Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The "F" Word - Again!

Liberal Banana is back in the Blogosphere! Hooray!!!!!!

I figured if she could do it, I still probably couldn't do it, but I'm willing to entertain the idea.

Now. Let's get down to business.

No - not that "f" word. I have no problem (probably a sad thing for my mother) with the f word.

I have written about this before but I'm much too lazy to find it in my archives.

It's "feminist". The reaction to this word has always surprised me. If you were a regular reader you may remember that my female students often included a phrase like this in their writings, "Not that I'm a feminist or anything, but I don't think that women should . . . " be forced to wear burqas, experience genital mutilation, be date-raped, slipped the date-rape drug, get beaten by their husbands . . . choose one of the above or insert your own.

I haven't thought about it in a long time and then today I walked past a colleague's office. She was lunching with her assistant and I heard her call my name: "Hey! Teacher Lady" I stuck my head in to say hello and she said, "Let me know if I'm crossing inappropriate boundaries," (wait - are you going to tell me you have Herpes? No, different job). How do you feel about Sarah Palin?"

My response: "She's basically a conservative white dude with an NRA membership card who happens to have a pesky little thing called a uterus."

Colleague looked at assistant smugly: I told you she wouldn't like her!
Assistant looked at me, confused: But I told you, TL's a feminist.
Colleague shook her head, "The feminists don't like her."

I was thanked for my time and then I wandered off to my meeting and proceeded to be pretty useless because I couldn't keep myself from wondering what "feminist" meant.

I was extra confused b/c colleague is a very successful 40-year-old who is married but kept her own last name (apparently that's a BIG tip-off to all the other feminist hunters out there) and would seem to be very assertive in her marriage (at least the way she tells it).

Assistant is the primary bread-winner in her household while the spouse stays home with 3 children under the age of 5.

Mr. J. pays all the bills and manages our finances to the point where I'm embarrassed to admit it because I'm pretty much as ignorant about money as the average 1950s housewife.

But I'm the feminist?

What does that mean? To my knowledge, I've never been recruited. I don't own a message tee that reads, "This is what a feminist looks like" (although I don't care if someone else wants to wear one).

I don't have a membership card, I haven't paid any dues since, oh, I was born and if there are weekly meetings, I've never been invited.

And let's say I were to be recruited - where might this happen as I'm going about my day? In the dressing room at Nordstrom's while I'm trying to wrestle myself into size 6 jeans? (Yes, I know - I'm quite the dreamer!) Suddenly, I hear - "Psst - you don't have to take this anymore" and I see an unmanicured hand slip a business card under the divider. The card reads, "Feminists. World Domination is Just One Bra-Burning Away." On the reverse side is an address to a Tarot Card parlor which serves as the "front" for the operation.

This has never happened to me (and I'm pretty grateful actually because no one likes to see strange hands appearing from underneath dividers of any sort, especially if they're in politics) and I think if it ever did I'd probably have some sort of fit that would involve me soiling myself.

I don't know where I'm going with this (oh, blogosphere - you are kind and understanding because I suck right now) but ultimately: What did I do, say, wear, carry, mention, sing, eat or _______ (something, right!?!) to announce to my colleagues that I am a "feminist".

And again - would someone please tell me what that means, exactly? Was it Gloria Steinem who said, "A feminist is anyone who distinguishes herself from a doormat"? I like that definition. Too bad it never really caught on because then world domination WOULD be just one bra-burning away!



Blogger Patashoqua said...

I was just thinking about you, and here you are!
I have been subscribed to your blog since, well, you were teaching and posting to it regularly. I'm a student at a public university in NYC, and I'm taking my final distribution requirement right now, which happens to be the Women/Gender Studies requirement. I'm taking Psychology Human Sexuality. Needless to say, I keep thinking of you and your Midterm Misspelling Olympics.
I have my ears open, but am not expecting to hear anything quite as epic from my classmates as some of the stories you've written.

September 03, 2008 6:19 PM  
Blogger Liberal Banana said...

Liberal Banana is back indeed! More importantly: TEACHER LADY IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!! YAYYY!!!!!

Great post. Champagne Rising (see my blog roll) had a nice post about this today, too, this Palin issue. I wanted to write about her but I wasn't sure where to start. (I need to learn more about her first.) But what DOES feminist mean? I think it's just someone who believes that women have every right to be equal with men. So I hope that means ALL women (although sadly I'm sure that's not the case). I do have a few bras that are in bad enough shape that they probably should be burned though, so if you wanna hang out and set some undergarments on fire, I'm your girl.

September 03, 2008 7:53 PM  
Blogger BSquared said...

glad to see you back to blogging, I consider my wife to be a feminist and I think she would agree greatly with your description of Palin but I don't think that similarity makes you a feminist, just someone who actually knows something about what they are talking about (Palin in this case).

I kind of see people calling others feminist like I see people calling others racist. It is easy to see it in other people but tough to see it in yourself (as I suspect your co-worker is a good example of).

September 03, 2008 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This campaign is littered with name-calling: if you support Obama, you only do so because you're black and you're focusing too much on race; if you say anything against Obama, you're a racist; if you support(ed) Hillary, you're a feminist and hate all men; if you said anything against Hillary, you're sexist. Hillary had to drop out, so we replaced her with Palin in the name-calling.

"Feminist" has a different meaning for nearly every person who uses it, but generally it seems to mean "man-hater." Or "radical liberal who happens to also possess a vagina."

However, if disliking Palin is the prerequisite for being a "feminist," perhaps it means "person who also possesses a functioning brain."

On a side note, if I may be so bold... may I request, at the next meeting (if you find out the time/place, can you drop me a line?), could we burn pantyhose instead of bras? I like bras. They serve a purpose. I find them useful. Pantyhose, on the other hand? Yeah. Not so much.

September 04, 2008 12:01 AM  
Blogger Addy N. said...

I never know whether to call myself a feminist. I guess I'm afraid that if I do, someone will call me out on something I do and say that I'm not really a feminist (and I am married, but kept my name, don't wear make-up, etc.) I'm with Criss on the bra-thing, though. I'm just a little too saggy after that year of breastfeeding way back when to be able to NOT wear one- even around the house!

September 04, 2008 8:34 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I am so glad you are back!

I think all terms like feminist or racist are open to interpretation. People will always assume you are at one end of the spectrum or the other, and rarely in between.

I am a vegan, but I do not support PETA, nor am I going to sob uncontrollably if I see someone in leather.

I am a feminist, in that I think women should be equal in terms of rights and choices as men. But I do not hate men.

I hate that the election is focusing so much on race and gender. I wish that it could be strictly about who can do the best job, and who can lead the country in a way that is beneficial.

September 07, 2008 9:08 PM  
Blogger highschoolteacher said...

I think the guys were picking on you, as you know. I made the same jokes with my Bosslady (who I will neutrally classify as my "spouse"). She HATED Palin. It's funny. The feminist movement has been mainstreamed, hasn't it? Maybe it is now just a sensibility: any "true" feminist would be insulted by Palin being brought in to appease female voters. Your view that Palin is somehow "male" is harsh, but acceptable with all these things considered, IMO.

June 07, 2009 9:32 AM  

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