My maternal grandmother had 8 children. Her first baby was stillborn, but the other seven lived to adulthood.
Birthing and raising 7 children was no small feat for a poor woman in a southern Illinois mining town. My mom told stories of tough times when the family only had bread and butter to eat for dinner. She spoke of wearing the same dress to high school every day because it was the only one she owned. They were dirt poor. Even though my grandpa worked 6 long days each week in the coal mines, his salary simply was not big enough to keep them all fed and clothed.
The struggle to survive left my grandma tired and angry. That’s how I remember her – tired and angry. I rarely saw her smile. Grandma had little reason to smile. She lived to be 90 years old, but much of her life was just plain hard.
Is this the life my grandmother dreamed of when she was young? Somehow I doubt it. But with no birth control and little money, what other choices were available to her?
My grandmother needed choices. Grandma deserved to have control over her own body, control over how many children she would birth and raise. She is why I am a feminist today. Every woman deserves to choose how many children she will bear. Every woman deserves the right to say No, I simply cannot feed, clothe and raise another child.
So, yes, I’m a feminist.
I’m a feminist who believes that every woman should control her own body, life and destiny.
I’m a feminist who demands that poor women have free access to birth control.
I’m a feminist who insists that abortion be legal and available in every corner of this country.
I’m a feminist who stands up for the rights of poor women, black women, gay women, abused women… ALL women.
Most of all I’m a feminist because of my grandma. I keep standing up and speaking up because of her.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree,
even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Lots of women are online today lecturing the women who marched in one of the Women’s Marches across the country. Apparently, lots of women feel the need to dictate to other women exactly how they should protest… even telling them not to feel happy about a peaceful march, insisting that the peace and joy the marchers experienced was all bogus because the crowd was “too white.” Lots of women are also lecturing other women about the best way to support minority women. Lots of women are judging and guilting and dismissing other women today… Is this really helpful?!
Sorry ladies, but you don’t get to define me. You don’t get to dictate what my protests look like. You don’t get to guilt me simply because I’m a middle class white woman. You don’t get to tell me what kind of sign to carry or hat to wear when I protest. You don’t get to dismiss me because I marched with a smile and didn’t scream in rage and burn shit. You don’t get to poo poo my commitment because I don’t protest the way you do.
I will choose when and how I take political action. I will choose when and how I speak out and act. It is MY choice, NOT YOURS!
When one group lectures another about how to behave and how to feel, it sounds suspiciously like old patriarchal Bullshit to me – even when women do it to other women.
EVERY woman needs the space to take political action and express herself in the way that’s most appropriate to her WITHOUT being judged and lectured by other women – and that includes white women from the suburbs!
We won’t fix this mess by telling one group of women to shut up and stuff their feelings, their needs, their wisdom in order to serve another group of women who now take precedence.
We want change, right? Real change? That requires creating a space where ALL women can dialogue with each other and be heard with respect and love. That’s true inclusivity.
“The language by which we have been taught
to dismiss ourselves and our feelings as suspect
is the same language we use to dismiss and suspect each other.”
“My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.
What are the words you do not yet have?
What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day
and attempt to make your own,
until you sicken and die of them,
still in silence?
… And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty
that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth.
And that is not speaking.”