class
My name is Allison Michelli. I am a 21-year old and proud native of the Northern Virginia area. At James Madison University, I am a junior majoring in writing, rhetoric and technical communication with a minor in communication studies. A lover of all things pink, sparkly, and cat-related, I spend my free time indulging in the sweeter side of life. I am an active member of Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority and the University Women's Chorus, so I am often found lending a hand in the community or singing a catchy tune. My goal after graduating is to write for a fashion, culinary, or lifestyle magazine in New York City.
My name is Chelsea Weatherhead. I am a 21-year old from Lorton, Virginia. I am finishing my senior year at James Madison University and will be graduating with a degree in communication studies and a minor in writing and rhetoric. I took my first course on feminism during my freshman year and have been hooked ever since. One of my favorite quotes comes from Rebecca West: "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." When I'm not in school, I can be found reading, listening to music, or watching sci-fi or fantasy movies with my dog.
I'm Kortney Frederick, a 22-year old English major with minors in writing, rhetoric and technical communication, and Spanish. I'm from Fairfax, Virginia, but my family moved to Memphis after my freshman year, so I really don't know where I'm going after I graduate. Anyways... I became interested in feminism after I took a class on women and literature (and joined Tumblr). One of my favorite feminist role models is Marina from Marina & the Diamonds.
My name is Samantha Perez, and I hope to graduate in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies and a minor in women and gender studies from James Madison University. I am a 21-year old from the small town of Haymarket, Virginia, which is on the cusp of the Washington D.C. suburbs and the farm country of Virginia. I am also a member of JMU's nationally-ranked policy debate team and hope to one day become a professor in communication studies and coach collegiate debate. Feminism is a passion of mine (along with long walks on the beach, my Pomchi puppy Teddy, and Game of Thrones) because it enforces the radical notion that difference should be accepted, which is how I wish more people viewed life. I hope that more education about feminism, like this review of Kairos, help people to not "fear the f-word" and embrace the notion of what a feminist is. I think the words of feminist icon Gloria Steinem best embodies my view of feminism: "A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men."
My name is Julia Germain, and I am the reviewer of Kairos issue 13.1. I'm a senior at James Madison University. I am from Northern Virginia and although I will be applying for careers in D.C., I hope to branch out to either New York or the West Coast eventually. Although I have long been interested in the topic of feminism, it was not until this class that I and my peers were able to define what feminism is. I can say I now feel more confident, and look forward to, actively participating in feminist conversation.
I am Mallory O'Shea, a 20-year old from Sterling, Virginia, living in Harrisonburg and studying political science and writing, rhetoric, and technical communication. My academic foci are digital media, women's politics, and feminist theory. I hope to continue in the field of political advocacy post-graduation. My introduction to feminism and intersectionality was entirely thanks to Tumblr and Twitter, so I have a particular appreciation for online advocacy and the Kairos project. My current feminist inspirations and sources of growth are the women with whom I share a weekly talk show, Dame Theory. I find feminism to be incredibly empowering but extremely frustrating and enjoy my time off from voicing my opinion by watching Parks and Rec, DJing for student radio, and practicing yoga. One of my favorite feminist quotes comes from Simone de Beauvoir: "They do not postulate woman as inferior, for today they are too thoroughly imbued with the ideal of democracy not to recognise all human beings as equals."
My name is Meghan Lavin. I am 22-years old, and I am an aspiring poet and writer currently studying English and writing, rhetoric, and technical communication at James Madison University. Raised in Ireland, my feminist icon is Gráinne Mhaol, the 16th century legendary pirate queen of Connacht who fought to challenge the turbulent politics of her time during a pivotal period of Irish history. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and traveling during the summers.
My name is Tyler Haas, and I am a 21-year old feminist who graduated from James Madison University on May 10, 2014 (also known as the worst day of my life!). This Richmond native will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in General Communication, as well as a minor in Spanish, and is planning a move to Arlington, Virginia. Jo March from the movie Little Women is my favorite feminist role model, and I live for the Jo March quote that says, "I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country."
My name is Jen Almjeld, and I come to this project with an interest in gender, identity, and new media theory. I am an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication at James Madison University and have recent publications in Computers and Composition, Computers and Composition Online, and the collection Girls, Cultural Productions and Resistance. I am also the co-author of a multimodal composition textbook called CrossCurrents: Cultures, Communities, Technologies. I am also interested in outreach activities related to my research and have directed the Girlhood Remixed camp for two summers. The camp brings tween girls to a college campus for four days of online production of iMovies, blogs, and podcasts. The camp providesa mentoring environment with volunteer faculty, graduate, and undergraduate volunteers.
My name is Rebekah Pitts, and I am a 20-year old from Woodbridge, Virginia. I plan to graduate May 2015, with a double major in Spanish and writing, rhetoric and technical communication. Some of my favorite things to do are visiting the beach, traveling, taking photographs, scrapbooking, and watching my favorite channel, HGTV. Growing up I loved to watch Little Women, and I believe that Jo March is a terrific representation of a true feminist.
My name is Troy Fultz, and I am a rising senior at James Madison University. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with declared minors in women and gender studies and writing, rhetoric, and technical communication. I am from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and enjoy reading Joan Didion multiple times over and painting portraits. Being the only male-identified member of the Feminist Rhetoric class presented a series of its own challenges, but I have learned when to express my opinion and when not to speak for others.
My name is Rachel Fisher, and I'm a junior at James Madison University. Studying writing, rhetoric, and technical communication, as well as art and Italian, I hope to find some balance of my interests in my future career. From Richmond, Virginia, I will move anywhere that offers a city as my home and a job in the writing world, preferably for a publishing house. I've declared myself feminist for as long as I've known what the word meant. I'm a huge proponent of modern pop-culture feminism, featuring artists like Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, and Kesha, and I will argue in support of them until my opponent gives up.
My name is Peggy Michel. I am a junior at James Madison University. I transferred from Blue Ridge Community College where I was president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and graduated with an Associates of Arts and Sciences degree, magna cum laude. Born in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, I enjoyed living on the Long Island Sound for all of my youth. I am majoring in social work in order to impact my community in a proactive way. I have dedicated years of my life to serving others and embracing people regardless of their ethnicity, social status, gender identity, or healthfulness. As they have participated in my journey, I cherish my husband, children, and grandchildren. I have found validation in the writings of Elizabeth Cady Stanton—she fulfills a legacy her family and friends can be proud of by aspiring to be the change, and always challenging others, and herself, to reach higher.
My name is Kelly Vingelis, and I am a 21-year old female hailing from Falls Church, Virginia—in the overpopulated, culturally diverse, and economically booming suburbs of Washington, D.C. I am a senior communication studies major with a dual passion for politics and pop culture. Naturally, my feminist idol and ultimate queen is former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. As a prominent female politician and cultural icon, Clinton has paved the way for women to get into politics and is constantly challenging gender norms—all while looking fierce in a pantsuit.
My name is Sierra McAliney, and I am a 21-year old woman hailing from New Jersey. I am a junior communication studies major and am minoring in music industry. I binged on feminism this semester by taking this course, being a co-host of a feminist talk show, and being president of the JMU Feminist Collective. When I'm not doing activist work, I like to read books, doodle, and go Internet shopping. My favorite feminist quote is by Gloria Steinem: "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."
My name is Megan O'Neill, and I am a 20-year old cisgender woman from Woodbridge, Virginia. I am a rising senior with an expected graduation date of May 2015, as an English major with writing, rhetoric, and technical communication and women and gender studies minors. I incorporate intersectional feminism into every aspect of my life. I am currently working on an honors thesis aimed at rediscovering feminist women in literature during a time before feminism became an organizing principle behind which people began to stand. My favorite feminist role models would have to be Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert. Their work on The Madwoman in the Attic paved much of my early research and exploration into feminism. I am a proud owner of Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years, edited by JMU's own Annette Federico.
My name is Kinzie Stanley, and I am a 20-year old from Staunton, Virginia. I am a senior at James Madison University, pursuing dual degrees in writing, rhetoric, and technical communication and media arts and design, and I plan on attending law school after I graduate. I am also a feminist—both in name and action—and I am a firm believer that the values perpetuated through feminism are inherently beneficial to all people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. When I'm not tutoring in the University Writing Center or writing a paper of my own, I enjoy cooking, listening to music, practicing yoga, and hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
My name is Judy Hong and I am a junior at JMU majoring in justice studies and communication studies. I am a member of 88.7 FM WXJM's feminist talk show Dame Theory and an editorial content assistant for As[I]Am.
My name is Hillary Chester, and I am a 21-year old senior at James Madison University from Woodbridge, Virginia, but was born in Pittsburgh. I am a writing, rhetoric, and technical communication major. I think the Steelers are the best NFL team and will angrily tell anyone who will listen about my true fandom. My feminist icons are my mother, grandmother, and spoken word poet Glenis Redmond. Literary icon Redmond states in her poem "March Madness," "when it is March I am mad and I will not cease being mad until women are cherished, upheld, and worshipped like Goddesses." And really, doesn't everybody need a little worshipping now and then?
My name is Morgan Shaughnessy, and I will be graduating in May with a double major Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and writing, rhetoric, and technical communication. I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and my family moved from Georgia, to Oklahoma, to New York before finally settling in Richmond, Virginia. I will be moving back to New York City this summer to chase my dreams. One of my favorite quotes that encompasses a small part of my idea of feminism is from Girls on HBO, "I don't like women telling other women what to do, how to do it, or when to do it."
My name is Brooklyn Steele, a 21-year old from Front Royal, Virginia. I am currently a senior at James Madison University and graduating in May. I am majoring in communication studies with a minor in family studies. My interest in feminism began in a class I took and loved, Sociology of Gender. I have always believed in feminist ideas but didn't really have a name for them. I have now taken three feminist classes and have much better insight as a young feminist. I really enjoy reading blogs about feminist issues and am part of a JMU student-oriented blog ShoutOut!
our mission & philosophy
This review essay evaluates a decade of scholarship from a feminist perspective and, in so doing, encourages both journal contributors and readers to recognize hidden strains of feminism in webtexts appearing in this journal. While Kairos might not specifically identify as a feminist publication, there are many instances of latent feminism in works published here. On the other hand, many of the webtexts published in Kairos overtly engage feminist topics and concerns like gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. However, we hope our work might invite more authors to specifically situate their work as a feminist rhetoric and perhaps openly claim the term feminist for themselves. This reluctance of authors we see performing feminist scholarship to avoid labeling their work as such may be an intentional avoidance of the "f-word," a word with a history.
As an ideology, the feminist movement often avoids labels and categories. But we feel that there is a real power in using the "f-word" to define and re-define scholarship taking on the work of challenging norms and structures of power—in this case, often in the classroom and workplace—and in opening up new spaces for a variety of voices to be heard via a variety of modalities. Ultimately, many pieces of scholarship published in Kairos demonstrate various feminist rhetorical elements, and in doing so they challenge existing ideas that sometimes seek to constrain teaching and research in rhetoric, composition, and pedagogy.
Since we collectively produced this feminist review of Kairos, we thought that it was only fitting that the review itself adhere to the feminist rhetorical principles we identified in our class. An important first step in developing our commentary on Kairos's position within feminism involved coming up with a definition of feminist rhetoric that we could use as a point of reference. We agreed on seven terms that we felt were essential components of other standout feminist works to create our definition.
First, our review embodies the authors by providing bios that explain who we are and our own relationships to the project and to feminism. We not only include images and text about ourselves, but also include a video—despite its ametuerish production value—in hopes of connecting with readers as with more than words on a screen. Our review also gives a voice to our participants when we highlight the feminist strengths of Kairos and its publications. Similarly, we seek to validate various experiences by highlighting both hidden and obvious aspects of feminism impacting the journal. Like Kairos itself, our review essay is multimodal, incorporating both text and video in an attempt to increase its overall reach and accessibility. In terms of positionality, we are aware that we are not all experts in the field of computers and writing. In acknowledging this limitation, we position ourselves as curious outsiders interested in joining the larger conversation about the role of feminism in the discipline of rhetoric.
Having said that, we do not intend this to be your typical scholarly review essay. Seeking to explicitly challenge systems of power and the norms of traditional scholarship allows us to approach this review in a new way. Our review empowers different ways of being by celebrating a variety of rhetorical approaches, design choices, and narrative voices found in the journal. We hope this work inspires others to consider this publication as a space where feminist rhetorical principles are enacted, celebrated, and made explicit. We see our review as an example of how online scholarly journals like Kairos can promote accessibility for all ways of being and can be used as safe spaces for feminists to claim that title.
Our class began in the way that most feminist classes begin, by reading what we termed "the rockstars of feminist thought." We traversed decades of speeches, writing, and visual works by and about women. We began our study of feminist rhetorics with Cheryl Glenn's (1997) foundational text, Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance. This is where we began to re-map or re-claim the essential texts of female rhetors like Aspasia, Sappho, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Margaret More Roper, Anne Askew, and Queen Elizabeth I. We also considered the work of contemporary feminist writers and scholars including bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judith Butler, and Audre Lorde.
We examined ways these female intellectual figures had their work co-opted, ignored, or dismissed by authorities, and how the patriarchal practice of sexualizing female thinkers and public figures and devaluing their work continues today. Many of the works displayed a tendency to invoke power through their exploration of the relationship between body, spirit, and intellect; the growth of knowledge through religious and emotional expression; and an awareness of the author's own positionality and the challenges faced in giving voice to ideas others felt unfit for public spheres of rhetoric.
What emerged was a framework for defining historic and modern examples of feminist rhetorical expressions. As this list of characteristics emerged, we noted that many of these characteristics were also present in Kairos, perhaps most notably the use of multiple modes and the challenging of norms and systems of power—in this case in regards to academic publishing. What follows is certainly not an exhaustive list of feminist rhetorics, but is instead intended to ground readers in the terms we will use as we review Kairos issues and to understand how we came to choose these rhetorics as particular lenses through which to review Kairos. During our study of both canonized works of feminist rhetorics and what we consider covert feminist works in Kairos, we identified seven characteristics we feel mark a rhetoric as a feminist enterprise. We read feminist rhetorics as doing or being at least one of these.
feminist rhetorics are...
(select to expand)
Margery Kempe, credited with writing the first autobiography in English, gained acclaim for publicly challenging notions of women's fitness to speak on spiritual matters. This important work was achieved by ignoring the distinction between personal experience and public and political rhetorics. Known for possessing the "gift of tears," Kempe is often dismissed as suffering hysteria rather than religious insight. But this linking of her corporal body with her intellect and spiritual awakening was exactly what gave her rhetoric power. The works of contemporary rhetorician bell hooks also embodied the scholar through grounding in her life experiences. "Sexism... is the practice of domination most people are socialized to accept before they ever experience other forms of oppression," according to hooks (Foss, Foss, & Griffin, 2006, p. 77). She established her experiences of familial patriarchy and institutional sexism in academia and addressed life events as not just relevant but crucial to feminist understandings, urging teachers in particular to allow students to discuss their unique perspectives. hooks writes memoirs alongside political texts and lets her experience cross over into her cultural theory, using her life as subject while diverting attention toward ideas and decentralizing her authorial self from her work's focus.
In our reading of Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald's (2001) Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s) , we encountered poet and activist Sappho, among others. Her words were neither humble nor apologetic in tone, but exuded confidence in voice and being. Sappho, perhaps best known for her sexual orientation, was an important rhetorical figure that gave voice to women's experience and feelings and also prowess in poetry, an arena formerly reserved only for men. Voice—whether one's own or afforded to others and often overlooked through a rhetorician's work—expresses linguistic identity and the performative power of language. In "Reflections from the Borderlands," rhetorician Gloria Anzaldúa explained, "I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white" (Foss, Foss, & Griffin, 2006, p. 105). She challenged dichotomies by exploring how interconnected body and intellect, language, and identity are to the individual. The blurring of this dichotomy allows for new self-identification from the participant. By encouraging individuals who are traditionally marginalized to locate their voice, they are no longer limited to the phallocentric language systems used as a means of oppression.
Privileged, highly educated, and tremendously powerful, Queen Elizabeth I was a woman in a unique rhetorical position to say the least. She once said, "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too" (Ritchie & Ronald, 2001, p. 48). To secure her position as monarch she was often forced to eschew her gendered existence, but she was always profoundly aware of the rhetorical context from which she spoke. Recognizing one's privilege and limitations is vital when taking on research. Our reading of Nancy L. Deutsch (2004) helped us understand how vital it is to recognize one's positionality when conducting research and the ways that position might impact participants. Deutsch's work explored her identity as a researcher and the ways in which that identity sometimes conflicted with her personal identity.
So many of the texts we read in our course began as other texts—as speeches like the one delivered at the Seneca Falls Convention, as popular songs like those of Beyoncé, as performance pieces and legal defenses. Anne Askew, for example, was a Protestant martyr put to death for her belief that women could speak in matters of faith and is perhaps most famously remembered for her rhetoric of silence. When she refused to answer the questions of her inquisitors, she shifted power and created a rhetorical appeal out of thin air. Like Askew, modern feminists utilize multiple rhetorical appeals to speak to various audiences. Feminist rhetoricians recognize the importance of accessibility to our works by making them available in vernacular and alternate modes. As well, they acknowledge multiple ways of learning, privileging multiplicity over the author-as-expert model.
Often the first step to challenging systems of power and oppression is to validate other ways of being and knowing. Julian of Norwich, venerated by the modern Lutheran and Anglican churches, validated the role of women in the church with her bold use of "I" in her writings—acknowledging her own right to speak. Her 16 "showings" or religious visions were the basis for her text, Revelations of Divine Love, but her radical contribution to the rhetorical canon was her feminizing of the trinity and insistence that the female was not at odds with faith. Like Julian of Norwich, Audre Lorde validated experience by showing women how they could use their difference to create stronger communities. "Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself," Lorde wrote (Ritchie & Ronald, 2001, p. 301), and in so doing she claimed her unique voice. As a rhetor, Lorde constantly challenged what could be a public discourse for academia. By breaking conventions of her race and gender, she interrogated academia to recognize privilege while breaking the silence for individuals who could not speak.
Perhaps most importantly, we see feminist texts as challenging systems of hegemonic power and normative practices. By disrupting these behaviors, new discourses surface and permeate the community of learning. Ancient female rhetorician Hortensia, voiced only through Plato in his Symposium, was important not only in her arguments for the valuing of women, but also in her ability to be heard in this male space. Diversity of being greatly relates to a diversity of intellectual thought, and therefore should always be the means to which systems of powers are challenged. Simone de Beauvoir challenged the very system of gender in her Second Sex when she reminded us that "one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman" (Ritchie & Ronald, 2001, p. 254). Similarly, Judith Butler challenged systems of power regulating gender performance with her writings, but did so in a manner that made feminist perspective and philosophy palatable for traditional academic readers.
While not all rhetorical acts lead to change, many of the feminist rhetorics we studied sought to empower listeners and readers, even in the face of systems of power and oppression. Medieval author Christine de Pizan is often cited as the first woman to support herself by writing, and her work, The Book of the City of Ladies, celebrated the wisdom of women. And though suffragist and writer Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not live to see the 19th amendment passed in 1919, her impassioned writing about women's voting rights inspired future generations of suffragettes. No one piece of rhetoric alone could change systems of power that have marginalized and continue to marginalize, but together these texts—in all their forms—empower generations to act.
Feminist rhetorics are embodied in that they acknowledge the real person behind the scholar by honoring the personal and the political. This embodiment gives voice to participants and validates their experiences. It is also situated by recognizing positionality and potential bias of the reader. These rhetorics are more accessible to various ways of learning through a nontraditional multimodal presentation. Perhaps above all, feminist rhetorics challenge systems of power and norms set up through hegemonic principles by empowering all ways of being.
feminist rhetorics in Kairos
We spent the Spring 2014 semester immersed in feminist rhetorics and exploring a range of feminist topics spanning Aspasia in ancient Greece to multimodal composition scholars featured in Kairos. Individually each of us chose an issue of Kairos to examine that interested us personally. In our individual reviews, we focused on identifying instances, both hidden and intentional, of the seven key themes of feminist rhetorics we had agreed upon as a group. In the process, we began to see patterns of feminist strategies and values in current scholarship published in the journal. We then worked to meld these individual voices into a collective review. Our individual reviews gave us direction for our collaborative essay and provided us with a clearer idea of our underlying purpose. We placed ourselves into informal groups of writers, editors, videographers, statisticians, and designers.
Through our evaluation of Kairos we noticed feminist themes within the issues but also noticed that the word feminism was never mentioned in the webtexts we studied. As a Feminist Rhetoric class we found this omission curious, and we hope that this project encourages readers and scholars to imagine Kairos as a feminist space where issues of access, gender, socio-economic status, and other issues related to "the f-word" are frequently taken up. Additionally, we hope that our work might prompt some Kairos contributors to more overtly claim the title of feminist scholarship for their work.
We decided as a group to focus our coding efforts on webtexts featured in the primary sections of the journal: Features (which became Topoi in the 10th anniversary issue of 2006), CoverWeb (which also became part of Topoi in that issue, but then re-appeared as a separate section in the last issue we cover here, in Fall of 2013), Inventio, and Praxis. (All of these sections also happen to be the peer-reviewed sections of the journal during that decade.) The exclusion of the PraxisWiki webtexts, which can arguably be considered a featured section of the journal (particularly in more recent years, since it became peer reviewed, in 2014) happened for two reasons: the first is practical, because we felt we could not feasibly code any more than a decade's worth of webtexts from the peer-reviewed, featured sections of the journal in a 16-week semester. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we wanted to devote our time to revealing some unexpected instances of feminism in the journal. The PraxisWiki—with its focus on "narratives, assignments, and short pedagogy pieces"—would no doubt have yielded tons of feminist work as it relates so closely to the classroom, but we wanted to concentrate our efforts on "re-mapping" those spaces not so obviously feminist. We also felt the webtexts in the featured sections more closely aligned in length and scope with more traditional scholarly webtexts—not surprising, given their peer-reviewed status—and so might offer interesting insights particularly in ways Kairos authors subvert traditional academic conventions.
As a group we read and coded 143 individual webtexts, authored by 277 writers and designers in 26 issues of Kairos. While coding the issues, we focused on identifying explicit and implicit instances of webtexts enacting the seven characteristics of our definition for feminist rhetorics.
This count of feminist markers began simply as a way for class members to mark one of the seven terms identified in our definition (embodied, voiced, positioned, multimodal, validating, challenging, and empowering) and help us see patterns across issues. We felt this sort of statistical approach might inform our work and might also allow another layer of accessibility to the work as statistics empower other ways of knowing and being in regards to scholarship. Below is a description of frequency in regards to each term.
Of the 143 webtexts examined, we identified 119 (83%) that embodied the scholar and 24 (17%) that did not embody the scholar. We judged embodiment by the visibility and inclusion of author voice. This finding might be dramatically lower in a science journal, for example, as many traditional academic journals discourage authorial presence in order to foreground the content of the study.
The concept of researcher positionality—"the researcher's awareness of her or his own subjective experience in relation to that of her or his participants" —became important to us after reading Nancy Deutsch's (2004) "Positionality and the Pen," a narrative highlighting the importance of self-reflexivity in research (p. 889). This focus on research as subjective seemed not only relevant to our discussion of feminism, but also was revolutionary to many of us new to practicing first-hand research. Out of the 143 webtexts examined, we identified 74 (52%) that recognized positionality and 69 (48%) that did not recognize positionality.
Seventy percent (100) of the webtexts reviewed actively sought to give voice to the participants. There were numerous examples of invitations for readers to respond or requests encouraging questions or comments via email throughout the issues. We also found webtexts that developed the level of audience participation in more creative measures to include mapping, individual and collaborative responses, even links to share on social media or participate in an interactive video. Students were invited to contribute as authors and editors with online magazines as an expression of honoring those voices in pedagogical spaces. Overall, we were delighted by opportunity for readers to have their voices included in the majority of webtexts.
As an online scholarly journal, Kairos is by its very nature a space for multimodal texts. Rather than simply reporting that 100% of the webtexts we read were multimodal, we began to track the types of modes represented in the journal. Within the 26 issues we studied, readers encountered Prezis, interactive webpages, wikis, videos, audio recordings, and interactive images. This variety of modes and composing tools was fascinating as we traced webtexts from the beginning of the decade with many webtexts relying mainly on hyperlinks to work while, in 2013, webtexts became more responsive and included several modes. We see this embracing of multiple modes of composing as further evidence that Kairos is an ideal space for feminist rhetoric because this multiplicity leads to increased accessibility for all kinds of authors and readers and encourages new ways of learning and performing scholarship.
Before our assessment, the expectation was that there would be an overwhelming amount of webtexts that validated experiences of all kinds, based primarily on our perception of Kairos authors as frequently pushing boundaries in regards to pedagogy, writing, and the use of technologies in academic, professional, and personal lives. We coded 110 (77%) of the webtexts analyzed as validating experiences while 33 (23%) did not appear to directly validate experiences. That more than three-fourths of the webtexts in the journal seemed to at least implicitly validate new and other ways of doing and being supports our reading of Kairos as a feminist space.
While research is generally about new ideas and knowledge making, we identified 97 of the webtexts (68% of those analyzed) as challenging systems of power and norms by going beyond simply reporting on the new and instead challenging earlier ways of thinking, frequently in regards to pedagogy and in recommending new ways of being and building knowledge in learning environments.
Finally, of the 143 webtexts examined, 77 (54%) were identified as empowering to all/other ways of being. These findings suggest that Kairos often publishes webtexts that empower different ways of thinking about education, research, composing, and communicating and the ways we live with and through media and technologies.