I’ve Been Thinking

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Shocking! I admit that I’ve been reading Ursula LeGuin again, and she always gets my brain stirred up. She reminded me, in a satirical essay titled “Introducing Myself” from her wonderful book The Wave in the Mind, that we’re the last generation who remembers when women were “he.” Ms. LeGuin is one of those writers I go to when I want to be stimulated emotionally or intellectually or just have a good read.
So, I am old enough to remember when we were up in arms about the meaning of he/her and the absolute absence of the feminine pronoun in our founding documents and everything else leading to the upheaval of the 1960s. All men are created equal, being only one example. Even that didn’t mean ALL men. She writes about the desire to live up to the label of man as a woman in American society. She reminds us: “If we have anything to learn from politicians it’s that details don’t matter. “I am a man”, she declares, “and I want you to believe and accept this as a fact, just as I did for many years.” She pronounces that women are a very recent invention. And, given the historical facts of the matter, she’s right.
How do we take our granddaughters by the hand and introduce them to the facts of our lives? Would they believe it? Would they care? Would they understand that the romantic idea that women be small, lean and taut had everything to do with manliness and not womanliness? Would they be able to find the imaginative thread to revisit a time when women couldn’t own land, borrow money, make a decision about the future? And why have I gone from appreciating the satire of one of my favorite writers to tears on my cheeks as I think about this? I am a product of the man to woman generation, and we’re still trying to get it right.
It seems to me that we have many unhealed wounds relating to our history. And yet, just as I did, we will say that others had it worse. My logic sees this as true but my heart says that women playing at being men never equaled equality. In 1958 I was drummed out of the law library at the University of Florida–yes, drummed by fists on the tables and heels on the floor–because women weren’t allowed in the building. It was humiliating on the surface and scarring deep down. It was preparing me to know, that even in the year 2018, women are being harassed and hurt and will try to appear male-like to save themselves. We have to do more.

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