Monday, May 2, 2011

Working Definitions

I have spent this semester barely alive beneath a pile of, amongst other things, dense books and heavy course packets. While there were many nights when I thought I was going to literally have to splash water beneath my eyes to read just one more page, the majority of the reading has turned out to be incredibly important. I’m on a journey, dear reader, and a lot of the words I’ve been reading have really helped me. I have to say that the first day of class is always pretty intense – mainly because I receive a pile of syllabuses and, immediately, my four-month panic attack begins.

I’m ending my third year, and particularly this semester, at UT, as a new person. I have never before had the kind of happiness that I have now. It’s funny because I have been endlessly busy this semester. I thought there was absolutely no possibility I could digest anything anymore and would just have to somehow slide by in these last few days of school.

Well, I was wrong. Last week I read an essay by bell hooks entitled, “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory.” While gulping down a ridiculously large URN of espresso, I must say my entire perspective changed. I have identified as a feminist since my first semester at this school, and everything following has been a journey toward wrapping that identity tighter and tighter around my heart. Never before this had I really understood the extent of my privilege and the amount of work ahead of me in my life. I am a radical feminist. Radical feminism is not just about equal pay or sneakily inserting women in higher government positions. It is about changing the entire way the world has been built. There is an intersectionality so much larger than I had ever thought. Now it is impossible to ignore. I imagine a summer reading more bell hooks, re-reading Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider and Gloria AnzaldĂșa’s Borderlands, finally taking the suggestion from my friend, Ambalika, to read Angela Davis. I once defined feminism just as equality among all gender identities. What I should have said was that it is a full circle understanding of the way each person connects to the next, never doubting the validity of someone’s experience and never claiming it as my own, working to break apart all of the things that have been build to push out other people or take advantage of them.

Sigh. It’s a working definition. It gets bigger every damn second.

I began this blog planning on defining feminism and explaining that is larger than I ever thought it was, but instead I’ve just decided to let whatever comes to me flow out. Big dramatic words? I know. Trust me, I feel that way, too. But isn’t it beautiful? How much there is to still learn and talk about? I remember the time in my life where thinking about having to do more work to understand myself sounded exhausting and impossible. I remember an emptiness I always thought would be permanent. Looks like it’s been filled up – at least a little bit more than before. That feeling of dread is no longer there. I have never been as excited as I am about the journey ahead of me.

Journeys like this need full support. And I must say that while I have had support for this entire journey, the past year has presented a new type of support. Once a week, for three hours, I am surrounded by people I love. We are somehow all able to hold one another up. The last class day of Peers for Pride is only a few days away. Yes, there will be tears. Way too many tears… I will try my hardest to keep myself under control, but I will be partially unsuccessful. You know, a big slobbering mess. But the thing is, any idea or fear I had that my spirit would end once Peers for Pride ended, is gone. I have so much ahead of me. All I want to do is learn and grow. One big part of my life recently has been learning how far support systems can stretch. I can say whole-heartedly that I am one of luckiest people in the world. My support system has stretched further than I had ever predicted and will never break.

There is a wave of love always rolling over me.

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