Friday, March 7, 2008

Adams: Interview

It Was A Different World
For this interview I chose to learn more about someone I just recently met but have grown very fond of, Ms. Lynn Smith. At first when I came to interview her and told her what we were going to be talking about, she gave me a questionable look and a laugh and said “Meghan, why would you come to me? I do not know what feminism is, I am not taking women studies. That is what you are learning.” I got a little worried after this comment thinking I might not be able to get enough feedback from her, but she surprised us both with some entertaining conversation. Ms. Lynn grew up in Mississippi with an older brother and parents that were very supportive, but thought that there was a certain place for woman. Not only being a girl but also African-American, Ms. Lynn faced many obstacles in growing up. During the interview she drew back on memories of middle school P.E. class, sitting in the bleachers wanting to go out and play with the boys, but instead sat with the girls that talked about trivial middle school drama. She chose to sit on the sideline “out of fear of being called a tomboy or trying to catch the eye of some scraggly boy.” She did mention though that living in a rural part she and her brother entertained themselves by playing basketball, baseball, and football. Ms. Lynn’s upbringing seemed to prompt her desire to major in Health and Physical Education.
Today Ms. Lynn works as an athletic advisor at the University of Georgia. In the beginning of her career Ms. Lynn noted that college athletics had a clear divide in the role of women and men. Administrative rolls tended to be dominated by males and with her drive that is where she wanted to be. Talking about how she came to be where she is today she said “Ironically, I was very inspired by Damon Evans. As the first African-American Athletic Director in the Southeastern Conference, he is a pioneer for African Americans. That is what I want to be, not only for African-American women, but all women who aspire to work in a field that is dominated by men.” She is an example of a woman that has hopes of helping other women through what she has accomplished.
The idea of supporting women’s rights and the fighting for equal opportunity for women, that is what feminism is to Ms. Lynn. With a side comment on feminism today she said, “I think it is a shame that we are still fighting this battle in 2008. I think that women throughout history have proven that we are just as qualified as a man.” After she said that I stopped and thought about the comment she made and agreed completely with it. I also think that it is a shame that we are still fighting this battle, I feel that with what women have already proved, it should be enough justification that we are able to compete with men and get things accomplished that we feel are needed. Is Ms. Lynn a feminist? Yes and no she informed me. “I am not radical by any means,” but she does support women who do things outside of the box. She brought up Hilary Clinton and running for president, and how she feels that it is beyond what most people can comprehend right now, but even if she does not win that she is a role model for women and young girls everywhere. Ms. Lynn smiled after talking about Hilary and said “if I have a little girl, I am going to empower her to dream big and not be limited to what society thinks are roles for women.” I think that that idea is very true, Hilary just helps to prove it on a larger scale, and if I have a little girl one day I will stand by that idea.
Ms. Lynn feels that oppression is present in many different forms today including racial, gender, and even sexual preference. She believes and I agree that there will always be some type of oppression, so long as there is a group of people holding most of the power in society. When I asked Ms. Lynn if she felt oppressed she stated, “As an African-American female, I definitely feel that some people look at me as inferior. Our society has come a long way, but I still believe that there is a long road ahead.” I was brought back by her response, here is a strong educated women that has followed her heart and has helped so many people yet, she feels as though people look at her as inferior. I feel as though people should look at her and feel inspired that she has followed through in what she set out to accomplish, and that is to be a successful and inspiring woman.
The media has played a role in shaping today’s society, but then one can ask the question, what kind of people are we that we can be so easily manipulated by what we see and hear. Ms. Lynn notes that the media has a job to do, but that we can make a conscious choice to not buy into what they are feeding us. “We are never going to get rid of the media sexually exploiting women and not viewing women as powerful, assertive, and independent – unless they are calling them bitches. It seems to go back to the oppression question of who has the power in society, men.” After the point of women being portrayed in the media, we began to discuss the roles that female stars play in feminism, and whether it is a positive roll. We came to an agreement that you can find positive in almost everything. We talked about how there is probably some little girl that idolized the Spears sisters, but now looks at them and says I do not want that for my life. Then there is Oprah, who has always been an inspiration. She tends to understand the role that she has been put into, and realizes that all women have different roles and she tries to uplift all women in what they choose to do. The images that the media portrays came up again. Ms. Lynn described that to her many images in the media hyper-sexualize women, but for those women who chose that, it is empowering to them. “I don’t think that you can say women should have the right to do what they want to as long as it’s for the good of all women. To me it’s degrading and I would never do that, but I can’t judge anybody for a decision that they make.” She also brought up the housewife situation. Being a stay at home mom would not be as fulfilling to her as it is to some women, so she chooses not to do that. Society today seems to have platforms that women must stand on for the roles that they choose to play, and it seems unfortunate in a way.
To Ms. Lynn feminism has been spread and encouraged by many people. When asked who has had a major influence in the activism of feminism she thought for a moment and then said that she feels “every women who has ever encouraged and empowered another women or young girl has played a major role in the activism.” It is not just what is in the published books that we read or the things that we hear about it, teachers, mothers, and personal female role models in everyday life all play a key role. Ms. Lynn thinks or at least hopes that she has played a small role in encouraging women to think big and not be intimidated by the act that the role you choose to pursue may not be one traditionally held by women. Ms. Lynn also said that she would like to think that since her working in college athletics and wanting to be an athletic director it can inspire young women to go for their dreams and not be held back by societal norms or pressures of a dominant figure.

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