Post College Feminism

July 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Welcome back!

After graduation, I decided to take a hiatus on MyFeminisms. I wanted space from thinking critically about my identity, and needed time to think about what optional feminist critique would look like (the earlier posts were for an independent study course I designed and were required). I’ve realized in that time, however, that I often think about how I would analyze some situation on MyFeminisms and tend to think about how I would deal with some thought or moment in writing. It’s time to come back, and I’m excited to get going again.

As I begin to practically plan for my first big jump after college, I wanted to reenter the discussion on feminism in the real world. I recently came across Furry Girl’s article Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s on her website http://www.feminisnt.com/. (Furry Girl operates¬†http://www.swaay.org/, an amazing organization that advocates for sex worker rights and unites allies and sex workers.) As both someone in their early 20s and someone who identifies as some sort of feminist, I found myself laughing out-loud at how scarily accurate Furry Girl’s observations were. At one point she writes about feminism/early 20s relationships:

You tried to fit yourself into his pre-existing framework, rather than finding someone who didn’t require that you shuffle any part of yourself the first place.

I deeply understand and in many ways relate to her frustration with feminism. During my time writing my thesis on sex work, I began to feel defensive of feminism and qualify my support for certain types of feminisms and particular feminists. As I learned about how certain (and so many) “feminists” saw sex workers as victims and/or threats to society, I tried to find ways to shape my feminism as separate from theirs. When I learned about how women of color had been left out of the fight for equality under the guise of feminism (and by many of my former feminist heroes), I felt I had to explain why this was the exception and not the rule. Yet my most significant problem with feminism has been one that I’ve only recently discovered. Over the past year and through this blog, I established an understanding of feminism that went beyond the academic-industrial complex, that valued different experiences over traditional “knowledge,” and a feminism that prized intersectionality and a multiplicity of realities over all else. Yet no matter how good this sounded on paper (or when I was still in the safe arms of academic feminism), I’ve found myself doubting my own realities and experiences after I’ve left college. I instinctively find myself doubting my own ideas to those that are published or feeling unqualified to make a judgement without knowing some theory or theorist. Feminisms ties to a certain kind of privilege or complicated past cannot be erased simply because it’s feminism; work needs to be done to make feminism the idea it needs to be. But how?

Having feminism as a community or safety net or an identity as I enter the real world is an idea I have–and continue to–rely upon. But what if it’s not good enough? What if feminism is something that I’ll make excuses for in my early 20s and then be forced to abandon? What would feminists without feminism look like? And while I agree with Furry Girl that feminism shouldn’t be something we try to shape ourselves into, but then what are we striking towards?

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Creating Coalitions

April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

As part of the women and gender studies department at my college, one of the most important things I’ve learned is the value of community. I’ve been a part of the group that’s continued a call for change at the college that I attend. Because of that group, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a significant and consistent amount of time with a group of other majors and student feminists. It has been one of the single most inspiring, challenging, and wonderful opportunities of my life. I’ve had the unique chance to take into action many of the principles that I’ve been reading about. As deeply as I believe I understand concepts like intersectionality or “decentering,” turning those ideas into reality is a totally different thing. Realizing the ways that I misunderstood those concepts that I felt I knew so well was an incredibly jarring experience.
But being a part of the most inspiring group of women and men activists is also the most inspiring experience of my life this far.

Theoretical Practices

March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

At the small and elite liberal-arts college that I attend, the idea of social justice and egalitarianism is very much embedded into the fabric of the college. Yet over the course of my time here, the actions of the school and its students (including myself) haven’t lived up to the school’s image. Even as a socially conscious school which brands itself as such, my college community was not immune to creating or perpetuating inequalities,¬† stratification and exclusion. In a response to the increasing acts of homophobia, racism and sexism on campus, the women’s center on campus organized a forum to allow people to air their grievances, communicate with one another and figure out how to address the identified problems.

At the forum, hundreds of students, dozens of professors, and several administrators showed up to discuss and dispute what the problems were and how we could go about addressing them. It was powerful and exciting to see so many passionate and intelligent community members articulating what brought them to the meeting and what they identified as the main problems. As facilitators, it was thrilling to be doing the work that we had talked about for so long and dealing with the complicated politics of making change in practice. Where we hit a wall, however, was when we tried to explain academic concepts in real-world terms and applying them to everyday practice. Among many of the women and gender studies majors, we often joke about the amount of times we use words like “intersectionality,” “social construction,” “agency,” and “structure.” After a certain amount of classes, readings, and papers, it feels as if we know these ideas like the backs of our hands. Yet when we tried to explain why we need the supportive structures to enable individual change, we felt at a loss.

The forum was our first attempt to spark conversation and inspire people to change their actions, while explaining why we needed more support from the administration and identify where they are lacking. The second meeting broke into factions about what was more important–student responsibility or institutional systems. Just like structures and individuals exist in balance to one another, we have to find a balance between theory and practice.

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