It occurs to me that, although I told you a bit about myself in “Me ‘n’ the Blog, it wouldn’t hurt to give you a little more detail about what makes me tick, which just might give you some insight into why I read the things I do, and maybe even why I write the way I do. The following was originally posted on an email list I’ve belonged to since the late 90’s. Some of the references are specific to that forum; I chose not to edit them out, however, lest the post lose some of its flavor and, possibly, its import. The inspiration was Women’s History Month, though, frankly, its ideas don’t require inspiration. Despite its limited initial audience, the sentiments expressed apply to all women, everywhere.
TO THE WOMEN
This should’ve been posted last month, but, as they say, “stuff happens,” (Note: they don’t always say “stuff”.) I was away from a computer for a while, except for my phone, which is a little awkward for a post of this length no matter how good you are with a virtual keyboard. So, sorry for the tardiness, but the sentiment is genuine, just the same.
Yeah, “women.” To me, “ladies” has always conjured images of a group of matronly females clad in well-below-the-knee floral-print organdy dresses with crinoline underskirts. These “ladies” sip, from Lenox china, tea that’s never quite strong enough, while discussing books to which not even the faintest hint of impropriety has ever been attached. And “girls”, save for those under, oh, eleven or twelve, I guess, should be reserved for use by females among themselves. Yet — mea maxima culpa — I incongruously use “guys” with reckless abandon to refer to groups composed exclusively of he’s or she’s, or of both, that word having been stripped for me of any gender connotations, by the groups whose company I frequented both in high school and college — yeah, I actually remember those days — where it was applied universally to both female and male by male and female.
March was Women’s History Month. So…anybody wish you a happy WHM? I thought not. And, of course, 8 March is annually observed(?) as International Woman’s Day. D’ya get a Woman’s Day card from your significant other? Why do I imagine a bunch of blank faces staring into their computer screens?
Okay, then, were your TV screens filled last month with programming celebrating the achievements of women through the ages, or decrying millennia of maltreatment and marginalization, as we so often see in February for Black History Month? Did your libraries display exhibits honoring Susan B or Lucy B . Probably too much like ancient history for today’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately bunch. Margaret Sanger? Alice Paul and Lucy Burns? Who? Marilyn French? Steinem? Friedan (on this the semi-centenary of The Feminine Mystique)? Not effin’ likely, right? Susan Faludi? Naomi Wolf? Hell, no. What about pop culture?: Eve Ensler? Ani DiFranco? Kathleen Hanna? Penny Marshall? What? Don’t people read, go to movies or plays, listen to music? Sheesh! (Sheesh was not my original choice of words, as you can well imagine.)
But, enough beating that poor dead horsey. What I really want to say to all you women is that I’m very glad you’re here. Each and every one of you. I truly feel that it’s you guys — sorry, I just can’t help it — who help make this a truly special place, through your diversity, your compassion, your wisdom, but, mostly, through your strength.
Among us on this forum is at least one cancer survivor, and one member who, sadly, is with us now only in spirit; there are some here who have endured the sometimes severe heath problems of their children; well-qualified women who are un- or under-employed; women who have been widowed or have lost significant others. Through all that, and more, you have not indulged in pity parties, but have retained not only your caring and concern for others, but also your wit and your sense of humor, to the benefit of us all.
So, sincerely, I say to all of you:
I’m sorry you inhabit a world in which Congress must pass a Violence Against Women Act, for in a just world, there would be no need for such a law
I’m sorry fourteen students were gunned down in 1989 at the École Polytechnique, their sole “crime,” that they were women
I’m sorry you live in a society where the major media are more concerned with how rape affects the convicted rapist than with its impact on the victim
I’m sorry that a glass ceiling still exists for so many working women and that, though illegal, wage inequality continues virtually unchallenged
I’m sorry that, 22 years after the first publication of The Beauty Myth , women are still judged more for their appearance than their capabilities, and that women still die from the effects of anorexia, trying to achieve some mythical arbitrary — and false — standard
I’m sorry that, in the 21 years since the publication of Marilyn French’s The War Against Women, which I recently re-read, so very, very little seems to have changed; I’m sorry, too, that that damnable war is now being fought by factions within one of our nation’s major political parties and its effects largely ignored by the other
I’m sorry there’s every bit as much “Backlash” against today’s feminism as was described by Susan Faludi against Second Wave feminism over 20 years ago
And, although this was a major source of conflict on our old email group at temple.edu, I’m sorry that many women no longer have full legal control over their bodies, and are likely to lose even the protection of Roe v. Wade in the not-so-distant future
And, finally, I wish we all lived in a world where none of us was judged by labels: gentile or Jew (or any other faith, or no faith at all), male or female, gay or straight, black or white, brown or any other race, but rather, that we were judged on our individual merits, and regarded simply as human beings, for, bottom line, that’s what we all are.