A few minutes ago I found the saying from Madeleine Albright concerning women, about a special hell for women who don't help other women. I grew up in the generation before women's liberation. I've enjoyed in my lifetime seeing the liberation of women. Government lets women down every step of the way, but outside the reach of government, out here in the world where we live, I've seen a change sweep through women's culture in the younger generations and it took with the older women too. It is a new self-confidence. In childhood I remember thinking a lot of the women that lived in the neighborhood were really neat people, who turned inward to be a housewife to raise kids and stay married, clean house and cook. I see women now asserting themselves creatively in each one's own way. I see women having girl's night out parties. I see women being friends and not slicing each other to ribbons behind one another's backs. Of course, it goes on. It goes on among men too. It's a human thang. No blame. All the way through school I knew a lot of brilliant girls I felt needed a chance to be their human self and deserved the chance the same as men. I never found girls and women less intelligent than boys and men. Our society needs the influence of the feminine in a bad way. And the feminine is coming in. Joan Jett opened the door to women as rock stars. Then there was Heart, then Patti Smith and Nina Hagen, then L7, Courtney Love and the whole spectrum of rock women are doing now. It's not been so much a "movement" as a shift in belief systems in how women see themselves in relation to their own humanity.
This word humanity doesn't have the meaning it one time had, either. Or maybe I had a youthful stereotype of humanity from nineteenth century salons. I am not disheartened by humanity seeing the greedy doing what they do, seeing what power does to people who have had a taste of it. We do it all, have done it all, always. It's in us each one, individually. Some of us learn to control our automatic desires, and most watch tv learning daily to satisfy desires whatever the cost. Learning to control the automatic desires is the spiritual path I focus on for myself. I don't believe I have a right to hold anyone else to such attention. Meaningful to me does not mean necessarily meaningful for someone else. Like I can read Wallace Stevens' Idea of Order At Key West and have my mind blown every time. Somebody else would say, It's all right. And somebody else wouldn't be able to make heads nor tails of it. And somebody else would tell me I only see it superficially and maybe give me an in-depth lecture on what's really going on with it. And I'd listen with full attention. I feel like this is a benefit of being a reader in a world of people who don't read. You learn definitively that not everybody is interested in the same thing you are. A good learning. Somebody else is interested in making fiddles. It makes an interesting world that we all have our own likes and dislikes. One does not cancel another. All the different interests weave together into humanity. I'm all for a world that allows everyone their own potential at something besides making money. That too, for the people that need it, but not to have it a necessity for everybody. I have a feeling this is the world we are moving toward in our social evolution as humanity.
We're in a white man backlash now that the people with black hair and women are becoming self-aware. It's unsettling the white man belief system that has been dominant for 6,000 years. We are seeing the tail end of that era and men are freaking out. Their support systems have abandoned them. Hate radio and hate television rub salt in the white man's wound. I tend to see that a good thing, considering wars are about burning off hate. This hate spewing up among white men has been there all long. It's not new because of Limbaugh. The hate created Limbaugh. The hate has to come to the surface where it can be dealt with. I see these trends among the people, not in government. Government being a white man mafia, government will change last, if religion doesn't come in last. I see us moving toward that overused word diversity. I'm glad it's going that way. I found girls smarter than the guys all the way through school. In adult life, I find women, as a rule of thumb, to be far more intelligent than men. Earlier today driving to town, I heard on NPR somebody had made a study that found women are far better workers than men, concluding women deserve more pay than men. It accorded with what I've observed in my experience along the way. I felt it was a shame when Lois Sheets lost the election some years ago running for sheriff. She would have been a good one, and there would not have been any scandals. Donna Shumate, lawyer in Sparta, is among the most brilliant minds I know. Not saying I'm a collector of brilliant minds, but one stands out from time to time. I worked for Donna for six years and came out of the experience respecting her more than I did going into it, and my respect was considerable then. Men don't have to perform in court pregnant. There are some men I know whose minds I respect, but it's mostly in women I find the minds I respect in the deepest way. I don't mean to be going off into generalizations, but can't help it.
All my life, from childhood to now, I have observed women to be so much more intelligent than men that the difference is remarkable. American boys tradition has been all the way along to stop learning after puberty. Boys are not taught to be sensitive to the feminine, only to conquer. Rape goes so deep in the male psyche, it's good to see rape coming to the surface as a social concern, where it can be dealt with--more evidence white man is losing the reins of power. The ERA not passing failed to slow down the women's movement. Its time was now, whether government noticed or not. Evidently, now is the time for gay rights to surface. It's one of those things I say, Why hasn't it always been thus? It's as self-evident as women deserving at least equal pay with men, as well as equal opportunity. It's something I don't feel is political. I knew black people all the way through school. I did not find them ignorant. I found them intimidated. Girls had to ditch their intelligence when they started wanting to get married. The black kids knew that doing well in school wasn't going to serve them in any kind of way. They were taken for dumb, came to see themselves dumb, and gave up before they could start. I remember a guy in high school. His name was Leon. We were the same weight and had to wrestle in gym class. He always smelled of liquor. Always wanted me to win because he didn't really want to bother. He kept a pint bottle in his locker. He was a good guy, intelligent guy, didn't do shit in school, didn't finish, and I'd guess either crashed and burned or went into the Army or anything except upwardly mobile. He knew as a black man he had no chance but to be a low-paid laborer, working for the man, would never have any respect outside the bar, never honored for being a man. It rendered him without hope from the beginning. I did not feel right being white around him. I didn't want to hold him down, render him without a chance. I didn't want him thinking I was his superior because my skin was white. This at the time in a teenager's mind when the injustices of the world we're on the verge of diving into loom large.
helen frankenthaler herself