THE RADICAL HOUSEWIFE: We discussed a bit about intergenerational tension, and now I’m wondering if you have any insight about how to bridge conflict within the waves themselves. Intersectionality, as you pointed out, does look a bit like chaos–witness SlutWalk and the current online Mommy Wars being waged among prominent Third Wave bloggers. How can we unite something that, on the surface, feels fractured beyond repair?
ZOE NICHOLSON: My answer may surprise you but here it goes – I don’t think that work on “repair” is work well spent. I think the answer is to be the answer. Your life demonstrating the politics, your writing expressing the diversity is the only thing that actually works as it lives beyond “repairing.”
Let me give you a famous example: Gloria Steinem always insists on diversity on any panel. You may also know that she traveled with Women of Color as her speaking partners. The officiate at her wedding was Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee Nation. There is no veracity in accusing Ms. Steinem of racism as she has consistently demonstrated otherwise in her life.
From left: Angela Davis, Wilma Mankiller, Gloria Steinem
Another fine example is Harvey Milk who traveled with his speaking partner, Sally Miller Gearhart. Harvey was a champion of the Daughters of Bilitis and Labor Unions. These people could have written a paper reaching out, stood strongly on the issue of diversity but nothing is as pure and powerful as being the change you seek.
Another irresistible component is to insist on standing behind the least in the crowd. Gandhi renamed the untouchables, the harijan, Children of God. He shared his ashram, food, even latrines with harijan. Applying that to the Women’s movement, when we talk about wage inequity, we say women make 77 cents on a man’s dollar ~ well not really. Black women make 69 cents, Latinas make 59 cents. Gandhi would have instantly said – women make 59 cents – not even going for the average – but rather identifying with the least favored.
I had a truly remarkable thing happen to me a couple of years ago. While defending ENDA-I, inclusive ENDA, I was asked if I was a Transgendered woman. In that moment, I was able to identify how I really feel about transgendered people and discrimination in regards to transgendered people. Following it down the road of my mind, I saw what each answer would transmit. I did the only thing I could think of that would demonstrate my true feelings – I declined to answer. My intention was/is to demonstrate that I embrace all women and do not want to claim any ground of being higher than another. I did not want to step away from anyone, diminish the question, lift my petticoats and tiptoe away. Now if asked, I say that I am queer and that is all the information I will give. WbW or trans are both women.
I recommend to the Second Wave to collect their information, their inspiration and find an heir. To the Third wave, to share their skills, their ideas and, most importantly, identity their issues for the Second Wave.
A long time ago I went to an event at the Wilshire Ebell Theater where all of the women who were over 40, professional, renown, established were on the main floor seating. In the balcony you would have found all the interns, clinic escorts, hotline volunteers ~ the young women in the movement who do all the heavy lifting for so little money, recognition or gratitude. My ideal is, not reverse it, but to integrate the entire event. Imagine if a profoundly active women in her 80’s was sitting next to a clinic escort; the older one having demonstrated in 1972 for Roe and the younger one now facing the anti-choice people in a clinic parking lot. That would be a conversation!
Don’t dismiss me. Don’t leave me home thinking Facebook is for kids. Invite me. Push my wheelchair. Tell me your issues. Ask me to be involved with you. To my older sisters, keep the chair next to you open and invite your heir to sit with you, not behind you. No, you can’t have my torch – make your own – but please light yours from mine. This is a dynasty with lineage.
If you are integrated and you live that way – when the criticisms fly – they just fly by. Your life shows otherwise. (by the way, I sat in the balcony)