Monday, December 19, 2011

Star of Davida Essay Contest Honorable Mention: Lisa B

This essay by Lisa B is one of the honorable mentions of the Star of Davida Essay Contest, answering the question "How has feminism changed your life?"


Realising that she has always been somewhat different from other people in her attitude and determined to raise her children other than the way she and many of her friends had been brought up, my mother read every book on children's psychology she could get hold of before my birth and discovered her passion for the Swiss psychologist Alice Miller. Even though Miller has never been explicitely classified as a feminist, her work has been praised by several feminist scholars; the probably most important (and feminism-related) point my mother gained from reading her books was about gendered socialisation - and this was basically the first means by which feminism changed my life.

From an early age onwards, my mother ensured that I wasn‘t pushed towards a typically 'girly' way of being, so for example she forbid my all too traditional paternal grandmother to put me in flouncy pink dresses and never bought me one of these crying, puking baby dolls that ALL of the other girls from kindergarten and primary school had as she believed they were only made to prepare little girls for their allegedly natural role as mothers (I never asked for one anyway). Nevertheless, she would let me wear dresses if I wanted to and did not stop me from playing with my Barbies (which my younger brother did as well). My mother simply wanted that neither of us had to meet the expectations of certain gendered behaviour, so my brother and me enjoyed doing 'boy' and 'girl' stuff equally much during our childhood.

Growing up, I wasn't aware of how this education had shaped me - I just realised that I differed from most people/girls my age in terms of behaviour and thinking as I questioned a lot of things others took for granted. I came across the concept of feminism in my early teens which was quite a revalation as the reading I did helped me to articulate my views. That didn't earn me a lot of friends and I was frequently confronted with prejudices, but it lead to me finally having a steady character and more sophisticated opinions.


I am the result of my past. I have indeed inevitably changed over time, but many things have remained the same, even though I experience them differently, more consciously now. Wearing boys clothes isn't just a matter of comfort and taste anymore: it is a political statement. Speaking openly about my opinions, including feminist views in discussions when appropriate and directly addressing the day-to-day unfairness one encounters has become self-evident for me. And spending my money on feminist literature gives me a much greater feeling of satisfaction than buying clothes with it or wasting it on a night out. I believe that these little everyday things make the influence feminism has had on me even more visible than obvious actions like joining the feminist society of my uni; they seem to be a mere, yet logical result of my personality's changes (now that sounds highbrow!).

As Cultural Studies are part of my degree, I'm very lucky to be given the opportunity to specialise within gender related issues and write my assignments about it. The research I‘ve done so far was not only highly interesting, but made me think about even more about what feminism actually is and inhowfar I can identify with it. There is still so much to discover and my currently biggest wish is to deepen my knowledge with a postgraduate degree in Women's/Gender studies at Oxford or Cambridge.


While there isn't much to say about the present, there is even less to say about my future. Que sera sera. Will I get into Oxbridge for a Women's/Gender studies degree? Will my awareness of the importance of gender issues both in history and current every day life give me a competitive edge as a journalist or will prospective employers dismiss me and my views as being too critical/unpleasant/demanding for their output and its consumers? Will I shake up the mainstream media with my contributions or end up writing for a specialist feminist publication? I don't know. But there is one thing that I do know for sure: As long as gender matters, I will keep my interest in it and remain ambitious to challenge any stereotypes, inequalities and discriminative attitudes in its respect that make life difficult for anyone on this planet.

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