I'm pretty sure everyone I know (or, well, probably not) knows that today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. (here's a link to a wonderful post by a favorite blogging woman about today, about how important today is for her daughters: Determined Women)
I've been thinking a lot about women's rights lately, about Planned Parenthood, teachers and collective bargaining, wage inequality, my daughter on the drum line, the debates in which I've engaged about various political issues.
Julie Daley has been writing a series of blog posts, the third of which she calls "So Many Silences." She's....
I'm sorry I have to pause to laugh at my daughter who is trying to suck up a strawberry through a straw. Fast food. Strawberry "Frutista." She makes me laugh.
Back to Julie, who deserves my full attention, but since I'm writing this as I live (and still laughing at the slurping noises next to me), I'll just have to bear with myself when I get a little distracted. Julie's series covers the extremely difficult topic of oppression - "Silence, privilege and oppression."
I've been reading the posts and comments carefully. I hesitate to get involved in the conversation because I am one of those women who has been fortunate. I'm a 50something white woman who had an upper middle class childhood, had the opportunity to get a college degree, did some graduate level work, etc., etc. I'm one of the privileged. I have no idea what it feels like to be oppressed except from the outside in.
And yet somehow I feel like muzzling myself isn't the right course of action. It's a non-action. Muzzling myself could contribute to the oppression of young women I love, in a small way. It feels wrong to feel that the conversation should be restricted, that I should keep myself out because of who and what I think I am.
I have experienced sexism, sexual harassment, a near rape, inequitable pay, all because I'm female. Not oppression, though. Just life. Now that I am in my 50s, I'm less visible in some ways, not just to men, but to younger women, too. It's as if once the grays started to show (and, honey, I have a LOT of grays), I began to lose my relevance.
Not true, which is why I write "as if." As if isn't truth. As if is an assumption. I don't have to become irrelevant just because I have white hair. I don't have to be quiet just because I'm a woman.
I've always been a self-effacing woman (which is part of why I hesitate(D) to get involved in the conversation, or ANY public dialogue). I've had friends throughout my life who have loathed that personality trait in me. I loathe it in myself. Lately, however, though I am still as self-deprecating as ever, that self-effacement business doesn't seem to apply. Hard though it is for shy me to sputter out my opinions, emotions, beliefs and, yes, even knowledge, I'm doing it. More and more. One of the "privileges" of being a woman of a certain age. Maybe that's more evolution than privilege, though.
I know this is all over the place, but International Women's Day (I keep hearing this in my head as "The International Day of the Woman." Sounds more poetic or something), the idea of oppression, even the conversations I'm having with my daughter as I write and she has a snack before plunging into her studies are all connected.
On Julie's posts, I've read a lot of difficult, brave, open comments from women who truly have been oppressed. I think, "I have no business getting involved in this discussion. I have no experience of this." My guilt begins to weigh down my tongue, and I find that I cannot speak.
A little bit ironic maybe?
My daughter tells me that for the writing portion of the quarterly assessment in her English class, the teacher asked the students to write about an event that affected their lives greatly. One friend wrote about her mother's death; another friend, my girl suspects, was writing about being 16 and pregnant. The essays are confidential. Mrs. W. will not share them.
"What did you write about?" I asked.
"I wrote about you and Dad splitting up. It was the only thing I could think of that changed my life. I almost wrote about Granddad's death, but that didn't really change my life the way you guys splitting up did." She laughed. "I think almost everyone wrote about that. Everyone's parents are divorced."
My daughter tells me she is quiet in class, though she speaks up when it matters. She speaks up for friends. A friend of hers tells me that my little doll of a child is getting an amusing reputation among her classmates and friends for saying, when someone is bothering her, "I'm going to kick your ass!" If you could see her, you would know how funny that is.
Maybe I should be appalled that my beautiful girl says things like that, but I know that humor bubbles up out of her with the words. I worried so when she entered high school that someone, some group, some class, administrator, teacher, friend, boyfriend, whatever, would extinguish her bright light. Hasn't happened. She burns as strong as ever. A young woman. So female. So strong. Power from the soles of her feet to the tips of her long, long hair.
I'm often so stunned that she is mine, but I know that she wouldn't be who and what she is if I were not her mother (if her father were not her father). I sometimes feel that I do her a disservice by being so self-deprecating, by EVER holding back when I know speaking out is the right thing to do. Despite me, she'll always be truly herself.
She's a girl who is winning because she believes in herself. She's what I wish every girl in the world had the opportunity to become. Not going to happen in my lifetime, that's for sure, maybe not even in hers. Poor world. Such a mess it is.
I suppose my daughter is my gift to the world of women today.
And that's enough for now of this writing directly into the window and muddling through.