What seems like many moons ago, I went to college. While making my way through courses for my B.A. in English, I threw in a mix of women’s studies courses. Literature and history were my strong points and women’s studies worked as the perfect sub genre. I had never thought of myself as a hardcore feminist. Being that I was a very naive twenty-something, I was still trying to figure out what I was doing, who I was, all of that not-so-fun stuff that comes with college. I wasn’t really into political and social debates, but I did begin to develop my own opinions.
Through my classes, I came to realize just how many inspiring females have come before my generation. Hundreds of years of struggles, developments, achievements…
Novels and history books began to follow me to and from school. I would travel home on weekends with them in tow, thinking very little of it, until my brother began teasing me that I was becoming what he jokingly referred to as a fem-nazi. Honestly, I think he was concerned I was going to become a bra burning, politically active woman, but I never quite went down that route. I did in that time, however, enjoy discussions on the topic of women and their roles in history, literature, music, and the current world.
For all of the interest that I had in the subject at hand, I came 2 courses shy of obtaining a minor in Women’s Studies. Why? I was at the end of my four years and had completed my major. I had a goal and it did not include a fifth year at school. With my college career over, it was time to focus on an editorial career. I had become a feminist without realizing it, and I had fallen off feminist wagon much the same way.
Back in 2001 when I began college, I was under the impression that in order to be a feminist, I would have to take an active interest in women’s rights and political matters. There was always this negative stereotype that seemed to creep around that feminists were tough, angry women who came down on men. Again, let me reiterate that i was a very naive twenty-something. But the way I saw it, as I burrowed deeper into my studies, was that women’s history was something of importance, because it has effected all history and my lifetime.
It’s been 15 years since I began venturing down this path. While I thought I wandered away from feminism, I’ve recently made a surprising realization – I hadn’t. I just grew up a bit, gained some more experiences and knowledge, and developed some more views. As I’m starting to take more time for myself to read again, branch out in my musical interests, and write more, I realize I never lost my interest in women’s studies, and while I’m not sure why, I’m finding some solace in that. I’m just naturally drawn to history and culture, and in being a woman, I believe it’s no surprise that I also gravitated towards women’s studies.
I also believe part of the interest is rooted in the lack of women’s studies presented in my education throughout grammar school and high school. I’m not sure whether or not that has changed; however when I was a kid, it seems all history and influences were quickly skimmed over in order to cover as much as possible. Wars were the only exception to this. Why did curriculum place so much emphasis on wars I will never understand.
Since my younger years, I’ve refined my own opinion on feminism. It’s not that women are better then men. I think that is definitely one of the stigmas that has been connected with feminists. There are some women out there who would aggressively argue that we are the better sex, and there are those in the world that assume any person claiming to be a feminist believes in that. However, it is my belief that women have their strengths and weaknesses, as do men, and as human beings we are all hopelessly flawed as a species.
The Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” AND “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests”. By that definition, anyone can be a feminist – male or female. Personally, I relate to the concept of feminism because I do believe that everyone should have equal rights and because I enjoy studying women who have influenced generations upon generations. However, taking one additional step I would also like to give a nod to the concept of humanism – basically believing in the good of humanity with an open mind to develop ideas and beliefs that are founded upon reason rather than religion. That’s a whole other adventure.
And there you have it – my journey (so far) on the feminism wagon. I may not always focus on that part of myself, but it’s there. I just keep adding other things along the way making things that much more interesting.
Twenty-something year old me had a laundry list of books that I read and music that was on repeat which reflected my feminist ways.
Music: Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Imbrulia, Norah Jones, Dido, Garbage, Joni Mitchell
Books: The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gillman), The Awakening (Kate Chopin), anything written by Jean Rhys, The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)