This is what a feminist looks like: my grandma.
Most people have a misconception about feminism. My grandma is a great example because she demonstrates that feminism really is for everyone. The famed feminist known as “bell hooks” was here for two weeks as a scholar-in-residence last month. I am happy that I got to listen to her four times. Each time, I remembered her book: “Feminism is for Everyone.” But lay people who are not invested in intellectual exercise are not thinking about that concept every day.
However, some people are doing the work of feminists every day. Feminism starts with conversation and ends with action. Scholars and cultural critics such as bell hooks frame feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression. The part people neglect to focus on is that sexism is an oppressive system that hurts men and women.
At 87 years old, Grandma Odessa has spent her life dedicated to ending systems of inequality for all kinds of people. Mr. Howard was an elderly white man whose family abandoned him. She took care of him and helped him ease the last several years of his life.
Then there is Miss Dessie, who at 99 is sharper than any future MCAT or GRE test-taker. Miss Dessie is grateful to Grandma Odessa for taking her home-cooked meals every week. That is feminism at work, because in our culture around the elderly, people are sending their aged ones to homes and elder care centers. Their friendship demonstrates why that might not be necessary.
Grandma also does her civic duty every year by working the voting polls. I do not even know what goes into being able to do this, but Grandma makes it a priority to give the elderly people in her voting district absentee ballots and encouragement. That is important because many people view the elderly as out-of-touch with the world and think that everyone older than 80 has Alzheimer’s disease.
Grandma Odessa also sends me packages to share with international students and makes sure I share love with all the people I know. That “love ethic” is echoed in several of bell hooks’ works. Anyone who I ever brought to Grandma Odessa’s house was invited to kick it as if he was in his own home.
Feminism is not taking away rights and perks from other groups, it is about equal access and treatment for all. Grandma Odessa wants everyone to have clean air and water, and to feel loved as a whole person. I do not think that is radical. Several years ago, I took a crew of black, Latino and white males to help my grandma with her elaborate field, and she spent hours cooking dinner for the 13 of them.
Feminism is counter-cultural. Why would 13 grown college males help an elderly woman? It is because people can be operating out of feminist ideas without calling it feminism. That day, those boys were dirty and sweaty in the 100-degree heat and some got poison ivy for their wages. But that day, feminism was for everyone, and we celebrated with a home-cooked meal from Grandma Odessa.