In the wake of the responses to the blog post I published in April, I think it necessary to write a follow-up post. In this post I mean not to retract, but to clarify some of the opinions expressed in my previous post.
The point of that post was not to launch an attack on my Femsex section, nor on the institution of Femsex in general. I meant to use Femsex as a point of entry to open a larger dialogue about the state of feminism on Columbia's campus. Moreover, the discussion fueled by my post has opened a productive dialogue within my Femsex section, who acknowledged my concerns -- as well as the concerns of other girls within the group -- and looked for ways to accommodate the multiplicity of opinion and experience among us. A willingness to accept a dissenting opinion, rather than dismissing it on the grounds that it is not is accordance with the general one, is all I ask.
Second, I would like both to explain and, furthermore, to justify the use of quotation marks around works such as "patriarchy" and "marginalization." I do not place these words in quotes because I don't know what they mean or because I don't believe that they exist. I place them in quotes not to mock or trivialize their respective meanings, but to highlight the ways in which I believe these terms have been both mocked and trivialized by the people most zealous about their existence. To cry "patriarchy" and/or "marginalization" in response to any obstacle or struggle, irrespective of whether or not the term is actually applicable, is to make a mockery of those terms, much more than any quotation marks ever could. I believe it necessary -- rather, nonnegotiable -- that women learn about preexisting systems of institutionalized oppression. To ignore them is to deny a reality as well as an important part of history. But to enforce the notion that a woman's experience will be entirely defined by "patriarchy" and "marginalization," no matter what she faces is not only a fallacy: it is a disservice.
Next I want to address the idea, as one critic asserted, that my ideas are not "unique or original." I completely agree. I think a lot of college students -- Columbia students, in fact -- feel the same way I do, but are bullied and intimidated out of being able to express it. The -- dare I say it -- marginalization of certain students by members of marginalized groups, for not being [blank] "enough" is a common phenomenon. Fill in the "blank" with whatever you want: gay, feminist, black, Jewish, etc. Nearly every one of the Columbia students with whom I spoke to in response to the blogpost had a story to share with me about a time when they felt alienated by a minority group to which they felt they should have belonged. So no, my feelings are not "unique." They are common, shared by those college students who are excluded for having an appearance, opinion, or an experience that does not fit the mold set by the group.
Finally, I want to address the critics of my last blogpost, and the sure-to-be critics of this current one. It is one thing to vehemently disagree with my ideas. There are a variety of different ways to be a feminist, and I do not promote my way of thinking as the only or correct one. But to suggest that something inherent in my person -- whether it be my skin color, my sexuality, or my experience of femininity -- somehow invalidates my opinions is cowardly. It demonstrates a refusal to engage in any kind of legitimate debate or acknowledge the multiplicity of experiences that makes feminism what it is. I hope people will continue to disagree with me -- singularity of opinion is boring and unconstructive. But I will not be intimidated out of expressing my opinion by those who find it easier to attack me than to attack what I am saying.
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