Refusing Mastery, Mastering Refusal

Critical communication pedagogy and gender

Authored by: Benny LeMaster , Deanna L. Fassett

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138329188
eBook ISBN: 9780429448317
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter articulates the state of the art of critical communication pedagogy (CCP) as it does and does not speak to gender. In turn, we advance two pillars that serve as pedagogical anchors for theorizing, embodying, and enacting gender futurity grounded in criticality. The pillars include the dialectic coupling of “refusing mastery” and “mastering refusal.” We argue CCP and gender teach us that to refuse mastery is to embrace failure; that is, to engage and critique the structural means by which one is rendered a “failure” as a result of their embodied difference. To embrace failure is to reject hegemonic expectancies and to affirm self and/as other in terms that refuse cisheterosexism, white supremacy, ableism, and classism for instance. CCP in/of gender additionally teaches us that to master refusal is to embrace uncertainty. While the former commitment challenges epistemological certainty through embracing failure, the latter commitment centers the affective registers that seek to shift the status quo through a willful refusal to find calm in the midst of uncertainty. To master refusal is to bask in the improvisational and playful space of unknowing gender so as to better engage gender on its emergent, creative, constrained, and relational intersectional terms.

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