Thursday, August 20, 2015

From "The Women's Movement" by Joan Didion (1972)

In 1972, in a "special issue" on women, Time was still musing genially that the [women's] movement might well succeed in bringing about "fewer diapers and more Dante."

That was a very pretty image, the idle ladies sitting in the gazebo and murmuring lasciate ogni speranza, but it depended entirely on the popular view of the movement as some kind of collective yearning for "fulfillment," or "self-expression," a yearning absolutely devoid of ideas and capable of engendering only the most pro forma benevolent interest. . . .

[Women] were being heard, and yet not really. Attention was finally being paid, and yet that attention was mired in the trivial. Even the brightest movement women found themselves engaged in sullen public colloquies about the inequities of dishwashing and the intolerable humiliations of being observed by construction workers on Sixth Avenue. . . . They totted up the pans scoured, the towels picked off the bathroom floor, the loads of laundry done in a lifetime. Cooking a meal could only be "dogwork," and to claim any pleasure from it was evidence of craven acquiescence in one's own forced labor. Small children could only be odious mechanisms for the spilling and digesting of food, for robbing women of their "freedom."


In 1972 I was eight years old: "an odious mechanism for the spilling and digesting of food." It is so strange to think of myself as both specific cause of the problem and specific inheritor of the problem.

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