Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sleepless and earnest in New York: An insomniac's ode to feminism
So it's 5:10 in the morning, and I haven't slept at all. I blame this on my crazy midterms sleep schedule, my body readjusting to the sounds of the city at night, and my inexhaustible brain (it is a lonely brain at 5:10 in the morning! Everything is dark and quiet, so naturally it just wants to chat about the work I have to do over break, the exams I will have when I return to school, sendoff, shock your mom, what I'm going to do this summer, the application I have to write, how my friends are doing, how everyone in my family is doing, and how strange the rest of my room looks at 5:30 in the morning. Was that something moving in the corner?) Needless to say, I'm writing a lengthy (unless I fall asleep) blog post about why I'm a feminist, what feminism means to me, and why it is important for me to publicly identify as a feminist. I'm writing about my feminism today because it is officially Feminist Coming Out Day, the thought-baby of a queer student group and a feminist club at Harvard; the two groups got together to raise awareness at school, and they've teamed up with Bitch Magazine to take the campaign nationwide.
I love the idea of being able to put faces (hopefully a diverse, wide-reaching range of faces) to feminism. I think a lot about how to make feminism (any and every kind of feminism) accessible to everyone as a personal identity, a creed that informs political views, a mode of self-help, a comfort, and a way to connect. I exist in a very privileged and progressive sphere, in that I am from New York City, that I go to Kenyon, and that the people I surround myself with/classes I take/activities I help organize or participate in at Kenyon are all relatively aligned with my politics and my worldview. It's really easy to forget that the face of feminism for the majority isn't nearly as young, fresh, witty, snarky, and inspiring as my feminist role models are. Instead, when feminism isn't demonized by right wing politicians, it is dusty, old, and even "dead." So it's really exciting to see a ton of young (and not so young...here's my mom's new photo, pictured with my grandma) facebook users from all over the country, feminists who aren't simply cis, straight, rich, white females. It's exciting to see my newsfeed blow up with friends changing their profile pictures to claim their feminism (it's exciting to be reminded that I have so many awesome feminist friends, and to be pleasantly surprised by friends I've never gone near the topic of feminism around "coming out" via facebook). And it always feels really good to see facebook being used to further issues I care about and to bring people together in an organic, authentic way; I think facebook and the proliferation of other types of social media has the potential to be really destructive (concerning, among many other things, rigid gender constructs), so I love when it is used in a wonderful way.
Now it's six in the morning. Prime time for feminist sap. I grew up with feminism - my grandma started the "Women's Project" in family therapy and wrote a book about how to raise sons without imposing society's strict, limiting, and often damaging normative masculinity on them. She was a housewife during that period when every white middle-class woman in America was a housewife. One day she decided that she was profoundly dissatisfied, and that she was going to go back to school at 40 years old with three children to raise on the side. She raised three hippies, one of whom became my hippie-dippie mother, who ran women's consciousness raising groups in San Francisco during the 70's and threw me a ceremonial party when I got my period for the first time (during which all of her hippie-dippie friends gave me gifts like herb filled heating pads, special pens to write poems and thoughts with, and womanlove scented candles). But none of my friends in high school talked about feminism, and I don't think I claimed feminism as my own movement until I got to Kenyon and met my remarkably outspoken new roommate (or soulmate) Katie. It wasn't until I had someone my age to talk about feminism with that it ceased to be something I associated with the matriarchal tradition in my family, and became something i associated with this exciting period of my life - with my youth, my idealistic politics (my youth), and my sense of self as a grown, autonomous person in the world. Feminism began to inform and transform everything about my life; it had always been there before, but now I was consciously putting it into practice. I was treating myself and my peers differently, I was treating my body differently, I was devouring feminist blogs and literature, I was discovering my sexuality as a beautiful, delicious thing, I was learning, learning, learning. I "came out" to Kenyon via allstu during the second semester of my first year at college. It was the practice of putting all this into words (albeit much fewer words) and putting these words on display, that really forced me to acknowledge how central, vital, and irreplaceable feminism is in my life. And it is the practice of publicly claiming feminism again and again (especially at 6:30 in the morning!) that keeps me enlivened, outraged, connected, and grateful. So so so so grateful.