On a pretty regular basis I feel very happy about the circumstances of my birth. Being born a woman? Absolutely. I love the feeling of power, backed by so much ancient wisdom. Being born in the 1950’s? Oh, yes. Entering the world just as women were swapping-out poodle skirts and girdles for anything that felt like freedom and self-expression was a wild ride. Electricity in the air; lines being drawn between the status-quo and the force of Women’s Liberation. There were so many topics around which early feminists mobilized and became true Forces of Nature, conducting mini-revolutions and protests against all forms of oppression, injustice and inequality, and militarism, to name just a few unifying struggles. Women demanded to be heard, and insisted that they be respected for who they were, what they offered, and for the work they were doing in the workplace and in the home.
Some older, wiser women feel that our younger Sisters don’t understand or fully appreciate the colossal effort it took to take-on what was then called, The Establishment. The Order of Things. The Male-dominated system. As bizarre at it seems, older, wiser women remember when girls weren’t allowed to wear pants at school. We remember stories of girls getting pregnant and desperately tapping the “underground” resource of friends at high school for somewhere they could go…was there something they could eat or drink? Does the clothes hanger really work? This particular female dilemma, for me personally, involved a friend who found herself “in trouble” and was promptly sent to live with an aunt somewhere in the eastern united states. One day she was in class, the next, she wasn’t. As though she’d never existed. Creepy, as I think back on it now. Pregnancy, however, was exclusively the girl’s shame. The football player that deserved at least half of the “blame” stayed right where he was, surrounded by his sniggering buddies.
I can understand why older, wiser women might feel that The Struggle has been taken for granted by younger Sisters: the limitations, and even horrors we grew up with, which are forever etched in our psyches, don’t seem to have transferred to younger women, as we view their activities and choices as a collective. In my work life and at the university where I’m finishing up my doctoral program, I engage with a lot of women in their 20’s and 30’s. I love how intelligent and aware they are, searching and seeking-out the myriad opportunities they have, the choices they have for self-fulfillment. It’s amazing to me how many of these young women have already… traveled all over the globe…held several very worthwhile jobs… earned multiple degrees…given an “I’ll pass” to home-life and children…and have sampled relationships of every sexual configuration available, just as though this has always been a woman’s birthright.
The chasm between older, wiser women and our younger Sisters, however, is — in large part — an illusion. We really have much more in common than many would assume, and rely on each other for two very important reasons. Younger women need the narrative, the memory of older, wiser women, to temper moments in Life that will ultimately feel like a glut of Too Many Choices. The “smorgasbord” of delights young women now have the freedom to enjoy may provide certain experience and knowledge, but not the gravitas they need to become Us, as they eventually replace us, taking on the roles of Guides for the next wave of the Sisterhood. Older, wiser women need the perspective of younger women who haven’t known The Struggle. (I’m referring to the decades-long struggle of women, not at all discounting the fact that ‘youth’ doesn’t protect women from personal challenges and even tragedy.) Older, wiser women rely on the energy, enthusiasm and receptivity of our younger Sisters. We’re delighted by the fact that our daughters, grand-daughters and nieces can live in greater freedom, as a result of our efforts and sacrifices. Our fervent hope, however, is that they retain some memory of how that freedom came to be, and continue to pave the way, with new effort, for the Sisters that follow. We recognize that being born Female is a gift, to be cherished, nurtured and leveraged for the benefit of everyone on our planet.