Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Why I'm a Feminist Girl-Woman-Fury-Bitch

When I was young, 8 or 9 or so, I prayed and prayed that I would wake up and be a boy. It was easy to see that being a woman meant getting the raw end of the deal: I just had to look at my mother, who raised four children and is still taking care of the fifth and original baby (my dad). She worked hard every day. She was at our constant beck-and-call. She had no control of the checkbook or where she made her home. And worst of all, she was always in charge of cooking and dishes.

As I got older, Dad struggled with running his own business, and Mom got a job, things changed a bit. After Mom became our main breadwinner, life was different for her. Sure, she still did most of the dishes, but for the first time I knew her, she was in charge. And it was wonderful for me to see. I realized that being a woman didn't have to suck--it was powerlessness that sucked, and as long you had money, you could have power.

To this very day, I feel personally outraged when I hear about anything that reduces a woman to a powerless state. When I read a story about women in Africa being denied education, I see red. When I see an article about girls in India being sold into sex slavery, I cry. Because inside me is still a fragile little girl who isn't sure she ought to love herself. Because I am a woman. Because being a woman looked like a prison sentence.

I am lucky that I live here in Oregon, sheltered from the storm of woman-hatred that pervades the world around me. It is miraculous that at this moment, I share my life with a (male) partner who treats me like an equal,and that together our income allows us the freedom to explore the creativity our intelligence yearns toward. Sometimes I remember that it's a precarious position. The safety and security of my life is dependent upon social structures supported by the economic strength of my nation, an institution currently more flimsy than ever. It could all come tumbling down any time.

And if it did, I sometimes comfort myself that technology has given us a remarkable leveler. For millenia, men have been able to control women because they are bigger and stronger and more able to inflict harm and death. But you don't have to be bigger or stronger to pull a trigger. If society collapses and the PAW arrives (that's post-apocalyptic world if you don't know), at least I know that my daddy taught me how to shoot.

So I will write story after story and book after book about mothers and daughters and young women finding their way in the world. I will spin out creations that say that women are strong and that their minds are keen. I will do my damnedest to promote the empowerment of the women in the world.

And I promise myself I'll make it to the range more often.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can completely see where you're coming from and you're right about technology being a great equalizer.

In my life growing up,though, my mom did stay at home while Daddy worked--but we had no doubts who was in control! My mom was. And still is! Poor Daddy.

Mystery Writing is Murder

JohnR said...

What's especially sad is that the tools to equalize the strength equation have been around for a long time, but it's still taking centuries to make the social order reflect that. But I'm glad that you and your partner respect each other as equals. I hope that this is on its way to becoming the norm.

And if the PAW arrives, I may take a journey inspired by Octavia Butler to come work in your commune, if you'll let me in.

Wendy said...

E: I know just what you mean about stay-at-home-moms in charge! I feel lucky to know some pretty awesomely empowered and in-charge SAHMs. That just wasn't the case in our house. :(

J: I think that access to education is the single greatest factor in equalizing roles. The whole gun thing here is a little bit silly (I don't actually own one, although I do know how to shoot), but I'm reading Bruce Stirling's "Dies the Fire" series, and it made me think how firepower has really been a good tool for making smaller people feel safer. And you would be totally welcome at my commune!

:) Doesn't Olivia Butler rock?

Erin said...

Sooooo many thoughts on this, but none of them short enough to be good for a blog comment except: Good for you! :)