Feminist Enlightenment at 40
When Mary Tyler Moore passed away late this January, I posted a tribute on Facebook- something I’m rarely if ever moved to do in the event of a celebrity’s death. The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended its run the year I was born, 1977, and yet that image of Mary tossing her hat in the air has somehow always been with me, a vision and a spirit I’ve channeled in certain moments of girlboss* jubilation. Turns out I was not alone. Right away, a bunch of girlfriends in my 40-ish cohort piped in with the same comment: she looked just like my mom. Indeed she did, and I think it was more than just the sassy flipped bob and swingy Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.
And this got me thinking. Who besides our working moms– moms who fed us a wholesome breakfast (ok, sometimes PopTarts), hustled us out the door, clocked in a full 9-to-5, then prepared a homemade dinner (ok, sometimes Hamburger Helper), checked our homework, ironed our school uniforms, and attended every PTA meeting– took up MTM’s mantle as the feminist roles models for our generation, girls growing up in the 80’s and 90's? I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t think of any.
Further, it wasn’t until recently that the thought even occurred to me, and then I suddenly felt like I’d been missing out on harnessing potent girl power all these years. It’s not that our mothers weren’t enough, it’s that the examples they provided were still somewhat limited. My own mom, who both went to college and traveled abroad– without the financial support of her parents, mind you, still returned to marry my father and have two daughters before she was thirty. Thus, she pushed me that much harder to pursue my dreams and ambitions and independence without any limitation. My generation is the first to reap the benefits of what the first wave feminists fought for and ostensibly won; for us, if not necessarily for them.
Still, without any beacons (or Beyoncés) to have lit our paths forward, we’ve floundered and faltered. We’ve fumbled towards various ecstasies, changing our minds, our jobs, our plans, and our hair. In a way, we haven’t even really had each other, climbing all the way up and smashing the ceiling to find we’re still the only woman in the lab or the boardroom or the kitchen. We’ve second-guessed ourselves, wondering whether we’ve leaned in so far we’re no longer standing on solid ground.
Despite much evidence to the contrary, right now is an extraordinary time to be a woman. Everywhere you turn, there are brilliant, powerful, self-possessed, successful, and beautiful women demonstrating and creating opportunities to achieve unlimited possibilities. There are networks connecting, supporting, elevating, and amplifying the efforts of women in every imaginable field and discipline. The future is decidedly female and I want in.
On the precipice of forty, I find myself invigorated by the vitality of this new sisterhood, craving the company of smart, fun, ambitious women who are hungry for creative collaboration. I want a girl gang, a squad, a pussy posse. That’s what I’m hoping to create here, with you, and in particular what I’m celebrating in this week’s edition. Come on ladies, let’s get in formation.
*On the use of the term “girlboss”:
“But the more I think about it, the more I find the term “girl boss” grating. It seems fine until you try it with any number of women. Is Oprah a girl boss? Is Hillary a girl boss? Is Sheryl Sandberg a girl boss? Is Tina Fey a girl boss? Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg a girl boss? It sounds absurd.”
via Cup of Jo, and the original post by Anna Jordan here.
Originally published in Robust #2: “Feminist enlightenment at 40, #squadgoals in the kitchen, and prunes.”