Since I’ve been writing for Feministing, more people have come forward to talk to me about feminism. In fact, it has taken recent interactions with folks about my writing on this blog to realize exactly how many people have not even the slightest clue where to begin contextualizing when the word “feminism” is centered in the dialogue. On the contrary, I’m sure many of my fellow feminists have experienced that dreadfully awkward moment when someone asks you, “So what exactly is feminism?” and you have no idea how to summate all the information you have about it.
And all of a sudden I remembered how I had come to learn all the feminist shit I knew. Privilege is a sneaky thing; it allows you to conveniently forget some of the details. My feminist sensibilities have come with a $90,000 price tag that I’m making minimum monthly payments on. My access to a college education brought feminism into my life. And it is the lack of access to that education that often prevents people from understanding it as a mechanism for social change and the way to change the discourse about justice, intersections, and institutionalized (in)equality.
I am very aware that there are many non-academic groups, collectives, and programs that promote feminist agendas and work. However, not everyone doing feminist work gets feminism. Hell, sometimes I don’t even get feminism. But it is safe to say that I get some, even a lot, of it. But that is the result of a university transcript that includes dozens of Gender Studies courses, in addition to supplemental reading and activities I did outside of coursework. But even those leisure texts and programs were extensions of concepts I was faced with in class: authors I wanted to know more about, theories I wanted to explore a little further, ideas I wanted to hone.
While we absolutely need Gender Studies at the university level, this should not be the first place that folks have access to feminist ideologies. It’s bad enough that Gender Studies programs have to be sought out on many campuses and incite blank stares from folks who want to know, “What kind of job can you get with that?”
When I did my Feministing Five interview, I talked about how the lack of access to the language and concepts of feminism is one of its greatest challenges. The internet has changed the way and frequency with which we exchange information, and is helping feminism reach more folks in ways that are relatable to them. But we need to continue to push feminism in elementary and high schools. We need to be talking to our kids, parents, friends, and colleagues about it. We need children’s books and TV shows that teach feminism. We have to blow feminism’s cover and show that it is not only for a specific group of college-educated folks.