Updated: Apr 29
The following is a discussion board post I made for a "Raging Women: Then and Now" course in response to these two questions:
+ Try to remember the first time in your life when you realized that there was gender disparity in society. That experience/situation might have directly influenced you or you may have witnessed its influence on someone else. Either way, think about that first experience and how it influenced you at that time.
+ Then think about how that first experience could be influencing your thoughts about gender disparity in the workplace today (in this case higher education) or in your future life as an academic (if that is the direction you think you will take your life).
+ An answer to this question requires some backstory. For most of my childhood growing up, I was a "tom boy" without knowing or hearing the phrase for quite awhile beforehand. In practice, this meant I hung out with almost all boys except for a few neighborhood girl friends that lived across the street.
If you can picture, my house was divided between my guy friends who lived behind my house, and the girl friends who lived in front. The boys had a swing set, would play rough and dangerous games, and liked video games. Whereas, the girls enjoyed playing house, gossiping, and only one of my best girl friends at the time liked some video games. It's safe to safe I was much more like the boys than I was like the girls.
With this understanding of the social relations as context, the first time in my life I can remember experiencing gender disparity was in my neighbor's backyard while we were playing some kind of game kids do. We were a group of maybe eight or nine neighborhood boys, aged from probably about 8-12ish, and playing some game that was basically like cops and robbers except we were all wearing some stupid dress up clothes like pirates and probably something normalized racist like Native American headdresses.
I don't remember what team I was on or anything but I do remember that the game was disrupted for me when one of the boys, who was probably middle or upper in the age range pointed out that, "I'm a girl, so what am I even doing here?" and everyone laughed while I stood there being humiliated. I'm almost positive I responded embarrassed with something like, "Well, all the girls don't want to do anything fun, so I don't want to hang out with them."
And just like that I had picked my "girl hating" camp. As we all know, like moving up in girl scouts, that stage grows into subtle and overt enactments of the prolonged "woman hating" camp, that many young girls (and all) choose to subscribe to in early life, before they learn what feminism is (if ever). If you're anything like me, you eventually looked back on this one regretful but informative past self, remorsefully and as stained proof that you, too, are a product of socialization.
+ Since the trajectory of my life has brought me down a drastically different path than I would have ever imagined then, I'm sure this primary calling out experience influenced and reflects itself in how I now react to gender discrimination today. I'm not daft or dumb to the still-thriving sexism in academe - I'm always going on about it. An aside to that is, of course, I am also a product grown from that little bird who observed and even dipped my own toes in masculine socialization; whether from watching those boys or my own Irish Catholic father at home.
So, as you all have bore (figuratively, and probably in some cases, literally) witness to throughout the duration of our in-person coursework, I now portray traditionally masculine qualities like talking frequently, boldly, and often times crassly. I also call men out when they're being sexist and any other type of discrimination I clock in a way that is typically frowned upon.
Little did you all know, oddly enough these dialectic choices of mine were not in fact a direct offshoot of that little girl on my neighbor's playground but were in fact a painstaking reversion of becoming who I have always wanted to be but was to afraid to within the last five years of my life. Even lesser did you know I just recently turned thirty, and was in fact the complete the opposite of myself at the start of my twenties. So this version of myself who I am actually proud of, that speaks up for herself and others is someone I have fought long and hard to become. It took me over two decades to be able to say I like who I am, but I can.
Lastly, as you all have seen: I'm known to talk. And as long as I'm not stepping on too many already bruised toes, my plan thus far is to just "keep on, keeping on" in academia. Although men still constantly speak over me, at least now today if anyone treats me subtly or overtly like, "I'm a woman, so what am I even doing here?" followed by everyone else laughing at my expense, I am confident that I am not afraid to tell them to go fuck themselves.