So it’s International Women’s Day.
I got nothin’ much to say that other people haven’t said better or more often or more dramatically or with better quotes or that would fit much more neatly on a bumper sticker. But hell, that never stops me.
I am, frankly, a generation too late to have the firsthand vitriol to draw on. I may still earn less on the dollar, and once upon a time I may have been wolf whistled at on the street, and I still get the crawling heeby-jeebies when elderly white men start talking about rights to life, but I am the product of a comparatively enlightened time. No family member ever tried to feed me anything about the expected role of women. Those bits of the Bible were generally ignored. I have plenty of hang-ups, of course, but inferiority about gender mostly isn’t one of them. I have come to the point where the fact that my husband is the mechanically inclined one is not a sign that I have failed as a feminist, but just the way things are. My stepmom is the one who kills the bugs, my father and I cringe in the corner away from the things with all the legs. That one’s heredity, not gender.
I still get a kick out of the notion of Rush Limbaugh forcibly impregnated by aliens, mind you. Things aren’t perfect enough for me to feel any guilt on that score. Possibly a few generations hence, but I wouldn’t count on it.
I can read about the fact that male chimps beat up female chimps constantly, and shrug, and say “Yeah, but that has nothing to do with me.” And it doesn’t. If I believe anything, it’s that the past is something to learn from, not be chained by, be it religious texts or animal behavior.
I remember my mother telling me once that it was assumed she’d get married, and that it was okay to go to college, because she would then presumably get a husband who earned more money. She delivered this in the same slightly-incredulous long-ago-and-far-away tone that she told me about punch card computers and going to a Beatles concert and screaming. I stared at her as if she had grown another head. She spread her hands and said “That’s how it was back then.” In one generation, that all changed. I don’t know what kind of peculiar alchemy had to take place in my mother’s brain for that to happen. Maybe it was easy. Probably it wasn’t.
So while I believe that feminism–and god, that word seems strangely antique now, doesn’t it?–is fighting the good fight, I think the hardest parts, at least in this country, were done by the generation before mine. In other parts of the world, it’s going on now. But for me, however, feminism takes no particular courage, no shedding of the past, it’s just the way of the world, and we need to beat it into a few more heads.
It’d be nice if we didn’t need a day–or better yet, if the day became as meaningless as Memorial Day,* something where we get the day off, and if you ask people what it’s all about, they have to think for a minute, because it was a battle won a long time ago. That’d be cool.
But the most important thing about this day, I think, is that my grandmother looked almost exactly like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and man, whenever people start posting links to her photos, it weirds me out completely. Dude! Grandma! Why are you on the internet?!
*Doubtless people will now jump down my throat about the brave soldiers who we ought to be honoring on memorial day, and the vast tributes done to honor them. Yes, yes. Wonderful. But look me in the eye and tell me that most of America isn’t going “Yeah! Three day weekend!”