Embarrassing admission: I don’t know the names of our presidents or of our state capitals. Or where most of the states are located geographically. My brain bank has chosen not to store these basic pieces of knowledge even though, as a child, I had both topics laminated in placemat form and placed under my cereal bowls on a rotating basis.
I know who Wendy Davis is and what kind of sneakers she wore to filibuster in all her fabulousness, but I’m not entirely clear what the Benghazi scandal was all about. I have most of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech committed to memory, and I could talk your ear off about eco-feminist imagery in Willa Cather novels, but the Keystone Pipeline controversy baffles me.
Pursuant to my inner guilt over failing to become the all-knowing Renaissance woman I’ve always dreamed I could be, during my commute to work I commit myself to listening to at least 20 minutes of NPR . . . unless I succumb to the siren song of 99.5, “Today’s Country,” and seat dance to Big & Rich for the rest of the ride instead (a frequent occurrence).
But even when I sacrifice my Lady Antebellum, after BBC Newshour I’m left feeling like catching up with the never-ending newscycle, let alone putting it in its proper historical context, is an almost impossible task . . . kind of like how I feel when I walk into a comics store with my boyfriend and/or my father and either of them tries to explain the New 52 (just leave me alone with my Golden Age anthologies, okay?!).
And especially since I’ve started working full-time, I feel even more behind! In my mind, it is an appropriate use of my limited time to have long, involved Twitter discussions (as long and involved as a Twitter discussion could be) on female anti-heroes in television, but exhausting and ADD-inducing to read a Nation story on the Federal Reserve, which is probably really important and something grown-ups would read while drinking decaf coffee.
But as guilty as I feel letting these pieces of knowledge slip by me, part of me feels empowered to become even more specialized – to delve even deeper into the “her”-story (hate that word!) that was left off of the placemats.
My mom subscribes to a magazine called The Week, a news periodical with coverage of all the latest current events — culled from major news outlets such as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But despite her worldliness, the other morning I spent the space between sips of coffee explaining what a fistula was to her (yes, we have delightful breakfast conversation).
I’ve noticed, and it’s so strange to me, that whenever I display my knowledge on an ‘obscure’ topic such as all feminist issues seem to be (insert: *sigh*) to family or friends, I get looks of awe thrown back at me — as if I’m an oracle, dispensing knowledge from on high. But the reality is that all I am is a woman who believes that women, and their history, is not only endlessly interesting, but a crucial, often overlooked, part of any and all conversations.
Now, I don’t deny that sometimes, that makes me the annoying Debbie Downer Feminist here to ruin everyone’s Super Bowl with a discussion of masculine presentation and domestic violence rates in the NFL. But I like to think that I do a good job of walking the tightrope between soapboxing my ideals and genuinely enriching a conversation with a rare point of view . . . one that gets rarer, believe me, the longer you remain outside academia and away from poetry slams and 24-hour organic diners.