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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gloria Steinem

I begin this blog with a snapshot of my life in the early 1980's on the campus of the University of Alabama in a little known radical elective class entitled "Women's Studies." I was floundering somewhere in my third year...disillusioned with and restless in my day to day existence as sorority girl and party animal. My life was filled with nothingness, loneliness, and complete lack of self-worth...all I might add, of my own doing. I was making unwise decisions, searching for and depending on things external to provide me value, and giving very little in the way of contributions to the world around me.

I found the class by default. I remember walking in to a round table discussion, clutching a crudely typed and bound collection of works by feminist authors that was to serve as my text. The all female class was collectively confident, outspoken, and to me appeared fearless. I remember feeling absolutely fascinated, compelled to learn, and instantly at home. This is one of the few times in my life I remember with precise clarity.

"Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described -- and will be, after our deaths -- by each of the family members who believe they know us." Gloria Steinem

Looking back on this class, as I often do when I run, I realized that this was pivotal in how I saw the world from that point, and how it shaped that which I hold sacred today. I really didn't feel a connection with much of anything until then, and perhaps because the time was right, I felt it then, and still do to this day. The women who had the courage to speak of the denigration and disparity against them, against us...the refusal to be victims.

I witnessed how different this was from the recent expulsion of a woman from a neighboring sorority because she had partaken in drug-laced punch at a frat house. I was at the party, and heard undercurrents that the punch in the huge garbage cans was laced. Guess I was one of the lucky ones to have had a heads up. This young woman became so out of her mind intoxicated that she publicly engaged in sexual intercourse with a line of fraternity members on their house rooftop. I feel certain today that this would be considered gang rape. She was subsequently disgraced and "scarlet lettered" while the fraternity brothers were heralded with back pats and "attaboys." This behavior encapsulated the blatant, egregious, and deep-seated thought process that pervaded our 1980's misogynistic society, co-existing defiantly with racism in the old south.

That was then...this is now. Is it really so different?

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