In the third year of my undergrad schooling, I took an art class called “Art on the Edge”. The teacher was a young woman with strong ideas and didn’t take any bullshit. She was a hardass sometimes but I definitely became a better artist because that woman challenged me to make my art matter.
She had us watch exciting documentaries, introduced us to controversial artists and definitely didn’t hand out her praise, so when you got it, you knew you’d really done something worthy.
One day, the topic of feminist art came up and the teacher I admired said the six words that broke my heart:
“I don’t consider myself a feminist.”
Now this was before my days of wearing woman symbols, I had just realized how important feminism was to me. But still I was crushed. I really respected what this professor had to say about most things so I was stunned when she owned that statement. Her explaination made it worse:
“I think it’s too aggressive. Man-hating.”
She was repeating the same moronic garbage I’d heard so many times (and would hear for years to come). I wanted to argue but I was too shocked to speak up.
Now I agree, this woman had her right to that stance, but as an educator, an art educator, as a female art educator…it was a disappointment. I always respected her opinions but that was one I couldn’t swallow. It felt like the professor suddenly didn’t like me, didn’t care about my future or my ideas.
So I guess the point of this was to recognize the power teachers, advisors, instructors really have. I don’t think teachers should have to sensor themselves, but one has to acknowledge the damage they can do, even if it’s just a small thing.
I really wish I’d had the assertiveness to address the professor’s stereotyping. Scratch that, I wish the professor had kept that bias out of our classroom. Scratch that, I wish that professor had been better educated, more open-minded so we could have had a conversation about why feminism is important and why my need for equality isn’t selfish. I could have really used that conversation at that age. And obviously so could a lot of other people.