Living Feminist in a Non-Feminist Community

3 May

No matter where you live, it can be hard being a self-identified feminist. It’s even harder, though, when you live in an area where sexism is the norm and is accepted. That’s where I live. My college campus follows suit. It didn’t become so clear until a professor said at club meeting (a club that promotes diversity on campus) that it isn’t even a safe place to be out. We don’t have any kind of gay-straight alliance or LGBTA group. There is also no women’s group, organization, or center on campus.

That’s where I come in. It didn’t become quite so evident to me until this semester how much a women’s center is needed, as a safe place for women to go with any problem they might have. It would be a place with peer counselors who are there just to listen. We wouldn’t be there to solve problems, but to point people in the right direction (toward a doctor, a book, a counselor, etc.) to solving their problems for themselves. A couple of my friends and I are working on this massive undertaking now, and I will keep abortion gang and its readers updated on the progress and (hopefully good) news as this project continues.

This is how change happens. It is a slow, arduous process, but I’ve already seen the results of work like this. This February I directed my county’s first production of The Vagina Monologues. People were worried. People were scared. People thought what we were doing was vulgar. This isn’t an area that accepts change easily. But I had a passionate and dedicated cast who felt the need and urgency to tell the story of women. Amazingly, we got only good comments after the show. We’ve even heard of people who, next year when we do it again, would like to come because they heard about it.

I feel like more needs to be done, though. It’s hard feeling so passionately about something that is so difficult to get accomplished or to effectively get the message out about. This is the kind of place where if you said you are pro-choice you might hear utterances of “baby killer!” You need to have a thick skin when you are active in the reproductive justice movement, no matter where you live. I’ve learned that. I’ve also learned that I can’t feel bad when I say that I support a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy when I might know women who are trying to get pregnant themselves. It might be difficult living where I do, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that makes me want to work even harder.

When I sat down to write this post about working to create a feminist community, I thought I had it covered. I have done things in the past and am continuing to work on it. But now that I look at it in front of me, I see we have a long way to go. I’m willing to take on the challenge. The most important thing one can do is just talk. Talk about your ideas, your beliefs, what you support and why. Engage peers and your community in your discussion and open a dialogue that might make some people uncomfortable. If a conversation is easy to have, it might not be the right conversation.

My friends and I have been working toward creating a feminist- and woman-friendly community. It isn’t something that is easy to cultivate, but it’s a process of cultivation that is long overdue.

I’m currently reading Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles for a class. In the explanatory note from the first edition, he wrote, “If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.” It’s my new motto for my line of “work.”

4 Responses to “Living Feminist in a Non-Feminist Community”

  1. Paula Johnston May 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    I appreciate your efforts in the community. I have been on the political sidelines here and I am interested in becoming more vocal. Thank you for the Vagina Monologues in February. The program was a cultural and olitical event that this area desperately needed.

  2. Nicole G. May 3, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    Thank you, Paula, that means a lot! It certainly would not have been possible without the support of certain people at PSF and all of the women (and a few men!) involved.

  3. Shayna May 4, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    It’s definitely a challenge to actively and verbally support the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy when you’re face to face with someone who is trying to get pregnant, or who just had a baby that will call you Aunt ____, but the truth is, being pro-choice, and being able to rationally explain why that is isn’t radical or crazy, and shouldn’t be offensive. Because that baby will benefit from women having safe access to abortions in the future.

  4. Nicole G. May 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    You are exactly right, Shayna. Like I said in my first post (My Pro-Choice Click Moment), I’ve just recently come to terms with the fact that I am unapologetically pro-choice, which is why I was so drawn to the idea of abortion gang and jumped at the chance to write for it. I want other people to stop feeling (even a little bit) guilty about being pro-choice, like I might have felt when I first came to the realization that I support abortion rights.

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