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January 14, 2012

My blog has been up for two weeks now, and I am reflecting on the experience. Me being who I am, I reflect in pictures.

Occupy Wall Street: As viewed on TV news shows


photo by Graham Coreil-Allen

The world I have dropped into, like Dorothy into Oz, is immense, diverse and welcoming. I feel warmly accepted. Like OWS, we cluster around our particular interests, finding niches for what we can offer. Many, but not all of the people I am meeting, are younger than I am, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Most unique is the absence of hierarchy. Maybe that is the trick for learning to deal with diversity. I can be me, feminist and retired professor here—as long as I refrain from lecturing and pontificating. Without meaning to be trite, this is liberating.

Because blogging is global and bloggers so diverse, I am discovering exciting new possibilities. I can remove my national blinders and get acquainted with people from everywhere online and in books. I look forward to being part of groups in 2012 focusing on books related to particular regions. I just wish I could be part of all of them.

“Boats of mine a-boating—Where will all come home?”
Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses.

1885 boat picDark brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Golden leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
Where will all come home?
OK, this image is from the original edition, not my tattered copy. And he was sailing paper boats, not the notes in bottles that I am launching—but the haunting, expansive mood is the same.

I love writing in small chunks, a sentence, a couple of paragraphs or a couple of pages. It such a relief from academic writing. I am beyond any desire to write long papers and books of impregnable prose heavily defended with pages and pages of footnotes. It may or not be true that academia developed during Medieval times in order to provide scholars an opportunity to joust with words rather than lances. That’s what it can feel like today, and I am not interested any more.

Writing for my blog I can let the words bubble out the top of my head. I will try to edit and tame the flow so as not to overwhelm you online, but it feels so good to let ideas come as they will again. I can make mistakes knowing that the consequences won’t be “Off with your head” or “Out with Your Job.”

If no one picks up my bottles and reads my notes, no big deal. There will be no “accountability” tests to see if I have taught efficiently. When I was teaching I imagined that I was planting seeds that students might discover years later when faced their own unexpected choices. Or did I plant time bombs?

“The Transformation of Silence into Language”
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider.

When I started browsing blogs last month, one of the first clusters of posts I discovered was the “Year of Feminist Classics.” Women were reading as “classics,” books that I had read when they were “cutting edge” in the 1970s and 1980s. I love discovering which words and ideas resonated with a new generation of readers and rereading the books for myself. It seemed perfect timing to find that the groups’ December book was Sister Outsider.

Lorde had been one of a handful of writers that literally changed my life. She and other feminists gave me a new way of understanding my place in society—not as a helpless woman needing a man for meaning and survival but as a competent person following her dreams. They helped me see that my problems were not all my own personal failure, but social and intellectual structures that needed to be changed. Nine months after I heard about Mary Daly’s Beyond God the Father, I returned to grad school to get the Ph.D. that I hadn’t dared pursue earlier.

“Finding our voices” and listening to each others’ stories were key aspects of feminism then, more so than specific social or personal demands, something that has gotten forgotten in appraisals of feminism’s impact. Lorde and Adrienne Rich expressed the theme with particular clarity, but it was everywhere. We said, somewhat arrogantly, we were “giving birth to ourselves.” A better phrase I remember but can no longer place was “hearing each other into being.” For those of us who had grown up in “Listening to Beaver” homes it was intoxicating.

Although I only realized it with hindsight, I slipped into another silence when I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I became physically, socially, and intellectually isolated; separated from the world in which I had a voice. Being able to blog restores my voice.

Chronic illnesses play with your mind as well as with your body, making it hard to believe that you are still a competent human being, not simply a useless lump dependent on others. Blogging hasn’t helped my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In fact I have gotten overtired and my body has hit back. But blogging has made me better at a deeper level, more able to cope with whatever CFS and life throws my way.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2012 11:47 pm

    Just looked through your first few week’s worth of posts, and it looks like you’re off to a great start with your blog! I’m looking forward to keeping up with it and I’m glad you found our discussion about Sister Outsider at the Feminist Classics blog interesting. This was a lovely post 🙂

  2. February 1, 2012 10:16 am

    Thanks. I am glad, too.

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