Welcome Nona Willis Aronowitz, and Host, Cassie Snarkassandra.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  - bev]

Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism

I have always been a feminist. I was born thinking, speaking, and demanding my rightful place in the world. As a native Texan, I’ve certainly met many girls and women who don’t identify as feminists, and many who don’t believe in equality. Some of my friends are discovering the anti-female and anti-feminist sentiments in this country, but even they don’t easily identify as feminists. After years derision by the male power structure and the religion industry, the word is loaded with negative associations.

When I first started blogging, I was part of a trio who started a left-thinking teen blog, and my biggest complaint about my two male co-founders was their inclination to assume that they, as boys, had the right to make some of the major decisions without me. That was the first time I’d knowingly faced gender discrimination from my peers, but it hasn’t been the last.

What matters to young women? Are we feminists? What do we care about? How are these things different in different areas of the country? These are the issues addressed by 26-year-old Nona Willis Aronowitz and her childhood friend, Emma Bee Bernstein in their new paperback Girldrive. The two authors drove across the country and interviewed 200 young women, along with some of the mothers of their interviewees, and the mothers of Second and Third Wave Feminism.

They asked the subjects of their interviews about feminism, about their lives and experiences, about their futures and about their families. The book includes captivating photographs of all of the women and all of the cities and towns they traveled to, but the stories and characterizations of the women themselves are the most fascinating. Many of the minority women compare their status as women with their status as minorities, examining the struggles of several movements and often seeking to combine those struggles.

The interviews also incorporate opinions and experiences related to religion, education, parenting, teen pregnancy, gender identity, abortion, homosexuality, housework, the cost of college, class issues, sex, body image, music, incarceration, military culture, feminism in academia, and the role of men in feminism. The descriptions on all of these subjects are fascinating.

For me, the best part of reading this book has been the conversations it has ignited between me and my friends and between me and the family I’ve been staying with for the last year and a half. Nona, you’ve converted another one — a 12 year old girl who is also staying with my host family is now a confirmed feminist!

Please help me welcome Nona.

165 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nona Willis Aronowitz, Girldrive”

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Welcome Nona! It’s great to have you here.

egregious August 29th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Welcome to FDL Book Salon – so glad you could join us today!

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Hi everyone! Happy to be here and excited for your questions. I’m pretty candid, so feel free to leave not a stone unturned…

BevW August 29th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Nona, Welcome back to the Lake.

Cassie, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Elliott August 29th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Hey Cassie, how’s school?

So excited you are hosting today.

Welcome Nona — glad feminism hasn’t died out.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Nona, I really enjoyed your book. Can you please tell us how you chose which women to interview?

dakine01 August 29th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Good afternoon Nona and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Snarkassandra! How ya doing?

Nona, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question and forgive me if you answer it in the book.

A while back, one of my younger cousins posted a diary at The Seminal about how she had turned her Barbie Doll into an affirmation of doing what SHE wanted rather than how the toy company felt Barbie should be presented.

I told her that I thought it epitomized a feminist attitude and she was quite affronted by the thought. Why do we counteract the “feminism is bad” narrative?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

@Cassie- It was much less calculated a process than most interview-based books. We wanted to get a real cross-section of our generation (which we defined as twentysomethings, but we stretched a few years in either direction). So we emailed everyone we’d ever talked to ever, telling them to spread the word, and asked a bunch of blogs to give us shoutouts. Then, when it was clear that was only going to get us so far, we started seeking out people with interesting stories, with demographics we had little of: native American women, single moms, conservative women, etc.

Generally, we wanted to speak with young women who very involved in their communities, whether or not they were feminists–women who were complicated and even contradictory, and had something to say.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Welcome Nona! And Cassie, wow, just wow!

August 29th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Welcome, Nona. Did you think to interview women above your age group for their experienced reflections about feminism? If so, I wonder what those interviews gave you pause?
Thank you Kassandra for bringing this discussion.
Feminism is deeply rooted, as Elliot is glad about. When we discuss an issue, it’s always a good and enlightening aspect to look at the history and roots. Not the black roots of a bleached blond, I must add.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

@dakine01 – are you asking *how* we counteract the “feminism is bad” narrative? We just need to normalize the term…use it casually in our daily lives. I think most of the demonizing of feminism comes from the right, so I mostly ignore it, but in passing on feminism you still have to acknowledge the problems of exclusivity and privilege that older generations carried with them. Feminism is a process!

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for the topic. I recently read “When Everything Changed” about the early and ongoing through the next 4 decades women’s movement. Would be very interesting to contrast some of the issues. It seems to me so where so much is taken for granted so much of the early struggle has been dismissed. Does that seem true?

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

In my old job on a farm I was always given the hardest jobs while the white males about 20 years younger than me got the easier jobs. The funny thing was when I was behind in my work did the boss send a white male to help?
Nope it was a girl saving for college who got the Nod as the White guys got assigned the easy work like driving or washing veggies.
Are women still getting the shaft in even the labor intense work or was my boss the evil exception?
Are minority Males at the bottom followed by Females in the pecking order?

dakine01 August 29th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

As a technical note, there’s a “Reply” button in the lower right corner of each comment. By pressing the “Reply” the system pre-fills the comment number and commenter to whom you are replying (making it easier for folks to follow the “conversation”

Note: Some browsers don’t like to let the Reply function work properly after a hard refresh if the page hasn’t finished loading.

Suzanne August 29th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

hey cassie

nona, welcome to firedoglake. what surprised you the most when researching this book?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

@RevBev – I do think that some women take their rights for granted–and in a way that’s good, because then you can move forward. the obvious way you do that, though, is if youre actively taught this history. And I think schools and our culture does an incredibly shitty job of this. Feminism is virtually erased from the history books–I had a famous feminist mom, and even *I* had to seek out info, like an extra credit assignment or something. I think we really need to weave the history into the fabric of our culture, just like the civil rights movement.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:12 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 14

Oops sorry, I forgot! Noted.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Replying to RevBev @ 11

In her book, Nona talks about Susan Faludi’s book The Terror Dream, which also had a great impact on me.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Honestly I get really exhausted by the “oppression olympics”–trying to figure out who “gets the shaft” more often. The point is, racism, sexism, classism, ageism–they all collaborate with each other. And every individual, and every institution, has its own combo of it.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Thank you for that response. I think I do feel the absence of much perspective from younger folk…and many professional women did move pretty successfully into many more open opportunities.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I just graduated from high school in June, and there was almost no mention of feminism. The suffrage movement was taught, and the women’s movement in the 60′s was referred to, but not in depth.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:16 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 15

Thanks Suzanne! What surprised me most was that some women who really knew about feminism and were educated in it were sometimes the women who had the hardest time talking about their lived experience as women. they were bogged down by the jargon, by all the conflicts surrounding feminism. They couldn’t relate the word to how they got dressed in the morning, how their boyfriends treated them, how they excelled at work. It was all Judith Butler and buzzwords, and it was hard to get a straight answer.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Honestly I get really exhausted by the “oppression olympics”–trying to figure out who “gets the shaft” more often. The point is, racism, sexism, classism, ageism–they all collaborate with each other. And every individual, and every institution, has its own combo of it.

One of the things I enjoyed in your book was the idea from some of the women that the racism, sexism, classism and labor activists all need to work together instead of separately.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Exactly. I think suffragists get more air time because it’s a lot less of a controversial issue. Second wave feminism, on the other hand–well, some people openly wish that most of that stuff never happened (even as they reap the benefits).

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Very interesting…thanks

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

AIN’T I A WOMAN?

by Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!

http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/sojour.htm

I thought this fit we need to remember the non professional Women who work and then being more traditional go home to take care of there family.
Sometimes they work harder than us men and given their often weaker strength are working harder proportionally plus after work they take care of the kids as we rest.

masaccio August 29th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I think parents are the best teachers of feminism. I know my mother, born in the mid-1920s, didn’t put up with ugly talk about women from anyone, including her five sons. If you don’t learn misogyny early, it’s a hard sell later.

At the same time, when I was growing up, I learned about women’s issues in grade school from the nuns, who also taught basic labor history. We don’t teach either any more.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Very true. Actually, several working women in Girldrive said they feel frustrated with feminism–and actually, activism in general–because they feel it has no space for them. They’re too busy trying to stay above water, raise their kids, pay the rent. The general message was that activism shouldnt be a luxury–that we have to make sure it’s a part of working class lives, too.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

That brings up the possible disconnect between academic feminism and the experiences of women in the real world. Can you please address how this plays out in the book? And in general?

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Wished never happened….Does that refer to the 60s & 70s? What a sad wish b/c it was such an exciting time of action and change. It interests me, and I may just be in the wrong arenas, is how little women’s issues get raised. I do not know if that suggests “don’t rock the boat” or “it’s all been done.” But I hear very little focused discussion on women’s progress/issues/etc….

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I was not thinking about that I was more focused on Chivalry is Dead. That and the silence of the Privileged at oppression when they benefit.
Heck they go the other way and seem to deny their own experience and become more anti Female, Dark People, Old, Gay etc.
Does benefiting from unearned Privilege produce a layer of guilt that must be buried under repeated No! They are inferior, they deserve it we can’t won’t think about how unfair it is we are here and they are not.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Agreed but how?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Oh man, that was a constant tension. We wanted to keep the convos in Girldrive accessible and relate the often academic term of feminism to the tangible elements in our lives.But it’s weird, because there does need to be someone analyzing and saying, “This is what this all means, and we need to take action.” As much as I always say that feminism works better as a lens rather than a unified movement, that doesn’t mean we don’t need feminist theory to keep pushing it forward.

That said, I get REALLY frustrated with academic feminism. I’ve personally tried to read some of it and felt like an idiot for not understanding it. Even if I did understand it, I resented the language for seeming esoteric. We’re talking about people’s *lives* here! Feminism should always have an obvious connection to everyday life.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Well for starters, demanding that activist work–speaking gigs, organizing, consulting– be paid. Martyr activism does us no good. Also, we need to make sure conferences, meetings, etc. are family-friendly and kid-friendly. It should have a community feel–not only for the adults.

CTuttle August 29th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Aloha, Nona and Cassie…!

Welcome to the Lake, Nona…!

Cassie are ya all set up at Princeton yet…? *g*

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Congratulations Cassie, and thanks for being here, Nona!

Are younger women aware of the gains (however small) have been made by generations of feminists, or do you think there is a lot that is assumed by women (and men) of the most recent coming-of-age groups w/o the knowledge of what we were fighting for (and some of the successes) in the 1960s and 70s?

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Good afternoon pups.

Welcome Nona & thanks for hosting, Cassie.

Nona, I felt that way about much of what I studied in college. It has always seemed to me that academics can take anything of importance and interest and make it boring inaccessible somehow.

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

As a woman an old fart who was a senior in high school when “The Feminist Mystique” was published, I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs as a feminist. We still have a long way to go (wage equality, anyone?) and I find it extremely heartening that young women like Cassie (you rock, girl!) and Nona are still fighting the good fight. (As an aside, I’m so delighted to see Cassie hosting this that I can barely stand it.)

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to RevBev @ 30

None of the liberal women we spoke to wish the 60s and 70s never happened…but many older conservatives think that feminism is to blame for everything from teen sex to depression to the downfall of the Western world. Younger women, though, even if they were conservative, acknowledged that they were at least benefiting from that movement.

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Not costing a fortune to attend would be great too!

Gnome de Plume August 29th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I get frustrated with a lot of academic theory, not just feminist. I discovered very early that I am a materialist. In my own personal life I translate it into Walking the Walk, not just the talk. The irony is that now I get corrected by my own fiercely independent daughter when I veer from the “correct” path. That is when I know I did something right as a feminist!

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 36

First of all, feminist gains are FAR from small. They completely and totally changed womens place in society on a global scale. As I said earlier, this needs to be acknowledged more explicitly in school and at home. I don’t think it’s any individuals fault that they are “ungrateful” or that our generation is less thoughtful than others. It’s our cultural convo that needs to be changed.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Why are modern professional woman anti Feminist these days its not like they are listening to Rush Limbaugh? Are they conforming to be liked by men? I’ve heard women don’t go into science much because they don’t want to seem smarter than the boys is this another example of that?

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

What do you identify as the key issues? Marion mentions wages above: what else, from what you hear?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to TexBetsy @ 37

Yes, it pisses me off. And there is a way to thrive in academia without being lost in the jargon–I grew up with two professor parents who did just that!

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

My biggest problem with “equality” for women is the reality of having a full time job and most of the responsibility for the children and most of the responsibility for the household work. Why is it women that lose out in the workplace when they take time out to raise the children. Women and minorities bare the brunt of the world’s work for the narcissistic, all powerful white male.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to TexBetsy @ 40

Exactly.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

We’re supposed to be on topic, but I will answer anyway. I leave for NJ next week and get to Princeton for orientation on the 11th. All of my friends have already started college and I’m still working as a subway artiste for the next few days.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

It may be unconsciously wanting to be liked by men, but I think it’s more to be accepted in society in general. If one word is so maligned–you’re ugly, you’re butch, you’re angry, you’re too sensitive, too smart, too dogmatic–then of course young women aren’t going to want to be that thing!

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

@nona

Apart from pregnancy, you didn’t address any of the physical differences between the sexes, yet I know many boys who think boys are more important simply because they are stronger. Did the subject of strength come up in your interviews?

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I think every science does not get taken seriously until they create their own language that outsiders can’t understand so they have to call in experts to help them.

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, I did not mean that people should be grateful. I think perhaps my real intent was to ask if people are ready for more of the fight for our rights? And I would echo someone above who asked, “what do you hear” in terms of what is on the plate for this generation?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 46

This issue, IMHO, is really the frontier for feminism. It remains the most inpenetrable issue–that women still put their careers on hold in favor of their husbands’. The rhetoric is there–women can do and be anything!–but the structural support systems in our society aren’t, e.g. maternity leave, universal child care, etc. And I don’t see all that many young women having the prescience to fight for these things *before* theyre moms and have less time for activism. That’s really on us to change.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I think one thing that the current younger women have less struggle with than the earlier “feminists” is the shape of marriage. Back in the day, there was a study that said married woman are the most unhappy group; married men the most happy.

The early group certainly did change the shape and responsibilities of marriage. Not to say all is easy for women today; raising a family is hard. But there is way less having to sort out about roles and who takes out the garbage or changes diapers. I think couples have come a long way in that arena.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Women are too tired to be effective in changing the lack of support. Catch 22.

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Does the rest of the industrialized have better supports in terms of child care, parental leave, etc?

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

So Feminism has by the media been linked to the idea that by being feminist your

you’re ugly, you’re butch, you’re angry, you’re too sensitive, too smart, too dogmatic

Interesting and sad

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

It did, definitely–those essential differences between men and women. Some people commented that there are real-life biological differences between men and women, and that should be celebrated–and that feminism would be erasing those differences. I don’t agree that feminism erases difference, but some women interpreted it like that.

In terms of strength, we also heard some women defying gender stereotypes when it came to manual labor. Sarah in Detroit, for example, worked at a bike shop and endured a lot of bullshit from dudes who thought she was a helpless little girl. And she made it her biz to flout that.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 55

Yup–unless they have the foresight to fight for their future selves. Tall order, but necessary.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 52

There are amazing young feminist activists out there–its just that they don’t get the mainstream attention they deserve. Hearing from your peers that feminism is okay and that we need to change x-y-z is the most effective way to galvanize this generation.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Sorry to hear that perspective; I think I know a number of couples who have sorted that out pretty well.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to TexBetsy @ 56

Totally–France, Switzerland, all the Scandinavian countries. Our nose-to-the-grindstone mentality affects mothers’ lives more than anyone else.

Gnome de Plume August 29th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to TexBetsy @ 56

I think we are dead last in all the social supports the rest of the western world offers its citizens. Sadly I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Our nose-to-the-grindstone mentality affects mothers’ lives more than anyone else.

Along with our antipathy toward labor in general.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to RevBev @ 61

Don’t get me wrong–there are many mom activists on the grassroots level pushing for change, and many couples who have individually worked thigns out. But structurally, the USA remains stacked against mamas.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Speaking of gender, I think that the feminist movement made it possible for people to consider gender identity and fluidity. The movement opened up the rethinking of many stereotypical and/or conservative ideas. Of course, the civil rights movement set in motion the feminist movement.

CTuttle August 29th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

My apologies, Cassie…! ;-)

Nona, what notable anecdotes did you find in regards to the role that religion played in your journeys…?

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Nona, my father left us when my brother and I were little. He never returned to our lives. How many of the women you interviewed were single moms? Isn’t that much more common than single dads raising children?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I actually wrote about this very issue a year ago in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/raising-baby-question

I caught a lot of shit from both sides about it, and later discussed it on Feministing and in a Twittercast. It was a great discussion that we need to be having more: http://community-classic.feministing.com/2009/05/parenting-blogs-and-feminism.html

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

women defying gender stereotypes when it came to manual labor

In the hospital where I work we have a prime example of that in a woman who’s about my size (5’2″) who works in the facilities management (maintenance and construction) area who does the same job as all the big, gruff guys. And you can see from the way she interacts with her coworkers that they respect her. Given the way pay is structured at the hospital the odds are excellent that she’s also being paid the same.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 67

Oh, one of the most fascinating interviews was with a pro-life woman working in a “pregnancy crisis center”.

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I hope that you, Cassie and your peers are able to be beacons for this generation as the writers/academics of our generation were for us.

Because of my businesses, I do a lot of “man’s work” and do not find it as novel as the men who work at the supply counters of various businesses seem to indicate. I have some places I buy things from that I find very supportive, and there are others I really can hardly stand to do business with because of the dismissive manner that my needs/questions are met. It remains infuriating, but I just don’t have the level of anger I had in my youth. ;).

I do like being rather self-sufficient, and I really like helping other women when I can. So many things that have been in the purview of men are really not so hard to de-mystify.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I’ve seen women do farm work in 90 degree weather so hard most men would quit. I’ve seen women unload trucks at UPS at Christmas time when thanks to the trucks being unloaded so fast and being replaced with new trucks well it was so cold your snot froze and men quit.
Yes more men than women make it but the idea that Privilege is based on strength would then exclude all the men who quit.
As far as intelligence goes Privilege is not based on that either. It seems to be based on race, gender and most of all money.
But the excuses for denying equal rights and granting Privilege seem to be based on strength and intelligence.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 67

Oh wow, this was actually one of the most fascinating themes of our trip. As two supersecular NYC girls, we really got schooled on the complicated relaish that religion plays in feminism. The most interesting anecdote came from a future nun, who thought nuns were the ultimate feminists. She thought they were rejecting material culture, superficial problems, all the traps of modern femininity, in order to make the world better. I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but if you’re raised religious and it means a lot to you, you can raitionalize it many different ways to fit with your feminism. Religion is a very personal thing.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Nona and Cassie,

If you get a chance you should read US Chamber: Equal Pay “a Fetish for Money,” Women Should “Choose the Right Partner at Home”. As you know we are still fighting powerful mysogyny. They know no shame.

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Ah — been there. I was raised by a single mom, which probably influenced the way I looked at the world. Women worked. Women relied on themselves. My mom went out of her way to raise me to be independent and strong. Bless her for it.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

There were a handful of single moms that we interviewed, and they all connected their views on gender with their motherhood in such a fierce way. Single motherhood–particularly the kind you’re describing–draws attention to how restrictive gender roles and expectations affect men AND women adversely…how women are so much more likely to become the sole caretaker, whereas men aren’t raised to make that a priority.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I’ve been raised by a whole bunch of people, including a single brother, but I don’t think I have ever seen a single dad except on TV.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I am not Catholic, but those women did often break many rules and claimed authority…and without the complicating demands of family. Interesting comment.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Yeah, women in nontraditional jobs REALLY catch a lotta shit. There’s a great documentary about a woman firefighter Brenda Berkman who went through hell. Highly rec’d/

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I knew one who used to live here in Savannah before he went back home to Colorado to get help from his extended family… Couldn’t figure out how to hack it on his own, I guess.

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to RevBev @ 79

And you know, being a “bride of Christ” does not involve cleaning up at the toilet and a few other things. . .

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to RevBev @ 79

Precisely…that interview was really fascinating. It really brought up questions of organized religion vs. personal religion, and how one reconciles that with progressive views on women.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Nona, Where do you find some of the most interesting writing on these issues? Magazines, web, etc

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 82

Absolutely…can be very freeing to break new ground, create one’s own sphere….The next struggle will involve nuns as priest; certainly already in the conversation.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to RevBev @ 84

Do people call you a woman reverend or a reverend? As long as people say “a female doctor” or “a woman judge” we still have a long way to go.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I see youngish men in my neighborhood pushing strollers around, usually several a day. I don’t think they are single. I think they are out of work. Since women make less they lose their jobs less often than men. We may be seeing a roll reversal going on. Maybe that will stimulate more support for the caretaker.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to RevBev @ 84

Feminism definitely thrives in the blogosphere–places like Feministing, Feministe, Jezebel, Racialicious, Shakesville, Broadsheet, etc.–though sometimes it can feel a bit inward-looking and echo chamber-y. I do always like when there’s an article in the mainstream press about feminism, and then the blogs add their 2 cents and build on the message, tell the unsung stories. It’s a nice example of taking mainstream media off its pedestal.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 75

That was possible when Men were payed more money during the Great Depression my Grandfather an immigrant with little english kept my mom and my aunt’s family with a roof over their heads and fed my aunt worked as a maid at rich peoples homes helping out.
These days women have to work and immigrants often have to live 5 or more in a single bedroom apartment in order to save any money.
In contrast after the Great Depression workers got more pay and American business was great. Now workers get less pay women have to work and American business is in trouble.
Maybe paying your workers who are also your customers helps business because if workers have more money they buy more and higher priced, higher profit margin stuff?

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I guess I have to say both. But more frequently “Reverend”, I think. You certainly still hear “woman lawyer”, etc.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

@Nona

Of the more famous women you interviewed, who impressed you the most and why?
Of the non-famous people you interviewed, who impressed you the most and why?

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

As a cradle Episcopalian it’s been very interesting. I grew up with the “women are in the altar guild” mindset, and we’ve progressed to the point where the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States is a woman. (And boy, oh, boy is she a pistol!) Individual parishes and dioceses lag far behind (see the Gene Robinson flap) but on the whole I’ve been proud of my denomination.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Oh and Bitch magazine, both the web version and the print. And The Guardian UK gives a lot of airtime to feminism, too.

Peterr August 29th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Nona, did the intersection of GLBTs and feminism come up in your interviews? In the 60s and 70s, one of the stereotypical attacks on feminists was that they are nothing but manhating lesbians, and their male supporters are nothing but gays who want to be women themselves.

Did your interviews show any changes in how the struggle for GLBT equality has affected the way in which folks talk about feminism?

[aside: Cassie! Good to see you, and good luck as you get started at Princeton.]

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

That’s why I brought up the labor issue.

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 87

I think that one of the things that has “trickled down” is that men are encouraged and allowed to “feel” more and connect with their children. I think a lot of men who were raised by even slightly feminist women as well as the society at large really encourages men to be involved with their children from early on. That is one of the huge changes that I think has translated through all classes.

Did you see evidence of that, Nona?

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 87

I think its because men complain about pay more we know we can’t raise families or if single being poor makes it more insane to start one without money.
Women with kids however know they have to put the kid first and employers abuse that.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I would have to say Kathleen Hanna impressed me the most, because of her openness to the next generation. She was so happy taht we were *listening* and not just speaking, and she was really interested in what we had to say. She says some great things in this GRITtv interview that are similar to the things she says in Girldrive: http://www.grittv.org/2010/02/17/kathleen-hanna-three-dimensional-role-model-2/

In terms of the non-famous women, the New Orleans activists we met, Mayaba and Mandisa, were some of the fiercest. They had such a grasp on the intersection between class and race, and they really lent a gendered perspective on Katrina in the way that the media really didn’t. They were engaging themselves in their communities, and also engaging in both criticism and praise of feminism. They motivated me to get my hands dirty.

CTuttle August 29th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Nona, How much did region play a role, say the Heartland vs. either Coast, etc…?

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

gendered perspective on Katrina in the way that the media really didn’t

Gendered perspective on Katrina? Never saw it. Not once, not ever. You barely even saw an honest racial perspective on Katrina, except in the blogs.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to Peterr @ 94

It definitely came up again and again–the stereotype of “lesbian manhating,” etc. But it also came up in a positive way, i.e. for many women, coming out as gay or queer was also their feminist click moment. I think the connection between the LGBT movement and the women’s movement is inevitable–both can’t avoid tackling sexual politics, the way we gender people by their sex lives, the way we try to put people in neat little boxes.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 96

Totally. There are many men who are feminist allies, and I do believe that men are encouraged to “feel” in a way that they weren’t before. But this isn’t universal–it has a lot to do with where you’re growing up, what profession you’re in, and how much money you make. We still have a long way to go.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 99

Very much so. And the main pattern I saw was that the most ardent, active, kick-ass feminists were in conservative states. there was urgency in the air the way there isn’t in New York or San Fran or liberal pockets. Sure, those cities have large feminist communities, but women who bump up against serious, tangible sexism every day had a fire under their asses. They had people yelling at them in their faces at abortion clinics, they grew up with abstinence only education. Even if they lived in a liberal enclave–Austin for instance, or NOLA–they still saw a lot of oppression in their backyards, whereas for coastal women it was a little more abstract.

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

the most ardent, active, kick-ass feminists were in conservative states

Where they’re most needed, and where they probably have to take more shit than anywhere else. I celebrate their strength.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I had actually lived in NOLA during many of the early years….many lesbian women were really active in the women’s movement that must have been empowering and freeing for them. Their voice was very strong

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to RevBev @ 105

Did you know Leslie Brant?

Peterr August 29th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Molly Ivins comes to mind.

And Cassie.

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Peterr @ 107

Amen! Cassie continues to amaze.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Peterr @ 107

Ann Richards too.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 106

No, that took me a minute. Think I knew someone with a similar name.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:21 pm
In response to RevBev @ 110

She was a close friend in high school and became active in the gay community in NOLA.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I really want to rec. the book I mentioned earlier: When Everything Changed, Gail Collins. I could not put it down. She tells stories of many women and examples of the hurdles, such as not getting credit or wearing pants. It is so well-written.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

@Nona Are there any groups who aren’t represented in the book, but you’ve decided since publication you wish you had included?

Marion in Savannah August 29th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this discussion, but it’s time for me to think about starting dinner. (We take turns here…!) I’ll be back to read the rest. Thanks, everyone, for a fascinating discussion.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 111

I think y’all are markedly younger that moi ;)

Peterr August 29th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

When you’ve got to deal with folks like the Texas School Board, it doesn’t take much to work up a sense of urgency.

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I am 60.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

We had a couple trans men, but I regret not including a trans woman. We interviewed one in L.A. who later told us she didn’t want to be included, but that’s such an essential perspective when we;re going through some much gender boundary-pushing. I also wish we’d included women like Brenda Berkman–a construction worker, plumber, or woman with a nontraditional job. We talked wit a woman who was training to be a firefighter, but didn’t sit down with one whod been working for a while.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 117

Don’t ask :)

Nona, thank you for an interesting discussion. Renews my interest. Good luck with the book and thank you for your work.

Cassie, You will be back. But in the meantime, all good luck. Going to college (NOLA) is one of my fondest memories and most important experiences. Lap it up. I know you will do well; don’t forget us.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

How do we get the Media to stop making Feminism seem.

you’re ugly, you’re butch, you’re angry, you’re too sensitive, too smart, too dogmatic

Never mind that the guys saying this stuff like Rush have all looks and charm inside and out of Jabba the Hut but still in our capitalist culture even after several marriages they get girls. Would shaming trophy wives take away the trophy of woman haters like Rush?
In any war you must take out the traitors to your side before you advance.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

In my high school, girls pretty much have to do their hair and spend a lot of time on makeup or they won’t have friends. Not even that they won’t have boyfriends. Guys can roll out of bed and roll into school but girls are expected to spend at least half an hour on makeup before school. Does that ever change?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Um…I don’t think shaming trophy wives is the answer. Media just dramatizes and draws attention to what already exists in our society, and people–especially rightwing people, but even lefties–are very threatened by the power of feminism and the fact that they need to give up their privilege. It’s because many think of feminism (as they think of most civil rights movements) as a zero-sum game. That if women are getting things, then I must be missing out. We need to shift the conversation to a discussion of how feminism benefits *everyone.*

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

TCU, I do not know the answer to your question, but they should be shamed in any case. They should have to have a mental exam.

Peterr August 29th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Watching the Shirley Sherrod fiasco unfold was quite something. Race was obviously the center of attention, but I could not help but be struck by the way gender played a part in it as well.

Watching her stand up to Vilsack and the White House by letting the offer of a new job sit for a while before finally rejecting it was as strong a feminist move as I’ve seen in a long time.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Then lets shame the men who have to buy the trophies.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Sigh…this is another issue that has remained virtually untouched, and in some ways has gone backwards. Women have another second shift, and that is primping. I think feminists of your and my generation try to break this down in pockets, e.g. Jezebel and the like, but its like David and Goliath. It mainly has to do with the snowball effect of consumerism–media puts forth a particular image that every woman should look like, because media is funded by advertising and 75% of products are geared toward women. Playing off of women’s insecurities not only makes money but preserves the status quo. It’s both entrenched in patriarchal norms and pure, raw capitalism.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Yes…that.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Peterr @ 124

Yes, and she came away with all her dignity. Really well done and kept her cool

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This is a whole new conversation….;)

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:38 pm
In response to RevBev @ 123

And with Rush’s wife a sex disease test Rush went to the Dominican Republic a country with the 2nd? 3rd? highest AIDS rate in the nation and a bunch of Viagra. But since Rush has had 3? wives no kids maybe there are no worries the Trophies could all be for show.

TexBetsy August 29th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

For the first time in 7 years of teaching HS, I have two students who are openly pushing gender identity. One is using a male form of the name that appears on my class list.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Seattle and Portland lots of girls have a more or even totally natural look.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

None of it is a pleasant thought….I actually heard him on his show giving instruction/lecture about what good women know about getting along with men….a minor anti-feminist subtext. I thought I would wreck the car listening to this expert on women….(I should not have gotten started.)

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

With or Without Eyeliner

My mother said,
Wear a little eyeliner. It gives you definition. Your
sister and I noticed at the wedding that it really makes a
difference.

I had become, much to their relief,
someone they could see a little easier.
Optically,
cognitively
I fit into their puzzle of me
when I stroked on the tint.

Definition
1. the act of defining or making clear. 2. the formal statement
of the meaning or significance. 3. condition of being definite.

I am definite about my condition.
I wear eyeliner on special occasions.
Once when my brother got married and
a couple of times a year,
when I don’t know who I am.

Peterr August 29th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Nona, you’ve mentioned a couple of websites earlier @88 that you read, but did the blogosphere come up in the interviews you did? If so, what sites were mentioned?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to TexBetsy @ 131

Yes, I definitely think there’s been measureable progress in that area. Same with coming out as queer. As you all prob know, it used to be quite common for people to wait until they had spouses and kids before finally feeling like they could come out. Now it’s much more common to start freshman orientation already knowing that you’re gay/bi/whatever.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to Peterr @ 135

Yes, those sites were definitely mentioned in Girldrive. One woman from Tulsa said that the feminist blogosphere saved her from an abusive relationship because it created a feminist community where there was none at her university. The feminist blogosphere can be an amazing organizing/education tool for women who don’t live amidst a million feminists. But it can also prevent people from reaching across the line and talking face-to-face with people who disagree with them…

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to RevBev @ 133

I actually heard him on his show giving instruction/lecture about what good women know about getting along with men

Rush giving advice on good women getting along with men….with his track record? Bwahahahaha! Comedy gold everyman wants advice from the guy with 3 wives? on whats a good woman.
Every Woman dreams of a man like Rush since they were a little girl.

AitchD August 29th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

There’s definitely a sea change – unless a tidal wave backlash happens (which is doubtful) – from now on parents and families won’t waste away their best years living in dread about those former ‘shames’, including ‘unwanted’ pregnancies. Life can be lived instead of being avoided.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

How often did relationship violence or family violence come up in your interviews?

AitchD August 29th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 117

I am 60.

I am Spartacus.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Thanks…yep, one for the books. And there was no sign he saw/heard any irony or disconnect. Perfect, huh?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to AitchD @ 139

True, though in certain communities, people still deal with this…

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to AitchD @ 139

Think of the time saved just by not trying to figure out if your daughter is still a virgin.

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to RevBev @ 142

Perfect Cognitive Dissonance I wonder if Cognitive Dissonance correlates to strokes, mental disease, etc.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Relationship violence came up quite often, actually–like with the woman from Tulsa that I mentioned, or with Prairie Rose from Fargo. And some of the women we interviewed worked with domestic violence victims. It seemed to be the main feminist issue for a good number of women.

Family violence, not so much. Maybe it’s because we had so many flash-in-the-pan interviews, but not all that many women related family violence to the larger, big-picture theme of feminism.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

With sort of different language, I think it can be part of schizophrenia.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

To me it is related because it’s our parents who can teach us either that our bodies are our own or that our bodies are for other people to take out their anger on.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Does “relationship violence” imply with the not married in contrast to family violence? Or some other meaning?

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to RevBev @ 149

Oh wait sorry, I was thinking about child abuse. I meant violence between romantic partners.

BevW August 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

As we some to the end of this lively Book Salon,

Nona, Thank you for coming back and for spending afternoon with us discussing your new book and feminism.

Cassie, Thank you for being here and for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information,
Nona’s website
Cassie’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great week.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Certainly that’s true. And I personally think it’s a feminist issue, it’s just that some women didn’t make the direct connection…and probably felt less comfortable talking about it, since it didn’t have this larger context of “feminism” encompassing it.

Nona Willis Aronowitz August 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Thank you everyone!

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm
In response to RevBev @ 149

Relationship violence is spousal abuse or boyfriend/girlfriend abuse. Family violence is adults against children.

RevBev August 29th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Got it. Thanks…..this has really been an important discussion. We may need to frame some of the topics in a different thread. Congratulations on your work.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Thank you so much for coming! I really like your book and I encourage everyone to buy the book and to follow you on twitter!

ThingsComeUndone August 29th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Good Talk Nice seeing you again Cassie:)

marymccurnin August 29th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Nona and Cassie!

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Did you have any experiences outside the Chicana movemiento with Hispanic women or Native women? There are a lot of family issues and violence, maybe a lot due to economic issues, but it is a big issue, and in the Mexican culture too. We have had some horrific crimes against women and especially children in NM lately. We have mass murder, not to mention the femicide in the Juarez area.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 29th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 159

Yes, she interviewed several Native American women and several Latina women, including some in the Valley in South Texas.

bgrothus August 29th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thank you so much, will be looking for the book and catch you on-line. Great Job, Cassie, best of every upcoming experience to you!!

AitchD August 29th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Feminism and how it has evolved significantly in American society and culture is the planet’s last and definitely best hope for survival and of our achieving a life with dignity.

tejanarusa August 29th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Coming in so late everyone may have moved on, but as a 60-yr old veteran of 2nd-wave feminism, (I’ve never stopped calling myself a feminist), I found this very interesting. Some things seem to need constant re-inventing…but that is partly because of the media-driven decades of making “feminist’ into a dirty word. Sigh.
And tehn there was the CofC’s “equal pay” fiasco just the other week (referenced above). It feels like a never-ending task.
I’ll look for your book, Nona. It’s good to know some women in your age cohort still see feminism as important.

[And another aside to Cassie - congrats on going to Princeton! It will be a big change, but I hope you will love it. 30 yrs. ago I lived close enough, across the Delaware River near Phila., to take many weekend trips to Princeton with my 1st husband. The town and campus were quaintly pretty, the countryside beautiful, and the used bookstores fab-u-lous.
I know the surrounding area is much more developed now, so it won't quite be the small-town, isolated campus feeling it once was.
But it sure ain't Texas. Have fun!And, oh, study hard, too)]

yellowsnapdragon August 29th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Gah! I missed this amazing book salon! Thanks for the conversation anyway.

ThingsComeUndone August 30th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

So Feminism has by the media been linked to the idea that by being feminist your

you’re ugly, you’re butch, you’re angry, you’re too sensitive, too smart, too dogmatic

It sounds like by standing up for your rights you annoy the people oppressing you they don’t want to think that you might have reason to be angry and don’t want to talk about it
They want to believe that oh your just to sensitive that your a complainer everyone else does the work but you complain. Never mind nothing ever changes unless people complain good business men see complaint as unmet demand jobs to hard lets make it easier more efficient spread the work more even so we don’t exhaust our workers.
Settling for the status quo is stagnation its the enemy of innovation the Sad Kings of Lonely Little Hills businessmen stay sad kings because they don’t innovate nope they grab government cash and or gamble on bank ponzai schemes.
Real innovators listen to workers and customers and improve efficiency its why Toyota grew and GM got a bailout. Its why American farmers who despite getting checks from the government and not having to pay their workers overtime are seeing their numbers shrink and kids go to the cities.
Your to smart…well yeah smart people figure out they are being screwed Leaders want to change things to stop being screwed, innovators figure out how but have to get their ideas heard. Inept Bosses the ones who get government checks or gamble fear change perhaps because they know if they improve efficiency they won’t get checks or be allowed to gamble anymore. They might really have to run a profitable company.
Your to Dogmatic what standing up for your rights for everyone’s rights is unrealistic Dogma? When Satan told Jesus I will give you the world if you bow to me Jesus refused.
I’m guessing the go along to get along crowd that prefers the good to the perfect I’m guessing they bowed three times.

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