Dear Young Feminist Activists

[penny]I am an old, experienced, white, lesbian (formally heterosexual) feminist activist, scholar, and teacher. I speak to you with the knowledge that what came before me is crucial to being who I am now. With that core understanding, I offer you some of who I am in order for you to know some of what came before you.
None of what I experienced as a young woman will have much relevance to you today. I experienced it in an entirely different context, although the structure of women’s lives today is almost exactly like the structure when I was young. (I am 65-years-old).
Yesterday and today we work hard as feminists on such issues as pay equity, safety from violence perpetrated by men against women, women’s bodily integrity and choice, equal access to employment and educational opportunities, equitable political representation and a chance for self-fulfillment. We work globally, nationally, locally and personally.
Our hard work moves us forward, sometimes in many of these arenas at once. But, I also see us moving backwards. We must not forget that we still all live within the confines of patriarchy in which our lives as women are always, always, always subordinate to men’s lives. Our values, principals, hopes, desires, and dreams, economically, politically, personally and spiritually are structured in such a way that men have more power than women.
As a class, all women – no matter how powerful, or her race, class, sexuality, age, ability, location, strengths or weaknesses – she is of a subordinate class and is subject to the will, values and desires of the dominate gender class: men.
How droll, how old fashioned you might be saying I am. I implore you; you are our today as well as our tomorrow. Please act as if what I am saying is valid, if not exactly in your lives right now, but in women’s lives generally and at some time in your life particularly.
Engage in your own scholarship, to take this essence of a broad body of knowledge and practice, and dig deep within it. Go to the very best thinkers of feminism, study them rigorously, critique them and add you own best thinking. Practice feminism at every turn, critically assessing in all situations, who benefits and at what cost to whom? Be active, lead, and change the world – after all, our lives depend upon it.

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