Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists For Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we are speaking with Feminists for Choice writer Andrew Jenkins. AJ is a full time student at CSU Long Beach double majoring in Communications and Women’s & Gender Studies. He is vice president of the Speech & Debate team and Director of the first Choice USA chapter at CSU Long Beach. AJ is currently interning in the public affairs department at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and is also in the middle of a yearlong fellowship with Young People For. AJ is also the Communications Director at Textbooks4change, a student-led fundraising program that enables college students to raise money for progressive causes through textbooks purchases.
1. When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what influenced that decision?
Although I have always held very strong feminist values at my core, I didn’t really start calling myself a feminist until I was a freshman in college. To be honest, I didn’t even know that feminism existed prior to that. Growing up in such a conservative community removed me from all things progressive, let alone feminist. Despite the values instilled in me from a very early age, I didn’t have a feminist language and worldview quite yet. That changed when I left for college. After years of internalizing my queer sexuality, I finally decided to come out of the closet when I arrived in Long Beach. This experience, both internal and external, is what really brought me to feminism. I began to see connections between my own personal experiences of homophobia and the exploitation that women face on a daily basis. This pushed me to look deeper into what social and political structures shape human relations and it is precisely this journey that brought me to feminism and gender studies.
Once there, I finally had a language to describe a feeling and a sense of self that I had always had.
With that being said, I have to credit my mother for really showing me, through her actions, struggles, and triumphs, what feminism really means. Her balancing of motherhood and professional adventures really showed me what women are capable of. Her successes, despite all of the odds against her (ie: single motherhood, wage discrimination, a history of domestic violence) are what really informed my feminist politics. [Read more...]