I am a Teacher

I’ve been asked many times over the years why I don’t teach. And what they’re referring to, is teaching in a formal educational institute. A teacher at a school. A teacher who gets paid to school pupils on subjects like English, history, politics. I would be good at it, they say. And they’re right. I would be. I have taught–I have been a teacher in formal educational environments. I started teaching at a much younger age than the vast majority of teachers.

I was nine when I became a teacher. My mother chose to homeschool my younger brother and I when I started the fourth grade. But soon after that, there was an accident. My mother was trampled by a horse, and her back was broken. She was bedridden for months, and in addition to being her caretaker during the day, I also took over homeschooling my younger brother. I was good at it, considering my age, maturity, other responsibilities, and the limitations imposed by age, lack of resources, and other responsibilities.

I taught at church–Vacation Bible School during the summers. The four and five year olds were put together in one class, and I was in charge of the four year olds.

I taught in Civil Air Patrol–training cadets in leadership, drill and ceremonies, military customs and courtesies, military history, and other subjects.

By the time I gained my majority, before many of my peers who are now professional teachers began their education and training to become teachers, I had been a teacher for many years.

When people ask me that question–why don’t I teach–I usually brush it off with a joke, along the lines of it not being my thing, or that I had already had my fill of teaching. It’s simpler that way.

But the truth is, I am a teacher. I learned many, many lessons in my time as a cadet in Civil Air Patrol, but one of the lessons that I have carried with me is this: I am a leader. I am a representative [of Civil Air Patrol]. People are always watching, whether or not you are formally representing [Civil Air Patrol]. People will judge the merits and value of [Civil Air Patrol] by your speech, your behavior, and your values.

I am no longer a member of Civil Air Patrol (for now) but I am a leader. I represent my values, my beliefs, my education by my speech and actions.

There are two kinds of leaders: what I call “go ahead” leaders, and “follow me” leaders. I am a “follow me” leader. I lead by example. I don’t expect anything from others that I don’t also expect from myself. I don’t give myself passes or empathy that I wouldn’t also give to others.

I am also a teacher. At the moment, I do not teach in any formal environment, but I will always be a teacher. Teachers and leaders are one and the same.

The only difference is, some of us get paid to do so, and others don’t.

Why Should I Care About Politics?

When people hear that one of my majors in college was political science, I get “Oh, I’m not interested in that stuff. It’s just a bunch of people fighting about stuff that doesn’t impact me at all.” I smile and nod, or shrug, because I get it. I was there, too.

It wasn’t until my American Government class freshman year that I became interested. It fulfilled a general education requirement, it had an Honors section to fulfill the requirements for the Honors program, and my roommate was taking it. Dr. Edward Yager taught the course. I fell in love. I quickly added it as my second major, and it all went from there.

The first thing that I learned was that politics affects everyone. It touches everything in our lives. This was the same fact that I told every person who skeptically, condescendingly, asked why I was studying English. Politics was why the roof of my urban high school leaked when it rained. Politics was why gas prices were soaring. Politics was why tuition was so dang expensive. Politics was why. Politics was. I had to learn as much as I could about this thing, this entity, this institution that touched every corner of my life. I had to know.

The more I learned, the more I realized I could do something about all the stuff that made me go “What the fuck? Seriously?” when I heard about it. This was a pivotal  moment. I was no longer a leaf in a stream, getting swept along in whatever direction the current took me. I was a part of the stream itself. I could either be passive, and let all the other molecules of water move and shake, or I could move and shake myself, become part of the energy that moves the stream.

After learning that I wasn’t a leaf, I wasn’t about to be some passive molecule. The energy, the excitement, and the passion of my professors and classmates stirred me into action as well. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

What was seen, couldn’t be unseen. What was learned, couldn’t be unlearned.

I joined student government. I jumped into the feminist blogosphere that I’d been lurking in. I got involved in state-level politics. Local movements. Online movements. I began to write. Global movements. National movements. Protests. Petitions. Writing to my Senators, my representatives. Writing to Senators and representatives that didn’t even represent me. Boycotts. Rallies. Lobbying. Writing to the paper. Interviews.

What’s next? I have no idea. This thing, this entity, this institution we call politics will continue to touch every corner of my life. It always will—so I’ll always be moving.

 

 

Get Your Activism On: Stand Up For Gay Marriage

I got an e-mail from the Courage Campaign this morning–they’re gearing up for the next stage in the fight for marriage equality: Perry v. Brown is going to the Supreme Court.

Here is where you can donate to fund the campaign. Check this out, though: when I got the e-mail, CC was $5,343 away from their goal of $45,000. I just checked their page, and not only have they made enough, they’ve set a new goal of $50,000 and are less than one thousand away from meeting that goal as well!

If you can’t afford to donate, never fear–activism is about much more than raising money.

See this snippet from the e-mail I received from the Courage Campaign:

What are we going to do with those contributions? Well, some people think this is all up to to the lawyers in the courtroom… not so! Legal experts all agree: Supreme Court Justices read the newspaper, watch TV, and take stock of the nation. That’s why we need your support to move the polling numbers on marriage equality, get heartwarming stories of love and commitment between same-sex couples out in the news, and continue to be the #1 place for coverage of the Prop 8 trial on the web. It’s the best thing we can do to ensure the final nail in the coffin for Prop 8.”

If you can’t afford to donate, then help get the message out. Flood the blogosphere with posts supporting marriage equality. Write letters to newspapers across the nation. In other words, make sure that when the justices of the Supreme Court “take stock of the nation” be sure that overwhelming support for equality is what they see.

Check out my contribution here if you need inspiration. Now-let’s get our activism on!

Pro-Choice in Kentucky

I am pro-choice. I am a resident of Kentucky.

Being pro-choice in a state that is widely regarded as a lost cause is not easy.

Kentucky isn’t a lost cause. Considering it one is losing half the battle.

Pro-choice Kentuckians are perpetually on the defensive–trying to stop restrictive legislation, stop funding from being cut, stop anti-choicers from harassing patients outside of clinics, stop the hatred and vitriol directed toward reproductive rights, and the people who believe in them.

Simply being openly pro-choice in Kentucky is activism. After all, anti-choicers have long held the pulpit here, painting caricatures of baby-hating, cold, anti-life, anti-woman  “pro-choicers.” I am none of those things–by being openly pro-choice, I am showing everyone around me that those caricatures are lies. I’m opening the door.

I talk about being pro-choice. People ask questions; I answer them. I give my friends, classmates, acquaintances, and neighbors a different perspective–describing reproductive rights by framing it in a way that’s relevant, in language that they will respond to. For instance, I often say that abortion is a form of self-defense–it is an action women may take in order to protect their bodies from the multitude of harms that may come from pregnancy. I say that only I can decide what happens to my body–nobody can use it without my permission, just like no one may break into my home even if they need shelter.

I write to my representatives–even the infamous Mitch McConnell. He doesn’t agree with me, and he won’t vote the way I want him to, but I still write. He needs to know that I exist, that I care, and that his ideology is abhorrent to me. I will oppose them. In other words, I’m watching. I’m voting. Think about that.

I write and reply to pro-choicers outside of Kentucky–I appeal, I plead, I rant, and I call for support. Stop dismissing Kentucky. Help us. Rally with us. Support pro-choice Kentuckians in our fight. It’s not hopeless. We help you–it’s time to help us. Don’t wait for some really abhorrent, anti-choice legislation to jump in. Let’s work together to keep it from ever getting to that point. Let’s change minds. Let’s change budgets. Let’s change laws.

I am a feminist. I am pro-choice. I am a Kentuckian.

Yeah, I Just Said What You Think I Said: I’m a Feminist.

This post is a part of the This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like blog carnival.

The Feminist Action Network at my alma mater gave me a sticker. It says: This is what a feminist looks like. I love those stickers. When everyone wore them, it showed that there’s no “look” to a feminist. We’re of different races, genders, backgrounds, religions, and…ages.

I put my sticker right smack in the center of my laptop, for the world to see, as long as this laptop functions. It’s sparked some conversations. I’ve gotten to dispel some stereotypes. One thing, however, has not changed and is not going to change for a long time.

I look young. I am a female college graduate at the age of twenty-two, which is awesome, but I look somewhere between the ages of 13-17. (Say I’ll love it when I’m older and I cannot take responsibility for my words or actions.) The conversations usually go like this:

Me: “Hi! Can I get a pack of Camel #9 menthol 100s/beverage of dubious content, please?”

Them: [skeptical expression] “Can I see some ID, please?

[sees date, eyes boggle, examines ID closely for holographs, boggle again] My goodness! You don’t look twenty-two at all! You look 16!”

Me: “Yeah, I know.”

OR

Them: So what school do you go to?

Me: I graduated from WKU in May.

Them: [eye pop] Oh?! How old are you??

Me: 22.

Them: Wow! You look 16, tops! You may hate it now, but you’ll LOVE it when you’re older! Congrats on graduating, what’d you study?

/end scene.

Some form of this conversation happens whenever I meet someone new, even with people my age. Its inevitable, though I’ve come to prefer it with younger folk, because once it happens, the shock and disbelief turns into a respect. With older folk, the condescension of talking to a minor turns into a different, though sometimes minor form of it. This condescension drips when speaking of politics, of feminism. You know what I’m talking about. Oh! You’re a feminist! Isn’t that cute! You think you’re an activist! Don’t worry, you’ll grow up and realize that in the real world, you have better things to do.

Further, I’m a young feminist in Kentucky, a conservative state. A red state. Not only am I young and a feminist, but I live in a state where religion and tradition abounds, where real work is the only kind that is valued, and I am often one of the few liberals in a circle. A feminist, too? Forget it. I was somewhat shielded from this in university. One of those liberal havens, you see, where silly kids go to happily receive their liberal indoctrination.

I’ve spoken before of being a liberal in a red state, and how abandoned I’ve felt by liberal organizations, especially feminist ones. There are plenty of feminists here in Kentucky, and we work hard to make things better for Kentucky, but we need help. We need the resources of the national organizations–their funding, their manpower, and their influence. Kentucky has Mitch McConnell, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. A longstanding incumbent is hard to get out of office, no matter the political affiliation.

Kentucky is not served by the divide between young feminists and old. The older feminists have resources that us young feminists don’t. We young feminists may not have a lot of money to donate, but we are willing and able activists. I receive the e-mails from NOW and other organizations of the like. I don’t read them anymore, because the “Action Alert” is invariably to donate money. Where are the protests? Where are the grassroots, door-to-door knocking and talking about feminist issues? Where are the organized trips to Frankfort to talk face-to-face with legislators? Young feminists are willing and able to do these things–hell, we’re eager to do these things.

I love protests. I love sign-making. I LOVE going to Frankfort and talking to my representatives. I have resources. I know people. I know people who have things to give, if only there were an organized effort to give to.

We can’t ignore young feminists, like we can’t ignore conservative states. Like the political map, ignoring us will only lead to more polarization, and less effectiveness.

Let’s work together. I’ve got the posterboard and markers. You’ve got the money. Let’s go do something.

We did it!

I feel like dancing and singing that little song from Dora the Explorer.

This morning, the WKU Benefits Committee met to vote on adding domestic partnership benefits (again).

It passed.

It’s acknowledged.

It’s official.

Wow. I’m so happy I hardly know what to say! I, along with many, many other amazing people here at Western Kentucky University have been mobilizing our butts off for the past several weeks. This morning was to be a demonstration to demand equal benefits for our LGBT faculty and staff. Instead, it was a celebration.

There was tears and hugs and singing. It was a beautiful sight, and it was unbelievably gratifying for our work to have paid off. We’re celebrating tonight at a local hangout, Greener Groundz.

I can’t wait to update more thoroughly on what’s been going on. Stay tuned! It’s a tale none will soon forget! I’m resting for a bit, and then I’m off to celebrate!

Have a GOOD Friday!

Edit: As per my blog note, I’ve been so busy, but I will share the details in another post!

Get Your Activism On!

United Farm workers has a petition going for the young female employee recently sexually harassed by a co-worker at Giumarra Vineyards. Co-workers came to her defense (the harassment included sexual advances, touching, and lewd remarks) and the next day, the young woman and the co-workers who defended her were fired in retaliation. The EEOC has filed a suit against Giumarra Vineyards.

The petition will be sent to Giumarra Vineyards as a message from the people, letting them know that sexual harassment should not be tolerated in the workplace (especially of a teenage girl, probably at her first job), as well as firing the employees that protected and defended the young woman when her employer failed to do so.

Sign the petition here. After you sign the petition, you also are asked to leave a comment on the company’s site, which I would also ask that you do.

Actions like this, especially on a large scale, will often mean more than a lawsuit. Large business, especially those with a monopoly (or close enough), like here, need to be reminded that their employees, and their customers, are human beings, with a sense of justice, morality, and dignity.