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identity, identity, who am iiiii?

froggies315's picture

At the end of class today, Anne asked us whether or not Barbie should be held accountable for the the terrible things that happened in the physical world as a result of her dream world...after all, Barbie, like all little girls, was just fulfilling her dream of becoming a princess, and that dream was the product of a collective society.  I struggle to accept this line of thinking because it makes me feel powerless.

In third or fourth grade, my Hebrew school class learned about the Holocaust.  We read some fiction (Number the Stars, The Devil’s Arithmetic, etc), and some non-fiction (about dates and numbers).  I was enthralled by the story of this genocide and, for a couple of years, I was Jewish because the Holocaust happened.  My grandpa did not like this.  He said that while it was super important for me to learn and remember, ultimately I wasn’t Jewish because of the past.  At 12, I didn’t really understand what he was trying to say to me, but a couple of years ago, I got it.  This realization changed the way I think about my identity as Jewish person and otherwise.   

I am Jewish because when I say the Shema I feel Jewish.  I am not Jewish because I’m chosen; and I’m certainly not Jewish because of Hitler.  I can apply similar logic to other parts of my identity.  For example, I am a woman because I feel like a woman.  I am not a woman because of the dreams I had when I was four-year-old and I’m not a woman because society has constructed gender to disenfranchise me.  I am a sister because my love for my siblings makes me feel like a sister.  I’m not a sister because my parents decided to have a couple of children. I could go on...

If we think about our identity in this way then we give ourselves agency and power.  We also gift ourselves with tremendous responsibility.  I’ll take my freedom and I’m excited for the responsibility that comes along with it.  Society is not to blame for my dreams or my identity or my actions. What I think I’m trying to say is that--in some convoluted from the physical world into the dream world and then back to physical world kind of way--Barbie is responsible for Wanda’s death.  Let me clear though, I’m not saying that society is all good.  I know that sexism, racism, gender etc. are very, very real constructed things that can push people to feel like they don’t have agency and power.  But also, society is what we got.  So at a certain point, I know that if I want to change things, if I want to make things better, I have to take responsibility and I have to expect everyone else to take responsibility too.