It seems that forms of feminism have to be rediscovered anew in each generation. Why is this?
As a woman of 69 summers, (and 49 northern England winters!), I came upon the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960’s. It was misrepresented and subject to reductionism by images of ‘bra-burning’. One statement, however, burned in to my psyche…..
‘The Personal is Political’.
This was, in its time, radical, because it felt for the first time, all the misogyny, sexual assault, violence, murder, all kinds of degradation, prejudice, and limited opportunities, due to being a girl-child, could be seen as more than particularly personal to me, and no longer seen as, somehow, maybe, my fault (through not being ‘good enough, pretty enough, quiet enough, passive enough!).
Now the scales fell from my eyes and I saw women’s experience as being in common, institutionalised, reinforced and legitimised both in law and in culture.
Even more than this realisation, was the epiphany that collective action and solidarity could bring about change! Eureka!
We discovered this as though we had invented the insight.
How did I not know about the suffragist movement, that had the very same realisations and tactics two generations ago?
Perhaps at school in history….HIStory, the Suffragettes had been mentioned? Had they? I remember analysing the actions and motivations of those great feminists Henry 8th, Napoleon, Hitler etc., in more detail. (They were proficient in liberating women from their very lives.)
It was not until in my forties when I took an MA in Women’s Studies that my eyes were opened to Herstory and how the history of women had been rendered largely invisible. Women artists, explorers, orators, and wonderful writers like 16th century Aphra Behn were simply written out of history. To say nothing of pre-history Goddesses and matriarchy. Absolutely precisely nothing.
What of the essentially patriarchal monopoly on the reins of power which had ensured the mass oppression of women through the ages? How about the women healers who were portrayed as witches and put to death, and how about the male professionalisation of health that took over?
In 1974 I went to buy a guitar in Manchester on HP and was informed I could not sign the ageement. It would have to be signed by my husband, despite the fact I was earning more than him at the time. The drip drip of these experiences in all our lives could be seen as undermining our confidence, from being raped at the age of five to being overlooked by men as an old woman….ah that is when you are rendered invisible once again. The lines on my face are my badges of honour, and my bloodyminded commitment to justice and equality remain an undimmed fire in my heart.
Progress for women can be slow, and gains can be lost without sufficient realisation of what has been hard won through tough campaigning in previous generations. Nothing is guaranteed, including civil rights, equality for all minorities, the existence of the NHS, social care, education, health and safety, etc.
I pay tribute to the current generation of women and their fine consciousness, their commitment to learning essential truths for women yet again, but with refinements for this era. These realisations about both the situation and the collective power of women is crucial, right here, right now. I am aware and appreciative of those men who share these sentiments.
I encourage and support the reinvention of the women’s wheel once more, with gusto!