Due to an incredible opportunity to work the
day job in the evening, my eyes have been opened
to the 'real' world. Although I have been a full-time
student at Portland State University for the
last year, I have not been able to involve myself
on campus until now. With time available during
the morning and early afternoon hours, one will
soon be able to find me staffing the front desk
and working on projects at the Women's Resource
Center on campus. And with a great deal of excitement
coming from such an opportunity, I made the mistake
by phoning and informing my mother.
Yes, I am young. My mother reminds me of this
every chance she gets. And granted, as a twenty-four
year old young woman ready to explore the open
terrain, I do not expect my mother and I to agree
all the time. As a student of the School of Community
Health and a righteously liberal woman, I know
it is now a mutually, mature compromise at times
to agree to disagree. However, not this time.
To my disappointment, this time would be very
different. No longer a matter of politics and
social justice, this was simply about being a
woman. I spent the next hour repeating myself
with the phrase, "Mother, I am not and do
not want to argue with you." I later thought
to myself, that though the blood was boiling,
perhaps there was a better way to face this battle.
In the meantime, I proceeded to listen and her
argument was straightforward. She was and is
not a feminist.
She didn't understand how someone, me, could
be in a relationship and be a feminist. She didn't
understand how someone, me, could be a student
of the School of Community Health with opportunity
and be a feminist. She didn't understand how
someone, me, could be an employee with great
benefits and be a feminist. I could not understand
how someone, my mother, could not admit that
she witnessed first hand the oppressions of women.
For Christ's sake, she has her degree in psychology
and is working (and has been since the day she
graduated) as a certified nursing assistant.
I could go on with 'case in point' instances
that my mother has lived through and experienced
but i won't. Rather, I will say this, she is
still thinking in the past and comparing it to
the present without realizing what is possible
for the future.
I have read Manifesta and recently graced Powell's
Bookstore and purchased Grassroots; however,
neither of the two I see quite suitable for my
mother. I need something short and to the point.
She is in no mood to start an activist group,
nor join one for that matter. I love my mother
dearly and I am aware of the 'settling down'
one proceeds to engage in while gracefully aging,
but are there any readings you can recommend
that are short, sweet and to the point? I can
agree to disagree, but not without being on an
equally knowledgeable ground.
Thank you Amy,
I consistently hear such good things
about the women's center and women's studies
at PSU and actually when Jennifer and I were
in Portland this past April we met some students
In general, it sounds like your mothers
reaction is coming from a very personal place
-- i.e. at some point feminists did something
that made her feel excluded or that she had to
make choices she didn't want to make. She also
might think that her resistance to feminism is
in someway protecting you -- assuming that choosing
feminism is the more difficult route -- fighting
rather than being able to just enjoy life.
course, feminism provides both but people often
only see the limitation side of it -- not the
liberation part. I think that you can help demystify
it for her by sharing with her things that you
do, opinions that you have -- that you think
are feminist. Part of most people's resistance
is simply a lack of understanding about how it
translates into the everyday of your life --
it sounds naive, but I think people honestly
wonder "do I
have to be angry? do I have to pump the gas 1/2
the time, etc..."
It's just a lack of what
it requires -- perhaps this is an obstacle for
your mother. I can't really think of anything
that is clear and short. Though not explicitly
a feminist text -- Carolyn Heilbrun's book -- Writing
A Woman's Life -- is short and gets to
feminist values in a direct and indirect way
-- specifically as it relates to literature and
women writers. Also Carol Giligan's book In
a Different Voice has been a gateway for
many -- since it's a psychology book it approaches
feminists ideas through the study of people.
Also, perhaps just a chapter from Manifesta -- "The
Dinner Party" or What
Is Feminism? I hope that helps and it
will probably be a long process. Good luck and
thanks for reaching out