Okay. So, first of all thanks all of you for hanging in there with the Epic Trojan Virus Of Dooom that we’ve been dealing with. I’m a PC user and all three of the computers I regularly use at my workplace were infected with this shit. My IT dude has the patience of a saint and didn’t get mad at me about it, but for obvious reasons I’ve been avoiding accessing the blog from work (I often write posts on lunch) and at home too since we have Windows operating systems there too.
Luckily I’m visiting my parents in Michigan right now for a sibling’s wedding and they have a Mac! So I’m taking the opportunity to write y’all the next installment of the live-blog series. Thank you so much for your insightful comments on last week’s post. I was able to read them via email ping-backs even though I couldn’t visit the site and gosh I wished I were able to respond. So much to think about! Luckily, I think the themes you all were pulling out of how we each experience feminism in the context of our scholarly lives, and the diverse reasons people choose to enter graduate programs, are going to continue on through the rest of the anthology. I’m trying not to read more than one week at a time, so my live-blogging is fresh, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be at this “what is academic feminism? is it distinct from non-academic feminism? are both equally authentic? how does our personal experience shape how we encounter feminism in multiple spaces?” questions every tuesday here for the remainder of the live-blogging venture (19 episodes to go!).
So without further ado, I bring you Latoya Peterson’s (of Racialicious) to Feminism For Real, a personal essay on her discovery of feminism through the book Manifesta and the experience of becoming, inadvertently, a blogger whom people sought out for opinions on Things Feminist … while at the same time, she was starting to question whether organized feminist activism (and the identity of “feminist”) was really where she felt most at home.
THE FEMINIST EXISTENTIAL CRISIS (DARK CHILD REMIX) by Latoya Peterson (pp. 43-47)
p. 43 – “(If) I think (about gender, access, and equality), therefore I am (by definition, a feminist). I love that the essay begins with a working definition of feminism, since I like to collect these definitions and think about how each are unique and in some ways it’s important that we have them all — rather than settling on a single, static definition. Given that we’ve been thinking about the connections (or dis-connections) between feminism and academia throughout Feminism For Real I like Peterson’s emphasis on thinking and what one thinks about as a feminist: gender. access. equality. Not a bad list. Makes me think what I might add to my own. Sometimes schools can be good places for thinking … though not always.
p. 43 – “But one thing is clear — the culture of professional feminism is crowding my space.” What does “professional feminism” look like, and how does it differ from … amateur feminism? personal feminism? casual feminism? occasional feminism? What different types of feminism are there, and where does the “professional” type fit into the expressive list. Does it mean — in the classic sense — a person who has a) advanced training in the field and b) is paid for their labors? What constitutes “advanced” training in feminism … a Gender Studies degree? grassroots organizing? The experience of being female in our culture? In this age of non-paid blogging celebrity, do you have to be paid for your labor in order to earn a place in the field of “professional” feminist activism? What group(s) offer membership that would constitute belonging to the professional club (in the same manner the American Library Association is the professional organization for us who work in the field)?
p. 44 – “Somehow, [feminism] became my identity for a while.” We began this essay with a definition of feminism that was focused on action (thinking about certain things) and now it is named as an identity. Obviously we identify in some ways with the actions we take — I work in a library, therefore I identify as a librarian in my work life. But I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to “identify” as _____. A feminist. A lesbian. A bisexual woman. A librarian. A Bostonian. A midwesterner. What is the relationship between identifying ourselves and taking certain actions? Between identifying ourselves and identifying the circumstances out of which we come: I am a graduate with two master’s degrees … but do I identify as someone with graduate education? What is the difference between someone who identifies that aspect of themselves and someone who just … lives that aspect of themselves? Is there a difference?
p. 45 – “I got into feminism because I wanted to talk to young girls like me. Girls that grew up in the same way as my friends and I did. Girls that were facing those same hard decisions.” Peterson is talking in this passage about how the world of “professional” (white, organized, mainstream, campus-centered, published-book centered, NGO-centered) feminism felt unsatisfying to her, because the people she had hoped to connect with as a self-identified feminist were not to be found. Which begs the question where are those people? As someone who didn’t have a lot of people “like me” around growing up, I can’t say I began to explore feminism in hopes of finding a community of people who shared my background … but it would be awesome to know where such people (if they exist!) have ended up, if not in social justice-minded spaces. Likewise, I’d be really interested to hear if Peterson has identified where her like-minded fellow-travelers have ended up if not in feminist spaces. If they’ve landed somewhere else, perhaps that somewhere else is doing it better? I’m serious! If there’s someone else out there who’s not doing professional feminism but attracting the best and the brightest of the feminist-minded, then we should think again.
p. 46 – “Feminism is part of the tool kit of my everyday life and a large part of my identity. But it wasn’t the be all end all and I ultimately wanted to devote mental space somewhere else.” I’m really taken with the metaphor of feminism being “part of the tool kit of my everyday life” which I think is a really awesome description of how I use the constellation of ideas, the frames, the lenses, that I identify as “feminist” in my own internal tool box.
p. 47 – From the bio: “When she isn’t pondering the meaning of life, feminism, and everything (answer: 42)…” Just had to shout-out here to my girlfriend Hanna, without whom I would not have understood this allusion! Women geeks are absolutely FTW.
Check back next Tuesday for my thoughts on Louis Esme Cruz’a “Medicine Bundle of Contradictions: Female-man, Mi’kmaq/Acadian/Irish Diasporas, Invisible disAbilities, masculine-Feminist.”
And please, please, please do leave your thoughts in comments even though I might not be able to actively engage in the discussion until my computers are fixed and the virus is cleaned off the site.