15 December 2009


For the next few weeks, while the TOP lecture series takes a vacation, I'll be running a series of stories from people of various parts of the country and of various ages telling us how and when they became feminists. Read our two new stories below!

—Cheryl Suchors

A Gradual Turning to Feminism  I

I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in college and started to realize the emptiness of women's lives, but I think my conversion to feminism has been gradual, reinforced by each brick wall I encounter in the male-dominated world.

First I was relegated to second class status in Oxford, England, identified as "wife of a member of the College" and had to receive special dispensation to play the college pianos. Later, after I had my babies and wanted to go back to job-sharing with my husband, as I had done before, I was told, “Stay home and take care of your children.” Didn’t anyone think they were his children, too?

A real turning point came when my five-year-old daughter announced, "I want to be President when I grow up!" I loved her ambition and naiveté, but I heard myself saying, "That would be great, sweetie. There's never been a woman President before, but it would be great if you became President."

She wondered why no women had been President—and I didn't know what to say. I told her women didn’t get the right to vote until late, that there were very few women in Congress, but the "Why?" really wasn't answered satisfactorily for either of us.

And finally, my good friend Cheryl made me much more aware of the patriarchy infused into our culture at every turning. She introduced me to a women's circle of spirituality that harkened back to the goddess worship of ancient peoples, before religion became so male-centered (God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). I delighted in the ceremonies celebrating the earth and the Sacred Feminine; the circle of supportive women and elemental chanting and sharing really resonated with me.

As a conductor, I work in a very male-dominated profession, and I strive to change people's biases every day. I am trying hard to become the best conductor I can be, so that I can prove that women can be equally effective conductors as men.

Maybe someday we'll have a woman President and more women conductors, too. I definitely hope so!

—Nancy from the West

A Gradual Turning to Feminism  II

I was born in 1950, so my whole teenage experience—which included feminism—took place during the 1960s. I was 13 when the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show. Martin Luther King was shot the day before my 18th birthday. I was a sophomore at Oberlin College in Ohio when the student protestors were shot at Kent State. Kent State students whose friends had died cried into microphones at the mass meeting on the Oberlin campus as we voted to strike.

I was still a teenager when women’s liberation hit my world. Feminism was engulfing the entire school. Oberlin had a program called the Experimental College where students could teach mini-courses. I signed up to take a course in women’s lib. I remember that the teacher was an articulate, persuasive petite strawberry blonde named Katie.

When I first arrived at Oberlin, female students were ironing their hair to look like Mary Travers.

Hear and watch Mary singing - on stage with Mama Cass & Joni Mitchell - performing in Mama Cass television program -1969.

By the time I left college it was okay that I and others had naturally curly hair. I remain grateful for that and the many other ways it has become okay for women to be—a list that, thankfully, keeps getting longer.

—KathyD from Massachusetts

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