"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: feminism

(woman)kind . . .

DSC_0127For a long time, I’ve been thinking about how we women are, that is what separates us or makes us different from men: or mankind. For one thing, I wonder if women have really changed all that much from the days of our mothers or grandmothers. Surely, our daughters’ generation is more outspoken in their ways and in their choices, aren’t they?

At the same time, I also see many of us still putting our needs behind those of our partners, our children or our work. Sure, there are new visible women who have made it, like Sheryl Sandburg of Facebook who has just written a book counseling other women on how not to hold themselves back. Not that many have the resources that she does (help and money) to take care of children and households while forging their professional pathways in life. Will changing our body language and how we present ourselves to others make that much of a difference?

I was just reading from Anne Morrow Lindbergh‘s memoirs, “Locked Rooms and Open Doors – Diaries and Letters 1933-1935” in which she describes being terrified as Charles Lindbergh, her infamous husband, pilots their plane through a dense fog for over an hour, not speaking to her, looking for a place to land. Another one describes how she puts together a small study area for him, with his favorite books in the bookshelves, a standing lamp from the main house to create a space to please him, even though he doesn’t seem to notice when he sees it. And that’s all right with her, she says.

I don’t know, you know? Doesn’t this ring a bell like Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-winning character in “Silver Linings Playbook” where she complains about “waking up feeling EMPTY” because she does things for others, all the time? Maybe there is a compulsion gene that is in our female DNA that propels us to do things for others in order for them to be happy (at least in our way of thinking?) Or is this just our culture from the time we were young and took care of our dolls and stuffed animals?

There’s been a fuss recently about the 50th publication anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique” and columnists writing about how they miss Bella Abzug. Gloria Steinman is still being interviewed, but I never felt personally that any of them represented me during the first wave of the Feminist movement.

I still feel that our issues as women are personal to the degree that we each have things to work out based on our individual situations. And that somehow, nothing much has happened to keep ourselves from constantly wanting to please those around us, to be accepted and acceptable by those we want approval from.

Perhaps it is just part of the human condition that what we do and care about others is also likely to be taken for granted some of the time. Maybe there will never be a movement that will transform or free us because this is just the way things are. Whenever I’ve brought up these thoughts with other women, they nod their heads in recognition and say, “yeah, that’s big.” Even so, I’m glad that I have daughters and granddaughters–a woman kind of family.

Postscript: By an amazing coincidence, PBS is airing “Makers: Women Who Make America” a three-hour documentary on the women’s movement. Here is a link to the trailer:

to be . . .

DSC_0436_3Hamlet said, “to be or not to be, that is the question!” For women, it might be more complex than that. I’ve noticed that we women as a group may find it hard to speak up for ourselves or even to say who we are without fear of hurting other people’s feelings. So, it’s not just a matter of being or not being, it’s complicated by our female imperative to be nice.

I don’t know why or how we became socialized this way where there seem to be extremes of a silent majority of women who don’t know how or don’t feel comfortable voicing who they are or what their lives mean to them. If a generation of women (our mothers) were denied educational opportunity or personal independence due to the times they lived in, they usually didn’t complain much, being glad they had what they had after all.

Then there’s the other end of that bell curve where a (very) few vocal women act as outspeaking surrogates for the rest of the female population. Take for example, Hillary Clinton, who, whether you agree with her or not, is self-confident enough to call down senators who were badgering her at the senate hearing on Benghazi. Who else? Kathryn Bigelow, married for three years to James Cunningham, and the director of a movie where torture is highlighted. Or Angelina Jolie who is not so much vocal but demonstrates her compassion for others through her actions on behalf of the disenfranchised.

Even Michelle Obama, who has a law degree, intelligence and instincts probably as good as or even more intuitive than her loner husband, the President, is careful to keep her talents and gifts shrouded because the American public can’t stand someone who might threaten them outside the role of traditional mother and wife.

And we live in AMERICA and it’s like this, not like in India where women are so unvalued as to be blamed for rape, the victims of so-called “honor” killings and so on. Sometimes, I’ve observed women grappling with whether to leave a marriage because leaving might be easier than speaking up and constantly standing up for yourself to a partner whose obnoxious attitudes are easier to resign yourself to, thinking that he’ll never listen, much less want to make a change. These are underground kinds of struggles we usually don’t tell anyone about and might often be hard to admit to even to ourselves. Women are so powerful and yet we can give up our power so often.

Where and when were we taught to be afraid to be ourselves and to own it? To put everybody else first? Feminism missed that boat it seems, in its important battles for the vote, for equal pay, for professional recognition, and now being allowed to fight in battle alongside men.

What am I missing here?