I am in the midst of planning out a recital for the Spring. It's a solo recital, and that means I can do anything I want. Often I like to support women composers, as I believe I still am one, deep inside. But I wanted to have more freedom to choose among more composers. SO I decided to a theme recital using the words of "powerful women" or "important women of history" or ....I don't know..."cool women".
I told my husband about it last night. I would do a song cycle based on the words of Mary Cassat, and show her paintings, I am thinking maybe a song cycle on Virginia Woolf, on Sor Juana (an educated nun from hundreds of years ago who is often talked about as being the "first feminist"). I looked for Frida Kahlo, for Eleanor Roosevelt, there are so many to choose from, but not that many have song cycles written about them.
I got excited with the idea of this. I thought embodying these women, who wanted to be more than what they were told, or maybe just wanted to be WHAT they knew they were, would be a great way to spend a semester. I was surprised my husband wasn't as excited. He was supportive, but I realized the excitement was mine, and that's ok.
Last year, my daughter and I listened to a few minutes of Obama speaking on the radio. She asked me about presidents, and governors, and what she knew from school. At 6, this is still something she's trying to understand. But then she said, "how come the presidents are never women?" and I was happy and impressed. Not by our country, but by the fact that she was still young enough to not put a face on leadership (not a male face). I bristle a little at someone telling her she's bossy. Will they tell my son the same thing? I may never know...she's more of a natural leader than he is already.
I think about her when I vote. I think about her as I get a doctorate, as my husband and I fall into roles, some natural, some just the blind ones that have been written out for us. Before marriage I spent years fixing things and killing "pests" and programming. I don't mind relying on him for that. For years he packed his own lunch, or didn't and just ate pizza every day, and I take joy in providing that for him.
What feminism is to me is continuing, daily, to challenge what women can't do. There are still crazy ideas out there...women can't make sushi because their hands are too warm? women can't be on boards because their decisions may be erratic? or maybe because the face they picture themselves on a board is a male face? We area society in which women do EVERYTHING. We have come so far from the days when Sor Juana just wanted to be educated and Mary Cassat just wanted to paint. We have come so far from the days when Dorothy Parker was labeled a communist (or have we?)
Sometimes, I think for men who have women for bosses, who have successful wives, they don't see that there still exists these barriers, keeping women from their dreams. But I've seen them, first hand. Men and women are different, and that's fantastic, but so many of the differences we give them are imaginary. They are tales told from generations on down. We forgive men and women differently, we pay them differently, we reward them differently, and we decide who they are going to be.
And when I look at my daughter and son, I don't want to think for one moment that he'll have a better chance at his dreams than she will.
So I am proud to use this oddly demonized word "feminist." It's ok to me. It actually enables me in some way to see that racially, as a white person, I probably believe things that are untrue about non-whites. That we are in a constant changing world when it comes to ideas about each other. That it's ok to say we make errors and find ways to fix them. It's actually glorious. It's truly American to me and..
It's what I believe Jesus would do.