One of my goals this year is to learn more about feminism. Sure, I call myself a feminist because I am one (please see the definition of the word here). But how much do I actually know about the history of feminism? How much do I know about famous and influential feminists? And how good am I at intelligently explaining what I don’t like about strip clubs (it has nothing to do with nudity!)? The answers are not a lot, not much, and not very. And that’s pathetic.
So, to work on this glaring, embarrassing oversight in my education, I’m working on reading some books about feminism. But first, I thought I’d share my only formal feminist education experience with you because it was a doozie.
The year was 2007. I was a junior in college and I decided to take an Intro to Women’s Studies class because that’s what you do when you’re young and a liberal arts major. Also I figured it would be interesting.
Exactly one dude was in the class, and he looked so much like one of my brothers (and even had one of his shirts) that he distracted me most of the year. Anyway, it was an almost entirely female environment, which normally is something I would love. But somehow, someway, this turned out terrible.
You know those “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” shirts? On the first day of class, I thought I saw a girl wearing one of those, and I thought to myself, “Cool! What a fun group of like-minded ladies!” Turns out it was a “This Is What A Phi Beta Kappa* Looks Like” shirt, which, like, who cares? No one cares about a stereotype for your sorority. Ugh.
On the first day of class, our professor asked us to raise our hands if we were feminists. I honestly don’t remember if I raised my hand or not, which kills me. I mean, I should have! But then again, I didn’t have a really good handle on a lot of my own thoughts back then, so I may not have. Anyway, I do remember that almost no one did, which was another bad sign.
I did learn things that semester (we read lots of interesting articles and learned about various important figures of feminism), but I can only remember the truly terrible things. Like the girl who told me she would’ve wanted to be a feminist in the 70’s because “they still had long hair and looked feminine.” Or the time I gave a presentation on women who choose to be childfree and multiple girls in the class said, “But what if they change their minds?” because they truly couldn’t believe any woman in the world would want to not have children. Or the time we had to do a group project and one of the girls in the group spent every work session crying and screaming at her boyfriend on the phone.
My experience was so awful that I didn’t pursue any other Women’s Studies classes at Miami. But now I feel like I missed out on a lot. There are so many important books I haven’t read, important concepts I don’t understand, important women I don’t know much about.
So this year, I’m going to read more books about feminism and female leaders. Feminism is a big, broad, exciting thing, and it’s something I truly love learning about. However, my knowledge is definitely slanted towards pop culture. As much as I love pop culture, feminism is about a lot more than Lena Dunham’s body acceptance, the are-women-funny bullshit, and how awesome Beyonce is. Not that those things aren’t important, because they are. But it’s also important to learn about the less fun, more upsetting issues that affect women all over the world. Like sex trafficking, rape culture, domestic abuse, and lots and lots of other things.
My first book this year is Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks. The title is great, and I figure you can’t go wrong with bell hooks. But what else should I read? I’d love to hear your suggestions! I’m open to reading anything about feminism, women’s issues, or influential women. I’m thinking about nonfiction, but fiction’s great, too! Let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I made this up. I have no idea what sorority it was because I know nothing about sororities.
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