I thought Pough’s piece was the most interesting because it showed the ways in which encountering feminist discourse (or any discourse written by a minority) can—and many times does—make us uncomfortable. As Pough rightly points out, the students in her class reacted more favorably towards pieces that were poignant but did not explicitly denounce the perpetrators of injustice. There is such a divide, I believe, also in the writings that came out of the AIDS epidemic. “Grief is a sword, or it is nothing,” writes Paul Monette, in a eulogy to his deceased partner—a piece in which he ferociously attacks the US government for its initial indifference to the crisis. “Go without hate, but not without rage,” he also wrote.
I believe that such emotional and angry responses are not only valid and understandable, but also needed. Always keeping in mind how delicate these issues are, I think it is fruitful to expose students to this kind of writing, inviting them to step out of their comfort zone. Pough did well, I think, to present other writings alongside Walker’s poem, since by doing this, she let her students know that this is not the only possible reaction to the issue, but that it is still valid. In other words, I think we must always contextualize these works.
In the face of blatant and continued oppression, decorum is seldom effective. Offense is bound to be taken in the reception of these texts, and it is in the hands of professors to make sure that offense is taken in the most productive way possible.