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Feminist Principle

I learned of Betty Friedan's death today while I was dragging in my bag of swords and eager to show off my new t-shirt from the about-to-be-launched Women of Action Network website.

As someone who remembers the 1950's and what life was like before Friedan and the first wave of modern feminists burst upon the scene, I can't begin to touch on the debt I owe. The '50's were an era of enforced conformity, of taking back advances that had been made, of limited vision, and yet of suppressed energy preparing to burst those surly bonds. I recall being told in nursery school that I was not allowed to play with boy's toys, even legos, f'rcryingoutloud, that my career choices were limited to nurse, teacher or mother, that life was a path which led from bondage to one's parents to bondage to one's spouse.

And everything in society at the time reinforced that living death: Katharine Hepburn could play career women only insofar as she learned to give up her freedom in the end, heroines in books existed to show how one bore adversity with submissive grace or made an advantageous marriage. You'd never know there had been women emperors in Japan (until the West imposed a ban on such after WWII), that women writers dominated Hollywood in the early years, that women warriors existed in many societies, that women intellectuals and scientists made contributions throughout human history.

Hard to imagine such a barren time today, but we must remember how advances once made can be taken back. And are, again today. I have lived on the cusp of despair to see a golden age, and I'll be damned if I let the torch that Friedan carried be dropped. I am alive because of her. I became one of the first women letter carriers in Post Office history, was one of the first women in my neck of the woods to study martial arts, was in the first of my law school to have a class with a 50/50 ratio of women to men. All of this was impossible, unimaginable in fact, back in the early '60's when The Feminine Mystique came out.

Yet to hear so many women today decry feminism, you'd never think that the privileges they take for granted did not exist so short a time ago. And to hear so many men bitch about "feminazis" at the same time, you'd never guess what an uphill and unending battle this has always been. Women still receive 2/3 of the pay that men make for the same work, women still are not equally represented in government, in the upper echelons of business, or in the military (where rape is a frequent and underreported crime). Women in the Third World still face a bitter, unjust and violent life that few in the West can imagine.

No, the fight goes on, and will continue to do so long after I am gone until humans either evolve or turn this planet into a cinder. So while I toast my benefactor for her courage and vision, I also renew my commitment to her dream, my dream that all humans be free to fulfill their potential and to live life to the fullest.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
kick-ass post and kick-ass icon.


(don't let the vulgarity fool you... i'm all teared up.)

xxoosh (also committed to the dream)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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