Monday, January 21, 2008

Ms. Understood

I always loved the bumper sticker that read, “Feminism: The radical notion that women are people.” I first learned about feminism in my junior year of college; why it took me so long I have no idea, probably because it wasn’t a popular topic in the ubiquitous patriarchy of prep school. Now, the older I get, the more single I become, alternating between relishing and dreading my freedom as a thirty-something single feminist in a society that doesn’t know quite what to do with me. What I hate is persistent inequality, the glass ceiling, and the question of whether or not the United States is ready for a female president. Why, in the age of supposed post-enlightenment, are we asking such an idiotic question? Compared to Dumb W, Clinton looks like a Mensa candidate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the neoliberal, smoke-blowing power couple on steroids, but could we possible get any worse in the White House?

What I also hate is the media’s portrayal of women and the messages sent to young girls that they must be stick-thin, big-breasted, and smart but not too smart lest they make their boyfriends look inept. We are taught to know and do all but appear as though we don’t know and can’t do it all. We are also taught to compete with other women, sometimes viciously, instead of engaging in sisterhood. It’s no wonder most of the women I know have no idea how to be strong and independent without being mistaken for ax-wielding bitch lesbians, how to be accommodating without being doormats, or how to fully appreciate their intelligence and beauty.

Fortunately I am not hate-full. What I love is that despite my emotional and romantic state I am truly not alone in my search for myself. I love that last week without intention I stumbled across bell hooks’ affirming and life-changing book, Communion: The Female Search for Love, which reminds me that I can embrace my femininity and feminism, and that I must do the hard work of learning to love myself fully in order to have healthy relationships with anyone. I’m starting with my feet, as hooks suggests, an oft forgotten body part which I think are particularly amazing considering they work hard everyday to get me from here to there.

Photo: These are not my feet, but I love this image. Credit: Sean Duggan.


Pauline said...

You write with such candor and perspicacity! I learn such wonderful stuff from you - about feelings and strength and pride in one's self and how to go about living with purpose.

focusfinder said...

I grew up, in the North of England, in a family of strong, decisive, practical, thrifty, working-class women.

They knew all about small boys; they understood their men. They had all made wise choices: my father, grandfather and uncles were good, honest, loving people.

These fine, intelligent women managed large families on small incomes, successfully. They practiced their sisterhood on a daily basis, without any such label for it back then.

It was only decades later, when I read up about feminism, I realised that these had indeed been real women.

paul maurice martin said...

"Learning to love oneself fully in order to have healthy relationships with anyone" - to me that's so important that it's too bad there isn't a tradition in that regard, where young people were expected to take at least a couple years off to live by themselves after leaving their parents.

If you don't end up being with someone, then you "have a life" in your own right and may even have learned how to be alone without being lonely. If you do get involved with someone, you've gotten past the dependency issues that trouble so many relationships and have more personal positives and strengths to contribute.

Eileen said...

I like all that you say.You take me back to my 30's when i struggled with how to be me without him.I finally learned to separate" grieving about no lover "from growing a" strong girl me". They really are two separate qualities in growing a self , and like you , i hate how much our popular culture mixes it all together with the extra added attraction of sounding suprised when a woman is good at something.And you are such a beautiful person . It's fun to read what you think about.


Anonymous said...

Hey Sister,

You might want to think about continuing your writing. I just stumbled on this off your email, and your post about feminism was a refreshing burst of fresh air. (Much of the discussions surrounding feminism I've been exposed to over the course of the past couple weeks have been wholly divisive; not what I understand the concept/movement to be about.) You've got mad skillz, as the kid's say, and you've got a new reader as of today!