Friday, January 23, 2009

Stay tuned....

As part of the required Global Studies minor at Drury, all students have to take a human behavior class. I figured I’d go ahead and try to get some of my gen-ed stuff done this semester, but when I went to enroll, most of the classes wouldn’t fit in my schedule. No Psychology, Sociology, or Anthropology for me. That left Women and Gender Studies. Blech.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I actually wanted to take the class. Since coming to college, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a handful of people—both students and professors, men and women—who are self-professed feminists. Interesting. Honestly, I know almost nothing about the subject. Apparently it’s a pretty common misconception that feminism is dead. That’s what I thought, anyway. But then I look around at culture and legislation and the like, and it becomes quite obvious that the battle for equal rights for the sexes is far from over. At this point, I’ve only had two class sessions and all we’ve worked on is introductory material, but I’m pretty gung-ho and excited about the rest of the class. If nothing else, it should be informative and entertaining. And I expect to emerge from it far more aware—if, perhaps, not quite empowered—of the issues and obstacles facing females today. (Don’t worry—I know I won’t turn into a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth radical male-bashing activist. That’s not my style.)

But maybe I will be a little quicker to notice and then take up arms against potential injustices. Case in point: Just prior to my first WGST class, I asked the other students in Alpha if anyone else was enrolled in the course, since I was rather hoping there would be someone I knew and could chat with. “No,” spat the girl next to me, with obvious contempt and disdain. “I’m not a feminist. I like men.”

Um, OK. I like men too, actually. And I thought I just asked if anyone was taking the class. I didn’t realize that I had proposed to round up all males and force them into slavery, while founding a completely matriarchal lesbian society. Sorry. Next time I’ll be more careful with my words.

I started leafing through the textbooks for the class, and began reading one by Jessica Valenti called Full Frontal Feminism. It’s an incredibly interesting and easy read, and before I realized it I had read about 100 pages. Good stuff and definite food for thought. Then again, I’m still immature enough to find swear words and sexual innuendos quite entertaining, so when I read words like “superfucked” and helpful advice like “Don’t have sex with Republicans,” I giggle. And pay attention, as it turns out. This is gonna be a good class, methinks.

Anyway, I reckon my opinions and beliefs will change drastically by the end of the semester, so if it seems pertinent, I’ll try to blog whenever I’m confronted with new or profound ideas on the subject. And I thought that I’d try to lay out my experience right now, before I’m muddled and influenced by the course.

So, here’s a quick rundown. I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever felt discriminated against or held back because of my gender. Then again, I’ve never exactly tried to enter into any male-dominated field. My mother is a stay-at-home mom, but she's a very intelligent and confident woman who is in no way subservient to men. I am well aware of the double-standard that exists, especially in terms of sexual promiscuity (girl “sluts” versus boy “players”), and I’m somewhat familiar with the inequality associated with the “glass ceiling” and “equal pay for equal work.” Body image and language are two other areas of interest. The problems girls face trying to be “pretty” or “desirable” are no secret (Though I must say, I’ve never felt particularly compelled to follow them. I don’t dress all that fashionably or even wear makeup [more out of laziness than any specific desire to stick it to the man, but still, right?], so perhaps that means it’s not all that pervasive). As for language, it’s certainly an issue, with all sort of nasty words being used to degrade women. Heck, I’m even guilty and a little too fond of words like “whore” and “bitch.” The difference may lie in the fact that I’m always quite conscious of what I’m saying and the subsequent implications, but still, perhaps it would pay to watch my mouth a little.

And….that’s it for now, I think!


Mark said...

Good stuff! I remember how resistant I was to feminism on our campus (specifically because there were a lot of militant feminists - militant to the point of being political lesbians - when I got there), but I started reading a bunch of feminist stuff (in Values analysis and some bell hooks on my own) and got really into it. I do sometimes question the name - wouldn't egalitarianism be better? - but it all works out in the end. It's so much bigger, better, inclusive, and happier than Joe (or Jill, as in the case with your friend from Alpha) Six Pack knows! I wish you well on your gender-bending journey.

Mozart said...

"Gender-bending"--I sure hope not! Ha.

Yeah, I really don't know why feminism has such a bad rap, or why everyone thinks that it's a dead, irrelevant movement. From what I've been reading, true gender equality is still far from being achieved, surprisingly. And you were right about the feelings of righteous indignation--while I personally haven't been directly affected by male shogunism or the so-called legislation of morality, there are some pretty nasty laws and cultural biases out there. Scary stuff.

And the worst part is realizing how I actually contribute to some of this double-standard nonsense. Heck, I realized a while back that I was ever-so-slightly biased against women in certain positions of authority. How sad is that? Luckily once I identified the problem I rectified the situation. But that's what cultural influence does to you when you aren't paying attention....

As for the name, it is a little off-putting. "Womanism" is a term that's been coined to refer specifically to the empowerment of non-white women, but why can't they just call it gender equality? It'd sound a lot less threatening, methinks.