Thursday, October 29, 2009

Me, feminism, again

I was asked to be part of a panel with a group of wonderful scholars, all female, for a conference next year. It was a very flattering request, and, weak soul that I am, decided that I wanted to be part of it the moment I read "I have been teaching your work." I mean - somebody uses my work in classrooms. Gosh, that's as close to immortality as I ever expect to come.

Anyway, I dawled a little over the response, because I am always stunned when I find that people think of me as a feminist. I think I am just a humanist, a person who happens to be female, but who cares about the system within which we all live. I think of my work not as restricted by gender or viewpoint, I am studying players and I study them independent of their gender. At the same time I am very aware that gender influences them, as players, and it influences me, as a researcher.

In a way, when I see myself presented as a feminist scholar I have a flashback to a conversation with my daughter. Her teacher had rounded on her saying "you, who are Torill's daughter, can't have such ignorant opinions of gender!" My daughter was truly upset, because she didn't understand what she had done wrong. It took a long conversation to try to make sense of it. Our final conclusion was that my daughter's role models as a woman are me and my four very strong sisters.

What do the other four do? One runs a successful export/import firm, another has an expanding business of design and craft on top of teaching, one is a well respected artist, and the fourth has her heart and attention on leading live-action role-play games, one of the few female GMs in Norway. We always did what we wanted, despite gender, class, culture, economy, ethnicity and geography working against us. Actually in that mix of obstacles we ignored, gender was just another issue. Between the five of us, my bright and wonderful daughter had never even considered that she couldn't do just what she wanted.

By the time my daughter and I had come around to that, we had agreed that yeah, we were feminists, because if we were to isolate gender from the rest of the soup that influences humanity, then we were definitely, she and I, on the feminist side. We just were a little handicapped when it came to seeing the specifically gender-related topics.

Now, I'd be a bad feminist if I didn't tell you about my son and how he taught me about gender studies. You see, he is the one who dwells on gender issues, explores the limitations and affordances of masculinity, questions, criticizes and discusses them. But that's for some other time.

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