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!!