Score One for Gen X

You know, nothing pleases me more than that the two biggest factions of the pro-choice movement have forgotten than there is a small, but still here!, generation of women between them. I know that sounds sarcastic, but it is not. Because the truth is, if I had to read this patronizing bullshit about how everything was peachy-keen until two years ago and think it was written with any knowledge of what my generation have been through and fought for, I’d be pissed. Livid pissed.

And if I had to read this ahistorical nonsense

In addition, people need access not just to abortion and family planning services, but also to support when they choose to become parents. This means help for young mothers with continuing their education and access for all parents to paid family leave, paid sick days, affordable child care, and high quality education for their children. It means treatment for infertility for everyone, not just families with means. These issues are as important to us as abortion access, yet we don’t see our values reflected in the work done in the past or present by the Boomer generation.

–and think it was saying anything to or about the realities of my generation, again, I’d be pissed.

But since my generation continues to be so unimportant as to not even merit mention, as to be completely left out of any discussions about reproductive needs or who should be in leadership positions, I can let it roll right off my back.

17 thoughts on “Score One for Gen X

  1. We’re such a small generation, but yeah I feel you. I have pages of unpublished “essays” (rants) on politics and our generation. I think we saw more of our rights and livelihood lost than any American generation this century. I think we were promised more (equality, fairness, be anything you want when you grow up!) and ultimately given less. I mean, even with no changes to current laws, it’s presently harder to get an abortion in this country, right now, than it was before Roe vs. Wade.

  2. Talking with my Grandma Doris makes me think that we probably are a mirror generation with the folks who were of age to go to World War II. (Our men are better, though they don’t know it.)

    But the fact is that we both came after a really vibrant culture-redefining generation that made tremendous gains in women’s and civil rights and we had trouble/are having trouble holding onto them.

    My great Grandma was a huge political mover and shaker in Chicago, played basketball in high school, sold cars for a bit, wrote, painted, and basically was a citizen of the world.

    By the time my grandma got to high school, there wasn’t women’s basketball anymore and my grandma was really funneled into being a housewife after the War (a task for which she was ill-suited in many ways).

    But then the Baby Boomers did come along and regain tons of ground.

    So, you know, I do have hope that the Millenials will do likewise.

    But it still is weird to see ourselves written out of the discussion.

  3. A thought from a millennial on this issue:

    About a week and a half ago, I went to a Women’s Equality Day breakfast, put on by some of the biggest women’s advocacy organizations here in LA. There was a panel on bringing women’s voices to the table, or something generic of that nature. But over and over, the question was asked “Where are the young women? Why don’t young women get involved?”

    My friend and I actually yelled out “right here” in response to the first question. But the real answer as to where young women are is that right now, we’re just trying to survive in this economy. I realize that’s not unique to millennials,, but we’re the ones hit hardest by unemployment, lack of entry-level opportunities, and student loan debt. Most women I know who are my age are outraged by what’s happening, and do want to be more involved. But we need help getting to the table.

    And we’re not getting that help. Whether the Boomers or Gen X is to blame for that is irrelevant. I wanted to ask in response to the “where are the young women?” question, “Did you even ask any young women to participate in this? Did you even invite them to this event?” My friend and I appeared to be the only ones there under 40. I’m routinely the only woman under 40 at some of the Jewish women’s events I go to.

    Younger women need mentors, both professionally and within the feminist movement. But it often feels like the older women would rather blame us for not getting involved than lift one finger to help us get involved. I don’t think it’s an accident that most of my mentors, the ones who helped shape me as a lawyer and as a progressive activist, were men.

    Finally, I can’t help but hear the echoes of that tired trope in Nancy Keenan’s post–“millennials are lazy and only care about Facebook.” Um, no, but it doesn’t seem like we ever get the chance to prove otherwise.

    Sorry if this is rambling, but it’s a rant that’s been building for some time now. Yes, the “millennial” post was ahistorical, but I do agree with the overall point.

  4. I think they use the “lazy” trope on you guys because it worked on us. We were “slackers” from the time I was sixteen. We got the message. And they got to continue to rule the roost. I imagine this is the same strategy.

    To me, it goes back to that same “change/exchange” problem. I was really lucky to be introduced to feminism by second-wave feminists who were (and still are) awesome and radical and really looking, constantly, to figure out how to actually change things, how to tip things over to see how they work and if they can’t work better. If there were assholes among them, it seemed to be a personal flaw, not some systemic problem with 2nd wave feminism.

    This left me very unprepared for the strain of Professional Second-Wave Feminists, who seem committed, mostly, to exchange. They seized the struggle to be as good as men so that they could have the same bullshit privileges as men–secretaries to run their lives, students to do their research, volunteers to boss around and who would do the work while they were busy bigshotting.

    When enough of those women thought I was a slacker, hell, I was glad to be one, because it meant I didn’t have to participate in that shit.

    But there are a lot of people in the feminist movement who could benefit from some serious soul searching about whether they want actual change–which might mean that they have to give up some shit–or if they just want to be the ones on top for a while.

  5. “They seized the struggle to be as good as men so that they could have the same bullshit privileges as men–secretaries to run their lives, students to do their research, volunteers to boss around and who would do the work while they were busy bigshotting.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. And it’s why I get thoroughly annoyed in discussions like the one I went to when they cite “getting more women into office” as a catch-all solution for women’s problems. To which I say, “Not if they’re just going to play the same status quo politics.” More Sarah Palins won’t help women, nor will more Blue Dog types. We need more women in office–more progressive women who care about helping other women.

  6. Talking with my Grandma Doris makes me think that we probably are a mirror generation with the folks who were of age to go to World War II. (Our men are better, though they don’t know it.)

    Devils Advocate here – and no insult to *most* of the men I know personally… but I wouldn’t say that the majority of men out there are better that that of the WWII generation…. and I base this on what I constantly hear from a lot of single (and married women) – they grumble about men as a whole — either they have their head stuck in a video game all the time or they are so glad they got married and now have someone to act as a surrogate mother figure (i.e. cook, do laundry, think for them, etc…)

    I reiterate, I am by no means speaking of ALL men. But I can say as a single woman over age 35, I’m not rushing to get married*** because – among other reasons – there have been very few men out there for me to even consider for marriage material.

    This all (ramblingly) ties into “They seized the struggle to be as good as men so that they could have the same bullshit privileges as men–secretaries to run their lives, students to do their research, volunteers to boss around and who would do the work while they were busy bigshotting.”

    Really, is it *as good as* to push your own duties onto someone else?

    (***I’m not rushing to get married. At all.)

  7. I dunno Beth. I think men are trying to hit a moving target. As soon as we meet expectations then the finish line gets moved a little farther. Culturally speaking, being a good dad in the 50’s meant being a good provider, these days it means working, helping with the house work, and taking little Timmy to soccer practice every day. So men aren’t meeting expectations any better, but mostly because expectations have radically changed.

    I’m not complaining about it, just pointing it out.

  8. I know I’m extrapolating from my own grandparents, but I had one grandfather who beat the shit out of his kids and everyone knew it and he was still a well-respected member of society. It was considered normal and, I mean, shoot, when he beat my uncle (who was still in high school and only dating my aunt at the time) nothing happened. He could assault another person’s child and, eh, it’s just how men do.

    My other grandfather liked to climb trees with his kids and ride bikes and hike and camp and play catch and generally spend time with them and he was considered something of an oddball. I know it embarrassed my grandma a little.

    I honestly believe this is one of the most important, and yet not wholly recognized, cultural shifts over the last century and I think we have easy divorce to thank for it (which we can thank second wave feminists for!) (and the rise in acceptance of gayness as something that isn’t cured by getting married). A LOT more wives and children are living in less violent or non-violent households. Men, divorced or not, are encouraged by society to take a much more active role in their children’s lives.

    There are a lot of guys out there who do want a mommy/maid/fuck buddy more than they want an equal partner, yes. But there were a lot of guys out there in the 70s who wanted their wives to do every single bit of parenting–except the discipline, if it was necessary–and considered it their right to not be bothered with it.

    And guys like that are exceedingly rare these days because men have learned that, for all the hard work, being a parent is really, really rewarding.

    And so I have to believe that, as guys get experience in more egalitarian relationships, where they seem their buddies and themselves with wives they actually like as people and who are fun to hang out with–when they truly see their wives and girlfriends as equal partners in the household and people they want to be friends with–though it will indeed mean more work for them, they will, gain, see that it is really, really rewarding and a massive cultural shift (which is already under way) will happen.

    The thing about us, as a society, is that, in order to keep the lesser people in it down, a lot of people who had relative power had to be convinced not to share it. The best non-violent means our society has to do that is to appeal to people’s laziness–your wife is not your friend! No, she’s this amazing, strange creature who you should not get to try to know that well, but who will cook and clean for you! That Hispanic guy is not like you! Don’t bother him while he does your yard work! Etc.

    But, I think that guys are starting to figure out that being encouraged to be lazy bastards who barely participate in their own lives isn’t awesome, but is a means of keeping them from really being happy and fulfilled.

    I hope so, anyway.

  9. Illissa, if I may go out on a bitter limb here full of sweeping generalizations, it’s going to be damn hard for us Xers to help get you all to the table, because we’re suffering from the same economy without the longevity of worklife and savings and paid off student loans Boomers have to smooth it out, and as B illustrates, the Boomers don’t seem to acknowledge we exist. I don’t know what the solution to that is, but it’s going to be hard for us to reach out a hand when the folks ahead of us are trying to reach over us to grab for you all.

  10. Maybe the Boomers don’t want to think of us Xers because they don’t want to think that there are two generations of adults younger than them – with more girls growing up fast to make the millennials not so young much long.

  11. If a Boomer can speak up here…. We’ve been getting fired by Gen Xers (who consider us too big an expense) for about 15 or 20 years now. And try to get a new job? Forget it — Gen Xers don’t want to hire us because it would be like working with their parents, ick, ick! So we’re not exactly in stable financial positions ourselves, most of us. I know it’s rough on younger people when we keep working until we’re 70, but we work until we’re 70 because we can’t afford to retire.

    We know you exist, but we got told loud and clear a generation ago that you didn’t want or like our version of feminism, and how you didn’t want to join our organizations and help change our version, because we reminded you too much of your mothers, ick! so we stopped asking. So, you know, our blessings on you: you and the millennials are gonna have to hash out the same set of issues as you and the Boomers, only now you’re the old failed ones.

  12. Good try, nm, but clearly, if the Millennials are writing angry letters like that to y’all still, we’re going to get to completely ditch the drama. Y’all will just have to bear it from two generations.

  13. Twenty years ago, I didn’t either. But you kids all came onto my lawn and told me I was.*

    The really prominent, defining second-wave feminists were older than Boomers. Betty Friedan? My mother’s generation. Gloria Steinem, Kate Wilhelm, all of them — younger than Friedan, but at least a decade older than the oldest Boomers. We came along and joined them in what they were doing, only to be told by the next generation that we were fogies. So I know how you feel.

    *My favorite I-despise-Boomers-so-much-that-it-has-destroyed-my-critical-faculties moment came a year ago when a friend of mine, who has railed against “Boomer nostalgia” for a long time,
    actually got a piece published in the NY Times
    explaining how Gen X’s nostalgia was something better and more meaningful than ours. After that, you just gotta give up.

  14. Okay, maybe I’m only here to toot my plaid flannel horn, but back around 92-94, I was a very active, very Gen-X pro-choice volunteer, clinic escort, and protester.

    And I frequently brought my Mom! We came across the state to Nashville to rally for choice in Legislative Plaza (she and I were security! we had whistles!), and we took a bus together to DC to parade past the White House in the wake of the wretched Casey decision (GHWB took a vacation that week, IIRC). I had a t-shirt with caricatures of Bush and Quayle pregnant (wish I had hung onto that, but it was truly grotesque) and one that said “Abort the Supreme Court,” which, yes, was dumb and nonsensical.

    So, to be written out of this debate between the oldies and the newies just makes me want to scream.

    And people who don’t get that in this country, unfortunately, abortion is the bellwether for what women get to do with their bodies the rest of the time are (perhaps willfully) missing this point.

  15. OMFG. Can a historian object to the incredible revision going on about the supposedly harmonious nature of second-wave Boomer feminism? Good lord, y’all, we have *always* been divided in our ideas, in our loyalties, in how to/whether to/when to address the simultaneity of our class and racial and sexual identities, in setting priorities, in claiming our victories…

    So here’s my little piece on my personal feminist practice:

    When I stop having two X chromosomes, that’s when I get to give up on other women as potential collaborators towards change. The truth is that we all need one another, like it or not, turf wars or not, hurt feelings or not. As much as I’d like to snicker and say “have at it, kids…and let me know how that hard-hitting e-mail campaign works out for you,” I have to do the work of taking my ego out of it and figuring out how to put my little action with yours, and yours, and yours until we’re roughly oozing in a similar direction for a common and necessary purpose. I’d like to think that we’re all there intellectually (or can get there when we have to, even if it’s just strategically or temporarily).

    And this is offered as someone who is a Boomer by seventeen freakin’ days.

  16. “I dunno Beth. I think men are trying to hit a moving target. As soon as we meet expectations then the finish line gets moved a little farther.”

    It’s only a moving target if you’re aiming for “bare minimum to be accounted a decent human being” rather than actually being a decent human being”.

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