Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Women's Stories

As I was doing my daily reading of, which usually pisses me off more than it causes me to reflect, I stumbled upon an opinion piece that really made me think a lot.

Full disclosure: I lost my mom in April of this year, so that may be why it was more touching to me. But whoa, is that a story! The author of the piece reflects on his mother's life in a way that makes the history that we have often heard about of women at the time come to life. What struck me as most interesting, though, is that this is frequently the type of dialogue about women after they die, instead of engaging them in it while they are alive.

I know this from personal experience. My mom was the type of person who knew everyone, and everyone knew her. You either loved her or you hated her, but either way if you were interacting with Mary Jane Costello she was going to have an impact on your life. Though she had been battling breast cancer for 8 years, her death was still sudden and shocking to many of us. Since we didn't get the chance to say goodbye and to honor her in life, tributes poured in after death. We received letters and cards from friends who probably hadn't spoken to my mother in years, detailing stories from their past and ways that she had changed their lives. At her wake, it was standing room only, full of people eager to talk about my mother and celebrate her life while mourning her death. There were people who my mother had taught when they were 3 years old in pre-school who came with their own children, now preschool aged themselves. All of these people came to honor my mother, and I couldn't help but wish that she could have been there to hear it, and join in to enhance the stories. 

I love hearing stories about the lives of women. But when we tell the stories of other women, even if we were involved in them, we change them a little. We bring a little bit of our own biases, our own perspectives. We have to start encouraging women of the older generations to tell their own stories, in their own voices, before those stories are lost forever. I never really got to know my maternal grandmother, because she died when I was very young. I know that my theoretical children that I hope to have someday will never know their maternal grandmother. So I will do my best to keep my mother's spirit alive by telling her stories, as best as I can without her here, just as she did about her mother. But for those of you who have the opportunity, don't forget to take the time to ask your elders about their stories, in their voices, and encourage them to share it with the world. 

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