Friday, March 7, 2008

Interview Blog Post

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 that have are feminist or have seen firsthand what goes on in the world that allows us to deal with feminist issues. Feminism refers to the belief that women have been historically subordinate to men as well as 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. Mrs. Smith is an administrative associate and attends a Christian Church. 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 ladylike qualities and habits such as wearing lip stick and carrying pocketbooks. Now that I know exactly what feminism is and what feminist 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 made me think of all the women I have read about and that stood up and fought for women’s rights like 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 is years ago when she worked at a bank. She and a man that worked at the bank with her did the exact same job but because she is a woman she did not get paid the same amount of money as the man. She went on to express that she was better for the job because she was more personable and she meet and communicated with people well, 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 then 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 want. 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 have an issue that they have to deal with and that’s, what I think, makes women’s studies so great, It unites women because in some way, we all have a struggle and want. 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 game them every penny
That I’d saved
And they game 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. When she made up her mind to go to the abortion clinic she made the visit. Before she could walk into the clinic 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 if 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 so 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”. The summary of it is in 1989 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 whether or not men 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 baby 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 that will 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.

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