I’m a Feminist… now what?

 

More often than not, I’m wondering if I’m doing “enough” as a Feminist.

I’ve taken on the position of advertising for the Chapman Feminists and my decision to minor in Women’s Studies are activities that show my interest in feminism. But I think about the women, in past and present, that have brought progress to the women’s movement. Literature is often a powerful medium as seen with published books and DIY zines. Protests have also been effective at raising awareness. Most recently, Slutwalks have gained a lot of attention towards rape culture and sexual violence.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I have not protested nor attempted to write a book about my thoughts on Feminist theory or women’s history. But I don’t simply sit in silence when someone says a sexist joke or misuses the word ‘rape’.

Whenever I think about what more I could do and what I should be doing to raise awareness or contribute to women’s issues, I usually just tell myself that I’m more aware than the majority of my peers in college and that I’m doing what I can do with the options I have.

But that sense of complacency just perpetuates the current system. It’s an endless cycle in my mind.

Yesterday, my Women Studies professor posted this speech from the SCHOOL OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO commencement address:

“The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Behaving Badly (Which You Have to Do Most of the Time in the World as We Know It)”

1. Be a loser. The world of art and design doesn’t have to be an Olympics where a few win and everyone else is forgotten.

2. Be impatient. Don’t wait for a stamp of approval from the system. Don’t wait around to be asked to dance. Claim your place. Put on your own shows, create your own companies, develop your own projects. To steal a phrase from the Dali Lama, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, Be the artworld you want to take part in.

3. Be crazy. Political art that just points to something and says “this is bad” is like preaching to the choir. Try to change people’s minds about issues. Do it in an outrageous, unforgettable way.

4. Be anonymous. Anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. So join that long line of anonymous masked avengers, like Robin Hood, Batman, and of course, Wonder Woman.

5. Be an outsider. But even if you end up working inside the system, act like an outsider. Look for the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair, then expose it.

6. Lead a double life. Be a split personality. Be two, three, four, five artists in one body, like me.

7. Just do one thing. If it works, do another. If it doesn’t, try it another way. Over time, we promise you it will all add up to something effective and great. Don’t be paralyzed because you can’t do it all right away.

8. Don’t make only FINE art.

9. Sell out. If people start paying attention to you, don’t waste time wondering if you’ve lost your edge. Take your critique right inside the galleries and institutions to a larger audience.

10. Give collectors, curators and museum directors tough love. Make sure that museums cast a wider  net and collect the real story of our culture.

11. Complain, complain, complain. (But be creative about it).

12. Use the F word. Be a feminist. Women’s rights, civil rights, and gay, lesbian and trans rights are the great human rights movements of our time. There’s still a long way to go.

13. Be a great ape. In 1917, Franz Kafka wrote a short story titled A Report to An Academy, in which an ape spoke about what it was like to be taken into captivity by a bunch of educated, intellectual types. The published story ends with the ape tamed and broken by the stultified academics. But in an earlier draft, Kafka tells a different story. The ape ends his report by instructing other apes NOT to allow themselves to be tamed. He says instead: “break the bars of your cages, bite a hole through them, squeeze through an opening…and ask yourself where do YOU want to go?”

This list, which I reduced to its main points, made me realize that I can’t expect from myself or anyone else a huge movement or change. A lot of the change that needs to happen begins with awareness and just noticing the flaws that most choose to ignore because it’s comfortable to stick with the status quo.

And I realize that I can’t just ‘raise awareness’, but I should try my best to inspire others to work towards change. A lot of progress began with ideas and questions that then changed history. I hope I can contribute to the progression of my generation in some way.

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