My mother read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique when I was 13 or 14 years old. I read the book much later, when I was about 30 years old with a husband, a son of 5 years and daughter a year old. As a housewife in a new subdivision at the edge of a small Ontario town, I could relate to what Friedan had written about in 1963. There was no satisfaction, at least no lasting satisfaction, in decorating the house, buying a new couch, going to the mall and coming home with more stuff.
Friedan said the kitchen was the biggest brain drain for women. I could see that – as I planned to make hot dogs supreme or beef stroganoff for dinner. Across from the harvest gold fridge and stove was the sink where I washed the vegetables and looked on to my neighbour’s driveway through red and yellow patchwork curtains. It was at that sink, in the kitchen as it happens, that longing met me and the ideas began. I came up with a plan which I proposed to the late Jack McClelland of McClelland & Stewart, book publishers, to sell Canadian books through home parties. Imagine the thrill when I received a three-page letter from Jack applauding my kitchen sink idea. He sent me 150 hardcover novels to give as gifts to women coming to the parties.
At that kitchen sink I dreamed of taking myself and my ideas out into the world. A feminist emerged at the sink as well. I began to wonder why the women were home in their housecoats while the men went out into the world. Why it was they got paid and we didn’t. One of the ideas I came up with was to propose a course called “Not for Mothers Only” to the YM/YWCA. It was like a consciousness-raising course for women with child care provided, offered through a community college.
When I looked for other local feminists, I found them at the Oshawa-Durham Rape Crisis Centre where I became a volunteer. That was a consciousness raising that over-turned my life and the lives of those close to me. Falling in love with a woman wasn’t a big surprise to me as lesbians were celebrated in the circles I was drawn to. It meant though, the end to my marriage and an end to living with my children on a daily basis as I shared “joint custody” with their father.
Jean Shinoda Bolen describes consciousness raising circles in her book, Goddesses in Older Women. The book describes goddess archetypes and includes a history of the circle as part of the waves of feminism. When we were part of an earth-based religion many thousands of years ago, we gathered in circles. When we wanted to remember, we gathered in circles again.
Taking action is a personal act of reclaiming, remembering, rejoicing, renewing, recreating and bridging from one way of life that is unacceptable to another that is making a difference. Will gathering in community in a circle help to change the world? I think so. As each person is willing to take a step towards all they can be. When we are willing to take our weary, vulnerable, fragile, nervous bodies to a circle where we can be heard, can talk about what we long for, wonders will unfold. We can remember the past and re-vision the future. In that state of awareness, we can take our story and our unique vision into the world.
“Kitchen Sink Vision” is excerpted from Mary Ann Moore’s writing mentoring program entitled Writing Home. Mary Ann is a writer, poet, writing mentor and circle facilitator in Nanaimo. www.maryannmoore.ca