Feminism has always been my 'ism'. It's the cause that has felt the closest to my skin. I grew up reading Little Women and Jane Eyre. Those books were written in another century but the feminist ideas in them are instantly recognizable and transmittable. The idea of women being equal and able to achieve anything, gives me courage. I got an engineering degree, I became a neighborhood activist, finally, I became a minister. Mostly feminism was my friend, a bright spot of ideas and pro-woman emotion that I could lean on for support.
The dark side of feminism is sexism. It's the pressure of the world saying you are not equal, you are less smart, your main value is in your attractiveness. Feminism wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the world with its attitudes and laws that oppress women. It would be called peoplism! But, I don't often notice sexism. I just don't notice it. Is it shaping my life? Probably, but it isn't something I think about every day.
Not until lately.
Rarely but sometimes, I break out of my cheerful cocoon and suddenly I see sexism everywhere. It doesn't make life easier to live. It's similar to when someone close to you dies or you have a close call on the highway, and you feel that presence of death. You think, hey death, yeah I know about you, but I would prefer not to think about you all the time. Yet grief, fear, and anger roll through you and there is no stopping them. The veil has been pulled back and you see how close we are to oblivion.
The presidential campaign reminded me that sexism was alive and well on an almost daily basis. It wasn't over. It wasn't even over in my protected life, and with my positive attitudes. In fact, where was that positive attitude? I had lost it and needed a little help getting through my days.
It was then that I heard about the Women's march. It was happening the day after the inauguration! In Washington DC.
So I went. The Women's March was like medicine for me. I needed to have other women and feminist men surrounding me with their power. My feminist son came along with me looking fuzzy and groovy in his pink hat (see picture). The march was healing from start to finish, from the plane ride to DC (full of pink hats), to the funny, angry signs, the unselfconsciously pro-woman feeling, the huge number of women, and the love that flowed all day. The genius of the march was that it happened the DAY AFTER the inauguration. Instead of wallowing in a deepening distress, I got the instant high of being with others who felt the same way. Thank you march organizers, you saved me.
My attack of feminist awareness isn't over. I don't really want it to be. But the painful onset is gone -- now it is just a dull ache reminding me not to go to sleep again.