CLICK! Becoming a Feminist. When Did it Happen to You? (Member Comments #3)

FROM CINDY:  Our interview with J. Courtney Sullivan about her book CLICK! evoked revealing, heartfelt and very moving comments, so we’re going to post them in groups of ten.  Add yours to the post and it will be featured here too. (Full disclosure: I know and admire Courtney and we share an alma mater  - many years apart though!)

Karen J -

Love this – have never seen it before – thanks for sharing:

”Bitch stands for “Being in total Charge of Herself.” Jill Zimon 

you say “My biggest buggaboo has been that I’ve felt that if I let myself be grouped in via a label, then, when other “members” do things I don’t agree with, then what?”

I agree with that….in any group, you’re going to have some radicals who will do something to put that group in an odd light.
That brings everyone in the group into that light for awhile.

I’ve always avoided groups just for that reason, and I’ve always done well on my own without them.

If we had someone who would make equal pay a LAW, then you’re talking business! (and I don’t mean a Sarah Palin …who is a joke)
Maybe a lobbying group can do it, or a strong, capable and well respected individual with political connections.

I think having a couple of women on the Supreme Court is going to be helpful….and Obama certainly has chosen a lot of women for high posts in the government….and is married to a great example of a successful woman. All this helps.

Just remember, Amelia Earhardt was one woman…with determination and ability and confidence. She didn’t need a group. She opened a lot of doors just by being herself and doing what she did.
ANY woman can achieve greatness if she works to win. Jill Zimon

It’s all about equality, not just for women but for all. One day the issue of equality for all will be a nonissue, it must and it will. Marilyn L.

Feminists may all have the same convictions, but their “actions” can be differing in every point! Carol B.

Heidi H: sure women made progress in the 60s…I was there.
I think that women’s lib served its purpose to some degree. But it also gave women who wanted to excel a cartoon-like reputation for being emasculating bulldogs. That’s not the image we want to present in this decade, is it? 

Women were secretaries as far back as the 20s and 30s.
My mother had her own business in the late 50s and early 60s, so I never saw gender as something that would hold me back.

My first job was in radio in the late 60s, and I was offered a job by a local tv station to be the weather reporter in the helicopter…but I hated flying so I declined and stayed in the promotion department in radio….and I worked my way up in that department to where I ran it.
Then I worked in tv production in the 70s and worked my way up to producing. I didn’t need a group behind me.

ABILITY speaks volumes…louder than gender support groups!
I see nothing wrong with a group if it can indeed accomplish something other than creating a litigation-wave and making a lot of lawyers rich. 

I went to high school in the early to mid 60s and was in the arts and sciences and headed toward becoming a doctor…but I got sidetracked by an injury that interfered with my education and had to take a couple of years off.
I was never told not to take the sciences and maths and I was never discouraged by my teachers and told that I’d just end up married. I guess I went to a good school! Marilyn D.

Bitch stands for “Being in total Charge of Herself.” As always, if a woman is pushy she’s labeled a “Bitch” so let’s own it in a positive light, since bitch remains in use for derogatory purposes. I only hope to be as strong, pushy, bitchy and militant as the women of the sixties. I can only hope to have that much courage in my life. As long as only 3% of rapes are reported and only 1% go to trial, I will be a bitch. As long as the ERA languishes in states, unpassed and women remain excluded from the constitution. I will be Vigilant.
As long as women in many states are unable to receive appropriate reproductive services, and have no access to abortion. I will remain militant. I think you get the picture. Karen J. 

To Marilyn D. Do you really think women didnt make any progress in the sixites by organizing and fighting for equality? Did you know that until 1974 women could not attain a degree from Yale? Did you know that many professions OUTLAWED women. I remember the FIRST time I heard a female voice on the Radio. There used to not be women TV News anchors, very few lawyers, almost NO female doctors. Without Feminists in the 60 I wouldnt have had the job I have. I was told in High School that I could NOT take a Shop Class, ONLY boys could take shop. Later I was hired to do Metal Shop work by a multinational company. Without the Feminists of the 60′s That would have never happened, even the secretaries where I work were all male until the 70′s. Many women who are younger have NO idea what life was like BEFORE the feminism of the 60′s and 70′s. If you were married you couldnt own property, write a check, or have a separate account. You couldnt do anything with out your husbands permission. Also before the 60′s and 70′s you husband could beat you and the police would not respond unless he killed you. If you were raped, it was only your word and the cops didnt give you any post rape counseling or take evidence. ONLY if you were beaten or killed by the rapist was it taken seriously. Life was VERY different for women before the 60s. Ha! I remember being told by the High School counselor “you dont need to take algebra or calculous, you will just get married”. Heidi H.

@Marilyn D – I’m not sure I get your second comment. I think many women ARE stepping up and demanding of themselves and other women. I think that the work that continues to also need to be done is bringing men and other women along who do not see the need for this work to be done – and that goes to Courtney Sullivan’s point about the role of men (who have very interesting roles in a couple of the essays in Click – esp. a father in one of the stories – very very insightful).

Anyway – I think it’s a pervasive thing we need to have happen – it is a little surprising to me, just as an aside, as to how many generations it really is taking. Very interesting and frustrating to think about. Jill Zimon

@marilyn d – there’s no question that I’ve struggled with the label – and most labels – for much of my life. My biggest buggaboo has been that I’ve felt that if I let myself be grouped in via a label, then, when other “members” do things I don’t agree with, then what? I’m still working through this – but I think Courtney Sullivan in this interview does a good job explaining how labels can have a positive effect, on a personal and systemic level.
Thanks for reading and commenting. Jill Zimon

@Becky Y – 

I think you conflate three different things: the term and use of a label (“feminism”), the realities of how any two or more people differ (whether by gender or any other trait) and how society at large (not just individuals) uses the existence of those differences for negative effect. In the case of women, it comes out as sexism. The formation of a term, label, phrase, movement – whatever you want to call it – of “feminism” had to do with individuals collectively recognizing and saying, our differences shouldn’t be used to then treat us unequally to the extent we are DENIED what others get (i.e., equal pay, equal opportunities in education or employment, equal treatment under the law for any variety of circumstances).

The coming together of individuals – men and women – to challenge sexism as it exists throughout society – really doesn’t have anything to do with what attributes we share or have unique to us. It has to do with making sure that as we function in society, those attributes are not used against us to prevent us from having, as you say, equal pay, equal vote, equal choices.

Thanks for commenting. Jill Zimon

by Open Democracy via Flickr/Creative Commons
by Care2 Members


Barbara D.
Barbara Duehn7 years ago

Thank you Heidi H for telling it like it was. I graduated from high school in 1957. I went to college but always thought I would get married, work 2 years and then have a family. My mother was an R.N. and did work most of my childhood although at an approved women's job.
I ended up happily married for 49 years to a man who believes in equality. I worked 11 years for the government and only encountered one instance of discrimination. A man received a promotion to a position for which I was more qualified and then he told me he would have to depend on me to help him since I knew more. In those days (1965) we didn't sue for such actions. Life has certainly changed. I believe it is much better now.
After having my daughter in 1972 I decided to have a tubal ligation in 1975. To my suprise and my husband's he was required to give his written permission for the operation. When he protested saying "It's her body,she can make her own decision", he was informed that the husband in Texas was in charge of his wife's reproduction decisions. Had I been a member of a group then I probably would have taken action to change the law.

I went on to work 11 more years for the government and then 17 in financial aid. My daughter has a position as a manager in a telecom company and is the mother of a four year old. She never saw her future as a stay at home mom.

Barbara D.

Linda M.
Linda Maxwell7 years ago

I also wanted to comment on Marilyn D's post. My older sister fell in love with airplanes as a small child and wanted to do nothing else but be an aeronautical engineer (aerospace engineer in today's terminology. A sweet and feminine girl, she was told flatly by her professors in college that she was wasting her time, women do not have the intelligence necessary for engineering. She was harassed by other students but perserved, graduated just when the industry needed to fill quotas, made a name for herself before succumbing to cancer at an early age. Thank God she stuck it out--she loved her planes and enjoyed her too short life.

In the seventies, a few of my class wanted to take shop and were told flatly no, girls do not need those skills, home ec was sufficient.

Don't discount what our older sisters did for us in the 60's and 70's. We owe those brave souls.

Cynthia T.
C T7 years ago

Thank you, Lorelei.

Bryony Kirkpatrick

I broke up with him. After the funeral. The 'little' wound me up because he was 2 years older than me but so much less mature, but it was the emphasis on girl that really got me. Suddenly i was shocked that I had allowed myself for a year to date someone like that. I felt sorry for the 15 year old me that was so naiive and vowed to be more feminist ever since.

I had one blunder, I met a new guy shortly after all this, a wonderful guy who is still my boyfriend now. We went through a period where he wanted more sex than me. I felt pressurised so gave in. and didn't enjoy it. It was upsetting me more and more but it wasn't until I re-read the first feminist book my mum ever gave me (a non-fiction for tweens) that I suddenly woke up n smelled the coffee. I spoke with my boyfriend about it and he was surprised I'd felt that pressurised. He understands now and doesn't moan. We only have sex when we both want it. He also respects me in all the right ways and that's great :)

Bryony Kirkpatrick

my breats - laughing and joking about how big they were - with our friends even when i asked him not too!

To top it off, it was about a couple of weeks later when it was our friend's funeral. She had been missing for two weeks and when found was found to have comitted suicide. On the way to the funeral he and another male friend had a fight about driving. When we got there, the boyfriend proceeded to fight with this friend, going to punch him. Little, upset, 16 year old me begged him to leave it 'Just for today, just for Rose's sake, not today'. He turned to me and yelled "F off! You're a girl! You're just a little GIRL, you don't understand! This is between two guys!"

Bryony Kirkpatrick

When did it happen to me...?
I can remember a few arguements with boys when I was small, over what girls women could and couldn't do. But I guess it really started in college. I got in early, at 15, because I'd left school to be homeschooled for the last 3 years of my secondary education and had enrolled myself on 5 GCSE courses and got em. I was doing well yet boy friends would always point gender out to me. Even though they knew I was intelligent they would undermine whatever I would say, my thoughts, views and opinions. They would act like they knew more than me, even about things that I actually DID know more about and raise their voices, deepening them, acting all wise. They would mock me. They would give me a hard time for having short hair. If I ever expressed any remotely feminist views, they would call me 'up-tight', think of me as a 'prude' and even girls as well considered me some kind of un-cool 'geek'.

That all sucked quite a bit, and even now at 19 i get that judgement of me for not always conforming and for being a strong woman with my own views and the will to voice them. I just don't care quite as much (about making enemies or getting upset) but it still annoys the hell out of me. What really got me going, though, was when I was at college and my boyfriend at the time - who I was already getting tired of for being bossy, having cnstant double standards and thinking I should be at his beck-and-call - thought it was perfectly ok to talk about my

Reid B.
phil r7 years ago

I am an ardent supporter of ERA and women's rights. It is essential that we model equality for women and their right to be whomever, and whatever they wish to be. They are easily capable of being either. Women have a different perspective from men and both are necessary to make the world complete.
I counseled males and females in high school for 20 years till I retired. I supported both, but went out of my way to make sure that females got the encouragement and support they needed to be successful.

Kisha G.
Kisha G.7 years ago

I gradually became a feminist through my experience of growing up in a traditional household - father breadwinner, mother housewife. I was given house chores whilst my brother was excluded from such 'girl jobs'. The feminist inside was further strengthened after a number of incidences of sexual assault - I began to despise men and their power. I began to see that they had control in not only the domestic sphere, but also in the public sphere as well. When I joined the military for a few years (it was more than enough), I would have sexual rumours spread about me (and noone would believe the female's side of course) and I would be looked at like a piece of meat. Nothing I said would be taken seriously. Due to having found a boyfriend in recent years, my father would look at me like I was tainted, like a dirty rat - my independence was too much. So to this day, I am a passionate feminist - one that has directly experienced the whip of patriarchy.

Lorelai Ross
Lorelai Ross7 years ago

And Cynthia is right, sometimes in a social setting like a workplace, women can be our own worst enemies. For some reason the competitiveness changes it from a 'sisters are in this together' mindset to a 'back off my territory, I am the alpha' mindset. Sad and sometimes hideous but true.

Lorelai Ross
Lorelai Ross7 years ago

I've been a 'feminist' since I was very small and my mother took me to marches to ratify the ERA. Here's a funny story, though. My mother, who was a PE coach and very self possessed, even being the State President of the teacher's association in the late 60's, would not let me have 'boy toys'. she simply didn't see why I would want them, so every time I asked she told me no. I had the worst yen for hot wheels cars and track. I got Barbie. I always had access to all the books I ever desired, though, and was encouraged to study anything I was interested in. Most but not of my teachers were supportive of any student who wanted to excell, no matter gender or race.

I think of myself not so much as a feminist, but as a Proponent of Equality. To me, it is all connected. We will only be free to live the same as men in all aspects of our lives, when others such as minorities and LGBTs are also accorded that same equality. When one group still struggles, we all do. I don't think it is so much about men vs. women anymore, and in fact, some of the strongest equality supporters I know are heterosexual men. I think it has become more about the haves vs. the have nots, and the character of the debate is changing over time. I am, however, incredibly disappointed that the ERA, which I marched for as an 8 year old, is still not passed, and I am now 45. Now they say 'we don't need it'. The hell we don't.