Loribeth and Esperanza had both mentioned they enjoyed Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, and as we’ve begun the painstaking preparation for a family camping trip next month (WHY so much gear? Why so expensive?) we visited an REI store where I finally bought the book.
Wild is about a young woman’s quest to redeem herself and take back her life after a difficult young adulthood filled with injustice and tragedy. Like Pam Houston before her (one of my favorite writers), Strayed takes to the outdoors in an effort to save herself, and undertakes hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo. She quickly finds she is unprepared for the physical, gear and mental rigors this endeavor requires, but through sheer will and stubborness she always continues on, often by just counting her footfalls and channeling some strong inner resource that most of us would lack.
It is an inspiring and emotional book. A few things stood out to me:
1. Her forthright feminism, something that seems, unfortunately, out of style today. Can it be that the 90s (when the journey takes place) were something of a golden age of feminism?
2. An Adrienne Rich poem called “Power” which influences Cheryl’s quest. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Rich or poetry (that’s my mom’s domain), but I did look up “Power”, which is ambiguous.
Living in the earth-deposits of our history
Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.
Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil
She died a famous woman denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.
I think Rich is using Marie Curie as an example of a woman who was both the architect and the undoing of her own power. I think Rich is saying when women deny our power, it is both foolish and fatal.
While the 90s might have been a “golden age” of feminism, the beginning of the long climb to women becoming increasingly more educated and closing the gap of salary disparity, I’m not seeing very many hopeful signs today. The word feminist seems to be a dirty word, there seems to be all sorts of backlash and slut shaming and increasing “man-splaining” demeaning women who speak up and are thought to be prudish for not enjoying rape-y songs like “Blurred Lines.”
I really think this sentence from Mel’s post today about Robin Thicke could explain not just this song and its popularity but an overall public sentiment that is scaring me.
“The New York Times review of the song wrote: ‘He has the look of a man finally coming into the privilege he was sure was his all along.'”
Have you ever read Sarah Bunting’s essay on what it is to be a feminist?
Chery Strayed and “Blurred Lines” and Adrienne Rich…all of this is what I think about when I worry about my daughter’s future and whether women will be better off in the future or worse off.
I worry it will be the later.
What do you think? Have we seen the end of the golden age of feminism? Or do you think things will get better? Or do you not think feminism is a good thing for women?