Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

People of USM: Susan Feiner

Posted on February 27, 2018 in Community
By USM Free Press

Photo courtesy of USM Photo Library

Charlie Wheeler, Contributor

Does a straw have two holes, or one? According to Professor Susan Feiner, it has two holes, one for each end. Feiner is a professor of Women and Gender Studies, as well as Economics. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has been a long time faculty member at USM.

Feiner teaches a full range of courses in the Women and Gender studies field. She also teaches several courses in Economics, and leads a course called Critical Thinking, as well as an upper-level requirement course called Political Economy.

“It’s one of the real advantages of having a home in two departments; I don’t get sick of either one!” Feiner said after being unable to pick a favorite class.

The proudest moment Feiner recalls in her career is a piece that was written about her by two economists at University of California, Davis.

“They wrote an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal comparing me to Robespierre,” Feiner said. “I can remember thinking ‘My goodness, they must be really, really insecure to be that scared of me!’”

(According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Maximilien Robespierre was a French politician and lawyer in the 18th century. He was a huge figure during the French revolution, before eventually being overthrown and executed. He was known for his ideals about inequality in income and education.)

However, Feiner didn’t always have this career in mind. She started her college career wanting to be a lawyer, and then on to studying economic history. She realized that the law structure is not the best for addressing poverty and inequality.

“I decided to go to grad school in economics because I was very concerned about those things, and it struck me that being an economist would give me the tools for that,” Feiner stated.

As a child, Professor Feiner had different goals. “I remember I wanted to be a Go-Go girl,” she joked, before revealing that her true goal had been archaeology. She was fascinated with the tombs in Egypt and the temples in South American jungles. She also recalls loving to play on the seawall of the Hudson River as a child. Eventually she moved on and became the woman she is today. To think, the school could have lost her to some tall, white boots and a funky patterned-dress.

If Feiner could live anywhere in the world, she said that she would choose a society with more equality than the U.S. Unfortunately for Feiner, she admits she knows little else besides English when it comes to languages, and confesses that that would severely limit her options. Feiner says that she would love to live in a Scandinavian country, but knows none of those languages. Therefore, she says, she would be forced to choose somewhere else. She listed Cuba as a good choice.

“They have very good equality down there, especially gender equality, I’ve noticed,” Feiner explained. “And I do know some limited Spanish.”

Needless to say, Feiner has a few opinions on the current political climate in this country. She has a vision of what this country could look like. She introduced the theory of full employment. Feiner explained it as a federal job guarantee.

Communities would have local employment offices, rather than unemployment offices, to give jobs to those without one. These offices would be federally funded, and communities would have a say in the kind of work being given out. People who do the work would get paid $26000 a year and receive full benefits, becoming the lowest full time job a person could get. Rather than working at McDonald’s for minimum wage, the work would go towards the community. This work would include things such as working at local libraries, reading to blind people, and aiding with elderly citizens.

“Tons and tons of work is needed to be done to repair our physical and social infrastructure,” Feiner said.

Feiner also has a few things to say about gender equality in the U.S. Women’s rights are very fragile in the current years. Feiner wants young women in this country to be aware of how precarious rights are for safe and effective birth control.

“Any woman who says, ‘oh, I’m not political,’ doesn’t understand that being a woman is political,” Feiner said.

Feiner is, without a doubt, a huge asset to this college. The courses she teaches are full of highly critical information that upcoming, and current, generations of youths in this country need.

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