Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Jenny

Name: Jenny Wynn 
Age: 33 
Occupation: teacher and mother 
Location: Southern Illinois
Any other relevant tidbits you'd care to share: fighting the good fight every day 

Jenny (on left) around 4 years old

How do you define feminism? 
The ability to value and respect the skills and contributions of all women equally

When did you 1st identify as a feminist? 

When I first began studying evolution and cognitive adaptation, I was surprised to learn that women are predisposed to excel in certain areas, as are men. Up until then, my feminist-without-acknowledging-it-as-such understanding had been that a woman could could excel at anything she set her mind to, and I found myself conflicted. Limitations? This didn't fit into my conception any self-actualized human, or my definition of equality. How can people expect to be treated equally when they are as similar as apples and oranges (or bananas, har har!) 

What I didn't know then is that variation occurs in all of nature, evidenced in the critical mind of Hypatia, or in the lyrical mastery of Keats. Gender expression is a general rule--but not a hard and fast one. This was revolutionary to me. I could see now that there is a reason for the dearth of female scientists, but no excuse for a lack of support for women who choose to pursue scientific careers. It's the inconsistency of the dichotomy that causes the trouble. It's what makes it all the more difficult for people to appreciate the homemaker as much as they do the scientist. Or believe that a female could possibly compete in the male dominated field of quantum physics. No matter where you look, there is someone who makes you question what you believe to be true. People resist your categorization without ever intending to do so. I knew I was a feminist when I understood that a female mother and female astronaut deserve the same level of respect, not for the job they do, as they are both skilled roles--but BECAUSE they are female, and they catch shit from all sides. 

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
Well, my younger self believed that feminism had become anachronous, giving way to a more general all-inclusive humanism. But, I understand now that feminism has not lost its usefulness, though perhaps its goals have changed. I compare it to penguins: no one ever says "I'm anti-penguin." Who could be against penguins? They're adorable. But the respect isn't always there. We would have a world that fully supports their existence. As long as the livelihoods and endeavors of all women are not fully supported, I know I need to say "I am pro-woman"

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think there is and how do you handle it? 
I think I give off a feminist vibe. Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who don't assume that I have a personal agenda that dominates all critical thought. Or no one has ever had the balls to challenge me on it (pun intended)

What do you see as the future of feminism? 
 Feminism needs to advocate for and protect mothers' rights, equal wages, the acceptance of female enterprise both inside and outside the paradigm--traditional or otherwise, and continue to promote a respect for the uniquely feminine in all its forms.

Jenny, her husband Anthony, and son Jojo hide in the woods most of the time, occasionally coming out for sashimi. She's a learner first, and teacher second, working to bridge science and the humanities. She's a technology junkie and dilettante, public servant, daydreamer, water spirit, live music lover, advocate for cultural tolerance, and moisturizer enthusiast, who actively seeks to improve her relationship with nature and watches too much tv.

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