The first that I ever even heard about feminism, as I suppose is the case with most of us, was the hushed whispers by friends and family. It was nearly a dirty word that connoted sexual revolutions, bra burning, and (*gasp*)abortion. Later, after coming out and discovering my own political identity, my Dad took me aside and told me something that always seemed odd to me.
He said, “You know, your mom and I support a woman’s right to choose and equal pay for equal work and all of these other things that you support. We just can’t do it publicly. We have a business that we want people to keep coming to.”
It made me question why the idea of supporting fair and equal rights was such a polarizing thing.
I had the privilege of growing up in a town that supported a good English program, and our teachers that taught the Pre-AP/AP courses were phenomenal. It was, I think, my Junior year of high school with Ms. Richter that we were taught that feminism wasn’t only a political/societal movement, but also “critical lens” that one can use to analyze literature. Of course we didn’t really “get” it back then, but as an introduction, it was enough to make me interested.
In college, I was exposed to feminism as a critical theory multiple times, but I attribute my intense attention to it to Julie Wilhelm and her Critical Theory class. I had taken Critical Theory before from Dr. Zani as an undergrad, but that was my senior year and I was more interested in getting out of school as soon as possible, so I never really digested the information like I should have. It wasn’t until my first semester as a graduate student in Julie’s class that I began to really get interested in the idea of feminism. I later did an independent study with Dr. Wilhelm over Queer Theory (a tributary of feminism), and a class in dystopian literature with Mr. Gwynn where we utilized feminist theory to talk about a number of our texts. After graduating, I attended and presented a paper at the 2015 Feminisms and Rhetorics conference (on the insistence of Dr. Starnes!) over misogyny in gamer culture.
One of the reasons I’ve been interested in feminism as a movement and as theory has to do, at least in part, with some of the troubles that I faced growing up. In my class of around 350 people, I was the first guy to come out of the closet, and I did this as a sophomore. Despite the fact that I had a really strong support group surrounding me and Port Neches was always a little more open and welcoming about these sorts of issues, I was bullied. When I brought my boyfriend at the time to prom with me for my senior year (something mostly unheard of), I received some threats of physical violence simply for existing. It was a sobering experience. While I don’t think I can necessarily claim that this is the moment that made me think deep thoughts about feminism, I can definitely claim that this moment (among others) has made me seriously think about otherness and discrimination.
My desire to take this class mostly grew out of my desire to learn more (and learn as much as I can) about feminist theory. Something that I’ve found myself concerned with over the years is how we can utilize theory to reach some sort of real change. How can theory become praxis? As always, I hope that our shared work, the readings we’ll be doing, and our discussions will help shed some light on this goal of mine.
My hope for this class is maybe a little selfish. A personal goal since attending FemRhet and presenting that paper has been to write an essay for publication. Between teaching classes and working full time, I’ve not been able to make any headway on that goal, so I’m taking this class to not only learn more about feminism and participate in those sorts of conversations but also to actually come out of the class with a written product that I’m happy with.