Cite the strippers

“Our struggles can have meaning and our privileges- however precarious under patriarchy- can be justified only if they help to change the lives of women whose gifts- and whose very being, continue to be thwarted and silenced” (Adrienne Rich, 1979, p.38).

The photo is the navigation grid belonging to Gemma Ahearne on her module ‘Crime, Justice and the Sex Industry’.

On my modules I have always encouraged and promoted radical citation practices. Alongside peer-reviewed journal articles, academic books and reports we use blogs, podcasts, grassroots websites, art exhibitions, novels, poetry, socials, open letters, documentaries, films, conference proceedings, webinars.

You cannot advocate for a decolonizing of the curriculum, the inclusion of more disabled voices, more working class voices, more women, whilst upholding gatekeeping to knowledge and protecting a hierarchy of knowledge.

I write from the place I come from. It cannot be separated from my scholarship, nor should it be.

I actively seek a more inclusive academia that is committed to widening participation.

In my Ph.D research I used the methods of reading aloud and poetry, a commitment to participants who cannot read or write or whom have low confidence in these areas. I believe in the power of reading aloud and spoken circles.

“We reach her as, or course, as we meet all poetic resources blocked from us by mindless packaging and spiritless scholarship” (Adrienne Rich, 1993, p. 101).

I quoted the above Rich work in my blog post Phenomenology of Anger which you can access here.

I have been involved with the sex industry for the last 20 years and I would be guilty of committing epistemological violence against sex workers if I did not encourage students to listen to the voices of those who have worked in the industry. Our citation practices are political. Who we cite is who we legitimize.

Without being accused of ‘identity politics’ it is crucial that my pedagogy aligns with my values and principles. As a Dyslexic who was diagnosed very late in life (October 2020), as a working class woman raised by parents on benefits, as a woman who dropped out of the uni to work as a stripper, as someone who has had a very non-traditional trajectory into academia.

I write from and about liminal spaces and the need to recognise the value of lived experiences and the uncomfortable nunaces.

This is not to say let’s abandon all academic work and instead cite only Heat magazine, but rather it poses the question why are academic so scared of letting other forms of knowledge in? Why are some academics so insecure about ‘upholding the integrity of the discipline?

I have recently been retained on a permanent Lecturer contract (T&S) route and am keen to connect with others regarding innovative pedagogy and trauma-informed learning.

One of the reasons I dropped out of university aged 19 was because I did not feel like I belonged there. Sep 2022 represents 20 years since I first walked into the University of Liverpool, and I will start my new permanent contract. I am determined that students feel welcomed, respected and that they can succeed despite any socio-economic disadvantage and specific learning disabilities.

Education changes lives, it has saved mine in many ways and I feel blessed and grateful to share the gift of learning with others.

Gemma outside the School of Law and Social Justice, Summer 2021

Life goes strangely full circle.

Cite strippers, sex workers full stop, all those at the margins. Offer students a range of material to engage with. Do not assume that accessing a dense journal article is appropriate for all learners. Non-linear pedagogy equips students with the confidence and power to access a module at the pace and direction that meets their learning needs. This is an EDI issue and we need to have these conversations.

Learners on my modules can choose to read blogs, media pieces, attend seminars and then return to heavier academic pieces once they have more confidence. For Dyslexics and many ND learners this is necessary.

Thank you to all of my students who have engaged with this non-linear pedagogy and provided feedback on the materials we use.

Gemma x