I officially declared my major a couple weeks ago, and it feels good. I've known that I wanted to be a politics major since pretty early on in my college experience, but having it down on paper makes it official. How exactly did I know?
Flashback to first semester of freshman year. Scared new Oberlin student Emma is trying to figuring out many things, including what kinds of clubs to join. I see flyers for Students United For Reproductive Freedom.
"All right," I think, "I am indeed a student who would happily unite with others for the purposes of reproductive freedom."
I went to the first meeting and loved it. I kept returning.
I noticed something.
I've always been a feminist, and I've always been passionate about reproductive freedom. But through attending these meetings, I started to realize that that was my primary passion. That's what was getting me enraged and engaged.
I came to Oberlin thinking I wanted to major in cinema studies. And that thought was legit. When I was about twelve, I saw The Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola, and it blew my damn mind.
"Whoa whoa whoa! You're telling me that women can direct movies? What a concept! Lemme get in on that action!" - essentially my thought process.
I really enjoyed the cinema studies class I took at Oberlin, but it wasn't what made me think about my future. I always intended on minoring in politics because I've always been a political person. When I was four, the 2000 elections were going on. I asked my dad who he was voting for, and he told me Al Gore. I told my dad that then I too would vote for Al Gore.
Much to my disappointment, I still had fourteen years of waiting before I could vote. Fourteen long years.
My first time voting last year was one of the happiest moments of my life. I filled out an absentee ballot instead of voting in Ohio because Wendy Davis was running for governor of Texas, and I would do everything in my power to see that happen (spoiler alert - it didn't). Also, I told Ms. Davis to her face that I was going to vote for her in my first election, so it would have been awkward if I didn't.
Oberlin is the perfect place for me to be a political person.
First is the obvious - Oberlin is a top notch school. The education I'm getting here is amazing. While academia often fails to include viewpoints that aren't white, male, and Western, Oberlin does a good job of trying to be inclusive. That doesn't mean it's always perfect (because boy, oh boy, is this stuff ingrained in us!), but it's aware of the issue, unlike other schools.
Even though I didn't love my first politics class, I loved all the activism going on around campus. I was (and still am) constantly hearing about issues and the ways that I can better approach them, issues that I didn't totally have a grasp on before coming here, like police brutality. There is a dialogue happening all the time. It can be exhausting, but at the end of the day, it's so worth it. However, self-care is also important, and it's important to occasionally take a step back and not surround yourself with politics. But that's a whole other can of worms....
I've been putting off writing this section of this post because there are so many ways that society has my made my choice of major more and more relevant (which is not a good thing). So here's just what I can think of at the top of my head.
Everything that happened with Planned Parenthood this summer. Every presidential candidate on the GOP side. The fact that there's still a wage gap. No guaranteed family leave. Rape culture. Lack of abortion access. Fedora-wearing, Reddit-using "nice guys." Toxic masculinity that has led to mass shootings. The fact that mass shootings are allowed to happen. Climate change deniers. The numerous ways that racism still permeates our society. There are lots more reasons, but these are just a few.
Whenever I see these news stories, I get frustrated. I feel powerless. That's why I decided to become a politics major, because I want to gain the knowledge and skills to turn that frustration into something productive. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.