The setup #1:
When I was recovering from surgery, my daughter got out all of her money and started counting it. She got out her dollar coins and asked me about the people pictured on them. Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony and President Grant. It started a discussion about discrimination, including a history lesson starting with the Civil War, slavery, the end of slavery, President Grant, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and how discrimination is still going on, and where we, as a family, stand on it. She is six, crazy smart, and it was time to talk more about it. I still think at six she doesn’t need to learn about some of the darker aspects, but it was time. We talked about racism, sexism, gay rights, and I think, I hope, she got it. I know it was good for me to be able to lay it out for her.
The setup #2:
I grew up with a feminist mother. A bra burning, legs unshaven, get in your face feminist mother. A mother that absolutely turned me off to the idea that, as I grew older, I was a feminist. Not that I thought that women were magically now equal, I just wasn’t anything like her.
I shave my legs, get pedicures, wax the hair off of my face, wear heels, and yes, have a career in a male dominated field. I felt disconnected from the “feminist movement”. It wasn’t my movement. I appreciated what it did, but it didn’t connect with me. As my world view grew, I saw it as not being a big enough picture. If you had asked me if I was a feminist, I would have said yes, but only out of an obligation.
The setup #3:
On Tuesday, this happened. (you really need to read it)
The setup #4:
Last night it all just clicked for me. I made the connection to my frustration with the feminism of my mother’s generation and the race issues that I see in my neighborhood and my global community.
As I saw the responses on Tuesday, from people like Martha Plimpton and other white feminists, I got angry, disappointed. I am sick to death of people making excuses for white privilege. This goes back to my feelings about the Trayvon Martin case (something I have had a hard time writing about, but that I think about a lot) and a comment I made at a BlogHer ages ago that was really the beginning of my feelings about race and community. I had commented about how I was sick of seeing advertising that didn’t reflect the community that I lived in. “Ethnic” marketing was targeted towards one community, white towards others, but nothing reflected the multi-ethnic community that I was a part of. It also hit hard on the other things I’ve realized about myself and my feelings about discrimination and community. There is far too much separation of “causes” and not enough working together.
We cannot succeed, we cannot “win”, if we do it divided. There is a reality where oppression is so great that it creates tunnel vision to the causes of others. A person starving will worry first about getting food for themselves, but once they have enough to live, they will ensure that those around them have enough. In this global world, where a wealth of information is available to us at all hours of the day, there is no excuse for tunnel vision. The feminism of Sheryl Sandberg, while somewhat pertinent to my personal life, does not take in to account the realities of my community. I identify more with the feminists I was exposed to on Tuesday.
Is my situation perfect? Nope. Is there room for improvement? Hell yes. Is it pretty damn good with perspective? Oh hell yes. Am I going to stop fighting for improvements to the sexism that is impacting me directly? Nope. Not a chance. However, anything I do, any advance I make, doesn’t mean crap if other women are left behind because of their race, sexual orientation, economic status or faith.
I am not an activist. I have never been comfortable with that. I have always felt that change comes about not with big words, big gestures, but with action on an individual level. I’m still trying to figure out what I can do on my level to effect change. In the meantime, I’m going to keep reading, keep listening and keep learning.