Wednesday, October 11, 2006
A few things - more than five - Feminism (tm) gave me, you know, besides The Vote, and Birth Control, and the right to my own craptacular Credit Rating, and The Freedom To Don The Trousers of Revolution:
** a way to feel united in struggle, part of a community, part of something larger and more important than myself; a great feeling of sisterhood and unity and purpose.
** a profound sense of pride in the legacy of women's accomplishments through history, and a sense of intoxicating exhiliration at their rediscovery. I remember discovering Victoria Woodhull in some dusty old textbook way in the back of the Enoch Pratt library one hot summer day - I felt the ground shake, the whole world tremble on its foundations as I read about her life and her campaign for president in the late 19th century - I would never be the same.
** a nearly-psychedelic sense of infinite possibility for the world. If it doesn't have to be this way, wow - imagine all the different ways it could be! Everything - EVERYTHING could be re-defined and re-imagined, all institutions - art, music, literature, politics, health, everything - could be inverted and vigorously shaken until all that was good about them fell out of the pockets, allowing us to keep what was good and freeing us to discard the rest. An endlessly captivating speculation.
** Dorothy Allison, Pat Califia, Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas, and the essay "Why I Want A Wife".
** a desire to do something huge and meaningful and Important and Revolutionary, like those authors I just listed.
** writer's cramp, sign-painter's knee, ditto-cranker's elbow, lentil-stirrer's shoulder, various other repetitive-motion injuries
** a queasy feeling as I came to realize that sisterhood was mythical, and overrated at that, and there was no one great banner for us all to march behind, but really a whole bunch of little banners, all desperately trying to be the one catching the glorious revolutionary breeze at the front.
** a twitching vein in my forehead, as I desperately tried to balance my own checkbook of Feminism, and rationalize its many contradictions, and force and stretch and squash my personal to match everyone else's political.
** a deep and pervasive sense of shame and failure when I was unable to do that.
So here we are now, all trying to come up with the best and cleverest and most eloquent and most quotable list of what feminism gave us.
Though I fear my contribution to this list meme - like everything else I've tried to do in a feminist context - will be weighed, measured and found wanting, and though I will never come close to generating anything as fucking brilliant as Jean's latest entry on the subject, I would nonetheless like to enter my best shot at a clever, catchy bon mot:
for good or ill, feminism gave us a vocabulary of personhood, a sense of inviolable meaning and relevance in our own experience, our own individual truth.
It gave us a lexicon of desire with which to communicate our needs and wants. It gave us a context in which to disagree and the courage to express that disagreement.
Ultimately, feminism gave us US.