Second Time Around

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I took a course on the women’s movement back when it was barely walking. There were no women’s studies departments then, not even women’s studies courses. This one just happened to be on a topic of current interest–the year was 1971.

Now, thirty-six years later, I am planning to apply to a master’s program in women’s studies even though I was absent from the movement for most of the intervening years. It’s been disconcerting to find out that I’m something of a dinosaur: a relic of the Second Wave of feminism. One of the classes I’m taking is “The History of Western Feminist Thought,” and it was weird to find out that my past, my memories, are now being taught as history. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, caught in a time warp, like I went home again only to find that someone else is living in my house. And even the house is not the same.

But I also feel more alive than I have in years. Is feminism on the move again or is it just me? I would love to be part of a rebirth of the feminist spirit. It may be all in my head, and yet history tells me that these things go in cycles, and after a long dry period of conservatism, this society is ripe for a change. It’s tired of being told what to do, of always having to toe the line, of never being able to speak openly about the issues close to its heart.

It could be wishful thinking on my part. Maybe the women’s movement has had its day and is just waiting for the Third Wave to pass by. But again, maybe not. Maybe it’s being roused along with grumbling about the war. (It’s happened before.) Maybe we haven’t even had a Third Wave yet; we just didn’t know what to call the period in between heartbeats.

I’m going to use this blog to process what’s going on with feminism, both in my classes and in the world. It changed me–and the world–before; maybe it’s due for another go-round. I know I am.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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