The feminist who taught me the meaning of feminism

June 12, 2018 /

Mrs. Delgado’s first statement to our high-school class was that this course is called women’s studies because the majority of our life we’ve been taught HIStory and it was time we learned HERstory. Feminism: the belief of equity on a social, political, and economical level. I remember the first day I walked into women’s studies class. At first I was skeptical about the class and thought it wasn’t for me. Little did I know Mrs. Delgado, the Women’s Studies teacher had me on lock, with her inspiring words and her strong personality.

I never thought of myself as a feminist because I never really knew the true definition of the word. I looked at being a feminist a woman who hated men. Mrs. Delgado taught me the true meaning of what being a feminist is and means.

Mrs. Delgado has not only made me more aware but has also made me more open minded and less judgemental. Because of this class, I now look at people and life in a new perspective. I have come to accept who I am and to always follow my dreams.

So to Mrs. Delgado, Thank you. I will continue to advance equity in our society and carry on what I learned inside the class into our community.

(Email interview/Q&A with Ann-Marie Delgado)

Note: Questions and responses were trimmed for brevity and clarity.

We’Ced: What does being a feminist mean to you? When did you begin to consider yourself a feminist and why?

Ann-Marie Delgado: I believe a feminist is someone who, regardless of gender, believes in equity on a social, political, and economic level.

My godmother always had Ms. Magazine in her house. [Ms.Magazine’s slogan is “More than a magazine, a movement.” As it advocates for full equality.] When I visited, I would read the articles and listen closely to what she said.  I may not have fully understood feminism at the age of 8, but because of her, I did believe I could do accomplish whatever I chose to accomplish and that my gender would not define me, my skills would.

In class you have talked about how you were in an abusive relationship. How did that affect you mentally/emotionally? What did you learn from being in an abusive relationship?

I think it surprised me when I realized it, because I consider myself to be a strong person and was unsure how I ended up in that place, for that long. The cycle of abuse is a stressful one because you do not know how long the honeymoon [phase] is going to last or when the crash is going to happen.

I stayed in the relationship for over five years. The relationship was what I knew and I had invested so much time in it, I did not want to walk away and be a failure. I bought into the hype that is portrayed in TV shows and movies that relationships have drama and that is all made okay with the rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns that follow.  I didn’t realize then that relationships have challenges, but love should NEVER hurt.

I look at who I am today and who I was then and cannot believe both people lived in the same body. After the relationship, I went through a process of figuring out who I was, what I wanted in my life, and what was acceptable in a relationship. By the time I met my now-husband of 15 years, we were both very clear in communicating the level of respect and trust that needed to exist in our relationship for it to move forward in a healthy and positive way. When I was in my previous relationship, I did not want children. I believe this is because I did not want them to be raised in such a toxic environment. When I met my husband and our relationship grew, I knew we could create an environment that I would welcome children into, because I knew that they would see that love does not hurt and mutual love and respect can lead to a lasting partnership.

You started the first women studies class to be taught on a high-school level in the nation. Why do you feel like a women studies class needed to be taught at a younger age?

As far as we know, we were (until this year), the first year-round women’s studies class in the nation at a public school. The experience was somewhat isolating as many had preconceived notions about the class. I think even today, there may be people who perceive it as a man-hating class. I always tell students on the first day that if that is the class they are looking for, they will not find it here. The way I see it, if I were to diminish one gender over another, then I would not be achieving the equity I am seeking. When I speak at different conferences around the world, many are surprised and thrilled to know that a women’s studies class is being offered at the high school level. Many people comment that their first exposure to gender studies did not occur until college and they wish they had access to information we discuss so that they could have had earlier insight into their potential, as well as the accomplishments of female trailblazers who have made things possible for us today.

Being a woman of color, how do you think that affects or did affect you in the workforce? What advice do you have for women of color and/or women in general who might be or already have been discriminated against?

I wish I could say it has never happened, but it tends to be the norm instead of the exception. I am always amazed when people will say to me that they are surprised by what I have done as they did not expect so much from a Hispanic female. I truly believe they think they are conveying a compliment. In these instances, I let my work ethic, my passion, and my education speak for themselves. There have been other instances where I have had individuals who are Hispanic ask me when I became “whitewashed.”  My initial reaction to this statement is to ask, why are you assuming that only white individuals are capable of being educated and making a difference in the world? I then use their response as an opportunity to show that one’s color does not limit their potential, but buying into the limited mindsets of some people could. I am extremely proud of the fact that in addition to my teaching credential, I have a Master’s in Education and a doctorate in law. I want my students to know that they can pursue their education and their passion for bringing about change.

So to those who have been discriminated against, I would say first and foremost, know your rights! Second, I would say be your most authentic self. You do not have to stay at the low bar that some in society may have set for you, instead set a high bar for yourself and exceed it. Never live your life to prove others wrong. Instead, live your life to prove yourself right.

In 5-10 years what do you want to be doing? Where do you see yourself?

I have had some individuals ask me if I would consider running for political office. I see so many things that I would want to do, but there is still so much in the classroom that needs my attention and still holds my heart. No matter what I am doing in 5-10 years, I know it will be closely tied to my passion of pursuing equity in our society.

During the election, you have said in your lifetime you will never see a women president, why do you believe that? What do you believe is holding us back from having the first female president?

First of all, I hope I am wrong. Second, I am aware that people (females and males alike) assign stereotypes to females that they will place on any female candidate seeking the highest level of office. Many males will be looking for a female that is tough, but feminine and many females will be looking for someone who is perfect and morally/ethically flawless. Such a woman does not exist and I do not know that she ever will. As more people began to realize this and accept it, I hope that I am proven wrong.”

“Unconscious bias. People do not want to acknowledge their fears or anxieties for fear of judgment and so they may offer vocal support or keep quiet. In the voting booth, when no one else is present, their unconscious bias can safely emerge.

How do you achieve equality in your classes? Do you bring that sense of equality into your home and how?

I strive to lead by example. I try to make sure that my students know that I see them as humans who have a backstory and that story and path they have traveled should be valued and respected.

I asked my kids (Aidan, age 12 and Mackenna, age 10) this question. They said that they believe that I strive for it. We do not have responsibilities in our home based on gender. I want both of my children to be capable of taking care of themselves without feeling like they have to rely on someone else to feel whole. To that end. they are completely unaware of what might be considered traditional male responsibilities in the home and what might be considered traditional female responsibilities. They know that we are a family that needs to work together to get things done.

Do you think there’s a stigma attached to the word “feminist” and why? How can we get rid of that stigma?

Absolutely. When people think of the word feminist, they tend to conjure up images of an extreme.

When people visually cringe at the word feminist, I ask them if they believe in equity on a social, political, and economic level. When they enthusiastically reply “yes”, I reply with equal enthusiasm, “Congratulations! You’re a feminist.” Any opportunity to educate individuals about the actual definition of feminism is an opportunity to debunk a myth.

How can young people, like me, help advance equality in our community?

You took the first step by taking a chance on the class. When students send me material that they see on social media, I get so excited. For me, this is a step toward activism, as you are showing that you are aware of what the media and social media is seeking to feed you. When you pause and consider the message you are taking power over your life and what you will choose to consume. When society stops posting, sharing, and retweeting messages of hate and negativity than we have the opportunity to move forward. Finally, the best way to advance equity in one’s community is to move toward “No judgment!” Remember, we do not know the person’s story so how can we judge the choices they have made or the choices that might have been made for them.

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