Or: “Why I am Taking a Break.”
Dear Feminist Bloggers 1,
I think it’s time I take a break. I don’t know if this will end in a complete “break up,” if you will, but it will be a definite break. I am not going to blog or post on Tumblr for 30 days, starting right after I post this, I am not going to be reading any blogs, (In fact, I am going to seriously clean up my feeds) and I am not going to post or read anything on Twitter or Facebook for at least 10 days. I’ve really enjoyed our time together, and you all have been invaluable to me as I’ve stumbled through a thesis using your brilliant ideas and writings, and as I’ve grown into my own definition of feminism.
But, that’s just it. My definition of feminism seems to be growing away a bit from the community’s as a whole, or maybe it just was never the same. I think there is a disconnect between me and my beliefs and many of yours, and I think that disconnect lies in the fact that I am a high school teacher, and I am not steeped in academia or living in the middle of a liberal city. I think it’s easy to have lots of highbrow discussions back and forth when you’re in the midst of many other people who have read the same articles as you or who have been to the same lectures as you (say, on a university campus, for example. Or in the middle of a big city.), or, perhaps, when you’re the one giving the lectures. But, sometimes, it’s very difficult to reconcile these academic ideas with the world in which I live and work. And I think me being out of grad school for a while has only helped to deepen this divide.
Don’t get me wrong; the work of the academics and lecturers is vital to the feminist movement. However, for every academic discussion about feminism (or any -ism, really), there isn’t necessarily a clear, practical application for those of us who are not on a university campus or in a big city, and who aren’t constantly surrounded with people who share our beliefs and opinions. And it is this disconnect that, in turn, causes a disconnect between belief sets.
Let me give you a concrete example of what I’m talking about. Anyone who’s spent any time in undergrad or graduate level classes knows the frustration (or perhaps this does not frustrate you) of reading scholarly articles after scholarly articles that do nothing but talk in circles around each other and add nothing to “real life” but more theory. This theory is vitally important, and change could not be made without it. But it is sometimes difficult – maybe impossible – to practice what is preached, so to speak.
Theory is often a one size fits all type of thing. You’re either going to buy it or you’re not. But there is very rarely any in-between. Take, for example, the idea floating around out there that feminists should not get married. Or that, if they do get married, it should be a simple affair because importance should be placed on the marriage, not the wedding, and “these bridezillas who care about nothing but their white dresses and perfect, expensive receptions, never stop to think about their marriages, and shouldn’t that be the important part?” (Yes. I saw that sentiment on a feminist blog a little while ago.) In my opinion, this just isn’t practical, nor is it correct. It seems based on various bridal shows one might see on TLC, but not based so much on real life. (And this surprises me a bit coming from a group of people who continually critique pop culture; why would such a group willingly buy into the idea that most brides are actually anything like what we see on reality TV and romantic comedies without critique or second thought?) OK, I’ll be the first to admit it: I may be hyper sensitive because I am having a rather large wedding, and we decided to do that because this is the biggest decision we’ve made in our lives so far, and it is the happiest we have ever been, and we wanted to share it with as many friends and family as possible. But we are also very focused on our marriage and getting our lives together right. We have conversations almost daily about our future. The wedding is a day. The marriage is a lifetime. And I think most brides really do know that.
But this is just one example. I have had feminist bloggers who don’t know the first thing about teaching try to tell me how to implement feminism in my own classroom, or tell me that I’m “doing it wrong” when it comes to teaching and feminism. I’m not trying to be elitist here, but I am saying that I do know my craft. And maybe feminist blogging isn’t my craft, but teaching most certainly is. And, as a teacher, I know that I cannot make radical changes or radical theoretical statements in my classroom. They just won’t go over well, and might even get me fired. Theory must be radical, but teaching cannot practically be so. Perhaps that’s where my philosophy of Small Strokes comes in: I am not trying to be radical in any way, but just trying to make small differences. Maybe one student this year might remember the discussions we had about feminism who wouldn’t have otherwise known about feminism at all. Maybe two students might see a boy treating his girlfriend badly and say something about it because of my influence. These things might seem small to you, but they are my ultimate success stories.
I think it is this that makes people look down on teachers quite a bit. (Do you know how many times I’ve been told I could do better than teaching? Or how many surprised and disdained looks I got when I told people in undergrad that, no, I wasn’t going on to grad school right away and, yes, I always wanted to teach?) We’re in a different sphere, making different changes in different ways than, say, the feminist blogosphere. But when I’m teaching, I feel I’m doing the most important thing I can do with my life. Sure, other people might be traveling the world, giving lectures or volunteering or studying (all extremely important activities), but I’m in the trenches. And I’m not leaving. And I won’t ever stop being an activist in my classroom. There has been a lot of talk circulating about the privilege embedded in blogging-as-activism, and that bloggers can just walk away from their writing and their activism – put it on hold for a bit while they take care of other things. I’m telling you right now, I cannot walk away from my activism, for, as soon as I do, I cease to be helpful to my students or to myself. I live and breathe activism in my classroom, and I see things that many feminist theorists may not. But when I blog from my perspective, often, I’m told that I’m wrong or didn’t say it right. (I didn’t know thoughtful opinions steeped in research or personal experience could be wrong.) Frankly, I just can’t handle it right now. Not to get too personal, but I’ve lost a lot of the confidence I felt I had previously, and the incessant criticism that is coming at me because of this blog is too much. And it’s hard not to see blog posts that probably have nothing to do with you, but indict something that you’re currently immersed in and not take it personally.
So, I’m going to take a break. I’ve seen how valuable this can be with Equality 101, and I now want to do it for myself. I want to relax a bit, let this all sink in, focus on the end of school and grad school, and – hopefully – refocus on this blog and Equality 101. I don’t know what this blog will look like afterwards, or what time commitment I will be promising to it, but I know that this is best for me.
So. Hopefully I’ll see you all on the flipside.
- There was some disagreement earlier about me using “feminists” as a general term to begin a previous letter about how upset I am becoming with the feminist blogging community (I shouldn’t add to the stereotype that all feminists feel this way, etc.). However, I am becoming more and more upset with the feminist blogging community as a whole as the days pass, so I am addressing this to you in general. This post will probably make some people very unhappy, but so be it. I need to get it out. If it doesn’t apply to you, then take it for what it is. If it does apply to you… read on. Or don’t. ↩