As a student majoring in Women’s Studies, I learned about feminist theory and about the history of the movement. I learned about each different wave, and about the critiques that postmodern feminists like Chandra Talpade Mohanty made about white, middle-class, second-wave feminists like Betty Friedan. My classes also had the obligatory reading of Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” so we could prove we were intersectional. I could sling opaque, academic prose and decry sexist, orientalist portrayals of characters in pop culture with the best of them.
But what I didn’t learn was how to use the tools of argument to deconstruct and call out the derailing tactics of our world outside the university bubble -- hell, I didn’t even know about the term “derailing” until about a year ago. I grew up in a supportive environment where realizing that Barbie was sexist and women should be treated equally were givens (because my older sister is totally awesome, but that’s a story for another day). And I ended up studying in a similar environment where those things appeared to be givens there too.