I enjoyed watching PBS’ Makers documentaries a few weekends ago: Women Who Make America. I also enjoyed reading other people’s reactions to it on Twitter and other sites where women activists gather.
Sometimes these historical retrospectives make me nervous because it seems that we prefer to remember great movements as clean; we like our heroes (male and female) to be simple and coherent—and they rarely are.
The 20thC women’s movement still holds the fragmentation and internecine conflicts it had at its start and we haven’t yet worked out how to advance multicolored solidarity amongst ourselves rather than monochromatic uniformity.
As much as people like Phyliss Schafly often baffle me, I realize that we all have our parts in the story. I’ve been looking at some of the young teenagers I’ve met since I moved and it makes me wonder what model of Woman they’re seeing in me. I still have crisp memories of some of the older women around me when I was their age; some of them showed me by example what not to become.
Do I consume the people around me? Do I encourage them to be as large as they are? Do I hinder them to promote myself? Would I sacrifice them to save the system? Can I recognize them as part of my community even when they don’t manifest as I expect? Do I stand up for those whose experience is absolutely not mine?
I am an instance of Woman in this world; does my instance add value?