For the Spring 2014 Women’s Studies Newsletter, I wrote a “senior story” about my experiences coming into my feminism and, in turn, becoming a Women’s Studies major. The newsletter also includes an abstract from my senior thesis on Sylvia Plath on Page 11 of the attached PDF, pictured to the left. (However, the correct title of my thesis is “Maker of Myself?”: Unveiling the Critical Reception of Sylvia Plath and her Biographers!)
Last, but not least, at the end of April I was notified that my thesis project won the 2014 Bascom Headen Palmer Literary Prize for best senior honors thesis in literary study at Duke! So very grateful for all the support and encouragement from my thesis advisor, professors, family, and friends!
I wrote my way into feminism. Sophomore year, I began writing for a feminist blog on campus and little by little, my feminist consciousness was sparked. But even though I was “doing” feminism, I still felt ambivalent about labels. I had neither a solid grasp of the history of feminism nor an understanding of the rich theoretical frameworks that comprise feminist thought. I ended one of my pieces in December of 2011 with the shameful fear-ridden, “I’m not an angry feminist, but…” The thing is, I most surely was an angry feminist. I was beginning to take note of instances of sexism, racism, and classism on our campus after taking Intro to Latino Studies. That class jolted my sense of self as our readings and class discussion delved into the intricacies of identity politics. Throughout that semester, I felt a shift in my thinking and I replaced my lulled complacency with the hunger for more theory, more concepts, more words. I needed a space and a language to work through these new questions. I felt isolated and silenced in my own head until I stumbled into Women’s Studies.
I like to think that Women’s Studies taught me how to speak a new language. The following semester I took Gender and Language with Edna Andrews and Queer Theory with Antonio Viego. In Queer Theory, I was exposed to theory for the first time and although I struggled with the difficulty posed in the texts, what that class did was open my eyes – I began to feel an affinity for the theoretical ideas and the way in which these scholars articulated their arguments. The summer after my sophomore year, I took a stab at a reading list of core feminist texts and I haven’t stopped reading ever since.
My feminist awakening was sharp and quick. In these past two years, I have entirely redefined my conceptualization of the self, defixing the socially conditioned categories of identity that I had internalized as fact. I thought I knew who “I” was, but each of my Women’s Studies courses has further deepened my understanding of just what informs cultural perceptions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Being a Women’s Studies major has empowered me in unthinkable ways and each of my courses – Kimberly Lamm’s Gender and Popular Culture, Kathi Weeks’ Money, Sex, and Power, Diane Nelson’s Gender and Sexuality in Latin America, and Ranjana Khanna’s Thinking Gender – has in its own way prompted my little epiphanies. These aha moments, as it were, have left an indelible mark on not only my scholarship, but also my life as a woman, a feminist, a writer, and a critical thinker. I hope to pursue a PhD in either English, Literature, or Women’s Studies in the next few years to continue to learn and explore the nuanced workings of the language that shapes us.
SEE ATTACHED PDF ON PAGE 11 FOR MY THESIS ABSTRACT! —> Spring 2014 Duke Women’s Studies Newsletter