Giving Thanks for Feminism

by Nancy Jane Moore

Conscientious InconsistenciesWhen my collection Conscientious Inconsistencies came out a few years back, Lyn Perry gave it an excellent review on The Fix, the late and lamented short fiction review magazine. But he questioned whether it should have been characterized “as a sampling of stories influenced by Moore’s feminism,” fearing that would “unnecessarily marginalize these stories away from the very genre fiction scene it seeks to represent.”

I appreciate that he was saying he thought the stories could be enjoyed by all science fiction and fantasy readers, not just those who see themselves as feminists. And — casting modesty aside — that’s true. I rarely start a story with an agenda of any kind — feminist or political. My writing process is not that linear.

But I am a feminist, down to my nerve-endings. My feminism affects everything I do, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. There’s no way I can write a story that isn’t somehow influenced by it.

Let me explain that with an analogy: I’m also an Aikidoist. The principles of Aikido are also knitted into my nerve-endings, all the more so because I learned them with my body first. Pretty much any story I write will be influenced by Aikido, too. (There are several good examples of that in Conscientious Inconsistencies.)

There are other things that influence my thinking process — my years working in co-ops, my legal education, the various jobs I’ve had. The different things I’ve done in my life will naturally work their way into my fiction.

But the process of becoming a feminist was different from that of becoming a martial artist or a lawyer. I initially became a feminist in simple reaction to all those people who said, “Girls can’t do that.” I react very badly to being told I can’t do something I want to do, and having it premised on the sexual organs I was born with just made me more furious.

My high school history teacher once asked me what I was going to do when I grew up. I told him I was planning to become a lawyer, and he said, “Oh, you’ll be a housewife like everyone else.” I don’t practice law anymore, but I am not now, nor have I ever been, a housewife.

But my feminism is not simply grounded in reaction to discrimination. I’ve nurtured it over the years by reading and the study of ideas. I have moved on from pounding on the doors of male institutions yelling “Let me in” to looking at how much better society would be if we didn’t try to force everyone into stereotypical notions about what they should do with their lives based solely on their physiology.

There are those who argue that feminism is passe, that we’ve solved all those problems. (If you really believe that con job, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I can let you have for next to nothing.) There are others who are scared by what a society that doesn’t define its members by sex would look like. That includes thoughtful people, not just the right wingers who put The Feminine Mystique on their list of harmful books. We’ve all been raised in a world where the first question people ask about a new baby is “Is it a boy or a girl”; it’s not surprising that getting away from that reality would be frightening.

But I think societal discomfort is a small price to pay for developing a world in which people can pursue their lives without being limited by social definitions of what a man or woman is. That’s what I mean by feminism.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I find myself very grateful for the feminists who came before me, the people who gave me the opportunity to be more than “just a housewife.”

I’m particularly grateful for Margaret Sanger and the other early advocates for birth control and for all those lawyers and activists who worked on the seminal legal cases like Griswald v. Connecticut, Baird v. Eisenstadt, and Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to decide when and if to have children. Reproductive freedom is the cornerstone of feminism; it’s what gives women the opportunity to build the lives they want, with or without children.

But I’m also grateful for all those profound thinkers throughout the years — Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Joanna Russ, and so many, many others — who have articulated the issues and given the rest of us the tools to work with as we navigate this new world.

I’m especially grateful for Timmi Duchamp and the books she’s publishing at Aqueduct Press, because both the fiction and the nonfiction she’s bringing out are expanding the conversation. And I’m grateful for WisCon, which has nurtured and expanded feminism within the science fiction world for lo these many years, and which, judging by an unscientific analysis of last year’s attendees, is including many younger people, both female and male, giving the lie to the notion that feminism is an old woman’s preoccupation.

I’m very, very thankful for feminism.



Giving Thanks for Feminism — 5 Comments

      • Thanks for the links, Debbie. I just stumbled across a video the Rachel Maddow bit, and it was wonderful. And I’m thankful for the same things you all are.

        The literary canon list is useful, though it seems to me it has some major holes in it, especially on the fiction side. Any list of the U.S. feminist canon that omits Joanna Russ strikes me as very incomplete, just for starters.

        And sorry about the lack of a preview field. We really do need one. Something else for the TDD list.

  1. I admire anyone who admits to being a feminist. These days no one knows what feminism is. People find it easy to listen to those that blame every problem that crops up on feminism. So now everyone disavows their own feminism. And yet at heart feminism is nothing more than the development of “a world in which people can pursue their lives without being limited by social definitions of what a man or woman is.”

    In the words of anyone alive in the 70s: Right on, Nancy!

    • Thanks, Sue. I know what I think feminism is 😉 But my ideas are evolving all the time. In fact, when you quoted me up there, I found myself saying, “it’s broader than that.” More later on this subject, most likely.