Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chalk it Up to the Small-Town Life

This post is a little disjointed, I'm going to warn you in advance.

Growing up where I did, feminism was a pretty silent subject. In reality, racism is still pretty rampant out here, and we're about twelve steps behind the metropolitan level of social equity (which should say something). My mom was a little bit of a free thinker, but it was made pretty obvious that this was not a way I could "be" outside of home.

I remember the first time I saw 10 Things I Hate About You, and how amazed I was that Kat could be that way around other people, and be so collected even when other people thought she was ridiculous. I wanted that power. Even through the trope that she just needed to be loved (it's a Taming of the Shrew remake, after all), I came away from that movie feeling stronger.

I haven't watched the new ABC Family show simply because so much of the movie for me was the cast in the roles they fit so well, but I found this little bit:

I was shocked (ok, maybe not shocked, but it really stuck out to me) while watching this weeks episode. For an assignment that involved writing a paper on a moment that changed your life, Kat wrote about the day that she first started reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and became a feminist. I think that's a great paper topic. But her teacher told her it was unoriginal and that people in the space station could see she was a feminist so Kat should write about something else. Wow. Yes, people can see that she's a feminist, but being a feminist is a large part of her life, so it would make sense that she wrote about becoming a feminist as a moment that changed her life. To call that unoriginal is insulting, especially considering that a lot of the other people in the class did not write about such insightful things and are not feminists. Kat rewrote the paper about the first day that her dad bought her tampons. Her teacher was pleased and said it was good as long as it didn't end with "and then I became a feminist."

Via: Adventures of a Young Feminist: Silencing in Schools from 10 Things

I relate to that very much. In middle school I started coming into myself, and I began to develop the attitude I take so much pride in now. I'm not callous, I care about people and how they feel, but I do not care what they think of me. I will stick up for someone and I will stick up for myself. It took me a painfully long time to be able to do that.

I hit high school in 2001. We all know what happened that September. It ended up being the single defining moment of my high school social interactions. In my conservative, white, predominantly Christian, working class community, I was the only person I knew with liberal leanings. In the weeks after 9/11, I collected images from newspapers and websites of the mourning gatherings across the globe, and hung them in my locker. I still have a scrapbook of those images; those indicators of humanity. The recognition that everybody was feeling pain for us, for our indoctrination into the world of Big Terrorism.

People made nasty comments about those images, like I was unAmerican for it. When I was a sophomore, I realized I had a remarkable proficiency in languages, and I expressed an interest in diplomatic affairs. Again, this was a small school--about 500 people K-12 at the time--so there was no debate team, or Model UN group, or any of that. I was the only person I knew, apart from my civics teacher, who read the newspapers every day (unless it was the sports page). I read Mother Jones. I read the Economist. I read the New York Times instead of the local papers.

Every year, we were supposed to write essays for the American Legion's contest. I always wrote something thoughtful, generally indicating that the Founders did not create this country so we could follow our leaders without question. Without fail, my English teacher would give it back to me, ask me to revise it to be more appropriate for the contest. I would change a little, submit it, and for four years, I won that contest. I was given the American Legion scholarship when I graduated.

Yet I was the girl who was seen by my peers as unAmerican. I didn't like Bush. I drew a definite distinction between my friends and family who were serving--over 30 of them and counting, now--and the Military Industry.

I was political, I was feminist, and I did not fit in.

I went to college, and that changed. I finally had peers who I could talk to about things, and even if they didn't agree, there was discussion. It was liberating.

Now I'm back here, about to go work back in that school system, and I am nervous.

No comments:

Post a Comment