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Why I Don’t Believe This is a Post-Feminist World January 25, 2006

Posted by Amy in Uncategorized.
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Today in two of my classes we were discussing the possible roles that class, ethnicity, gender, and other factors might play in coming of age experiences. The idea that we’re all a part of a larger culture (and in my students’ cases, cultures) which shapes our decisions and attitudes is one that some students resist even thinking about at times, so I’m always anxious that this first discussion doesn’t get derailed by someone insisting that none of the factors play any role in his or her life. It can be tough to get a new group of students comfortable talking about these sticky issues which we seem to gloss over in everyday life.

It went well, though, in the sense that these students are well aware of the ways class and race and gender impact them. Several male students talked about how their parents had denied their sisters the chance to go to college while footing the bill for the boys (in these cases, the students telling these stories) to get a university education. Many of the female students, who are mostly from Hmong, Vietnamese, and Mexican immigrant families, told of having to fight with parents to be able to go to school since, as one young woman’s mother had said to her, “Why would we spend all that money when you’re just going to get married and have kids?” For the Asian women, the assumption that once a woman marries, she “belongs” to the husband’s family meant that a few students’ parents saw any education they gave their daughters as an imprudent investment in someone else’s family.

I’d be utterly depressed after years of hearing these same stories if it weren’t for the faces of those telling them: hopeful, often incredibly hardworking students who prevailed over low expectations and are here for the duration. Would I have gone on to get a master’s degree if I’d faced the obstacles so many of them have? I doubt it.

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