From February 2 (Imolc) through March 8 (International Women’s Day), I focused “True Stories Well Told” on the problem of violence against women. I hoped the stories and commentary shared here would affect some people, somewhere.
How did it affect me?
Whenever you open yourself to pursue an interest, you invite change into your life, just like the Imolc ritual in which young women open the door and invite the spirit of Spring in. A change stepped into my life through the door I propped ajar during the “Season of Women.”
I expected my “Season of Women” to take place in words, not action. Yet a few days later there I was, shaking my booty in my home office as I rehearsed the dance steps for the One Billion Rising flashmob, feeling one with my sisters all over the world, joined by YouTube dance clips. A week later, I was dancing at Hilldale Mall. Taking action felt powerful!
But words remain powerful as well. I found myself so drawn by Leigh Hyde’s description of finding Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch in her essay “Who do I kill?” (which capped the “Season of Women” on March 8th) that I got the book from the library. Then I began googling “Women’s Studies Reading Lists,” which led to a visit to my real-world feminist bookstore, Madison’s A Room of One’s Own. There, Gretchen helpfully pointed me toward Gail Collins’ compendium, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. I’ve been gobbling that down, amazed and amused, re-bothered and bewildered as I read about MY life, in the context of these many, many, women’s stories. As I come to its end, I already have Susan Brownmiller’s memoir In Our Time ready to open, and plans to keep googling, shopping (local, independent, feminist), and reading.
It’s exhilarating to feel like a student again–to be taking the Women’s Studies curriculum that didn’t exist when I was in college in the mid 1970s. I don’t want to give this up any time soon.
There’s something else that feels important about this moment in my life.
About a year ago, I took myself on a personal strategic planning retreat. I booked an office for a day at Holy Wisdom Monastery, took all my piles of notes about marketing my personal history business, and gave myself a day to figure out what steps I could take to bring focus and intention to my work.
At the end of the day, I knew two things:
- I want to focus on coaching other people on how to write “true stories well told” about their lives.
- The clients I would most like to help are the women, a little older than myself, who proudly call themselves feminists–women who actively fought to remove barriers against our safe, full, equal participation in any aspect of life we choose.
I came back from the retreat with an action plan. I’ve been carrying it out — for example, offering the contest with Madison Magazine last fall.
I have not yet planned a specific effort to reach those feminist women. But here I am, eleven months later, invited to help A Fund For Women commemorate its 20th anniversary. And what is the charge they bring me? Answer the question: What do young women of today need to know about the women on whose shoulders they stand?
The answer is all there in Gail Collins’ book. All I need to do is localize it.
And so I announce a new intention: an inquiry into the evolution of the women’s movement in Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1970s.
This is an open call. If you have a story to tell about Madison, Feminism, and that decade, BRING IT ON, SISTERS.