The controversy capital of stealth feminism in higher education

  • Nicole Laliberte University of Toronto Mississauga
  • Alison Bain York University
  • Greg Lankenau Environmental Studies Program University of San Francisco
  • Michele Bolduc Department of Geography University of Kentucky
  • Anna Mansson McGinty Department of Geography University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • Kristin Sziarto Department of Geography University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Keywords: Feminist geographies, critical pedagogies, stealth feminism, controversy capital, neoliberalization, higher education, whiteness


This paper argues that stealth feminism, when used consciously and critically, affords a way to manage what we term ‘controversy capital’ in our neoliberalizing educational systems. Controversy capital refers to the amount of controversy that we, as feminist instructors, can effectively manage over the short- and long-term in a given classroom. Through a collective writing process, one in which we are particularly attentive to the impacts of our whiteness on our pedagogical strategies, we examine what aspects of feminist pedagogies we prioritize in the classroom and why. We critically reflect upon our teaching practices, including how we present ourselves and establish classroom norms, in order to identify three imperfect pedagogical strategies for realizing stealth feminism: (1) historical and geographic distancing; (2) depoliticizing language and concepts; and (3) normalizing feminist examples. We acknowledge that the indirectness of stealth feminism can be interpreted as not being political or subversive enough, but this tension between stealth feminism as a productive force and stealth feminism as a hindrance is an idealization of reality. We claim that our use of stealth feminism as teachers can best be understood not as a fear of controversy but rather as a strategic choice for engaging controversy.

Author Biographies

Nicole Laliberte, University of Toronto Mississauga
Nicole Laliberte is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
Alison Bain, York University
Alison Bain is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at York University.
How to Cite
Laliberte, N., Bain, A., Lankenau, G., Bolduc, M., McGinty, A., & Sziarto, K. (2017). The controversy capital of stealth feminism in higher education. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 16(1), 34-58. Retrieved from