Columns, Opinion

MAOUYO: Boy meets feminist

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to elicit groans from friends in response to some of my comments ‘- probably because they aren’t feminists. If you’ve got your wits about you, I did in fact just say that I’m (turning into) a feminist; if you don’t, well, I just said it, so there.

I’ll let you chew on that ‘- digest it ‘- for a second. Because let’s be honest, when most of us think of feminism, we think of bra-burners or angry lesbians or girls who say that they’re feminists but don’t really know what they’re talking about. So if that’s what you’re stirring around in your cup of tea, you’re probably groaning too. But while I’m not nearly educated enough in the subject to properly define or give a history of feminism, I can tell you that I’ve never burned a bra or been a lesbian. And yet, I too can pick up on the debatably troubling, subtle and not-so-subtle differences in our (yes, our) treatment of women versus men.

Allow me to rewind and give you some back-story. Last semester, as I was choosing classes (but really, in engineering, the word ‘choosing’ is used loosely) I had to consider the vast myriad of English electives I could take. It came down to a couple, one of them being the feminism and religion class I ultimately chose. You could say that it was my mom’s lack of interest in the class that spurred me into enrolling; you could say that I really wanted to learn something way out of my comfort zone; however, it pretty much boiled down to accepting a challenge. (Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the first testosterone-driven enrollment into a class about feminism, I learned. Read up on Mary Daly. Get you some knowledge.)

Now toward the end of the summer, during my brief time at home, I was discussing this class with one of my best friends, who is taking a required feminist theology class at another school. Phrases exchanged between us include: ‘It’s gonna suck,’ ‘Why are we doing this?’ and my personal favorite, ‘I’m just going to say, ‘Make me a sandwich.” Yeah, step right up to the counter, folks, and get your pig, served hot, with a side of embarrassment. With bacon. Because bacon makes everything better, and that’s just a fact.

Fast-forward a few short weeks into the semester, and I started to notice that things that were previously perfectly kosher intruded upon my new, let’s call it, social awareness. The discussion of sexual conquests or even things as simple and pretty much instinctive and ritualistic as checking out girls lost a lot of their shine. But what I realized more recently was that I’m not so much turning into a feminist, so much as emerging as one.

You see, I’m bookended by sisters. If you don’t know what that means, you need to visit a library. Seriously. Anyway, my older sister and my younger sister are three years older and younger than me, respectively (which I think is fairly perfect sibling spacing if you’re planning a family anytime soon), and because women always outnumbered me in my house, I was outvoted a lot. For instance, in my mother’s infinite wisdom (and I mean that) we only had one TV in our house, so that we’d learn to compromise. But compromise usually meant vote, which meant that if I wanted to watch football on Sunday afternoon and there was figure skating on, I sure wasn’t watching football. To this day, Project Runway is among my favorite shows (though I have to admit, the move to Lifetime from Bravo has been a little much for me).

Then there’s mom and dad, who made sure I was raised with a sense of chivalry, a value hardly feminist in its marginalization of women’s independence. But combined with my whip-smart sisters and the general sarcastic atmosphere of my home, I developed a healthy respect (read: was implicitly trained) for the female half of the species.

But what’s happened in the past month or so has been a reawakening and maturation of my feminist tendencies. Though I’m no Susan B. Anthony, I do find myself looking at situations slightly differently and doing small things like changing my customary speech. I mean, I couldn’t even derisively call a group of drunk girls on Ashford female dogs, and opted to call them nothing at all.

I doubt I’ve convinced anyone to be a feminist, to reconsider his/her acceptance of the status quo. I don’t even know if I’m doing it right. But who knows, maybe I have and maybe I am, and that’d be awesome. But I think it’s also worth noting that a lifetime of learned behavior, of hardly special circumstances can easily become something greater, an ideal worth pursuing or at least an area of interest in which to delve deeper, with just a little impetus. Maybe your comfort zone is closer to a more outstanding cause than you thought. Or maybe you want to make me sandwich. With bacon.

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