I just read “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!” by Alice B. Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.)… and oof.
What a beautiful, lyrical punch to the gut that calls to mind my dad lecturing me as a teen about how I couldn’t go out for a walk alone after dark.
See, my dad explained that when it’s dark, men’s minds turn toward sexual things, & I could be attacked.
All I wanted was to feel my legs moving, my feet pounding on the ground, & listen to the peaceful quiet of the solitude of the night.
And here my dad was talking gibberish.
But it stayed with me. My dad—who I have since come to fear in his own right—told me I would be unsafe outside, alone at night. And that made no sense. But it also came from an authority figure & it made me scared when I hadn’t been before. That fear has never totally left me.
Here’s the thing—Sheldon/Tiptree’s story is from only six years before I was born, and it’s about a woman being considered totally mad, completely insane for wanting to walk outside alone.
We need feminism so badly. So, so very badly.
And yet… here is hope: I was nearly twenty before the need—the deep, powerful, prevalent need—that society has for feminism made sense to me at all.
And that’s because things are getting BETTER.
Not every step is forward, but so many are.
My mother had to wear skirts and dresses to school, and the school would measure their length.
Ugh. Gag. Shudder.
I rejected wearing dresses when I was a toddler, and I was allowed to do that. I was supported.
My eldest child has rejected the binary construct of gender entirely, and they are supported. Not just by me and their immediate family, but also by teachers and other members of the community. (We’re lucky and privileged— we live in a good place.)
It’s easy to get dispirited when you realize that, although you were sheltered from it, you were born into a war—an ongoing culture war to defend your personhood—that’s lasted… forever.
Will we ever win? Will women ever manage to TAKE and permanently claim their full equality?
I don’t know how long the road will be, but if I can shelter my child from the ravages of sexism & misogyny a little better than I was sheltered; and I was sheltered so much more than my own mother…
Maybe someday we can shelter people from sexism & misogyny their whole lives.
And to be clear, in case anyone missed it: when I’m talking about women, I mean all women, because trans women are women. And gender is a broad and complicated spectrum.
Feminism only works when it supports ALL women.
You can’t fight for women’s equality while also policing how they’re woman-ing and judging them on whether it’s enough.