Sunday, December 19, 2004

The personal and the political

This women blogging thing has gotten under my skin. I don't know why. It's come up before and didn't bug me so much then. There's this assumption out there that in order for women to become "good" at blogging, they must be serious. They must stick to politics or some other topic that isn't personal. Personal bad; impersonal good. Apparently, we've stepped back to the 60s and we need Gloria Steinem again. At one point in my blog, I said something about considering the personal to be political and that I would try to find the political in the personal stories I tell.

I don't think I can do that with every single post I've made, but I can with many. If I wanted, I could turn the posts about Christmas present purchasing and receiving into something about the commercialisation of Christmas, about stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. exploiting their workers and the workers who manufacture the products they sell so that middle class folks like me don't have to spend too much money. It's an issue I care about, but it hasn't led me to boycott Target or to even write about. Mainly because I don't know what to do about it. I feel helpless so I just continue to shop. Maybe I should have said that instead of what I did say.

On writing Christmas cards, I could have noted that I'd fallen into a gender role where it is assumed that the female partner maintain the family's personal relationships and generally manages all things personal having to do with the family. Really, if the work world is going to change, men are going to have to start taking on these responsibilities. They are time-consuming drudge work. But what man is going to say that they need a half day off work to write Christmas cards or go Christmas shopping. No one blinked when I said this was what I was doing on my days off. They probably would have looked at my husband like he was from outer space. The other route to go is to not place so much importance on this kind of personal work. I've done that before--no cards--but then I feel disconnected. What do same-sex couples do? I've never asked the ones I know. Perhaps there's more equity. I'm certain there are more heterosexual couples where there's more equity.

My story about Best Buy could be slanted as yet another sign that men think women don't know anything about technology. It's happened to me soooo many times. Sexism is rampant in the technology world--at least in mine. It's part of why I enjoy working at a women's college and teaching the students how to navigate the technology world. So they can go to Best Buy and show up some smart-ass sales clerk. Seriously. I have never seen a woman working in the technology heavy areas of Best Buy. And the students I teach are headed for computer science programs and engineering schools, so they're going to be way beyond those Best Buy boys very soon. But somehow, the Best Buy boys still think they're better than them. Why? Perhaps because they wear their geekiness on their sleeves. Do women? I certainly don't--until I open my mouth.

So maybe I should include in my posts some facts and figures. Would I be more serious if I pointed out that the number of women entering computer science programs is on the decline? If I pointed out that while men are contributing a little more to household duties than they did 20 years ago that women still work more hours on domestic chores than men do? Perhaps. But isn't it more fun to read a story, to connect that story to your own life? I think so, but I do think that there is a political underbelly to nearly every personal story out there.

What's in the stories about students and grading (which I love reading)? What's in the stories about departmental politics? About the struggles to write and get published? About the struggle for tenure? About dealing with school teachers who just don't get why your child is the way he/she is? There's a little bit of political in all of those and just because you express it as a personal story doesn't mean it's not political.