Education is Key: A Personal Narrative

This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in a discussion of feminism with a large group of friends. The catch is this friend group consists entirely of Christian Hipsters who, for the most part, don’t know anything about feminism! How did this real-life, sitcom-like experience happen? All because a few of us decided we wanted to make a difference.

So for the past few semesters I’ve been writing for ShoutOut, and along the way I’ve had some wonderfully insightful conversations with friends and family alike. Of this friend group only a handful know of my engagement with this blog and my feminist views, and share similar opinions. We’ve all talked and shared stories throughout the years of our experiences through our feminist lenses, but always privately between other like-minded friends.

We aren’t ashamed of our views, but we do realize the certain stigma and weight it carries among our generation. Additionally, adding the faith component makes this feminism cocktail extra spicy when people instinctively assume all feminists are pro-everythingtheChurchisn’t. Yeah, so the intersectionality is fun and something we take into account.

However, we were talking one day and realized there shouldn’t be an issue with raising feminism up among our friends. Why shouldn’t we? It would open great dialogue and sensemaking within our close-nit culture we have here at school. It would be great! Then one of members realized his senior Justice Studies thesis would be perfect for this, and sure enough the next day we were all invited to a Facebook event on discussing ‘the F-word.’

He invited 90 people and the night of, over 40 showed up and crammed into the living room and adjacent hallway of his house. The precursor to this was a small informal survey he created and published a link to on the Facebook event:

First, could you please fill out the survey that corresponds to the gender you identify with. It is only 9 questions and it is anonymous! The questions are sensitive, so I completely understand if you are not comfortable answering. However, it pertains to violence that occurs more often than many of us think and it needs to be addressed.

While he led the conversation, it was very informal and we understood that it was supposed to be a safe space for dialogue and engagement. We discussed the results of the surveys and came to the conclusion that we all identify that the subjects mentioned in the survey were important to discuss. Cue big reveal – they were all feminist topics of interest! Collective gasp!

Throughout the rest of the night we basically progressed through what you’d expect in a feminism 101 class: it’s about equality for all, this is a brief history, this is how it’s interpreted today, these are feminist interest areas, and this is how men can be apart of feminism.

That last part was key because over half of the guests to the event were men (awesome btw!) and in general didn’t have a clue about feminism. So when we had a simple discussions like, “how do men prevent potential assault; how do women prevent potential assault” it had a lasting impression and touched on key subjects like privilege and lived-realities.

At the end of the night we wrapped up by all acknowledging that small actions have larger consequences in sustaining patriarchy. At the same time, small actions like acknowledging privilege in situations can help us all grow as a community and beyond.

I wanted to share this little narrative because I believe small actions can have a larger impact on society. That night we planted the seeds of feminism in many people, knowing full well they may bare fruit or not. But rather than embrace inaction because of possible uncertainty or ridicule, we decided to brave the waters and stand for our values. To my personal amazement, in the past week alone I’ve already noticed a change in many of my friends who attended the event, and I’m encouraged to see how this change evolves over time.

I wanted to share this little narrative because I want to encourage you all to talk to others too. Dismantle the patriarchy through thoughtful dialogue and engagement. Educate others and slowly undo whatever misconceptions people may hold. Small actions really do have lasting impressions.

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