I have always valued feminism, though I would not have called it that until I was in my early twenties. My mother ended up divorced at 40 with nothing but a high school diploma and 20 years of “homemaking” under her belt, which made providing for her three children quite difficult. She always made sure my sisters and I knew that we were going to go to college and be able to take care of ourselves. She never wanted us to be in her situation, so she made sure we knew we were capable of doing anything we wanted, as long as we worked hard. As a result, I took for granted that I could do anything a man could do, and remember being upset with some school boys who didn’t think so.
Once I was a little older, though, I realized the world at large tended to agree with those ridiculous school boys. When I began college, a friend shared books and articles about feminism with me. These writers were all saying the things I had been saying for years: essentially, that gender shouldn’t matter; being male or female should not be the deciding factor in what kinds of rights or opportunities a person was afforded. I realized I had been talking about feminism all along. I knew I wanted to learn more about this feminism thing, so I enrolled in a Sociology of Gender class and was so interested in learning about gender as a performance and the different waves of feminism. I devoured every blog I could find and soon learned that feminism extends so far past “girls can do what boys can, too.”
I have learned so much from seeking out feminism, and really feel it has helped me become a better, more open and accepting person. Several years later, I still gobble up anything related to feminism. I absolutely love seeing things like the Women’s March put on display all the different pathways feminism continues to take and just how many issues feminists are tackling.
As for my experience with feminism as a critical theory, I have already taken a course called Feminisms and Rhetorics; so, I have some experience reading many of the authors we are assigned for this class, but I am so excited to read and learn even more. Critical Theory was the only class I still needed to graduate, so I actually enrolled in this course before I knew that it was going to be centered around feminism. I was positively giddy upon hearing that the course would be Feminist Critical Theory. Seeing a man who had openly admitted to sexual assault elected President shocked me, and I realized Feminism’s work is definitely not done. So, the course felt timely (unfortunately, this probably always feels true).
As for my experiences with privilege and discrimination, I never really thought about my privilege until college, which is perhaps indicative of how privileged I really was. We played a game in one of my classes that started with everyone in class standing side-by-side, facing the front of the room. The instructor then asked us to take a step forward if we had been born a white male. Then, she’d say take a step back if you have either a visible or invisible disability. Take a step forward if you graduated high school, one back if you ever felt unsafe walking home alone. At the end of the “game,” we could all see how some of us were clearly ahead and some behind. This was my first real experience thinking about privilege, and I am so glad this instructor had us do this. It still serves as visual reminder for me about how even though I have had my own struggles, I still started the race off ahead of many people.
With this course, I am hoping to learn more in-depth the history of feminism, and see what it might can tell us about the future of feminism. I am also looking forward to extending my knowledge beyond White Feminism™. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to gain knowledge simply to have it at the ready to shut down those ridiculous school boys all grown up.