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We have brains - generation gap, 2002-06-29, 3:25 p.m.

I've fallen behind on my 'We Have Brains' contributions. This is one I've been considering for a while. The end of the question goes like this:

And I wonder: is there that much of a difference? Is there a real generation gap between feminists? And if so, what do we do to bridge it? If you have a story of a great older/younger feminist to share, I'd love to hear it.

I think that there is a generation gap between strong females of today and feminists of yesterday. I know I didn't state both were feminists. So often I find that those who would have labelled themselves feminists 20 years ago run from the word today. In a Womyn's studies seminar course of 14 people, only I could put the label feminist upon myself. The prof was amazed. As was I.

I think that feminists of today sometimes discount what has been done in the past. So often I've heard the statement that 'I know things changed, why do I need to learn about how?'.

Perhaps our sense of history - or lack thereof - is what keeps us from bridging the generation gap. We don't realize that the issues faced today are quite often those faced in generations before us. For an assignment, I once gave a speech. It was taken from a speech written by Myra Campbell (formerly Myra Fisher) entitled 'Women’s Wrongs'. I presented it, not mentioning that it was written 1913 (published in 1920 with a disclaimer and condemnation from the Daily News). Many of the points given were still relevant today. Points included in this speech were "Her servant, if she is able to keep one, gets her monthly wage and it is considered earns it, but the average housewife isn't considered as earning hers", "We've listened to your flattery, married you, obeyed you, taken your cash and tried to make ends meet, wished your purse strings as elastic as your heart strings, born your children in torture and anguish, made home for you, trained your servants, cooked your thankless meals (your mother always did better), so much for the compensations of life for mothers..." [who were]"... generally the most underpaid member of the family." She stated at the end that they did not wish to be suffragettes, but looking at the incidents of daily life, she felt the oppressions were "sufficient to turn one over to their ranks". Those in the class were surprised to find out that the speech was so old. It certainly wasn't dated! Quite often, the argument that Myra presented against being a suffragette is the argument that many give against being a feminist. The arguments regarding the status of womyn at home is another which is often heard, today extolling need for choice for men and womyn, but public support for this choice, whether there is a choice to be a business-based womyn or a domestic-based womyn. I think that we need to instil a sense of history in new wave feminists to ensure they know what came before them. The generation gap will only become wider if we do not. The problems have existed for a long time. We need to learn how the solutions began.

This is a picture of Suffragettes from Newfoundland. Taken from this website, the caption on the original page states:

1920s Women's suffrage supporters.
This photograph of the Women's Franchise League was taken ca. 1920, probably in Carbonear. Standing second from left, Fannie McNeil; seated left, Agnes Ayre; seated right, Janet Ayre.
Courtesy of Gertrude Crosbie. Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Collection 158), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.

They're some of the womyn in my provinces past.

I do have a story of older and younger feminists working together. I went to China a few years ago for the UN Forum of Womyn and the NGO Forum on Womyn. I went as an aid with the group I'd been working with all summer. This group was the Women’s Economic Network, made up of different womyns groups around the province, many of which were formed primarily of Fisher People being retrained and single mothers. They were going on the platform, Womyn Healing Oceans. I worked with them all summer and got to go to the conference as their accompanist and general helper (being neither a single parent or a fisher). I was 18; the oldest of the 22 other womyn was 72. We worked together, we fought together, and we made our point. A (badly designed) website of our efforts is here. We bridged the gap to present a united front, which for the most part worked. This is what can happen when the gap is bridged and generations of feminists work together.

They're some of the womyn in my provinces present. Who will be the future?




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