Tag Archives: feminism

A Room of My Own

The Husband has been urging me to write about my new room, but I must say I’ve been hesitant. I’m a bit embarrassed to be blogging about this topic.

For the past eight years, “the blue room” has been a guest bedroom, sort of. The other, real, guest room is outfitted with a king-sized bed and is much more private and spacious than the blue room is. When we first moved into the house, we bought a twin bed with a pop-up trundle for the blue room in anticipation of the possibility that we might have two visiting parties at the same time. In eight years, there has been exactly ONE time that we needed to make the blue room guest-ready.

In the meantime, I’ve been using it as an all-purpose catch-all room for my school materials, cookbooks, makeup table, and the dresser for my workout clothes. The Husband has been using the closet in that room for his wardrobe because, well, the closet in the master bedroom was completely filled with some of my clothes. The rest of my clothes have been on seasonal rotation in and out of storage bins. The whole system had become unwieldy and disorganized. So we concocted a plan, a la Sex and the City, to convert the blue room into one giant walk-in closet/dressing room/total-girl-haven. We moved the trundle bed into The Boy’s room for his sleepover buddies, bought beautiful wooden clothing racks for all my hanging items (ALL of them; not just one season’s worth!!), then moved The Husband’s stuff out of the closet and into the master bedroom. We put all my knitwear, handbags, and scarves into the blue room closet. Shoes are now organized and stacked by season and style. Black dresses are all together. Skirts are arranged by color, length, and sometimes style (all the flouncy ones are together, and all the flowery cotton ones are together). Belts are hung on hooks; hats are displayed nicely so that they won’t be crushed. The full-length mirror is tucked perfectly between two racks.

It’s like having my own private boutique. And everything is in my size! I’ve been joking around about how I get to go shopping in there every morning.

Someday I will write more about how my strong feminist tendencies align with my fashion indulgences. But right now, I’m just loving my decadent new room.

The Caramel Macchiato Girls

Notice the Starbucks cup.

I stop at Starbucks almost every morning for a latte to start my day. It’s a relatively affordable and harmless decadence that makes me happy and gives me an excellent boost, along with a healthy serving of calcium. I’m quite predictable about my latte: a 4-shot venti half-caf. Easy to order, easy to prepare, easy to drink. My latte and a nice banana combine to make the perfect breakfast.

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A love letter to my profession

My 25th college reunion was last weekend. I didn’t go, but the event prompted an amazing string of Facebook messages with three of my closest friends from those days. Although we are spread all over the USA and into the Middle East, we’ve been able to reconnect electronically, which has been an unexpected gift. I’m sure I’ll post about the joys of social media sometime soon. Tonight I want to write about what it means to be a teacher and a feminist.

I went to a high-powered college during the Reagan ’80s. It was the era of Greed, the era of Jane Fonda, and the era of Sandra Day O’Connor making history. Women were seizing power everywhere. When I began my freshman year in 1981, I intended to become an international economist. I planned to work for the World Bank and help save struggling countries. A year later, I found myself teaching English to children from Central America as part of a social action project, and my fate was sealed. If you really want to change the world, start with the children. 25 years after graduating, I can look back with gratitude from the middle of my journey as an educator.

When I decided to become a teacher, my acquaintances were dismissive. “You’re wasting your potential” was a common refrain. Many of my classmates went immediately into graduate programs in law, medicine or business. Others joined the Foreign Service, or started partnership tracks at Big 8 accounting firms (that was way before ENRON and the demise of Arthur Andersen. But I digress…). Social status and success were firmly attached to earning potential. Against those measures, teachers were low on the approval scales.

Over the years, I have earned a couple of other degrees and moved past the classroom, but never out of schools. I want to say right here that teaching is one of the most empowering opportunities for women, and that power is why I continue to do this work. My female graduate students have heard this soapbox speech before, and I continue to give it each year.

When my mother was a college student in the early 1960s, the “nice girls” got jobs as teachers and nurses, or maybe as secretaries. The girls who were willing to forego marriage became the pioneers in more male-dominated careers. Teaching and nursing were seen as the helping professions; the jobs that were appropriate for young wives and mothers. Those jobs generally kept women fairly close to their homes. The pay was not large, but most of the teachers and nurses were married; their husbands provided the “serious” income for their families (Think about it: In a way, hetero-sexist society has subsidized the teaching profession). Many women took time off from work when their children were little. Those were the infant days of the feminist movement. Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, the year I was born. “The problem that has no name” became the catch phrase for many young suburban mothers, and they encouraged their daughters to follow paths that they had not taken.

Out of that desire to expand their horizons, many women rejected safe choices and opened doors for my generation. When I became a teacher in the mid 1980s, it was in part to reclaim something–to reshape it for a new era. Teaching is still a profession dominated by women, and I am proud to be among them. It is one of the only jobs I know where I can form strong relationships with women who are 20 years younger than I am, 20 years older than I am, and everyone in between. I don’t know where else I could have found so many mentors, and where I would have had the opportunity to share my experiences with others.

There is a long way to go. Salaries need to increase. Professional status needs to be enhanced. Policies about accountability and educational standards need to be addressed. The great Brazilian educator and activist Paolo Freire wrote in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed: “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.”

This type of empowered reflection is at the heart of my work. It defines the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people I want to educate.