Category Archives: Feminism

Greetings Blogosphere!

I have not been the most consistent blogger in the world. If there’s anyone out there paying attention this is not such a big surprise. My last post was over a year ago. In that episode, I announced that my poor old sweet-faced kitty Angel was dying of cancer. I got all philosophical and weepy about it, as I have a tendency to do. So here’s what happened next.

Angel’s vet had been so dire about it, I assumed Angel was going to close her eyes and drop her body any minute. I’d go out to dead-head the roses, and I’d worry that when I came back inside she’d be stretched out in the hallway, dead. The first few nights after the diagnosis in July, I couldn’t sleep well. I left my bedroom and went out to read on the couch. I fell asleep, but then I was awakened by Angel, running around on the family room floor, chasing a catnip mouse with a bell on it. Okay, I thought, she’s going to be all right for a little while longer.

I didn’t want to leave town with her so sick, but I decided I’d go to Santa Cruz and sit on the beach as soon as she died. When she made it to September, I thought—great, I’ll get off-season rates at my favorite motel by the wharf. When she made it to October, I forgot about Santa Cruz and decided I wanted her to live till the election. Yeah, that’s when this story gets crazy. I wanted my cat to live to see the first woman elected president of the United States. That’s right, I’m not proud of this, I know it sounds crazy. But remember what it was like a year ago: we were all full of optimism and hope. The polls, the media, the late-night comedians were all saying Hillary was going to get elected. The pundits were even predicting Democrats would take back both houses of Congress. We were going to take back the Supreme Court! I think I wanted Angel to live to see this because I was feeling so sad that my mother (who died eight years ago this week) and my cousin Joanne (who been gone only a few months at that point) didn’t live to see a woman president. It was silly, but I wanted the cat to see it.

We all know how that turned out.

Angel died a few days before Thanksgiving. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say she got really really weak and really really sick, and I called the vet on a weekend and scheduled a time for her to euthanize Angel the following Monday. Then I went to the store and bought one of those rotisserie chickens, and Angel and I ate it together all weekend. She also went outside and roamed around on the lawn and ate grass. She had a good death. We should all be so lucky.

After that I was sad. I didn’t want another cat and didn’t want to bother with Christmas. I didn’t put up a tree and I didn’t send out cards. But grieving for Angel made me realize that I hadn’t grieved anybody very well. So I found a grief support group. I talked mainly about Joanne who’d died in March, but I also talked about my Mom and about my friend Craig. They let me talk about Angel too. They were good people, and we met until the week before Christmas. Then I surprised myself and decided I wanted a kitten for Christmas. But then I doubly surprised myself and adopted two kittens for Christmas!! Their names are Valentine Rose (my black kitty) and Suzanna Christmas (my tabby who is called Zuzu—you know like Zuzu’s petals in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”) They are joyful little girls and they love each other so much. Sometimes I sing them the Skylar Sisters song from Hamilton, only I say their names and I call them the “Holiday Sisters.” Yeah, I know, it’s weird, but it makes for a good story.

Adopting my new girls was great, but it didn’t alleviate the depression I’d been in since the election. I cried election night, and I cried for days afterwards. It was the pussy-grabbing comments that got me. I can’t believe we live in a country where people would elect a man who brags about such things. I won’t get into it here, but it’s a highly personal thing to me, as it is to many women. But my purpose today is not to rant about politics, no matter how personal I feel the situation is. I want to tell you what happened next.

As I said, I was very depressed. I wasn’t in a clinical depression. I got up every morning. I cleaned the house and weeded the garden, I did volunteer work at the women’s center where we serve breakfast to low income and homeless women, I wrote with my writer-friends, I went hiking by the river. But always I carried a deep heavy feeling in my throat and chest. I tired easily and I cried at cat food commercials. More than sad, I was feeling hopeless about my country.

On Inauguration Day I volunteered for an extra shift at the women’s center. I wanted to feel useful. The next day I went downtown with friends and we marched in the streets. It was a huge crowd. The organizers announced that we all would gather at a park southwest of the state capitol and then we’d march there for a celebration. It was mobbed. We lined up in the street adjacent to the park by the Catholic Church dedicated to the Black Madonna. We stood there for a couple hours before we started moving. I’d been in anti-nuke marches in the 80s like this—where the crowd was so big that those of us in the middle just had to wait and wait and wait before we could move.

I was there with my friends, and I felt great. I felt strong and healthy, as if I could stand there for days. I thought about a song Holly Near used to sing about a woman born on a mountain who was not going to let the developers come in—“You may drive a big machine, but I was born a great big woman!!” I love that song. My friends and I used to sing that to each other when we were young, living in our first apartments, going to Take Back the Night marches, raising money for the Peace Center.

My depression went away. Just like that. My friends said, oh, it was being out there in the crowd, it was taking action, feeling optimistic. But I knew that wasn’t it. I didn’t feel optimistic that day, and I don’t now. I feel terrible about my country. Just terrible. But for a while I felt a deep sense of grace. It was different than anything I’d ever felt before. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt very happy, filled with hope, even euphoric—you know, like falling in love, or finally getting that job you’ve been wanting, or getting your first poem published, then getting a poem published in a nationally distributed anthology! That’s good stuff. But this was different. What made it different was this: I felt forgiving.

I don’t know if this is a universal or even common experience, but there have been several people over the years that I’ve been unable to fully forgive. Some of them I don’t see any more, some I do. Some I’m friendly with, but I don’t trust them. Most I’m sympathetic to—I think, oh, I understand, they did what they did because of a misunderstanding, or because their life is hard too, or they had cold parents, a hard family life, a difficult spouse. Or maybe they were mean to me because they’re just mean, manipulative people and overbearing control freaks. Yeah, sounds about right.

I pray about this often. I’ve come to believe that when it comes to forgiveness, you can do the best you can—you can be friendly (though protective of yourself), you can pray for the other person, you can wish good things for them—but to fully forgive, to completely let go, that takes God’s grace. It’s not something we can do on our own.

And so here I was in the streets with my sisters on the day after Inauguration Day, and it began. My depression lifted and I felt forgiven and forgiving. This feeling lasted several months. I didn’t feel euphoric, though I generally felt good and healthy. Some days I was happy. Some days I was sad. It wasn’t about that. It was about an awareness of God’s grace. I couldn’t sustain it though. I’m not sure why. It drifted away. The Universe gave me a little taste, and then it drifted away. I don’t know if I did something to lose it. I don’t know. I wish I could feel that way all the time, but I know I can’t MAKE it happen. (I have another story about grace and forgiveness, but that’s for another day).

That brings me up to now. We’ve been bombarded these past few weeks by news of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. We’ve seen the worst mass shooting in modern history in Las Vegas two days ago. We fear we may be at the brink of nuclear war with North Korea as our president tells the secretary of state (not in a face-to-face meeting, but via social media) that he’s wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man.” I feel awful. But I keep writing, because I don’t know what else to do. I pray and I write and I hang with my cats and my friends, and that’s about all.

I’d like to say that I’m going to post more on my blog. I don’t know if that’s true right now. I don’t know if anyone cares. Is anybody out there? I’m not sure I really want to even have a blog. I want to write novels and poems and I was told at one conference or another that I should have the blog to promote the novels. And so here I go:

I have a new novel coming out in a month! It’s called Ghost Owl. It stars my young heroine Mariah Easter. I’m very proud of this one. My readers tell me it’s a page-turner!

So to update–I have three novels out now: Yellow-Billed Magpie, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Ghost Owl. They are stand-alone stories, but they have the same characters. I think it’s nice to read them in order, but it’s not necessary. I also have a short-story collection called Rover. All four books are available right now at Amazon—yes, even Ghost Owl. But if you’re in Sacramento, I suggest you wait and buy books from me at my Ghost Owl launch party at Hoppy Brewing Company on Thursday evening, November 2nd from 5:30 to 8:30. I’ll be selling all books that evening for the low low introductory price of $5!! Great for holiday gifts.

Finally—jumping ahead—my goal for 2018 is to learn how to market better. This will definitely include the website—but what about this blog. I don’t think I’m ready to give up on it yet. It will continue to be my usual crazy musings, and a bit of rough, barely edited flash fiction that I often write with my writing groups. I hope folks like it.

Thanks for reading this far. Now please drop me a line or give me a like so I’ll know somebody is there! Thank you!

Ps—Guess what! I went to Youtube and found a video of a group of strong and beautiful women singing The Kentucky Woman/Dreaming on This Mountain song—and I think it would do your heart good to spend a minute and forty seconds listening to it. Here’s the link

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On Feminism, part 2

Back in the 70s, when we talked about feminism or “women’s liberation,” we talked about very basic issues:  equal pay for equal work, equal rights to own property and to mange our own financial affairs, the right to make our own reproductive decisions. We also talked about respect, that women are just as capable as men are to serve as elected officials, business executives, authors, artists, and professors.  We talked about safety, about laws and policies that made it nearly impossible for a woman to report rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.  I’m sure most of us will agree that we’ve come a long way in the past thirty-five years, but that we still have a ways to go.

As a young writer back then, I wanted to define my philosophy, to put it into words.  I asked my sister-feminists, “What is a feminist?”  My question most often was met with a list of adjectives:  courageous, thoughtful, kind, assertive, dedicated to the group, etc.  But I wanted something more.  After all, you can be courageous and kind and not be a feminist. You could be a boy scout, for crying out loud.

After a lot of reading and thinking and writing and praying, I did manage to define feminism for myself.  It’s a bit winding, but here goes.

Any definition must begin with advocacy of the belief that women must not be denied any right, privilege or protection because of her gender.  But let’s take it further.

In an archetypal and/or stereotypical sense, our culture often ascribes certain traits and characteristics as gender related, for example:  men are analytical, women are intuitive; men are active, women are passive; men are protectors, women are nurturers.  This belief in a dichotomy between the essential nature of masculine and feminine led our culture to funnel boys and girls into varying career paths:  boys into business, engineering and science; girls into teaching, nursing and social work.

Of course a lot has changed in recent decades.  Plenty of men now choose to be elementary school teachers and nurses, and there are lots of women scientists, engineers and business execs.  However professions that have traditionally been considered feminine are still valued less than those traditionally masculine.  Just look at the salaries.

I believe it is a common misconception that feminists think women should behave like men.  I’m sure there are many women who feel they must put on a type of masculine demeanor to make it in “a man’s world.”  I wish this wasn’t the case.  For the sake of our mental health, I think it’s a good idea for each of us to strive to integrate the best qualities of both the feminine and the masculine.  But as a feminist, I believe our culture severely undervalues all things feminine.  As a feminist, I am not simply an advocate for women, I am an advocate for the feminine.

 

I think a gentle, cooperative, intuitive approach is just as valuable as an assertive, analytical one.  And most definitely I believe the concerns of our nurturing professions—children, the elderly, the poor and disabled—are just as important as the concerns of business and law.

As a feminist I am proud to be concerned, not simply with a narrow set of issues that concern American women, but with nurturing the health and creativity of all people everywhere.  This is the role women have joyfully accepted since before written history.  It’s time for our culture to welcome this work as vital, important, and necessary.

On Feminism

I’m writing this for all the non-feminists out there.  Please take a look!

My playful suggestion in a recent post that we close all our schools leads me to a bigger question about raising children.  I think if we, as a culture, were to write a mission statement, the first thing I would want it to say is “There is nothing more important than our children.”  Sure, after 30 years working in elementary education, I am admittedly biased.  But I say it can’t be any other way.  As the song says “children are our future.”  A people that doesn’t care about the propagation of its own species really has its priorities screwed up.

I’ve yet to read Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, but I’ve heard her in more than one interview relate the following anecdote:  when she drops her children off at school, she feels guilty, knowing she is making the choice to entrust their care to others, knowing that other moms who choose to volunteer at the school may know more about her children than she will know herself.  But when her husband drops the children off at school, he feels great knowing he has participated in their care in a way men of previous generations may not have done.

I’m sure there are a lot of working moms who nodded in recognition when they heard Sandberg tell this story.

As a teenager in the 70s I was proud to call myself a feminist, and I am still proud to claim that title.  A lot has changed in the past forty years, but to me, as Sandberg’s story proves, we’ve only scratched the surface.  Whether or not a woman has a career or whether she “just” has a job to make ends meet, whether or not she likes her workplace, she still feels torn when she has to leave her children.  And so do a lot of men.

To me, the issue isn’t whether or not parents feel guilty when they leave their children to go to work.  I’m NOT saying—hey, women should feel less guilty and men should feel more guilty, and then we’ll have equality!—what nonsense!  No, what I’m saying is this:  I wish we could do more to balance our lives, so we can have the rewards of work (i.e. money, social outlet with co-workers and clients, creativity) as well as the sustenance of family life (and not just a half hour of face time as everyone is wolfing down food at the dinner table).  We and our children deserve to have it all.

I have been dismayed in recent years to discover that many young women refuse to call themselves feminists.  I want to tell them that it is my feminism that is the underpinning of my defense of family life.  My feminism feeds my spirituality and my creativity.

More on this next week.