Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Being a Poster Child for Feminism

I went to my first Introduction to Gender Studies class today and I thought I could just sit in the back of the class and observe since this would be my first university level class in Russian with real live Ukrainians. I had talked previously with the professor I am working with about giving a presentation to the class some time in the future when I felt more comfortable with my academic Russian. I have to give ten presentations as part of my Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship anyway so I thought it would be a good place to practice the speech I will eventually give to Rotary Clubs here in Ukraine. Instead of going to class and sitting there the professor made me give the presentation today! 

Luckily, I had some slides already prepared on my dissertation topic from presentations I have given in previous Russian language classes. We talked for an hour about the idea of feminism and gender equality. The professor who is a feminist said she wanted her students to meet a young feminist their age and so they asked me questions about myself and how I knew I was a feminist. They were also really interested in the fact that my husband cooked for me because apparently men who cook in Ukraine are considered losers! The gender dynamics didn't end there, they said they expected men to buy them cars and an apartment and I said well if they wanted that why couldn't they just buy it themselves? Why did they need a husband to buy it for them? They also couldn't believe that my husband was also a feminist and on his own volition took Women's Studies classes in college (the class here is required). Sometimes I am worried my feminist and egalitarian views on work and family life present a skewed view of American society because I know that not all people share my views. Still, I think it is good to offer them a perspective of life with rose colored feminist glasses...to the right is a picture of me living this life at a women's rights rally in Topeka, the capital of Kansas.

The second half of class we discussed human trafficking. While many of the students knew what human trafficking was they thought it only happened to women who were looking for jobs as models. They hadn't heard of cases where men and children were trafficked. They said they learned about human trafficking from news programs and advertisements on TV. It was interesting to discuss all their preconceived notions about trafficking because they are relatively similar to the students in the US. Many people think they are stupid to let it happen to them and don't see them as victims. I try to counter this stereotype by conveying that it can happen to anyone! All in all it was a very eventful class and I learned a ton of new Russian terms for words like gender equality, human rights and others which is exactly why I am taking this intro level class!

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