It was suggested that I interview a women studies (WMST) professor. Who better than Alison? I asked her a few questions and she was very kind enough to answer them.
What do you think is the ultimate takeaway people should have about feminism in college?
“That women matter. In general. I know it sounds trite and simplistic for a WMST professor to say, but at the end of the day, that’s what I think—women are not lesser than men, should not have laws or precedents set by men, should not be considered “smaller men” anatomically (read: medicine and science). Therefore, the takeaway is that in whatever field or pursuit a graduate takes, I think it’s important to think on the gender implications of the day-to-day decisions that go with your job(be it equal pay for equal work, or Family Medical Leave Act, or beneath-the surface-gender-expectations—like, “bring the coffee and donuts” stuff) and work to dismantle them, challenge them, and resist them. It’s a bitch to do on the reg, and it’s impossible to do all the time everyday, but do it when it matters most—to you, for the situation, in the context, etc.” I too agree that everyone who graduates from JMU should at least have the knowledge that women are important and just as equal as men.
What is the overall goal of JMU women studies?
Alison replied, “I think the overall goal is to include women into the mix—historically, contemporarily, and as a regular/habitual/instinctual mode. More specifically, I think the goal of the curriculum in WMST here is to interrogate the gender realities of the norms, power differential, resources, opportunities and contributions.” I think that Alison and many other WMST professors are on the right track in trying to create a well-balanced curriculum that focuses on women in a variety of contexts? Do you agree or disagree with this?
What is your favorite aspect of feminism?
This was a hard question to answer for Alison because many, “things about feminism get my goat (dunno why that phrase is sticking, but I’m going to honor it!)” She said that she loves the suffrage movement as if women such as Susan B Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Staton were progressive in helping women obtain equality and gain the right to vote. Alison would go on to state,
“I also love coming into feminist consciousness—personally or being present for someone’s journey. There is something powerful—a kind of igniting, scary, energizing, and foreign vibe that comes with seeing things from a feminist POV that you hadn’t seen that way before. (a couple of years ago I had such a moment when I got married and the “name discussion” came up—I didn’t want to think about it/talk about/make any decision, but as I actively avoided it, I started to realize that my surname—anyway you slice it is patriarchal—im either connected to my father or my husband, UNLESS I do something drastic like meld our names togetheBdfish/Fishkin or hyphenate, and the former of those was a LONG red-taped (read: expensive and time-consuming) battle in the state of VA and the latter was something my lazy bones didn’t want to do when it came to the everydayness of my name. I decided to “take my husband’s name” which was a point of contention with many of my perennial feminist friends. It allowed for a very real discussion of the politics, the red tape, and the everydayness of names to be had—and that discussion continues!)”
This part of the interview really spoke to me because the whole point of feminism and of ShoutOut! JMU is to raise awareness about women. Through ShoutOut! JMU I have made personal self-discoveries through lens of feminism lens and now realize that many aspects throughout one’s daily life are skewed by gender norms.
Do you think the JMU community is anti or pro feminist?
Alison responded that JMU is more feminist than anti feminist, but that just like anywhere else there is both resistance and support.
That was my final question I had for Alison. I hope that this interview with Alison gave you some enlightenment about what the ideology of feminism is and how feminism is taught at JMU. Through ShoutOut! JMU I have learned a lot about feminism and I expect that you have too. Let me know if you thought this interview was helpful, along with any other final comments you have as the semester concludes! Thanks for reading ShoutOut! JMU and good luck on finals!