Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog For Choice Day

It's National Blog For Choice Day!

I used to get this comment in my student evaluations – “dr. delagar needs to stop using the classroom as a platform for her feminist agendas” – that comment or some variation on it, nearly every semester, which was a puzzle to me, because, you know, I didn’t use the classroom to push my feminist agenda, even though I was a feminist, and so wanted the feminist revolution, and how I longed to smack the patriarchy in the head, oh sisters, what did I want? JUSTICE! And when did I want it? NOW!

But that would be wrong, I believed, in those days, because the classroom was not mine. It belonged, I thought, to the students, and I should keep my agenda from it, I should leave the student to speak, and let his issue be the issue, and I should not direct…

Well, you see the problem, I’m guessing. Shows up in that pronoun as clearly as it appeared in my evaluations.

When I made myself invisible, I made myself an object of scorn. Did I make my anti-woman students (the ones who hated women, who wrote those evaluations) happy? No, I did not. I only showed them I was an object they could safely hate. And they knew I was a feminist – how did they know it? Well, I was a woman standing up and speaking. Ergo! And since I was a woman standing and speaking who seemed weak, they could safely cut me down to size, couldn’t they?

By not speaking, all I did was give them the room.

Who else was in that room? Who did not get to speak, because I gave the room to the haters? Because I shut up and ceded the room to the patriarchy?

What voices did not get heard?

Now I speak. Now I say, on day one, or close to it, “I’m a big old feminist, in case you haven’t noticed that yet.”

I remind them, “Here are my biases. Here is where I stand. This is my ground.”

I also say, “Your ground might be that. Or it might be there. Our job is to find common ground, a place where we can hear each other. That’s what this room is about.” I make it my business to build a room where we can hear. I do that by speaking, and by shutting up.

This is what choice is about: giving people choices.

This is what the anti-choice people won’t do – don’t want. They claim to be pro-life, but read what they actually say. They want to take away choice – all choice, not just our ability to choose an abortion. They’re after our ability to choose birth control, too, and how we live, and even what we wear – even what name we call ourselves. Women, they say, are this. Must be this. Have to be this. If you don’t like it, they say, take it up with God, not me. No room for choice in (their) God’s world.

That leaves no common ground, no place to build a common ground, no room for compromise or speech.

I have about fifty reasons why I am pro-choice, but the main one is this one: the ability to control our own bodies, which is the main target of the anti-choicers, is what has allowed women to be in the classroom. It has allowed us to be educated. Education gets us through the gate to power. Without power, we have no voice.

I’m pro-choice because women need to be able to speak or we can never have a just world.

And what do we want?

3 comments:

Kelley Bell said...

JUSTICE! And when did I want it? NOW!

Rosie said...

I think it's excellent that you model feminism for your students. Undergrads, particularly, need that exposure. You may be changing more minds that you are aware of...just by being who you are.

Bardiac said...

Superb :)