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Love in the Time of Beckyism: On Willfulness and Wokeness in Teacher Education

Fri, April 5, 2:25 to 3:55pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 600 Level, Room 606


Purpose: This paper illuminates the ways in which a particular white heterofeminine citizen-subject popularly known as “Becky,” is exercised and defended in a teacher preparation program. Employing narrative inquiry, I examine a stylized fanfiction account that describes the everyday emotional registers and responses of a composite Becky throughout her course of study. Despite “progressive” commitments such as equality, and social justice; and sentimental responses to historical atrocities and current social events, these (conditional) protestations made by Becky serve as a hedonistic mechanism for image management that hinges on the exploitation and social death of people of color. This paper is guided by the questions: (1) How does Becky leverage emotion as an alibi to disavow from the afflictions caused by whiteness? (2) How can a teacher preparation program work to rethink the episteme and ethos that socializes Beckyism?

Perspectives: Because of their demographic prominence in educational spaces, white women have enormous influence to enact change and engage critically with race and racism. However, these white teachers—often working from good intentions—nonetheless perpetuate violence and injustices because they subject their students of color to white and/or assimilative logics (Allen et al. 2007). The teacher preparation program is a crucial site to understand how the norms, values, and emotionalities of Beckyism are potentially developed and coddled. Insights that apprehend how programs ostensibly espouse a vision for advancing social justice enact a palliative caring for difference predicated on a “white liberalist alibi” (Schueller 2005) or a willful ignorance of structural violence, are necessary.

Methods: This paper draws on narrative inquiry to analyze a fanfiction account of Becky in a teacher preparation program. This fanfiction account borrows from the author’s experiences as a queer teacher educator of color working in a predominantly white and urban institution. Narrative inquiry affords an opportunity to critically examine the inimitable social mores and qualities of everyday life (Clandinin & Connelly 2000). The fictionalized narration of a composite Becky inspired by the author’s dissertation data shares the multiplicities and partialities that figure the varied embodied experiences of Becky to provoke new questions and interpretations.

Sources: This paper examines a stylized fanfiction and speculative fiction account of Becky, detailing her progressive and sentimental discourses and dispositions. Details are inspired by a critical ethnographic study of a teacher preparation program in the Midwest.

Findings: Examining the burgeoning phenomenon of Beckyism, this work found that many aspiring white women teachers are becoming emboldened in enacting their whiteness. This work found that aspiring white women teachers will “feel” bad about racism in everyday life but are quick to conflate their oppression as the same as the experiences of folks and women of color.

Significance: Given the predominance of white women in education, this study theoretically expands extant literature on whiteness and gender (Matias, forthcoming; Moreton-Robinson 2000; Frankenberg 1993). Furthermore, this work highlights how white women can exist at the matrices of privilege and oppression while still promoting covert forms of racism.


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