Monday, December 28, 2009

Daughterless Daughters

A well-to-write poet once quipped, We are Fatherless Daughters. Although extremely pertinent, perhaps what would be more apt for today’s modern audience might be: We are Daughterless Daughters. Allow me to explain this in fashion that won’t send men, women, and children running for the hills.

Given the Rotten Tomatoes-esque success of films like the YaYa SisterHood, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The House Bunny, any sense of sisterhood we may have hoped to embrace and ignite, is warped and diminished. The sisterhood I’m talking about is the kind that lights a fire under your heels, makes you feel compassion, seek advice, share motivation, and move forward. It is, nevermind my clichés, the unspoken force that connects mother, daughter, and sister. It is --and should remain still-- what Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gloria Steinem and Marlow Thomas found when they found each other; the acknowledgement that progress is not just an idea, but a means and a method for a machine that can only be oiled by the interlocking of people working to understand one another. It wasn’t catty, it didn’t pass judgment, it didn’t laugh awkwardly and change the subject, instead, it was an opening. It was laying the floorboards and putting up drywall in the safe space that could encapsulate the conversation too seldom had.

With the rich herstory we have behind us, why am I so worried? Here’s what I’m nailbiting about: Who now? What women do we have to represent our so-called Third Wave, to carry us triumphantly into gender equity and beyond? Think for a moment about who stands out as a figurehead for our generation. Is she Carrie Bradshaw? A fictitious character who constructed an archetype for the sexually liberated female that still hasn’t materialized in real life. When I considered who she might be, I found myself wondering where she might be, and I realized that she doesn’t exist; not yet, at least. Our generation was bombarded with messages articulating a few key points: You are unique, special, and unlike anyone else on earth. You should be politically correct, if politically inactive as a result. You should be tolerant, if only for the sake of keeping up appearances. The inevitable result of a learning curve like this one is the polar opposite of a call to arms. My generation, has succumb to a call to complacency. We are afraid to step on toes and as a result, we walk on egg shells for the better part of our adult lives. Its no wonder we have no stand-out feminist icons when we're all afraid to stand up.

I must clarify that this lack of representation is not for lack of inspiration. I have had countless Women's Studies professors who have changed my perspective, opened my eyes, and led me in the direction of a plethora of immovable female strongholds who did their part during their time. But we've dropped the ball.

In so many of my classes, discussions have come to a screeching halt when we ask the question, Where do we go from here? I wish that I had a feasible solution to this predicament, but I too, don't know where to begin. I know how to work on the micro level. I know that there is a reason I have changed my field of study so many times to finally round up at a Women's Studies Major and English Lit minor. I know that I want to come back to Academia after grad school, and I know that I want to inspire as I have been inspired. While our numbers are still small, how many other women my age are making this same decision?

In my hopeful, idealistic mind, I want to have the opportunity to help develop that sisterhood I have spoken about. I want the passion and energy I feel to spread like wildfire until we are all motivated on some level to give back and contribute to a movement started a very long time ago. If we don't pick up the pieces, join with our sisters and brothers, here and abroad, how can we ever hope to create a society based on equity, rather than on discrimination and hate? Think back to the Margaret Fuller's, Victoria Woodhull's, Adrianne Rich's, SoJourner Truth's, Angela Davis's, Shulamith Firestone's, and you will see the kind of sisterhood I am talking about. If it is figurehead we need, which I believe it is, then who will it be for our generation, and when will she stand up?

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a tendency to glorify the movements of past. That's not to say that the feminist movement wasn't more united than it is now - it is truly fractured in many ways, but there were always radicals fighting with humanists and liberals fighting with conservatives. Where DO we go from here? That's a great question. I think that blogging may in fact be the so-called Fourth Wave of Feminism. That's great! That means that you and I are already involved. But I am finding with my 11th Carnival entry (where I found your piece) that people may be clicking to read about the rape kit backlog in American, but then they aren't clicking through to the site that allows them to write to their political leaders. The process literally takes less than a minute if you don't plan on altering the form letter at Why? Don't the feminists reading these posts want to eliminate the backlog?

    I'm with you that I'd love to feel like I'm part of a sisterhood. But sometimes, when I venture into the blogosphere, I meet many cruel commenters. I've encountered radical feminists picking on transsexuals and vice versa. Where does it end? I don't even know that our would-be sisterhood has common interests anymore.

    And I agree that we really could use a figurehead like Gloria Steinem was in her day. But it's a tall order: she would have to be willing to forgo so many of the physical and emotional constrains that we socially enforce on women and still come out a "celebrity" feminist. She would have to be a healthy body weight - not too thin - and interested in shunning now-conventional beauty requirements that are turning celebrities into anorexics and subsequently into corpses. She would have to balance femininity with masculinity and sound formidable without sounding angry. How could this creature appeal to both men and women, for that is what we need: women AND men working together for feminism, isn't it?

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It's full of the best intentions. I share them with you. :)