I just bought a plant today. It is this lovely, hearty looking succulent plant called a “ZZ”. The little card that came with it boasts, “this durable houseplant is an exceptional performer in low light and requires next to nothing in care.” It’s apparently bomb proof and seems to thrive on neglect. This concept has always appealed to me, particularly when it comes to houseplants. I was immediately drawn to the plant, perhaps because the notion of “thriving in almost all conditions” resonates deeply within the tired, but resilient and hearty nature of this working mother.
For some reason, it got me thinking about the current state of feminism. I know, quite a leap of logic, but hang with me a minute…
I’ve recently claimed the identity of “feminist” with all the fervor I can muster. It’s officially part of my super-secret cache of self-identifying monikers – right up there with “runner”, “working mother” and “Scorpio.” But after a particularly rugged March, one in which I got sick a number of times and felt particularly run-down from my habitual tendency to burn the candle at both ends, I am seriously revisiting this notion of “thriving on neglect.” As I approach my fortieth birthday, this wise voice within me keeps kvetching saying, “you’re kidding me, right? You’re actually proud of this ability to run on empty?”
So here is the crucial intersection at which I find myself standing: the convergence of all my self-appointed identifiers in the bright light of this new question of whether or not I want to continue to “thrive on neglect.” I’m thinking perhaps it’s time I water my own plant a bit. For just like my new succulent ZZ, I have been boasting that I can go for long stretches of time with no water and still be an “exceptional performer.” I have let myself get dehydrated. Again.
So it begs the question in my over-active mind: what else is dehydrated simply because of its hearty and resilient nature? I mentally scroll through my list of monikers and find more examples. “Runner?” Yes, it’s true I consider myself to still be a runner (not a “jogger” – very different), despite having not taken a step in my sneakers for nearly two years. What else?
Then it occurs to me. Recently, while on the Maine Women’s Fund website (http://www.mainewomensfund.org/) , I stumbled on the phrase “riding the wave of feminism.” Ah! Feminism! Now there is a hearty plant with which I can identify! I think “feminism” and I think “Gloria”, “60s” and “women’s movement.” I have visions of throngs of women, raising their voices together in protest and taking a stand. Most recently, I think “Hillary.” Interestingly enough, I don’t think: “me” or “my generation.” Which leads me to my next question to myself: when was the last time I did anything to water the plant of feminism? And more importantly, as a white woman in my late 30s, have I ever? Or am I continuing to rely on the work that those legions of women have done before me?
There is something within me that is rising up and saying, “this is no longer okay!”. The health and well-being of feminism is too important to neglect and it will fail to thrive with without some serious watering by my own generation. There is something shifting inside of me that is rebelling against the whole “thrive on neglect” mentality, despite my recent purchase of a ZZ.
I consider conversations that I’ve had with my women friends who are in their 50s and 60s – women who forcibly (and noticeably) created positive changes for women in the world. There is often visible annoyance or resentment present when the topic of feminism arises among us. One particular dear and wise friend confessed, “I’m tired…you do the work now!”
Okay. It’s time. Are you ready to join me? For one thing that I’ve learned is there is strength in numbers. Despite all my resilience, tenacity and “thrive on neglect” ways, I cannot do this alone.
So I pulled out some books because that’s what I do when I’m on a mission. Rebecca Walker. bell hooks. Naomi Wolf. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. I am beginning to hydrate myself for this leg of the journey and am feeling my endurance athlete spirit awaken within me.
I am ready. I think back to my days as a runner in the 4 x 400 meter relay. I imagine myself standing there, warmed up and primed for the race. I feel the sweaty baton coming into my fresh hands from my weary team member. I am so ready for this challenge.
Are you with me?