What were you doing when feminism was at its height?

by — Sept. 4, 2000 (Comments)

Feminism, the art of becoming a whole woman. At least that’s what feminism is to me. I always wanted to attend college, but had to go to work straight out of high school. I always felt there was so much to learn and know. Although I had always read books on every subject, college meant an exciting challenge to me. No limits. In reading, I found that the most exciting subject to read was psychology.

I was finally able to go to college in my late 30s. At the time, Women’s Studies was a minor degree. I wanted a major in it, but had to choose History instead. Yes! What do you do with a history degree? Write? Teach? Actually, the degree itself is open to many different possibilities.

As a child I had written a few fairy tale type stories. I was raised on fairy tale type stories and thought the prince would come rescue me one day. Little did I know I would be the rescuer, not the rescuee. Not what I thought women did, but then nothing I was taught in childhood turned out to be truth. Fairy tales bring out the fantasy of life, wherein the realities of life are a hard knock.

While I had the good fortune of attending college late in life, it was during the height of the feminist movement. College is a place to learn as much or as little as you put into it. I was so awed and inspired by the education I obtained. I graduated thinking I could do anything. I was exposed to a broader range of material than if I had continued to voraciously read. Some of the university subjects surpassed my wildest imaginations, others were mirrors of what I had previously read, but they became more real.

Math and science are not my forte at any point. However, one of the most interesting and unusual classes was genetics. That class was truly enlightening and fascinating. I learned that a girl could become pregnant without a male. Oh, not that it was the usual thing that happened, but that it was possible, parthenogenesis. Interesting!

Instead of math, I took Logic. I learned to argue a subject I was most passionate about so deftly as to convince the world. Then, the professor had us argue the other side. That was the hardest thing I ever did, but it gave me the skills, the knowledge and the wherewithal to understand there are two sides and to not be so stubborn, I cannot see.

My women’s studies classes introduced me, not only to many different kinds of people, but to many different kinds of subjects. In the process of taking these classes, I met the president of the local organization N.O.W. and I joined the group. For the first time, I became a speaker for the history of women in my community. I had not realized that early in the century the most famous woman of the time, Susan B. Anthony, had come to our small community and debated the mayor (male). I had fun with that lecture. It was more like a play. I put on a cap, became the mayor and spoke his words. Then I took off the cap and became Ms. Anthony and spoke her words, back and forth for the whole speech. After the lecture, several people came up to me and requested I publish this information.

Another professor took our small class to a small town about 50 miles away to visit a psychic. I was not enthused about this visit. I only went with the class to observe. No way did I want to participate. But that didn’t happen! The psychic spoke to me in riddles (to keep the information private). By the time I figured out what she was saying to me, it frightened me because she knew something about me that only 2 other people in the whole world knew. It was an interesting experience I will never forget.

My literature class was the most interesting and challenging. I read the books that enhanced my life. They shaped the future through which I think and believe. Just to name some of the authors, they are Kate Chopin, Alice Walker, Mary Daly, Tillie Olson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Harriet Martineau, Mary Shelley, Olive Schreiner, Doris Lessing and Robin Morgan. Mary Daly’s book, Gyn/Ecology, had the biggest effect. Reading began to take on another level. I learned that these writers included symbolism and double meanings within their stories. I was taught how to understand what I read. It was most exciting and enlightening.

Due to my women’s studies classes, everything I did was oriented toward women’s studies. For example, I interviewed and wrote about a woman who had worked at an airplane plant for the World War II class. She told the most wonderful stories about her experiences. Because these reports were shared with the whole class, I was able to give others a new perspective about women through her experiences.

The university was the most interesting and exciting time of my life. I always carry that knowledge and experience with me. Sometimes I am guilty of getting too caught up in the meaninglessness of life, but the university knowledge and experience is always available in my mind to be picked up when I am ready again.

I continue to be an open vessel ready to be filled as I was then. Every class was approached as a learning tool in that I could use something, no matter how small, from it. Life can be like that too. No matter how good or how bad, there is always something to be learned.

The feminist issue is not dead. It just doesn’t look the same. It has progressed. We’ve come a long way and it is my hope that we will continue to progress. For example, women are paid more today and, although they may encounter a ‘glass ceiling,’ they have more opportunities. The choices to be made are wider and limitless. May we all continue to be open to learning and passing on to others our history and our experiences so that the next generation can progress into their future without the limitations each of us has endured through different eras in our society. I wish you Love, Luck and Laughter in your journey.