Issue 134— July 6, 2020

My cousin Elizabeth is making good use of this time of sheltering during the pandemic to dig into our family history. It was rooted in the small town of Birzai, Lithuania for hundreds of years until two world wars either killed them or dispersed them to many corners of the world. One of the most intriguing and yet exasperating parts of this exploration is getting the names right as spellings varied from language to language. Vinn became Vinh or Bein, Henne to Hannah, and even some in the same nuclear family some people spelled their last names differently.

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This beautiful piece was written as an exclusive for the Women’s Media Center by Shruti Swamy a writer for India Currents Magazine, currently working toward her MFA in fiction at San Francisco State University. Thanks to the Women’s Media Center for permitting the republishing of this and other articles.Far from a generational divide, the author, as a young feminist, finds sustenance in the ways the women in her family handled their more limited life choices.

It’s hard for me to imagine what my grandmother’s youth was like, spent in rural and then urban India. At 16, she was arrange-married to a man she had met once years before, at 17 pregnant with her first child, by 21 the mother of three young children. There are few pictures of her from that time, so I’ve made them up for myself; Baa on her wedding day in hot, heavy clothes; Baa working in the green fields through her first pregnancy, chewing ginger for strength; Baa with another baby in her arms, cooking dinner for her family.

I had been thinking of her when I first read in the New York Times about a perceived generational divide in feminist responses to the Stupak amendment (“In Support of Abortion, it’s Personal v. Political”). Feminists who remembered a time when abortion was illegal expressed an urgency to take action that they felt was lacking in later generations. Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that long-time feminists like NARAL Pro-Choice President Nancy Keenan tend to view reproductive choice “in stark political terms—as a right to be defended, like freedom of speech or freedom of religion.” A later blog post for Newsweek quoted University of Maryland assistant professor Kristy Maddux, who specializes in historical feminism, saying younger women “don’t have any reason to believe that it matters if they go out and protest. Instead, they talk about their positions to friends and neighbors.”

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It seems only right that as Women’s History Month draws to a close, we don’t just look backward but that we also focus forward to ask what women of the future might or should become.

Who do you think will be the woman of tomorrow? How would you define her character and characteristics? What external forces will influence her? How will she define herself? What are your aspirations for women’s lives five, ten, 25 years hence? Please post your comments here and let’s discuss these questions. Here’s one to start you off:

Will she be a “Powered Woman”? When I asked this question via Twitter (I’m Heartfeldt there), @MadamaAmbi replied with her ideas about the “powered woman“. I love that we both chose the same adjective–“powered” rather than “empowered” or “powerful”–to describe where we think women are and/or will be. It’s a subtle but significant language shift that to me implies women are at a historic point of choice.

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