A love letter to feminism and my Women’s Studies degree

Oh, hi! It’s 90s Amanda!

The 90s were a long time ago.

I know!

This is shocking news to me too.

Maybe it’s because I don’t really feel like I’ve changed much since the 90s (my teenage/early 20s years), other than the fact that I’m better medicated, have a few more tattoos, and have a lot fewer piercings.


I solidified my identities back then—feminist, atheist, vegetarian, liberal, scowly, mouthy, cynical—and honestly haven’t really stopped dressing like I did as a teenager (hey, when you realize that Converse, fun socks, jeans, black tshirts, and hoodies are a good uniform, you stick with it). I spend almost all my time reading and writing about young adult books. It’s easy for my brain to stall out and go, yeah, you’re still an adolescent and not that much time has passed.

Then you go to a college reunion and walk in with your friends and go, ooooh, time HAS passed. How did we get so OLD?!

I spent this past weekend in Duluth, where I went to college, with some of my favorite people on earth. We were all Women’s Studies majors, waaaay back in the 90s, and spent a ton of time together. One of our favorite professors was retiring, so it was a good excuse to take a little road trip and have a sleepover party. The retirement party was really nice—a big turnout to thank Beth for all she did for us during college and to wish her well in this new phase of life—and it was a kick to get to see other alums and professors we haven’t kept up with.


Renee, Kelly, Sarah, and I spent hours and hours talking and laughing. We reminisced about college-era things and went back to our school to check out the many upgrades that have happened since our years there. Between the four of us, we were able to dig up a ton of memories and had so much fun talking about those meaningful college years. So much has happened since then. We’re all mothers. We’re all married. Kelly and I spent a decade living two miles apart. There have been road trips while in grad school, travel together to Boston and all over England, births, adoptions, marriages, funerals, and so much shared joy and sadness.


Retirement party for Beth Bartlett, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies department head.

We didn’t give Beth a retirement card; we gave her a thank you card. We thanked her for our wonderful feminist educations, for helping shape who we are, and for bringing us together as lifelong friends. Being a feminist is probably the most important aspect of my identity. It was punk rock, riot grrrl, and zines that led me to feminism in the early 90s. Choosing Women’s Studies as one of my majors connected me to all of these wonderful other feminists who absolutely fed my brain and spirit as I continued to devour everything I could possibly read about feminism. They supported and challenged me in ways that have affected my entire life. And now, at almost 40, I am not sure that I have any close friends who would not identify (openly, loudly, and quickly) as a feminist. It is so gratifying to be able to talk to all of these smart friends about politics, identity, and parenting, all through a feminist lens. We are raising feminist children. We are still challenging and supporting each other.

And as we walked about UMD, cackling over memories and sighing over favorite classes, I kept thinking how absolutely grateful I am for not listening to the people who asked, snidely, “What will you ever do with a Women’s Studies degree?” I never worried about what I would do with it; I knew a Women’s Studies education would give me a solid look at intersectional feminism. It would teach me about literature, politics, history, psychology, sociology, art, activism, and social justice in ways no other major would. It would educate me and empower me. The added bonus was it also gave me lifelong friends. I will always be so grateful for what the Women’s Studies program did for me, and to me, and for the ways it shaped my life and has influenced the past 21 (gulp) years of my life.