[Still-life in front of a Union Square storefront]
Thursday evening I attended a showing of Catherine Russo’s documentary, “A Moment in Her Story: Stories from the Boston Women’s Movement” at the Cambridge Public Library. When the lights came up, everyone in the 99% female audience, individually or in twos and threes, asked the same question: “What happened?” What happened to the vibrant, collective, in-your face movement depicted in Russo’s film? Why are we STILL fighting for freedom of choice? Wy are women STILL so disproportionally represented in politics, as movers and shakers in the arts, etc.* Why, why, why, after all this time, did Sheryl Sandberg STILL HAVE TO write Lean In? Huh?
Here’s my 2 cents—or, rather, my Susan B. Anthony dollar coin:
1. “Complacency:” (Those quotation marks indicate irony. Lots of irony) This complacency, the same kind of lazy and facile reasoning that declares “Racism is no longer an issue because, heh, Obama’s president.” says: “Women no longer burn their bras because, heh, women are doing pretty well these days: they wear pants, now, abortion is legal—although, in places like Texas, access is tricky—and, heh, look at Angela Merkel and Hillary!”
2. Actually, the beat goes on: (It’s just not Evening News worthy, anymore). For example, if you go to the “Her Story” link and click on the trailer, at 4:11 you’ll see a group picture of the women who created Our Bodies Ourselves back in the day. The incredibly important work of The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective continues. (Some of you will recognize one woman in that group picture—my dear friend Wendy Sanford.) And let’s not forget Mothers Out Front, a women’s mobilization re climate change!
3. 9/11: It’s next-to-impossible to analyze one’s own era; we live it, we breathe it. But every time I see a woman driving an SUV I’m reminded that I live at a time in history marked by pervasive fear. “Women want to feel safe,” SUV makers tell us. (How sad that auto makers, like politicians and the media, use women’s and men’s sense of vulnerability to their own ends.) How that plays out regarding women I only sense. Stay tuned.
4. Sexism, like the poor and racism and homophobia and anti-semitism, will always be with us. There’s always gonna be haters.
* Judy Chicago spoke at Harvard a couple of weeks ago and, not surprisingly, had lots to depressing things to say about the art scene these days.