Feminism. The word itself has become stigmatized and marked with stereotypes about who “feminists” really are. The problem is that there is not one type of feminist. To claim that all feminists are the same would be like saying that all people are the same, or all trees are the same, or all diseases are the same, despite the fact that most of us know this to be untrue. No two people are exactly the same, so why would all feminists have to be?
About two weeks ago, I started my “Hegemony Cricket” Tumblr account as part of my independent project for Short Term. The name “Hegemony Cricket” plays off of the famous character, Jiminy Cricket. Hegemony is dominance or influence that is dictated by power authorities, but is also something that very few question the validity of. I thought, based on what “feminism” has come to mean, that I should avoid using the word in my title, so as to gain a broader audience for my project. I also thought that something that was a play on words may intrigue people enough to read about something that they may not have had otherwise if it said gender, patriarchy, or feminist in the title.
Prior to beginning this project, I had viewed Tumblr and Twitter purely as trivial social media sites. I was wrong. These sites have posts, pictures, and videos from feminists, scientists, historians, and artists who share the common goal of using mass social media to discuss the subject about which they are most passionate. I was happy to have been wrong, mainly because my Short Term independent study was born out of my misconceptions.
The goal of my Short Term project is to demonstrate, through social media, that feminism is overarching, interdisciplinary, and above all not something that people have to be afraid to participate in. It spans more than just Women and Gender Studies courses and falls into all aspects of everyday life. Whether in a class in Environmental Studies, Chemistry, or History, feminist principles and perspectives can be applied, and the diverse range of topics that I cover in my Tumblr aims to prove that feminist issues are in fact humanist issues. Thus far, I have covered such topics as feminist branding, social media, nuclear radiation, bullying, and sexual violence. These topics are not owned by feminists, nor should they be. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that bullying, for example, is ended. Feminists who are allies in this fight are looking to achieve justice for an under or misrepresented group. The battle for justice is one of the core tenets of feminism, and one that my independent study hopes to demonstrate.
As a white, upper middle class heterosexual woman at one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, I realize that I have had certain opportunities granted to me based partially on my identity. As a Women and Gender Studies major, and as a feminist, I want to help other people who may not have had the same access to the opportunities I have. I want to use my position to better the lives of those who have been continually denied the tools to stand up for themselves and the justice they deserve. I hope that after my time at Bates I will have to opportunity to take the skills I have learned and apply them to my career, family, and everyday life. I have cherished Bates as a place that has taught me to truly love learning. It is sad, though, that my fellow WGS majors often feel a certain way when talking about our major. We should not have to double major or feel defensive about what we are studying, but we sometimes do. We are often afraid to tell our parents or friends that we are majoring in a field that may not have a predefined career “attached” to it.
The worst, and most common question, is “Women and Gender Studies? What the hell are you going to do with that?!” To be honest, I am not sure yet. I would put money on the fact, though, that a good percentage of Bates students do not yet have a clear plan as to exactly what they will be doing after they graduate either. I do know, however, that in the WGS classes I have taken thus far, I have met some of the most brilliant, hard-working, dedicated people with whom I could have ever hoped to collaborate. Perhaps that is a testament to Bates, but I think it speaks more to the type of environment that WGS classes foster. An environment that realizes that it is ok to be wrong, and an environment that forces students to ask “why?” instead of simply settling for easy answers. The key to these classes, and to life after Bates, is that we have learned how to think critically, ask questions, and work hard. I would encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones, and take a class that has “gender” in the title. They may be as surprised as I was.