Our Insta may have given it away, but hello, it’s me; I have traveled to Iowa and back, and I’m here to tell the tale. Who knew that driving around the midwest during one of the craziest political seasons in American politics could be so much fun??
My own, growing feminism is mostly responsible for my excitement about the chance to participate in and observe the Iowa caucusing process--and, as many feminisms have, it began with Gloria Steinem. After reading her book My Life on the Road, chatting with her IRL on her couch, and generally existing in a permanent state of G Steinem fan-girl, my personal understanding of and approach to feminism has shifted entirely. Gloria advocates for the kind of the feminism that you can’t read about online or in an academic paper; she is living proof of the power of meeting people face to face and listening to what they have to say. She acknowledges and embraces the ways in which academia can be divisive and exclusionary, particularly to poorer women who have more pressing things to worry about like putting food on the table than Betty Friedan’s opinion of women who mop. She recognizes that the best way to be an inclusive feminist is to dismantle these hierarchies of Knowledge with a capital “K” and to speak to real women face-to-face. IRL, if you will.
Her book is, as the title would suggest, about her time traveling--shuffling from speaking event to speaking event, at times ruggedly wandering U.S. roads in search of new ideas and voices of the people. She mapped her feminism, activism, organizing, and ultimately her impact as a cultural phenomenon by way of plopping herself in front of the real women and the real people she was trying to help, and banishing a fear or embarrassment of seeking answers. This kind of activism cloaked in what appears up front to just be general curiosity is extremely appealing to me--’cause like, the thesis papers and articles and textbooks are fascinating and essential for any budding feminist, but at some point it becomes more meaningful to hear real voices coming out of faces in front of your own; voices unmediated by the spin of a journalist in the business of attention-grabbing, a politician in the business of winning, or an activist with a political agenda. The only way to get to know the people is to talk to them. Makes sense to me. This is why I went to Iowa.
Ok, yes I know that not just everyone can pick up and go to a new state just to ~talk~ to people; I get it, people have jobs. Luckily, this is my job. (And my school has been sending a group of students to the caucuses since the 80s, so like get it, Emerson College!) The opportunity to hit the road with a group of fellow students seemed an obvious choice for me, as someone who is constantly trying to improve her feminism for my readers, A.K.A. all of y’all. *air kisses*
This election is one of the most intense and polarized in all of U.S. history. Feminist advocates have a tremendous amount to gain and lose depending on its outcome, but we all basically know that. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump wins and we have a president that will obliterate reproductive rights and hurt low-income folks, immigrants, etc. Bernie Sanders wins and we have the first areligious/Democratic Socialist ever in office who would bring with him the desire to fundamentally change the way our politics interacts with money. Hillary Clinton wins and we have our first ever female president (a huge deal no matter what your politics may be!!!), champion of reproductive rights, grandma (aww), and more in office. Yada yada yada. With all this at stake, nothing seemed more important to me than meeting the real people and potential voters of Iowa to see what issues matter most to them.
I met SO many surprising characters in the state of Iowa. In case you had the idea like I did that Iowa is basically a conservative state full of people with similar, conservative views, I’m telling you now that you are way off. As a political geek, the sheer array of political identities in Iowa was thrilling. I talked to people driving Ubers, I talked to people in town hall meetings and rallies, at Iowa State frat parties, at their doors, in lines, in elevators, and at the actual caucuses themselves. Here are some stories: