Choices For Women


Equality. This is what all of life should be...equal

Equality. This is what all of life should be…equal

We live in in a patriarchal culture. What this means is that white men rule in a world where they feel they are the most important part. I would like to tell you today about some feminist women.

The first was a feminist woman named Adrienne Rich, lawyer, mother, feminist, author and an example of the fullness of life that women can have when they are liberated, free to make choices for themselves. She was a white, educated woman who lived in the late fifties and who had to plead and argue for sterilization after choosing to bear three children. This is something I also experienced in 1972, having to plead to be allowed to be sterilized. Being able to plan your life includes when to have children if you want children.

Another feminist, Margaret Sanger, wrote Motherhood in Bondage in 1928. She wrote about a women seeking birth-control advice so she could carry out her marital duties with her husband without becoming pregnant again and again. She wrote diaries in which she expressed how hard it was to be sensual and be able to give her children what they needed and not get pregnant again.

Mothers and daughters were bonded by strategy. Trying to ensure that they would not continue to have children made many women feel shame for what they wanted and were trying to accomplish. They feared losing love, home and desirability as a woman. Many women felt that their only value was for sex and procreation, which is what the patriarchal society they lived in taught.  

When Adrienne Rich realized she did not wish to have more children, she wrote to Margaret Sanger to find a way to find some modest control over the use of her body. For generations, women have asserted their courage on behalf of their own children and their husbands. Women take care of their children, then their husbands.  Then they help strangers, and finally they take care of their own needs.  That has been the role of women for millennia.

The “sacred calling”  of motherhood has had, of course, an altogether pragmatic reality. In the American  colonies an ordinary family consisted of from twelve to twenty five children. An unmarried woman was treated with reproach even if she was as young as twenty five. A woman of this “advanced age” had no way of surviving economically, and was usually compelled to board with her kin and help with the household of children. No other “calling” was open to her.

An English working woman who was a child in the 1850’s wrote that “I was my mother’s seventh child, and seven more were born after me – fourteen in all – which made my mother a perfect slave. Generally speaking the mother was either expecting a baby to be born or had one at the breast. There was a time when there were eight of us old enough to go to school, but we couldn’t get ready without help.”

Both the white pioneer mother and the black family slave worked daily as a full productive part of the economy. Black women often worked the fields with their children strapped to  their backs. Historically, women have borne and raised children while doing their share of necessary productive labor. It was just expected from them.

The mother bears the weight of Eve’s transgression ( Eve, as the first offender, the polluted one, the polluter ) yet precisely because of this, the mother is expected to carry the burden of male salvation. Women were frequently reminded of what horrible things could happen to her if she wasn’t a good mother.

This is the 21st century, and women’s choices are expanding beyond just motherhood.  Motherhood is a wonderful calling, but there can be more to a woman’s life if she so chooses.

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The woman and the inner woman

The woman and the inner woman

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Women’s words


Women's place in the world.

Women’s place in the world.

S M

I tell you, Chickadee
I am afraid of people
who cannot cry
Tears left unshed
turn to poison
in the ducts
Ask the next soldier you see
enjoying a massacre
if this is not so.
People who do not cry
are victims
of soul mutilation
Paid for in Marlboros
and trucks

Resist

Violence does not work
except for the man
who pays your salary
Who knows
if you could still weep
you would not take the job.
Alice Walker

Alice Walker, author and feminist

Alice Walker, author and feminist

The Friend

We sat across the table
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table
he said, burn your body
it is not clean and smells like sex
it rubs my mind sore
I said yes.

I love you, I said,
that’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me very happy,
Have you cut off your hands,yet?

———————Marge Piercy

It is important for women to have a voice in their herstory.

It is important for women to have a voice in their herstory.

The Second Sex

Men have vied with one another in proclaiming that love is a woman’s supreme accomplishment. ” A woman who loves as a woman becomes only the more feminine,” says Nietsche, and Balzec; “Among the first-rate, man’s life is fame, woman’s life is love. Woman is man’w equal only when she makes her life a perpetual offering, as that of man is perpetual action.” But therein, again, is cruel deception, since what she offers, men are in no wise anxious to accept.Man had no need of the unconditional devotion he claims, nor of the idolatrous love that flatters his vanity; he accepts them only on condition that he need not satisfy the reciprocal demands these attitudes imply. He preaches to woman that she shoule give—and her gifts bore him to distraction, she is left in embarrassment with her useless offerings, her empty life. On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weekness but in her strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself—on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life and not of mortal danger.”
excerpted, Simone de Beauvoir

The continual education of women is necessary

The continual education of women is necessary

Homes of Single women

If women will not accept mariage with subjection, not men proffer it without, there is, there can be, no alternative. The woman who will not be ruled must live without marriage. And during this transition period, wherever, for the maintenance of self-respect on the side, and education into recognition of equality on the other,single women make comfortable and attractive homes for themselves, they furnish the best and most efficient object lessons for men.    -Susan B. Anthony

Photo by Barbara Mattio