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LAce Posted Monday, January 14th, 2013
Feminism Revisited
Carol Smallwood

Feminism, like other isms, is almost impossible to see when in the middle of it, living it as to speak. It was something I read in the small Midwestern newspaper under the hair dryer in the early 70’s. When I read the Equal Rights Amendment didn’t pass, I had little understanding what that meant--the article was crowded out by longer articles about Vietnam and the Super Bowl. The women’s movement in my small town was laughed down as hippie bra burners in big cities.

I’ve heard the terms, backlash, waves, but I’m not sure who said it or why; like in the past, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with me. It was a woman who had a lot to do with the ERA not passing I believe on Christian grounds. I just watched Clarissa, that early English novel on DVD and was not surprised that it was women who held her down so Lovelace could rape her. How often have I’ve seen women defend their own jailers, lash out at other women trying to change things?

They say we only see through our own lenses. And our first mirrors are our parents. If we are fortunate enough to have parents supportive of forming a positive image of ourselves, we are indeed lucky. But too often, girl babies are still second class—look at what happens to them in China. As a child, my father called me John because he’d wanted a boy.

When my daughter had a second son recently, the tears were relief it wasn’t a girl because it’s still a man’s world where war’s a game like hunting. In her time I heard coaches say to boys, “You run like a bunch of girls; you throw like a little old lady.”

When my daughter first went to nursery school, I was uneasy that she played with blocks instead of dolls with the other girls and made me think I hadn’t done my job even though I knew she probably did because she was used to playing blocks with her brother. Should I discourage it before a nursery mother commented? A part of me liked her independence while another said she’d have an easier future if she conformed; common sense said not to make a big deal of it.

Today there are not many magazines, literary that is, to submit poems, short stories, and essays about feminism: it seems as relevant as the dodo bird. Women smile and humor me as if I were a flower child when I mention it. And I envy their oblivion. I don’t know what they think of the staggering figures of rape, domestic violence, child pornography—all acts of violence against women—acts that usually go unreported because the justice system is regarded as another rape for the victim. Where rides at night are a campus service for women attending night classes. Maybe we think we have progressed because we have names like Anne Smith-Johnson? Yet I notice in girl college students today assertiveness, an assumption of being on an equal footing that’s good to see. It keeps surprising me that there isn’t so much a difference in clothing as before, more of a unisex look and there isn’t the pressure to marry—and yet the card game of Old Maid is still around.

Well, I’m sure you’ve seen things but it’s this head in the sand, everything’s fine attitude that makes me glad I am no longer a teacher of youth. What could I tell them about honoring life when our country is accused of imitating the British Empire? When one in three women have experienced violence? When money for education is shrinking but drug dealers, professional sports figures, questionable business prospers?

Why don’t women support each other and get involved with politics? When I wrote this, the U.S. Senate has 14 women out of 100 members. Is it because it is all a man’s game and as women we don’t know how to play? It has been hard for women to succeed in business because they tend to work cooperatively and not top down—again, a man’s game set up by men’s mind frame. At least recently we’ve become more aware of using such terms as chairperson instead of chairman.

We have come a long way from women as child bearers determining our lives—ironically, the pioneering feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, died after childbirth.

Do women have it easier now? Often I hear women who work and have a family say that their mates leave the bulk of the housework and childcare to them. Women are often under the strain of playing Superwoman and often lose their climb up the career ladder to have children and stay home. Salaries are still higher for men and there is the traditional assumption that men are the breadwinners. It’s enough to make one think that the curse of Eve is indeed live and well—I believe the reason often given why childbirth’s so painful.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Donna Levy [ ] on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 at 10:54 AM
Feminism is still an issue in the 21st century. So your essay is still topical. In fact, in most places in the world, inequality between the genders is rampant. Since most religions and governments are patriarchal and as such assign greater status to men, it is not surprising to find the situation of women being unfair, if not out-and-out abusive. Thank you, Sister, for reminding us that the path toward full equality remains full of challenges. Donnachka

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