In the January issue of Oprah magazine there is an article, “You Can See Clearly Now” by Martha Beck. She is a life coach. And for the 2012 she outlines four points for taking action and finding out what you want rather than moaning about what you don’t want but have.
The gist of the article: one must take action to get an answer. I had no problem with that premise. But she uses the inaction of the feminists she once knew (apparently she doesn’t hang with feminists anymore) to illustrate complaining versus action:
They say feminism had several waves, though I can never keep them straight. All I know is, back in the day, one of these waves sloshed me into many passionate conversations with classmates and colleagues about the changes we wished to see in the world. These were mostly good old bitch ‘n’ moan sessions, in which we lamented everything from unfair wages to sex slavery. True the potential for another type of conversation did occasionally arise, when someone would ask, “so how do we fix things?: But at that point, a funny thing always happened: We suddenly ran out of things to say. I don’t blame us for clamming up. I understand the buzzkill. Complaining is easy, even fun, compared with the challenge of creating a plan for positive change…
Wow. I wonder if she knows women are still making 77.8 cents to their male colleagues dollar? After reading the artilce, I had my usual pang of jealously that Oprah hadn’t contacted me to write her self-help column. But I was affronted about more than Oprah’s oversight. I was affronted by the author’s casual slandering of the feminist movement. She used the movement that she recalled being part of as a bunch of meetings where women “complained” and didn’t get anything done. She inferred that if the feminist movement had known about her four steps for “getting what you want”– things would be different in this country. And at the end of the article she trashes the feminists again.
…to this day some of the feminists I met in grad school are still complaining. They seem to enjoy it. I wish them all the best…
Oprah is a magazine about equality and self-help revelations. Martha Beck is blatantly out of sync with that mission. She is exclusionary in her “help” and short-sighted. Missing from her four steps to find out what it is you want… was the ways in which the femminist movement (same movement she was no longer fond of, or did not remember as helpful) began the conversation about women’s lives being something other than mired inside their homes. In fact want vs. have seems a very important part of the feminist discussion.
Clearly I needed to intervene. Here are my four steps:
1. Think about your grandmother’s and your mother’s lives. Think about the educations they received, the children they bore, the marriages they lived within. Think about the food they cooked, the friends they had. The books they read and then consider their lives with the following freedoms:
1972: Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in schools
1972: Equal Rights Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in schools
1973: Roe v Wade overturns state laws restricting right to abortion
1993: Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal
2. Bow down and kiss the floor in gratitude for reproductive freedom and the women and men who fought (and took action) to make that true.
3. Close your eyes and picture an all women collegiate basketball teams, ice hockey teams and say title nine.
4. Take a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves out of the library and leaf through the revolutionary volume. Find topics that had not been discussed until the feminist movement. Sexuality is laid bare on those pages and explained in words once never uttered.
And when you’ve taken a moment to acknowledge the work done in the name of feminists (who contrary to the author of the Oprah article did move from discussion to action).
After you have done the above, make a plan for movement in your life. The dawn of a new year is a good time to reflect–always.
Please, when you are sorting through the layers of your life to find what you want, do so knowing that the feminist women and men before us, wore a path from their door to ours. The language we have for self-care and our rights as women did not grow out of meetings where a bunch of women couldn’t get their ideas into action. That language grew and continues to grow through personal and political action. Quite the oposite from the bitch sessions Beck references.