I am writing to you from the Offred farm in upstate New York where they quarantine washed-up middle-aged feminist women who are supposed to STFU, go away and stop talking about anything significant. We are contagious and spread ideas about liberation, freedom and gender equity. It’s nice here, although I’ve gained 50 pounds, so I can’t hop the fence. I get three large squares a day, and they give me excellent drugs so I can permanently forget that Hillary lost to that orange-haired turd currently sitting in the White House. KIDDING! Not about that the turd in the White House but that I’m out to pasture in upstate New York.
I’m in Altadena and still trying to figure out after years and years and years how I can make March — Women’s History Month — impact more people’s lives. If you’d all just get with the program, I could stop talking about it. How’s that for a quick pivot into victim-blaming?
Right now, women are like generational tissues; we pop one out of the box, use it, and then throw it away. Women and men do not know the history of women as women or just plain ol’ people, and because of that, we keep making the same !#*@ mistakes again and again.
The #metoo movement and #timesup initiative stand on mountains of mighty shoulders. One particular set of shoulders is Margaret Sanger, to whom we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude. Are you grateful that you don’t currently have eight kids? Yeah, #mealso. Margaret dared to suggest that women had a right to sex for pleasure and not merely reproduction. If you don’t appreciate how radical that idea was (and is), just stop voting and allow religious extremists to take over and strip away all our reproductive rights. If you think that’s extreme, think again. The right wingnuts are not only anti-choice; they are also squarely anti-liberated women and want us back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant or dead from childbirth. In addition, many of the women on the extreme right want “traditional values” back, where they no longer need to be out in the world, which was traditionally the sphere of men.
By the way, for decades detractors of Ms. Sanger have hurled racist barbs at her without bothering to find out about the African-American allies she had. They also knew controlling family size was an important key to moving into the middle class.
Sanger’s ideas became popular with the so-called “Flappers” of the 1920s who were exploring sexuality and pushing gendered limits which completely scandalized their parents and grandparents. The notion of needing restrictive “lady-like” demeanor, corsets and literally and figuratively “buttoned” up behavior was thrown to the wind. Sexual pleasure, daring and leisure were ideas that suddenly seemed available to women.
If one digs into the history of pleasure, there’s more there than meets the eye, even in so-called Victorian times (Read “Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth and the Politics of the Body” by Riane Eisler).
And family size? Why would so many women past reproductive age care about the choice issue anyway? Because whoever controls women’s reproductive independence holds the key to their freedom. No kidding. The old chestnut from Second Wave feminism was “The personal is political.” Of course, if you knew women’s history, you’d already know that. And maybe you do.
Am I angry? You bet I am. And I’m also relieved that it appears more and more people are becoming aware of misogyny and racism in this country, and how deep that goes. Yes, misogyny. The backlash to the recent Twitter campaigns by women has shone spotlight on just how many men there are who hate women and women who hate themselves. We continue to be ignorant as if those who went before us have nothing to teach us.
If I had a magic wand, and I might so watch out, I’d obliterate ageism as one of the primary pillars of patriarchy. The system that oppresses people based on gender, and that includes men, do not want you to know what and who went before. Ideas are contagious. My fellow feminists and I, including some great men, have a long view of the woman’s journey as subversive and dangerous to the status quo. My sexuality, my pleasures, my body, my history is threatening to those who want to stay in power. Oh, and it’s utterly predictable that women’s differences would be amplified as if all women are supposed to agree with each other? Really what planet is that exactly?
OK, I’m going back to my pasture now. Meanwhile, please visit nwhp.org for plentiful, inspiring and fun materials for Women’s History Month. And remember, it’s not just for women and girls.
Celebrate International Women’s Day, tonight, March 8, with a free screening of the film I directed, “Beauty Bites Beast,” from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Altadena Public Library, 600 E. Mariposa St., Altadena. I will be joined by Co-producer Ken Gruberman.
Ellen can be reached at beautybitesbeast.com.