Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Learning About Oneself

I learned something new about myself this week. I think I may be a feminist. Now before you go thinking I am some tree-hugging, hairy-legged, militant lesbian, let me inform you of a few things: Pink is my favorite color. I love having sex with my husband, who is very male. I do not think I own anything that is camoflaged, and I drank my coffee out of a styrofoam cup this morning on my way to my biology lab. So why do I say I am a feminist? Simply because I am sitting in my Women's History lecture room on Tuesday, and my professor is showing these images of women in history, and when she got to this one, I litterally gasped. As in disgust. As in "Hells-to-the-nah!"

Then she got to this one, and I smiled a great deal. I like this one. This one speaks to me of who I am exactly.

Then we started doing this exercise where we divided a sheet of paper with "Masculine" on one side and "Feminine" on the other. The intent was for us to write a few adjectives to describe each. We were prohibited from using terms of biology. For example: penis, testosterone, androgens, testes were all prohibited words. I struggled. I started to describe women first, and the first thing I put on the list was "strong". As I started to think of more, I realized that I was using words society would typically use to describe a man. Did she want the way society would describe each, or did she want my description, or did she want the truth??? As I sat there puzzling over this, she announced that time was up. I looked down at my paper and saw the word strong, in my handwriting, scribbled out. Women aren't supposed ot be seen as strong. The entire thing became a metaphor for me. I know I am strong. It has nothing to do with gender, but more to do with me as a person. But I also know that because I am a woman, I am not supposed to be. Which direction do I go???
But then I became angry. She asked some of the members of the class to call out some of the things on their list. For men? Capable, provider, breadwinner, strong, tough, intelligence...
For women? Pretty, dainty, emotional, submissive, passive...

Seriously? I am a wife and a mother who is several years older than the young women in this class. I grew up in the day where it was still mainstream for mothers to stay home and care for their children. In fact, that is what I came from. These younger women should be even more progressive than I am. They didn't see the trap? They didn't see that they were falling directly into the stereotype society has placed on women? Even the word "feminist" brings on its own stereotype. I am not immune to it. I am reluctant to openly admit this view. If you ask me about the capabilities of women, I will tell you there is nothing a woman cannot do that a man can. Even in regard to physical strength, I think it is less about nature and more about nurture. Boys grow up being told that bigger is better, more muscle is more strength. Girls are told the complete opposite. If the two were told the same things from the beginning, both verbally and nonverbally, I see no reason why women could not be as physically capable as men. So these are my views, and they always have been. I am not one to play the giggling, blushing girl, who is silently cpable of performing neurosurgery while orbitting the Earth. If I have the answers, i will tell you I do. If I excel in a subject, i will be honest ans say that I do. If I can kick your ass, you will know that too. But to use the word "feminist"??? I am reluctant to do so because I do not want to commit to the stereotype we have of the word. I like smelling like my Gucci No. 2 instead of patchouli. I like being heterosexual, that my husband likes to look at my boobs. But I also like that my husband knows my mind as well, and loves that too. See? I cannot get past the stereotype...

My level of disgust increased tenfold when the professor started to speak of the contributions of women in medicine. She actually was referring to nursing, and how nurses helped doctors and continue to do so today. What? You can be damned sure that my contribution to medicine will not be as a nurse. Not that there is anything wrong with nursing. But to insinuate that this is the only way women have left a mark in medicine is to imply that women cannot be influential physicians. Bullshit. Here, let me show you.

So I knew I wanted to blog about this. It has had me fired up ever since I left the class, and so I was searching the internet for the exact images she used in the lecture, and I found many more I love. I'll show them to you now.
I guess I am a feminist after all.

I should have known...This has been my favorite son since high school:

1 comment:

Leann I Am said...

I think I'm actually somewhere in the middle. I am happier doing the 'girl stuff' most of the time. But I do think that I should be able to make that choice for myself!

And I've always loved that song too!