While I was reading Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” for my Feminist Theory class I couldn’t help but focus on her thesis statement. In her piece which focuses heavily on how we perform gender she states “…identity is a compelling illusion, an object of belief.” This statement makes me think a lot about the things that comprise my identity. As a single black feminist who lived in the Southern United States for the majority of my life, my identity is comprised of all of these facts—as well as the things I project to the public (independent woman, fierce, confident, happy etc.). It strikes me as interesting to think about this, because indeed my gender is an illusion. Therefore, it would be logical to say that my (as well as any) identity is an illusion.
A few days ago I made the statement to a friend of mine, “I don’t know how to act like a girl” and while I realize that this statement assumes that there are set gender roles; I also realize that there is a set way society expects women to act (and I feel like I fail at this so many times). My personality is very direct, somewhat confrontational, take charge and not afraid to speak my mind. These are not things that are usually associated with women. I often find myself worrying “how to perform” to others, so it gets across that I am a female. With the recent passing of Valentine’s Day , I am constantly reminded of the illusion that all women want chocolate and flowers—-as it is tradition and somehow proves that a man (God forbid we talk about homosexual love) loves you! This “gender” identity that has been projected on women prevents our significant others from actually asking what does this “person” want versus what do “women” want. And those are two very different questions to think about.
The question of “What do women want?” brings together a conclusion that “women” are a group who are similar and have similar wants. And while this premise may very well be true, it assumes that having that one thing in common is enough for women to want the same things. As humans we have a lot in common, but our sexual reproductive organs should not be enough for society to assume we want the same things. I am a woman who doesn’t want to change my last name if I choose to get married, yet I also know a woman who does want to change her last name if she chooses to get married. This example is another thing that shows our sexual organs are not enough for us to be necessarily grouped into one major category of wants or desires. We should instead work toward finding the individual inside, instead of the “norm” of that particular group.
The question of” What does a person want?” brings about a question of individuality. It makes the assumption that what one person wants can be different or similar to what another person wants. Let us look at the example of Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day stresses that women should be showered with gifts. Yet, I think it would be beneficial for us to all take into account that the majority of people would want to be showered with gifts. In fact, let us say that men and women would like to be showered with gifts. Therefore, why is there one holiday that not only emphasize sex differences to the point that women are the only ones who are expected to be showered with gifts—-but are told what gifts they are suppose to receive. I have several problems with the premise that I am being given a gift, when I was never asked if that was something I wanted. The entire Holiday seems to be filled with “rules” that must be followed, instead of actually focusing on love.
I wish I could say I know what Valentine’s Day means, but all I know is the illusion that has been projected on me. I know that I am supposed to receive flowers, candy, and a nice card—I only received a card (from my parents). So what is the message that has been sent—that I am not loved? That I should work harder to project the illusion that I should be showered with gifts because of my gender? I am not sure. I have no idea what this holiday is trying to teach us, and I don’t think anyone has really taken the time to critically think about the implications that come from these “illusions” that society and individuals project.
So my challenge to you all is to take the time to think about the identity you perform every day. Think about the implications of the things you do, even when no one is watching (because you are) and how the performance is solidifying an identity. Does the identity you perform accurately reflect the person you want to be? Or the person you are trying to be? Or the person you were meant to be? This piece in itself is but another performance, I am performing what it means to be a feminist who uses activism to change social processes. This is a performance I am willingly participating in and a part I have auditioned my entire life for. Was I meant to do this? I think so, but what is even more important is that I love doing this.
With love and equality -V
I had a recent discussion with my one of my best friends about how you know someone is “The ONE.” It got me thinking about the entire concept of “The ONE” along with many song lyrics that suggest that we will one day find the perfect one for us. My thought process bought me to two concepts: (1) How can there just be one person who we should spend our entire life waiting for? and (2) What if “The One” is us, trying to reach our full potential for ourselves.
The first concept arises from my belief that we are all different people at different points in our lives. In other words I believe you have to meet someone at the right time for the person to have an effect on your life. So I could meet the one and I may not be ready, so was that person really the one? We live intertwine our paths once more to bring us together again?
The problem with there being one person who we were meant to be with is that we may never know if that person is “The One”. We would have to take a leap of faith and trust our instincts? And to do this goes against the notion that we are fated to be with one person. When you consciously make a choice to be with someone, then you take fate out of it. It becomes about choice. So do I believe that there is one person who I am meant to be with or do I believe that there is one person who I will choose to be with?
The second problem that I have with the concept of “The One” is that people never know their true worth and this is the notion that makes me the saddest. The notion of the one has people constantly waiting on someone to tell them they are the perfect person for them. Waiting for someone to say you complete me. But how many people will say they are “The One” and they are worth it.
I will. I am the one. I am worth it.
I will be that person who will stand by your side offering support. I will hold your hand when you are down.
I will let you know the real me. I will tell you the truth. I will share my life with you.
I will care for you. I will love you. I will tell you when you are getting on my nerves.
I will kiss you good-bye every time we part—-as I whisper the words, “I love you.”
I will give you a part of myself that no one will ever have. I will share my hopes and dreams with you.
I will love you for everything you are and everything you aren’t.
I won’t back down when I know I am right, but I also won’t rub minor victories in your face. Because that isn’t important.
What is important is that I made a choice to share my life with you. And the only way that could have happened was if I became “The One”
If I became the one person I was destined to be. If I allowed myself to be the best me, that I could ever be. If I allowed myself to be selfish enough to take care of my problems first. If I learned to love me, before I even thought about loving you. If I learned how to live with the notion that I am important, with or without a significant other in my life.
I’m not sure if you are “The One”, but I am. I’m worth it.
I’m worth the walls you will have to tear down. I’m worth the headaches. I’m worth the petty fights.
I’m worth the late night requests for chocolate. I’m worth the many, “I’m not going to eat THAT”(‘s) you will hear.
I’m worth the late night study sessions that will keep me from seeing you. I’m worth the week long trips I will take with my best friends.
I’m worth the many breakdowns I will have due to stress. I’m worth the crazy family you will have to put up with (and they are crazy).
I’m worth the days I will get lost in my work, and forget to meet you for lunch. I’m worth the many causes I will convince you to give to.
I’m worth the many tears you will see me shed over the world’s lack of compassion for others.
I’m worth the Saturdays I won’t be able to talk to you, because the Georgia Southern Eagles are playing. I’m worth the traditions you may have to give up because I’m a modern girl.
I’m worthy of my love—but are you? What will you bring to the table?
“You are turning into one of those….one of those FEMINIST” says my brother after he reads my shirt.
I turn around and say “Look at the back of my shirt…I was like this before I left for California.”
The shirt I am wearing is not only a feminist shirt, but a shirt I designed. The shirt is a greenish teal color and the phrase “No One Is Truly Free When Others Are Oppressed” in white writing with the feminist symbol below the words.
The back of my shirt says, “Georgia Southern University National Organization for Women 2010-201” in white writing at the very top of the shirt and the following phrase is located in the center of the shirt with the same white writing, “Advocating For Change …Join The Movement N.O.W.”
I am putting an emphasis on the word “Georgia.” You see California didn’t make me into a feminist, nor did drastically change me. It only enhanced the person that I was.
I moved to California in early August for to escape comments such as the one my brother made. I am a graduate student and assistant at CSUS (Sac State). The question that has most frequently been asked when people find out I moved to Sacramento from a small town in Georgia is, “Why did you decide to go to Sac State?”
My response, “I didn’t choose the school, I choose the location.” My personal and political beliefs DO NOT ALIGN with the South. AT ALL. Some people belief that they were born in the wrong decade, but I on the contrary believe that we as are born exactly where we are suppose to be. We may believe that it is the wrong place, but it is really a chance for us to learn something that will allow us to make a difference.
I have learned a few things while growing up in the South.
1. Oppression comes in many forms and self-oppression is one of the most prominent.
2. My destiny is far greater than I could ever imagine.
3. Without suffering there would be no compassion, and compassion has made all the difference in my life.
4. Be aware of problems. Search for solutions. And remember we all play a part in change.
So you ask yourself what is the difference I hope to make? What do I hope to change?
I hope to make a difference in my life, thus creating a chain reaction in the people I encounter in my daily life. The person I become will determine how I interact with people – for better or worse. It has been said all that is needed to make change is a small group of committed citizens. We already have two…so let the reaction began.
Every experience is but a chance to reflect on it and use it to become a better person.
I hope to change me. After all I am the only person that stares back at me in the mirror.