My first encounter with feminism occurred four years ago in Dr. Bardenhagen’s Child Lit course. We were discussing how feminism ties into Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a graphic autobiography that shows readers what Satrapi’s childhood, adolescence, and adult life was like leading up to the Iranian war in Tehran. The watered-down version of how I defined feminism was this: achieving personal rights for women through politics, education, and equality. However, I wasn’t happy with that definition because it seemed too “textbook” and foreign to me when I tried talking to others about Persepolis, feminism, or women’s rights.
Two years later, feminism and I bumped into each other during Dr. Zani’s Critical Theory course while I was reading Hélène Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa”; she writes,
“Woman must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing..Woman must put herself into the text–as into the world and into history–by her own movement” (Essential Feminist Reader 319).
This is the point when I realized I needed to learn more about feminism, about why and how the avocation for women’s rights is so prolific in this hybrid age, and how to recognize and appreciate my agency; I felt extremely lost because everyone around me “seemed” to know more about feminism and its benefits, its struggle, and beauty, while I did not–this made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to know more.
After looking through several of my past papers and research, I realized that most of them centered around the adoption or recognition of one’s agency, or ability to act in various situations. As a woman, there have been times that I have been too afraid or unsure of whether to act, especially in the classroom. For example, last semester I overheard one of my students make the snide comment, “Bro, she shouldn’t be teaching us this crap–she’s our age! Where’s a man at?” I kept quiet. At that time I didn’t have a witty comeback or comment to bring their discussion back to what we were working on in class, so instead I let the comment sink in for a few hours. I recognized their frustration; remedial classes aren’t exactly the coolest courses to take, and they did not want to be in there with me for an hour and a half while I spoke about thesis statements, grammar, and the writing process. On top of that, I’m sure they didn’t appreciate being told that they needed to improve their writing by a woman who “looked” about their age. Yet, I was angry because that student thought my age, gender, and (presumably) knowledge about writing were irrelevant. I realized that allowing my anger to fester over the student’s comment was not going to help me feel better or allow the student to improve in the class; I chose to channel my irritation into altering my lesson plans and making the material more relevant and interesting to the students for the rest of the semester. Some students passed, and some did not, but I learned the valuable lesson of combining patience and diligence when faced with discrimination in the classroom because of my gender.
Virginia Woolf describes the late 1930’s and early 1940’s as a “hybrid age” in Three Guineas as she calls the status of women’s education, and the educated class into question. Blended cultures, languages, and personalities are spread across the world, and there has been progress to move forward with reaching equality for the sexes. Yet, some individuals believe when one makes a step forward in today’s “hybrid age”, they tumble two steps back. Woolf argues in her time men and higher authorities are speaking for and on the behalf of women, which I think increases the
“gulf so deeply cut between us [men and women]…that I am wondering whether it is any use to try to speak across it” (Essential Feminist Reader 221).
It’s 2017. This gulf needs to be filled.
I don’t want others speaking for me in concern to feminism; I want the ability to be able to speak for myself and know what I am talking about, whether that is feminist theory, feminist pop culture, or social feminist movements. That is why I am taking this class; I simply want to know more about feminism and use that knowledge to become a wiser, more helpful woman inside and outside the classroom.
Feminism and I have a relationship that is blossoming into something challenging, humbling, and exciting.
I’m ready to see where our relationship goes from here.