This is really hard to write about. I find it difficult to give my thoughts their full measure in words. It is late at night nearly into the morning, poised between not day not night and brutally cold, despite the hissing and spitting of the radiator. I am trying to express what is going through my mind about women, about what was/is the women’s movement, feminism, post-feminism, third wave, politics, power…
In recent times I have seen women move away from allowing themselves the pleasure (and the freedom) to have a choice about how they behave, define themselves, and live their lives. Women believed they could wear makeup or not, they could diet or not, they could work, they could have children or not, marry or not, have sex with whomever they pleased including other women…the list seemed endless. Women could expect pressure to stay in line, and they could expect support from other women to leave the line. Yet now, I see things I thought were gone forever; women are registering for showers for weddings and babies, and there seems to be more pressure (or is it the same old pressure?) to get that man and keep him. There is a website devoted to supporting celebrity partners to help them do this, keep their men from wandering, leaving, cheating. The site is created by women. Are these the women who know that fish need those bicycles?
I have been reading, trying to understand what women want these days. Do we still want the kind of promises the ERA was going to give us? I think women are not sure what to want anymore. Do we want freedom from violence against us, do we want freedom from poverty forced on us by cultures that undervalue us, do we want to see women’s faces representing us in courts, women’s faces representing us in politics, do we want to see women’s faces speaking to us about child care, health care, aging care, do we want to know that our concerns are the concerns of all of society?
I believe that the “transform yourself from within” message, the message to stretch out and reach your potential, the kind of message I heard from the Esalen people, the kind of message we now get from Oprah, has not given us what we want. We may be fully self-actualized, but if the culture does not recognize us as fully developed individuals we still cannot locate ourselves except in many of the same old ways. What is a woman’s value in our society? I can rattle off the clichés, but I am honestly wondering what women think their value is today.
Perhaps there are too many things to excel at for women today. I have heard this before, but it may be truer now than ever. A woman can choose to go in many directions in her life today, simultaneously. But it may be that she must make these choices alone. I get the sense that we are all feeling that all of our pleasure, work, learning, must be done alone. It seems that without a real movement of women coming together to support one another, to work for the changes that mean something to them, we are lost, and we can’t find our way home.
Where is home for women now? Mainly on the internet it seems. Not that this is a bad thing, I mean duh! I am here doing the same thing: searching for connection and a place to come to where they know where I begin, where not much need be explained, but so much can be shared, discussed, and thought about.
How can women, young and older, meet in balance today? Can we meet without judgment so that women who want cosmetic surgery can still feel they have a place at the table? This may be the only way we can move on from here. At least right now. It is important that we share all the information we come across, all of our ideas, to enable all women to grow and find freedom, but I believe this idea of the individual is not the best way.
We have different feelings about what is most important. Some of us believe that change can only happen through typical political strategies like voting. Some believe that we can work within the culture as it exists to offer women new thoughts, new ideas that can move them forward to be full citizens. Some women feel they are already full citizens.
Can we meet on moving ground, holding different beliefs, and agendas? I think we will have to if we are to be effective in the world. In America, we may feel like fully arrived human citizens, and for some of us that may be enough. Some of us know that none are free unless all are free. This may be a dream. Maybe we can dream together not in opposition, distrust, or cynicism. Maybe we can dream.
For me, at this hour, I am thinking that without a change in the system itself we will find no enduring change. I don’t believe it will matter who has the supposed power or where it comes from. As long as the footprint of capitalism is embedded on the culture, there will be no change in the weather. It will be as though we are standing between the worlds, dark, cold, and alone.