Category Archives: Personal Reflections

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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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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2013: Women managing money

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Money-what we learned along the way

Somehow for women, what and how we have learned about money-how to get it, how to keep it, what to do with it was never really discussed.  It seemed like something we should know about, and there was plenty of shame when there wasn’t any, and pride when there wasn’t.  How did we come to know ourselves relative to money as women as we made our way to financial independence, if we did?   There have been stereotypes around women using money poorly, ie I love Lucy, childlike in their skills and wisdom around something as ‘important’ as money.  It is fairly recent development that women had their own credit, their own ability to purchase homes and cars, as well as the ability to negotiate their salaries.   What has it been  for women in the evolving process of having more power through control of  their finances, both making and the spending of money?  Women were taken care of financially up through World War II when many women worked as hundreds of thousands of men went overseas as soldiers.  Then those jobs they held were given back to men, and the women returned to their homes and their families.  The breakout from the social changes of the sexual revolution changed their relationship with money, so how has that process been for women.  Here’s one view of that process 1940 to current times:

Money in my family growing up was a source of chaos.  I remember hearing my parents fight at night about money.  That there wasn’t enough.  And it seemed like it was somebody’s fault.  Whether it was the ice cream truck or the prom, there never was any around or available.  There had been a period of time where we went out to dinner and walked to the ice cream store on hot nights when we lived in Atlanta and I was ten before my brother Patrick was born.  But then other than the summer trip to the grandparents in South Carolina, there wasn’t even a conversation about money.  My father would leave on Monday morning and if I asked for anything for school or otherwise, it would have to wait till dad came home from a trip.  He went out on the road every week.  The shoes I wore to school in the fall that I got over the summer with the grandparents were the same shoes I wore till school got out in May, socks and underwear-everything came from the grandparents we saw once a year.

In the summer, we would arrive at the grandparents serene country house and we never saw money or heard the word money there.  We were given a card of bobby pins, a jar of hand cream which we really needed after the Massachusetts winter, and sandals.  Shopping with my aunt and grandmother at Ivey’s in Charlotte took an entire day with a stop for lunch.  The most amazing thing to me about my grandparents house was a pantry that was always fully equipped with everything, including Babe Ruth Bars and fig newton and ritz crackers.  The abundance and orderliness of the pantry had me feel such a feeling of safety.  We would drive in the Packard to Myrtle Beach and on the way pick up a crate of peaches and a crate of tomatoes.  Walk to the beach every day, and read in our rooms in the afternoon.  The return to Massachusetts at the end of the summer was like going into a windstorm by comparison, back to the chaos.

 

My first job I saved money and went to the best store in Philadelphia and bought a really expensive $200 dress, yellow with green organza.  That would be my modus operandi.  I only bought what I really wanted and would wait till I could have that.  My first husband didn’t even discuss money with me until he went to Viet Nam, and even then he told me how to pay the mortgage, and left just enough for the mortgage and what would cover the essentials.  I never asked for more, didn’t feel like I knew how to manage money and wanted some one who did to manage it.

 

I did very well as a single mom simply because I took an economics class and found out about Disposable income.  That whatever money you have, you add up all the money you are going to payout and what is left is actually yours to use, your disposable.  Wow, I could feel good about spending that.  Twinges of guilt were overridden by the feeling that I deserved to go to I Magnin’s and get something really nice once or twice a year, which I did throughout that time.

 

For years, my entertainment and any money not going to the bills,  food and clothing of the children, went to my going to college and graduate school.  It was satisfying and really I felt really fortunate in going to school.  I took classes all of which added to my life.  I chose keeping within a pretty small budget over going to work.  There was the edge of shame around how I handled money for no particular reason.  I felt untrustworthy and no one argued the point with me.

 

When I did go to work, I made very good money and then ventured out into buying furniture and vacations and things for myself and the family.  From no money to good money was fun!  I made some good choices in real estate and had the benefit of that in options available to me.  Since George and I have been together, he enjoys the fact that I like to manage the money and we have never had any tension over money.  We have found that we operate from different ends of the spectrum:  he likes to save, I like to spend.  The balance between us makes me feel more trust in myself.   We agree that we like good things, good people and good fun.

 

We are not the people who prepared the best retirement plan, but we have plans to sustain our life together which will ultimately be on a much lower budget at some point in time.  We talk often about that and how it might be and what we might do.

 

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1999: The Dream

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The Dream-

A wall of ocean undulating so deep, so furious beneath the surface, looks black.  Just beyond can be seen the green-darkest blues-tinge of white in caps further away.

 It looks endless. It looks bottomless. It can overtake and destroy me. And I want no one to know I am no match for the ocean, no match for its power, this force.

So while I feel absolute certainty the ocean power far outweighs my own, I calculate my response to others around me. Only revealing that I can’t take it all on, when I feel I can not take any of it on.

 The door opens-the sound and the smell of the ocean fill my face and hands with the sticky spray and stinging wind.  On the deck beyond the door, I hold the railing, smile and talk as we three stand together.

I feel as I watch the swelling of the ocean, the loss of balance as I am sucked into the motion as the waves.  They rise, rise, rise further and then a second’s pause before the crash of the curl of the wave as it breaks into the black of the sea.

   Then a ripple begins and spreads and rises to form another wave.

 My feet hold me steady but my eyes and stomach have fully forgotten that I am attached through my arms and legs to the solid unyielding wood of the railing and deck floor. The other two people stand nearby engaged in their conversation unrelated to my personal demon of fascination and apprehension embodied in the roaring and devastating ocean.

Again the tide has pulled back the covers of the shore and revealed in the moonlight the small spent shells and broken twigs where I am now.

The tide fills the channel near the adjacent rocks that cut through the waves as they break,  and rushes to fill the gaps as it slaps the rocks intensely. The tide runs back as much as it comes forward.  It hums on and on.

Now I feel my feet and now I feel the ocean sweeping around my legs. Its white foamy spray tantalizingly snug around my ankles.

I feel the ocean embrace me: Caressing me with Its beauty and Its relentless redemption.

 

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