Why I publicly identify as a feminist archaeologist


I use this blog and social media to discuss my archaeology career in what I hope is a thoughtful, accessible way. On each of my profiles, I label myself a feminist. I am often reminded that being identifiable online can complicate future job searches, but lately I’ve been wondering if my feminist identification will do the same. Instead of hiding and avoiding the ‘F word’, I’m going to explain why publicly identifying as a feminist is important to me.

 

1. Because feminism changed archaeology.

In studying archaeology, I learned about people who changed the face of the entire discipline by pointing out assumptions scholars made that limited our understanding of the past. Some of the first of these scholars were applying feminist academic critiques from other disciplines to archaeology.

I see the impact of feminist archaeology even in scholarly works written by those who do not follow or necessarily agree with broader political feminism. That speaks volumes about the intellectual impact of the critical feminist gaze.

 

2. Because I work in a field that the general public considers masculine.

I am a woman, and I am damn proud of everything I can accomplish that people expect that I cannot because I am female-bodied. Did you know that contemporary archaeology is becoming less and less dominated by males overall? (Significant gendered division of labor, of course, still stands.)

 

3. Because I daily must convince people that I can be self-sufficient and safe without a male caretaker.

One of my elder family members still tells me I should not travel without my father after ten years as a single, traveling adult. When I go to purchase tools, I get the kind of responses from (usually unhelpful) hardware store workers that make me go on rants. I know how to use a shovel better than most people, I am strong, I love being able to lift things on my own, and it gives me some satisfaction to prove people wrong. No, I don’t need help lifting that, look at my awesome muscles!

 

4. Because I want to be an example to people who have only felt wronged or judged by people calling themselves feminists.

The word “feminist” has been turned into a dirty word by decades of fearful media depictions of women pushing the boundaries of socially acceptable female behavior. There are, of course, radical feminists who push boundaries too far for many of us. I, too, have trouble with a lot of sub-groups who call themselves feminists while excluding transgender women and ignoring racial inequality. But this is not the core of feminism.

As a life-long student, I have learned to listen to people who challenge my thinking and give them the benefit of the doubt before judging the merit of their ideas. When I opened myself to the idea of feminism, I found people like Jessica Valenti, Roxane Gay, and Courtney Martin who existed in the real world where people are messy. Each of us has our own priorities but what holds the feminist community together is a concern for how our choices impact the opportunities of subjugated people.

That people are forgotten, underestimated, systematically left out is the reason feminism exists. A lot of times people feel left out BY feminists, and my goal is not to make people feel excluded. I am not perfect but I try. Remember that listening is especially difficult for people who feel they are not themselves heard. That goes for feminists and for people hurt by people who call themselves feminists.

 

5. Because I need to be reminded of where I fit, my privilege, and my disadvantages, to navigate the world effectively.

Privileges and challenges are filters through which we see the world. I don’t want to unknowingly reinforce the exclusion of people based on their race, sexuality, or any other aspect of their immutable identity. I want to live my life with eyes open because my experience is not everyone’s experience, and I need to keep that in mind from day to day.

 

6. Because I am not afraid.

Choosing to critically examine the systems I operate within makes me a better and more thoughtful person, in and out of the workplace. I am not afraid that people will hear the “f word” associated with my name and think the worst. I can prove them wrong.

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