By Diana May-Waldman,WWH/CJE – I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. I grew up in a time when little girls were still spoon fed stories of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Taught stories about a prince that would come some day and make everything okay. I grew up in a time when girls weren’t really privy to politics and the problems in the world. Girls were taught to worry about things inside the house and nothing outside of it.
Truth in the women’s movement was lurking on my mother’s doorstep and years of proper training prevented her from opening it. But not me. I not only wanted to peek out there, I wanted to be out there. period. I was in the sixth grade when my school announced that the girls no longer had to wear dresses every day. We could now also wear pants like the boys. Girls could now climb the monkey bars and swing from ropes. We no longer had to sport skinned, bare knees or endure the daily flipping up of our skirts and dresses from the boys.
I was so confused by my newfound right, that I once combed my hair like my brother, trying to look just like him. This tiny infraction turned into a big deal at the dinner table. My parents were mortified and my brother was mad at me. The conversation consisted of my family relentlessly reminding me that I was a girl. I knew that I was a girl. I didn’t want to be a boy. I just wanted what my brother already had.
The television blared the news of Vietnam. The bloody images flashed across the screen. It scared me. Martin Luther King Jr. gave speeches and I watched terrified black children walk into an all white school while the angry faces of men and women protested. I learned about riots and learned what segregation was all about. A concept I never knew existed in my white, middle class family. Women carried signs demanding equal rights. They campaigned against cultural and political inequalities. They burned their bras and barged into all male clubs.
My father began to hold secret meetings and there was talk of forming a union. My father began campaigning for a man by the name of Howard Metzenbaum and passed out styrofoam baseballs embossed with the word Metz. My mother started to have secret meetings, too–coffee clutches, as my father called them–which more often than not resulted in her telling my father that she didn’t need to take his shit anymore and what was most surprising was, she didn’t.
Poetry from A Woman’s Songs.
Fuck Cinderella and her dainty shoe
and fuck Sleeping Beauty and her magic kiss.
I have other problems.
A blown head gasket,
empty cereal boxes and a run in my stocking.
You see me here, in my pin-stripped suit
holding a tape recorder, writing your news.
But, I don’t fall under your nose
you can’t judge me this or that,
can’t measure my success by the size of my breasts
or the shape of my legs,
categories of worthy or not and I’m not your destiny
and no, I won’t be your mistress,
but I just might fuck you an oil change.
There was Woodstock and hippies.
I was confused. I was confused and excited all at the same time. I began to ask a lot of questions. Why were we in Viet Nam? And why did my aunt cry at night, rocking her baby when her husband was at war, and why was there a division between blacks and whites? And why were women fighting for equal rights? Rights in which were clearly divided based on the fact that boys had penises and girls had vaginas? Wasn’t that the only thing that made us different? That and hairstyles, which I learned when I combed my hair like my brother?
The world seemed to split in two and become divided. People were protesting the war and people were being shot during demonstrations. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. My mother joined the work force and my father was locking himself in the basement, drinking Scotch, writing poetry about the lack of love in the world and slitting his wrists. My parents got a divorce. Charles Manson and his followers were arrested for murder and now even the hippies were feared.
While it seemed the adults around me were all going crazy, I felt I had the solutions. It seemed apparent to me. Don’t have a war. Let blacks and whites live together in harmony. Let our moms go to work and have the same rights as men. Don’t kill people and everybody just have fun. But it wasn’t that simple. Everyone had a different opinion and nobody wanted to agree on anything. And it seemed it just kept getting worse and more issues arose.
My mother defied the Catholic church and began taking birth control pills and I learned about women dying from coat hanger abortions. The once unified groups then began to divide and there was talk about “Right to Life” and “Pro Choice” and then, eventually, nobody wanted to even talk about that, because it became easier, less of a hassle not to give your opinion.
And I was watching it all like a thousand movies clips flashing before me. My breasts were budding and I was puddling blood between my legs. I had to attempt to live within the confines of what I was taught, although inside me was a voice that screamed for the freedom to exist as I was. It was then that I realized we were all still stuck in secondary love. Fake love. Taught love. Not true love. Not true love of anything. Not true love for one another and not true love for all living things.
It was then that I realized we were born of only two real emotions. Love and fear. Love is the only true emotion and when we step outside of love, the world goes crazy. If we look at love and fear on a scale, placing love on one side and fear on the other, each time we are on the side of fear, it gains more weight. Fear is jealousy, hatred, anger, and judgment. All negative emotions are really fear.
So, our world moved away from the love and stayed in the fear. Moving away from love automatically deprives us our of true freedom. Our freedom to live amongst one another in peace and acceptance without anger and hatred…without fear.
The movement seems lost and I want my movement back. I want us to move out of the fear and pull together on the side of love. The movements of the 1960s and 70s all did something, made changes, but I am not sure they did enough. We made strides before the fear became too great that is paralyzed people.
The 1980s and ’90s became decades in which we were in a hypnotic state and, while we were stuck in the fear, corporate America and the Government took over. They hypnotized us. They distracted us. They dangled the new and improved carrot and we took it. We became a “me” generation. A climbing up a ladder, step on your sister, your brother, a jaded, cash hungry society of gluttony.
We are stuck in a world of shock jockery, celebrities, bail outs, the wealthy, Republican hegemony, conservative Christianity, and we are stuck under the thumb of corporate America. We are stuck in endless wars while we keep swallowing the fear and building more paranoia about terrorists.
We have become a nation of followers, numbed by the media, controlled by the corporations, just waiting for the next new toy to buy, not even concerned that we are a nation perpetually engaged in wars that don’t even make the news anymore, content to sit on our couches and watch the latest sitcom and be told, in between shows, that we need this new cell phone, or that “I’m a PC.” Afraid to express our views, voice our opinions, afraid of everything. And, as a whole, we’ve become defeated, giving up on the notion that we can change things, that our words and actions can make a difference. But they can. We need to move off the couch. Step out of the darkness, back into the light. End the silence.
I want my movement back. A movement that is huge. Something powerful, hard to stop. I want a movement into love. I want a movement in which we can all inhabit this planet together as brothers and sisters, in peace. A movement in which you learn to love yourself first and realize that WE are world’s most untapped living resource and we can no longer live on the side of fear. Let’s rekindle the light of love.
Diana May-Waldman, born in Cleveland, Ohio, is the author of the poetry collection, A Woman’s Song . Her work has previously appeared in numerous literary magazines. A Woman’s Song, her first collection, details the obstacles that face women in our culture on a daily basis, a culture still very much male-dominated. Her poetry in this book deals with the struggles facing all women and the many facets of being a woman in the world today. The book contains, among others, the poems Penis, Awakening, and Seduction. (See review of her book at Story Circle Book Reviews. Her poetry has also focused, at times, on antiwar themes. May-Waldman was also co-editor (with Mitchell Waldman) of the anthology Wounds of War: Poets for Peace which collects the poetry, essays, interviews, and stories of various authors reflecting their personal experiences with war. A former award winning journalist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, having won awards for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists , May-Waldman is a strong women’s and children’s advocate. She currently lives in Rochester, New York.