In Response to Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine
A few years ago, I would have responded to the question, “What is your vision for your life?” with a fifteen point plan. I started out behind in life by Western standards, poor and without a nuclear family, and I spent much of my twenties trying to make up for it. I’ve accomplished a lot—by Western standards—earned a Masters degree, and while I do not have a high paying job, it is fulfilling and comes with a certain status. I am proud of what I have done, but these external accomplishments are decreasingly my focus. Today, my answer to the question, “What is your vision for your life?” is much more simple and elusive: To be compassionate. This week’s Voices of Our Future classroom was particularly poignant for me, because it focused on ideas such as courage, support, nurturance, connection, and creativity. Increasingly, my life vision is being guided by these ideals.
When I was an undergraduate activist, I shied away from the self-identified “feminists,” who seemed to advocate a violent womanhood. Of course I believed in making the world a better place; I participated in direct action protests, even landing in jail during the WTO protests in Seattle. My womanhood had nothing to do with that, I thought. In fact, I had to bury that part of myself in order to be strong enough to face a SWAT team. It wasn’t until many years later, in graduate school, that I learned the history of and meaning behind feminism. On the first day of a course entitled Black and Chicana Feminisms, the professor called out, “If you identify yourself as a feminist, please raise your hand.” We were a mixed group of women, undergrads and grad students, white, black, Mexican, and Chicana. One or two women raised their hands. I wasn’t one of them. Somehow, in the U.S. of the 21st century, feminism has moved decades into the past to be perceived as the province of only certain kinds of women. That semester we read the words of many astounding women—Audre Lourde, Gloria Anzaldua, Sojourner Truth, and Cherrie Moraga among them. These women were speaking to the oppressions of women and ethnic minorities, but also to the oppression of all people. A line from my undergraduate days came to mind, “When one person is oppressed, we are all oppressed.” These women were crossing class and racial divides in order to create a better world for all people. They were courageous and compassionate; it was not only their dedication to the cause that defined them, but their willingness to reveal themselves, their stories, and their fears to one another.
Yes, my vision of the world is a feminist one, in the sense that I believe unless we view our problems holistically, unless we consider one another—all people—and the earth as much as we do ourselves, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. The foremothers of women’s rights knew this already. Our strength comes from our love, our desire to make whole, and our ability to accept and honor difference.
Recent years have taught me that the only way to tackle our problems is for each of us to contribute our little bit. I cannot save the world, and when I try, I become so unbalanced I can’t even save myself. So now I take a more holistic approach: I seek to know and care for myself, and to honor and nurture my special gifts so that I have something to contribute. I am a writer and a storyteller. I am also a teacher, which as I see it, is the same thing. My gift is to be a voice for the Stories. As a Voices of the Future correspondent, I would use digital storytelling and new media to create connections among women all over the globe. Being born in America, I have the advantage of freedoms denied to some of my sisters. What I offer is to be your messenger, to tell your stories when you cannot, to reveal your courage and your fear so that the world will know you. Together, we can take back the wisdom of the feminine.