Name: Ashley Jiles
Occupation: Secondary English teacher and aspiring yogini
Location: The Deeeeep South
Any other relevant tidbits you’d care to share: I’m a reader by nature. I’m a life long lover of learning. My dogs are my children. I am a bleeding heart liberal living in a Republican stronghold. I’m always open to book suggestions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll read them. I started to do a Susan G. Komen 3 day walk to prove to myself that I could, and I’m learning a lot about myself through the process.
|Ashley, rocking out|
How do you define feminism?
I always have a hard time answering this question, because in my head, feminism is the way I live my life. I expect to be treated fairly and equally when interacting with my partner, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my students, and the world, regardless of the labels our society places on each of us. I don’t expect to be treated better, but I do expect for the world to realize the value that women bring to the table and acknowledge the hardships and work our gender has contributed. For me, feminism extends beyond women and encompasses the fight for human rights.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I grew up in a conservative, rural GA family. Feminism was not a word mentioned in our household, even though my mother was an example of a 2nd wave feminist. Going to college meant driving 20 miles to a private Baptist institution. I didn’t even identify as a Christian, much less a Baptist, but that college kept me close to a high school sweetheart and provided a rich learning environment. I began taking business classes, because I was going to be an accountant. (PS. I hate math!) Finally, as an elective course, I took the introductory class in the Women Studies program. Needless to say, I had come home. People were speaking my language, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was developing a vocabulary and theoretical basis for the bold, confident, socially conscience young woman that was beginning to emerge under the tutelage of some amazing professors and mentors.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
When I first found my voice as a feminist, I shouted from the rooftops about the injustice done to minority groups. I fought with my daddy (and other Conservative types) constantly about politics, life views, and my decisions. I have always been pretty good about existing on the edge of status quo, and I started to develop my own rules and start to define my life by my expectations. As I have gotten older, I’m much quieter about my viewpoints. Choosing to let my actions tell my story. I resist in subtle ways now. I am still vocal about issues that matter to me. I mean, who are we kidding? I do hold 150 students captive at various times during the day. I still get to preach my message without using such words as feminist or liberal. Though, I do not mind being labeled if the need arises. A lot of times, I am the first person these teens have encountered that goes against the status quo so vocally. I often think to myself “I wonder if I’ll get fired for that.” Not because my views are that controversial, but because I do teach in a conservative, middle class, right wing Christian Republican stronghold. It hasn’t happened…..yet.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
Luckily, I enjoy lively political discussion. I have developed a tough shell and a handful of very witty comebacks to idiotic comments. Even though the majority of women I encounter live their lives under feminist premises, I do not believe the majority would not use the term “feminist” to describe themselves. I just educate. Educate. Educate. Regardless of age. Exposure is a powerful tool.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
The immediate future of feminism for me lies in educating young women about the rights they have to their bodies, self-esteems, and post-secondary education. Being a teenage girl in 2011 is a war zone. I believe we each fight our own battles for feminism every day. We fight for the equality of others while celebrating the differences of others.