by Mia Kirsh
The good thing about an officially sanctioned "Women's History Month" or "Black History Month" is that it does cause us to focus once a year on what progress or lack thereof we have made in these areas. The Prism has gathered eclectic women's voices into its March issue for a few years now, and this year's selection is no less diverse. Women's issues do cover a wide range of subjects work, sexuality, family, cultural bias, etc. This issue represents some views from local women on various subects that may help us think further about our progress in the 90s.
For some perspective, first try taking the Women's History Month quiz and see how much you know about women who have made a difference in the past 150 years. I'll admit, I didn't know all the answers. Now, check out the chronology of benchmarks in women's slow progress toward equal rights.
Much has been written and said about how far we have come since the "feminist revolution" in the 1960s. Certainly, mainstream society has slowly changed its outward stance toward women, allowing "Ms." official status alongside "Mrs." and "Miss." But I fear that a lot of the changes are fragile because fundamental beliefs about women haven't really changed much beneath the cosmetic legal and linguistic adaptations. Just tap on the glass ceiling, as Miriam Sander did (see "Political" Science on page 1), and you'll see that for some, it just won't give. Look at all the human talent and creativity our society is being deprived of when it holds back some of its members because of gender (race, or any other characteristic).
Jane Stein's words remind us to think of women beyond our borders, who struggle still for rights we have already attained. The words of several of these women help us understand the less "newsworthy" events in the lives of ordinary women in different cultures. Her writing raises interesting questions. How does one begin resistance to deeply entrenched societal values? And what is unique about a "feminine" approach to resistance?
Although some things have changed for the better in the US, I maintain that many fundamental aspects of being a woman are still strongly influenced by the dark ages. Breaking out of that is not easy. A new vision is needed of what a modern woman should be. The old militant, man-hating feminist is not going to wash as a role model. The newer idea of the "super mom/career-woman" isn't my ideal either. I just don't have that kind of energy, and to me it is just as unattainable to most of us as Barbie's 12-inch waistline. We need to re-think a better role model one which brings us true equality and acknowledges the uniqueness and strengths of our gender as well as our humanity. That is what I'd like my daughter to aspire to. I hope we can develop that role model before it is too late for this new generation of girls-now-growing-up. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done.
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