Musings on the beauty of the road trip; by plane, car, boat, bike, foot…

Posts tagged “feminist

A Tribute to the Ladies

Words from two of my favourite female poets in celebration of International Women’s Day, and to remember that in many, many places in the world we still have a lot to be very angry about.

“Responsibility To Yourself”

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you…it means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security; for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind. Responsibility to yourself means that you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions–predigested books and ideas…marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems. It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short…and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be “different”…The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.”             ― Adrienne Rich

“Poem about My Rights”

(click on the title to hear a reading of this poem by the author)

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
words
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
me
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
my self
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and disputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
be-
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
cars
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

– June Jordan, 1980

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Four Things I Know For Sure.

The weeks approaching my 40th birthday (which was last weekend), I did what I usually do about my journeys, I wrote about it. In trying to assemble a list of 40 things I’ve learned about life, it became apparent that a few themes seemed to dominate the paper landscape. So I did what any good teacher did, I organized. So here, friends are some personal conclusions I’ve reached after four decades of life.

1. The state of women in the world has not changed since my early feminist-teen years. I always thought that by the time I got to this age, being a woman would be awesome. That around the world women’s health, economic situations, political power, day-to-day living and general freedoms would no longer be controlled by religion, government or culture. I thought that violence against women would be seen as archaic and the “way things used to be”; that women would all support and encourage each other’s individual choices in life even when they conflicted with their own; that gender specific rhetoric would never cross the mouths of young girls; and that men would have taken up some of the feminist reins and helped create a truly equal world.  Alas, the proliferation of media has shown me that this is not the case, and on some level we may even be worse off in part because of the same said media. I hope that in the next four decades (but hopefully much sooner), these things I hoped for long ago will somehow materialize.

2. Sincerity is a very difficult thing to master and even harder to identify in others. I’m not talking about the inevitable jealousy that sometimes rears its ugly head, I’m talking about reaching a place where you actually mean it; a place where the motivation behind your thoughts and actions is pure and unadulterated desire to do so. The disappointing life lesson has been the realization of others’ insincerity, manifested in family members who allow money to dictate relationships, friends who toss you aside when they no longer need you, and coworkers who pretend with a selfish end-game in mind. But the journey here ends when you reach a point when sincerity is the main motive behind what you say and do. I am here now.

3. The human body will respond to the way it is treated. If you treat it like a garbage disposal for unnatural food, toxic substances, and mental anguish it will respond accordingly with unhealthy manifestations of rage. I think I’ve successfully conquered all of these things, except for the latter; something which I have yet to learn to manage properly. I continue to internalize way too much, and the stress reeks havoc on my well-being as it does with so many other people. I am still working on not “sweating the small stuff”, especially at work, and focusing instead on what really matters because, almost always, it’s not that which I get stressed out about.

4. Experience wins over stuff – every time. I’ve realized over the years that humanity’s obsession with stuff is merely a distraction, a temporary detour on the path to finding real satisfaction.  The most detrimental thing we do to ourselves is waiting (wait for next week, next year, when I get a better job, when I lose 10lbs, etc.).  Life will not wait, and happiness is worth actively seeking. Time and experience will always unfold the same answer: things will never bring you real joy, and one of the most fulfilling experience is love. Real love and partnership is so worth it. It takes time to find, longer to hone, and a lifetime to cherish, but it is the one thing the drives life.

There you have it, me at 40: happier and healthier than I have ever been and that I ever dreamt I would be. Here’s to another 40…