current affairs, feminism, girl talk, philosophy, quotes

what does a woman need to know?

“For no woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness. When we allow ourselves to believe we are, we lose touch with parts of ourselves defined as unacceptable by that consciousness; with the vital toughness and visionary strength of the angry grandmothers, the shamanesses, the fierce market women of the Ibo Women’s War, the marriage-resting women of silk workers of prerevolutionary China, the millions of widows, midwives, and women healers tortured and burned as witches for three centuries in Europe, the Beguines of the twelfth century, who formed independent women’s orders outside the domination of the Church, the women of the Paris Commune who marched on Versailles, the uneducated housewives of the Women’s Cooperative Guild in England who memorized poetry over the washtub and organized against their oppression as mothers, the women thinkers discredited as “strident,” “shrill,” “crazy,” or “deviant” whose courage to be heretical, to speak their truths, we so badly need to draw upon in our own lives. I believe that every woman’s soul is haunted by the spirits of earlier women who fought for their unmet needs and those of their children and their tribes and their peoples, who refused to accept the prescriptions of a male church and state, who took risks and resisted, as women today — like Inez Garcia, Yvonne Wanrow, Joan Little, Cassandra Peten — are fighting their rapists and batterers. Those spirits dwell in us, trying to speak to us. But we can choose to be deaf; and tokenism, the myth of the “special” woman, the unmothered Athena sprung from her father’s brow, can deafen us to their voices.”

— From Adrienne Rich’s 1979 Commencement address, “What Does a Woman Need to Know?” at Smith College

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P.S.: I highly recommend Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves. It’s a refreshing take on femininity/being a woman that empowers in a way that contemporary feminism doesn’t.