Women's Lib

I remember when this is what feminism was called in 1970. On Sunday I was disgusted to remember the gender roles directed us all in lock steps with this vile little children's book from the '50s. It seemed like it was all over the intertoobz. It triggered a whole memory tangent that had me digging through photographs, scanning and composing a letter to my mother. So, I thought I'd let a bit of this dribble into make-a-(green)plan.First let me say that I have no patience any more with trying to educate anyone (especially indignant, indulged men) about feminism. But when I was the age of this picture I was terribly naive and arrogant and thought I could teach the world. I still struggle with my blunt style being too heavy handed or misunderstood. There were women (and of course the men) in my wasband's (new word for my ex) church who spoke badly about me because of the following bio I provided with the newspaper article.
Gah! I cringe now at my glib little blurb. (click to make larger if you must) It is condescending and overly simplistic. Having said that, I am proud of my young self for taking a very radical and brave stand in Iowa in 1970. I had to start somewhere and I am thrilled that I did what I did, when I did and where I did. If someone seriously wants to know what a feminist is, I love this Feminism 101 from Shakesville. You won't regret reading this - even if you think of yourself as an educated feminist there are so many illustrations of current itereations and nuances of misogyny.

One of the deep issues I am more interested in thinking about is how my feminism informs my desire to live in a sustainable way. When the above article was written I sounded dismissive about my being a housewife and mother. Yet, I remember my joy in gardening, my learning to make bread from the Tassajara cookbook - now with my son. I learned this method so well, it freed me from needing to use any recipe with bread thereafter. I loved learning how to fix Middle Eastern food from my mother-in-law and I reveled in learning how to sew better with the help of my sisters-in-law, with one of them sewing my wedding gown and veil. I remember I chastised my mother back then for never teaching me how to clean properly, like it's best to use lemon oil on wood rather than Pledge TM.

It's funny I just now remembered how relentlessly and passionately we had to argue about bra wearing or a man opening a door for us - rather than the real issues of violence against women, low wages, job discrimination, lack of affordable daycare, safe /affordable birth control /family planning and lack of respect. In regard to distractions and deflections, nothing has changed. The corporate powers that control our country can direct the narrative in the press, in all media, movies, ads and books to distract rather than to inform. Regarding the children's book at the beginning, Feministing has this to say:
Binary gender systems are constructed. They rely on the repetition of dominant narratives via psychology, music, popular culture, film and of course children's books. This gem comes from a children's book called, "I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl! It is from the 1950's and I almost appreciate how blatantly obvious it is, since there is no question what it is trying to do. Gender-based messaging is much more subtle and nuanced these days.
Nibbling around the edge of my consciousness is nature of capitalism itself being a hierarchal structure wherein all energy and production and service is ultimately directed towards supporting the pinnacle of material comfort for the top few - as illustrated by this turn of the century cartoon for the Industrial Worker. At the pinnacle is the capital - the wealth in currency - with the next tiers saying:
  • We Rule You
  • We Fool You
  • We Shoot At You
  • We Eat For You
Those at the bottom holding up the whole shebang are the people.
  • We Work For All
  • We Feed All

The Patriarchal System is deeply embedded in Capitalism. If we use capital and power over others as the model to strive for, we will not only be unsustainable - but may misinterperate what equality for women really means. I shudder too at reading the bulleted list as a template for the global economy with Western Nations as the first part and the Global South as the latter. I think I have traversed many decades and a host of subjects in one tiny post. Let it merely be the beginning for some contemplative posts to come.


Rosa said...

You know I've been thinking about this lately.

The right to work/right to be paid for work stuff has been on my mind a lot lately, and Slit at livejournal just posted this excellent mother's day piece about the specific right of mothers to work -

http://slit.livejournal.com/433096.html (it's called "I was an activist in the womb", about her mother's suit to take maternity leave and return to her work as a public school teacher.) You can see my comment on that - if that lawsuit had been settled one year earlier, my life and family would have been completely different - being unable to return to work after my birth helped keep my mother stuck in her first marriage much longer than I think she would have otherwise.

katecontinued said...

Rosa, I read the post "I was an activist in the womb" and got a real kick out of it and the comments. Your own story is very familiar. The really huge thing is that if your mother voiced her rights, she would be considered selfish, etc.

I still can't get a feel for unpaid work, bartering, community-dollars or sharing being regarded in our so-called capitalist country as anything but servitude. Yet, for me, this model is too broken, too corrupt. I suspect there is middle ground, but more and more I feel I will be long dead before any universal changes happen.