So maybe you looked at the title of this post and, despite ALL THE OTHER WORDS IN THE TITLE, you saw ‘feminist’ and thought, “oh dear GOD, not the F word again!”
BUT HEAR ME OUT! While I think it’s the coolest thing EVER, I will not brand you with a capital F and make you carry it around like a scarlet letter – only you can make that choice, and no amount of me preaching on a soap box is going to change that.
I assure you this is a very different type of post.
You see, feminism saved my academic career.
I was having a tough time in school last year – a much tougher time than I let anyone know. I have always identified myself as “the smart girl”. I loved to learn, and I was passionately curious about the world around me – you can bet I was the one who scored 100% in participation, because I was the queen of questions. I got excited about learning because, for the most part, it came easily to me.
This past year was different. I was dealing with a whole slew of medical issues, including memory loss and severe fatigue. All of a sudden, I couldn’t process what profs were saying. A question would be asked of me, and I would forget it before I ever had the chance to answer. I could barely keep my eyes open during lectures – that was, if I even made it out of bed for class. I couldn’t seem to think critically, unless it came to criticizing myself. I was so disappointed and ashamed – where did my drive go? Where were all my bright ideas and conscientious comments? I felt that I had lost my Smart Girl identity, not to mention any motivation I had left.
I experienced a downward spiral, finding myself at rock bottom and thinking there was no way I could get back in the game. Once we figured out the medical crap, my confidence was still sitting morbidly at the bottom of the proverbial trash can. I felt no sense of direction or purpose, and the thought of being back in a lecture hall was absolutely terrifying to me. I BEGGED my parents to let me take time off school.
They assured me that my education was NOT just about getting good grades, but was about my holistic experience. They reminded me that I was not a sum of my failures nor my successes, and that going through the rough patches taught me life lessons that were just as important as ones I was learning in the classroom. They also promised to support me no matter what (thanks for that, creators of me!).
So I reluctantly enrolled in courses, not really paying too much attention . I knew I had to satisfy degree requirements, but that gave me a ton of anxiety…I’d done poorly in the previous semesters, who knew how I’d do this time around? So, I did what all great procrastinators do – avoided it like the plague.
I filled my schedule instead with courses that sounded cool. I ended up selecting a range of courses that covered topics I was interested in – like how we write and analyze women’s and gender history, or how women and families affect refugee and migration patterns. I took some courses in French, and even forced myself to sign up for economics (because if I’m gonna kick butt in the world one day, I should PROBABLY have some basic understanding of how money works in the big scheme of things….maybe? Right? Tell me I’m not making the biggest mistake ever…)
And WHADDYA KNOW!?! I like where I’m at. My classes are really frickin’ awesome. My profs are all incredibly different from each other (I am going to write a fangirl post about one of them, just you wait!), and I’m totally LOVING the material.
Wanna know why?
Every day I walk into the classroom, we talk about issues. Nit-picky issues, big conundrums, and the constant bullsh*t that plagues us as a society every day. I’m engaged because I’m so. damn. pissed. off! Being passionately angry lights my brain and curiosity on fire.
It’s not just that I want to fix things – I want to know why a problem is there. So I’ve decided to look at my university experience as a series of questions that my overly-curious self will seek to answer.
What links can be made between education, poverty and food security? Why are racism/sexism/classism/ableism so rampant and pervasive in our day to day lives? Why do some historians deny that “women’s history” exists – HELLLOOOO WE’VE BEEN PRESENT FOR THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE OF THE HUMAN RACE! How can we work to support people in refugee circumstances, when they often come last on the list for access to healthcare and other valuable infrastructural resources? How do we as a state recognize and enforce international law when there’s an absence of an international authority?
I’ve loved exploring these queries over the last few weeks, and I hope to continue doing so. I’ve found that I make the connection from academic inquiry to passion by viewing the issues through a feminist lens. My drive for social justice and equality is what keeps me centred enough to do my readings and assignments and participate fully in class. Not to mention my day to day feminist practices keep my confidence and health up. Yay, #SelfCare!
SO if you find yourself lacking the enthusiasm you need to push forward, be that in school or elsewhere – find what makes you angry. Get passionate. Get pissed. Get invested in whatever it is that sparks a fire in you that makes you want to keep fighting for answers and solutions and outcomes. This is what you’re supposed to do – this is what will prompt you to be committed!