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Senior Momentum - February 2017 - Zoë Tummillo


Feminism Revisited  (Oh, good grief...)


by Zoe Tummillo

Watching the evening news (on three channels that I use to average things out and apply filters), suddenly, right in front of my eyes was a self-defined, female “millennial!” At first glance, she seemed the embodiment of everything I, and a large group of now old bags, fought tooth and nail for in the 60’s and 70’s! Self confident, in-your-face motivated, unabashedly outspoken... 

Yet, when the interviewer asked her how she feels about the term “feminist,” the lovely young woman just about came apart at the seams! She was aghast (complete with nearly fetal position body language) and declared she hates the term and would never want to be considered a feminist. YUK.

The interview went on from there, exploring just what feminism means -- to her, historically, in terms of impacts on women’s choices, lives and potential, in the workplace, in intimate relationships, concerning women’s rights over their own bodies... the whole litany... blah, blah, blah.

It was amazing how starkly disconnected the young woman was from any authentic sense of where the term came from, how it related to the empowerment she enjoys as a woman – let alone who had fought for her “emancipation!” She looked very uncomfortable with the subject, and it became apparent through the dialog, that feminists to her are simply man-haters!

Well, in her very young and uninformed consciousness, why would she even be curious? She’s never been a woman in times before much that she simply takes for granted was either socially forbidden, got you ostracized, got you labeled uppity, was illegal or just proved you must be a Lesbian! (Horrors – not that!

Along with the huge mistake of not teaching our children Civics (in many schools), the more I notice our educational profiles, the more I see that our young women aren’t learning our women’s history. Damn...still work to do...

Years ago, while teaching a Women’s History course and workshop in Vancouver, Washington’s Clark College, I had two very telling experiences. One was watching the lengths to which many rural women had to go in order to attend such classes. The other was the rank prejudice that existed among the radical feminists – the ones who gave a bad name to all of us, leading many men to view us as home-wreckers and man-haters.

In that first example, many of those particular rural women were married to ranchers or farmers. Many of their husbands did not want us messing with the minds of their wives or daughters with our ideas about “empowering” women to grow, evolve, seek higher education; i.e., think for themselves and choose to expand their potential. One very angry farmer stormed my class one evening, a hammer in his hand, and literally dragged his wife out the door yelling about what was going to happen when he got her home...

In the second example, I was invited to speak at a big women’s rights meeting held in Portland, sponsored by an organization at the movement’s forefront (and which will remain nameless). I was asked to bring guests for a reserved area. I let them know my list, mixed gender, which included my four children, two and two. No, no, no, they replied! The event was for women only. OOPS!

 Wait a minute, I have sons, and they have a father and uncles and grandpas! This liberation stuff is not just about women! Isn’t it about time men also had some relief from their gender-specific leg irons? My talk addresses both genders! I don’t remember who got to whom first, but they cancelled me and I cancelled them. 

So, nameless-young-woman-millennial: It was and is so very much more than simply that minority who (yes) maybe just hate men! Do your homework and for heaven’s sake, do it before you have a daughter!

(I’m getting too old for this...)