My First Feminist

(Or “uppity women” I have known) <June 12/14>

The first feminist in my life was my mother.

I was born in the early 1950s, in Canada, 4th (& youngest) child of a white, middle-class family. With an upwardly-mobile-obsessed father (no amount of money was ever “enough” for him) who was a bully – to his sons (my brothers), especially, & to my mother.

I was afraid of him, & did not love him, & yes, I have compassion for him now, but the man was sure no picnic.

My Mom was ahead of her time. She went “out” to work when no one in her social circle would have considered doing such a thing. Nor, I’m sure, could they grasp (at first) why she was doing such a thing. (Everyone we knew had a big house & a couple of cars & belonged to the Yacht Club & the Golf & Country Club, & since most were Air Canada people, took frequent flying trips here & there around the globe.)

Having a job & an income (luckily, Mom had become a nurse back before World War II, & only had to more or less re-train) was how she got out. Got away.

From my father’s bitterness, anger, sarcasm – & his fists.

For many years I was the only kid I knew whose Mom “worked” & trust me, I did not enjoy feeling like the weird, different kid. I just wanted to be “like everyone else.”

Here’s the point, though: my Mom was a feminist even though she never used the term. I’m not sure when it came into vogue, but for sure some time after my Mom forged her own path.

She just did what she had to do.

She wasn’t perfect (I’ve yet to meet anyone who is), but she had the courage to risk my father’s wrath, her friends’ disapproval and the world’s cold shoulder (for example she could not get “credit” when she went out on her own, because she was a  … woman).

She was brave, & feisty, & I am grateful to her for her example as a role model.

& by now, I am so tired of patriarchy, I could scream!

Males by virtue of biology (meaning, what they are born with between their legs) have been wired for thousands of years now to believe that they are superior to mere females. Quite clearly, this attitude is a very, very stubborn one indeed. Slight understatement here.

Many patronize, dismiss, limit women in a 100 ways, every day. If not in the home (for there are many non-dinosaur men now), it is deeply embedded in the culture.

Just walk out the door. Read the paper. Listen to the news.

Let’s just say patriarchy has laid such waste to this planet, there is no hope of getting it cleaned up now. And no, I do not “blame men” for all this. I blame the culture. The “system” of patriarchy.

And while I don’t wish to offend friends/family members/colleagues who are fans of organized religion of one stripe or another, I will just understatedly (politely) say, I don’t think organized religion has helped much.

This is what I wish:

I wish we would all stop looking for “perfection” in particular deities, genders, people, professions, currencies … things that are always OUTside ourselves – & strive to be the best people we can be, inside ourselves, & in the world.

(& if we are horrendously self-absorbed, selfish & immature, let us please hesitate before becoming parents)

& let us all take strength from circular processes, not hierarchies & pyramid structures, that place the intelligence, authority, wisdom, somewhere “up there,” outside ourselves … “away.”

Let us examine our own neuroses & weaknesses, shine a little light on our unconsciously-held privileges & entitlements (whatever these may happen to be; I do believe most of us have them), & work to make this world (for whatever length of time we have left in it) cleaner, safer & more humane – for all creatures.

Finally, let us honour, not despise, the female qualities of nurturing & love & compassion & caring for others – for it is surely not these qualities that have led us to this so-precarious place in the history of our species.


p.s. great discussion about female confidence in this ‘The Current’ interview with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance -- What Women Should Know.

p.p.s. it was the recent ‘The Current’ interview with Rebecca Solnit that yet again fired me up about feminism, & also made me remember that I am overdue to thank my mother again for the great example she set. Thanks, Mom!! :) :) :) :) :)

p.p.p.s. 2 more relevant articles: ‘10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn’ & ’35 Practical Steps Men Can Take to Support Feminism.’

p.s. # 4: the post 'Patriarchy Again' contains a mind-blowing prayer about patriarchy by Matthew Fox. Trust me - you don't want to miss this!

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.” – Rebecca Solnit in the interview referenced above.

A few others:

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, American historian/writer

“Even if you’re on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

“But matricide also includes within it a kind of patricide as well. The father will become distorted in this process for there is no mother without a father. A distorted fatherhood is what a pathological patriarchy is all about.” – Matthew Fox in The Coming of the Cosmic Christ – The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, 1988, HarperSanFrancisco

“Underground nuclear testing, defoliation of the rain forests, toxic waste... Let’s put it this way: if the world were a big apartment, we wouldn’t get our deposit back.” – John Ross

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb quoted by Devra Davis at the ‘Cancer: It’s About Prevention, It’s About Time!’ conference in Ottawa, May 2007.

** tons of great quotes in the ‘Quotation Central!’ section of this blog.