To Betty Friedan with love

strong-women

To all my sisters who marched last weekend, I honor you. Stay strong because those who still believe women are the weaker sex will need constant reminders that we roar! We do not back down. And we fight – but not like a girl. And here’s also to the men in our lives who see women as their equals, May we know them. May we stand with them. May we raise them.

I have been energized by all the social media posts, videos and photos from Women’s Marches all across the United States. I’ve been reflecting on my personal journey as a woman in America. I was a teenager in the 1970s when life as a female was a study in contradictions: I could burn my bra but I couldn’t blow the whistle on a friend of the family that sexually harassed me.

When I was about 15 years old I experienced firsthand the uneven opportunities afforded to girls and boys. I was keenly aware of the stark differences in “a day in the life” of my father and my mother. I was the youngest of 3 children but was raised almost as an only girl child. My brother and sister were 13 and 11 years older, respectively. As I was learning about makeup, kissing, and driving a car, they were 20’somethings with jobs, homes and lives of their own.

A term paper assignment in one of my high school classes led me to study Betty Friedan, writer, feminist and women’s rights activist. I read her ground-breaking book, The Feminine Mystique (1963) about 10 years after it was first published. I ate, slept and breathed all things Betty Friedan for several weeks to produce a top-notch English term paper. In reality this new knowledge led me far beyond a school assignment. Betty Friedan is often credited with “sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century”.

My world was not a peaceful place in the 1960s and 70s. Did people march? Oh yes they did! On college campuses, in the streets, in front of the White House, people demonstrated and expressed their views  about war, civil rights, sexual equality, and more.

The events of the past week beg the question, at least for me: are we riding the next wave of feminism in the 21st century? What’s old is new again. Issues swept under a rug, issues put to rest, resolutions to be do better and be better are on the table and under a magnifying glass.

People are getting REAL and I see the sparks of unresolved passion and rage igniting (or perhaps re-kindling) emboldened debate. I believe that this the new winter of our discontent. 

Perhaps this inaugural season is what it takes for us humans to lift our eyes from our tiny screens and to see one another in our rawest moments. Will this be the era when we finally sort it out: liberty and justice for all? In the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King:  “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” -Gloria Steinem

 

 

 

 

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