did I really gain from the women’s movement?

"A Cup of Tea" Lilla Cabot Perry (United States, Massachusetts, Boston, 1848-1933), http://www.lacma.org

“A Cup of Tea” Lilla Cabot Perry (United States, Massachusetts, Boston, 1848-1933), http://www.lacma.org

Reading Octavia by Beryl Kingston and of her adventures in the 1920s, I wonder why on earth Dalton schools, with their high success rate of producing happy, intelligent students, aren’t the norm. Renown for taking the brutality out of formal education, and stimulating young girls into taking both joy and responsibility for their own learning, I’m envious. Why couldn’t I have gone to one? And while we’re at it, why is it that one hundred years after Octavia’s adventures, I, alongside millions, billions of other women, must still fight for equal wages for work of equal value, and for comparable promotion opportunities? And now, heading towards retirement (I hope), most of all, I wonder if joining the workforce in the first place was really such a hot idea.

After 40 years spent being jarred awake to an alarm propelling me into an adrenaline-charged day five times a week, I long for my own time. I envy the person, male or female, who has been able to support themselves and their families while doing what they loved in the manner which they love. After being brutalized by long, angry commutes by bus, subway, and automobile, penned up in desks, cubicles and offices and subjected to terrors of deadlines, bosses and evaluations, I really wonder. What have I personally gained from the women’s movement? Food and shelter, yes, but what about personal creativity and expression? What about the music and writing I could have given the world if my basic needs were met by some manly protector, and I could have indulged in the creativity of my choice from the comfort of my own home?

Even as I think this, I feel my outrage rising. Be subject to a manly protector? I don’t think so. I’m responsible for me, not some other, no matter how well-meaning. My fantasy starts crumbling away as I picture what my home relationships might have looked like, had I not engaged with the world and learned about myself from how I interacted with others. I’m actually panicky and a little short of breath from just imagining being caged, day in and day out, by someone else’s house rules.

But what’s the difference? Rules of the father/husband or rules of the employer? I dream of financial independence from winning a lottery, but even there, a niggling doubt suggests there might be bankers, tax collectors and social obligations with restrictions of their own.

So where am I? Still needing to find time for myself, to obtain the basics of life, and to communicate with others. Still searching for the best ways to live a meaningful, creative life on Planet Earth.

It somehow seemed so much simpler for Octavia.

#feminism #workplace #equal wages #wage slave #retirement dreams


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