Feminism in Action

SOU’s Alena Ruggerio Joins Scholarly Dream Team to Author New Book on Feminist Rhetoric

For Comm Program professor Alena Ruggerio, feminism is not just a theory, but an urgent practice, and her latest book advocates for feminist theory’s role in guiding everyday living, thinking, and speaking.

Published last month by Waveland Press, Feminism in Practice: Communication Strategies for Making Change connects theory and practice through a series of case studies. Each case study frames an argument about ways to articulate feminist priorities and motivate action.

Ruggerio co-authored the book with Karen Foss and Sonja Foss, groundbreaking scholars of feminist communication strategies. Karen Foss served as department chair of Communication & Journalism at the University of New Mexico until retiring in 2015. Sonja Foss currently holds the position of Communications professor at the University of Colorado-Denver.

“It was an incredible honor,” said Ruggerio. “Karen and Sonja Foss are extremely inspiring scholars in the field, and profoundly influential in advancing our knowledge in human study of communication.”

All three co-authors recently joined in an extended interview at Jefferson Public Radio:

Many of Ruggerio’s insights and contributions to the book also derive from her instruction of COMM460A — Women Transforming Language, a senior-level seminar in feminist rhetoric.

In the class, students immerse themselves in sensory experiences based on feminist writing. For example, a former student wrapped herself in barbed wire while reading a poem by Gloria Anzaldua. Class members have also chosen to do the assignment with clay. The course also relies on games and simulations to further stimulate the senses.

COMM460A also explores how diverse groups of feminists have transformed the history of Western rhetorical theory, as each student researches a significant scholar who has advanced the academic conversation about feminist rhetoric.

The new book took shape when Ruggerio sought to get an update of an earlier edition co-authored by Foss and Foss. She emailed the sisters for information, which started her down the road to co-authoring the revision with her new writing partners.

In her pedagogical commitment to feminism, Ruggerio advises students not to make assumptions about feminism based on what has been said by those who oppose it.

“While writing this book, I learned about feminists all over the world in their own corners achieving amazing things,” Ruggerio said. “I had never heard of some of the feminists in this book, but they are making an incredible difference, which is really inspiring.”

Interview by Kelli Albert, Community Manager for the Communication Program at Southern Oregon University.

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