Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monica Taylor

Committee Member

Katrina Bulkley

Committee Member

Emily Klein


This healing feminist autoethnography examines my gendered experiences as a school principal during the 2021–2022 school year, centering upon two research questions: How can personal accounts of sexist experiences disrupt gendered norms in educational leadership? And how can I, as a feminist leader, exist authentically and truthfully in patriarchal institutions without placing myself in professional or academic peril? From July of 2021 through June of 2022, I collected 62 journal entries detailing critical encounters, experiences, and reflections and shared them with a critical friend who helped me process them. I then analyzed them within the context of relevant literature to examine emergent themes. The findings revealed three dominant themes: localization of patriarchal norms, small feminist disruptions, and grace. Each theme elucidated the intricacies of external gendered dynamics and internalized patriarchy, locations for feminist disruption, and the challenges of enacting an ethic of care with all individuals whom I encounter professionally, including myself. I conclude the study by considering further locations for feminist disruption and how I might expand the work into a more explicitly activist realm.

This study explicitly elevates emotional and spiritual knowledges as valued ways of knowing and is grounded in the belief that everything is connected, as Anzaldúa (1987) asserted. To highlight the importance of spirituality in this dissertation process, I used major arcana tarot cards as symbolic representations of each facet of the study. Individually, these cards serve as touchstones for important moments and facets of this study, and collectively, they represent this study’s journey.

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