Friday, May 20, 2011

F Word Pride

The F word is one that I do not have a problem using.  I have used it a lot, even to describe my self.  Often people will react with a hushed gasp that a person would use such a word to describe themself.  Feminist.  Such a dirty and negetive word to so many people and it has always been inside of me.  I don't remember the first time I learned the word Feminist and what it meant but because my Aunt has a degree in Women's Studies from Miami of Ohio, I am going to guess that I was young.  Because of my aunt, my mom, my grandmothers, all the strong women I was surrounded by and the lack of boys in my immidiate family, I always knew that girls and boys were the same.  I never had to deal with the double standard at home and my sisters coined me as being the "tom boy" (which having no boy influence on my younger days, I was not a tom boy at all).  The only difference, for me before I understood the public sphere, was anatomy.  I do remember the first time that I consciously reached out towards Feminism.

In 6th grade we had to write an biography resport about someone famous that made a difference in the US.  I can't remember if there was a list or if we were suppored to come up with the person of choice with help from our parents, but I chose Gloria Steinam.  I was so crazy about learning about her.  There was lot of information about her involvment in the 2nd wave to the present time of 1993ish so the Feminist and Feminism was used a lot.  I don't remember how but I knew the very general meaning was that a feminist was pro women's rights, that women and men are equal.  I loved that she fought for equal rights.  I loved that she was a playboy bunny at the beginning of her career and it help drive her passion.  At that point in time I felt a drawing to the abrideged feminist discourse that I had learned.  At that age, I was as big if not bigger than all the boys and I started asserting my self more with them.  I didn't let them bully or put me down.  Not to say that my feelings weren't hurt or that I was mean, but I felt stronger as I understood what it meant to be a woman in the public sphere a little bit better.

I would never shy away from being called a feminist later in junior high school and high school.  I was very much against the mainstream so anything they called me that they didn't approve of was fine with me.  I liked the idea of looking at the world from the margins and I understood how, as a young women, I was pushed to them.  I told the football coach that I was going to quit volleyball and try out for football the fall of my freshman year (even though I had no intention, I just wanted to push his buttons), but he told me to not even bother because he would never let me on the team or play.  That made me so mad that I told the athletic director.  The coach didn't get in trouble and nothing really happened, but that was my first understanding of Title IX.  I started to pay attention to the differences in where the athletic budget was spent after that.

I forgot about my early developed feminism for a while.  I think I hid it inside me because of a relationship that I was in for a very long time.  I was told more than once that I was "too independent."  I resented that comment at first but as the years went by, I became complacent.  I picked becoming a Kindergarten teacher for my major in college and was happy thinking that is what I wanted to do forever.  I was going to be a teacher, move to the country, have babies and teach (excuse me while I hurl....seriously, I thought I could live in the country!).  It's no secret that my older sister was a huge influence on a lot of decisions I have made.  She was attending a liberal arts school in Richmond, IN and majoring (partially) in Women's Studies.  I needed some electives one quarter so I signed up for Intro to Women's Studies fall my 2nd year.  I honestly didn't like that class very much.  I learned a lot but more from the other women in the class than the readings we had.  The next quarter I signed up for Feminist Theory which remained to be the hardest class I had ever taken in college.  Which is also where I met Ms. MelainaHer showing up one day with a Playboy visor on and the heated discussion that occured because of that will always be in my memory.

While I enjoyed that class and learned a lot from it, the later classes in my college career are the ones when I realized how important being a Feminist was to me.  In my entire life, I never felt more comfortable with myself, my thoughts and my frustrations with the world and society.  If I didn't have the words, someone else knew exactly what I meant and filled them in.  No one was calling me a feminist like it was a bad thing or just because they weren't one.

It was hard to be a mother and accepted in the Feminist world at UC.  There are many different theories in Feminism and some are so extreme that they reject motherhood.  Being a new mom and entering motherhood made me feel pushed further to the margins.  After reading more about mothering and them real rejection to motherhood as defined under partiarchy, I now know that was the issue, it wasn't me or the fact that I am a mother. (that is an entirely different blog topic)

I carry my Feminism into everything I do because it is inside me.  I think that it always has been but I didn't have the vocabulary until I was older.  I hope that I instill this into Parker and that one day he will proudly understand and vocalize his own feminism.


  1. Great post! Gloria Steinem wasn't *really* a Playboy bunny, but she worked as one undercover while a journalist! It's an amazing article and in her collection of works "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions."

    I know what you mean about being pushed to the fringe of the WSTU community. My professors never did, but other students certainly looked down on me because I was blonde, wore makeup and SHOCK even ribbons in my ponytail sometimes. I like to think those other students didn't know the real meaning of feminism, but you and I do. It's all inclusive xoxo

  2. Vocabulary is EVERYTHING! It really does clarify your thoughts to have words for something you've always suspected or known. Giving an idea a name does give it power, and I'll cut this off before I start waxing mythologic. But I can't wait to read your future blog post about feminism, motherhood, patriarchy, and identity.

  3. Interesting, how the 'feminism' thing percolates, and bubbles up at different times in our lives.

  4. Funny too how loaded the word 'feminism' is. If we called it self-confidence, or survival or self-esteem (which of cause it is an amalgm of) we would have no problems, but the word feminism just conjurs up such negative preconceptions. I've had a whole working life fighting the preconceived limitations of what women can do, but it wasn't until recently that I realised that I'm cool with calling myself a feminist. It just simply is a part of me, as much as being independent and strong and self-confident and being self-reliant.