“Hello my name is April and I am a student at Duke University.”
I have lived my life thus far as nothing but a student. My flirtation with jobs in the summer did not warrant me to identify with a certain restaurant or store. I have been shaped and formed by academic and educational pursuits. Growing up, education ruled over my family, it was king and everything else in my life was pretty much irrelevant. My dad always would say to us, “Health first, education second, and everything else.”.
Being a good student is part of who I am. I pride myself on my ability to study, ask questions and turn in work on time.
As I slowly transition from student to worker, I have been reflecting a lot on my different educational experiences: high school, college, and Moxie.
In addition to my pondering, the Moxies visited GGE on Friday and we discussed factors of school push out for the girls that they work with and represent. Much of this school push out comes from the missed work that occurs when girls are unfairly suspended from their schools.
One of these girls was suspended for two weeks because she refused to take bobby pins out of her hair.
Another was suspended for a week when she talked back to a teacher.When I heard this I cringed. A week? If you told me in high school that I would have to miss a week of school I would have had a tear filled angry breakdown.
I have had my share of “talking back” throughout my school career. I left little to the imagination with my opinion of my teachers. The frustrating thing is most people can’t connect the dots. They assume that when girls drop out of school they don’t have the motivation to finish, are lazy, or are not smart enough. Instead of the truth, they accept comfortableness and they refuse to accept the notion that the systems that they send their children to and donate money to are fundamentally racist and sexist.
Speaking of being comfortable…
I don’t think I will ever be more comfortable than when I was in high school.
Yes, high school. While many people may cringe at the thought of their high school. I can’t shut up about mine.
Imagine a place where you feel free to voice any opinion you have, raise your hand to answer any question, not caring if you get it wrong. You feel proud when you get it right and you are fine when you don’t.
Imagine a place where you don’t feel inhibited physically to dance, run, stretch, or wear what you want without the idea of a male’s opinion affecting any of your decisions.
I had four blissful and naive years without the distraction of the male gaze and the male presence. Yes, we still talked about boys and giggled when a boy entered our high school.
However, their presence never dictated how we lived out our academic and athletic pursuits. Never once did I think that I shouldn’t raise my hand because of fear of a male’s opinion. It was unknowingly a sanctuary for my friends and I to thrive in and feel good about ourselves.
Thus when I went to Duke I was hyper aware of the fact that there were males everywhere. I had never been around, lived with, taken classes with males in four years and thus I was shocked at the domineering position they take within classrooms. From personal experience 80% of the questions asked in my big lecture classes are males. When girls ask questions its “I think that..” or “maybe I am wrong but…”.
AHHHHH NO. WHY MUST YOU APOLOGIZE.
This kind of stuff did not happen in high school. I am thankful that I don’t fear to speak up in class or seek out the professor in class. Women and men are accepted in equal numbers at Duke, pay the equal amount and thus have the same rights to speak up as much as they want in class and have the same amount of face time with the professor. What is different between my opinion of other girls before and after this summer is what has really changed. Before I was simply frustrated. I would sit next to girls who had questions who wouldn’t ask questions or ask me to ask for them. Now I understand that this inability to speak up is a symptom of the sexist cold that has infected the education system for years.
Finally, this summer has been an interactive educational experience. Just like there is the Duke bubble. There is the Moxie bubble. I know that I will never live and breathe in a space where I am able to have the intellectually thought provoking and passionate conversations that I have had this summer. Like my high school, my few interactions with males this summer have been light hearted and not focused on the conversations that Moxies have. Without the male perspective, we have been able to discuss and analyze how our personal experiences fit into the systemic puzzle that is the American and global world. I am filled to the brim with knowledge and understanding about how so many of our systems work together to oppress some groups of people and uplift others. But this again has been student work, I read and I write and I discuss theory as a student.
As the summer comes to a close, my thoughts have wandered to my next journey: London, England. I will not be returning to the Duke bubble but to a new school in the heart of the East End of London. As the only Moxie studying abroad, it has been hard to contribute to the fall plans of dinners, chats and activism on campus. I am both nervous and apprehensive about moving from Moxie to studying abroad. I want to incorporate the things I have learned in Moxie to viewing the world with a more analytical lens, but I worry that I might forget this between tea and visits from the queen. I don’t want to forget what I have learned, I want it to continue to make me question what I do and how I live.
Fingers crossed that crumpets and feminism go well together!
And as the British would say,