Back in the day when I was first becoming an adult and exploring my relationship to the world, we used to say "The personal is political". Generations that have come after mine have absorbed this saying so that what seemed revolutionary to us is a given for them.
A few years ago we had a big kerfuffle in the American midwifery community. There was a pitched battle between the old guard, feminists who believed that their fight for women's rights and the right to choose and women's right to power over their own bodies was their domain, and the domain of midwifery and the be-all and end-all of reproductive justice.
The new guard said, no, actually, we have a new and different way of looking at bodies. We have taken your idea that everyone could "be what they want to be", and be respected for that, and we've lifted it one step higher. Now we are fighting for the freedom to actually create our own identities, and for the freedom to be treated as people on our own terms, in our own inclusive language, freed from the restrictions that the "women's movement" imposed upon revolutionary change.
Heady stuff. I signed a letter that agreed with the original proposition, that, yes, we have fought long and hard for "women's rights". But several of my younger students and a couple of my friends came to me and said, actually your view is distasteful to us, and offensive to some. We are fighting a different battle, they said. You don't understand the basic concepts, or the rules of engagement, or anything really. So sit and listen and learn.
So I did. I took my name off the letter (actually its still on, but hoping for closure at some point). I sat and listened. I don't agree with everything I hear, in fact some of it I downright disagree with. But I do agree, and fully support, a person's right to passionately believe in something. I believe that to change is to live. I believe that just because I don't understand something does not give me the right to offend people or dismiss their beliefs.
Part of the huge gift of being on this planet for sixty years is that I experienced infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, young motherhood, older motherhood, and I am just starting to see the value of acceptance and flexibility. So I say to the young guard: so happy you are making changes. May you make them wisely. And when the time comes, may you have the grace to pass the torch to your children and their children.
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