The Feminist Smile

On a delightfully warm day in July, I was working as a waitress at my summer job, waiting on a table of two older couples, who seemed to be having a delicious and relaxed experience. I had approached the table to ask if I may clear a few dishes, and one of the men creepily grinned while daring to ask, “Sure, but would you give me a smile?”

It took every fiber of my being not to glare at this man and this man’s wife as she giggled at his request—a request that made me feel small, childish, and a reminder of the fact that my position was to serve his needs. The feeling deep within my gut reminded me that this entire situation was wrong and his patriarchal requests made me want to vomit, because it reinforced the fact that his request had no place in my life. In only eight words, the man had amplified my domesticated role as a server, revived his virility, and utilized his male dominance to situate me further in a position of inferiority. The flood of emotions that overcame me seemed to drown me, and in that moment, my blood began to boil as I processed this man’s request—one that he assumed I owed him. This man, who was a stranger to me, who felt that he could control my facial expressions, as if I were some sort of robot, essentially gave me an ultimatum, in which I could only clear their table given that I smile. Unfortunately, as uncomfortable as I was, I smiled.

 The wife’s giggling role was further intriguing because she was essentially participating in his demand. Her seemingly playful laugh at her husband’s “innocent” request reinforced the fact that she no longer had the ability in reaffirming her husband’s virility. I doubt she found the situation funny, and there is a high probability that she felt as uncomfortable as I had. So, why didn’t she connect with me? Why did she feel the need to encourage her husband?

Smiling: a tactic so many use to show emotion, please others, exude happiness, pretend to be happy, make a statement, etc. The smile has multiple dimensions of meaning and functionalities, and I am most interested in why women in particular smile, who/whom they are smiling for, and what that smile means. More importantly, how can I use the smile powerfully in my life?

Faced with a double-edge sword dilemma that the smile presents, I could either use the smile tactically to try to earn a higher tip, or I could have intervened, made the man feel exceptionally uncomfortable, and been a feminist killjoy, a term coined by Sara Ahmed. Certainly, it would have been far more rewarding to “stop the flow of communication” and “make things tense,” as Ahmed uses as her description of how the killjoy functions, but it also would have made for a rather awkward encounter.[1] However, having that awkward moment and creating the space in which the entire table no longer felt comfortable would have completely shifted the dynamic that the smile created. I would have made room for the table to feel uneasy at the man’s request, and I would have been able to point to fact that, again, there was no place for his comments in my life.

This experience relates to Annie Dillard’s reflection and interpretation of an encounter she had with a weasel in order to point to what it actually means to use a smile as a way to go in for the kill. Dillard imagines what it would be like to be in the weasel’s brain, and she thinks through the ways in which the weasel kills its prey. She writes that he bites at the jugular vein via the teeth, a truly grotesque, but effective way to go in for the kill. Notably, the weasel does not attack, and Dillard writes, “The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t ‘attack’ anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.”[2]

This is where the congruency between baring teeth, smiling, and attacking all meet. Had I been the weasel and “gone in for the kill” when the man asked me to show my teeth, he would not have received a pleasant grin from a young woman, but instead, my teeth would have been skillfully used to advantageously rip apart the man’s throat. I would have demonstrated my power over this man, and altered the entire meaning of the smile. It no longer would have served the purpose in pleasing him or inflating his already suffocating ego, but it would have operated to situate me in a position of superiority, in which I would have been actively baring my teeth with a keen awareness that he was representing the most unsettling feeling within my gut, and it was this feeling that I wanted to rip apart. 

Uncurling the smile:

Logistically, there are things to consider when understanding the smile, baring one’s teeth and how the two operate. First, the appearance, itself, has various meanings, such as the difference between giving a toothy smile and baring one’s teeth. On the outside, my appearance might show that I am being pleasant, but inside, I could be fuming. This points to the interesting etymology of the smile, in which one origin of the smile is rooted in the meaning “to creep.” Baring teeth or giving a “creepy smile” also demonstrates that appearance can operate as an intervention. If I had given such smile back to the man, the unsettling feeling that would have arisen within his body would have also been a key moment of awkwardness. Second, Sara Ahmed points to notions of happiness in that our lives are lived with the end goal that we will all find happiness, and we are somehow hoping that this “pursuit of happiness” will bring fulfillment to our lives.[3] Thus, smiling and exhibiting joy every waking moment will create the happiest and most rewarding life. In this scenario, the man was ultimately reinforcing the fact that if I smiled, my life would be all the better. Little did he know, he was incredibly wrong. Third, smiling and baring one’s teeth are entirely nonverbal forms of communication, and the experience of my return of the smile emitted no words. Had I decided to bare my teeth at that man, and tend to the blood boiling in my body, I would have given cues that certainly did not signal a surrendering to the man’s “give me a smile” request.

This notion that the smile is nonverbal ties into the cultural obsession with the famous Mona Lisa painting, in which society has asked, “Is she happy or is she sad?” “Did Leonardo da Vinci paint a smile or a frown?” As the subject became more popular, researchers conducted studies and found that nearly 100 percent of people perceive her as being happy, because to elude that she is anything but happy would have made for a less than pleasant portrait.[4] Ahmed’s notions hold true here, and this obsession speaks to the experience that I had, because in the man’s request, he was not only asking that I reaffirm his youth and his capacity to ensure that I enjoyed serving his needs, but he needed to be reminded that I sought happiness in my position as a server and in my role as a “good waitress.”

It would be simple to say that smiling is a power tactic. Period. The end. However, smiling has the ability to represent peace and kindness, which should not be overlooked as naïve notions of tactics. There is power in peace, and intelligence in using a kind smile to be savvy. Certainly, baring teeth, going in for the jugular, and finding someone’s weakest vein are tactical, but recognizing the power that the teeth hold can be a reminder that we ought not to fall prey to the patriarchal structure, but instead, we need to tune into our own keen instincts and find the moments when we can make space for the discomfort

References:

[1] Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press, 2017.

[2] Dillard, Annie. “Living like weasels.” One Hundred Great Essays (1982).

[3] Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press, 2017.

[4] Afp, By. “Mystery of the Mona Lisa’s Solved: Researchers Say She IS Smiling.” Mail Online. N.p., 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 7 May 2017.

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The Power in Our Pieces

Broken is the journey of my feminism.

Bro·ken

ˈbrōkən/

verb

having breaks or gaps in continuity.

“a broken white line across the road”

synonyms: interrupteddisturbeddiscontinuousintermittentunsettled

“a night of broken sleep”

antonyms: uninterrupted

My journey through feminism came at a time in my life where so many things were new. My first day of college, I sat in Introduction to Women Studies and for the first time in my life I saw my experiences as a woman be validated, unpacked and centralized as important subject matter. All of my identities walked into the room with me as this happened, my brownness felt it the most. I was most attracted to the theories of feminists of color. Learning them was like listening to your sister present your jumbled, suppressed messy thoughts and feelings into the room in a way that made everyone listen. Allowing myself to pursue a degree in Women Studies meant opening myself up to a continuation of this exposure that muffled the distancing tactics that I had learned to practice as a student.

With the loss of the familiar and the unknown ahead, you struggle to regain your balance, reintegrate yourself (put Coyolxauhqui together), and repair the damage. You must, like the shaman, find a way to call your spirit home. Every paroxysm has the potential of initiating you to something new, giving you a chance to reconstruct yourself, forcing you to rework your description of self, world, and your place in it (reality)…

-Gloria Anzaldúa, “this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation”

I recognize that my decision to pursue a degree in Women Studies was a choice that I had to make over and over again because of how much of a struggle it is to use feminism as a tool for decolonizing the mind, especially within the walls of an institution that is founded on the shoulders of those very colonizing principles. I refer to my feminist journey as broken because I identify my feminist journey with myth of the moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui. Her story is one that tells of a woman who quite literally is broken into pieces and blasted into space to compose a greater part of our universe, the moon and the stars.

The tragic heroine, moon goddess, Coyoxauhqui, was killed and her body split apart and thrown into the sky by her brother. Upon receiving word that Coyolxauhqui’s mother was expecting a child that was prophesized to mark Coyolxhqui’s demise, she is P-3infuriated and enlists an army to march up the great mountain to kill her mother before her mother can give birth. Her brother who is located in her mother’s womb, spouts out of the womb as the invincible warrior sun god, Huitzilopochtli. Huitzilopochtli awaits Coyolxauhqui’s arrival to the palace and kills her by cutting her up in many pieces and throwing her remains to the sky. In Aztec folklore, this story helps explain how and why we have the moon and stars. They are all Coyolxauhqui’s remains. Chicana revisionist dialect says that in this story, Coyolxauhqui, foresaw her demise and her attempt to kill her mother was her way of trying to save herself, but she underestimated the power of the warrior god.

My feminist journey has been the process of recognizing  Coyolxauhqui’s many pieces and reconstructing them for myself. Her broken-ness composes our universe, and my feminist journey has helped me find meanings within and across the many “gaps in continuity” that encompass the intersections of my complex identities. Coyolxauhqui’s legacy is a powerful symbol in Chicana feminism. My feminism is for the many sisters that paved the way for me to be here and for my sisters that will come after me. Using Coyolxauhqui’s story to decolonize my mind is my way of honoring the pivotal histories and feminist work of the Chicana scholars and community that came before me.

Feminism has helped me come home. And when I come home, I do not return to a generic place or people, I come home to myself and the only way I know myself is in many different pieces. The experiences of women are dictated by power structures and structural social organizing schemes that aim to take away our agency to centralized our wholeness. Even before we are aware, we are Coyolxauqui’s pieces. Patriarchy breaks women into pieces, forcing our many intersections, expressions, fears, knowledge, presentations, impulses, and reactions into boxes. And at the same time, women are breaking with patriarchal demands to find their own that they want to fashion for themselves and for the world. Feminism has helped me do that for me. Feminism has led me to connect with my many favorite parts, getting to know them, accepting them, loving them. Feminism continues to spark the journey of coming home to my body, the same body that has dedicated itself to my very survival.

Feminism feels like that ball in my throat.

It feels like high blood pressure.

It feels like “do I know too much?”

It is the fearful gritted teeth, sweaty palms and searching eyes in a crowded space with crowded bodies, convinced there’s no way out.

This doesn’t feel complete.

It’s not supposed to be complete.

Thanks, ball in my throat. Thanks sweaty palms. Thanks, high blood pressure.

Broken is the journey of my feminism.

 

Reshaping Sex: Casey Beyer (SUNY New Paltz ’17)

“We don’t have to imitate straightness because by definition, we exist to oppose and critique it.”

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/04/whos-the-man/

What is sex? Is it something we can define, or is it too personal and variable depending on who you ask? As I was beginning to conduct research for this paper, I asked some of the people around me if they could define sex, and got a wide array of answers from “stimulating another person” to “achieving orgasm” to “the giving or receiving of pleasure between one or more people”.  What this made immediately clear to me was that sex is very abstract and variable, definitely not something that we can define absolutely, yet I began to realize upon further questioning that people were much quicker to determine what they didn’t consider to be sex: For many people I spoke with, masturbation was not considered sex but the same act with another partner was, or manual stimulation with another partner was considered sex in some cases and foreplay in others depending on the genders of the parties involved. This idea that gender determines what kind of sex ‘counts’ and what doesn’t led me to this research — I want to examine the ways that lesbians and queer women have been invalidated sexually in heteronormative society and how they find ways to expand the boundaries of sexual pleasure through subcultures. In this paper, I will begin by analyzing the dominant narrative surrounding “legitimate sex” by looking at virginity and the ways that it invalidates non-heterosexual, non-reproductive sex, and then move forward to examine the way that lesbian and queer sex is considered more valuable the closer resembles it heterosexual sex and what that means for the lesbian and queer communities and their presumed gender performativity. Using this knowledge and understanding of mainstream society in the United States, I will move into an examination of the ways that lesbians and queer women have found subculture communities in which the backbone of sex does not rely on the gender binary but rather on sexual preference (i.e. top/bottom, dom/sub etc), and how these subcultures have allowed them to push the boundaries of what normative society considers to be sex, resist heteronormative partner standards and generate pleasure in alternative ways.

Continue reading “Reshaping Sex: Casey Beyer (SUNY New Paltz ’17)”

Pepsi In All the Wrong Ways

A few weeks ago a commercial came out with Kendall Jenner leading a march of people through the streets of NYC and being confronted by a police barricade.  She then hands one of the police officers a Pepsi as if to be an olive branch, and the crowd erupts in triumph.

This commercial was not well received and quickly taken down.  Pepsi’s commercial underplays and overwrites issues like Black Lives Matter protests and other protest marches especially in a time of turmoil in the US.  SNL took it upon themselves, as the satirical comedians they are.  Through their comedic act they abruptly confront the major issues with the commercial as well as play on the ‘out of touc’h way society tries to use these political movement as marketing tactics for their products.  SNL did a similar skit earlier this year regarding super bowl commercials as well.  At least one form of media understands that these political movements should not be understated and used as marketing strategy.

 SNL Pepsi Commercial

 SNL Super Bowl Commercial Pitch

 

 

Sorry I’m Not Sorry

Fifteen is the number of times in one day I apologized.  As a woman, I am more prone to apologizing than my male peers.  I apologize for things such as not holding a door for someone five paces behind me, or even someone else knocking my arm when I pass them by.

I was brought up in a culture that expects me to apologize as an act of politeness, to apologize for taking up space, to apologize rather than ‘rocking the boat’.  I grew up in a mindset of ‘comfortable feminism’, believing I could do anything as long as I worked hard enough, but not disrupting the system I had to work through.  I had an understanding that I held a more passive role in society, and perpetuate that role through my act of over apologizing.   Where has this over apologizing gotten us as feminists?  Am I living my best feminist life even when I over apologize?

Sorry, adj –     1) distressed, sad; feeling grief or sorrow

2) In predicative use, usually following a verb as ‘to be’, ‘to look’, ‘to seem’, etc: grieved or vexed about a particular thing; regretful.

The word sorry is supposed to be used in a deeper way than saying sorry for not holding a door.  Sorry is for grieving, for regretting that you didn’t do something when you had the chance.  The way I have been using it in my comfortable feminism is in a more roundabout way to try to passively elicit a more necessary apology from the other person.   If women stop saying sorry for not holding a door or someone else knocking into them then we can continue to change the way our patriarchal society views women as passive, as pushovers, and start to teach the next generation of women to believe that they are supposed to be here.  “As a woman’s ability to take care of herself expands thanks to feminist efforts, the feminist goals she’s willing to really fight for, or contribute time and money and effort to, shrink” (Crispin 49).  In this age of mass produced feminism, comfortable feminism is making feminism less striking, removing the drive to fight and disrupt the patriarchal system, making it a passive, comfortable movement, allowing people to claim stake in the movement without actually doing anything.  Rather than dismantle the patriarchal system, we think we can just work within it.  Without the drive to fight and disrupt, we fall into routine passive apologizing.

When I apologize, I am internally thinking that the other person should apologize rather than me.  There should be more apologies, but they shouldn’t be coming from women; instead, they should be coming from men and the patriarchal system women are forced to work through.  My act of apologizing needs to be taken to the external, physical point of not apologizing but rather saying “sorry I’m not sorry.”  Through this phrase I am actively denying the other person an unnecessary apology; I am disrupting the social norm of automatically expecting an apology for something unnecessary.  “Sorry I’m not sorry” causes discomfort inside a person because it is so irregularly said, it is not the assumed response, it is an unconditioned response.

Apologizing has been conditioned into our social norm; it is almost an unconscious reaction to things and when that conditioned response is disrupted it leaves people uncomfortable.  This discomfort is necessary if modern feminists want to actually change and shake things up the way they should.  If they want to step outside of this comfortable feminism where you can buy a $60 sweatshirt that says feminist then ‘feminists’ have to provoke that uncomfortable feeling that comes with unconditioned response like “sorry I’m not sorry”.

We live in an age where it’s easier to like, share, and re-tweet things and claim to be a feminist, but are we living and actively feminist life?  In this digital age our communication skills are being altered, causing us to be more passive in our communication whether that is through phone call, text, or messenger.  By communicating significantly through cyber communication we are further removing ourselves from our own personhood as women.  We are automatically putting ourselves in a passive role by not communicating face to face as readily.  However, our cyber communication is just one reason we as women feel the need to over apologize.

We have grown up learning to be polite, to play a more passive, but where has that gotten us?  We are too comfortable with our ‘attempts’ of dismantling the patriarchy.  We believe if we take little steps towards readjustment then the patriarchal system will just let us squeeze in.  WAIT!! We don’t want to just squeeze in, we don’t want to try to fit into a system that is obviously broken, we want to create a new system that doesn’t make us feel the need to apologize for someone else’s knocking us on the arm.

Turn this comfortable feminism on its head. Instead of over apologizing, introduce “sorry I’m not sorry” to your everyday phrases.  This phrase will definitely get some responses and ruffle some feathers, but by using this phrase you as a woman are putting yourself in that space, you are proving you exist by disrupting the conditioned response of an apology.                When you use the phrase you should existenceimagesknow it may elicit one of three responses from male counter parts:

  1. awkward chuckle and shrug of the shoulders
  2. a hesitant turn around and stare
  3. an abrupt response confronting the phrase in a defensive manner.

With any of these responses just remember to stand your ground, remember you are supposed to be in that space, remember you are a powerful .  You may not need to say anything in response, or you may need to open up to a respectful argument, just make sure you don’t back down. Try to catch yourself before you say sorry in a passing interaction, you will feel a sense of power and strength in that refuse to apologize.  Through this new found source of power and strength you can start to live a better feminist life.  Sorry I’m not sorry!

Bibliography

Crispin, Jessa (2017-02-21). Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto (p. 49). Melville House. Kindle Edition.

Oxford English dictionary. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2009. Print.

Surviving Is Not Living

At 1:19pm on March 2nd, 2008 my dad died. At 1:19 on March 2nd, 2008, feminism became my best chance for survival. I lost my place in the world when my dad died. I didn’t always think of this survival as feminism, but it has been there through thick and thin in a manner I only now realize has saved my life and sanity countless times. If it were not for feminism, and more specifically the women of William Smith’s Women’s Studies program, I would be incapable of transforming my understanding of death. I would still be disabled by my depression and paranoia, I would still believe I am alone in my struggle. Feminism and the many women I have met because of feminism have become a support system and source of inspiration that allowed me to create a new place. Feminism has pushed me to a place of pain and discomfort despite my physical, emotional, and mental resistance to such efforts. I have been forced into a space of brutal self honesty that invokes a redness in my face, a racing of my heart beat and sense of squirmishness that I cannot shake. No longer able to hide from this place of honesty I find my thoughts in a frenzy and the bottle cap to my emotions popping off. It is this space of honesty, this place of discomfort and pain where I have been forced to look inward and address nine years of suffocated confusion, fear, and loss. I have masked these feelings with a numbness, an emotional detachment from the world. I was checked out for years. Feminism checked me back in.

One of the hardest parts of losing my dad is how isolating my depression and paranoia became. I had long believed that my grief had to be an individual burden that could never be understood or shared with anyone. For years I kept my depression hidden, bringing up my dad’s death only in instances where my experience could offer support and empathy to others dealing with death I strove to keep a distance between myself and my personal world. Sometimes, I would see my father’s death only as a passing reflection, something I could turn away from. Other times, I found myself justifying my father’s death as something that had to happen so I could guide others through the experience of death and the journey of grief.

What I realize now is my experience of grief is gendered and wide spread yet we as women are isolated by the patriarchy and are brainwashed to believe female love and friendship is secondary and less valuable than the love and relationships we have with men.  Poet Adrienne Rich speaks of the prevention of female companionship and community in her book, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. “The denial of reality and visibility to women’s passion for women, women’s choice of women as allies, life companions, and community, the forcing of such relationships into dissimulation and their disintegration under intense pressure have meant an incalculable loss to the power of all women to change the social relations of the sexes, to liberate ourselves and each other” (Rich, p.139). Living in a world where female companionship is considered unnecessary, it has been difficult to locate a place for me to grieve. There is no space in our society where we can  grieve and talk about our sadness that is not stigmatized. People are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about death and we are trained to avoid things that make us uncomfortable so we don’t encourage the development of such spaces.  It was not until I found feminist friends in my peers, my professors, and the authors I read that I began to understand the fictitious boundaries in which my grief existed and destroying such boundaries could be done by having more open and regular conversations about grief.

The thing about feminists is that they are annoyingly good at being persistent. I quickly learned that feminists will put in the time and energy required to reach the root of a problem regardless of how exhausting the process will be. My professors, my peers, and all of the feminist academics and creatives who have participated in my feminist awakening did not accept my melancholy, they did accept self induced isolation. I have grown to understand the importance of self care as a woman who by definition cannot escape struggle. I best understand the concept of consciousness-raising as a form of self care where women can be reminded of the communal nature of our collective struggles. While we may not struggle in the same way it is crucial to know we do not have to struggle alone. It was through informal sessions of consciousness-raising that I realized my depression was real and normal and it was time to address my mental illness in a clinical setting. It has been over seven months since I came to this realization and a clarity to what it means to live my feminist life.

As a feminist I have learned that there is a value to my raw emotions and it is more than acceptable to acknowledge and embrace these moments. As a feminist I have learned that communal struggle is at the core of feminism and female communities and friendships. In moments of struggle, feminism was there waiting for me to find it and in turn find myself. I know I will never escape struggle permanently, but through feminism I have learned I don’t have to just survive struggle, because surviving is not living. Feminism has taught me how to live with and through struggle, that sometimes I don’t need to combat struggle and in the moments in which I do I will never have to go to battle alone. Living a feminist life for me is living beyond survival. Living a feminist life is using my struggle to perpetuate self growth as well as growth in others.

 

Work Cited

Rich, Adrienne. Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence. Denver Co.: Antelope             Publications, 1982. Print.

 

Feminism in the Hot Tub

I’m sitting in the hot tub under palm trees and sunshine, thoroughly enjoying a moment of silence and some much needed vitamin D. The silence is interrupted by a loud male voice, slurring from a few too many beers. Sitting across the hot tub this guy begins a conversation, clearly one that is unwanted. He is a medical student at UCLA and wants everyone within a 25 feet radius to know just how successful he is. He asks me what I study while staring at my boobs and I tell him Women’s Studies and Psychology. He laughs loudly and replies, “so like what… you’re going to be a psychologist for women or something?”

While all graduating seniors are faced with an endless array of questions about their future, students majoring in Women’s Studies seem to be faced with a particularly intense amount of scrutiny about the future of their careers and educational decisions. Many will ask, “well, what are you going to do with that?” a question loaded with judgment and doubt. In the hot tub that day, a complete stranger put my education into a box and tried to contain it, while patronizing and objectifying me at the same time.

When asked what I will do with my Women’s Studies degree, I feel that I have to prove my education worthy and important, something biology or economics students usually don’t have to do. The thing with a Women’s Studies degree is that it can be applied to so many different fields. Systems of oppression founded on race relations, gendered politics, and economic disparity are relevant to every field of work whether it be healthcare, wine making, or even dog walking. Feminism has the power to transform fields of work. For example, a feminist health care system would provide federal funding for abortion care. A feminist wine maker would fight for immigrant rights considering the prevalence of migrant workers employed at wine vineyards. When I think of living a feminist life, I picture connecting across lines of social difference, supporting those who are not supported by existing social systems, and critiquing, but never forgetting to create and imagine transformed futures. These practices can be done in many different fields of work.

This question of what you will do with your degree organizes the people participating in the conversation into separate and distinct roles. The Women’s Studies major must take on the explaining role, justifying the importance of their work and expected to have a detailed career plan. Rather than reading a book or doing some of their own research, the questioner continues to force those who study gender, race, and class to explain why their education is worthy and how it will result in a “successful” career. What’s ironic is that the conversation this question prompts actually demonstrates the power relationships at play that Women’s Studies works to deconstruct. In this conversation, we are also forced to convert our feminism into economic terms. In order to be worthy, our feminism must make us money. When people ask, “what are you going to do with that?” what they really mean is how will you make money? Economic pursuits do not drive my passion for Women’s Studies. So, translating my feminism into dollars isn’t a natural or easy task. That is not to say that you can’t be a feminist and make a lot of money. In fact, feminist economists have been fighting to transform the economy for years and feminist engineers continue to disrupt a male dominated field, bringing new and innovative ideas with them. Living a feminist life may mean restructuring your life, imagination, and values in ways that differ from mainstream culture. We shouldn’t have to justify our education in the first place, but why must we justify our educational decisions on other people’s terms rather than our own?
There is a visceral reaction in having to justify your educational decisions and interests. In the hot tub that day, I felt my face redden and a twinge of anxiety grow inside of me. I felt an overwhelming pressure to prove my knowledge worthy to a complete asshole. The questioner can often sense this anxiety; it proves their doubt and feeds their ego. How do we, women’s studies majors alike, disrupt the power operating when our educational decisions and passions are questioned, doubted, and delegitimized? It may be effective to first transfer the duty of explaining to the questioner. Instead of having to explain and prove our education and passions worthy, ask them why they think Women’s Studies is important and what career paths they think are applicable to this field of study. By answering them with a question, you have successfully troubled the power operating between the questioner and the explainer. By asking them for their thoughts on Women’s Studies you evoke a response that requires self-reflection and critical thinking. This will hopefully create a conversation that is more collaborative, one where both parties are made to imagine what it truly means to live a feminist life. It is my hope that a collaborative conversation will generate greater creativity and acceptance rather than judgment. Here, both people are made to actually communicate and think together. Within a more collaborative conversation, I would hope that my feminism is seen as a legitimate form of knowledge. I would hope that my interests in creating feminist art, pursuing a career in reproductive justice, and finding meaning and support through feminist friendships are seen and validated as ways in which I live out my feminism.

 

References:

Crispin, Jessa. Why I am not a feminist: a feminist manifesto. Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2017. Print.

Ahmed, Sara. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke U Press, 2017. Print.

S.K. “The thinking behind feminist economics.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.