“Verily, the world waits the coming of some new element, some purifying power, some spirit of mercy and love. The voice of woman has been silenced in the state, the church, and the home, but man cannot fulfill his destiny alone, he cannot redeem his race unaided. There are deep and tender chords of sympathy and love in the hearts of the downfallen and oppressed that woman can touch more skillfully than man.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Seneca Falls Convention 1848
I remember reading this as an impressionable youth and feeling shivers. I was proud that this woman lived before me and I could, too, call myself a woman. What astounded me was not only that this speech was given in 1848, but Elizabeth was a housewife who had seven children. This was not all the fulfillment she needed. She was lonely despite the domestic chaos; she expected more from her community and herself. She realized that inaction leads to apathy.
I find myself thinking about Elizabeth a lot now that I am older, along with the Brontes, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and Jeanette Winterson, and the list goes on. These are all women who weren’t contented with how things were. It seems to me with all this technology out there, all this stuff to distract, to placate, to mollify—most of us couldn’t see ourselves if we looked ourselves in the eye. There is a veritable disconnect. With all of this technology, how can we really know the extent of our loneliness? We are never alone, not really. So when does self-realization happen? When we are walking down the street on our cell-phones, laughing at jokes made between static air-waves? No wonder there are no Elizabeth Cady Stantons these days. We are lulled into a false sense of security—a false sense that people are more educated than they are. We are a point and click society; bare bones. My god, do you remember reading history in high-school? It barely skimmed the surface. And that is what we are still doing— scaling the surface. Not getting down to the visceral innards of anything.
I am so goddamn tired of pretenses. Richard Brautigan wrote of Vida in The Abortion, a woman that did not think she belonged in the body she was born into because she did not feel it reflected who she was on the inside. I feel that not a single one of us feels we are reflected correctly, and maybe that is because we are only seen as reflections by other people; man, woman, boy, girl, wealthy, poor, pretty, ugly. It’s like we’re filling our arms with emptiness, for the sole purpose of filling them. These feminist memes, displayed as badges of honor all over social media, are hollow and meaningless; smoke and mirrors. Where are the years of wading in the thick of it? Where are the words poured out on page like hearts bled? Point, click, and share—this barely scaling the surface is not devoting one’s life to a cause. We are still bleeding. Let’s fully understand the problem, actually look ourselves in the eye, and start to mend. I feel I owe it to myself. I feel like I owe it to Elizabeth. The world is still waiting.
*Collage by Sammy Slabbinck