Tag Archives: Feminism

Cheryl Strayed, Toughness and What is Feminism Now?


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
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?



Filed under Parenting After IF, What Say You?

Day 24: Books, Feminism and Princesses, Oh My

Edited to Add: Obviously I don’t blame men, but wonder about the societal norms and pressure put on young men to party, have fun and settle down much, much later (late twenties/early thirties). I asked my husband tonight why he wanted to wait so long before we had kids and he said, “Because I thought that was the way things were supposed be done.” I also asked if he regretted not starting earlier and he said yes.

Both my kids are sick, and I haven’t slept in about 48 hours which probably explains why I am willing to tackle such weighty topics. Blaaaame the sleep sleep sleep deprivation.

Peggy Orenstein wrote a fantastic memoir about her experience dealing with infertility called “Waiting for Daisy”. It was the only good read I found out there that spoke to me when I was enduring the crappy turbulence of IVF. (I did NOT enjoy “A Few Good Eggs” and Melissa Ford’s book “Navigating the Land of IF”  had not come out yet.)

She just published a new book called “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” that I am eager to read for a few reasons. I have an aversion to the whole Disney princess thing, mostly because I’m afraid the movies have one main underlying message to women: being beautiful is all that matters. Yet my daughter is drawn to all things girly and pink and she calls herself a princess. (I have never even uttered that word ALOUD since she has been born.) I have been trying to channel these urges into books like Madeline and even Fancy Nancy. Anything but Sleeping Beauty. I’d like to try to raise her to be a strong, assertive, responsible and kind woman, not a princess. Obviously feminism plays into these goals.

I consider myself a feminist. I worked many years in a demanding job, and I certainly believe in equal pay for equal work. Yet the truth is our best years of fertility are in our 20s. This is why Runny Yolk’s essay caught my eye: she blames feminism as she struggles with her own infertility. It’s a compelling read.

You know what? I blame MEN. Why are all guys such commitment-phobic, fancy-free, don’t-tie-me-down JERKS in their 20s? Or, ahem, the ones, you know, I met during that time. Even Darcy, my husband, that paragon of men, put off our own family-building for four years until he was ready.

I think a re-education of men is called for. Let’s stop targeting women with these scare-tastic campaigns about their eggs. The truth is mens’ sperm have more problems as they grow older, too. Who knows this? Not very many men.

What does this have to do with Peggy Orenstein’s book? (And boy, did this end up being a RANT!) Maybe the answer is to encourage my adorable little son to realize that his peak fertility years are in his 20s, and he shouldn’t be a jerk to women, and maybe even he should start searching for “the one” in his early twenties. Maybe he’ll tell his friends and then my daughter will meet a wonderful man in her twenties. I’m also going to try to teach him to value more than physical appearance when it comes to choosing his mate.

Imagining my son as a thoughtful, caring husband to a wonderful woman makes me happy. Am I making a nuanced situation too simplistic? Talk to me…


Filed under Discovering joy, ICLW, Infertility