Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Clark: Interview [take 2]

hopefully this only posted once this time sorry!!!
More alike than I thought...
My mother, Renee Clark is a splendid example of the stereotypical southern conservative lady. I thought it would be great to interview her about her thoughts on feminism because I expected to find her views to be totally different than mine. I predicted that I could write about the difference in our views and it would come out interesting because even though she is the one who raised me, the two of us have very different opinions about lot of things. As I conducted my interview with Renee, who loves for me to call her by her first name because it makes her feel young again, I came to the realization that her views on issues dealing with feminism don’t dramatically contrast with mine to the extremity that I once believed. Certainly, there are a few differences, but the great thing about Renee, is that she proved to be a perfect example of how mainstream media molds and shapes society’s views towards feminism.
Born and raised in the Bible belt, Renee basically grew up in the church as her father served as a member of the church board as a well respected deacon. This is part of what shaped her into the ultra-conservative person that she is today. In fact, my grandparents still live in the large plantation-style home located across from the church that my mother grew up in. Renee still attends the same church today that she has for her entire life. She strongly supports the Republican political party. She proudly proclaims that she has “strong morals and values” in fact; she still scolds me for saying words such as freaking, and sucks. As I have grown up and formed my own opinions; Renee and I do not see eye to eye on a variety of issues therefore, I was anticipating her opinion to be interesting and also argumentative with mainstream beliefs. I also expected her to have an opposition to what I had to say when I shared my way of thinking with her. For example, the first time she ever found out I was “pro-choice,” she wanted to have a “serious” talk with me about this because it worried her. I unsuccessfully tried to explain her that “pro-choice” only means no laws against abortion, it simply gives an option. My argument, however, proved to be unsuccessful as Renee was not open to discuss the possibility of another view on the subject. I came into the interview with preconceived thoughts on what she would say. I expected her to say that she was not a feminist and that equal rights weren’t really a big deal to her. I expected her to claim to some biblical reference that says that a man should be the leader of the household and that’s what she stick to believing.
As I began the interview with my mother, my opinions quickly changed. Come to find out, she is not as set in her ways as I thought. Actually, her views aren’t that different from the mainstream views about feminism and just because she is ultra conservative woman, who is generally thought of as submissive, she wants equal rights for women. “Well, I’m not a bra burner,” she says as she laughingly, “I like my doors opened for me.” My first thoughts were oh mom, you’re so old south. But wait, “bra burner?” That takes me back to Faludi’s “Blame it on Feminism,” Where Faluidi discusses backlash and how the word “feminist” comes with a negative connotation. The backlash that occurred, and still occurs today, especially after the second wave is what my mother associates when the term feminism comes to mind. The media takes feminist ideas that women don’t just want to be seen as decorative ornaments and objects to the man’s subject and constructs those ideas into a radical bra burning anti-beauty and make-up woman that is threatening public order. My mother’s opinions of the meaning of feminism align with the mainstream view that the media is responsible for constructing. I did not expect to find this at all. What’s even more ironic is, however, is that prior to my enrollment in this class, if you’d have asked me the same thing my answer probably wouldn’t have been much different from that of Renee’s. Upon asking Renee about her association with feminists and the media she simply replied “Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres.” I couldn’t help but giggle, not at my mother, but at how this relates to Faludi’s argument when she talks about pop culture’s effect on feminism and how it manipulates the public’s perception. My mother reaffirmed to me that the public’s perception of feminism and the feminist movement is completely skewed. Women should not be forced to choose between freedom to define themselves publicly and private happiness. I agree with Faludi. I believe that women should be able to dress however they want and not be stereotyped. Just because a woman has a certain sexual preference does not make her more or less of a feminist than the next person. The sad thing is that in college, Renee, like many others in the world today never took a woman’s studies class and has never read or heard of the “Feminine Mystique.” She is not educated in feminist thought or agendas and therefore, she relies on the media as her source of information and allows the media to shape her opinion.
Surprisingly enough, Renee considers herself “somewhat a feminist, because she likes to have her doors opened for her.” When I asked her if she thought women have equal rights today, I was not really sure where she would go with the question Contrasting to my prior thoughts, she believes that women “do not have equal rights” and wishes someday that they “will be able to have equal rights”. I found it interesting that Renee actually cares whether or not women have equal rights because she is so conservative. She is a stay at home mom and does not work therefore claims that she has no experience with discrimination within a business community and in fact she even says that she “can not think of a time when she has ever been discriminated against at all” because she is a woman. One thing that she does though is that “there are certain jobs that men are better suited for.” When I asked her to give an example she stated that it is “peculiar to me when I see a woman out on the side of the road digging alongside those men.” I smiled at her response which then in turn prompted her to question if what she said was wrong or not. “No mom,” I replied. “You and I are just different.” Although she is my mother, our views when it comes to this comment are not the same. I believe that a woman is no different from a man, and with that statement, Renee agrees. She claims that “all men are created equal and that includes women.” At last, the biblical reference I was looking for! Personally, I do not believe that there should be jobs that are gender specific who is to decide what job is for a woman and what job is for a man? While on the subject of jobs that are gender specific I find it appropriate to add this little detail; as my mother was giving me her thoughts on the roadside worker my father chimed in from the other room: “there are a lot of people who think like your mother,” he said. “Think about the president of the United States, only men have ever held that position and to some people it seems ludicrous for a woman to try and step up and run for the position. A lot of people might not support that, people think that women are more incapable of making a clear decision especially when it comes to the military and war… people think women are only emotional.” This insight was quite true. At the end of Faludi’s article, she makes the comment that “women have their identity defined for them again and again by their culture and their men.” There is indeed coloration with certain jobs and gender. In the McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” she discusses privilege and how this privilege confers certain dominance because of race or sex. Because of society’s beliefs and history, men are more privileged than women and although things have slowly changed and we have taken baby steps towards equal rights, we still have a way to go. We’ve come a long way to even have the possibility that Hillary Clinton a woman could, indeed, become the next president of the United States. When I asked Renee about the situation she agreed that we still have a way to go, and “until a few more generations die out, that’s the way it will be, my mother is more set in her ways than I, and I am more set in my ways than you,” she said in a serious tone. “The way people are raised and the generation they grow up in really has a lot to do with it,” she said. I was astounded at the words that came out of my mother’s mouth. I was blown away with the fact that she acknowledges that times are changing and that there have been slow but progressive steps towards equal rights for women as well as the fact of the generational views, which I totally believe to be true!
Coming to this interview, I expected my mother and me to have a stark contrast in opinions. I did not expect to agree with her on anything that she said and I expected her to be oblivious to any aspect of feminism or women’s studies. While she may have different opinions on what jobs or suitable or unsuitable for a woman what she says truly makes sense and she admits and validates her opinions by admitting that the way in which she is raised and the demographic region in which she lives does effect her thoughts and opinions. I found it to be fascinating how some of her ideas correspond with some of the readings that we have had in class, and how although she does not realize it, my mother is a feminist. I did not realize it until this class that I, also, am a Feminist. Through this interview I was able to see firsthand how the media molds and shapes societies ideas, especially in my mother. On a positive note, my mother became more aware what a feminist truly is and just how great of a role the media plays in portraying feminism. I was able to explain to her the other things that the media does and how they exploit and objectify the female body. “Hmmm, “she said, “I’ve never really thought about it that way.” My interview with Renee can teach us all a great lesson, and that lesson is that knowledge is power. With the way that the media twists and turns things negative stereotypes are formed and those stereotypes are conveyed to the masses and greatly influence the way in which people think. Renee is a prime example of the fact that a majority of people don’t hate feminists, they simply fail to understand them because they are misinformed. I too, like my mother am guilty of the same preconceived connotations. I know that even though the feminist movement has come a long way, we still have a long way to go. The government has asserted equal rights for skin color, but what about equal rights for sex and gender? Through this interview I have reaffirmed what I have learned through my women’s studies class about backlash, un-equality and oppression and how the term feminist is not a negative term. I also discovered that my mother and I are not as different in opinions as I once thought. Who would have known?

1 comment:

Alex M said...

I hate for this to be your first comment, but it looks like you pasted your blog post 4 times in the box. Basically, its super long. Good stuff otherwise!