The blog below is a guest post written by S. Sloane Simmons. Sloane is a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Board to the Women’s Center and also co-owner of STUFF. Her article also appears on the the Starr Symposium Blog and will soon be posted on the STUFF website.
First, a few statistics: I am 45-years-old; I have been married to the same man for 24 years; I have one child; I own my home; I co-own a small business with my sister; I am Caucasian; I finished “some college” but did not obtain a degree; I am an active community volunteer and currently serve on several governing and advisory boards. I am happy.
I sat in a public auditorium the other evening and, after arriving late, tried to settle in after a long and varied day to absorb four women’s words. They all chose great stories to share and their answers during the Q&A were heartfelt and well received.
But I found myself making notes on paper – a questionnaire I had been handed upon arrival became my notebook – about what had brought me to that room. These women spoke eloquently and from many perspectives that were different from my own. In the end, the questionnaire was not fit to be turned in. This morning I re-visited my notes and noticed that my emotions ran to thankfulness to the woman who was older than me for forging a path, to hopefulness because the woman who was younger than me had much to teach me and I delight that the women who were right near my age were finding themselves coming into their own.
The symposium was an intergenerational conversation about work and life. It was presented by Women Girls Ladies in conjunction with the UMKC Women’s Center and the UMKC Women’s Council. I figured it would be worth my time, given that I was a woman, a girl, and a lady and I had a life and I worked. Perfect fit right?
It was more than perfect. My time in the auditorium reminded me that I had been raised by a woman – my mother – who is a raging feminist, and that I had been deeply molded by two women – my grandmothers – who would have never admitted to being feminists in any form. These women gave me their best and let me catch glimpses of their worst. What shakes me to my core is that I never think about being a feminist myself, because I really don’t have to very much. It is ingrained in me to believe that women can do anything and be anything. I have visual memories of the comics at the back of Ms. Magazine that reminded me as a teenager to make more of myself than the boys around me and to insist on more than 69-cents to their dollars earned. I have had a hand in raising a child whose biggest argument at school to date (including middle school!) is the one he waged about there not being “boy colors” or “girl colors” in art class when he was ribbed because pink was his favorite color and he used it without fear in his work.
The phrase, “been there, have the t-shirt” could not be truer about my feminism. My family has cycled through 2 generations of NARAL t-shirts, National Women’s Political Caucus t-shirts, Planned Parenthood t-shirts, and we have all treasured the posters, magnets and bumper stickers from the past. They remind us that “A woman’s place is in the house . . . and the senate”; that “war is not healthy for children and other living things” and a female newborn is a “baby woman.”
This week I am co-chairing an event for the American Civil Liberties Union in my hometown. It’s going to be a wondrous evening full of amazing art and talented people. The ACLU will always need funding to continue their work protecting all of our civil liberties. I don’t work in those trenches every day, but I am thankful for those that do. Every issue women face – every obstacle they overcome – was and is a civil liberties issue. It wasn’t very long ago that women couldn’t vote, that women couldn’t own property and that women had very little control over their bodies and its intended freedoms.
If you asked me if I was feminist, I wouldn’t deny it nor would I immediately embrace it. The true feminists to me are those women who changed the world as we know it in the 1970’s, not me. I can vote, own things and speak openly with my doctor. I just get to be me . . . a raging feminist.