01 March 2013


In the mid-1970s when I returned to college at the University of Arizona, I initially was casting about for a sense of direction in my studies.  For a time my declared minor was in Women's Studies, an interdisciplinary program with courses in literature, history, and philosophy, among others.  The instructors were uniformly excellent, and the course material challenging on two levels ~ first, the sheer volume of reading and the number of student papers and reports required were intense.  Second, the ideas presented illuminated my thinking.

Men made up roughly ten percent of any given Women's Studies class, allowing insight into the experience of being a social minority among a group of women students whose reaction might range from respect to indifference to hostility.  This too, was an illuminating experience.

It happens that today marks the beginning of Women's History Month in the U.S.  When I was a teacher at a small private school in suburban Philadelphia in the early 1990s, I was usually the only member of the faculty with any awareness of that annual March celebration.  The irony of a man becoming the de facto organizer and cheerleader for women's history observances won't be lost on the reader.  But doing so pleased me.  It still does.

I was reminded of all this a few nights ago on the PBS Newshour, when Judy Woodruff (one of my favorites on the Newshour team) interviewed writer and feminist activist Gloria Steinem in connection with a three-part documentary titled "Makers ~ Women Who Make America".  You can find both the video and a transcript of the interview here.  Steinem's brief overview of how far feminism has come since the 1960s (as well as how far remains in achieving real equality) reminded me why she's always been one of my favorite sources of thought and perspective on gender issues.

For those who would like to watch the "Makers" series, here are links to all three parts ~

  1. Awakening ~ the story of the birth of the modern Women's Movement
  2. Changing the World ~ how 1970s feminism reshaped the relationships between men and women
  3. Charting a New Course ~ a focused look at the workplace, where women crashed through the glass ceiling
Each episode is approximately 55 minutes long.  Having studied the first wave of feminism, and having both studied and lived through the second wave (the period covered in the documentary), I'm encouraged that we're still talking about what's been achieved, and what still needs doing.  It's sad that so many younger women today have no understanding of the battles that were fought to secure the rights they now take for granted ~ so much so that they eschew the label "feminist" as though it denotes mere angry radicalism.  It does not.  In fact, most younger women and many younger men are living the ideals of feminism without realizing it.  

At the same time. many in the younger generation seem to grasp quite clearly issues of inequality ~ in the workplace, in the military, at home, in society.  If this is true, then labels aren't important.  Awareness and activism are the fruits of the seeds women (and men) have been planting for 150 years.

P.S. ~ For any non-evolved or still-evolving men out there, here's a great resource for navigating the new day (and night) ~ The Feminist Guide To Non-Creepy Flirting.  It's common sense, but still a useful reminder when hormones are clouding one's judgment.

No comments:

Post a Comment