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Are you a feminist?

March 16, 2016

I find this question as beguiling as the first time I heard it, around 13 years ago.

Two days ago a student came into my classroom as I was finishing up my Women’s Studies class. They are in my American Civilization class, and they probably asked me about my feminism because of what I was erasing from the board: intersectionality, othering, patriarchy, interlocking oppressions, subjectivity, hegemonic masculinity…basically word porn for the academically inclined.

I could not help but laugh at the question, not because it was funny but because I am asked it almost every semester by a student. “Yes, of course I am.” And I think some students find this to be a sort of confession, meant to remain private, or something to be ashamed of.

I am well-aware that there are many people and places, even here in NYC and its boroughs, who still scoff at the idea of feminism. If they do not scoff, they are wary of it. This is fascinating to me. And I believe that in a place that views feminists as radical, loud-mouthed women, occupying the dual  role of polite adjunct lecturer and radical gender studies professor, is seen as contradictory. I’m relatively quiet and definitely polite, I’ve even been called “sweet” on multiple occasions. People generally like me, until I speak up for myself. Alas, is that not the way of American womanhood?

Regardless, I am still developing into my personality and trying to find some form of expression to alleviate my frustrations with my academic life. All of that being said, I love my students and I continue to teach for them.

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