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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Integrating the Seemingly Dissimilar

I experience eating lunch like watching a politically charged documentary

Guest blog by Jamie Woodworth
Senior, Environmental Studies & Women's Studies double major
University of Colorado Boulder

OK, I’m not walking off this campus with a mouthful of equations or a lab coat draped over my shoulders. Not that I couldn’t if I wanted to. But too much flak is given to the value of a degree in liberal arts; particularly, to the value of a degree that is built upon publications like, “The BITCH Manifesto” and “Rights and Animal Welfare.”

Indeed, I am walking out these doors with a profound knowledge of oppression, justice, and an understanding of my own role in this world.

It makes me wonder why my college education isn’t the standard for everyone’s high school education? 

It’s unfathomable to me now that when I was 18, I didn’t understand the concept of “institutions” or “social construction” or non-point source pollution. I could have entered the workforce at that impressionable age still thinking that it was culturally permissible to see Miley Cyrus “twerk” on camera, not think twice about Michelle Obama’s arms, or buy into Monsanto’s glorified corn agenda. My development as an informed citizen and individual would have been offset by years. These are things people need to know, need to carry with them in every day life.

Swallowing the culture pill sedates you. And it’s hard to know what you want when you’re asleep. I feel more empowered and ready to take the reigns of leadership than I ever have in my life—because my education has lit my torch.

But to address the crux of my argument, I have to point to the commonality between the environment and gender studies:
  • Environmental studies paints a picture of exploitation and value. This is cast in the light of economics, science, and society. The explicit facts about resource management and pollution convey an implicit ethic of mindfulness. Walking through life you see civilization through a filter of skepticism. I experience eating lunch like watching a politically charged documentary. I can see the factories spilling toxic effluent from the opalescent kernels in my chili, the laborers in China that pulled my plate out of the mouth of a sputtering utensil machine, and the CO2 blooming out of the unholy tailpipe of the truck that towed it all to me.
  • Women and Gender studies put it in context. When you relate the feminization of poverty to environmental problems, you see who suffers, and why. Who bore the pain of the Bhopal factory collapse? The majority female workforce. Who is least likely to have access to healthy food in (God bless) America? The single mothers who can’t maneuver their hand onto the bottom rungs of the opportunity ladder—the women who can’t even afford a “bootstrap” to pull up.

My education has let me see the unity in oppression. If you’re a feminist, you have to be an environmentalist, an activist and all those great “-ists” staggered on the battlefield. If we don’t consolidate, we’ll lose sight of each other. Because all subordination is the same, every depression is an impression of the same thumbprint. We’re all warriors under the same invisible hand.

I support women, I support men, I support the planet, demilitarization, good food, and condoms made of recycled plastic.


[My thanks again for the hundreds of kind messages, calls, card, and emails I have received during my sabbatical--and for great folks like Jamie Woodworth, Mike Kensler and others that have contributed excellent guest blogs. Comments below or privately to the author are welcome. I am happy to forward email messages to Jamie. -Dave]