Name: Jessica Montalino
Occupation: Adjunct faculty at a small college (aka, I teach one class), mother, and soon to be a worker/owner of a cloth diaper service cooperative
Location: Western Massachusetts
How do you define feminism?
This is such a complex question, I can start by saying that I definitely don’t believe in or want “equality” to men, as that upholds the patriarchal, sexist, racist, homophobic, and classist system (both globally and nationally). The way I see the world – my feminist lens – looks at the way in which women are subjected to particular oppression(s). Being a mother of a two year old child, I am hyper-vigilant about the strict gendering codes of conduct our society pushes on young kids. So for me currently, feminism means challenging gender binaries.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I technically began calling myself a feminist in college. When I was young I often challenged the status quo (while upholding it too, hey I wasn’t perfect) and I can remember going out of my mind about blatant sexism (even if I didn’t know the word). Being somewhat of a scrappy kid I always felt weird that adults who didn’t really know me treated me differently than they did boys, which was the only word I could use to describe being gendered at that point – different. I think my awareness was always there, but when I learned the politic of feminism I was able to put that label onto my beliefs.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
My feminism has changed in many ways and at various points in my life. My first exposure to feminism was technically radical feminism, like old school burn your bra, anti pornography, type. In college one professor in particular was staunchly radical feminist and to be honest, pretty narrow minded and classist and elitist, but god in my naive and short life I thought she was the most bad ass person I’d ever met! As I grew and had other life experiences I found that her mode of feminism didn’t match my life or my story. I met other amazing feminists and activists and I realized that having one way to critique culture and society can actually be more damaging than progressive. I am now skeptical of any theory that doesn’t leave room for self critique and growth. If you can’t be flexible in your politics or have to live by a certain theoretical “code of conduct” then that politic is backwards, plain and simple.What did change for me is seeing my situation through an intersectional lens, how I am marginalized by gender and class, but also now that I am a mother how that influences how others see me and how I see myself. But also as a white woman and how that provides me with a plethora of unearned privileges.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I can’t think of any experience that stands out for me. I can say I have been met with plenty of eye rolls and patronizing comments about what and who feminists are. I’ve met more resistance about the way I parent my son than I have about identifying as a feminist.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
My hope is that feminism as an ideology and as a way of life continues to evolve and remain self-reflective – to stay stagnant can be limiting, but to be fluid and malleable expands the impact of feminist theory and feminist culture.
Jessica Montalino (a pseudonym last name) lives with her partner Ron, their son Oliver and the handsome feline Marvin. By day she is a wild toddler wrangler and the occasional adjunct teacher of oppression and social justice (she grades papers and creates curriculum at the park and during nap time). Most often Jessica day dreams about living in the country with chickens, a few goats, some fruit trees and a huge garden, but for now she’s happy freaking out her neighbors with her wacky urban gardening experiments (trellised pumpkins?!) and cloth diapers hung out on the line. Jessica blogs about motherhood, birth, gender and whatever else strikes her fancy over at Montalino. You can also find her on facebook.
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