Friday, March 7, 2008

A true Second-Waver

This week, I was given the chance to learn about the life of an incredible woman whose life experiences I may never have understood or appreciated with enough respect, if it were not for this assignment or this class. Her name is Sharon Dreyfuss and she was born in 1959. She grew up in Rockville, Maryland and attended Pearly High School. Sharon later graduated at the University of Maryland with a degree in Political Science. The more I learned about my Aunt Sharon’s experiences as a second-wave feminist, the more I feel linked to her. Her enthusiasm and willingness to describe her experiences as a feminist makes me not only proud to be her niece, but proud to say that I can agree with many of the ideas she holds. Sharon’s experiences are evidence of the continuation and maturation of the second-wave of feminism. Growing up, Sharon believed she was always a little “different” from the rest of the kids. They talked about growing up and having the fairytale life. That is, a perfect wedding and a perfect husband followed by kids. Sharon just didn’t see that as a necessity. Feminism to her, gives her the option to not only take care of herself, but pave her own path in life. Sharon grew up close to Washington D.C. and enjoyed spending many nights talking currents events with her mother. Her mother, my grandmother Belle, worked as a legal secretary and held the family together. Sharon’s father was very ill and Belle provided for the family, giving Sharon an idealistic picture of a strong woman. Sharon and her mother loved to share their interests in politics and spent many nights talking current events. Living through the second wave of feminism, Sharon identifies herself as a “second waver”. Sharon tells me that she believes very strongly in birth control and although she was only fourteen when Roe Vs. Wade was passed, she believes the rights we have gained from this case, are the very rights we have to continue to fight for. When Sharon was just twenty years old, she experienced a situation in which her rights to birth control were somewhat threatened. She tells me, “I went to the gynecologist and asked for birth control and the gynecologist asked if my parents approved which was fine, but ultimately it was my decision.” During this time period, women were questioned more for their freedom of choice then they are today. I think what my aunt was trying to tell me was that although her parents may have approved, it bothered her that her gynecologist did not see it as her decision. (Today, I personally have felt that my gynecologist still takes the same bias. When asking for my right to birth control or switch to a new one, I always feel my mother has to call to give a more “authoritative” voice). Sharon believes birth control should be covered for women like Viagra is for men. My aunt and I can agree there is an ongoing struggle for approval for young women’s rights in society. As I moved through some of the topics I’ve discussed in class, I realized that I will have no trouble defining terms for my aunt because she is familiar with almost every single one. Impressed, I decide to move to the controversial issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice. This issue, I find is a debate Sharon knows well and has a strong stand on. Sharon identifies herself as pro-choice and tells me she has been involved in numerous pro-choice marches. She explains to me, with fierce words, how important the marches are and how much joy she has gotten out of them. She elaborates, “I have been trained to work at the clinics so that when the pro-life marches come to Washington D.C, which they do every January, I can be there for women who cannot gain access to the clinics because of pro-life picketers who block entry.” This is an extraordinarily task and I commend her for her bravery. Her clinic rescues, she tells me, give her a real sense of solidarity. Sharon’s college life is where her involvement in Feminism peaked. Sharon college years were full of new discoveries in both her political and environmental view. She even chose to switch to only organic food. Sharon began to attend meetings at the University’s food co-op where she experienced and became involved with consciousness raising. Sharon tells me that she can even remember the defining moment in her college life in which she made the decision to take a radical approach to feminism. As she typed up her paper for a class on rape, it occurred to her how real an issue it was in society and it impacted her in a way that other issues hadn’t at the time. To know that she could recall the moment her view changed from liberal to radical is truly inspiring. From here, I moved to the subject of sexism. I wanted to know if she had ever had a specific experience where she personally felt the affects of sexism. To my surprise or maybe curiosity, she had. Without a hint of hesitance, my aunt explained how she had taken a job at the dining hall. Sharon said, “I was washing dishes in the back when an older African-American worker started making inappropriate gestures toward me. He repeated to me that he was going to rape me and I ran out and later got him fired.” Without a doubt, I was astonished at her personal experience with sexism. I wondered, what could make a woman feel less empowering than a threat from a man on an issue that had turned her radical in the first place? Sharon to me is an ideal example of a second waver. Sharon dealt with sexism and spent much of her time in college forming opinions on the social issues of that time period. Unfortunately, as Sharon continued to strive for second wave achievement, The University of Maryland did not have an environmental college at the time, so she stuck with her interest in politics. Sharon had great hopes of attending a school for alternative energy in Vermont, but sadly Ronald Reagan had just reduced student aid, and her dream school folded into a military school. She had trouble finding a job in the political science field, but like many women of the second wave, would not settle for domesticity right out of college. After graduating, she quickly took a job at a Target-like store. Sharon met a man who needed a caller for the new community directory, but it was no-where near the ideal job. She felt enclosed from the world, “I was stuck in a tiny white room all by myself, making calls all day.” She faced another encounter of sexism when she was later hired at Public-Interest Communications for night-time work. When she took a different job, a man was hired for twice as much. Roiled up, she continued to search for a good fit, and I am happy to say she has found that. Now Sharon works for CELCO (Carol Enters List Company), a woman owned list-broker company. She acquires lists from non-profit companies so that other non-profit companies can obtain members. Sharon gives donations to Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America for their work and also for their “Action Fund” which uses those donations to elect Pro-Choice Candidates or defeat Anti-Abortion candidates. Sharon refuses to call them pro-life. Sharon’s job gives her the freedom to be herself, and she credits this to her college experiences’ leading her on a path to a direct marketing field.

After college, Sharon returned to a more liberalist view on feminism and has met many successful women in her field market. Sharon stayed true to her second-wave feminist ideals, but gave me insight to her thoughts on the third-wave. Sharon, like many of the second-wavers we read about, believes third wavers take for granted what many women of the second-wave fight for. With enthusiasm Sharon exclaimed, “we are still fighting equality and the glass ceiling, the fight is not over.” Sharon does however, believe that through both the second and third wave, we have achieved less racism and sexism, and the world has become more of melting pot. To her, “things are more set-oriented sexually, especially with the media in their focus on sex…a lot of women feel they have to show off their bodies and that is not what makes them sexy; they are gorgeous human beings.” She continued, “as sexual experimentation came to a halt with AIDS, things are a lot more clear. We still need to make improvements and the United States still has a long way to go.” I believe Sharon has great insight into what the Feminism wave needs overall. Sharon did not have shared the dream of motherhood and marriage as a child with her classmates, but has now taken on both roles. As a married woman, she feels capable to raise a family because of the equality she holds with her husband. It was not always this way for Sharon. With her first husband, Sharon was the one doing the work. She feels she could not have had a family with her first husband because she would not have been able to rely on him to take care of the kids or provide. With her current husband, Sharon says, “I don’t have to worry, he will give the kids baths, take them to the park, or do the dishes; he cleans the kitchen floor!” Sharon is a second waver who is comfortable with sharing her rights and has nothing against women who choose to stay at home. One of her closest friends is a stay-at-home mother and she tells me if that’s what works for her, she is happy for her.

Sharon is happy with the rights the feminism movement has brought, but believes the United States still has ways to go. There are many necessities we, as a country, need. She clarifies, “in many countries there are women whose jobs allow them three years of maternity leave and allow women to have a great balance. The United States has not and we need help on child-care, we need help on running our families and balancing work and family.” Soon Sharon and her husband will be faced with the difficult task of running a family. Her husband’s former wife will be returning the kids from Ireland and Sharon will have to find to deal with the complexity of finding health care for her family and balancing family life with work. She is up for the challenge though, and leads me with a lasting lesson. I ask her to tell me what she thinks holds for the future of feminism and I know this will be vital to the understanding of feminism as a whole. Sharon leaves me with this short and simple principle, “we need to fight for our rights or we won’t have any, people will always try and take away what we have earned if we do not continue to fight. This goes for the feminist movement and anything else worth fighting for like civil liberties.” Spoken as a true second wave feminist, my aunt Sharon is still fighting for feminism and still fighting to make our world a better place.

Interview Blog: Different Background, Different Mindset

While in this women studies introductory course, I have noticed that it seems to be that feminism is a topic among Americans, the British and what seems to be western society. Even though recently, with the third wave of feminism and through internet resources such as blogs, feminism ideas have spread to many countries that it might not have reached, feminism is still centralized through western society. When other countries are brought up outside of the western hemisphere, in such places like Iraq, it appears that they have received their support from American feminists. For example, when Bush was speaking to congress about the problem in the Middle East he made sure to add in that women’s rights were an essential part of the United States’ foreign policy with his statement “America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance”. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey also stated that “we reaffirm our dedication to working towards a world in which women have full opportunity to achieve political, economic and social equality in societies where human rights and fundamental freedoms are ensured. We welcome the progress that women are making in these areas and we are proud of the role the United States has in supporting their accomplishments” (Respect for Women: A U.S. Foreign Policy Imperative). Their statements show that places like the U.S. seem to be the main advocators for equalities for women outside our borders. It is clear that the U.S. has had a very large impact on feminism worldwide; so is it only Americans and people born here that agree with feminism thoughts and ideas? My goal in my interview was to get an understanding of feminism outside the borders of the U.S. and understand how the American ideals on feminism have influenced non-Americans.

When deciding who to interview I took a look at who I thought would not give me the typical American story on feminism. I chose my mother. I thought it would be interesting to do an interview with my mother, not because only because she is outside of my age bracket, but because even though we are the same race, ethnicity, and social class, we both have had very different backgrounds growing up and we differ on my political and social beliefs. I believed she would give me interesting insight as to what she thinks on feminism, the differences between her ideas and ideas of other Americans, and how America has shaped her ideas of women and their rights.

My mother, Victoria Itebe, grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and lived there for the first 23 years of her life before moving to the U.S. to attend the University of Georgia on an international scholarship. When first attending the university she vaguely remembers “feminist activities” as she so nicely put it going on at the university. Growing up in Africa, a place where many see as one of the places known for oppressing women, she didn’t hear about women’s rights. She recalls, “Back home, it never seemed as though women’s rights were an issue, until I got here”. Many countries outside the Western hemisphere have been closed off and not accepting of feminist ideas. A movement that looks as to have began in the 1800’s for the rights of women are just budding in places like Nigeria and other parts of Africa; But is it bad that these places don’t have legislation demanding equality. Victoria, born in the 50’ and leaving Nigeria in the 70’s hates that people look down on places like Africa for not having laws that require people to treat women and men equally. She denounces what many people think about where she is from. “Many people don’t think so, but though I wouldn’t say women were equal to men, it was more like a separation of duties. Women had their place and men had their place, and neither place was exactly higher than the other. We both needed each other to do their job in order for the household to function. Women weren’t lower than men they were on two totally different scales”. With this statement, Victoria gave me much insight in the way she viewed women in her society. I realized that when comparing the rights of women in the U.S. to women in other countries, Americans many times use what they believe to be equality as a base to judge women’s rights all over the world, but in reality there are different standards of equality in different people eyes.

Women working outside of the home has been one of the biggest feminist issues in the mainstream U.S. feminist movements. Thinking that Victoria has grown up in an African country I figured that her mother would have had the stereotypical roles of cooking and cleaning the house, taking care of the kids and such things of that nature. Victoria quickly cleared this myth up saying, “My mother did work outside of the house, in the marketplace, like many women worked. She brought in the money that fed and clothed the family and it was like that inmost households in Lagos”. After listening to Victoria answer the question, it reminded me of the Chicana women whose fight in the U.S. was different from the white upper class women because of things liked the Chicana women did not have the “luxury” of being housewives, so they had to work just as hard as the men, yet the men still had greater privilege in society because they were men (Definitions of Chican Feminists). I began to think, that maybe these Nigerian women are being depressed and they just don’t know similar to what the first wave feminist were saying; maybe they just need someone, like an American feminist, to point it out and then they will realize it. So I asked my mother, “After coming to the U.S. and seeing how many rights women have obtained do you feel as though the women back in Nigeria are being oppressed?” She thought for a minute and responded, “No, women in Lagos get just as much respect as men; which, where I’m from is the highest value you can get. Things are just different back home. Men are expected to do just as much as men and the other way around. I just don’t see how they could be oppressed”.

Though I wouldn’t believe so by the answers Victoria was giving to me, I do believe women in Nigeria as well as other African countries are oppressed. Though most of them do work outside of the home, they still “have to” take on traditional female roles both in the household and in the workplace. But although they are oppressed from the definition of oppression given by Marilyn Frye, I believe they don’t see it due to what they see themselves as: strong women. When asked about how her mother influenced how she saw herself as a woman, she described her mother as a strong, independent women, and by our standards I do believe her mother to be a strong women, but I believe that they are blinded by the slight bit of independence and strength that many of them are “allowed” to have, and in result do not see what they could have.

After the interview with my mother, I see how much her upbringing and culture has had an influence on her outlook on women in general. Just like the rest of the women in the world that have just begun to fight for their rights with much help form the United States, they did not even know they were being “oppressed” until it was placed right in front of their face, even if they didn’t like the way they were being treated. After moving here, my mother experienced written legislation that was guaranteed to her, and though she says she does not believe women back in Nigeria are oppressed, I do believe she would have a hard time moving back and living as a woman in the traditional setting of Lagos.

Interview: Williams

Evon Willams

Kristen McCauliff

WMST 2010

7 March 2008

Island Life Isn’t So Breezy

As she described a time when gender issues were rarely discussed, children frolicked in the sun freely, and women “knew their place,” I listen intently as she conveys the dynamics of life in Jamaica. Her island lilt is now commonplace to me, but I still enjoy listening to her speak. The woman telling her story is my mother, Jean Williams. As she talks about her youth, I zone off and remember mine. I’ve fostered fond memories of life as a jersey girl with two foreign parents, but this is the first time that I have truly heard her about the journey of my predecessor, my mother. Through her storytelling and scholarly sources this analysis shows that although she does not participate in marches or feminist rallies, Jean Williams is an example of a 2nd wave feminist. Not only does her life reinforce second wave feminism, but her experience is unique. She must deal with her own cultural differences as well as the pressures of assimilating into an all white culture where “white” equals “normal.” Any deviations from this track isolate a woman, especially a woman like Jean Williams, but she is a prime example of the silent woman who redefines what characterizes her sex.

According to, second wave feminism encourages women to recognize that they possess the power to achieve more than what the world deems suitable for them. It also promotes the idea that a woman’s life is not limited to staying home and motherhood, but rather, achievement and options for careers are all attainable goals. To illustrate how Jean Williams belongs to the second wave of feminism, we must begin with her youth. She lived a humble life in a small country parish, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. As the sixth child out of seven children, she was looked after by her older siblings. Especially after her father passed away at the age of three, the community and her extended family were responsible for her development. She acknowledges that her mother was the most influential person in her life because she took on the role of both parents. Nonetheless, my mother describes her childhood fondly and thanks her extended family for their involvement.

As the interview progressed, we talked about school and certain unacknowledged facets of sexism were outlined. She talked about wanting to play cricket as a child and how that was viewed as unacceptable for girls. Instead, she was encouraged to join girl scouts. But, she was determined to participate in athletics and so she began playing basketball in defiance of her community. This was the first instance in which she showed that she would not let societal chains prevent her from doing what she wanted to do. Although her school was highly populated with women, the school never had a female principal. Men dominated most of the positions in school. A prefect was a student that demonstrated leadership abilities and was responsible for helping the teacher. Even this small leadership position was highly populated by men. Despite her excellent grades, she was never selected to serve in this position.

As she continued her education she noticed that opportunities were limited for women. The corporate world was not inviting. She completed high school and then she decided to attend a teachers college near her hometown. But her studies were cut short when she became pregnant at 20 years old. Despite being involved in a committed relationship with the father of her child, she never felt pressured to get married. She and her partner discussed marriage as an option, but they decided to wait. At this time it was even less socially accepted to become pregnant out of wedlock. However, most women were forced by their family to get married. But, my mother’s refusal to let the pressures of her community influence how she lives is another testament of her role as a 2nd wave feminist.

Despite the political achievement that was happening in Jamaica, she felt isolated. According to the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, in 1974, Jamaica was a pioneer in becoming one the first countries world-wide to implement a national effort for the advancement of women. Also, Jamaica emerged as a political feeding ground for new ideas. Jamaica was even more advanced than other countries in that it had a Jamaica Women’s Bureau (Rhoda). However as a 24 year old woman with a child in 1977, she was not directly affected by the committee’s plans to create a “Women in Development Unit (Rhonda).” Instead she was faced with the daily struggles of providing security and food for her child. She worked more than 40 hours per week in order to make ends meet. At this point in her life Betty Freidan’s theory of “the problem that has no name” began to rear its ugly head. She was not satisfied with her life. At which point she decided to move to America. She was faced with a hard decision. In order to achieve all she wanted she must leave her daughter behind. Nonetheless, she made this decision with the hope that it will help her child later.

When she came to America, she realized that her limited schooling was not enough. In order to actively transform her life and participate in the movement of women’s liberation her involvement in the working class was important ( Unfortunately, not only did she have to deal with inequality in the workplace, but now her cultural identity became an issue. She described an incident when her teacher continuously made racist remarks and at the end of the course withheld her rightful grade. She refused to be victimized. Instead, she went to the dean of the college who reviewed her work and gave her the grade she earned, an A.

Now as a mother, grandmother, wife, supervisor, aunt, and head of the household, my mother, Jean Williams, continues to define herself however she wants. She values other people as equals and always treats them accordingly. Her struggles have enabled her to appreciate the struggle of others. She serves as a second wave feminist in that she understands that sexism, racism, and any other form of oppression is not tolerable. She left her home in a distant land in pursuit of liberation for herself and her child. As the product of such a courageous woman, her life is a source of knowledge and inspiration. She continues to encourage me to delve into whatever it is that interest me. I am a firm believer in the power of self-determination. William Ernest Henley wrote in Invictus, “It matters not how straight the gait how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” This excerpt encourages the individual to press on despite obstacles. I firmly believe that if there are more women like Jean Williams, as I believe there are, than the future of feminism is very fruitful.

Interview Revised

Brittany Carter
Women’s Studies Blog
Instructor Kristen McCauliff

To learn more about feminism and women’s studies I think it is important to talk to people who may have knowledge and insight about feminism and the study of women and their matters. The people I am referring to would be older women who are feminist or have seen firsthand what goes on in the world that allows us to deal with feminist issues. Feminism refers both to the belief that women have been historically subordinate to men and to the commitment to working for freedom for women in all aspects of social life. It is to win women a wider range of experience, according to “Woman, Images, and Realities” by Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair, Nancy Schniedwind, and Suzanne Kelly. So far I have learned that a feminist is described as a woman who “has in her the capacity of fighting her way back to independence.” In this interview I learned that there are a lot of things that happen to women that matter and should be taken very seriously.
To find out more about feminism and its views I interviewed a woman much older than I am, 18, and that has a different social class, as well as race. Meet Mrs. Smith, a 60 year old white woman. She is married with two children and two grandchildren, and attends a Christian Church with her family. Mrs. Smith is an administrative associate, and I have spent a lot of time around her over my basketball career. One of the things I admire most about Mrs. Smith is that she is a very strong, tough woman. For example, she has survived breast cancer and is now cancer free. During this interview I not only learned more about feminism, but I learned more things about Mrs. Smith. Before I joined my current women’s study class I thought very differently of the word feminism. I tied in the world feminism with the word feminine, and ultimately thought of a woman, or person, with stereotypical ladylike qualities and habits such as wearing lip stick and carrying pocketbooks. Now that I know exactly what feminism is and what feminists are, I was curious to know what is the first thing that comes to mind when Mrs. Smith hears the word feminist. Her reply was “strong” (woman). That makes me think of all the women I have read about and that stood up and fought for women’s rights. On the class discussion board a student brought up the story of Lucy Burn, who was chained by her hands to a jail cell with bars above her head, and left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. Lucy Burn, along with Dora Lewis and 31 other women who fought for women to vote in 1917, paved the way so that women today can vote.
When asked, Mrs. Smith said that she would describe herself as a feminist. To be specific, she is more of a first wave feminist because the focusing of the promotion of equal contrast and property rights for women and opposition of men is something she has seen and dealt with first hand. Mrs. Smith shared with me a hardship she had to go through that now contributes to her life philosophies. Years ago, Mrs. Smith worked at a bank. She and a man that worked at the bank with her did the exact same job but because she was a woman she did not get paid the same amount of money as the man. She went on to express that she was a better employee because she was more personable and she was able to communicated with people well, even better than what her co-worker did. Having experienced that situation, Mrs. Smith feels like she falls into the category of first wave feminism because that was a time when women began to gain political power. That’s when the women’s suffrage surfaced and women were able to vote.
I have heard people say that feminism is not a big deal and that people are making it out to be more than it really is. I have heard people say that there should not be a class talking about women’s issues. These people, surprisingly, were women themselves. I asked Mr. Smith if she felt like people are making a big deal out of feminism and she said “no, not anymore than anything else in life.” She said women just want to be treated equally. I totally agree with her. The thing that came to mind when I heard her response was that everyone has a struggle and a desire. An older white woman like Mrs. Smith wants equality for women. She may not have had to deal with being treated differently because of the color of her skin, but she has had to deal with some sort of discrimination and unfair treatment. While a black woman may be more worried about being treated differently because of the color of her skin, both women, black and white have an issue that they have to deal with. One that, I think, makes women’s studies so great. It unites women because in some way, we all have a struggle and desire. We all just want to be treated equally.
I shared with Mrs. Smith the song “Lost Woman Song” by Ani Difranco:
“I opened a bank account
When I was nine years old
I closed it when I was eighteen
I gave them every penny
That I’d saved
And they gave my blood and urine a number
Now I’m sitting in this waiting room
Playing with the toys
I am here to exercise my freedom of choice
I passed their hand held signs
I went thru their picket lines
They gathered when they saw me coming
They shouted when they saw me cross
I said why don’t you go home
Just leave me alone
I’m just another woman lost
You are like fish in the water who don’t know that they are wet as far as I can tell
The world isn’t perfect yet
His bored eyes were obscene
On his denimed thighs a magazine
I wish he’s never come here with me
In fact I wish he’d never come near me
I wish his shoulder wasn’t touching mine
I am growing older waiting in this line
But some of life’s best lessons are learned at the worst times
Under the fierce fluorescent she offered her hand for me to hold
She offered stability and calm
And I was crushing her palm
Through the pinch pull wincing
My smile unconvincing
On that sterile battlefield that sees
Only casualties
Never Heroes
My heart hit absolute zero
Lucille, your voice
Still sounds in me
Mine was a relatively easy tragedy
The profile of our country looks a little less hard-nosed
But that picket line persisted and that clinic has since been closed
They keep pounding their fists on reality
Hoping it will break
But I don’t think there’s one of them that lead a life free
Of mistakes
You can’t make me sacrifice my freedom of choice”

I asked Mrs. Smith if she could relate after hearing this song and it what ways. She said that she could, somewhat. She went on to share with me a story about a friend of hers. This friend had a daughter who was pregnant. She contemplated getting an abortion. She finally made up her mind to go to the abortion clinic. Before she could walk into the clinic, however, guilt consumed her because of the picket signs that people held up outside of the abortion clinic urging others not to get abortions. She listened to the people and changed her mind about getting an abortion. She decided to have the baby but unfortunately had a miscarriage. Mrs. Smith has never had to go through this personally. Mrs. Smith would recommend that other women read this poem because it is “thought provoking” and “makes people see who goes through different hardships”. Mrs. Smith’s response to the question of whether abortion should be illegal or legalized was that it should be legalized, because “it’s our right if we want to do it.” I agree with her on that because there are certain cases in which a woman needs to get an abortion. An example would be a woman being raped by a man. This man could be a stranger, and surely you wouldn’t want to have a child by a stranger, especially if that stranger raped you. Therefore, I think that certain situations are more serious than others. I think having the option to have a baby or not is a good thing.
In class we read an article called “Killing the Black Body.” This article talks about an incident in 1989, when officials in Charleston, South Carolina initiated a policy of arresting pregnant women whose test showed they were smoking crack. Poor black mothers were being blamed for perpetuating social problems by transmitting defective genes, irreparable crack damage and deviant lifestyles for children. I asked Mrs. Smith if she thought that women should be arrested and punished for being on drugs while being pregnant and her initial response was “maybe not arrested for drug,” then when she thought about it she said that it is a sickness and people need help. She then said that if putting the mother in jail is the only way to help the mother then it should be done, but help for the child is very important also. She shared with me that she had read the book The Gospel Sing the other day and this reminded her of that book because it had the same situations in it that we were talking about.
I asked Mrs. Smith if men should have a “say-so” in whether or not a woman should have an abortion since it’s the woman’s body. She thought that it is a case by case situation. If a man wants the child and is going to take care of the child then he has the right to tell the woman what to do with her body. I think that it is a woman’s body that has to go through the pain, change and hardship of having a child and whatever decision she decides to make should be one that she wants. I do also think that a man’s opinion should be taken into consideration when discussing giving birth to a child.
The last question I asked Mrs. Smith is one that is a somewhat sensitive subject for some people because there are fathers that want children and want to take care of their kids and there are some fathers that do not want children and that will not take responsibility of the child. I can relate to this issue because I grew up in a single parent household. My birth father chose not to be a part of my life so my mother took on the challenge of raising a child on her own. Growing up, I found that there are a lot of people, young and old, that grew up without a parent in their lives whether it’s their mother or father. The startling realization that I was not the only person that has grown up without a father made it somewhat easier to deal with. If a man and a woman decide to have a child together than that decision would be a mutual one, but I feel like the woman makes the final decision in whether or not she would like to have an abortion or not.
After having done this interview I got another perspective of life. I understood some of the things that go on with people other than what I see on television. I chose to interview Mrs. Smith because of her age and race. I also learned that, although Mrs. Smith and I are significantly different, we have some of the same views and opinions on things when it comes to women’s matters. What is interesting about her life that makes her have interesting insight into feminist issues is the fact that she is a surviving breast cancer patient. That alone makes her a strong woman, much like the feminist leaders that have paved the way for women today and of the future.

Farooqi: Interview; Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Equality

“Feminism just has a negative connation.” Pam Howell is a single parent, white female in her mid 40s. She did not want to tell me her real age so I did not intrude. She has conservative beliefs along with a blend of liberal views as well. She is in the upper-middle class in regards to her economic status, but she does not boast about it all. Feminist have come a long way in their journey for equality, and it has impacted people of all ethnicities and races differently. I believe Pam is the right candidate to interview because she is a white female in her mid 40s, and I felt I would get the best results if I interviewed someone completely different from me. While interviewing Pam I learned that not all things are as they seem. When listening to her personal accounts and discrimination I understand that true equality will never be achieved. The oppression of women has climaxed; however women will always be second to men due to the preconception of male dominance that has been accepted since the beginning of time.
The beginning of the interview consisted of simple questions where I tried to get to know Pam, her views, and beliefs. The first question I asked was what her definition of feminism was? She responded, “A woman trying to do all the things a man does. A woman thinks that they are equal to men in every way.” Evidently she feels that feminism is an activist group that further complicates things for women. When I mentioned the word “Feminism” she paused for a bit to figure out how she would respond to a question like that. I later asked about her experiences of discrimination. She stated she felt discrimination many times, but one time stood out more than any other. She was subjected by her boss at a convention to pose a model for a product, but she refused. She felt it was a sexist act, and that her boss wanted to put her on display for his own benefit. This is common in the workplace, but she assured me that discrimination towards her and other women have diminished over the years as the laws have gotten stricter. I later explained the concept of backlash to Pam and asked if she ever experienced it. She responded that most of the incidents I am asking about have occurred in the workplace. One particular incident she described to me displayed a true injustice. After getting better reviews than most males in her company, they were still getting paid more. After she brought this issue up with management they reduced her salary, and in response to this she “raised hell” until they fixed the issue. Because Pam is a woman, management felt it would be easier to slight her because she would not have any other recourse; however, Pam mustered enough courage to get what was rightfully hers.
After explaining her incident I asked Pam if feminism still exist. She said yes, and it always will because men and women are different. She then added men and women are not equal in all accounts. There are some things women can do that men cannot, and there are some things women can do that men cannot do. She emphasized physical activity as being the main reason for this. Pam felt she also lost a sense of identity when she started working and taking care of the kids. She stated that she had a husband who thought she could not live without him. Essentially, her husband thought she was dependent on him, which infuriated her because she was the breadwinner. Finally, she had incentive to breakaway on her own. In respect to the current political realm, I asked her about how or if this election will have a positive impact of feminism. She vehemently disagreed in that she said Hillary is a negative figure, and she will only hurt the feminists’ cause. Pam is going off the notion of Hillary’s personality that has been exposed in the media. Hillary is thought to be a selfish and conniving woman, thus it is apparent she will not stand for what feminists what to portray as their image. I then touched on a controversial topic, abortion.
I first asked if she was pro-choice or pro-life. She replied that she was pro-life but under certain circumstances such as rape. Then I asked if this stance determines if you are a feminist. She said it does not but if you choose to then do it early or not at all. The next topic we discussed was race and how it affects views about feminism. She implied that it depends on the individual. Some people may or may not feel pressured about race. She also stated that being a white female over 40 gives her less of an opportunity in corporate America, because a company could likely take a minority because of affirmative action. Race is only an obstacle if you let it impede your goals in life. Minorities have struggled to get their rights, but in the end their struggles have made it easier for future generations to enjoy more success than their predecessors. I explained Simone de Bevoir’s concept of “Second sex” and asked why is prevalent among women to feel this way. She replied that women are raised that way. There is a preconceived notion that women are the weaker sex. This is a universal thought, and she added that she cannot think of any culture that disagreed with this notion. However, education has narrowed the gap between men and women, and it will continue to. She implied that education is the key for women to pursue their aspirations and exemplify themselves the best they can. Education is the key to having a broader perspective of the world, and it helps to be astute as to what is going on. Consequently, she holds education in high esteem.
Feminism has been evolving throughout history. After discussing the three waves, she stated that more and more women are getting opportunities to pursue their goals and dreams. She augmented the fact that the discrimination she experienced in the 80s would not occur today because of the stringent rules that have been applied in favor or women. Equality is being achieved in small doses, but it is clear that more work needs to be done in this regard. We discussed about how her impediments have changed or shaped her as person. She seemed quite proud of herself at this point stating that she become stronger through each experience. Looking back on her earlier work experiences, she stated that she became a fighter and stronger because of the discrimination. Pam’s strength is accentuated in her independence. Her independence exudes qualities of the new “woman” because she is self-reliant and self-sufficient. We then conversed about privilege. I explained Peggy McIntosh’s concept of the “Invisible Knapsack.” She agreed with me stating that there is unacknowledged privilege because it is natural in the world. She then added that being a white female has made it easier to get opportunities, but she did not slight herself because she worked hard. She implied that there is not much we can do about unacknowledged privilege because it is so prevalent in society, and it always will be. In a sense you cannot worry about everyone who does not have everything you have. Finally, we discussed sexual double binding. She said it was prevalent growing up. Pam has two brothers, and the rules were completely different for three siblings. She also stated that her brothers could date earlier and, they had later curfews. She also could not wear makeup until she reached her later teenage years. This proved Jennifer Baumgardner’s and Amy Richard’s concept true. There is an unwritten rule that women are supposed to dress, talk, and ultimately act differently than men. Again, this is a preconceived notion that has been accepted and never will change because it has stood the test of time.
American is a changing nation. Every minority group, especially women will see that equality comes in small doses. The pursuit of equality entails that minority groups can strive for it, but it may or may not be achieved. All good things take time, but nothing lasts forever. The only way for women to achieve and maintain success is to keep fighting because maximum equality will never be reached, because of accepted believes that stem since the beginning of time; therefore, men and women will never truly be equal, but the false aura of equality makes the public believe that all men and women were “truly” created equally.

Choisnet: Interview

For as long as I’ve known Judy Logsdon, I’ve never really known how to explain my relationship to her to others. She met my grandfather a couple of years after my grandparents divorced, and they’ve been together ever since. So, “step-grandmother?” That just sounds weird, and it technically isn’t true, since they aren’t married. “Girlfriend” makes it sound like my grandpa is seeing someone half his age, which rarely conjures up pleasant mental images. “Partner” is more accurate, and I’ve seen it used to describe them in a newspaper clipping. But that word makes me think of homosexual couples first and foremost, as faulty as my reasoning is. So I usually end up digging out some old-fashioned terminology and referring to Judy as my grandpa’s “lady friend.”
Whatever I call her, Judy’s the kind of person I’d like to be when I hit 60, like she is now. She’s the type of woman you read about in novels, the cool, artsy supporting character who always impresses the protagonist with her unique spirit and offers advice from a creative viewpoint. Unfortunately, due to the emotional baggage caused by my grandparents’ divorce (in which Judy had no part), I have always been somewhat distant with her, despite my appreciation for her spirit.
I could claim that I decided to interview Judy as an opportunity to get to know her better and find some additional common ground for us, but in all honesty, that sort of thinking only came in hindsight. I did know that with a character like hers, Judy would be an ideal subject for this type of assignment. Aside from receiving further confirmation that she’s a truly interesting person, I did get to understand Judy’s experiences as a young woman and the way they helped shape her into the person I know today. And while it may not have been my first and foremost intention, I did realize that Judy and I both care about how being female affects a person’s life in this world, and that epiphany has helped me to be willing to open up to her a little more than I have before.
Ironically, considering how we’ve discussed and been tested on the different factions of feminism in class, Judy told me that she’s “still unclear after all these years as to what a feminist really is” when I asked her if she considered herself to be one.
We both developed our opinions on feminism fairly early on in our lives, although those opinions went in different directions. After a childhood spent cheering for the pink and yellow Power Rangers and wondering why there didn’t seem to be many fairy tales where the princess ended up saving the day instead of being a pretty damsel in distress (even to this day, that phrase makes me cringe a little), I was all for the idea of girls being every bit as tough and capable as the boys, even while they still looked pretty. Judy’s “first perception of feminism,” on the other hand, “was the radical behavior, like women in Chicago marching and burning their bras.” Despite her cautious opinion of the feminists of the 1960’s, Judy did support women having more reproductive rights and “opening the job market for women.”
I also discovered that we, in a way, shared opinions on The Feminine Mystique. My primary impression of the book, without getting a chance to read it in its entirety, was that Betty Friedan was taking an overly critical point of view toward housewives, claiming that every woman who was a wife and mother was secretly neurotic because of her life. Judy’s first reaction to The Feminine Mystique was much simpler: she had “bought it at Rexall’s Drugstore when [she] was about fifteen,” thinking that it was “a book of beauty tips.” Her early disappointment had prompted her to put the book down and never read it again, but when told about its subject matter, she said that she “never thought that being a wife and mother would be boring, but [she] always knew that [she] would have a job outside of being a wife and mother, […] so [she] wouldn’t feel bored or empty.”
That job first came in the form of working as a PR assistant for a major corporation. Shortly after Judy started working, her boss fell ill, and his duties passed on to her. When it became clear that her boss would not be coming back, Judy was irritated to find out that the higher-ups would not be giving her the job she had already been working on a permanent basis, because “a woman had never been a PR director before, and it was a man’s job.” It took another year of working both jobs to convince them that Judy was capable of doing the work she had already been in charge of. In doing such, she became both the first woman and the youngest person in that corporation to receive that position. “That’s one of my accomplishments that I go back to, when I talk about my career, that I was able to break ground there,” Judy told me. I was thoroughly impressed that she had accomplished such a thing in the days before such words from an employer would guarantee a lawsuit and a PR nightmare. Looking back on those times, Judy was “horrified” to realize that such practices were the norm, and that certain jobs were simply part of a “man’s world.” Knowing that women have come so far since then has put both our minds at ease, and we have hope for further improvements in the future.
Another thing that Judy and I talked about was women’s health care. I knew that, as someone who has been battling with breast cancer for years now, she would have strong opinions on the subject. Judy pointed out that while plenty of money and hours are being poured into breast cancer research, not as much attention is being paid to cancers that affect men more often than women. As a participant in multiple Relay For Life events, I have also noticed that there are usually more signs and booths dedicated to breast cancer and skin cancer awareness than prostrate cancer.
Judy and I wrapped up our interview by talking about where we think feminism stands today. As she had told me at the beginning, despite her uncertainty as to what a feminist was today, she “would say ‘yes’ rather than no’” regarding whether or not she would call herself one. She went on to explain that, as more options are available to women now than there were in the 1960’s, such as roles available in media or a singer’s choice to show off her sensuality without it being exploitative, things have improved for women today. “I think we have evolved, and it would be hard to find a woman, even one of my age, who does not agree with feminist principles today,” she explained. However, she was worried that women today may too easily “take for granted that women’s rights are always going to be upheld.” When I think about the horrors we hear on the news about women from foreign cultures being mutilated or murdered for daring to step beyond the boundaries a patriarchal society has set up for them, I can’t help but agree. The comment also made me think of The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by Margaret Atwood that describes a disturbing society run by a fundamentalist Christian regime, in which women have been stripped of their civil rights and are reduced to living as “Wives” or “Handmaids,” whose role is solely to bear children in a world where most of the population is sterile. As Judy warns, we must always be “vigilant and focused,” ready to protect our rights as human beings should the need arise.

Jayne: Interview

Karen Phillo is a close friend of my family, and a dear friend of my mother's since childhood. Phillo was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was the picture-perfect child. She hopes one day her parents will come to the accept this fact! Phillo is a happily married woman, working for the Sacramento Probation Office in California. However, her life's journey to this point has brought her through several instances where she was faced with inequality because she is female. Phillo, like many women, has not let her sex be something to hinder her. Every major challenge that she has been faced with, she has faced and made her own. Through her life she has exhibited a strong character and strong sense of identity. She has helped countless numbers of children through her career and has managed to cleverly change the minds of people that had once prided themselves on spreading the backlash of feminism. Throughout her life she has seen landmark moments in the feminist movement and continues to help promote equality through her personal efforts. Phillo is concerned in promoting feminist agenda and hopes to see the movement continue in attaining their goals. However Phillo, like many other feminists, is aware that inequality is not an idea or practice that will fade easily; and will require continuous efforts, thus, she has illuminated this idea throughout her life.

Phillo's first half of her childhood was spent growing up in Alabama. When she was a teenager, her father's job transferred him, and the family, to Atlanta, Georgia. The family settled in the suburbs, in the city of Dunwoody. In 1973 Karen applied to be a page in the United States Senate for the Senator of Alabama. Phillo's application was rejected. According to the senator, “ D.C was not a nice place for young ladies to be (sic)”. Phillo graduated high school and attended the American University in Washington D.C. Originally a political science major, Phillo found herself drawn to Administration of Justice, which eventually became her major and her degree. Phillo's college experience is one of creativity. Faced with out-of-state tuition and living expenses, Phillo worked full time and attended school at night. Her first job in Washington was working as a research assistant for the Anthropological Director of the Smithsonian. She lived with a family, where she provided babysitting services in exchange for room and board. With this busy schedule, she graduated only one semester late. She also was very involved in campus life, and was a member of the Student Government Association, College Democrats, and College Republicans. She left the College Democrats because at that moment in time, Republicans ran the majority in Washington. Karen hoped that by joining the College Republicans she would be given more opportunities to see how politics worked in the nation's capitol. At this time, the Equal Rights Amendment was a controversial subject, especially for her conservative College Republican peers. The club held votes over issues that were being debated in the real world. Phillo, exhibiting her wit and creativity knew that as a woman, if she said the phrase “Equal Rights Amendment” her club members, mostly male, would squirm in their seats and denounce the message. When it came time for the vote to be held over this amendment within her club, Phillo presented the vote. She changed the words to her advantage. Rather than saying the ill-fated three word combination, she stated the agenda of the Equal Rights Amendment. With a unanimous vote, her club passed the amendment. Once the vote was final, Phillo announced to the room, “Congratulations gentlemen, you have just passed the Equal Rights Amendment!”. The club members did not hold another vote over the amendment.

After graduating college, Phillo found that she could make more money working as a secretary rather than as a probation officer. Upon graduating from university, Phillo worked as a secretary for the Senator of Illinois, across the street from the White House. She married at the age of twenty-four to a Navy Jag who was fresh out of law school. Soon after their wedding, he was transferred to California, where the couple settled in Sacramento. Phillo recalls, “ Driving through Sacramento, it reminded me a lot of D.C., without the crime and crowds. That was July 4th of 1985. Now it has all the crime and traffic of D.C.”. While her husband began working as the Assistant District Attorney, Phillo began working part time, on-call, as a probation officer; assigned to the Juvenile department. During this time, Phillo suffered from two miscarriages. Phillo pursued a course of fertility drugs and was able to bring her third pregnancy to term; and gave birth to her son, John. During her pregnancies, Phillo was not allowed to work. After her delivery, she struggled to find an adequate schedule and maternity leave. She returned to work after her pregnancy and worked the graveyard shift. There was no daycare available. Her husband shirked his responsibilities of fatherhood. He did not care to be busied with the demands of a young infant son. His attention for his child only increased slightly as the child grew older, and more interesting. This, however, was short lived. While working a demanding job, keeping up with the demands of the household and taking care of her infant son, Phillo's husband informed Phillo that he was involved with another woman. Phillo, knowing the challenges she would face as a single mother, stood up for her pride and exhibited a great deal of self respect in leaving her husband.

Knowing that her current part-time night position would not be enough to support her son and herself, Phillo decided to pursue law school. The first year, she became very ill and had to drop out. The second year, Phillo did very well, but when exams came she was caught in a personal crisis. Her sister, who had been living in Atlanta, was murdered. The family, distraught over the sudden loss of their daughter, needed Phillo. The law school would not allow Phillo to leave during exams, so Phillo dropped out her second year; choosing family as the ultimate priority. Upon returning back to her probation work, Phillo worked extra hours on weekends in an attempt to make extra money. She would work as many day shifts and graveyard shifts as she could. She would grab only a few hours sleep after her graveyard shift before she would have to wake, care for her son, and return to work. Being part-time, her hours would run out in November. Phillo would then have to take unemployment. Her husband, taking a pay cut to become Sheriff, had decreased their son's child support from $1000 to $400 a month. In California they do not allow spousal support to go on for more than a three years, leaving Phillo truly on her own. During the times where she faced unemployment, there were times where the checks were not large enough; Phillo would go without food to be certain that her son had enough to eat. Phillo's situation eventually improved through continuous hard work and determination. Despite the fact that the cards were stacked against her because of her sex, Phillo acquired a full-time position, became very successful, and raised her son alone.

Knowingly or not, Phillo has been faced with several instances throughout her life where she has stood up as a feminist. She defines feminism as “having the power to do what you want, to do and to be able to make choices for yourself rather than those choices being made for you”. It was not Phillo's intention to become a feminist. In her youth, she feels she was more passionate about the subject, due in part to the fact that more she rejected frequently because of her sex. She feels other people would identify her as one, but she sees that she is just living her life as she chooses to live it, without societal restriction. Phillo sees feminism as a positive movement. “Women like Gloria Steinem, thank God for them! Otherwise I wouldn't be able to do what I do”.

As our conversation went on, I realized how close to home issues of inequality were coming, and that there has been significant progress made within the past twenty years. When Phillo began her job with the Probation office, female probation officers were not allowed to work with male children. Male probation officers dealt with male children, and as a result there was often confrontation. In 1985, women, for the first time, were allowed to work with male children. Progress occurred more rapidly, as “women did not get caught up in the testosterone contest”. Male children responded better to a female officer because they did not approach a child aggressively. In addition to this, Karen experienced inequality in her pay. At the time she first started working, women were paid $0.73 to the full $1.00 a man made. This difference has decreased over time, but it still has not been made fully equal. In addition, men were also given priority in scheduling. The women of her field were often times the caregivers to their own children, however the people that made the schedules worked to appease the demands of men first.

As we continued our interview we moved from the topic of inequality within the workplace to expectations of society. I asked Phillo questions that have been inspired from topics discussed in my Women's Studies course. We spoke about expectations society held for women and female children in regards to dress, marriage and motherhood. In her responses I noticed that there was a difference between expectations and behavior in the South compared to the Northeast and California. Women in the South, throughout Phillo's experience, often seemed more feminine and emotionally more soft when compared to women of other regions of the country. “The clothes are more feminine...the accent also helps...and men really like the southern accent, they find a soft southern accent desirable on a woman because it makes her seem more feminine”. Phillo revealed to me that she thought society placed too much emphasis on sex to young girls, through popular culture. “I'm not sure if I feel this way because I am old, but girl's that wear these tight, low cut outfits seem to keep causing problems for the boys I work with. The boys become distracted and are not as productive as they would be otherwise”. In addition, “young girls and boys feel a girl's value is about the body and not the brain; you're supposed to be super thin with perfect hair and skin. If you are not, then you're ugly. In high school a guy told me once that if I lost 5 lbs I'd be perfect, and I believed it. I was thin then but thought I was really fat”. Phillo also mentioned that “a child may find an article of clothing to be pretty and cute because it is fashionable, but a child molester will see it as sexy and appealing”.

When we discussed motherhood, Phillo said because of the miscarriages, she desperately wanted to have a baby. The benefit was that the child was truly wanted. “Babies create a lot of work, but it was the best thing I ever did. Society expects that as a mother, you should be able to work all day, come home at night and have a healthy dinner on the table and do all the housework. I brought home McDonald's a lot. After working all day I was tired. All the mental energy of keeping track wears you out. Women are pressured to carry the burden more than men when it comes to parenting. Raising a child is the most important job in the world, yet most men have trouble doing it”.

Despite the responsibilities of being a mother, we both felt there is a bigger pressure to be a career mother. “I used to be a stay-at-home mom. Most women I know would love to be able to stay home with their children and raise them, but you have to have a husband that can make a good salary to be able to do that. When a man decides he does not want to be married anymore, there is nothing you can do. By staying home, you're putting yourself in a dangerous position. He's going to take care of his career, and if he divorces you, you have the struggle to find a job after not working for a long time”. Stay at home moms put themselves at a greater risk. When Phillo and her husband were separated, she paid the bills with his pay check and then split the difference. It never occurred to her she should get more than him because she was supporting her life and the life of her child, while her husband was only looking after himself. She was shortchanging herself. Women are taught to shortchange themselves from a young age. By not meeting the physical standard, the societal expectations, or the demands of a husband, a woman finds herself lost, full of self doubt and questioning her self-worth. Shortchanging yourself is an expression of that pain that was created by society, and it can find no other outlet. I feel this is an overlooked issue within feminism, especially as the rate of divorce continues to increase. A mother may be rewarded with the children from a custody battle, but as a result she is often burdened because in many instances she feels she is partly at fault for not being able to provide more efficiently and more comfortably for her children, meanwhile the husband runs late on child support, if he pays it at all, and more often than not does not face legal consequence. This is a double bind that has not been discussed, and does not receive enough attention. Yet this plagues many women today, regardless of race, in this country.

Through the course of our interview, I asked Phillo about many of the issues that have been brought up in my Women's Studies course. Phillo gave an answer to most of my questions, but felt that issues behind Third Wave Feminism, such as racial inequality and the raising awareness about the varying experiences and opinions of women are not things that she has given much thought to; with that being said, she found that she was very interested in these ideas and would continue to learn about them. Our interview allowed us both to experience a level of consciousness raising. Phillo developed a more broad idea about current feminist issues. I came to have a greater appreciation and awareness of how women have fought for equality, yet still continue to struggle today due to a continuing presence of inequality that transcends race and lives through a gender barrier created by society.

Holloway: Interview

“Every generation always says the same thing, Susie—that people’s values have changed.” This was my aunt’s response when I asked her if she thought women today were still expected to stay at home and raise their children. This assertion immediately struck me as being very truthful. I thought back to countless arguments I had had with my parents where my defense had been “But it IS okay for me to do that, things have changed since you were kids!” Not that this claim usually went too far with my parents, but I can definitely see the accuracy in it. So is it progress that is forever changing our values? I suppose this turned out to be one question on my mind while I chatted with my aunt about feminism. Her viewpoints on various issues, from Gloria Steinem to women in the Bible, continued to strike me throughout the interview with varying degrees of emotion. Overall, I would say that my aunt holds somewhat ambiguous stances on many feminist issues. ‘Contradictory’ is the word that initially comes to mind, but that doesn’t really express what I mean. In essence, the interview with my aunt solidified my previous notions about feminism as being a completely personal and unique experience for each individual, for many reasons.
My aunt Carol was the first woman I thought of when I learned I needed to interview someone for a feminist piece. The reasons were many: She was a young woman during the 60s and 70s, she has always been someone I consider very candid, and, frankly, I didn’t know all that much about her and was interested in her viewpoints on the subject matter. A little background information about my aunt is probably important here. Carol was born in Decatur, Georgia in 1939. She was the only child her parents ever had. Carol attended high school in Decatur and then moved to Florida for college. She double majored in sociology and criminology, graduating in 1961. She married my dad’s brother, who was considerably older than my father, so she has been a part of my family for a long time. After they were married, she and my uncle moved to Boston for a short period. From what she told me in the interview, I gathered that Boston was a pretty uneventful time for the two of them and they settled in Atlanta soon after. In Atlanta, Carol worked as a juvenile probation officer for three years before my first cousin was born. After Parker’s birth, my aunt stopped working for a while and just focused on raising their three sons. Eventually, in 1987, she went back to work at Open Campus, where she was a discipline principal secretary. She retired in 2006. My uncle passed away in 2004, and Carol has been living alone a few miles from my parents ever since. Like many people I know, Carol seemed to be relatively opinionated about some feminist issues but also open to some new ideas that I presented her with. Overall, I would say that my aunt has very moderate sentiments about these issues.
Given her background, it didn’t really surprise me that Carol had such a temperate view on feminism. Having grown up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, her skin color had automatically put her in a privileged position relative to the times. Being white had already exempt her from some definite levels of social oppression that existed during her adolescent and adult years. As detailed in Marilyn Frye’s “Oppression” piece, it was probably easy for my aunt to notice the subjugation of black people while not realizing her own privilege as a white person. Also, as an only child, Carol said her parents (her father especially), always encouraged her to “be whatever she wanted to be.” She said that as a child, being female actually made her feel more special. Perhaps this could be attributed to the fact that women often have more to overcome than men, and thus it is somewhat of a “bigger deal” when they achieve lofty career goals. Regardless, Carol said that she did not feel any direct effects of oppression when she was growing up, and as stated, her background sort of explains why. Still, she was a young woman at the height of feminism’s second wave and her unawareness of many of their ideals somewhat startled me. Carol did not read “The Feminine Mystique” when it was published (nor did she later on), and all she really knew of Betty Friedan was that she was “a big deal for feminists.” She thought that Gloria Steinem was “gorgeous” and thus a great spokeswoman for the cause. Throughout this portion of the interview, I almost started to develop the sinking feeling that my aunt was “one of those people” who thought that feminists were a bunch of bra-burning lesbians. It just didn’t seem like she cared to identify with them for a number of reasons. Of course, third wave feminists would say that Carol IS a feminist simply by being a woman, but I decided to ask her anyway if she identified as one. She thought long and hard before answering both yes and no. I wondered aloud if her including “no” in her answer had anything to do with the stereotypes often attributed to feminists. She said she thought that feminists had sort of a “bad rap” twenty years ago, but that was just because they were working so hard to get somebody’s ear. Nowadays, she said, people listen to women. I would probably agree that this is true. Certainly not on a global scale, but here in the United States I think women are more or less able to speak their minds. This is beginning to sound like a postmodern feminist argument that claims there is no official need for feminism, which I don’t agree with. I’m just hoping to emphasize my aunt’s middle-of-the-road approach to feminism.
My aunt did have some pretty interesting ideas herself on why she has never really personally felt affected by sexism. She claims that it has a lot to do with the men in your life. Knowing that my uncle was always a very supportive husband helped me understand this. Even though it had been my aunt, and not my uncle, who was the homemaker in the relationship, I am confident that this wasn’t because my uncle insisted on that arrangement. She also reiterated how encouraging her father had been—he told her once when she was young that she could be the first woman in the Supreme Court if she wanted to be. Carol’s willingness to credit men with her unhindered life as a woman was pretty surprising to me. I understand where she’s coming from—but I also know that some people (almost certainly feminists) would call that a very ANTIfeminist viewpoint. That being said, my aunt proved to me that she does hold to many of the “traditional” feminist ideals that typically come to mind when one thinks about feminism. She is pro-choice, she believes a woman can/should be president of the United States (“Maybe not Hillary…I’m sure she’s very brilliant…Some other woman though for sure”), she wholeheartedly supports women having careers, and she definitely thinks women should serve in the military. Carol feels that women are always judged more than men for their appearance, and she finds this a tiring characteristic of society. She absolutely agrees that women have historically been repressed. Perhaps it is easy to see now why I initially referred to my aunt as having a somewhat ambiguous stance on feminism—though she has never personally felt like she has been oppressed for being female, and thus holds that ‘the fight’ is pretty much over, she does concede that other women are totally justified in feeling like our society doesn’t give them enough choices. All in all, feminism is defined uniquely for each individual, and a person’s experiences and feelings can never be discredited nor labeled as right or wrong. As our interview was winding down, I asked my aunt if she had anything else she wanted to add. Carol thought for a second and then told me a story I found very touching. A few months ago, two of her close girlfriends from high school had come into town to visit. Both of these women were breast cancer survivors who had each been through extensive breast reconstruction surgery. Carol said that they were very open with each other, and being together made them feel young and “girlish” again. The three of them were laughing and joking and decided to compare how their breasts looked. She described the experience as “so open, so respectful…so female and so totally lacking in modesty.” She laughed, thinking about three women in their late sixties with their shirts off. Then my aunt became reflective and said, “You know, women are real strong. They’re made of good stuff.” She paused. “Women are survivors.” Aunt Carol, I totally agree.

Inhee's Secret Rebellion

I hate a lot of things. I know, it’s not a quality to flaunt nor is it a quality I’m particularly proud of. One thing I hate is when people personalize their problems. What I mean is that I hate it when people disregard your problems because compared to their problems, you should be thankful that you have such a miniscule issue—besides, their life is so much harder. This being said, I feel like the biggest hypocrite as I’m sitting here waiting for my co-worker Inhee, a thirty-one year old married Korean girl with no kids. I feel like an idiot because I’m doing that which I hate the most, personalizing this before I even get to know her. So—I’m supposed to interview her about women and her experience but—to me, first generation Korean-American girls have it the worst. To be honest, I felt like any of my friends would have more interesting things to say than Inhee would, simply because Korean-American girls my age experience a much different type of sexist oppression than most white girls my age can relate to. What I found after talking with Inhee, was as surprising as it was hopeful; even though she denied the label feminist, her views were inherently liberal and her opinions about controversial issues were astonishingly against the typical Korean traditional ways.

Inhee seems like a typical Korean woman—fresh-faced, quiet, very friendly, very generous, thoughtful, and not one to rebel against authority or tradition. The surprising thing is that she came to America four years ago, got married to her boyfriend of ten years, at thirty-one she doesn’t want kids, and still doesn’t want a formal wedding. I know there seems to be nothing wrong with that, but she told me that all these things made her an enigma to Korean society. She explained, “Typically…a twenty five year old woman should be married and should have at least one child…or at least want all those things.” A continuous struggle she faces whenever she speaks with her parents, is the judgment they lay on her for not desiring an expansion of the family. “They think it’s really weird that I don’t want to continue the family line,” she says. She says that they don’t understand the fact that a woman isn’t just an empty shell that centers around a family and that she never thought kids were appropriate for her. As she was talking, it became more and more apparent to me that the familial unit was of the utmost importance in Korean culture. She says her mother has the hardest time understanding why she doesn’t want children. After struggling to find the right reasons, she says her reason is because she is too selfish and that she’s afraid of being a bad mother. I don’t think she realized that she wasn’t selfish at all and quite the contrary. She defined herself outside of the social and cultural confinements of gender and that seemed much like the second wave feminists or the liberal feminists, but she simply shrugged it off.

It was very obvious that she did not have a typical marriage. She dated her current husband for ten years, and wasn’t even married before she moved here. This seemed particularly terrifying—leaving your entire family to another country seems outrageous to me—but she assures me that unlike most Korean hers was for companionship and love. She explained to me that in Korea, marriages are more or less business deals. There are these large corporations that run matchmaking services and that they split you up into different socioeconomic classes in order to match you with someone compatible. When she first told me that Korean people consider marriages more like business transactions, I thought she was joking but these organizations are very prestigious, and highly utilized by many of the single men and women of Korea. When I asked her if she had met her husband through that she replied with a sarcastic question; “I moved to America, you think I really left my family for some asshole from a matchmaking agency?” Anyways, I started to ask her what other criteria there were for matchmaking and the gender roles became much more outlined as she explained the only question that they ask males pertaining to their physical appearance is height (as tall men are rare) as opposed to women, they take more photos and take measurements. I asked her if there were more women with jobs and she said that one stereotype American women think about Asian women are that they are forced into submissive housewife roles once they are married but this is not the case. In fact, she said that there were more women in Korea that held jobs in proportion to the amount of women that held high-paying jobs in America. I was particularly impressed at this point, until she pointed out that society could care less what kind of jobs the women have, just as long as they have one. She explained that in the matchmaking industry, they just want to make sure the woman has a job because as long as she has a job and is attractive, it makes her that much more appealing to a male if she can support herself. I found that troubling since it wasn’t much about independence but more about projecting oneself as being independent for hope of becoming dependent.

I wondered why Koreans and Korean-Americans substantially more concerned about their looks than in American society? I had my theories pertaining to this question, I figured maybe the ratio of men to women were at one point substantially lower on the latter so that the women became increasingly more competitive but Inhee had no clue as to what I was talking about. Inhee explained to me that the pressure to be physically perfect is much different amongst Korean women as opposed to Korean-American women in the states. “In America, the competition is everywhere, girls eye and size you up and down—especially in your (my) age group, since there are not many Korean-American girls here (in America),” In Korea, she said it’s less of a competitive thing more than the aim to be more “American” looking. I’m a little confused at this statement and instead of the ratio of men to women, Inhee seems to blame Korea’s narcistic nature on the emergence and popularity of American movies in Korea. She says the more Koreans were exposed to what Americans found beautiful—bigger eyes, bigger breasts, and tan skin—the more women asked for these things from their cosmetic surgeon. This, to me, could be seen as a mild form of imperialism where America’s presence is through cinema instead of a physical literal presence. She explained that it was sad that women in Korea no longer embrace their naturally beautiful features—the features that make them beautiful as an Asian woman, not to the standards of American. The more this “epidemic” spreads, the more men are given the excuse to be “so picky”, prioritizing looks over other attributes, and thus resulting in men seeing women as objects made for their pleasure and disposal rather than people, she concluded. Lastly, much like Marilyn Frye’s description of double-bind, Inhee explained that although beautiful women are praised for their looks a woman is typically viewed for beauty or brains. Never both. She said that Korean people do not think these things can coexist in a woman which only goes to say that women are only required to be two-dimensional beings.

Not everything about Korean culture was disheartening and nothing made me realize that more than Inhee’s personal views and experiences. When we began to talk about materialism in Korea, Inhee told me that a lot of women use their sexuality to get designer merchandise from wealthy men. I wasn’t as shocked with this statement because women in American do the same thing, however, Inhee said that in some cases, the women and men will “lay the deal on the table.” I couldn’t believe it, I was astonished that a woman would even stoop to that level unless it was something initiated by her, and only her. My disbelief and distress did not resonate with Inhee. I misjudged her completely, I thought. In my head, I assumed she would be overly conservative and frigid in her opinions but what she said to me next humbled me greatly. She explained that though she didn’t label herself as a feminist, but she knew much about feminism, that I (one who does label herself as a feminist) “should understand the concept of a choice” and that I should disregard the stigma that may come with any decision a woman makes. She explains that though she may not do such a thing, a man is stooping to a lower level by purchasing an expensive item in exchange for sex. It was definitely something that we both agreed to disagree upon but I couldn’t help but feel a little stupid.

I sat back in my chair—amazed. I ask her how someone whose parents didn’t let her watch a movie until college—was so liberal about a mild form of prostitution. She said her openness to these things were due to the fact that she had been fortunate to have removed herself from these pressures. Growing up as a girl made her realize that if she ever had a child, she wouldn’t put so many restrictions on her children because of their sex. One very valid point that she brought up was that when her parents restricted her from watching movies at home, it simply made her want to watch them even more. Later on in life, even when it came to matters of the opposite sex, her parents refusal to acknowledge these issues or talk about them openly simply made her want to do those things which she was forbade from. She said that much of the sexual double-bind that Korean girls face in society is due to the fact that their parents made sex seem dirty by leaving the issue unaddressed and highly offensive. Even now, as a thirty one year old woman, her parents still seem to have an invisible force as she told me she would probably have to have a formal wedding as to appease her parents.

I have the most trouble understanding why we suffer for the things that are out of our control—our gender, class, race, and sexual orientation. I’m sure if we had to make these choices ourselves, we would see a much different world than what we live in today. Sure, at one point or another, we’ve all thought that our lives were a little worse than everyone else’s, but what I felt most hypocritical about was that I assumed Inhee would have nothing to teach me and that I would hear the underlying voice of my parents through her. This is where I think most people fail—not just women, feminists, or just men—but people fail when they dilute themselves into thinking there is nothing else to be heard or said. I don’t know whether I can be as defiant as Inhee was to the life her parents idealized for her, but at the least, I’m fortunate to be living in a generation where I can reverse the effects of narcism, sexism, and materialism. I didn’t see it at first, but after talking with Inhee, it came to me that things were progressing. The fact that a slightly older woman could be such an anomaly to Korean tradition made me realize that this secret torch, one which gave me permission to stand against the norms, was passed down to my generation. Much like Kathie Sarachild’s article about “Consciousness Raising,” talking with Inhee made me realize that women need to continue talking and listening to one another or else we won’t know where to pick off where the others had left us with. In the end, Inhee deviation from typical Korean society made me realize that my generation’s situation isn’t the worst and that if so much progress is noticeable in comparison to my generation, a lot can be done in the short time I have.

Mrs. Julie Annette Collins

Amber Alexander

WMST 10:10 MWF

Understanding the Words of Wisdom

When we were assigned this project, I started thinking about who I was going to interview. I didn’t think anyone in my family was feminist, I could not think of anyone starting pronoun debates at Thanksgiving or advocating women’s rights at Christmas. However, I was wrong; feminism isn’t that black and white. And how can I prejudge my family without even asking their opinion on feminism. So I decided to interview the female who means the most to me, my aunt Julie Annette Collins. I use the term “aunt” in biological terms, but she is more of a mother to me. Raising six children, two not even her own; she is the strongest woman I know. Now I want to delve into her background and see where her strength came from.

Julie was born on April 22, 1963 in Danville, Illinois. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio with her father who was a Colonel in the Air Force, her mother who is a very traditional and kind hearted woman, and her younger sister who is my mother. As I was interviewing her I was taken aback at how much I never knew about her struggles being a woman growing up. Until she was in the sixth grade, girls were absolutely forbidden to wear pants. They were only allowed to wear skirts and dresses. Being in Ohio where the weather is rather cold, children would walk to school in the snow. Seeing as girls couldn’t wear pants, girls could wear snow pants to keep warm only if they were under a dress and had to take them off in the bathroom before they could enter the classroom. While talking about her school days, I wanted to get an idea of the mentality adults had about the differences between boys and girls. My aunt said that girls were actually told that “they weren’t as smart as boys in math and girls could not do P.E.” To me it is almost comical how people back then really believed this. One concept Julie said was hard for her and other children her age to grasp was that girls were suppose to do and play with certain things, while boys had to do and play with separate things, but they weren’t allowed to play with each others toys or do things the other sex could do. For example, girls couldn’t join boys’ baseball teams or even play with them. Girls couldn’t play with hot wheels and boys couldn’t play with dolls.

One thing Julie hated was how girls had to dress so traditional and conservative. This is one thing I could sort of relate to with her. Parents are always trying to get girls to cover up and wear certain clothes, but my experience was nowhere near how serious as it was in the 60s and 70s for my aunt. Females had to wear long white gloves and hats to church. Everything was about etiquette; there was no “casual” dress. All clothes had to be a certain length, absolutely nothing revealing. Julie said her and her friends had to force their parents to let them wear bikinis or halter tops. My favorite comment during the whole interview was that Julie had to sneak out with her Dr. Scholl’s sandals if she wanted to wear them! Women weren’t even allowed to show their feet. Another example my aunt gave us about everything being old fashioned was that women were even restricted on what means of protection they were allowed to use during their menstrual period. Women were certainly not allowed to use tampons or pads that stuck to their underwear. They were only allowed to wear sanitary pad belts. They were big, thick belts women had to wear during their period and could only change the pad portion when necessary; they could never just wear the pad itself. This completely shocked me. I had never dreamed women could or couldn’t use certain sanitary means of protection during their periods. This just shows that women were controlled and oppressed in almost every way possible.

Back then, women were completely dependent on men. Moms relied on dads for income. Julie said that if a woman was divorced, “it was like they were abandoned. The only thing they could do was hope to get alimony. They couldn’t work because they didn’t have any job skills. It was pushed for women that college is not important, they just need to focus on getting married.” Women weren’t taught skills needed for work, they were only taught how to cook, clean, and take care of children. Today it is basically accepted for everyone to go to college. College is just taught to us to be the next step after high school. In my family, there is no question about not going to college or any other option; you are just simply expected to go. Me being a person so passionate and driven about my career and field of study, I cannot imagine just sitting here waiting for a guy to come along and marry me. Not having anything to look forward to except having kids and cleaning for the rest of my life is just scary and tragic to me.

Julie comments on how remarkable it is that it is now more acceptable to leave kids at home and go to work. This was never a possibility back when she was growing up, a woman would be terrified to even suggest such a thing. An observation my aunt made was that now women have to fight to stay at home. Many families do not have the luxury to not have both parents working to support the family. Julie is a brilliant woman, outstanding with computers and worked for many years. She is now thankful to have been able to stay at home and take care of her kids, which is a full-time job in itself. However she says she is dependent on her husband to bring in the money to support the family. Thankfully she does have the job skills to go back to work if necessary but wouldn’t trade staying at home with her family for anything. Continuing on the conversation about women having jobs, I asked my aunt what she thought about women being characterized by their sexuality and how that affected them succeeding in the business world. My aunt strongly believes that women should never be thought to be objects, especially sex objects. Men use these terms and ways of categorizing women to have control over women. My aunt says it is a huge step that we are now we are trying to see women for their brains, not their sexuality. However, Julie says we are still far from it because women get better jobs if they’re “pretty”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Being a broadcast news major, appearance is a large portion of it because it is mainly about being on screen. A current senior in Grady I have worked with is passionate about doing TV news, but is changing her major to radio because she doesn’t believe she will be able to make it anywhere in the television industry without being “pretty”.

Julie grew up when women’s rights were just taking off. She remembers marches for women’s rights and bra burnings. She remembers talks of the Feminist Mystique, some women saw it revolutionary while some women saw it as scandalous. I was very interested about a television show my aunt use to watch called ‘Maude’. It was a show on air from 1972-1979. My aunt said it was a real controversy at the time. She described it as a spin-off of the show ‘All in the Family’. “It talked about things that were simply not talked about in that day in age. It was the first show where a female had an abortion. Things like that were simply just not talked about then”, Julie speculated. We have certainly come a long way in that aspect because there is nothing people won’t talk about or put on television.

Ever since I was little, I can remember my aunt giving my sister and I talks about men and never really understood them until I was older. She would tell us to never trust or rely on men. That they won’t provide for you and we need to have something to fall back on. She would tell us to be smart and as strong as men everyday and to believe in ourselves, no one is better than you and there is nothing only a man can do. The most important thing is to get an education. She said that women need to look out for themselves so they don’t get “screwed” by men. Taking this class I have been able to interpret these words of wisdom in a new way. She gave us this advice to protect us, because she has seen what happens to women who do not look out for themselves. She has seen the dangers of the traditional male dominant way of thinking. Julie does not believe in a gender-free world, nor do I. We are working to change men’s idea of women and for men respect them, but that must start with women learning to respect themselves and to change their own idea of women first. We cannot let anything stand in our way of achieving anything we want, especially men! I believe we don’t talk about women’s rights as much as we use to or as much as we should. I would never have thought my aunt to be a feminist or that her words of wisdom were due to her understanding on the oppression of women without taking this class. This in itself scares me that there needs to be a serious increase in consciousness raising or the women of generations to come will not carry on this legacy many women sacrificed for. In the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!”