Ever since I read in astronaut Sally Ride’s obituary that she had been in a committed relationship with Tam O’Shaunessy for twenty-seven years, I’ve wondered how O’Shaunessy must feel now. I don’t know how Ride set up her estate, but O’Shaunessy won’t be receiving any survivor benefits from the military because it’s prohibited by the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Besides, they were not even married. Can’t do that in California.
Things have improved some since the AIDS epidemic of the eighties when lovers were not allowed into hospital rooms, because we read that O’Shaunessy was at the side of our nation’s first woman astronaut through her long bout with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Margaret Burns answered an ad I placed in the Asheville, NC, Citizen-Times while I was researching a novel set in the mid 20th century at a private psychiatric facility. I remember the first time I heard her voice; it was low-pitched and direct (blunt almost) while at the same time curious in a kind way. Southern mountain all the way.
In her mid-eighties, Dr. Burns was still seeing an occasional patient and worried a bit about outliving her money. She was eager to share with me her recollections of the practice of psychiatry all those years ago. She felt Highland Hospital (affiliated with Duke University) had generally been a healing place. To my great surprise, I learned that the hospital’s director and at least half of its medical staff were female.
Even before President Obama spoke Tuesday night, the news had leaked that he had authorized 30,000 new troops for Afghanistan.
I didn’t think his speech would reassure me, but it did. A little. What a pleasure it is to hear a president with a sophisticated mind, an ordered thought process and the vocabulary to match them! For people like me, it’s the ultimate seduction.
Democrat Representative Bart Stupak’s end run around the leadership during the House vote on health care reform stunned me, but it shouldn’t have.
All week long I’d been getting emails from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) that access to abortion was threatened, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi was and is a supporter of reproductive freedom, and it never occurred to me that she’d have to choose between passing health care reform and compromising women’s right to decide what to about unplanned pregnancy.
Once upon a time, not so many years ago, the term great American writer was understood to mean great white male American writer. There was some diversity among them. They might be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic or atheist. They might be well-born or from humble backgrounds. They were usually heterosexual, and often quite flamboyantly so, but if they were not, they kept their sexual habits to themselves in fear of being considered, well, girlish.
Women wrote, to be sure, but men decided what would be published and other men decided who would hear about it. Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird might be wildly popular, but their authors, Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee, were considered one-book wonders. African American men, even geniuses like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, might have been granted a distant corner of the literary establishment, but they were read by serious white men, whereas their female counterparts were the real invisible people. Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote four novels during the Harlem Renaissance, died in a welfare hotel in Florida where she had supplemented her income by cleaning people’s houses.
The second wave of feminism that hit the United States in the 1970s gave women new determination to be heard, to write about what interested them, and to read what other women were saying about the female condition.
Random reflections on politics, the media, political activism, women's lives and spirituality, often inspired by travel, cultural events or what I read.
|<< <||> >>|