When I was in the seventh grade, I lay in my twin bed listening to my clock radio blaring Helen Reddy singing, “I am woman, hear me roar…” I suppose that was the first contact with feminism I had that I can recall, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was braces, glasses, kittens, and slumber parties at which my friends and I ate dill pickles and talked about boys until we roared with laughter. Feminism? Last thing on my mind.
Since junior high school, my encounters with feminism have been minimal. It’s always been on the periphery of my consciousness as a social and political movement, but it was never one of my pursuits. I am aware of the debate over the last few decades and have watched some of its activities through the media, such as the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, and listened to comments on all sides. I acknowledge that I have reaped the benefit of being born in the United States of America in the second half of the 21st Century and stand on the backs of early feminists who won the vote and equal rights for women, and I am grateful.
In recent years, I have travelled and worked with people groups that are patriarchal in nature. I have seen the burden that the women in those societies bear. In 2017, the modern world encroaches on their primitive way of life, but I wonder how it is that the idea of feminism has not reached them or, at least, why their struggle for equal rights has not begun. I wonder if I was one of them, would I roar for equality?
Even though I don’t bear the same burden as those women, even though I have never had to fight for anything as a consequence of my gender, I don’t feel privileged because I have lived the American Dream – I have worked for what I have. I have taken the life I’ve been given and, without apology, attempted to make something of it. In comparison to those women, I have been given much. That does not place feelings of guilt on me unless I fail to take what has been given me and use it to help those in need. Sometimes, I do wonder why God has given me the life I have and not a life like theirs, but I do know that “to whom much is given, much is required.”
As for discrimination, I can’t say I’ve experienced it as a woman. I am old enough to remember going to segregated schools and segregated beaches and driving through downtown Cincinnati OH, and feeling sorry for the black children I saw, but I’ve not experienced it myself. I believe it happens. It just hasn’t entered my sphere in a profound or concrete way.
I come late and reluctantly to the study of Feminist Critical Theory. I figured a course in critical theory would be beneficial, but when I attempted to register, it was only then that I saw the word “feminisms” added to the course title. To be quite honest, I thought a long time before continuing with registration. I’m not a feminist nor have I had any previous interest in feminism, but, ultimately, I decided to give it a go. I will probably have an opposing viewpoint to many, but I’m willing to be respectful and listen and, hopefully, we will all teach each other something. I’m happy to report that in the initial readings of Freedman’s, The Essential Feminist Reader, I am not at odds with anything I’ve encountered.
My only expectations for learning in a discussion of feminist critical theory is to discover what early feminists actually did and believed and to see how their efforts have impacted my life in ways I did not know. I never intended to study Feminism in any form, but I am willing to engage in a friendly discourse with everyone and, as it involves literature, I know it will be worthwhile. I know it will impact my teaching as bits of my current studies always find their way into my classroom conversations.
So, I listened to Helen Reddy roar on my clock radio and many of you have recently listened to Katy Perry roar on your iPod or iPhone, and I’m afraid “…you’re gonna hear me roar…”.