Introduction to Feminism* 02-01-2014

We are called to a ministry of reconciliation. -2 Corinthians 5:18

When I was a senior in High School, my sister who is three years older than me, was enrolled in college, where she became a self-declared Feminist. This was largely a result of Feminist Courses she was taking at The University of Connecticut. I remember a subsequent heated argument that my sister got into with my dad during Christmas break, which ended in tears.

My sister and I have always been close due to the fact that my family traveled a lot during my growing up years. And when I would get to a new country, like Bolivia for example, I didn’t have any friends, so I had to make do with ‘sis. So, following my dad and sister’s Christmas argument, I vowed that when I got to college, I would take a course in Feminism so that I could be educated on the subject and more importantly, so I could be conversant with my sister about a subject so close to her heart.

True to my intention, in the fall of 1989, I enrolled in “Introduction to Feminism” at the University of California, Santa Cruz. To this day, I still recall the first day of class. For one thing, the men in the class were outnumbered by the women by a ratio of about six to one. The other thing that stood out that day was the lecture given by Women’s Studies Professor Bettina Aptheker. This is basically how it went… “Women are 51% of the world’s population. They own less than 1% of the world’s private property. Women are 51% of the world’s population. They do 70% of the world’s manual labor. Women are 51% of the world’s population. They make 20% of the world’s working wages. Two out of five women in the United States will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life.” The dismal statistics about domestic violence, sex trafficking, and the like, rattled on. Meanwhile my eyes widened. I realized something powerful that day, and that is: Feminism is primarily about social justice.

As a result of the class I became versed in some of the same Feminist literature with which my sister was familiar, authors such as Adrienne Rich, Phyllis Trible, and Virginia Woolf. As a result, in the years to come, doors opened to heart-to-heart talks with my sister about Feminism and about some of her experiences as a woman.

Originally I took “Introduction to Feminism” out of love for my sister, in order to narrow a gap that was growing between us. I came away from the experience with much more than the reconciliation I sought. I came away with greater clarity and understanding of inequality and injustice in our world. I came away angered by systematic suppression and injustices against women throughout world history. And, I came away with a widened sense of my own belonging to the human family as a whole, girls and boys, sisters and brothers, women and men.