Ritchie and Boardman’s chapter “Feminism in Composition” provides an interesting historical survey, as they call it, of women in the field of composition and how they have used feminist thought to help shape and change the field. They survey the history of feminism in composition through three overlapping tropes: inclusion, metonymy, and disruption. This seems an effective way to explore the commonly ignored history of feminism in composition.
I would like to take a moment, however brief, to explore disruption a bit further. While Ritchie and Boardman’s chapter focuses on the past, I would argue that all three tropes are still in use by feminists in composition today and are still incredibly necessary, particularly disruption. Ritchie and Boardman argue that it is dangerous to rely too heavily on disruption as it “may be only temporary” and “it’s easy to push disrupters to the sidelines, to stop listening to them and to marginalize them once again;” they also point out the rhetorical skill required to successfully disrupt and subsequently maintain the conversation (614). To me, this concluding section of their essay feels too dismissive of disruption, as though they are trying to downplay its usefulness because they know that “disruptions can create tension and anger even among feminists,” which is a testament to the fact that feminism itself is embedded within a system that resists it (611).
I argue that disruption is still incredibly necessary because it is one of the only ways to shake things up, so to speak. Simple inclusion and metonymy aren’t enough to engender feminist thought in composition (or, indeed, in society at large) when the system in which we are trying to include women (and other marginalized groups) is built around marginalization. Disruption is key, in my opinion, to actually changing the institutions in which composition takes place.
1. How can we encourage constructive disruption in our writing classrooms? (By constructive disruption, I mean disruption not for disruption’s sake, but for the sake of teaching our students different ways of approaching and thinking about writing.)
2. In what ways do you see disruption still in use in composition today? Can you think of any composition theorists who employ disruption in their work?