womens studies, lennon

womens studies, lennon - 3., found a ,. issues of 'tion:...

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Unformatted text preview: 3., found a ,. issues of 'tion: and .- are time However, that com— . 'sts, this : ce facil— eorize or Hown situ- ty, We as it we can u have an ISIEIS. is! hildren ' ‘ors.”l ,n justifi- o is not irit and '. gs can in build elusive " cate- __.Ilook men’s inord, it 1991} x.“- w. W nun ‘. flow a Mote I 02 ) lit/901W 1H0 “Hal/7 holidays: women were in the kitchen cooking and setting the table while the men Were in the living room discussing sports or politics. My grandmother always told me that once a woman learned how to do house chores, she was ready for marriage, and that a woman should always depend on a man be— cause a woman will always need the strength of a man. At this point in my life I was beginning to feel frustrated and anxious. I asked myself why at the age of 17 I still was not engaged, or in a relationship, and what would happen if I never got married. Once I arrived in the United States and enrolled in college, I began to see male—female relationships differently. I saw that women were indeed more career-oriented and independent. However, as a col- lege student, I thought that the women’s movement, womanism, and feminism were a little too radical for me. The word “feminist” to me meant “man hater.” The course taught me a great deal about women in the United States and around the world. I could not believe how much I had been missing out! I must admit that I was biased in choosing the teacher. Looking in the catalogue, I saw three dif- ferent names, but one stood out: Delgado. Since I am Latina, the idea of having a teacher I can relate to pleased me. Professor Linda Delgado, a proud Puerto Rican woman, taught me how to detach my— self from traditional ideas about women without losing my cultural values and awareness. At the same time, having a Latina teacher for this course has helped me to become more involved in my com— munity. I learned about sexism in religion and in the labor force, and I became more aware of issues such as rape, abortion, and sexual harassment. In my traditional family, my parents always taught me “where a woman’s place in society is.” According to them, rape victims deserve to get raped because of the way they were dressed, preg- nancy is a punishment for the irresponsibility of a woman, virginity is a proof of purity and decency and is the best wedding gift to a man, a spouse can be found through one’s cooking, and so forth. I can go on forever with these myths and taboos. The course made me realize that clothing should net determine the reputation of a woman, that Women have the right to make their own decisions Chapter I: [What [3 Women ’5 Studies? 31 l ENHWQWM about sex, and that both men and women should be concerned about pregnancy. I also learned that one should learn to do chores for survival, not to please someone else. I have become more secure about myself. I am able to make my own decisions be- cause I am using my own judgment, not doing what my parents expect or what society dictates. I am also more firm in my decisions. Before, if I were in- volved in a discussion with a male, I always worried that if I opened my mouth he Would lose interest in me. I cannot believe that I used to think this way! I operated on the assumption that if I were too artic- uiate or too much of an activist, I would lose the re— lationship of my dreams. I thank my teacher and the course for making me understand that standing up for your rights and for what you believe in will raise your self-confidence and self-esteem. Now I find myself having interesting discussions with many colleagues, males and females, and I am more open with my female friends. Today I'am happy to say that I am a woman striving for a career. I am very involved in my com— munity, and I am not afraid to state my beliefs and ideas. Now I know that being a feminist, far from being a man hater, is rather fighting for equal rights, struggling against discrimination, and edu- cating one’s self and. others about womens issues. [1992] What Women’s Studies Has Meant to Me LUCITA WOODIS I had no understanding of what women’s studies meant when I first looked through the spring cataa logue at the University of New Mexico, but it sounded intriguing. So I went to the Women’s Studies Center on campus and asked lots of ques— tions: What is women’s studies? What can I gain from a course like this? Can I use the information from women’s studies courses outside the univer— sity? Can I use this for a certain area of my life? Well, my questions were anSWered in such a pos— itive way that the very same day, I stepped into 32 CHAPTER I: WHAT IS WOil/IEN’S STUDIES? the Women’s Center and signed up as a women’s srudies minor. Now that I’ve been introduced to the curriculum, I believe that women‘s studies means empowerment for women. We as women want equality in our lives-e—in areas such as the workplace, where we want to have acknowledged that people should be paid on the basis of their experience, not their sex; that regardless of sex, we are human. As women, we need respect for making our choices and decisions. We need power and control—not power over others, but shared power with other human beings who work together cooperatively. This is especially mean- ingful to me as a woman of color, a Native American artist who grew up on the Navajo Reservation. I have never experienced a more close, support- ive, nurturing, and expressive multicultural group of women as I did in the Women in Contemporary Society class at the University of New Mexico. Our bond as women enabled us to break through the bar— riers of race, creed, and color to interact as human beings and discover a common ground. In our class discussions, we were able to express our intolerance at being victims of pornography and sexual abuse, knowing that with every issue there has been some change for the better. We saw how we as women have bonded together through self—help groups, have opened up shelters for battered women, and in a sense have been saying that we do have power—— power to overcome these intolerable abuses and survive as powerful women into the 1990s. The knowledge I gained through the course came from the classroom, my classmates, and my profes— sor, Deborah Klein. Ms. Klein was very avid in our discussions and presentations, as we bonded to- gether through our openness. She helped the class evolve to an intimate level. With no remorse or self- consciousness, we created an atmosphere of accep- tance, shared a great deal of ourselves, and enhanced each other’s lives. As a sister to women of color, I ex- perienced support, nurturing, and the embrace of other women as we expressed our experiences openly and individually. I used part of my class experience to take the group on a journey about the meaning of sexual abuse in a woman’s life, particularly in mine. I chose to present my iourney as a narrative. I told my story with the visual images of my artwork, as well as with my words. My goal was to convey to others that confronting one’s self can be a positive path toward strength, confidence, and the ability to be true to one’s self. Exploring women’s-issues has truly been a jour- ney for me, a spiritual journey filled with healing and cleansing and enlightenment. My explorations have led me toward harmony and balance and en— able me to feel peaceful, calm, and serene. As a Native American (Navajo), I can only stress that women are powerful. We are a maternal society, the bearers of children. We are patient yet very strong in our decision making. I can say I have ben— efited from the women’s studies program and won’t be silent long. I will be verbally expressive as well as visually expressive, because that is who I am—an artist. I share a very intimate part of myself through my art. I will always be a Native first, as I am from a traditional family, and I’m proud to know my clan through my ancestors. Yet I can also say that I‘m from the Navaio Nation and part of the larger women’s experience in our society. Today, I understand that I am not alone. I am important. I am not a second—class citizen, I am a capable, strong, and independent Native American Navajo woman. I will always carry my culture and traditions in my heart whether on the Reservation or in the outside world. Through my spirit, I will carry a message visually and verbally that to survive and heal from abuse is to come full-circle to con- tentment, that we are all part of a larger whole. hammewvmwv «v:- w 4- x Nishtinigii shit beehozin (Navajo) I know who I am (English) [1992] Why Women’s S tudies? DEBORAH HALSTEAD LENNON Whenever I tell people I am majoring in women’s studies, the response is usually along the lines of: “\Whatever are you going to do with that?” I knOW they are expecting the to respond by specifying some kind of practical iob application for the degree- 3. I [Old my SIOry 1% as Well as with Y to others that five Path toward ty to be true to ed with healing dy explorations )alance and en- ;erene. ' can only stress laternal society, adent yet very say I have ben_ {ram and won’t :ssive as well as who I am——an nyself through ', as I am from know my clan 0 say that I’m of the larger it alone. I am ‘itizen, I am a We American y culture and e Reservation J spirit, I will hat to survive :ircle to con_ it whole. [1992] f in women’s the lines of, at?” I know I specifying ‘ the degree. . I could Say, “Fm going to be a personnel consultant, increasing morale and producuvrty through under standing and meeting the needs of the work force.” But that’s not why I enrolled in the program. I returned to school as a women’s studies major at the age of 31. My intended purpose was to vali— date the perspective I had developed from my life experiences. Ihave found that—~and so much more. Women‘s studies shows us women’s lives and their art of living, how women’s contributions to society are so intricately woven into the fabric of their daily lives that they go unrecognized because they are so familiar. It has ended my isolation by showing me that other women have had similar experiences. Through nurturing my growth and self-esteem, I have regained my voice and learned how to use it. Women’s studies has united me with women and oppressed peoples from all over the world. Women’s studies has enabled me to discuss issues such as birth control, abortion, rape, and domestic vi~ olence with my children. Addressing these and other issues as part of my coursework greatly decreased the apprehension parents and children often experience when approaching these topics. My daughter is now a year younger than I was when these became issues in my life. I am now able to look forward to her teenage years with confidence that when these things touch her life, as they almost surely will in some form, she will not feel the confusion and devastation that I endured. The reason for this confidence is twofold: She has an awareness and understanding that pre— cede her experience, enabling her to avoid some situ~ ations that ignorance may have otherwise drawn her into, and she knows how to network and form a sup- portive community with other women. Women’s studies has been, for me, a metamor‘ phosis,‘ it teaches a way ofbeing, a different mode of perception that pervades our very essence. Now when I hear of a woman in an abusive situation, I can see the factors that keep her trapped: housing, earning potential, child care, fear. I also see how our soeiety perpetuates women’s fears through promot- ing the idea that women are defenseless without a male companion. Women’s studies teaches us to crack the shell of fear so that We may spread our wings and fly. What do I do with that? I help other Chapter I: What Is Wbmen’s Studies? 33 women (and men) be strong and secure in who they are, in following their dreams. Some of us will do this as lawyers, as teachers, as wives and mothers . . . the possibilities are endless. Welcome to the beginning of your journey. You will find your beauty in your strength, and your wings will take you wherever you want to go. [1992] Women’s Studies." A Man’s Perspective EVAN WEISSMAN Bob Marley once sang, “Don’t forget, no way, who you are and where you stand in your struggles." Because I was interested in examining my role in society as a young man and exploring what I could do for women’s struggles for freedom and equality, I registered for the course “Women: Images and Realities.” I have always been aware of the feminist fight for equality; I grew up surrounded by femi- nists, but I never had the opportunity to take a class focused on women and was eager to learn more about the struggle today. Although most of the reactions of my friends and family Were positive and encouraging, some men ridiculed me for taking a Women’s studies class. I remember one individual who constantly challenged my “manliness” by saying things like “My, Evan, you look very feminine today; is that class rubbing off on you?” I often felt hopeless in the face of such ridicule, but I realized the mockery came from ignorance. Rather than becoming de- fensive, I would ask him whether he was insecure about his manhood, since anyone secure in them- selves could easily take a women’s studies class. Men are often unfamiliar with the facts of women’s subordination, the extent to which it is practiced, and the role we can play in changing it. From my experience, it is often easier for people to joke about things they are scared to face or know noth- ing about. It is much easier for a man to criticize women’s studies than to take a critical look at one’s self and the advantages given to men in a society based on gender hierarchy. 34 CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS WOMEN’S STUDIES? Because the media portray feminists as “dykes who hate men,” I brought into my first women’s studies class a fear that my female Classmates would hate me because I was a man, I was the oppressor. I learned in the course the difference between acting against men and acting against the actions of men. My classmates judged me by my beliefs and actions, not by what I have between my legs. Feminism, I learned, does not call for men’s subordination but for the fair and equal treatment of women. I learned in “Women: Images and Realities” that sexism is far deeper than I had previously thought. I also came to realize that I have many privileges as a white man. I learned that my skin color and gender give me an unfair advantage in American society, a realization that was extremely difficult to deal with. These privileges make life easier for me than for those who do not benefit from their skin color or sex. Without these privileges, my life goals and dreams would be more distant and difficult to achieve. Once I acknowledged this fact, I had to figure out what I could do with this information. It is not possible for me to divest myself individually of these privileges simply because I now recognize them. But I can work to change the system while being conscious of what these priVileges have done for me. Through “Women: Images and Realities,” I be— came more aware of the prevalence of sexism in everyday life and the many small, seemingly insigni— ficant ways in which men keep women in subordi— nate roles. I decided to stand up for my beliefs at all times, even when they were not popular. I wanted to contribute to women’s struggles by dissenting from sexism in groups of men, but I soon learned that men don’t always welcome such intervention. A few months after the class ended, I was at a party and got into an argument with an acquain- tance, who I’ll call Bill, who was talking about how “pussy” needed to be “fucked.” None of the other guys around had anything to say, so I asked him to clarify himself. When he repeated his statement, I asked him whether his mom had a “pussy” that needed a good “fuck.” He replied, “Yeah, for some- one else.” I was disgusted and tried to explain to him how disrespectful his comment was. I argued that he could never make that comment to a woman’s face. After a while I walked off, realizing that I could not make him take his comment back, especially with an of his friends around. I went up to my cousin and told her about what Bill had said. She immediately went over to him and said “I don’t have a pussy that needs to be fucked.” In a few minutes Bill approached me ready for a fisifight. “Why did you do that?” he asked. “I was making the point that you couldn‘t make your comment to a woman’s face because it is disrespectful,” I responded and walked off. To this day Bill holds a grudge against me, but I don’t regret my action. It was important to me to let Bill know that I would not tolerate sexist behavior, 1 have to be true to myself and stand for what I believe in. I must fight against injustice whenever possible, even when it is difficult. M.y male friends seldom say insulting things about women in my presence, and I feel good about this even though they probably continue to say these things when I’m not around. At least I’ve made them think. I now see myself as a feminist, making the struggle for women’s equality my own, and I will not forget who I am and where I stand in this struggle. {1998] 958 Women’s Studies as Women’s History MARILYN]. BOXER Thirty years after it was institutionalized in the U.S. academy, women’s history now has a secure place in American higher education. The history of women’s studies, however, remains mostly lost amid the politics that deny it legitimacy, both within and out— side academic feminism. Philosopher Jane Roland Martin in her recent memoir declared, “Had women in the 1970s been aware of the gendered underpin— nings of the academy, let alone known how powerful and persistent our education—gender system is, the women’s studies movement might never have been launched” (109). How was it possible? What mix; ture of hope, energy, courage, and perhaps nai'vete can explain the success of the scattered and motley contingent of feminist activists, students, faculty, staff, and community supporters who launched and if . ...
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