Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Doors that our generation opened"

I recently heard an interview with Carol Hanisch, an organizer of the feminist protest at the 1968 Miss America convention, and Debra Barnes Snodgrass, the former Miss American herself, whose farewell speech was interrupted with shouts of “'women's liberation!” and “No more Miss America!”

To this day, Hanisch (the protester) is a bit uncomfortable with the rudeness of her protest. She quipped, “We wanted Miss America to come and join us.” When the interviewer told Snodgrass (Miss America) about the hypothetical invitation, she laughed, “I would never have joined with that at all.”

What she said next is what I love. Forty years later, Snodgrass has a wider perspective: “I see that I have reaped so many of the benefits of what they were trying to say… I can get a charge card myself. I don't have to have a husband sign for that.” Did you hear that, ladies? Getting your own charge card—have you ever stopped to realize that something as simple as that is a benefit you enjoy largely because of the activism of yesterday’s feminists? Hanisch concluded, “Young women have come through the doors that our generation opened.”

My peers take for granted that they can graduate from college, get a job, be mothers, run their own finances, speak their minds, hold political office, and even expect their husbands to change diapers and participate in childcare. And maybe it’s right that those things should be taken for granted. Of course they should be that way, and more. Women should have more of a voice. Forty-year-old women shouldn’t be Hollywood has-beens while men their age star in yet another leading role. Men should be more comfortable with women leaders. Strong, energetic, opinionated women shouldn’t be laughingstocks. Women shouldn’t have to spend their lives finessing and tiptoeing to avoid being labeled as bi!ches.

It’s that sneaky, hard-to-pin-down sexism that labels feminists as freaks and that makes us—today’s women whose lives rest on the hard-won accomplishments of feminists—roll our eyes at the very women who gave us these benefits. Don’t forget ladies, you’re walking through doors feminists opened for you.

For the npr story on the protest, go here.


  1. So true - we do take so much for granted.
    I was just thinking about doing a post about feminism too. Except mine comes from a very different place. I'm gonna leave a long comment here so that I can avoid a rant on my blog.
    I just saw the movie "The Women" and was horrified. Plot line: Women finds out hubby is cheating on her. Women leaves hubby and goes into depression, emotionally abandoning her daughter in the process. Women comes out of depression, but continues to ignore daughter, and starts her own business. After the business is successful, Women says to husband "you can come back now if you want but only if you can deal with me as I am now". Daugher is so proud of Mom that they are not best buddies.
    It was so wrong. And yet the feminist part of me wanted to agree with it. And the Mormon part of me was totally disgusted with how good things like feminism can be turned into bad things when you take them too far. It's great she started her own business - it's horrid that she did it at the expense of her daughter. It's great she figured out how to be happy in life - but her mode of getting there was all wrong.
    In the end I was just totally disgusted with the movie and wanted to go home and either sit around and do nothing in protest of women needing to work and at the same time clean the whole house and wake up the next day in a perfectly ironed dress with coordinating apron - the picture of pre-feminism.
    Ugh. I'm still all confused by it. Darn world for confusing simple things!
    (Sorry for the blog high-jack.)

  2. Daughter and Mom are "noW best buddies" not "noT".

  3. I'm very proud of my feminists. You go girls!

  4. Why thank you Daddy!

    Nancy, rant any time. Too bad you wasted good movie time on a dud! Don't you feel kind of condescended to by all those movies that tell women "just follow your heart."