Feminism in Old Baggage

Where did we leave off yesterday? Hmmm… Oh, yes! Page 85! I cheated…I had a book marker there. But what were we chatting about? Right! Feminism. I cheated again. I didn’t remember. I went back to yesterday’s post and read the last few lines!

Feminism…scary… makes people cringe, men and women alike.

I can hear it now:


“Women aren’t better than men!”

“Feminists are all ugly lesbians!”

How in the actual F did we get here? Why are those the first phrases that come to mind when I hear the word “feminist?” Where did things go so awfully wrong?

What should feminism bring to mind instead? I think it should be the idea that women have the same rights and responsibilities as men.

But then again, the separation of the sexes has gone on for so long… evolution is a painfully slow process.

When I come across books and articles about “first wave feminism” or “the women’s vote movement,” I wonder what those women would have thought if they had been transported to our current time.

This line gives me an idea about what happened:

“’We were a battering ram,’ Mattie was won’t to say. ‘Together, we broke down the door,’ but beyond that splintered door had been a dozen more doors and, scattered by their momentum, some women had tried one and some another, and some had given up and turned away, and it seemed to The Flea that all that unity and passion, all that wild energy, had dissipated.”

Things have changed in tremendous ways, but there’s still so much to do. Today, there is loads of passion but no unity, no direction. We’ve all become a scatter gun, men and women alike, in just about every movement to better our world.

“Our girls need to learn to question and analyse, so that they can step up to the ballot box with confidence and knowledge.”

These days, it’s not only the girls, it’s all of us. We have forgotten what it means to be a citizen of a republic.

And then there’s this:

“Ida could have stayed on at school, there’s enough money coming in, two of the boys are earing now, but Violet (Ida’s mother) couldn’t stick that – couldn’t have someone making more of themselves than she’d ever done. I know it’s men that hold women back, Miss Lee, but there are women who hold women back as well. It’s jealous, my own mother was the same…”

I’ve run into this in my life as well. If I’m pursuing an education, other women question it. “What will you do with that degree?” “When you have children, it won’t matter?” “You won’t be able to physically do that job someday!” Would we council our sons this way?

And when I chose to stay home with my children… oh lord… that’s when the real shit started.

I’m sitting here with my laptop wondering where I should go with this. It all seems like too much to write about. And besides, it seems to be done by everyone else to no avail.

And I know if you’re female you’ve experienced this:

“Clattering down the area steps, the frown tightened across her forehead like a bandeau.
‘Give us a smile, girlie,’ said the bus conductor.
She could have bitten him.”

I physically cringed reading it, and I know there are so many people that don’t get why. I can’t even really explain it, other than to say, have you ever told a man to look nice while he’s doing something complicated or physically exhausting?

This book… I sped read through it because the writing was so clear and beautiful, and I had a lot of time that day, but something bothered me. Have you ever had a very fine meal that you wolfed down so fast you couldn’t taste it? That’s how I read some books. It’s just so good that I can’t stop, and then I wonder how I will express my feelings for it afterwards.

“It’s great!” and “Wow…what a story!” Don’t do it justice.

I realized just now that I don’t often read modern novels with female characters like this. Each one reflected women I’ve met throughout my life, or read about. The older women were all on the same side of the suffrage movement, but so very different, as we all are. The rest of their lives ran in directions none of them could have imagined.

And then there were the men in their lives, and the children. The young girls they tried to reach. It reminded me of the time I spent working as a receptionist at the pregnancy clinic in our town. It was overwhelming hearing these people’s personal stories. Eye-opening is the only way I can describe it.

One more quote before I go:

“How clean, how simple, the aims had been – an arrow, straight and true; one fight, one victory. How muddy, by comparison, the present.”

That’s how we see the past. When we are young, we see only our own cause, whatever it is. And, now that I think about it, it was much easier back then to feel that way because we had so little information about the outside world compared to today. As we get older, our worlds widen, and we suddenly things are so much more complicated. That’s probably why generations argue so much.

But the truth is that nothing is ever simple and clean. Reality is a mess of friction and conflict. True wisdom, the purpose of life, is realizing that and learning to move forward anyway, with compassion for the people around us trying to do the same.

If you’re looking for a novel to inspire you, bring you to good tears, and give you hope for the future, read Old Baggage. There’s plenty to learn here!

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