Friday, March 7, 2008

Donavon: Interview

Interview Blog

Although I am a male, the most important influential people in my life have all been women. The environment that I was reared in consisted of my grandmother, mother, and my aunt. Although all three individuals were active figures throughout my life, I chose to interview my Aunt Valerie to gain insight on her opinions and stance on feminism. I have watched the transitions that my aunt has made throughout her life and I am proud of the woman she has become. I also feel that she exemplifies what present day feminists stand for. According to class discussions of what defines a feminist, my aunt fits the definition because instead of letting others create a social construct for her, my Aunt Valerie sought the ability to define herself as a woman.

My aunt was raised in a single parent home in a majority black neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the late 1960s. She witnessed the constant strife that my grandmother endured to make sure that she and her siblings never went without. During my interview with my aunt, she constantly reiterated that she did not want to struggle like her mother did. She sought to not perpetuate the lifestyle that she observed in her environment. One way that Aunt Valerie felt that she could change her destiny was to find comfort and security in the form of a husband. At the age of twenty-one, she bore her first child with the hopes of securing love and devotion from a man. This plan, however, did not go as planned because, as Aunt Valerie says, she was, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” She continued to look for fulfillment through family life with a husband of fourteen years. It was at this pivotal moment that my aunt decided to terminate her search of identity and fulfillment through being an attentive wife and nurturing mother; she decided that in order to truly understand herself, she would have to discover herself through education. She then began to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Religion at Liberty University.

Although my aunt is not familiar with the book, The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan, I feel that she exhibits the overall theme of the novel; my aunt was a victim of a public and private sphere society and suffered from “the problem that has no name”. My aunt felt the repercussions of deviating from her personal goals and never felt “up to par” or a sense of prowess with her current position in life. While she did experience anxiety from this conflict, her situation, like most women of color, did somewhat vary from Betty Friedan’s. The prototypical woman that suffered from the “Feminine Mystique” was a white, educated, middle class woman. They felt that they lacked power and identity due to their inability to work. These women were forced to stay in the private sphere of society, while their husbands entered the workforce to bring home the monetary earnings. With minority women, this conflict sometimes differed since many women were forced into the public sphere to support their families. My grandmother is an example- she did not have time to focus on the lackluster of her home’s domestic work because she was too busy being domestic in someone else’s home. My aunt did not want to continue the cycle of my grandmother, so she created her own fate. Once my aunt sought self-fulfillment by means of pursing a degree, she fully realized that her prior ambitions of achieving the housewife belief system were ambitions of emotional void. It was not until she sought education did she realize that she was now a woman, or what she thought a woman should exemplify. This realization led my aunt to view herself as a feminist; always trying to elevate her current state and surroundings.

I have a strong sense of pride when I look at the progression of my Aunt Valerie. Even though my mother attended Albany University on a full athletic scholarship playing basketball, I see my aunt as being the only one in my family who attempted to complete her goals in obtaining a degree. As a result of my mother becoming pregnant with me, she was forced to drop out of school and never attempted to finish her education. I am proud that my aunt was able to identify her lack of independence in her previous conditions and proceeded to chase a path that would improve her life and the perception of herself.

My aunt has strong spiritual ties to her faith and God. Like many black women and women of color, she credits her lifestyle change to rededicating her life to God. Aunt Valerie says that she became more and more active in church to keep sight her goals. She also says African American feminist believe that many black women credit their success stories to a strengthening in their relationship with God and that this can be viewed from speeches made by Sojourner Truth to novels written by Zora Neal Hurston. Her desire to seek God’s heart became one of her goals in conjunction to fulfilling her purpose- driven life. During the interview, my aunt explained that she has “endured many ups and downs” but she is still steadfast in doing God’s will and attaining her religion degree at the university while maintaining her family life. Aunt Valerie tells me that she is still going through a spiritual process, but will not give up on what God has chosen for her to do.

My aunt thinks that it is time for a change and a new system that no longer limits the possibilities of women. She believes that feminists today are taking a more post feministic approach by placing more emphasis on personal growth and individual achievement instead of the “big picture”. She believes that other larger concerns are no longer discussed but still oppress the lives of many unfortunate women; she feels that there needs to be a rebirth of the feminism movement. My aunt also thinks that most women want a particular kind of activism: one that serves their personal and individual needs such as abortion reform, childcare or lesbian marriage. Although she agrees that these concerns are appropriate and just causes for protest, she believes those feminists are starting to have a more “capitalist” point of view now more than ever. Which means a interest in a important enterprise. She believes that some activist do not deem it necessary to consider other communities of women and may exploit the disenfranchised women to gain access to more power in the political arena. She feels that this phenomenon of “self interest” is taking over the feminist movement and that the sense of sisterhood and comradeship need to be reestablished before the movement can proceed any further.

The issue concerning how women are portrayed in society and in the media has totally changed the perspective of some men and is now used as a source that they use to base their level of respect that they show. This is becoming the new standard in America, but it lacks the influence of real women.

My Aunt spent several years trying to figure out what she wanted in life. Therefore, she struggled and gave up on her goals in becoming a successful person in life. She found herself in a decision making process, trying to decide what to do with her life. So she became more active in church. Though she encountered many ups and downs, more opportunities came available for her to pursue her education and receive her degree through an online course at Liberty University. While pursuing her goals, she can still be a mother, evangelist and wife to her family. She is still going through a spiritual process, but she will not give up on what God has chosen her to do.

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