Two years ago, the decision to take up Women’s Studies was one I made after a fair bit of struggle and trepidation, and I’d be lying if I said it’s something I always wanted to study.
But life never quite turns out the way one would expect, and now, sitting on a flight home, having nearly completed my MA, I’m struggling to find the words to convey what the last two years have meant to me.
Sure, there have been a lot (and I mean A LOT) of the usual questions (credit for most of these goes to my several encounters on Tinder and some to ‘well-meaning’ relatives).
“So you basically study about…women?” (Wow, wonder what gave that away…)
“So what do you do after this?” (…realize that the world is a shit place for women- and pretty much anyone who isn’t an upper caste, middle class, heterosexual male- and try and do something to change that.)
“What if you never find another boyfriend?” (Well, I was worried about that initially, but for reasons which had nothing to do with my subject…)
“Aren’t you worried you’ll turn into one of those angry feminists?”
Well, immense rage is an inevitable consequence of studying gender, and I realized quickly into my MA that I had spent too much time not being angry- at the men who harassed me on the streets, at the boyfriends who treated me like shit, and the dudebros who felt entitled to comment on everything from my makeup to what time I should be home every day.
And the newfound consciousness wasn’t mine alone-I witnessed a classroom full of women (and a few men) go from soft spoken and reserved, to talking unabashedly about their bodies, sexualities and their desires, questioning the denial of their rights- to pleasure, to public spaces, to make unconstrained choices.
At the same time, I watched as all of us grappled with the uncomfortable truth that we had been implicit in the systems of oppression we were seeking to challenge. As naive first years, most of us were slapped in the face by the realization that just because something isn’t a problem for you personally, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem at all- it was time to take the rose tinted glasses of privilege off.
Do I sometimes wish I had taken up another subject? Yes, of course. Women’s Studies isn’t easy- you’re not just taking up complex coursework (classes on Butler left me feeling like I needed to learn the English language all over again), but you’re also bracing yourself for endless asinine comments, even from some seemingly “woke” feminist friends- “it must be really easy right? Do you even need to work too hard for your grades?”
Nevertheless, I leave with no regrets.
Women’s Studies has been so much more than just an academic course- it’s given me more questions than answers, it’s left me confused and pissed off (I cannot enjoy a movie unquestioningly ever again), and most of all, it’s given me the courage to not take shit any longer.
So yes, Tinder Guy, if you’re reading this, I am an angry feminist- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.