But I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now

This weekend was a time trip. The job of clearing out the family home has fallen to me, and I'm doing it slowly and painfully. On Sunday morning, I sat down on the floor of my old bedroom, and opened up a desk drawer full of cards and letters. Pretty much every one I'd ever sent to my parents, individually or as a parental unit.
Before I could throw the letters away, I had to skim them. Most of them were jejune and embarrassing, but some of them were interesting to me, even from this perspective.

This is the text of a letter I wrote to my mother on January 25, 1977. I was 23, and living in New York City.

"I went to a meeting last night of the New York Radical Feminists. It was TERRIBLE!! All it was was about 8 very butch-looking INTENSE rhetoric-spouting women... and Kathleen and me. Kathleen accounted for something because her mother is one of the founders of the movement. But I didn't. Anyway, we were immediately suspect because we weren't gay. It was very upsetting. I thought the movement was based on a belief in alternatives and choice and educating the masses. They seemed to want a separatist Woman-state. Personhood is no good. They want women-ness without maleness. I don't understand. They also seemed to me to not realize that for younger women, we've already reaped certain benefits from their early struggles and we want to move on from here. Like they want to re-write the manifesto. But that's all words and unneccesary. The thing to do is to LIVE it, not write it. I was the only one in a skirt. O.K. They won me the right to wear construction boots. It's also my option to wear a skirt and not see it as a symbol of "my oppression". Am I making myself clear? I was very upset by last night. It seemed to me to have broken down and lost touch with what it had done and was trying to do. Yuck. Maybe I'm just a radical human, but that's what I thought the lib movement was about. The right to be human... I think it's turned into a lesbian movement. Does this mean there has to be still another lib movement for straight people? Shoot. I'm REALLY depressed by their TRULY sexist attitudes. One woman flat out said "I can't trust women who can have relationships with men. How can you befriend your oppressor?"

I've never BEEN oppressed. How can I view all men as my mortal enemy... MAYBE "the system", MAYBE "big business". Mostly, though, to me, my enemy is ignorance and prejudice. And I think I found THEM to be prejudiced. Is this some kind of rude awakening? I really BELIEVED in the women's movement, but how can I believe and identify with this reality..?

Ah, never mind..."

I remember how upset I was. The meeting was in Gloria Steinem's apartment in the West Village. It was lovely, and book-filled, with oriental carpets and windows over the street, and I watched the snow fall outside. Gloria wasn't there. I remember that I yelled at the women before I stalked out. I told them how, as a young girl in a tiny Southern town, reading about the movement in Time Magazine had opened my eyes to possibilities. That they had put me on the path that led me to New York, and to that very meeting, and how could they now reject me out of hand just because I slept with men? What had they won, what had they preached, if not equality? And now they were preaching separatism, and that was something very different.

Plus ça change, plus ça meme chose.
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/28 at 10:55 AM in Life? Don’t Talk to Me About Life. Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/28 at 10:55 AM in Maudlin Crap

(2) Comments
#1. Posted by Miss Bliss on November 28, 2005

Amen Sister! Sweetie you are ten years older than myself and I had a similar experience while in college with a professor of Women’s Theatre who told me that Lillian Hellman wasn’t an important female playwright because she “wrote like a man”.  Um…except the deal is she was a WOMAN and no matter what she was a fine writer.  I went round and round with that professor because she constantly used her feminism as an excuse for being unorganized and indecisive.  I felt that I was living feminism as I was a Technical Theatre student in a department with a female Technical Director, not common at that time but not really shocking either…and that seemed the point to me.

#2. Posted by Kathleen on November 29, 2005

Ha. I have found you. I love your website. I miss your sense of humor. I miss New York. Mother is coming for Christmas. How the hell are you? Drop me a line, let’s get caught up. I promise not to be a self-absorbed asshole, which I suspect I was last we spoke, what, 13 years ago? Too long. love, Kathleen

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