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The Raspberry Umbrella

“But under the umbrella, in the raspberry universe, they were immortal. What did it matter that in another far-away universe people would be killing each other?” (Yevgeny Zamyatin )

I read my sister’s stories of struggle and courage and I am humbled. Humbled and left to question whether or not I have a right to call my own frustrations ‘challenges’, whether or not my desire to raise awareness and act for women’s rights, not just in the world, but in my own advantaged community... is a valid one.

And I am brought back to the image of a shiny pink American universe in which our happy umbrella both insulates us from others’ unpleasant stories and allows us to be complacent in our own.

We are a nation born out of rebellion and revolution, yet those same terms are met with suspicion today. Americans have reached a point where we feel we have fought the worthy fights (religious and political oppression, racism, sexism...) and we should now be able to rest, satisfied with our hard-earned wins.

Anything else, any suggestion that those wins may not be complete, is met with resentment and even outrage. And thus, women who identify as feminist in America are often accused of extremism and alarmism. Why “women are thriving while men struggle,” read a national newspaper just a year ago, “their wages are now 82% that of American men in the recession”!

?? What ?? Even our apparent wins for gender equity are mere illusions. And, in our efforts to maintain those illusions, in our desire to remain comfortable at any cost, we, American women and men, pretend that oppression and inequity only exist in small pockets in far-out worlds that do not affect us.

This is the challenge in doing any anti-oppression work in America today. We have achieved a precarious situation in which things, at least the concrete measurable things, appear to be balanced. And so the work that is left is of a more abstract nature. We now need to effect more than legislative and policy changes; we need to effect long-term personal changes, both cognitive and behavioral.

The only solution that I can see to this state of chosen ignorance is for us to end our self-imposed isolation. We must be willing to recognize that whether it is our neighbor or a woman across the world who is being oppressed, whose mind or spirit or body is being slain, our entire sisterhood - our humanhood - is harmed.

Just this summer I determined to found an on-line community that would allow the many women doing amazing work within my state to connect and support each other in a collective manner. In researching how to best accomplish this mission I found WorldPulse, the global example of what I hope to see regionally. It is only through the sharing of our voices and the supporting of our deeds that the umbrella will be put away, and we will eat raspberries together!!


Monica Clarke's picture

The Raspberry Universe

What a nice concept, Marissa and how well put. Each one of us sits under our little umbrella and sees only within its sphere, shaded from our immediate surroundings, from the rest of our community, from the world. It is a comfortable place. Some of us step outside of the little shade of our umbrellas and you certainly have. I have an aerial vision of little umbrellas like mushrooms in the fields of LaFayette, with your one being the only one in red, in the front, leading the women across the fields as does an army of locusts, into the UN to tell them what for! I love you.

I like your habit of reading dictionaries - I find that quite hilarious! I struggle with French, which still sounds like a song with lovely, flowing music but of which the lyrics are more often than not lost on me, and I think of you, and reach for the dictionary, and start swallowing the words. Alas, I have not gone beyond Ab.....but one day, who knows?

I love you.

From an admirer in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

fem4femmes's picture

Touched my Heart...


Your comments and your presence have become embeded in my heart! I so look forward to seeing your name and your picture alongside mine!

I laughed at your description as I am, myself, the carrier of a bright umbrella with Monet's Red Poppies covering it! I love to see it on rainy occasions in the normal sea of black ones!! And I will carry it right up to the UN with women such as you beside me!

I always find all language to be lovely and, in its own way melodic, like different musical genres... However, once you understand it better and it is more easily divided into parcels, even French loses a little of its mystery! - Especially, in its cynicism and fatalism!! I imagine you changing that, with your powerful presence, teaching those fatalistic French that there is hope and there is light and that we, women, can make this a better world, especially when we are willing to embrace those outside of our little spheres!!

I treasure you and your love and hold you tight in my heart!!


"I am the flicker, flame, butterfly ablaze who wants to fly in search of mythical rainbows beyond the rain." ~ Ana Castillo

susa's picture

Raspberry Kool-Aid

Hi. I really appreciate your description of the self-congratulatory bubble of complacency in which many Americans live. I once read an essay to the effect that a combination of American Pollyanna optimism, an All About Me narcissism and really effective Proud To Be An American propaganda have blinded us to the stark realities of life for many Americans. It's a cliche - but an apt one - that we have drunk the Kool-Aid. And per your essay, perhaps it is raspberry.

This sentence in your essay was really powerful for me: "We must be willing to recognize that whether it is our neighbor or a woman across the world who is being oppressed, whose mind or spirit or body is being slain, our entire sisterhood - our humanhood - is harmed." I feel we've lost so much of this attitude in our highly individualistic society and really appreciate your efforts to take action to counter this. I'd like to know more about the on-line community you've started and how to become a part of it.

Thank you for the important work you are doing!


Adepeju's picture

Hey dear friend

I had to hunt down this post! In my few weeks of joing world pulse you've been an absolutely great friend. You taught me to call my challenges possibilities...I liked that you stepped out of your umbrella to stand in the rain with me! Yahyyyy my friend is doing me proud! :-)

Noriah Ismail's picture

Interesting Concept

Like you said, we need to share our experiences and solution to life challenges.

So we have to learn from each other by sharing our voice with the world!

Good post! .

Dr.Noriah Ismail
Senior Lecturer
Academy of Language Studies
UiTM Segamat Johor

amiesissoho's picture

Recognizing the other

Recognizing the struggles of others is what makes us want change in all context. it is not only about economic power but imaging when you are in situation where you cannot simply say I am feeling the pain of oppression! Thinking of others is what makes us human.


Tait's picture


Things are not always what is perceived to be.. I'm glad that you wrote this post. As women we have to continually fight fight fight for our rights and then fight some more for our global sisters!!! A few weeks ago my mother and I were having a conversation about how women are always put in hard situations and how we always have to find a way to rise above it no matter what. Continue to write... you pulled me in and I Thank you for that.


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