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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.

Any suggestions?

Thank you Amy,


Stephanie --

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 from there.

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.

Of 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

- Amy