On the corner of my large writing desk, I’m collecting a stack of articles written by women about what it means to be a woman. One day, I hope to write a feminist manifesto based upon these essays. I say a manifesto and not the manifesto,” because my intent is to open possibilities rather than narrow them. My 80+ years have yet to give me enough hubris to believe mine should be the definitive word on the subject.
Knowing my interest in feminism, a reader directed me to an article by a young woman writer, Jessica Knoll, recently. I’ll say this for her: she leads with her chin. “I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry.” (Jessica Knoll, The New York Times, 4/28/18, Page. SR6.) Because she was raped at 15 by three classmates, she decided, “I could not consider myself successful unless I was somebody powerful, somebody nobody could hurt.” Having been wounded by macho violence, she has decided to beat the patriarchs at their game. “… girls are expected to be caregivers, boys the ones who will deliver a return. If you want to create your own wealth, the confidence to take calculated risks is a necessary skill. Placing the needs of others above your own is not.”
Knoll has accepted a masculine definition of power. Money is power. Power is money. To get it, she intends to bully her way to the top. She realizes she invites contempt. She doesn’t care. She considers herself part of a vanguard. “We have to raise girls the way we raise boys.”
Understanding Knoll’s rebellion and the trauma which gave rise to it isn’t difficult. Her anger is honest. What woman in this chauvinistic world hasn’t encountered discrimination, injustice, and possible violence? But is her world view correct? Is it necessary for women to become like men to be free? If so, victory becomes a Pyrrhic one in my view. Nor do I subscribe to her notion that caregiving comes naturally to women. It doesn’t do to say Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mandela came to power through their “feminine” side.
The question before feminists is how to lead without provoking a thirst for competition? How do we turn the old model of power on its head and create a thirst for sharing? I am old enough to know money compares little to peace, harmony, and love. But how do we change the paradigm? All the religions of the world throughout time haven’t accomplished it. Calling these values “feminine” won’t do it, either. So how should we move forward? Perhaps others might join me in considering the question. I’ve come this far, already: We begin the change within ourselves.
(Originally published 5/9/2018)