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Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Prequel

This is my prequel. Why a prequel? Because if you don’t look back and see where you’ve come from, how can you know where you are going?

So how does one go from an small town American country girl to a freethinking Christian feminist ready to change the world? Well that’s exactly what I’m about to show you.

When I was around the age of 8 I was called a feminist by my very loving father. I had been complaining about getting yelled at for having to help my mother clean up dinner while my brother got to continue to watch the football game blaring in our living room. Between the clanging of the dishes and the slamming of the refrigerator I cried about the unfair treatment my brother and I received solely due to our sex. My father, between bouts of laughter, said that I am being prepared for my future and this is the woman’s task. Seething, I put down the dishes, quit touching the half wrapped turkey and yelled, “I will never marry a man who doesn’t help clean the kitchen and put away dinner”.

At this my father really began to laugh, the type of laugh that comes from somewhere deep within a person’s soul and shakes their entire body. But it was here, as his laughter lessened, in a moment barely tangible, my father uttered the infamous word that has since changed my life completely: “feminist”.

Of course at 8 years old and barely in the 3rd grade I had no idea what the word meant and, much to my dismay now, yelled back at my father for calling me such a thing. A few hours later I was told by one of my older siblings that it meant “equal rights for women” and at that moment, in all solemnity, I swore myself to be a feminist for the rest of my life.

At that age I had no idea where, if anywhere, feminism would lead me. If you had told me I would make it my life’s work, I probably would have speechlessly dropped my jaw. But alas, 11 years later in my freshman media class the word “feminist” came full circle and hit me square in between my eyes.

I was studying at university to be a documentary film director and as a prerequisite had to take TC 100: The Information Society. TC 100 focused on the trends, services, and policies around every form of media. Around the sixth week of class we began to focus on media’s effects on women and, if you can imagine life as a game show, this was the moment I pressed the big red button, bells and whistles sounded from every direction and Bob Barker was shouting “that is the correct answer!” In other words, I had hit the sweet spot in my education and wanted to continue to learn about this subject matter for the rest of my education. Only problem: “Media’s Effects on Women” wasn’t a degree.

I spent the next year and half developing my own major titled, fittingly so, “Media’s Effects on Women”.  Now I digress for a moment to say it wasn’t something normal at my university for students to go around developing their own major, in fact I’m only the second person at my university to have done so. I say this not to bring myself accolades but rather to express the sheer magnitude of my passion to learn about this subject matter.

With the ability to develop my own major came the blessing to pick, out of all the thousands of classes offered, which classes I wanted to take, as long as I could prove to the university that all of them combined could relate to one narrowly focused educational outcome. That being said, the university was my oyster.

Choosing classes from English 431C: Studies in Film and Gender, to Psychology 339: Psychology of Women, every class was a new and eye opening experience that only deepened my love and passion for my chosen field of interest. Seeing the need all around me I began to utilize every morsel of my learning in the real world by mentoring sixty plus females as a Resident Assistant within my university’s dorms, writing articles and creating campus-wide programs as an inter at my university’s Women’s Resource Center, and even volunteering as a media specialist at a summer camp for underprivileged inner-city children.

As graduation sped closer I was able to look back and see how much my life had been changed by that one simple word “feminist” 14 years earlier. Even since my freshman TC 100 class, I had become exposed to a subject matter much more vast than just media’s negative representation of women. No longer could I ignore the many triggers of rape culture our society perpetrates, sex slavery, the acid violence against Bangladeshi women, or even the simple words and stereotypes we use that continues to proliferate the gender disparity. Looking toward the future I search for a career that encompasses all of this thus continuing the revolution my feminist sisters started over a hundred years to help forge the gender equal future they imagined.

Alas, as every good prequel must, we’ve come to the end of our story, or really the beginning of my story. Here I am, I freshly graduated 20-something with only a degree in one hand and an ambition in the other to take me into my future. Yes, you could say then that I’m just like every other college graduate: naive, penniless, and a dreamer. To quote from John Lennon, “but I’m not the only one” (“Imagine”). 

Infinite X's and O's,