Category Archives: my legacy/our legacy

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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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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A return to the promise of Myrtle Beach 1950

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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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1970 Women: our lives-our authentic expression

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Who were the women that showed us what was possible in our lives as we made our way from the 70’s to now?  Much more responsibility, much more possibility in living with our own definition of what it is to be a woman began in those years.  Outside the roles we learned, the examples of our mothers and aunts, we found new ground often from the women around us, just ahead of us or coming behind us inspiring us to find our own path.  Often those women, those teachers of what it was to be choosing our expression as women were not just the feminists, but the examples we saw around us of authentic expression and living life in a realm that spoke to our desires, our imagination and our hearts.  I wonder if we all have an experience of that; here is my experience:

Ruth at first meeting didn’t seem to like me that much.  I had been invited to her party by Luke who lived with me when I first moved to Berkeley.    It had been a few months since I broke up with him and he had left angry and resentful.    He phoned and gave a friendly, no pressure invitation to meet the people he lived with who really “understood love.”  The implication that I didn’t was clearly the scent of the invitation, but for some reason at that time in my life I would go toward challenges as if not meeting them was a loss in and of itself.   Still, I  think  even now that the day of his call was the day I had driven all night to get back home from a devastating trip to Disneyland with the children and my ex-husband.  I am just sure that on another day I would not have said yes to the party invitation by Luke; another day I would have walked in and out of the party scene that I found and not have absorbed an  experience that would take me the next twenty years of my life to comprehend.

This was a period of time where I had made the decision to break from my boyfriend Luke, launch myself in personnel consulting and become very successful at that job.  I often said working with women in the 1970’s in job placement required everything I had and I loved feeling very competent and skilled in this job that fit me so well.  That job required all of my experience, all of my passion and was gratifying as I took on clients who did much better than they expected every time.  Very simply I just needed to get to the truth about what they wanted, and convince them not to apply for jobs they didn’t.  I came to know that when a person is hired on a job, it’s about how they fit in the pre-existing group, that they add to the environment.  This was the beginning of Affirmative Action and many companies and non-profits needed to hire women and minorities to fill the needed percentage of Affirmative Action hires.  Working with women to align our passions, our imagination and our understanding of how the world worked showed up very well in my relationship with my clients seeking work.  Negotiating for my clients with the companies seeking for my clients had me gain relationships with those companies.  It was a great time to be a woman in the work world, and the my salary reflected how very well things were going for me.

I felt effective and in charge of my life and my family of three children as I never had before.  Beth, age 10, Tommy age 8 like to argue and fight but with an  aupair , Jeannie-from Dayton, Ohio who was new to California and thrilled to have found a way to make a life for herself, was just excellent with them.  Susan the youngest at age 4 was very happy with Jeannie as well, so life was going very well for me. Because life was going so well, I accepted an invitation from my ex to have Jeannie, the au pair and the children to join him at Disneyland. We had been divorced about four years and it felt good to think we could together give a happy Easter trip to Disneyland.  The fall from grace that I felt in having our marriage fail and our children without a full time dad was a cloud that lifted in anticipation of that trip to Disneyland. Alas, at that time in my life I liked to believe what I liked to believe, and once we were there, for both my ex and I-we didn’t enjoy being around each other, the children felt the tension and they had their way of dealing with their discomfort that made the whole waiting in line for a couple of hours for each ride pretty miserable. Though all of us were invited to stay at my ex-husband’s house, I knew that was not the thing to do, so Jeannie and I left to drive back to San Francisco.  Coming up 101, the radio full on, an Jeannie telling me about her life and friends in Dayton felt so much better than trying to have things feel better with my ex, and the discomfort and confusion that was stirred up with the children in staying for the Easter weekend.

Once home from the Disneyland debacle,  Jeannie left for the week to be with her friends while the kids were gone for that Easter week.   Quite unexpectedly, all alone in the house and for the fist time in ten years, not having my children with me, I felt a panic.  My youngest 7 year old Susan, now at age to join her two siblings in custody visits with dad,  was having her first week away from home and me.   The stunning silence of the house and the anxiety, not the relief I thought I’d feel, with my children gone was a surprise.   Suddenly untethered from my three children I was in touch with how much I needed them as the core and center of everything in my life.

The phone call from Luke broke the deadly silence as he in a very cheery voice invited me to his new place to meet his new friends.  What he presented and what I accepted was agreeing to the notion that we were not longer together, and now we can afford to be friends.  Again I liked to believe what I liked to believe in those days.  In fact, I asked Luke to leave my home because he went through very serious bouts of anger and resentment toward me.  I saw the ugliness of his pain filtered through behavior I didn’t want around me or my children.  Had I held with my decision, much pain-many huge public scenes, great loss and uproar would have been averted.  But I felt a lot of doubt about myself.  Whenever he accused me of being too assertive, too proud I took into account to some extent the fact that he came from a middle-eastern country where women “knew their place.”  But he also had the Berkeley relaxed attitude and could be very liberated in his views toward women, and seemed to like who I was.  The problem was that how he would respond to things either very charming and warm and relaxed or in full tilt rage could not be predicted. I owned my own home, had my own car and family; he resented that and it was so bizarre to me that I didn’t take it seriously.  But I had ended the relationship.

The very attractive, charming Luke greeted me at the door at the address he gave in the Elmwood address he gave me. Jessie Colin Young and the Youngbloods could be heard from the stereo in the candle lit room was full of people nestled in small groups.  No one  looked my way as I entered, and but all enthusiastically engaged with Luke as he brought me through the room to meet Georgia and Bernie, seated on the sofa surrounded by a circle of people absorbed in attention focused on them.

Georgia was beautiful woman of 40 something, wearing a gauze like top and skirt in a flattering shade of moss green set off by the turquoise and silver necklace and the lacy sandals on her feet.  Bernie, gray haired  with sharp green eyes laughed in response to what Georgia was saying.  I stood awkwardly with Luke who waited for Georgia to acknowledge him in the circle of people.  Her head was tilted forward to hear more clearly  the girl closest to her.  I noticed that the women in the room had a lot of cleavage with long skirts-with dramatic eye make up.  Kind of glamourous for Berkeley where the style for me and my peers was blue jeans with dressy tops and boots. and no make up.  I found myself provocatively  suppressing  a chuckle with not just the manner of dress and but the obvious flirtation by the women toward the men present.  So  very out of step with the feminism born of the protest movements that had been my circle of friends, and in most living room parties in Berkeley where cushions on the floor suited the casual garb and the equalitarian relating that stopped short of attempting to be sexually attractive.

While I was observing all this, suddenly then Luke broke into the group  with:  “Here’s she is!  Isn’t she beautiful?”  It stopped all the conversation, everyone turned silent as they stared at me.  Awkward turned to embarrassment as I stood in the heat of the stares of strangers.  Then abruptly,  Georgia gave me a glance, then turned away and began speaking to the person next to her and the group went to where they were before Luke spoke.

That would have been a good time to leave, in fact had I left, a shoe different life for me would have been the result.  It felt alien and yet  I was intrigued.  Who acted like these people?  What kind of place was this this?  It seemed brazen, it seemed bold but something about it seemed daring, even  authentic.  Authentic what I didn’t know.  Rather than passing on the whole scene, I wondered where this could take me, what I might find out as I felt tremendous squirming discomfort and didn’t know why.

“Georgia is all about love,” Luke commented and I notice the size of the pupils of his eyes were quite large. ” Georgia and Bernie are doing the dance of life and love together for all of us,” one girl who stood outside the group as I did said, seeing what happened and my reaction.  Luke said  – “Here they tell the truth.  What it is to be a man.  What it is to be a woman.”

Laughter erupted from around Georgia who moved elegantly from her position on the sofa towards another person in the group, just as   Aretha Franklin’s voice could be heard above the laughter. AS it grew quieter in the room, throughout the room could be heard “You make me feel, you make me feee-el, you make me feel like a natural woman…”

An overwhelming desire to feel, to be captivated and taken by love  came through as I was taken by that song with Aretha.  I had heard Carol King’s version but Aretha filled  a while different context and a whole different experience to be had.   The feeling of being totally in love, gone, surrendered to the power of love was being described, french horns of the melody piercing right into my heart and body.   I sat as motionless as I could and tried to absorb whatever experience had overtaken me feeling embarrassed, and almost uncomfortably warm.

Suddenly all eyes were on me?   Could everyone see how I was feeling? It seemed like the walk to the entryway and the front door to leave would require more exposure of myself than I could muster.   I hoped this would all pass.  Aretha went on:  ” I didn’t know what was wrong with me till your kiss helped me name it,” and I felt a yearning I barely recognized.

Then Georgia  looked in my direction and asked how I was doing and there was a kindness in her voice, like she understood exactly how I was feeling.  She moved over to a seat next to me, the rest of the group not saying anything as she began a kind of a monologue in as much as I just listened trying to remain with her as I felt myself wanting to hide.   I just couldn’t figure out how I could hide AND walk out of the room and to the door in full view of all the people there.  Georgia spoke about love, about who men were with words unfamiliar to me.   She spoke with confidence  about the power of women to have anything they wanted and with a man.  She came from the place of people being able to determine what happened to them, creating the life of their dreams, a course of study I had begun in recent years.   Completing her discourse with ” And if Bernie and I can make it, anybody can. Nothing is more powerful than the love of a man for a woman.  You can build a life on that….”

Aretha’s voice now shouted out  “Chain of Fools,” breaking the spell of the moment with Georgia, and dispersing the group to the dance floor,  and most everyone was up dancing.  “It’s all about fun, life is really all about fun”  Georgia said as she moved away and into the crowd after she had taken both my hands in hers and warmly embracing me as if I had joined the ranks of her club. The experience of desire, my own for an ecstasy of body and soul filled my body and mind, as well as confusion about what to do with that.

Weeks and months and for many years I tried to figure out what happened, and why it had such an impact on me for many years.  Actually till I did find a way to claim and have my desire be the driver in my life-that it was safe to want what I wanted.  That I could communicate for myself who I was and what I wanted, and a find a partner interested in that conversation.  It was a door cracked in my life that led me down some difficult consequences.  It was also an intimate encounter with a woman, and with myself as a woman.  It prompted my reaching for  a way of being, thinking and feeling about my own sexuality and the expression of that coming from me.  It had me come to reach for finding what was true for me in the realm of  my desire driving my sexual experience, honoring that, exploring my interests and appetites and ultimately to studying and teaching sensuality  fifteen years later.

The cost of taking on this direction in my life could have been less difficult, but again there were things I needed to believe that made me comfortable in taking what to me were radical positions and directions in following what my path became in this process.  A very unfortunate marriage with Luke could had been avoided if I didn’t need to justify my interest in exploring the alternatives to traditional sexual bondage rather than sexual freedom.  Still I made it through but the cost was high and filled with doubt for many years.

Much of what women rely on for their growth and development, for meeting themselves in the midst of chaos and change, come from the place of seeing what we see in each other  how to manage ourselves, our relationships, our encounters with adversity and doubt.  We pull each other along by how we find our way.

Stella Reznick, a well known feminist therapist in the 70’s said something that seemed to capture the perspective for me:  Liberation for women is to pick a woman, and accept her-love her-  flaws and all.  That is the only way women will come to truly love themselves.”

The canvass and texture of the potential for fully living out life’s full expression, the scope of my desire have all been enhanced by  the recognition of who women are and what we contribute by being who we are:  those discoveries have been worth it all,  and entitled me to the sense of  value and gratitude that fill  I feel my life today.

 

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2013: Feminism My legacy/our legacy

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Legacy is such a big word.  It implies that you have something significant to contribute.
It seems arrogant, it seems vain and it is intimidating.  Legacy is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t experience for me.  Three years ago I found a stream of interest I wanted to explore, and found a little river that ran into a creek that brought me to the brink of an ocean and with that, the sense of being overpowered.   Initially  Since baby boomers  are approaching 70 and  have lived their lives pretty much changing the canvas and breaking new ground of what was possible as they’ve gone along, I wondered what they saw as their path forward.   As I examined what was ahead,  I  became profoundly aware of all that had come before.   I experienced a deep sense of  my debt to all the women, and the society they brought along to women’s rights that made for the life path I found available to me.

For me, on the brink of this number 70,  I felt enormous energy and more engaged in life than ever with more available to live my life fully than ever before.  I spend my time and energy generously with alot  less life maintenance that when I was younger, raising a family, with a career. Emotional  ups and downs, dramatic turns in the road to unknown dilemmas are no longer the pull day to day.  Rather there is  a sense of certainty and competence to deal with new experiences, and the sense of trust that what I need will be there within myself.  How is it for others and what is the basis of that trust seemed like great questions for interviews with other women turning 70.

INTERVIEWS

The  women who responded to an an email in a group that had met for over 30 years in Northern California, and found lively, engaged and productive women turning 70  were the responders.  The group is a mixture of women 25-80 years of age,  with open membership. Thousands of women who have passed through the group with a small number who have maintained the structure of the group allowing the group to continue the many years that it has.
The interviews were unstructured, so the women talked about anything of interest to them. But again and again, we found in those discussions that the years of social change – the mid 60′s and 70′s – made for the shifts and changes that drew them to  new paths.   With the antiwar movement, civil rights movement, the womens movement for most were distant drums yet the ideology and practice in the cultural shift of how people dressed, thought and lived was undeniable.  The media provided access to many women far away from the urban areas where women congregated and noisely clammered for women having ownership of their bodies relative to birth control and equal rights.  The hot spots in New York, Chicago, Madison, Berkeley, San Francisco with the colleges and universities bringing the changes possible to many women all over the  country.  With each woman interviewed, reference to the period of social chaos and change was a prompt for them to make the changes that directed their lives, ones  ones we never would have encountered without the social upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s.

RESEARCH 
It was stunning to really look at where the world was and what the experience for these women and myself had been  from the the beginning that  1940 or 1939 provided.   Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, put out the first material on family planning.  She had gone to the poor neighborhoods and witnessed the misery of the women  providing what she perceived to be cheap labor for farm lands and factories.   In 1940, it was illegal for a book store owner to sell that book on family planning with a penalty of 5 years in jail.  That is where a  timeline emerged that shows the advent of birth control in 1964 was the beginning of women coming to power personally and politically and the social policies followed.  Following the graph of the timeline,  it was so clear that for women, then and now, what we call our personal lives are political.  The changes that occurred for women in owning their bodies and defining their lives  that we witnessed from 1940-1980 are the basis for liberation that we have witnessed and lived through .   This has been the process for women in our country.  For the women in countries where women have no rights, in areas of the United States where education is limited and poverty reigns, that process toward liberation may not even be underway and the choice for women to choose birth control is key.  What guides what we consider possible, what directs our behavior may be invisibly instilled in the grain of the sand we stand on.  The frontrunners-born before the boomers-and the boomers who joined the movement brought through the basis for  women’s liberation and equal rights.  We lived our lives, with the choices we call our own seen in a broader sense as a variation on a response to what was accessible to us.

1964-game change
1964 is when women were given access to birth control.  With that, it is evident that women were given the door to liberty if you look at all that followed.  All the changes that happened for  women came after 1964 when birth control became available to married women.  In 1972  birth control became available to unmarried women.   Roe vs Wade and the right to take a pregnancy to term happened  in 1973.   Even as doctors could make available to mothers like myself the means to manage birth control, if asked prior to 1971, I didn’t know or even have curiosity about how that happened.  It is remarkable that divorce went from 4% in 1950 to 24% in 1973.  Women were looking for new answers for their lives, going back to college, getting jobs.  At the time, there were heated discussions about the rights women had around their sexuality having negative repercussions,  What would happen if  women, like men, had choice of partners and sex without marriage? Just like today, the rumblings about change in the power structure of choice  was very threatening to segments of the population who saw limiting womens rights as a way to deal with the potential threat.

  All of this happened while most of us were dealing with the issues of daily life often head down straight ahead. Marriages, children, jobs, the direction was forward. The few who broke through social and legal constraints were the frontrunners,  guides to what was possible for all women.  Throughout the world, this process is in different stages of evolution.  Sexual consciousness determines the level of development socially, politically and economically throughout the world.  Each woman and the society  with whom she shares her life represents points on the line of equality and dignity throughout the world.

THE BEGINNING

How could I take each woman’s personal journey, the civil rights history of women and the current struggles for women world wide and see the larger picture of the development of our sexual consciousness, and the consequences?   How it begins is certainly  the women born before 1966, and the baby boomers who followed.  They were brought together by the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement that took them forward legally, politically and economically to hard won new ground.  For some this meant being on the frontlines in the movements, for others it was through their church groups or return to school where they were exposed to different ways to think about their lives.  They report being inspired by the country under social and political change that challenged their assumptions about their own lives often prompted by personal change/trauma of job change, divorce, loss of identity that had them take a new look at the world around them and themselves in a way they had not before.

Many reported leaving their home of origin and heading to California, New York, LA and Memphis during the mid and late 60′s. They left what they knew and formed new identities that kept the question open as to what was possible. That question is still open,  and there are still uncharted ground to cover was the report from those who elected to be interviewed.    Their story and our story is one of discovery .  We have been pioneers in our own lives to whatever degree.  We know that if we just look around the world, we can measure the progress of women world wide by their choices in life.   By their access to choice, we can measure their power.  We can know the level of civilization and humanity for men or women by their accessibility to choice.

So rather than this being a story about women turning 70, what I find it to be is a description of the consequences of developing our sexual consciousness that move the world forward to new ground, new laws and new problems.

 

 

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