Friday, September 5, 2008

The other F word


Lately I've noticed the collective rearing of feminist heads--women who fought so long that they forgot what they were fighting for, women who've fought hard and given up in despair, women who had a vague memory of feeling passionate once before they got sidetracked by Other Stuff. But lately? All around me there is an awakening, a fresh vigor, discussion and the distinct whiff of possibility. Maybe--just maybe I'm seeing the rebirth of the Feminist Movement.

By my senior year in high school I'd been a Feminist for a few years. Rocking my spiral perm, black eyeliner and thrift shop clothes, I railed against "The Man" in my English class essays and Speech class debates. My outrage was pure (unlike my virtue) and my platforms included any objectification of women (beauty pageants, SI swimsuit edition, pornography, uncomfortable fashion trends like high heels), violence against women (mutilation, rape, domestic abuse) and laws that excluded women.

One day some Douche Bag wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper expressing the view that women should stay home and leave the important things to men. (Deja' vu anyone? The year was 1989.) Enraged, I wrote my own letter to the editor:

To the Editor:
As a 20th century, educated woman I feel responsible and qualified to respond to "Mac's" letter on women and politics.

To begin with his opening statements: some spending will certainly be needed to fix the mess the government is in, free education for everyone is an undertaking unmatched by any other country (so don't be so quick to judge it), and if you would read up on your politics, you will see that a umber of seats in Congress will greatly turn over int his election. Unfortunately for "Mac," the number of women in the Senate might triple, or quadruple!

From the day they stepped off the Mayflower, women (religious, Puritan women) worked side by side with men building and populating this nation. I feel that if a woman had a part in building something, she should have a part in deciding how it will work and how it will affect and govern her. Women make up over half of the population, they should have equal rights because according to definition, America is a democracy in which the majority should rule.

There is NOT proof that women are unqualified emotionally or physically to serve in our government or armed forces. It HAS been proven that women have a higher pain threshold than men (physical superiority) and their sensory perception, language command, and interpersonal skills are significantly more developed according to Richard Arrends in Learning to Teach. Aren't these skills necessary in governing, negotiating, and defending?

Perhaps your wife is not qualified to run your business as you say. But that is not to say ALL women are unqualified to run businesses. Olive Anne Beech cofounded the Beech Aircraft Company, Helene Rubenstein founded the world's largest cosmetic company, and in our own community women successfully create and run businesses every day.

More examples of women's contributions to the world: Marie Curie discovered pennicillin, Jane Addams founded the Hull House, Dr. Mary Walker received the Congressional Medal of Honor for serving in the Civil War, Clara Barton founded the Red Cross, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell opened the New York Infirmary, Dorothea Dix improved conditions for the mentally ill, Rosa Parks set off the spark under the Civil Rights movement, Mary Lyon founded Mt. Holyoke Seminary, Maria Mitchell discovered a new comet, Rachel Carson exposed the dangers of pesticides, Ida Wells Barnett began the campaign to end lynching, and Sybil Ludington rode 30 miles in 1777 to call out the American militia...in addition to the many women who have won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes and numerous other awards. Where would we be without them? well I'd have to guess we'd still be waiting for men to do these things.

I am unclear as to what "responsibility the government should never take over" but I do know that as a woman with choices I have the responsibility and the ability to make "right choices." Finally, "Mac," you see the mess a male-dominated government has gotten us in, is it such a radical idea to turn it over to women?

NOT Subordinately Yours,
Green Girl

I dug out this letter last night and aside from my shame at my overuse of adverbs, I felt a little proud that I'd written it. And a little sad, because I could re-send this letter to the editor today, 20 years later.

I'm pro-health care, pro-reproductive rights, pro-women's rights, pro-equal rights amendment, pro-free & quality public education. I'm against poverty, domestic violence, rape, objectification, and unequal pay. It pains me that so few women hold public office, that women take pot shots at each other over choosing to work full time or be SAHMs instead of solving the problems we face together. I'm pissed that more women know the latest news about Paris Hilton, but can't tell me the names and positions of the Justices in the Supreme Court. I'm weary of women telling me "I'm not a Feminist," when I bring up the politics of gender and I wonder if they enjoy the property rights, voting rights and equal protection under the law that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for on their behalf. But I stepped off my soapbox because I got tired of the bitter argument and defending, defending, defending. It sucks to be angry all the time.

But lately? I've felt the stirring of that 18-year-old Feminist deep inside. It's time to gird my loins and grab my shield. Has anyone else been feeling this way?

19 comments:

  1. Excellent letter! It's sad that it's still applicable these days.

    I work with men, only men, and I have to say that not once have I ever had an issue with being the only woman.

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  2. All you have to do is see how the media has attacked Sarah Palin to see that far too many MEN still believe a woman's place is home, barefoot and pregnant. Putting aside political party leanings, was there EVER a time a man in politics was asked how he could possibly be a father AND be in politics?

    I'm for all the equal rights you mentioned. There are some very enlightened men out there these days, and I'm fortunate to be married to one, but sadly, they are still too few and far between~

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  3. Yes, yes, yes! My mind is absolutely boggling over this Palin stuff.

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  4. I just hope that feminist women don't think that just because someone (Sarah Palin) is a woman that she stands for feminist principles.

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  5. Uh, have you heard about the Women's Colony. Yes, a little fired up over here.

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  6. Does finally deciding to go back and do a degree mean that I'm feeling it too? But will the two years I did 17 years ago still count? But yes, we can't leave it up to the men. We need to get with the program.

    I still like Obama though. And his wife.

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  7. I love your letter! good for you for standing up for what you believe in!

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  8. It really is a sad state of affairs that your letter (well done, btw!) still has relevance today. It's shameful.

    Angry and a little bitter over here.

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  9. I mean I'M a little angry and bitter. It didn't come across right in my first comment.

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  10. Maybe we ALL need to be angry more. Things are so slow to change, if we don't change them ourselves, and it is more in our feminine nature to make everything nice and NOT carry on and make noise. Anger can be good.

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  11. Yes, exactly.

    I'm not bitter so much as nauseated.

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  12. The Matron is standing RIGHT beside you, adverbs in hand!

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  13. You GO woman!! I'm still a feminist and I'm not afraid to say it. Does Palin know that McCain doesn't support equal pay? She could make less than Cheney, simply because she can't pee standing up!

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  14. Hot adverbs, baby.

    But seriously, it is a wonderful, sadly still applicable letter. We all need to step off our soapboxes for a while to recharge. And if you're ready again, get back up and let them have it.

    Also, I love your header.

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  15. It's good that we do have choice (here anyway)...but my choices now are radically different from my schoolgirl viewpoint when I was a raging feminist.

    I think that we are better off NOT trying to 'be' men...but perhaps that results from the fallout I have seen - of female friends who have tried to have serious 'male' jobs, and have ended up making themselves ill and miserable.

    I don't think Sarah Palin wouldn't get 'attacked' here - but we're very used to having a woman in charge, Thatcher was tougher than any man!

    Ultimately I think we are better celebrating our own individual strengths, and those differ for everyone - male and female.

    Hen
    x

    PS
    Women can pee standing up...it's just a bit tricky!!!

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  16. I can't believe you wrote that letter 20 years ago. I seriously thought it applied to today. It is so sad to see how little we've accomplished--and how far we still need to go!

    By the way--with this comment I am officially no longer a lurker! I've been following your blog from the beginning and have loved every minute of it but it took me this long to overcome my tech-aversion to get myself out there and join the conversation. ;)

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  17. Awesome post! And sorry that I'm just now getting a chance to read it.

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Spill it, reader.