I am a political science major. I have taken classes upon classes on political theory, philosophy, and conflict. While all of these topics cover a vast array of issues, one thing remains the same: there are no women. I have read what seems like hundreds of articles; articles on terrorism, on presidents in Latin America, on the causes of war, on the proper way to run regressions, articles that are always written by men. I’ve heard that in one political science class, a girl asked, “Why don’t we ever read about women?” To which the professor responded, “Because they haven’t done anything.” Now I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that. Did he really think that women hadn’t done anything? Had they never been published? Never voiced an opinion? Have all women remained completely invisible? The answer: no.
At the beginning of this semester I had a professor explain to my political philosophy class that he was including a woman in the curriculum for the first time ever. I was impressed. A professor had identified a problem with what he was teaching and he took steps to fix it; because women have done something, and he was going to make us aware of this. The day finally came for us to learn about the famous American anarchist, Emma Goldman.
Emma Goldman emigrated to the United Sates from Russia at the age of sixteen. The year was 1885 and she found herself drawn to the anarchist movement. Over the years she would find herself lecturing before huge crowds, founding a journal, and at times, behind bars. While Goldman was an anarchist, her lectures addressed women’s rights and social issues.
Goldman was opposed to the first feminist movement and its goals concerning suffrage. Even so, her speeches and writings revolved around the education of women and their access to contraceptives. She challenged patriarchy as a hierarchy that should be challenged. She demanded “the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. [She demanded] freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.”
Regardless of some of her crazier ideas and her opposition to feminism, I admire this woman. It was the late 1800s and early 1900s and it was not common for a woman to be at the forefront of anything. She did not let this deter her from doing what she believed. She would not take no for an answer. She was going to dictate her own life, not the men around her.
I left class impressed. Not only with the woman determined to speak her mind and be independent regardless of the current societal norms, but with my professor as well. A man in the political science department had realized that women have in fact done something; something noteworthy, something worth studying, something that contributed to the world of political philosophy, and he made sure his students were aware of it.