Ms. Magazine and Me
Questions and issues around childlessness are significant and worthy of exploration. This was more evident than ever when I found myself on the campus of Stanford University for a Ms. magazine 40th anniversary forum.
Fellow blogger, Mali in New Zealand, and I have written extensively on the insidious cultural conditioning that devalues women without children. Her latest writing, a passionate post titled, “She has no children. She has nothing,” led me to share this comment:
“One of my long-time blog pen pals once observed that women without children after infertility are extraordinary — in large part because we have to examine ourselves, our relationships and our place in society in a way most ordinary people don’t. Furthermore, we redefine and find our happiness at a point in life when most people, busy raising kids, are on auto-pilot. That puts us much further ahead and able to roll with the changes that life inevitably throws at us…”
And that’s a good thing because the more we (and I mean that to be all inclusive) hash out our thoughts and experiences the more we learn not only about ourselves, but about others.
Ms. 40th Anniversary
This point was underscored recently during a panel discussion Ms. @ 40 and the Future of Feminism.
I was eight years old when Ms. first arrived on the on the news stand.
Among those speaking were early editors of Ms. magazine: Marcia Ann Gillespie; Suzanne Braun Levine; and Helen Zia joined by newer feminist voices: Katherine Spillar; Miriam Zoila Perez; and Shelby Knox (perhaps best known as the subject of the Sundance award-winning film, The Education of Shelby Knox — by all means rent it).
With this diverse set of life experiences — outside the ordinary — on the dais were there differences in opinion? You bet. Have they encountered misunderstandings over time as a result of age, race, religion or sexual orientation? Uh, huh. Were there competing agendas? Hell, yes! And that, according to Ms. Braun Levine, was the nature of a Ms. magazine editorial staff meeting. Near the close of the panel, she observed that the audience had, in fact, “just witnessed an editorial meeting live.”
The incongruities, all agreed, are what has kept Ms. edgy, provocative and not always in step with its readership.
Our readers often informed us, Ms. Gillespie explained, “their letters and phone calls pushed us forward.”
Beyond the Ordinary
You don’t have to identify as a feminist to know that women have always found it difficult to agree. It’s not just our age but our complex life experiences that shape our often differing views.
Each woman brought a unique perspective to the wide-ranging panel discussion, which prompted questions including, “How did we end up with Sarah Palin 40 years after the women’s movement?” and “How do you explain the return to the extreme sexual objectification of women?”
I madly scribbled notes in the standing room only venue. During the 90 minute discussion here are some of the comments I captured (do any of these sentiments sound familiar?):
“The stories I read made me feel less alone and more pissed off. Hearing your own pain and struggle in another woman’s voice you realize you’re not crazy or unreasonable. It’s the world around you that is…”
“Other women’s stories help us make sense of our own.”
“Our tribes are necessary to define and defend who we are…”
What seemed to resonate most with me from the panel discussion and through the blog posts linked in the second paragraph is the obligation we all have “to bring stories to the people who are not living the experience.”
That’s what we in this extra ordinary community, this tribe are doing with each blog post we write and share.
p.s. One other thing that struck me — standing in that campus’ humanities building surrounded by females ranging in age from 18-70 — were the topics unbroached — anything “mom.” Zip. Nada. Zilch. It was amazing — and refreshing. It was just plain nice in an era where “as a mom” seems to dominant (and, at times, divide) all conversations to feel included as a woman.
p.p.s. This post marks my blogiversary. Five years in the blogosphere, my dear Internets. And for those of you who are not familiar with Avril Lavigne’s songwriting, you may find these lyrics from ‘Anything But Ordinary’ particularly relevant:
To walk within the lines
Would make my life so boring
I want to know that I
Have been to the extreme
So knock me off my feet
Come on now give it to me
Anything to make me feel alive…