Inclusivity Is Key
From an early age, most of us are taught to be quiet while others are talking. This way, one person will not talk over the other and dismiss what they have to say. Not only is it a rule of respect for others, but also an effective way for everyone to share their ideas. In daily conversations, we wait for one person to speak, and when they are finished, it is our turn to voice our own ideas, whether it be a response or statement. It is such a simple and easy concept that most people just do it without much thought, like breathing or walking. However, this lesson is easily forgotten when the other person has a message to convey that we may not agree with or not want to hear. We then try our best to justify our own beliefs by speaking over the other person to cover these conflicting thoughts and fill the conversation with ideas that follow our belief system. Unfortunately, this disregard of other perspectives is something seen on a much larger scale than an everyday social interaction. Throughout author Joy Castro’s memoir she recounts on similar experiences where this type of exclusivity occurs on a collegiate level. By sharing with the audience both her educational and personal experience of exclusion, prejudice, and injustice, readers are able to see the errors in society when it comes to including everybody’s perspectives.
"We then try our best to justify our own beliefs by speaking over the other person to cover these conflicting thoughts and fill the conversation with ideas that follow our belief system."
Throughout Castro’s life, she has always felt excluded, whether it was her being the only Latina in her high school or her being one of the few women teaching at Wabash, an all men’s college. In high school, she was able to blend in with her peers as she shared similar physical features such as her hair and skin color. The difficulty came when her class graduated; while most of her classmates enlisted in the military or started working in coal mines, Castro decided to become a first-generation college student, eventually studying feminist theory. Although she was unique in the sense that she went against the flow of her graduating class, she never let her isolation bring her down; she was determined to expose her college community to different perspectives, whether it was by means of presenting unpopular feminist literature or sharing her own experience as a woman in academia. Through her methods, Castro gave a platform for these underrepresented women to voice their struggles. She explains why broadcasting these voices is important as she believes “our public voices are an extraordinary privilege. We can make the choice to carry with us and be shaped by the voices we’ve heard” (270). By making it easier to share feminist literature from multiple sources, Castro shares various perspectives on feminist struggles, allowing others to become aware of these victims. As Castro was working hard to make sure everybody had a voice, her professors in graduate school did not agree with her efforts. Since she was taking a course studying feminist theory, the professor’s refusal to study all different types of feminist literature came as a shock to Castro. Her professors ignored works from struggling women victimized by societal prejudice--works that included passion, rage, and “justified anger in response to violation” (268). Instead, the class discussion focused on pieces that were written by other scholars, mostly men theorists, as opposed to the victims that were experiencing the most oppression. This exclusion of knowledge prevented her classmates from learning about the harsh troubles occuring to women outside of academia.
"Although she was unique in the sense that she went against the flow of her graduating class, she never let her isolation bring her down; she was determined to expose her college community to different perspectives, whether it was by means of presenting unpopular feminist literature or sharing her own experience as a woman in academia."
Even though these professors would exclude certain feminist authors, they also made sure that the works studied directed their message only toward other scholars in college. Castro claims that “everyone needs to be invited to think. The discussion has to matter to everyone, and everyone’s voice must be heard” (270). In an effort to put her words into action, she tried to introduce readings that spoke to women from different backgrounds, such as women coming from poverty or domestic violence, but her efforts were shut down. This frustrated Castro, as she wanted to include as many perspectives as possible to educate her peers on issues outside of the classroom but her professors did not feel the same way. The refusal of her professors to include Castro’s suggestions was an attempt to avoid controversial topics. Perhaps these teachers knew that these writings were coming from victims experiencing severe cases of prejudice and they did not want to study issues that felt too real. As Castro explains, “Maybe if your educational pedigree is immaculate, the remedial intellectual needs of people who grew up with food stamps aren’t your problem” (268). Even though it is easier for professors to ignore writings about issues that do not directly concern them, Castro was determined to let the voices of discriminated women be heard.
"Even though it is easier for professors to ignore writings about issues that do not directly concern them, Castro was determined to let the voices of discriminated women be heard."
Fortunately, this inclusion of feminist writing increased when she started teaching at Wabash, an all men’s college in Indiana. With Castro now being in control of the classroom, she had the ability to give the microphone to underrepresented authors such as Jean Rhys and Gloria Anzaldúa. Finally, these victims of discrimination were able to have their voices heard, especially to a demographic of students who “came with the expressed intention of debunking feminism” (269). Even though Castro was spreading works of authors that had never been heard of before, her audience still consisted of students in a classroom. While it is good to educate students on these issues, these writings may be more helpful to women experiencing prejudice outside the classroom or in their homes, such as domestic violence. With domestic violence being such a huge problem, especially among those in poverty, it is hard to reach victims outside of the academic community. This is why Castro aspired to include feminist writings in easily accessible literature like Cosmopolitan and Redbook. This way women going through social injustices will have resources available to them without having to attend college or take educational courses studying these types of issues. Her attempts to reach as many women as possible is her subtle way of demonstrating how inclusivity is important and how it may even save lives.
Through her background and life stories shared in her memoir, there is no question that Castro has experienced isolation and oppression. Social injustice is not uncommon for women, especially women like Castro who are not afraid to voice their opinions and share their perspectives. However, Castro’s deterministic nature helped her with the goal of including as many voices as she could. Thanks to her, more authors are now getting recognition they deserve, and more women are taking a stand to make sure their voices are heard. Castro’s life is proof of the impact one person can have if we all do our best to listen to everyone’s opinions and take into account perspectives that differ from our own. This way, we have the ability to learn about and combat various injustices so that we can progress together as a society.
Bartholomae, David, et al. Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers. Bedford/St.Martin's, Macmillan Learning, 2017.