Every weekday morning I open the doors to my children’s rooms and look in on them before I wake them up for school. Each of these occasions, when I find them asleep in their beds, is accompanied by a brief experience of awe. What amazing children I have been blessed with. They dream the dreams of human beings in the process of becoming realized. Their future already half determined through history and genetics (though not by age) how could I even be able to affect the results of who they will turn out to be? Am I doing it right?
A single mother at 25, this is not what I had in mind and, yet, so much richer a life than I had ever imagined. The responsibilities seem impossible, the independence laden with angst, yet, here I am, doing just that. Providing for my family and pursuing my music and writing, my passions. Physically, emotionally and financially the situation can seem a sometimes toxic and sometimes intoxicating combination. Lifting me out of myself and bringing me back to earth between the visions of who I am and the reality I am faced with. Can I embody both my creative passions and my idealist image of myself and my family? Can the two coexist?
I can’t pretend that these moments of simultaneous wonder and anxiety are any longer than a few seconds. There is rarely any time to soak it in, but they are like apparitions that reassert themselves routinely. However beautiful or misshapen I might imagine my life to be; the reality is that this is what I live for: the idea of it.
The Essence of Feminism
The imagination of who we are, who we want to be, and what we have to offer the world fuels the construction of our lives, and this idea, for me, is the stunning and inexorable center of feminism. It’s revolutionary in the most basic sense.
The need to create and recreate ourselves and our environment, the need to assert our positions and overcome our oppressors (beings or notions) are the familiar whispers of our mothers’ generation and their mothers’ generations. It is our internal voice and it is the age old influence of revolution.
As the philosopher Kropotkin put it:
“The history of human thought recalls the swinging of a pendulum which takes centuries to swing. After a long period of slumber comes a moment of awakening. Then thought frees herself from the chains with which those interested — rulers, lawyers, clerics — have carefully enwound her. She shatters the chains. She subjects to severe criticism all that has been taught her, and lays bare the emptiness of the religious political, legal, and social prejudices amid which she has vegetated. She starts research in new paths, enriches our knowledge with new discoveries, creates new sciences.”1
It is a beautiful concept: thought being both feminine and revolutionary, creation and destruction not being mutually exclusive, a conceptual death and rebirth of ideas.
He also offers us, revolutionaries, a stern warning regarding these thoughts:
“If on the morrow of the revolution, the masses of the people have only phrases at their service, if they do not recognize, by clear and blinding facts, that the situation has been transformed to their advantage, if the overthrow ends only in a change of persons and forumlae, nothing will have been achieved. … In order that the revolution should be something more than a word, in order that the reaction should not lead us back tomorrow to the situation of yesterday, the conquest of today must be worth the trouble of defending; the poor of yesterday must not be the poor today.”2
We must be careful to be precise and thorough in the project of revolutions if we can ever hope to transform the current situation into a prosperous one.
As a Russian anarchist philosopher, Kropotkin spent a great deal of speaking against authoritarian socialism. When the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution in Russia, he said, “This buries the Revolution.”3 Meaning that authoritarianism is an unnecessary impediment to progressive ideas. The Bolsheviks eventually became lead by Stalin.
The Woman’s Revolution
Before the October Revolution, as the result of a mismatch between jobs (abolition of serfdom) and economic growth (beginning of the era of industrialization), the population’s needs – in an industrialized nation this means jobs / social welfare programs – were not being met by the policies of the government that had supported the economic growth in the first place. Industry was not meeting these needs either.
We have such dramatic economic issues at hand: A persistent 9% official unemployment rate, and a 22% real unemployment rate, points directly to millions of people struggling to get by. As our friends and family lose their jobs, cost of living is rising and wages are falling. Workers rights protests abound. US companies have been running on speculation and credit so long (i.e., Wall Street investments and fractional reserve banking) that the economic recovery can no longer rely on free-market theories to provide the solutions. As this is what created the problem in the first place it would be disingenuous to replace the problem with more of the problem. Government resources are limited. Capitalists’ resources are limited. We have grown beyond our immediate environment’s capacity. It’s as if the sky is falling.
At this point in history it seems that restructuring is inevitable. Where is our voice in all this?
With a progressive movement that has of late seems fractured by what Susan Faludi called Feminisms ritual matricide, how do we evolve the Women’s Revolution without allowing it to destroy itself? Our ideas seem fractured and opportune, unorganized and confused. Everyone has an angle to work and so in-fighting begins. This is the common hallmark of the beginning of the end for revolutionaries.
Radical Feminized Thoughts
Now is the time to focus our maternal intellectual powers of creativity, our radical feminized thoughts, on building a more inclusive environment that lifts up collectively but does not exclude individual experience. How do we reconcile our differences?
As women where do we stand when there’s conflict, if not the center? Mediating, teaching, guiding; it’s a calling that is innate in our characters. My daughter and I both have strong personalities, and so do my mother… and her mother… and her mother before her. When I find myself in center of these clashes, I am reminded by the slight whisper of my mothers, that it is all a matter of perspective:
When we personalize another person’s perspective we are inviting unnecessary hardship.
This is where my mother and I always end up, this is where we begin to reconcile and listen and try to understand. We must acknowledge fully both our successes and our successors in order to achieve harmony.
I grew up going to ‘take your daughter to work day’ at the various non-profit organizations that my mother worked at and saw AmeriCorps volunteers celebrated, a museum opened, and even once met and spoke to the Queen of Jordan. I was too young to understand the full importance of these events, but they stand out in my mind as hallmarks of being raised among the progressive circle of women that always seem to be present in my mother’s life. She once described to me dinners at her own mothers house that were regularly filled with friends and family, musicians and artists and everyday people of every variety. It seems to stand out that these women have been mentors of their communities and in turn their communities have mentored them.
I don’t’ remember conversations about revolution or feminism, these were markedly absent from my youth, yet, their experiences, attitudes and perspectives have somehow bled through the generations, one by one. Even my great grandmother’s memoir points to a life lived from the feminist perspective. I am in awe of this evolution of practice and I wonder what my daughter’s experience will teach me. I wonder what my son will teach me. And I wonder what they will learn from me. Often times it is our actions that speak so much louder than our words, and I am full of words.
1: Anarchist Morality, Kropotkin,1890: http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/AM/anarchist_morality.html
2. As attributed to Kropotkin by George Woodcock in Anarchism : A History Of Libertarian Ideas And Movements: The Spirit of Revolt, 1880 (first appeared in (Le Révolté): http://http://libcom.org/files/Woodcock,%20George%20-%20Anarchism,%20A%20History%20Of%20Libertarian%20Ideas%20And%20Movements.PDF (page 135 in PDF, noted as pg 200 in text)
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