Feminism attracted me–inspired, fed, enriched and absolutely transformed my life–as a nineteen year old girl turning woman. The most influential tenet of this whole liberation movement was “the personal is political.” This changed everything. No longer were my own personal, individual problems, constraints, dictates only my own, but they were also political, public issues. I was encouraged to see this relationship in every part of my life.
At twenty, when in college in Berkeley in the 1970s, I joined at anti-rape collective. I took classes exclusively with feminist teachers, feminist content and feminist perspectives. I devoured novels, essays, anthologies, stories, newspapers, newsletters, position papers by women. I saw the interconnections between sexism and racism, sexism and classism, sexism and capitalism and imperialism, and later sexism and ableism, ageism and heterosexism.
I met with other women in living rooms, kitchens, classrooms, coffeehouses, conferences, offices, self-defense trainings, music festivals, bars, bookstores and beds! I sat down and listened and spoke (meekly at first) and read and wrote and discussed and theorized and collaborated and (sometimes) argued and disagreed, but mostly felt in awe of the beauty, power, presence, rage, sensibility of these women amongst whom I was living and creating and becoming.
I can still feel the chills down my spine sitting on the floor at the introductory meeting of the group I was to become part of for the next few years. Listening to and watching these women before me–how articulate, how forceful, how confident, how cute, how hot! The various levels of interest, attraction, admiration, sensuality, understanding and lust co-mingling into this never-before- experienced sensation. Suddenly everything started to make sense. I was hooked. My politics became integrated with my personal life. I felt part of something–a movement for massive change, larger than just myself.
So my mother’s scorn for the clothes I wore, the way I parted my hair in the center, my unshaven legs and underarms, my backpack, the books I read, my politics, and my perspectives was not mine alone to bear. I girded myself against her rejection, her resentment that I was no longer the daughter she wished me to be. Our estrangement only intensified when I discovered and declared my love for women, not only emotionally and politically but sexually.
We were outlaws, living outside the lines, the margins, and I wasn’t alone. So the pain of losing my mother’s approval, protection, love was softened by this emerging strength and fortitude I now felt.
…the feel of her skin on mine,
our lips touching,
pressing our bodies against each other,
pursuing, yielding, dizzying,
luring me closer and closer. yielding…
As a feminist, I bring this awareness into my life, my writing, my teaching and my work. This underscores the connections I feel with others. And writing is a constant companion, accompanying me on this journey towards myself, new worlds and ways of being. I am forever indebted to this movement of women, these feminists throughout my life, throughout the world, risking all to bring our private, personal lives into the light.