Anyone who doesn’t believe that a better world is possible if we dare to dream it should take a look at the recent history of women’s liberation. The way I see it, I owe the women who came before me not just to live as freely as possible, not just to demand that women of all classes and backgrounds are able to access the freedoms I enjoy, but to demand even more.At least she's up-front about being perpetually aggrieved. Hope she enjoys getting old with her cats.
For as long as I have been a feminist, I have been asked – usually by grumbling men – when, exactly, we will be satisfied; when women and girls will decide we have enough. The answer is contained in the question: because the instant that we do decide that we are satisfied, that there can never be a better world than this, is the instant that the future shuts down and change becomes impossible.
Utopia is the search for utopia. It is the no-place by whose light you plot a course through a harsh and unnavigable present. By the time you reach the horizon, it is no longer the horizon but that doesn’t mean you stop going forwards.
Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there. In the midst of multiple global crises, the only truly ridiculous proposition is that things are going to stay exactly the same.
But in getting to her confession, she makes a telling observation or three.
My mother’s mother left school at 13, lived through the Maltese blockade and was obliged by religion and circumstance to marry young, suffocate all her dreams of education and adventure and spend her life taking care of a husband and six kids. Half a century later, I can choose when and whether to have children. I can choose to live independently from men. I regularly travel alone and there are no legal restrictions on getting any job I’m suited for.Talk about the ultimate first-world problems. Talk the seventh-century Moslems out of clitorectomies and honor killings. Then, perhaps, we can get into the sources of technical progress, accompanied with or despite, political struggles, and for extra credit we can have a bull session on whether Herland ought to come with a trigger warning because the title is cisnormative.
The kind of independence many women my age can enjoy would have been almost unimaginable half a century ago – but somebody did imagine it, and that is why we got here. A great many somebodies, over centuries of struggle and technological advancement, asked how the world could be different for women and set about making it happen.
Exactly a century ago, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel Herland envisioned a society of women in which production was communal, motherhood was valued, relationships were equal and rape and violence were unknown. Reading Herland today, it is striking that for every proposition that came true – women are now allowed to divorce their husbands and participate fully in political life – there are two more that seem as far-fetched now as they did in 1915. Motherhood is still not valued as work. Women are still expected to organise our lives around the threat of sexual violence. But all that can change as long as we continue to ask for more.