Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ya-Ya Sisterhood

After seeing a photo of Britney Spears this morning, I started to reflect on the women's movement, or what remains of it. The death, two weeks ago, of Betty Friedan, who was widely touted as the founder of feminism, brought me back to the good old days, back in Buffalo, in the 1970's, when sisterhood was powerful. At that time, I lived in a commune, smoked my share of dope, talked the talk, walked the walk, protested another war, in Southeast Asia, and walked out of feminist gatherings saying "You don't get it, men are oppressed, too; we need "human liberation." Somehow, things aren't that black and white anymore; oppression wears many masks.

Now that enough time has passed, we can stand back and take a closer look at what it is that the Ya-Ya Sisterhood has created. We have "Britneys," "Madonnas," "Jens," and even "Paris," but instead of working together, women have seldom been more competitive, and cutthroat than we are now, and all too often confuse autonomy with attitude. Where once we had "macho," we now have Britney Spears, and if we thought macho was a tall order, check out "sister tude." No matter how you slice it, attitude is attitude whether in a skirt, or in a suit and tie.

While, way back then, I thought of myself as "a female misogynst," and bragged about being "about as much a feminist as Arthur Rimbaud," I was unwittingly fanning the flames of what was to be among history's greatest backlashes against women, a backlash which may well result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

It now occurs to me that what we fought for wasn't about feminism, or the war in Vietnam. The issue was then, as it is now, human rights, and the need to speak out against abuse of power. The ideas we had, a generation ago, seem to be frozen in time like a bunch of lonely figures in a wax museum. We, as a culture, are infatuated with what is remote, precious and, most of all, that which most resembles ourselves. Moreover, sadly, we have done to nature what we've done to those we detain, and torture, in foreign lands.

Just as conjugal rape is rape, holding dominion over another human being, or another sovereign state, whether it's female, or male domination, American or Russian domination, we have yet to learn that being assertive, in a progressive way, isn't about showing muscle any more than it's about showing thigh.