As of this writing (fall 2008), I have been alive for just over 21 years. Prior to the fall of 2005 (i.e. my freshman year of college) I had, effectively, no political consciousness.
I thought I did, of course. But in retrospect...not so much. Given that my "politics" have done an effective 180 since then, one might be inclined to accuse me of simply bashing my young self's conservative leanings. That's not the case. I knew nothing. My privilege and relative ease of growing up allowed me to imagine that people with problems were just whiners. This was enough to cause me to self-identify as conservative. I never did research. I didn't watch the news. I barely listened to my parents - and when I did, I just parroted their words.
Trust me. I had no political consciousness.
So then I got to college. At my school, all first-year students (with some exceptions for AP credit that I wasn't able to apply for one reason or another, despite having the credit... I'm still bitter, can you tell? ^_^) are required to take a course called, simply, "Perspectives." There are approximately 40-50 sections of this course, each taught by a different professor, on the topic of their choice. They teach about this topic from...you guessed it...different perspectives. :)
My course was called "The U.S. and Iraq: What's Going On?" We watched a variety of documentaries, had one of the ROTC captains on campus who'd been to Iraq come talk to us, read a TON of primary sources, etc, in addition to the requisite background in what Islam actually is, Iraq's history, and so forth.
It was basically the first time I'd ever been asked to think critically about current events. My position on the Iraq war, which had previously been something to the effect of, "But Saddam is evil, so it is good that we're deposing him," began to come around to, "Holy shit, we're a bunch of bastards for doing this."
Anyway. Political consciousness development is put on hold until the following spring. Then something really shitty happens.
Every year, the campus pride group, Keweenaw Pride, puts on a Pride Week (which is separate from the national one, so as to fall during the academic year). Part of their publicity for the event is to make sidewalk chalk adverts of all their events - they go up all over campus and are very colorful and fun and the group members have a great time making them. Well, the last night of Pride Week, someone or a group of someones decided it would be a really good idea to go around in the dead of night and make their own chalkings.
I don't want to repeat the words. If you want to see the hatred, venom, and death threats that were found all over campus the next morning, you can view them here at the KP website.
The university president sent an announcement via email to the student body with some of the pictures included, asking for help in finding the perpetrators (they were never caught).
I got back from my last class on Friday. We'd just finished watching a movie that had made me very emotional (some war movie set in Australia starring Mel Gibson. Of course the sweet, innocent young dude who is Mel's "mate" is the one who dies in the war - ARGH. Private Rice, I hope you and Beloved both come home).
I opened my email and, for the first time in my sheltered life, was confronted with the true hatred that oppressed groups experience. I was floored and shocked and physically sickened. I sobbed into my then-boyfriend's shoulder for a good five or ten minutes. I couldn't believe it. That same afternoon, I joined Safe Place:
The GLBT Safe Place Program strives to reduce homophobia and heterosexism on Michigan Tech's campus. Through education, advocacy, and awareness, the program contributes to an open campus climate that is safe and accepting of all members of the University community.
What is the Safe Place Program?
The Safe Place Program is a campus-wide program that offers a visible message of inclusion, acceptance and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in the University community.
And then, once I'd joined and received my membership materials and the sticker for the door to show that my room was a bonafide Safe Place, my political consciousness was again put on hold. School ended, I worked at a bank for the summer, came back to school, got all eco-conscious for a while (failing miserably to live a lifestyle even remotely adherent to the ideals - go me for hypocrisy). Nothing happened for me until the spring of 2007.
The writing help center on campus was giving away a bunch of old books. In the pile on the floor outside the center, one old green book caught my eye.
Man Made Language, by Dale Spender.
Despite choosing to go into physics, I've always had a connection with and soft spot for grammar/language/words/spelling. So I picked the book up and started flipping through it. And I brought it home with me.
I kept reading. And reading. I felt, amidst the skepticism and grammarphile-joy, a growing sense of shock. And anger. Righteous anger.
A sense of, "Hey, yeah, I'd totally noticed that guys DO talk a lot. Why the hell did I fall for the women-talk-too-much trope?"
Shortly thereafter, from out of the blue, a friend referred me to the Girls Read Comics - And They're Pissed Bingo Card, complete with handy-dandy links to really freaking well-done explanations of the problems with the "phallacies."
That was my "click" moment.
I exploded. I spent the whole summer just devouring the feminist blogosphere. I moved from Girl Wonder to the All Girl Army, to Feministing and Feministe. From there to Pandagon, and then I Blame The Patriarchy!
A year later, I am in charge of a feminist newsletter, a regular obsessive reader of Shakesville, Shapely Prose, The Angry Black Woman, and everyone else you see over there in my sidebar.
Feminism changed my life.
It was a long journey to get here. All those seemingly disparate events adding up to prepare my mind for feminism. For a set of concepts - privilege, oppression, influence of societal pressure and how to analyze it - that, without that sequence of events, I would have never registered. I would have put my fingers in my ears and said, "La la la! I can't hear you!"
Because this shit ain't easy.
It takes thought and passion and active participation.
I am an angry feminist.