Humxns of UCT - Hayley Christine Knol

What makes Her Campus UCT so special and unique from the other chapters is that our members, writers, and students are incredibly diverse. Each person has something beautiful and interesting about them – a story to share, a talent, or an outlook on life. We’d like to celebrate our diversity by zooming in on individual’s stories, speaking to them about what they’re most passionate about and letting them shine on our platform. Whether it be just for a chuckle or to actually share some wise words, we’d like to introduce a new series to Her Campus UCT: Humxns of UCT

Whilst sitting down with the young and ambitious Hayley Christine Knol, the two of us spoke about Feminism, the need for Gender Studies and how everything important stems from Gender Studies and Politics. 


Image from Hayley Christine Knol


Why Gender Studies and Politics? 

I had actually decided to take History as a major because that’s what I thought I was interested in. I was sitting on the Jammie steps, talking to this guy named Helenard. I didn’t know him at all - he was wearing some dope shoes and I told him he was wearing some dope shoes. Him and I got to chatting and he said ‘why not take Gender Studies’ and I actually never thought about it. I had feminist beliefs, but I never knew that there was something you could actually take at UCT, let alone an entire course. He gave me a run down and I thought it was so interesting and completely out of anything that I know. My idea of feminism was a completely white woman, middle-class idea of being equal to men. And I never even thought about the prospect of learning about intersectionality and how all of these different identities intersect. And I just thought Politics was cool.


Do you classify yourself as a feminist? 

It’s such a tough thing to say you’re a feminist today, because there are so many misconceptions about what feminism is. There are so many ideas that all feminists hate men, all feminist don’t shave their legs and they are all radical. It’s difficult to identify as a feminist with all these misconceptions. I would identify as an intersectional feminist if I had to put a label on it. Feminism could be understood in so many different ways. I don’t think there is one feminism but feminisms that you in your own personal life and identity can relate to.


What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in each Department during your time at UCT? 

In the Politics Department I thought South African Politics would be about South African Politics. Like learning about how the government runs, what is the history of the South African government and the impact of colonisation and Apartheid on South Africa, but it was completely different. We read a book on Steve Biko and we analysed the philosophy of Black Consciousness and Black Political Thought and we unpacked that. Knowledge about the global South is created in the West or the Global North and kinda propagated onto the South and the South then internalises what it means to be African, what it means to be living in an African country. It’s all measured in Western terms and there is actually no form of ‘African Politics’ and ‘African Political State’ because its all incorporated through colonization and Western influences. In Gender Studies I learnt everything. I had no idea about any of this stuff. I walked in there thinking I was a feminist and I know everything, and I walked out of every class realizing I am a complete f*cking idiot.


How has your studies filtered through into your everyday life? 

Before, I was living my normal life and I thought I knew everything I needed to know and this was the right way to live. But from all these concepts I am able to sit back and analyse everything that is happening and to identify, in some cases, it is not normal the way people communicate with one another and reveals clear power dynamics. It has also allowed me to become closer to my friends, because if I see they are not understanding something or have said something problematic I at least have the ‘tools’ to help them understand. With Politics I have gotten so many opinions on things from a Global South perspective, rather than merely the West, which I did not have before.”


Do you think everyone should study Gender Studies at some point? 

I think it is really important and something everyone should be exposed to - even if it’s not in a formal learning environment. I don’t think the concepts need to be taught where you have to pay for it or do assignments and everything. I do think the concepts are really important for young people to understand because it will prevent everyone from leaving school believing their own misconceptions.” 


What was the most difficult part about your studies?

The hardest part of my studies was understanding the concept of white privilege because it was a tough pill to swallow and many people don’t want to accept it or understand it. I really thought I was open minded at the time I began my studies. This was my passion, but I couldn’t fully understand it. Last year, I was at a point where I did not know what to do because what I was passionate in is not in my sphere of influence, and I am unable to write about these things - like true inequality - because it was not for me to write about. I did eventually work through it and now I know when my voice can be used for good. I now know how to navigate myself through spaces better because I acknowledge the privileges that I have.