I am in awe of feminist author and activist Dorothy Allison.
Born in South Carolina in 1949 and now living in California, Allison has attracted numerous accolades in the last thirty years for her six published books. (They include Lambda Literary Awards, ALA Awards for Lesbian and Gay Writing and a ridiculous number of others.) She is the rare writer to reach, in my opinion, wonderful heights in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, though her two already-released full-length novels, Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller, are her most famous works.
She's last been seen giving sex tips to seniors in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, she's speaking about sex, life, and maybe a little rock 'n' roll at Westfield State University. With more than 30 books in tow, oodles of accolades, and millions of fans, Dr. Ruth is still Dr. Ruth.
To look in the "Blues" section of most record stores, you'd think it was only men who had troubles worth singing about. This week it is my pleasure to prove this assumption SPECTACULARLY WRONG, with a glimpse at some of the women who have howled, growled, whimpered and moaned their way through the Blues.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is perhaps most famous for her 1892 short story, "The Yellow Wall-Paper," about a woman who's confined to her bed for a "nervous condition" after she fails to experience what her husband and doctor insist is the universal bliss of motherhood. During her bed rest imprisonment, she begins to see a woman trapped behind the wallpaper in her room. The story is famous for good reason: it can be interpreted as a critique of the male-dominated medical world of the time, an early exploration of postpartum depression, a feminist allegory that makes the case for women's freedom, or all of the above. But Gilman's body of work stretches far beyond this story, and her life as an early radical feminist is worth reading about!
So this week's Adventure in Feministory takes us to Montgomery, Alabama, in December of 1955. While we're there, we're going to be spending some time with a 42-year-old department store seamstress named Rosa Parks. Perhaps you've heard of her? Were she alive, the first lady of American Civil Rights would turn 98 this Friday. It's not every day Congress passes an act bestowing a gold medal on a lady for "her contributions to the nation," but they did for Parks, in 1999. Because the Happy Birthday song is trademarked, let's take a look back at Parks's extraordinary life and celebrate her, Feministory-style.
Okay, full disclosure, right up front: I'm a babysitter. Like, professionally. So maybe my fascination with the history of this job comes from a place of pure self absorption. Then again, there's a good chance many of you readers have been babysitters at some point (BSC-inspired flyers around the neighborhood advertising your services? A totally undesirable but obligatory gig watching a younger family member?), and besides, the history of the babysitter brings up some issues much larger than diapers and bedtime, like our culture's anxiety with the financial and sexual independence of girls.
Here is the semi-embarrassing circumstance that resulted in the more-than-semi-embarrassing-realization that I haven't yet written about Maya Angelou for this blog: I was watching the first day of OWN's (Oprah Winfrey Network, duh) new programming with my mom, (...nope. Can't even come up with a sarcastic parenthetical. I just was.) and saw that Dr. Angelou would be featured on an upcoming series called "Master Class." Actually, I saw that a new show on OWN would feature Maya Ang—, which is all I saw before I bolted off the couch to my computer and yelled back to my mom that we needed to figure out DVR recording before Sunday night at 10. She was surprised by my new enthusiasm for the Winfrey gospel, needless to say. And I'm surprised I haven't yet waxed adoring on this writer, this poet, this actress, director, dancer, professor, activist, this woman who more than any other artist makes me glad to be American, to be female, to be human at the same time as her.