Category Archives: Life passages

The Woman’s March 2017: “Check Your Privilege”

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The New York Time’s article today on the Women’s March Opens A Raw Dialogue emphasized women coming together to voice and represent nationwide, young and old, a range of interpretations of why women are showing up and marching. There are those who want to represent feminism, women’s rights and civil rights, with a full throated response to the Inaguration of a new President. With him, a new administration that has at the least shown ambiquity and a shift away from the trajectory of civil rights attained by women, the LGBTQ community, children of illegal immigrants, and those who represent the Middle East community within our country. Everyone is invited to this inclusive event. The Woman’s March in cities all around the country, initiated in DC, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta and many, many cities of the nation is happening on Saturday January 21st, 2017.

The Rise of the Woman – The Rise of the Nation is the context provided by the DC Women’s March. There are meetings and more meetings to make banners that say “He is not My President” and angry disappointed voices that want to initiate and stand against all that the new President-elect has represented over the past election. There is a call for the return to feminism of the 1970’s and engage newly toward the equality that has never been fully represented in our country. There is the “Check Your Privilege” conversation between women of color to the white women as they engage together for the Women’s March in DC. Even as the unmet goals of equality, such as the ERA and the reality of what has not been gained over the years since the social revolution of the 1970’s emerge, there is anxiety about what has been achieved and may be lost in the experience of most of those who are planning to participate in a Women’s March on January 21st across the country. There is the swell of a huge potentially destructive wave collecting anger and confusion as well as mystery in the mix as the Presidential power ends with President Barack Obama, and begins with Donald Trump, and the GOP agenda.

Where will you be January 21st is the question being asked of women friends across the country. My sisters and sisters-in-laws and friends in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and DC , and those friends and colleagues around me in the Bay Area are together, even as they are of different mindsets about the election and its results. All have consideration for the fact that a new day is coming, and it is not clear what will be asked of us, but we we must all meet the future with resourcefulness, clear eyes and even open heart. In the voices of all, there is the willingness to stand for what is important to us, as the women of this country. That is what the Woman’s March is about for many of us. Even as it is about Women’s Rights, the fifty-three years process where women filled out the potential of responsibility and choice in how they live their lives, what lies ahead is unclear. A Multigenerational Woman’s Gathering in Marin County was initiated almost immediately after the surprise victory of Trump over Hillary, their agendas could not be further apart on women’s rights and civil rights, and the young women reported panic attacks and huge grief at the news of Trump’s election. The coming together of young professional women who have only known what it is to have those rights, and their voice, juxtaposed to the women who participated in the process of gaining and living out women’s rights from Civil Rights, Birth Control and Roe vs Wade. Each woman, a rich source of attitudes and viewpoints about the challenges ahead, presented perspective onto our role as women given the platform presented by the President Elect over the two years of his campaign.

What we came to was to was the value and responsibility we felt to present our bodies and ourselves in our stand for Women’s Rights are Human Rights. The history of how women came through to their power reveals the fact that through that process, the lesbian and gay community gained access to express and represent, and direct their power. The struggles in race and in sex over the decades have a correlation and powerful mutuality, evidenced in the thread of equality constrained or given access to liberty through the Civil Rights Bill. We can have this Woman’s March represent a new threshold, a new potential. I will be joining my sisters and colleagues and friends in the Woman’s March to represent what we bring to ourselves, each other and the county. What it means to me is that we are united in our stand to move forward, include more diversity and differences to achieve the whole of who we are as a country. What this means to me is we renew our investment and enthusiasm for human rights, measure our stands to correlate with our immense capacity for bringing life and hope to ourselves and the world.

Check our Privilege, not because we are white, but because the real privilege is our ability to speak and bring the best of who we are as a country to the world to meet this new transition. Efforts and gains have been made and we do not want to see them reduced due to political change of who is in office as President: educating law enforcement officers, reducing the prison population, improving the means for better education and opportunity to our children in all zip codes, feeding and caring for the large number of children and seniors: these are the priorities we do not want to see lost or reduced. This is who and what the Women’s March will represent to many of us. This is where we can achieve our greatest victory.

 

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Traumatic Brain Injury: Teri’s story

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Traumatic brain injury:  Teri’s story began as it happens to many, from every day events at unexpected times in their lives and leave them floating in a sea of confusion and isolation.    Teri  recalls   the panic and disorientation that fourteen years ago came with her undiagnosed traumatic brain injury. Without the symbolic representation and acquired language that describes our experience, and connects us to others and the world around us, we are lost from our lives, and such is the case with TBI for many. But Teri’s story is very different, and for anyone suffering the effects of a traumatic brain injury, or living with loved ones with that condition, Teri’s story has much to contribute in how she made a recovery that was achieved by her decisions in response to her condition.

Knowing Teri as I have for the past thirteen years, I am only slightly aware of the traumatic experiences that defined her life and limited her participation for many years. We were in a warm and receptive course of study in Marin County together, the Wisdom Connection. And she and the women there were in an open space of trust and inquiry. I certainly experienced the degree of compassion Teri exuded, and the transition she communicated around her life’s events. That she had recovered from being outside what her life had been was not apparent to me. Traumatic Brain Injury now has volumes of discussion on the internet and in the media, of the recognition, treatment and recovery protocol to be followed. But symptoms of Teri’s injury were not fully realized for weeks. It was her chiropractor who saw the relationship between her symptoms and the car accident. The brain swelling itself came up three days after the accident, but it would be weeks before it was recognized.

That day had started as many had. Her public relations business doing so well that she kept her staff busy all the time.   She was recognized as a super competent, professional businesswoman. She was on her way to a business meeting when she was rear ended at a stop light in Marin County, California.

“I was in the middle of one of my busiest days in my own Interior Design business. I had figured out that if people wanted to change their lives, changing their environment could potentially help them establish and create who they were, and how they were perceived in their community.” That is what Teri did for huge companies, and her private clients who relied on her specifically for her particular approach to the field.

Divorced from her second husband, Teri established herself in her own right, demonstrating exceptional artistic skills in design, marketing, and public relations that ultimately led her to having her own successful firm. She had the life of her choosing, very good compensation, a staff, and had settled into an elegant Marin lifestyle.

That would all end in the blink of an eye one day when she was driving to Fairfax, saw the car in front of her coming to a stop, put on her blinker and slowed to a stop. Then an incredible force shook her as the car behind her was forced into her car, from a third car. Her car and the car behind her were totaled. Still, she walked away, calling her office to have her staff take on the appointment she was missing due to the accident. She intended to get a rental car and go on with her business day, but instead was picked up by a friend who insisted on taking her home as a precaution. The days that followed would accelerate a loss of herself that she couldn’t quite communicate when she visited the doctor.

Teri reported the headaches, and by the next day, her symptoms were worse with loud ear ringing, nausea, and dizziness. She tried to keep up her work from home, but found that if she was on the phone for three minutes working, she had to lay down for three hours. She went to doctors and chiropractors, and with the help of her staff, kept her business going. But her emotions were erratic, and she felt totally exhausted, anxious and angry as time went by. There seemed to be no answer to what was wrong with her.

Friends and Community

Friends wanted to help, but weren’t sure what to offer. In frustration and a growing sense of depression around her condition, she shut down her business.  She could feed and dress her self, but her cognitive skills went downhill. “It was a time when I couldn’t put my thoughts into words,” Teri says. All around her, she had good friends who were interested in, and supportive of her healing, but she was not getting ahead. She seemed to be getting worse. These years were full of a series of disappointments, and some of her friends drifted away from what they could not understand or help.

At her lowest point, Teri took back herself. She withdrew from the world around her, realizing she had to figure out what was next. There were still questions as to what caused the array of symptoms that seemed unrelated to the accident. She took a second look at the possibility of undiagnosed brain damage from the accident; though that consideration had been rejected years ago after the accident. That seemed to have been her first step toward recovery. Teri took on her life again.

After much searching, at a time when the internet was not the quick search tool it is today, Teri found the Brain Tumor Foundation. She called them, described what was going on in her life, and asked for help. “They denied help because I didn’t have a brain tumor. This was a time when there was very little advocacy for brain injuries.” She got reality that her symptoms could indeed be caused by the accident, but that alone did not help her or provide what she needed.

What she truly needed, was provided by her good friend Larry, a massage therapist. Larry had been a witness to what had been happening to her. He brought Teri into his community house to live, instead of her living alone as she had the past two years. Teri credits this step of joining a community for seven years of caring, engaged men and women, as the reason she continued to find her way toward a return to her life. She did this bit by bit, piece by piece, over the next nine years.

A Powerful Truth

Still her anger and sense of betrayal would sometimes dominate her experience; as when she returned to work for an old client, The World Affairs Council. She was forced to face her new limitations. Previously, she had been the person who not only met, but excelled at the challenges of her profession. Now she couldn’t count on herself.  The confusing thing for her and her friends, was that there were times when she could rise to the occasion. Other times her emotions and anger would limit her thinking, and cloud her judgment. This was all the more painful because the medical help she sought did not direct her to the help she needed. There was no medical protocol for dealing with unrecognized traumatic brain injury. This was compounded by the fact that everybody’s brain injury is different. Weeks, months, and years went by.

Teri’s doctors would not give her an MRI. Her doctors and even friends with the best of intentions, were beginning to feel that Teri’s complaints might be psychosomatic. And so it went, until Teri made another direct change in direction. Teri took stock and came up with the recognition of a powerful truth. A truth she attributes, to this day, to her finding the path to full recovery.

Teri had participated very seriously in the EST training in the 1980’s. The level of personal responsibility emphasized there, was her orientation. She began to ask herself the question, “What is the gift in what I am experiencing?”

She began to observe that her response, if directed toward what she could do, rather than what she could not do, not only had her mood improve, but also she could do more, and do it to her satisfaction. When she became annoyed, irritated, angry, it slowed her down and reduced her energy. She began to specifically experience gratitude for everything that was working in her life. The days began to be knitted together; the pieces coming together. Each week that followed was better than the last. Even with the exhaustion of her bank account, the selling of her stock portfolio, and in heavy credit card debt, she kept moving forward.

The Gift

Teri’s eyes are bright as she recounts a big decision she made that brought her life to full value for her. She considered: “I could check out and end it.” For about a week, she considered that her life was too hard, it was never going to get all the way better. “But-” Teri says, “it was then I decided to live.”

Over the nine years, Teri found many healing modalities that added to her progress to what she considers to be a full recovery.  The real gift, Teri says, was the recognition of the self-wisdom and trust she developed, that led her to find the means to rebuild neural passages in her brain, and reconnect with her life fully. Teri offers her story to the many people who are on the confusing and chaotic path to recovery from TMI, searching for a way back from their old lives to their new life that works.

Teri married her husband Robert four years ago. They have an excellent community house, recently traveled to Cuba, Bhutan and have family in Italy where they travel. The foundation of their relationship is an inspiration to friends and their many communities. In their sixties, Teri and Robert live with the sense of wonder at finding each other late in life, and in awe of the experiences that led to their meeting. This includes the years in which Teri rediscovered herself. The wisdom that led Teri to clear herself of the symptoms of TMI is what she offers to people to work with in that circumstance. All brains are unique, and their responses may be different. Each person is on his or her own time line. Through her story, Teri hopes to pass on to others what she has learned. Namely, the nurturing and healing available in an environment of support, as well as the importance of choosing to engage in self discovery and experimentation looking for the increments of progress and healing.

The connection between the brain and mind is of constant focus now in medical and neuroscience. The mysteries of the brain, the mysteries of the patterns of healing that come through how we think and what we feel, is the next paradigm, and ground to be gained for all those, who like Teri, find their way through the integrity of recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving: the year of gratitude 2014

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Thank you all -you who have subscribed-  for bringing to the site your experience, your value to the conversation of who women and the men who live with them  are and the passage of women through these years of change.  This site and the book in process are all about my gratitude to the women and men who brought to the world the value of the freedom and  dignity of all people.  If you view this site and come to a better understanding and appreciation of the women in your life, then you contribute by your presence to this conversation.

It goes without saying and yet it must be said that women and men have come along together in the past fifty years, transforming how we live and what is important given our freedom to choose our identities, our function and our impact on the world.  There is more to go, for sure.  Miles and miles.  While the groundwork has changed dynamically altering the course of our mother’s and grandmother’s history, even so each generation takes the understanding further and deeper into the psyche of how we understand ourselves and each other.  We bring a context of feminism-seeking equality into the courts of law and congress -even as women’s rights continue to be attacked.

We – us human beings- men or women have the challenge of passing forward the advances we have been handed by the generation who sought and found a way to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through personal and social liberation honoring and trusting ourselves and each other.

For all this, and for your company on the road, I thank you and the opportunity every day presents to fulfill our hopes and dreams for ourselves,  for our families, our communities and for those who struggle with oppression and constraints to their every day liberties to expressing their lives as they desire.

Sore is the condition of our hearts as we watch Ferguson unfold.  Brings back the confusion and chaos of the civil rights movement of Watts and the streets of New York where the sense of the loss with just the barest potential of redemption is painful.  But we moved on, it got better for African Americans and for all of us really these forty years.  We are pressed again to look where we don’t want to look and feel what has us recoil with the knowledge of the miscarriage of justice and the sinister mechanism holding it all in place.  We will continue.  We will find our way through.  But just like the 60’s, we can’t see how or when. Looping back to pick up the policies and people left behind is where we must look for the tomorrow that surely will come.   It is we who see the group excluded from a place at the table who must demand the changes necessary so that young men of color, and the women whose hearts have been broken over and over again know we are here.  WE are here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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1890-current: Early Feminism in Europe

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 Early feminist (1890) Florence Fenwick Miller (1854-1935) Midwife and English Journalist describes women as in legal slavery with man made laws having women endure sex, marriage and childbirth with no choice or voice in the matter. http://www.enotes.com/topics/feminism/critical-essays/women-16th-17th-18th-centuries

Jenni Murray of BBC History describes the conditions in show,  The 20th Century in Britain: The Women’s Hour,  as neither rich nor poor women had the choice of mates, endured beatings and abuse with no voice in their predicaments. She refers to Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garret as the feminists who advanced education and an opening in the medical profession for women through brave stands by a few women who risked their lives to take the stands that gave ground to other women. It was through the actions of the Women’s Social and Political Union 1903 and the work of Emmeline Pankhurst that the so called War by Women had more women take notice of and make demands for fair treatment and opportunity for education for women. In 1919, she notes, it was Nancy Astor who would be the first women in British Parliament, and in 1929 it was Margaret Bondfield who would be the first woman Cabinet Member. Just as in the US, the war called on the women to take the men’s jobs during the war.   But in 1944, the men returned and the women were sent back to their homes. In 1944,  the Education Act,  limited the number of girls who could be in school. It would be 1950 before girls were given equal access to education. In 1968, with the advent of Betty Friedan, the second wave of feminism came with it, the repeal of the Education Act in 1968.

Murray notes that Linda Grant, author of Sexing in the Millineum made note of the sexual revolution of the 60’s,  which she credited as providing women with the right to say yes.

Englishwoman Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunich in 1970. Very much like the feminists of the United States, it provided the first aspect of sexuality as perceived by women, and not men. 1970 also was the time of the first British Conference at Oxford on The Women’s Liberation Movement. Parallel to the activities of feminists in the US, Barbara Casette, Secretary of State for Employment, was effective in rallying for the Equal Pay Bill.  It was enacted in 1975 together with the Sexual Discrimination Act.

Similar also is the path of feminism that showed up in England as it did in the United States. Murray comments on the discordant and changing relationships that showed up between women as well as with their men,  in their homes and at the workplace. She points to the position of many women after the 1980’s, even with the gains and the social change underway, being “I’m not a feminist, but…”

It is remarkable how the beginning of the new roles and aspirations for women at home, in their own personal choices and at work had that affect and that feminism took quite a hit as the gears begin to provide new ground for how women lived their lives, both in the United States and in England. In France, it would be the 1975 Veil Law that ended the ban on Birth Control of 1920. In 1994, only 5% of the women in France between the ages of 20-49 did not use contraceptives according to Wikipedia.

The correlation between access to birth control and termination of pregancy and political power and access to education and equal pay seems to correspond for women’s rights in Europe. In Germany, Anita Augspurg was the first university woman student to graduate from a university in 1919 in the Weimar period where equality in education became available to middle and upper class women-until the age of 15 where they then had education at home. The Advanced Women’s rights in making education available to women in Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Lithuania and the Soviet Union was in evidence prior to World War II, as it was in Germany. But the Nazi Era reverted those standards calling for German women to be restricted to their roles as supporters to their husbands and children, as well as their country. 500,000 volunteers made up of women took on the jobs of men and 400,000 women were nurses and aids in hospitals during the war Wikipedia reports.

But by 1987, Betty Friedan again introduced to a whole new generation of young German women feminism. The impact resulted in an antipatriarchy terrorist group Rote Zora of women from 1974-1995 who were responsible for 45 bombings and arson attacks. The strides back to increasing access to women to education and access to being employed, as well as their limited 10% representation in the work place leadership gave stronger ground to the Womens Rights effort. Alice Schwazer became in 1977 and remains a voice for issues of feminism today in the EMMA magazine. The Green Party was established in 1980 and serves to promote equality and human rights in Germany. It is notable that in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman in power and leadership, opposed the European Union proposal to introduce more representation of women in executive board positions, and roles of leadership for women in jobs.

It could be that Women’s Rights where education and equality represent  feminism, but it could also be the measure of access to birth control and women’s right to choose is the measure of the advance and practice of Women’s Rights. Nations and countries giving access to birth control and right to abortion correlate with those seeking equality in education, jobs and equal pay for equal work.   To give women the right to choose is to give them the power to determine their lives, it’s individualistic, solitary, personal. The current issues of the 1000 state bills in the United States attacking women’s right to choose to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, and to disempower Roe VS Wade is to reduce the power of women in the world. What is the continuum of women’s right to choose and their representation in roles of leadership and power in our government, in our universities and in our industries is a relevant question which is beyond this discussion, but surely to be considered.

The Atlantic Magazine, August 5, 2013 featured Emily Matchvar’s gives a comprehensive look at abortion policies in Western Europe and other countries. For women in Germany, the first trimester only is available to women to end their pregnancies. In the Netherlands, there is a 5 day waiting period for women with a 24 week limit. In Belgium, abortion was illegal until 1990, but now a state of extreme distress must be proven for a woman to gain an abortion. Finland, up to 13 weeks is necessary and with that proof that there are adverse conditions such as poverty or already have 4 children. In Denmark, there is a 12 week limitation. But in Israel, Matchvar points out in this article, that although  93% of the American Jews support abortion rights in all cases, the law is that it is illegal for a married woman 17-40 to have an abortion unless rape, incest or infant malfunction is proven. If unmarried, the woman may plead her case, have an ultrasound and take counseling. In Russia, Eukrane and Poland, there is a restriction to 12 weeks, but every attempt to make difficult if not impossible making the choice to abort is presented to a woman seeking an abortion.

Emily Matchvar in the Atlantic article takes the position that the governments that seek to increase their population and advance their nation seek to restrict choice to women and limit access if not directly prohibit it accordingly. Not personal, not up to the individual, but a national need to be answered by women giving birth to children.   Another perspective can be related to the result of silencing the voice of women, enforcing a limitation of choice by women and strengthening further the male voice and perspective as the director of women’s  and the country’s fate. Certainly any woman who has experienced pregnancy, childbirth, early infant care and the years up to school age is aware of the fact that the hormones, the perspective and the free range of movement is greatly inhibited during this vulnerable time. Further,  the years of child care, the significant first 3-5 years are the most vulnerable for the child, and most essential to their well being. The disadvantage of income loss, babysitter costs, and distraction of focus and energy are all costs endured that make for less time and energy to make other demands on life. Not to mention the 18-20 years of parenting that is the current requirement.

Feminism, like democracy, are messy propositions. The initial work of feminism to have recognition of the need for equal opportunity, access and reward required a revision still working itself out with outcomes that are still representing a challenge to societies engaged in the process. “I’m not a feminist, but…” the alternative is devastating and limiting to all the world.  I’m not a feminist is an apology for making noise, causing problems, speaking out and taking actions that disrupt the status quo.   Feminism is not an ideal to reach, it’s organic and in the past fifty years world wide has hugely impacted and altered the history of the world. Intricate and requiring the integrity of assimilation with costs that are not expected that come with the changes, such as role identity and the complexity of divisive and discordant views of the value of the changes as they occur.

Interesting throughout reviewing this level of investigation into how and what impacted women in Europe, Betty Freidan’s name appears over and over again. Her work translated in different countries resonated with women.   Individually, personally they experienced in her words a potential for how they wanted to live as human beings. The work is underway, it is uneven, and the future is uncertain.

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Markers of feminism- fathers today

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Feminism has never been exclusive to women in quest of a more equitable and just society, but about men and their evolvement.

From one perspective, a new marker of feminism is  who fathers are today. . The beginnings of the second wave of feminism born of the anti war and civil rights movement initiated the standard of egalitarian roles for men and women.  Shoulder to shoulder, blue jean clad, long hair with  equality in and out of the bedroom,  a new role for fathers was born. The role of the patriarchal father began to be humorous, as in Archie Bunker of the 70’s that gave their huge audience on television and the culture a chance to see the hypocrisy and imprisonment of that image of masculinity. Women were choosing their sexual partners, just as much as being chosen. It was an experience of themselves and their sexuality that came from the sense of equality by the participants. Birth Control of course, as well as Roe VS Wade, made that possible and the magazines and newspapers occasionally had articles about how dangerous it was for the roles of men and women to become more alike than different, where that might take our society. But it was happening here, in England and it could be considered that this shift in roles and identities actually was driven by the music of the Beatles, Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones who gave a background to the new cultural norms developing.

The changes in choice driven lives and loves outside the paradigm of the 50’s makes sense when you consider that there is evidence that the enhancement of the roles of parents and husband and wife came about after World War II. Prior to that time, there were no social policies that supported the nuclear family, the New Deal with Social Security; Aid to dependent children had not been born.   Families were a functional unit on the farms and in the cities; history shows that children were considered free labor as were the wives living with the field hands and workers. The sentiment attributed to marriage it is claimed came from the need to boost the lagging economy after World War II with the FAA loans and college aid that allowed for individuals and couples to move to the nuclear family context. And as we all know who have seen Mad Men, the concept of what it was to be a woman, a man and a married couple was definitely pumped by the magazines and television which reflected an ideology about the roles of husband and father, mother and child.

But in the 70’s, many of the social agreements were changing, and the role of the woman to be able to determine her own choices, including motherhood was one consequence. Another is what happened to the men when this new version of which to be in life brought about new ways of perceiving what was possible and desirable. Mike Sager wrote The Modern Fatherhood of a Street Kid and conveys the passage and the result of which fathers are now very well.

Feminism has never been exclusive to women in quest of a more equitable and just society, but about men and their evolvement. Esquire had a Father’s day magazine this year acknowledged the new state of fatherhood in our times. Mike Sager is the best selling author and award winning reporter, considered to be the “beat poet of American Journalism” and writer at large of Esquire magazine for 15 years. This article features Mark Wahlberg as the model of modern fatherhood. Extremely successful actor and producer of Transformers: Age of Extinction and the cable series Entourage, and father of four who grew up with a family where the dad drove a truck delivering lunch and he and his brothers in an Irish Catholic neighborhood and turned his life around in his early years after serving time at an early age. Turning his life into a success, Wahlberg has his life organized around his children. Goes to bed after dinner, wakes up, works out, has breakfast with the kids, takes them to school and after school participates in sports with the boys, basketball, football. While he admires his own dad, sees what his dad was able to produce for the family though limited as the best he could and it took all his time and attention to pull that off. The dad Mark Wahlberg has become is engaged fully in his family, and represents the new dad. -Fathers engaged from the delivery room, shared care of newborns as a result of family leave and the sharing of the roles of nurturers rather than the times when father were kept out, and worked such hard and long hours that the children were in bed when the fathers came home is the contrast that could be drawn between the generations of fathers of the 1940’s and the 1980’s and onward.

A Manifesto of the New Fatherhood by Stephen Marche (Esquire June/July2014) gave data that backed up his claim that the number of American families without fathers has grown 10.3 percent in 1970 to 24.6 percent in 2013. He points to the 2014 study by UC Berkeley of over forty million children and their parents looked at what it takes to gain ground for children coming up now. The study revealed that economic mobility had everything to do with family structure, as compared to racial segregation, income inequality, school quality, social capital. “Family structure correlates with upward mobility not just at the individual level but also on the community level, perhaps because the stability of social environment affects children’s outcomes more broadly.” The article goes on to say that fatherless is a significant factor in suicide, mental health and incarceration risk for children. “The new fatherhood is not merely a lifestyle but the time fathers spend with their children results in “healthier, more educated, and more stable, less criminal world.”

The article goes on to describe the poll result of 17.5 million fatherless families currently.  Marche refers also to the studies that 2.5 million boys take medication for ADHD as opposed to 1 million girls – an increase of 22% for boys between 2007 and 2012. Basic domestic egalitarianism sharing of childcare and household functions are reflective of the forty to fifty years of social change that have shown up in families, with women earning more money with larger work commitments and need for their time away. Sheryl Sandberg in “Lean In” speaks of the difference in the male and female candidates for a job, with the women wanting to maintain a level of commitment that suits their goal whether they are currently in a relationship or not, of having children and fitting that into their lives. The men do not have that as a reference point evidently, but more and more dads are choosing to alter their lives to accommodate time with their children.

On a recent family reunion, my niece and her husband, both of whom graduated with their PhD’s in Psychology and married now have three children. They had a huge school debt collectively, so they both joined the military as professional psychologists. Now with the children age 8-4 and 1 years old, my niece’s husband left the military and stays home writing papers and giving talks while his wife continues on contributing to the field in the work for soldiers returning with post traumatic stress.  Exceptional couple and they are raising their children with dad having a great deal of the hands on time in with the children.  The 2014 Pew report  shows the trend of 1.1 million fathers at home in 1989, and 2 million at home in 2012.   This is more common than not, the rotation of mates who find with the cost of childcare and the quality they want to impart to their children, taking turns with the career outside the home is a serious and valid choice.

As Marche states it, the old fatherhood was a series of unexpressed assumptions. The new fatherhood requires intelligence, judgment and engagement-“messy.” Responded to by some men longing for the days of patriarchy when men were men, Marche refers to their “Aggrieved entitlement” and anti feminism sentiment arguing for a return to the isolated role of the remote father. Marche references the work of Michael Kimmel who wrote Guyland and last year’s angry White men in 2008 who argued that the “residue of patriarchy drives young men to despair and self destruction. The old codes, the macho, the defensive response to the changing world with a ideology of traditional masculinity keeps boys from wanting to succeed.”

The value, sense and role of men as the new father, like the new woman is giving up the known for the unknown, giving up isolation and a process of the modern context of feminism. The path is messy and unclear born of the game changing-roles and identities not clearly defined, and where the systems of belief give way to a new perspective.   The fact that dads entered the delivery room to partner with their wives and be present for the birth of their children is a fact that cannot be denied.  The Esquire Manifesto of the New Fatherhood ends with Marche claiming the “huge gain for men, the chance for a deeper intimacy, a whole new range of pleasures and agonies, and a fuller version of humanity.”

Another view, not to take away from this claim, is that the markers of feminism are showing up in how we, men and women,  value and transform the relationships with our mates, ourselves and the children and the society we want to build.

 

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2014: Marcos Cochrane “Making women safe”

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Marco Cochrane with his wife Julia Cochrane as interviewer presented this talk at the Innovate Berkeley Social, July 16th, 2014.

Marco quickly goes to the heart of his work and his message, and his life:

“What would it be like in the world if women felt safe and what would it take to have women feel safe?”

Known for his series Truth is Beauty in The Bliss Project of Burning Man, Marco’s  ‘Woman’, is made from mesh a 55 foot essence and form of a woman reaching with every inch of herself toward the sky. She is felt as well as seen;  celebrated at Burning Man’s annual celebration in the desert of Nevada.

Marco is speaking at the Innovate Berkeley event at the Impact Hub Berkeley,  as creative artists, writers, welders, designers and people excited about life and its possibilities,  gather for his presentation.

Marco describes himself as the child of hippie parents raised in Berkeley.  In his early years he was introduced to antiwar and feminism viewpoints.   By age 7 was aware and sensitive to the possibility of the need for radical change.  He was aware, from an early age,  of the insanity of war.   He saw how people treated each other and wondered why,  and what that was about.  His radical question also comes from his attention on women.  Not just attention on the inches and hills and valleys of a woman’s body,  while in the process of sculpting the Truth is Beauty series;  but also noticing the silence, the holding back, the absence of exposure behind the unspoken speaking of the women around him.

Marco’s question “What would it take to have women feel safe?” brings to mind that because of their silence, the withdrawal of their presence, humanity has less to work with.  Marco expresses the value that women feeling safe and free to express themselves, would make their feminine energy available to the world.  He observes that his own ability to speak, to respond,  is easily available to him.  And that is not the case with women.   He observes that men don’t need to have permission to speak.   Men fear other men.  They know they carry  aggression associated with fear for their survival.  They sense it in other men.  Violence against women, rape and abuse, Marco describes as a coping mechanism to keep women silent. The effect is to shut down women.

We need the direction from women that would make the world a different place.”  We have a world where rape and assault, not just in far off worlds, but in our military, in our universities, in our churches, in our schools are constantly being revealed.  The revelations generally are exposed by a woman,  who,  at significant cost to herself,  and often under duress,  speaks.  The different energy that women contribute and the potential of that energy to the world, is what Marco’s words convey.

If women felt safe, their silence would end and the feminine energy of connectedness, transparency, and creative possibilities,  would be available to the world.   Women feeling safe did not come about through the feminist movements or the hippie movements of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s,  he asserts.  Marcos is intent that the challenge of having women feel safe must being taken up by all.  The implication is that everyone who wants to see the end of violence against women and in the world,  needs to be up for the job.  He suggests we do it because it’s the right thing to do;  because it’s fun, and not out of generosity.

“Its going to take all of us to do it,” Marco says in closing.  In saying all of us,  there is the implication that that means women as well as men.   Women making it safe for women to speak out is the basis for women’s groups and the trust that is built there.  But out here in everyday life,  in the office, in meetings, or social events with our daughters, making it safe for other women is our job as women as well as men.  Women know which women in their lives  make it safe for them and they trust them.

Marco has traveled around countries far and wide to speak to people about Truth is Beauty, his magnificent sculptures celebrating the beauty and spirit of women;  as well as his message about making it safe for women, and what that can contribute to humanity.  The connection is clear.  The job is out there for each of us.  This is what we are left with as we leave the evening at the Innovate Berkeley Dinner presentation.  Amy and Revival has filled us with excellent food, and our minds and hearts are a great deal richer than when we entered because of the opening provided by Marco.  That opening is as high and wide as his 55 foot sculpture and then some.

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Feminism in Ireland

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Feminism in Ireland and around the world and the position of countries relative to women’s rights presents a broad canvas of differences.  The origin of how women have come to define themselves is as rich as the variation of those differences.  Even before language,  girls are given messages in the silence about who they are to be and what is expected of them.  My Irish Catholic origins in Lynn, Massachusetts with grandmothers, aunts and cousins,  was where I  had come from.  I could be no further removed from those anchors of my origin than to move to Berkeley , California in 1970,  never to return to the East Coast.  Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area  in 1970 were in the midst of great changes, revolution really in  what would later be called the 2nd wave of feminism.  How that showed up for me was in new choices available to me,  and significant changes among my peers and myself in determining our roles as mothers and as women.   There was a fresh exploration of what was available around me, and in trial and error as a guide to the newly opened terrain.  For a very long time, I did not look back.  As I did throughout the later years,  it was always a curiosity to me that I lacked much interest in the roots of my origin, along with vague dislike of memories of emotions I couldn’t interpret.

My seeming lack of curiosity in Ireland, Irish music and stories given this trip to Ireland among my 40 member family reunion offered an opportunity to know not only our history, but have experience of the country of our grandparents.  I was open to a greater understanding of the culture I had to have absorbed on some level.    I was aware of the  struggles that motivated my grandfather,  in 1906 at age 13, to take the treacherous trip to join his sister, already working in the slaughterhouses in Chicago.   He then moved on to Lynn, Massachusetts where he would meet and marry my grandmother in 1919,   who emigrated in 1912.

The trip to Ireland might give me the connection to my first experiences, spoken and unspoken,  recalling my first six years of  life. For instance,  what was it in my DNA, my psyche and my understandings, that informed me, and caused me to look in directions I chose,  take the measures I’ve taken, and make the decisions that I’ve made?   What information could I gain about our default assumptions based on  unselected attitudes and concepts before we’re verbal or creating concepts about our experience that drives us in our understanding of who we are, and  as women?   Who are the women in Ireland today and what os the measure of women’s rights today?  Could I even imagine my grandmother’s experience of Ireland, and what remains of the conditions and life she led compared to life today for women?

My grandmother left as many million did during the period of the famine from the farm lands.  The famine  is a well known driver of the destiny of the two million Irish who either died or emigrated to the US, Britain and Europe and Australia beginning around 1848.  The life in the countryside with  the Celtic Chieftains was marked by the land wars amongst the families in power.  The Norman Invasion and English overlords with Henry ViII declaring himself king of Ireland in the 1600’s set up the constant struggle for Home Rule over the course of the years preceding my grandparents emigrating.   The Irish were an underclass to the British rule. and Ireland itself was considered to be an English plantation.   The country survived immense tragedy under this rule.   The path of Thomas Cromwell slaughter of thousands of the Irish citizens rebelling against his cruel rule, and the Catholic church coming into power defined the path of the Irish civilization.  Even before the plague, these were the struggles endured by those living in Ireland in the 16th-18th Century.   Those first adults I met as a child under five had all come through these experiences, and as I recall wept whenever they spoke of Ireland.  Coming to understand their history by visiting the areas where these events took place had the affect of my understanding their expressions experienced as a young child.  What it could be described at now as I look at it is the great wall of grief expressed at every family gathering that my family brought with them from Ireland to Lynn, Massachusetts.

But an intention I had going to Ireland was to have particular knowledge of  what governed women’s lives  now,  where things are in terms of women’s rights today.  What is  ability of women to determine their own destiny?  With that,  the value for me was to reconcile my own experience with what I observed and felt around me in being in Ireland.

From Shannon Airport, the  vast, sprawling carpet of  hills and vales of green with rows of trees  clearly created  boundaries separating property was all that I could see for miles and miles.  Rolling hills, with a few purple mountains in the distance with a 360 degree view most often available, was stunning.    Cows and sheep peppered the green hills.  There were 31 of the family fresh off the plane, with all but two of us visiting Ireland for the first time.  The executive bus came with a driver,  Michael, who moved us steadfastly through narrow winding streets with no margin for error, we had no certainty about our destination, and throughout he gave his own understanding of the country.    Michael spoke to us as we moved through the countryside and identified distinctions of the small and larger  townships we passed on our way to Blackwater Castle.   We would enter small townships barreling along at a good clip, the cluster of houses  and pubs bound together in a row in clumps.  Bright flags and colorful flowers at each location, we moved directly through each town:  Limerick, Adare, Killarney, Castletown Roche on our way through Mallow to Blackwater.    “Guys, this is Ireland.  We’ve had some hard times but we stand together.”  With that, he put on the Irish music, robust and merry but yet the sad tones and words came through.  “We’ve had a hard time, but we’re coming back from 2008.”  He described the ownership of properties by absentee landlords who left for Europe with the profits from their tenant farms, leaving behind bankruptcy in Ireland.  That sounded pretty familiar given the recent recession crisis in the US, with many banks taking their profits and leaving bankruptcy for many.   “But a new day is coming to Ireland, guys” Michael told us.  “We’ve discovered that energy is what there is to sell in the new world.  We have land, a great deal of land untapped for use, and now there are windmills on the vistas, and doors open for investors to take on this new opportunity.”

We would discover over the week the decades and centuries of hard times, devastations and tragedies that fill the history of Ireland.  From the Celtic Chiefs  through the Viking and Norman Invasions and the great struggle over two centuries to own their own land, the English control of the Island prevailed.    Chieftains Hugh O’Neil and Hugh O’Donnell surrendered to Queen Elizabeth I, with  Ireland essentially serving as an  English plantation.   Their struggles sometimes ended up with the women being offered as gifts or peace offerings.  But there were also women who stood in places of power.  Among others was Lady Roche of Blackwater Castle, the place our family was staying.   We were told the story by our hosts, the current owners of the castle, who made it available for events, weddings and family reunions like ours.  Lady Roche herself, led the defense, when the castle came under attack by Oliver Cromwell’s army, while her husband, Lord Roche was away.  She fought valiantly, but was defeated and later hanged for her trouble.

Relative to women and their position in early medieval Irish society, we would learn of the Brehon law which favored women, allowed divorce and allowed women to own property and land.  The Norman invasion would revert the power of land ownership to men only by 1169, but would be brought back in the 13th century.   Given it was the 19th Amendment in  1920’s when  women could first own property in the US, the contrast to Ireland with women having property ownership  is remarkable.  Prior to the 13th century, land ownership was often done in trusts from father to daughter.  She would have to give ownership to the husband if she married.  Once the Catholic church was established, the patriarchal rule over women was established.  The power of the Church remains today, and limits the power of women.

My two grandmothers, Catherine Flynn and Sarah Fleming, both took the journey across the Atlantic, and  were among those who survived the trip that cost many their  lives in 1919.  The two women met on the boat and became friends.  Later, they both worked for the Hitchcock House, one of the major wealthy homes of Boston, for a number of years,  as housemaids.  This work afforded them more independence and privilege than they ever enjoyed in Ireland.  When we visited Cork, the township from which the Titanic pulled away for its last sailing, we saw the 3rd class quarters and saw the harsh conditions my grandparents and 90% of those on the boat endured.  It was a miracle that they survived. The work and the life my grandmothers found was in contrast to the reception the Irish men received with “Irish need not apply” signs in employer’s windows and doors.

I looked for their faces-what my grandparents might have looked like- as we visited shops, castles, musical performances and retail establishments in Cork and Kinsale, Blarney and Kilkenny.  What I saw in the faces around me was resilience and independence in how the women presented themselves.  I saw an  extra stride in their step,  their chins raised high, and in their tone cheery and bright.    The women convey a sense of their being in charge of their place in the communities in which they live.  Pretty people, very kind and willing to extend themselves with visitors.  Actually both the men and women exude enthusiasm, conveying an optimism they share about Ireland, the coming prosperity they see as possible, and life ahead.  Yet they live within the constraints of the sexual conditions from which women have not freed themselves, nor does there seem to be much demand in the area of sexuality,  from the feminists in Ireland.

The feminists of Ireland are represented by  the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalitions, Wikipedia tells us, and have effectively sought measures of  equal political, economic and social rights for women.   This is referred to as the Second Wave of Feminism in Ireland  1960-1980 which progressed to  the Third Wave of Feminism through the 2000’s described as an “extension of the earlier feminist movements’ perceived failures” according to Wikipedia.

The matter of choosing to be sexual before marriage, the use of birth control, or the decision to become pregnant without marriage, today holds a stigma and a social cost.  It is reported that women can divorce in Ireland since 1995, but it takes five years, and is socially condemned. Birth control is available under constraints that limit it’s access to unmarried women. It is reported that 6000 women quietly journey to England to terminate unwanted pregnancies. While many women die from home remedies. The stigma of pregnancy and being unmarried is still condemning to women. For the women who do choose go to London clinics to terminate unwanted pregnancies, they choose to keep their decision private and personal because of the enormous social costs in the overwhelming catholic population.

Currently the Irish Feminist Network is “still fighting the church’s political Influence.” (MS. Blog Camille Hayes June 6, 2013.) While in the 70’s, feminists like Nell McCafferty, Mary Kenny, June Levine and Nuala O’Faolain worked towards towards gender equity did have an impact and the Mother & Baby Homes which forced unwed mothers to separate from their babies was halted due to their efforts.   Today the IFN is addressing the needs of “younger women.” They are seeking equal representation, economic equality and reproductive rights for women.   Abortion is still, even for the 6000 annually who go to London for abortions, a personal and quietly carried out act that women do not want to make public, so the catholic church is still in the powerful position of excluding the conversation because of the stigma attached to abortion.

The exception is the  alarm and demand for change around the iron clad power of the catholic church and women’s rights  surfaced in October 2012.  That is when Savita Halappanavar,  in her 17th week of pregnancy, experienced an incomplete miscarriage.  Yet the doctors would  not assist with a cesarian section to withdraw the expired fetus.  The world’s attention was on the Galway Hospital, as doctors allowed Savita to slowly die, rather than perform the life saving surgery that the Church would not approve.  The social outrage of the feminists and people of Ireland  demanded and won the small concession of  the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.    This  bill allows doctors to intervene if the mother’s health is at risk, or there is risk of suicide.  As this story was told to me, I didn’t want to say that in the US today, there are over 1000 state proposals to reduce women’s rights.  It just seemed too brutal to mention,  given the consciousness being aroused by  women in Ireland to deal with the locked down rights of women to own any part of their sexual rights, and the  hope they see in the achievement of Roe VS Wade in 1973.

But it is certainly a heads up for feminists and human beings  everywhere to know that only a year ago, a bill in Ireland gave legal grounds for abortion when the life of the mother is at stake.

We’re on the bus again with Michael and a merry Irish tune on the speakers, as we pass through the picturesque streets of Killarney.  There are shops of amazingly beautiful wool, coming from places like  the famous  Blarney Mills,  that we will visit later.  A group of young boys walk through the streets of Cork; robust, confident and animated.   Trailing behind them,  a group of girls in typical teen age attire: jeans and black tee shirts,  talking to each other.   Then we are Inside the pub for a pint, and are warmly welcomed.  Visiting women are encouraged, to only go in groups through the streets and to the pubs, if not accompanied by a man,  for their own “comfort and ease.”  Accordingly every pub, cafe or restaurant  there are clusters of pretty ladies together, and a few men.  Good times are the sense of the atmosphere.  Flowers outside the door and throughout the streets in every township has it feel like a stage set.  They give such a sense of celebration, everything grows so well with the ongoing light rains that barely dampens the streets but clearly keeps the blooms continuous everywhere we go.  And everywhere the grass is so very green.

What can I claim from this only surface experience of Ireland that can be felt if not fully perceived, known if not understood.  I can see my own resilience and never fully consumed aversion to  being contained, regimented or controlled,  to a fault, really.   My instinctive resistance is sometimes realized by an impetuous trust to step outside what is acceptable, to what has not been claimed, trusting my instincts and gut.   Costly, expensive sometimes,  but holding firm and moving on, and not looking back or looking for direction from unknown sources.

Not expecting a hand up is implicit in my choices.  Making my own path is what I’ve always done.  And taking leave.  I have always been the “leaver.”  It was a relief to come across the expression the of the Irish goodbye.  Similar to the Irish blessing May you be gone before the Devil knows you’ve left.   Funny what we know without knowing how we know what we know.   I’ve always felt refreshed on the paths I have found.  I look for the state of wonder from which to find my ground.    Gained my standing, found my voice and honored the call.  To hurt for those not seen, speak for those excluded.  And to send into the space of community of beings,  my vote, my feet, my care.  It makes more sense to me;  I make more sense to me having found my feminism in Ireland.

What we “know” happens, begins long before we select our experience and have language to define it.  We move in directions that we can’t define from a wisdom that is not ours alone.  So it is that without “knowing” it, my alienation from “Ireland” had ground that I have experienced, discovered in this trip to Ireland.  It is a terrible beauty, with a people who feel never defeated and always are looking for a better life.  That better life for women is beginning to be inserted in the conversation, below the surface,  and spoken of and criticized by a large segment of the women as well as the men.  The distance we have come in 50 years is more apparent in the attitudes of both men and women, and liberation for both is at stake,  in my consideration.

I bite my tongue and don’t want to share with the few women who have talked to me about the limits of choices available to them in how they live their lives.  I don’t want to say that  where I live in the United States, the Supreme Court has reduced the boundaries around women who make the choice to terminate their pregnancies. And women encounter similar personal attacks on their right to choose.   That employers can now deny  health benefits from their company to grant birth control pills,  is a process we are undergoing that I also don’t want to mention.  I am embarrassed to tell them that is where we are as a country.  I am ever more alarmed and hope that women and men are paying attention.   I hope we don’t want to go back but only forward in the march toward women’s rights, civil rights and human rights.  Rights which come from the stand that there is a better world, a better life for all with dignity and respect for choices made by people.  Choices made out of integrity,  choosing alternatives available to women/human beings in how they live wish to their lives.

 

 

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A return to the promise of Myrtle Beach 1950

Sisters 1946 Black and white photo       

A return to the promise of Myrtle Beach in 1950-that brought long summer days filled only with the rhythm of the ocean and lazy afternoons with adventures I found will soon be revisited.  The Beach house in Myrtle Beach, SC was morning walks on the hot planks down to the ocean, feeling the rhythm of each foot hitting the wood with the slight sting of the sun and blown sand on my legs. Far from Norwood, Mass, my sister and I spent 6 weeks in South Carolina with our grandparents in the summer.  Over the sand hill to the blast of the Atlantic wind and surf, often with the dolphins toppling in and out of the water as if in a dance, this rush of seeing and feeling the ocean always surprised me. We would go early before 10 and the heat of the day and the beach was naked of people that early. Whatever thoughts, concerns I carried with me as I walked the plank each morning felt bathed, shaken and stirred by the feeling of the curves of the waves as they came -one after another, sometimes in a single wave all across the waterfront. On the sandy walk close to the ocean, I walked feeling a part of everything and nothing all at the same time.

We would get the signal from Aunt Lib that it was time to walk back to our grandparents house, to the lunch of fresh ripe tomatoes that never saw a refrigerator, and sweet peaches which we cut and sliced and kept in Mason jars for lunch, dinner and sometimes on our grape nuts cereal for breakfast. Then I would happily retreat to my room and the most precious of experiences: reading Gone With the Wind.   A big thick green book that looked pretty worn I had found in one of the dresser drawers along with a Confidential magazine that showed a blond movie actress with sunglasses getting out of a car with a big label across the picture: EXPOSED. I could not make heads nor tails out of the magazine. I was going to be 12 in a few months, and didn’t see what going into a hotel had to do with anything, nor did I recognize the movie star. Reading was not something I felt happy about prior to this treasure at the Beach house, Given that I was a very poor reader in school. I knew this because when my name was called to read I did not read as fluidly as Mary Alice who read without hesitation in her soft but certain voice. Or even like Liza who also seemed to be very much at ease and read in a sing song voice. For me being called on was something I dreaded. I was miserable and anxious, and missed words often.

Yet here I was with this big green book and I had made my way through a chunk of it, but the reason was I couldn’t wait to find out what was on the next page. When mansions were described, with big skirts and bonnets I could see those in my mind’s eye. The first images of Scarlett O’Hara were like opening up to the rainbow for me: Her brazenness, her speaking out loud things I had already been told were not the right way to be, not polite. Scarlett’s open and straight ahead ambition to get what she wanted in every situation was miles and miles away from anything I had seen in the women around me either in South Carolina or Massachusetts. My sister and I always felt we were raised right in the middle of the Civil War. There was hardly anything that the family in SC agreed with the family in Massachusetts about. Protestant Sunday school teachers in our summers in SC and Catholic nuns and priests in Norwood not only didn’t agree on anything much, but they also spoke very poorly of each other, sort of on the sly-like giving us a little remark here and there as to what was desirable or undesirable behavior or attitude or practice in life. But being a good girl was stressed in either camp-in the very air we breathed.

 So Scarlett and her speaking out to her father and overtly being important to the men around her, and fighting openly with the women was really the first feminist I was aware of. She demanded equal access, opportunity and expressed herself as clearly as the men. irritating the women around her.   Except for Melanie. Melanie was the other feminist I recognize now, another example of a woman who sought and won a treatment from those in power, even Rhett Butler, such that they listened to her and acted from the place of having considered her views significant and of high value.

The southern culture was by nature very concerned with manners and etiquette and Ruthie, my grandmother, spent time with my sister and I every night with stories that emphasized not being selfish. The story about choosing the biggest apple, and that apple having blackness in it, and just the overlay and underpinning always to be polite and not cause scenes was terribly important. More than once, I was taken to the side quietly but firmly- being told I had spoken as I should not have, or done something I shouldn’t have: like the time I went riding with a boy-we were both 11. These were friends of the family who had a farm with stables and his horses, we got lost and everyone was mad at me. I still can’t figure that one out. But the point is, how one behaved was really really important, and restricted.

 So here on the afternoons after being in the ocean, after the nice long walk on the beach and the juicy tomatoes and cottage cheese, here in this upstairs bedroom where I could see and smell and feel the ocean still tingly on my body, I could return to Scarlett and Melanie, and Rhett and Ashley.   As the weeks rolled by, Scarlett’s scheming and carrying on led to one major truth. While a war was going on, and people were going into what she called “that silly old war,” Scarlett was not taken in by the holding back, keeping herself at a safe distance, but right in the throes of everything that was happening.   Her motives were what they were, but when it came right down to it, as Atlanta burned, she did what she had to do to deliver Melanie’s baby, fight off the men who wanted to take the horse and wagon she was using with Melanie and baby in the back of the cart. Melanie even in her weakened condition clearly was the integrity of any situation she was in. I didn’t know the word integrity then, but I saw her as the moral and compassionate mover of the destiny of all the players in Gone with the Wind. Her strength, her mode of feminism was to respond and direct the people around her with a trust of their goodness, even Scarlett’s goodness when no one else could see it.

 Day after day, the characters played out a war, a civil war that I could feel in my life. When we took drives around South Carolina, I saw those mansions still standing or refurbished after the Civil War. I heard conversations around me in restaurants and in visiting cousins, aunts and uncles that were an extension of my absorption with the characters who lived for me on the pages of Gone With the Wind.

 The perfect southern gentleman Ashley was willing to tolerate the ambivalence around him that he was living through. A man who never said no to Scarlett and did all the right things. He was the opposite of Rhett Butler, a player, a winner and followed his own line of morality. He was not persuaded to take a position that didn’t include a large view with contradictions and conflict: his outsider status in the southern society gave him that option and he was glad to take it. Since feminism is not about male or female but can be defined as how we treat each other, a state of mind where all are of equal value, these two men are at opposite ends of the spectrum in ideals, standards and behaviors. It was Rhett who viewed all the women with respect and regard, including Belle-the town Lady of the Night, and those women he was of service in and out of the raging civil war. The war did not define he or Scarlett, while it left all the other characters in disarray. Scarlett with her brazen uncompromising self interest and Rhett’s being an outcast, they were the powerful players in the book for me.

 The experience of living with this book for the 5 weeks at the beach, with it’s views of people I didn’t see in life around me stayed with me, a place I had as a measure, a potential that guided my sense of who I wanted to be. There have been times in my life where I know-like Scarlett- I am making a dress out of drapes pulled down from their hangers from a fallen mansion- in order to meet what needs to be met, do what needs to be done. The reservoir of choices available to me in how I saw women through Gone with the Wind, their power, their honesty, their truth definitely was a turn in the road. Not that I didn’t suffer from self doubt for speaking out, not that I didn’t doubt my own motives when speaking out of turn. But a vital seed was planted, and though it would be decades before I recognized its name, this potential came with it a sense of responsibility to live out from the feminism Margaret Mitchell introduced to the world in Gone with the Wind.  

Myrtle Beach and the hour less days and presence only of the rhythm of the beach provided that experience in 1950.  A return to Myrtle Beach where the ocean sounds and breeze filled my days and opened the way for discoveries daily then will more than likely be a different experience now. Surely.  But will it revive the corners of experience ready to be found, awaken a joy that only the full view of the ocean over the last sand hill always provided?  Will the promises found in the experience of submitting to the power and surge on each wave met be fulfilled?  STay tuned

 

 

 

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1964-2014: Overview of the feminists who led civil rights

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INTRODUCTION:

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men,”  Gloria Steinem.

The women who came before the paths to equality were established, before the roads were cleared, without the contextual or political framework of support, these are the barefoot frontrunners.  For many of us the challenges met granted access and choices to live our lives as we have, a range of options opened for us significantly in the late 60’s.   Names like Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Betty Frieden came through to us, in the news and in the women’s studies classes newly offered on the university campuses. (Chapter 2:  History of feminism)   Information and experience of these events were in the back ground.  Hard to imagine the isolation many women experienced in various parts of the country when they first heard of these women and the choices they sought for women.  Hard to imagine when today our iPhones, 24/7 cable news and constant connection allows us to get any amount of information and be in touch moment to moment with life around us.

But the osmosis of the 60’s culture that provoked questions with no answers that we lived through with no road map and  no guarantee of finding a right path was how it was.  In the 1848, in Seneca Falls, reform of slavery was the beginning of feminism for men and women.  Estelle Freedman, Stanford University in her work No Turning Back,  points out that reform of equality and injustice was and is the basis of all feminism (Chapter 3:  Earliest feminist)  Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood wrote a book on “Comstockery” in protest to the lack of  family planning work.   The women and the children they bore were the source of  the unpaid labor  in the farms and in the factories, her book declared in the 1940’s.

Most certainly the game changer was  birth control pill in 1964.( Chapter 4:  1964 Game changer)  The ability to  provide choice and liberty to women nationwide show up in the timeline as the pivotal moment when women came through and to power.  Civil Rights 1965 provided the legal status of women to move forward into the equality and affirmative action  shifted women’s access into college and jobs not available to them previously.  With these changes, Individually or collectively women brought new conceptions to their lives in this significant time of sociopolitical history.(Chapter 5:  Sociopolitical advances in Feminism)

Ironically,  most of us were only vaguely aware of the groundwork and advances provided by the women who came before us.  Those who stood to represent  the Women’s Liberation movement were considered angry feminists or a joke by some, both men and women.  For many women, feminism was not achievable or desired or seen as representing the identity of choice.  The discussion across the country in the early 7 0’s that showed up on black and white television and in the magazines didn’t seem accessible or desirable, even  alien to many women.  (Chapter 6:  Personal is Political)

Estelle Freedman in No Turning Back:  The Feminist Resource Site states it clearly: there are many forms of feminism.  (Chapter 7:  Equal Pay Amendment) Equal pay for equal work is  a serious conversation today that has gained recognition because Pew Reports that 47% of all households have women as the head of the household supporting the family.   However, a depth and strength of that position seems juxtaposed with the condition of poverty and lack of education for women not only in other parts of the world.  (Chapter 8:  Barefoot Frontrunners Here and Now)   As we recognize the value of the validity of equal pay becoming a reality, the contradiction of women living in poverty with little potential for a future and reduced access to education seems glaringly wrong.  Freedman points out this realm of feminism addressing poverty and lack of education here and world wide is very much the next chapter of feminism.

When you consider where and how the women’s movement and the goals of feminism came into public awareness  in the late 60’s, it comes to the sexual freedom. (Chapter 9:  Sexual history of feminism)   Strident assertions of equality and lack of tolerance for sexism came together demanding change in the atmosphere of the antiwar and civil rights protests and demonstrations.     For men and women, our politics, our  lifestyles chosen in the late 60’s and 70’s corresponded with the way we held our sexual role and identities.  Women gave up dresses for blue jeans, joining the men in the symbolism of the non traditional counter culture attire worn by both. Men and women had long hair and wanted to be seen without the limitations of sexual role and identity.  Men grew beards, women didn’t wear make up or bras to make that point of not being man or woman but human being.  The style of dress and appearance was taken on by socialites and film people who identified with the process of sexual freedom being expressed.   Sexual freedom, personal choice and defining one’s life as a woman were  a consequence of the social change underway across the country.   Brought on by the consciousness raised about the Viet Nam war  to movements addressing the need for change in our draft system, our politics and the racism and sexism now seen and recognized through the crack in the solidity of the country.  New thinking and new choices made for the changes underway. Why is this important to record?  Because the next generation needs to know how change came underway that resulted in the laws of equality and justice; they need to know the value of a society that was in tumult and the results of that time of change.

The story of liberation for women is personal and is marked by the options and choices made by the women in this study ( femChapter 10:  Education and  the choice of  feminism).  Women are victims of their sexuality and their roles as women throughout the world.  Matt Damon has a new non profit that addressed putting wells into areas of poverty around the world to free up the use of girls and women to carry the water.  He sees that education of the girls is a possibility if those ancient roles of women are eliminated by water wells.   Women are punished for their sexuality we know this, clitoral mutilation, sale of children for prostitution and marriage, bride burning, stoning of those accused of adultery all exist in lands far away.  Girls who grow up on the streets of urban cities of the United States, without education and in poverty, are subject to disease and abuse also are victims of their sexuality.  When we talk about feminism, there are so many realms of what it is that is wanting to have women aware of the potential of a life of dignity and choice, and part of the ambivalence toward the term feminism is the lack of inclusion women feel in this process.  This is true now and as much as it has been all along.

Personal experience of the women who came through these times are an indicator of how far we’ve come and the cost and path of feminism for countries overtly and beneath the surface punishing women for being women.  The path of the women who came through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s to now have much to show us in terms of what the authentic process of change in their personal stories. (Chapter 11:  Essays)

How women have been viewed and researched sexually leads to the recognition that with liberation came new questions about and from women about the role of sex in their lives.  How it was approached then and now shows the changes underway that brought us to where we are now, what the choices around marriage, children and lifestyle have become and where they came from are all within the research discussed. (Chapter 12:  Sexual studies and their politics)

THE WORK AHEAD

The work of feminism has presented the means to equality, justice and choice to women, as well as political power.  The changes can be measured in how the current generation of women represent themselves and what their expectations are in their participation in work and home.  (CHAPTER 13:  New World of feminism) Today, women choose to be married or not to have a family.  Women choose to have partners for birthing a child, or surrogates or donors.  Women through the Affordable Care Act are not dependent on an employer or marital state to have their own healthcare, their own 401K.  Women of all ages consider themselves to the responsible for their own income; more women are working all through their lives was evidenced in the women interviewed.  Retirement is not something that either men or women can assume will be in their lives.  Their stories convey the balance and process by which the personal became political through the evolution of change in the past fifty years, still weighing the cost and benefits to equality.

Finally we meet some of the women who have been the barefoot frontrunners breaking new ground from where they stood and what their perspective yielded in the creation of their lives within the context of modern feminism.  (Chapter 13:  Markers of the new feminism)   Those who participated in the interviews provide the essence and meaning to an impersonal process through which they gained access to lives of their own design.  The juice of the story of these women and their  lives describe what we must know are acts of courage.  Our witness to the coming through of the disempowered, left behind and discounted has the potential of  granting us understanding and compassion for all  the women throughout the world.  Many  stand at the doorway, risking life and limb literally- to imagine a life of  dignity, respect and freedom.  The context for modern feminism includes their freedom as connected to our own, their worth as a value to our own and a future we will all share,

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The Integrity of the right to choose

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The Integrity of the right to choose to end a pregnancy is very real, and under attack and duress.  The question is by whom and for what purpose?  There is a serious attempt to reduce women’s rights and revert the  1973 before Roe VS Wade decision, and given the fact that the abortion rate is equal to that prior to Roe Vs Wade, it makes no sense. What is the basis of these attacks on Women’s Rights?

Is Blatant sexism sometimes  so broad and so in the grain of the surface, that it is barely noticed in the conversation around women’s right to choose?  The recent Supreme Court decision, and  Republicans in general come from the place that women are not adult enough, not smart enough or sophisticated enough to make the right choices for themselves.  Like keeping candy away from the child, out of the house and out of reach,  here is the assumption that taking the decision to make a decision by a woman is somehow similar to keeping candy out of reach to a child.  Ergo, the child will not eat candy that is bad for them if you take away their ability to choose.  Women will not make the choice if they don’t have the right to choose.  The same arguments have been made about women from the 1800’s by both parties, not just republicans:  that decisions need to be made for women and children by men.  Voting, driving cars, owning real estate, working – all of these were considered outside the range and responsibility level of women at one time, not that long ago.   But in the fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights of women, responsibility and choice have moved forward the dial of responsibility and integrity for women.  Women have chosen the road to equality by  taking responsibility for areas of their life that go with the rights they hold to manifest their lives from their choices.    Now in 40 states across the country, there is the attempt to  make decisions for women about their right to choose to take to term a pregnancy.

The facts are that abortions are at the same level in be 2014 that they were in 1973fore Roe VS Wade.  Greater access and education on birth control has brought the need and use of abortion down to the rate it was pre right to choose.

Roe VS Wade happened in 1973, the dawning of the visibility and the significance of civil rights-ushered in a time where women could had legal right to make their choices given their lives, and their circumstances.  As Justice Ruth Ginsberg has stated repeatedly:  women of means have always had the alternative of choosing to end a pregnancy as there has always been places women could go to get the help they needed.  The same women who helped women with childbirth helped women end pregnancies.  It is only the poor women who will suffer if the attempts to reduce women’s right to choose is taken back.  Back to the 1950’s, back to another time.    There is an attempt to turn back the clock, turn back the civil rights of women to make their own decisions is at the base of the efforts to go back in time.  As Hillary Clinton has said:  Women’s Rights are Human Rights.  There is no turning back.

By attempting to reduce women’s rights by eliminating the use of abortion in those states, there is an assumption that by having the option of abortion, women will mindlessly choose abortion who would not otherwise.  I totally disagree, and know the seriousness with which a woman approaches an abortion.  It is not an easy slide to make the decision.  It is a dilemma, it does require and is given consideration and women are more than capable of dealing with those decisions responsibly, with courage and integrity.

The catholic church represents one end of the spectrum where any interruption of a pregnancy through birth control is a violation of the potential child.   Barrier birth control or contraceptive birth control pills fall within this realm.  Then there is the IUD.  Perhaps it has not been fully recognized that what the IUD contraceptive method does is by its placement in the uterus, the body will reject any potential embryo when the menses cycle occurs.  Essentially the IUD serves the same function as abortion.  The continuum from diaphragm to medically inducing the expelling of an embryo are the range women have as choices in being responsible for themselves and any child that might result from their carrying it to term.

Integrity is the right word in terms of how women come to evaluate this scale of choice and responsibility.  It is not the easy way out as often assumed by those who denigrate women’s ability to choose what is right for them.   Because an IUD is available doesn’t mean that the GOP or the states that want to reduce women’s rights to choose  should outlaw their use.   Nor should they reduce access to  induced abortion.  The availability of the IUD and abortion are choices women are capable of making for themselves.  Women are not children for whom you need to limit choices and for whom others need to make decisions.  The prism of perception that allows attitudes that mitigate or challenge the ability of women to choose for themselves  falls into the range of the older days of institutionalized patriarchy.

There are women who will consider ending a pregnancy, there are many who will not for a variety of reasons not related to religion or even prior understanding of what they would do in that situation.  It’s a here and now experience that draws on the character and identity of the women and her mate, and her community.  She is right to make the choice that is right for her.

Integrity also in dealing with the process of releasing this potential life from your body is an experience women share, because rarely is there a listening for experience.  No one wants to hear that the hormone level of pregnancy is at one high level, and one measure of determining the embryo has left the body is the dramatic drop in the level of hormones, which can be quite devastating.    As a result, the emotional and hormonal experience for most women who experience spontaneous or induced abortion is difficult.  Women get little compassion for this process and rarely speak of it.  The procedure itself has to be right on the same level as an invasive root canal.  Women don’t choose to have these experiences, they choose to take the measures that responsibly deal with a pregnancy that they don’t want to bring to term.

The experience of the abortion and compassion for the women are not generally in the conversation.  It’s  as if they don’t deserve that response.  Truth is that the use of abortions though legal since 73 has dropped  drastically.  There is less need for abortions and less use of abortions now.  The most vulnerable groups to have unwanted pregnancies are those who don’t expect to have sex and therefore are not prepared, like teen agers and women over 50 according to the research.  Since their first visit to Planned Parenthood, girls have been informed about sexual responsibility, regarding unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases.  Schools are prepared to respond to the interests of learning about sexuality and responsibility for sexuality.  All of this has an impact on the fact that there are less unwanted pregnancies, and a significant drop in abortions.

Women are not children who have to be protected from making their own decisions and need the law and a congress ambivalent about women’s rights to make decisions for them.  Not now, not ever.  Fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights cannot be washed away in a sea of false cause in an attempt to retrieve a past we have left behind for the better of all.

 

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