Feminism Is Everywhere
Catherine Conard Drahota, 28Des Moines, IA
It's fair to say that I've always been a feminist. As a young child, I spoke up for those that were too frightened to do so themselves, and sometimes I talked back to teachers that made biased remarks in class. Remarks meant to illuminate prejudice eventually led to the "suggested transfer" to public education, much to the dismay of my parents and my extended Catholic-school-loving family. For me, however, it solidified part of my core essence. I had found riot grrrl and like-minded individuals not scared of their own voice, thoughts, and abilities.
It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t me just being some rebellious teenager stuck in a conservative Midwest city; there are actual problems in how the system treats people. All sorts of people, but especially people who are perceived as aberrations of some arbitrarily contrived “norm.” I never really called myself a feminist, though, because I was a riot grrrl that fought back with drumsticks and an acerbic wit.
It wasn’t until years later that I thought about what I could DO with this information, and realized my passion was in creating dialogue and knowledge around issues related to marginalized groups. Using this passion as a driving force, I found myself in a Ph.D. program analyzing human thought and behavior. Eventually I realized I was perpetuating the status quo in a system that mirrors the oppressive nature of society as a whole. Dealing with everyday sexism and prejudice for being a (gay) woman in a science field that was too hard for humanities but too soft for the hard sciences wasn’t getting me, or my goals, anywhere. I was reducing humans to numeric codes, thereby dehumanizing every aspect of them in the process, and being stigmatized while doing so.
Feminism got me through this realization that it is essential to remind yourself of the humanity in life every single day. It has helped me see that discourse and advocacy is where I can make the most impact, instead of in a windowless lab where I don’t know anyone’s story or background. Once I realized I was a feminist more than a scientist, the flame I felt while discovering riot grrrl in my youth rekindled.
Creating safe spaces for people to generate ideas, ask questions, and learn is what is most valuable, not just for our young women but for our young men too. This is essential for everyone regardless of their social identity. Feminism is not a dirty word. It is not an insult, nor is it isolated to very specific subsets of humanity. Feminism is everywhere, all the time, with people that have the voice to speak up and within those that don’t yet have the courage to do so. It is interdisciplinary, complex, and beautiful.
Feminism can help bring people together and better the world by chipping away at the institutionalized forms of prejudice many people see daily. These inequalities eat away at our moral and social fiber and normalize daily forms of prejudice and discrimination. Through the lens of feminism we must continue to discuss and challenge these norms, to create in anyway possible, and to come together as feminists, thinkers, and humanists.