And I don’t just mean that in a sleeping in until 11 and watching Netflix sort of way (although both of those activities are not without merit). This Gender Studies course is absolutely fascinating, and I’m very proud of my grades so far. In fact, I have found my niche in life. Should everything continue to go this well, my plan is to continue my studies and obtain a PhD. Someone asked me if I would use the title of “Doctor”, which is a question I seriously doubt men in academia are ever asked. If I do go on to get a doctorate, I’ll have spent 4 years on my Honours degree, 2 years on my MLitt, and 3 on my PhD. That’s 9 years of work. Of course I would use the damn title, and I’d do it with pride.
Anyway, to focus on the present, I am enjoying every minute of my course. This is the happiest and most fulfilled I have ever been. Education is a wonderful thing. The reading is always interesting, and class discussions are great. Our tutorials follow a discursive model, and what I love is that everyone talks to one another so respectfully. Everyone has something interesting to contribute to our lessons.
Even if people disagree (and we often do, because there are such a broad range of lived experiences in the room) it is always polite and informative - nobody is aggressive or tries to silence anybody else. The topics we cover - feminism, gender, sexuality - have always interested me. The reason I don’t engage with them more online, specifically on Tumblr, is because activists are often didactic at best, and rude at worst. I’ve seen people get angry about “tone policing”, but how you deliver your message is so important. Before this course, I was completely disinterested in intersectionality because the first place I came into contact with the theory was Tumblr, and it was not exactly encouraging. When preparing for my course, I read “Feminism is for Everybody”, one of the most accessible and engaging feminist texts, and my perspective changed.
In “real” life, people are not going to engage with someone who is overly confrontational, so why would they do that online? It makes no sense. I like that the goal is always to learn. SJW activists often say “It’s not my job to educate you”. That is so counter-productive, and also rather elitist. I’m aware that I am extremely privileged to be able to continue my formal education to this level. Not everyone has that opportunity. Knowledge shouldn’t exist solely in an academic setting. As far as I’m concerned, refusing to help someone become informed about any issue tied with liberation or equality is the polar opposite of activism.
The divide between feminist academia and activism is a problem. On one hand, I don’t want to contribute to that divide. On the other, academic feminism within the UK is very white. We don’t have a bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, or Alice Walker over here. 1 in 6 British people are not white - I’m not sure how that figure breaks down for women. This isn’t exactly reflected in academia. With my future research, I’d like to redress that balance. Feminism - both on academic and activist levels - needs the voices of black women to be heard. And I want to be one of those voices.