March is Women's History Month and seems to be a good time to honor and increase our awareness of the women who have made history. Each year offers a different focus for this month, and this year, the theme is empowerment. The empowerment of humanity and women has been a huge passion of mine, especially as it pertains to empowerment through writing and transformation, the subject of my doctoral dissertation.
Many baby boomers have been quite impactful in initiating change in their communities and in society-at-large, and as a result affect history. As a child of the '60s, I was exposed to a fair amount of empowering feminine literature, including Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which was originally published in the 1950s. And while that was still an era when women stayed home to raise children and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, de Beauvoir did advocate that women should be inspired to be self-sufficient and able to look after themselves. While my Austrian immigrant mother never spoke to me about de Beauvoir, many of her beliefs were similar in that she believed women should be educated and interesting. She often voiced her respect for women who had jobs outside the home, whether it was for financial reasons or for personal development. She believed that those who were multi-dimensional and worked outside of the home tend to be more intellectually interesting, and thus in the long run, hopefully more content. Many of her beliefs in this regard rubbed off on me, and in turn on my three adult children, who are extremely driven and became empowered by self-development and growth.
As a middle-aged adult, I returned to graduate school for my MFA in writing, and devoured all the journals of Anais Nin, a woman whom I deeply admire. Nin cherished her relationships with the opposite sex, but also held that women should be loved and respected for their independence. Reading Nin's journals deeply empowered me as a human being and as a woman. She liberated me by offering me permission to express the sentiments nestled in the depths of my soul -- all those feelings which had been locked inside for so many years -- the sentiments crushed by the concept of my parents telling me that children should be seen and not heard. It was, therefore no surprise that when gathering the poems for my first poetry collection that I dedicated the volume to her, and called that book Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. The book opens with a letter to Nin which includes this sentence: "You have taught me the intrinsic value of the written word, how to dig deeper into my emotional truth, and the importance of having love in my life. And for this, I thank you."
Anaïs Nin was many things to many people -- friend, confidant, lover, author, philosopher, psychologist and diarist. In many ways she could have been viewed as a Renaissance woman, interested and interesting in many areas. As a French-Cuban author, she was best known for her published journals spanning 60 years. Like myself, a traumatic event turned her onto writing. When she was 11 years old, her father left the family for a younger woman. Her journals began as a letter to him and as time went on, those pages became her best friend, confidant and ultimately a crucial part of her everyday life. Nin's journals empowered her and by sharing them with the world, she empowered many other women. She shared her insightful views of the role of women in the world, from the standpoint of being an intellectual, intuitive, sexual, and erotic spirit. Her writings empowered and guided women to help them define themselves. Nin was not a feminist per se, although I have heard that she was often invited to speak at feminist rallies and events. Nin iniated change through her powerful words and the way she brought women together.
Although Nin was not a baby boomer (she was born in 1903), between 1946 and 1964, she affected many of us deeply. Boomers in general, have been portrayed as optimistic, exploratory and high-achieving individuals who were a part of some of the most significant social changes in history, playing a significant role in the advances of women's workplace rights, reproductive rights and the so-called "sexual revolution." Bringing people together has been proven a long-range passion of baby boomers.
Studies have shown that when baby boomers become involved in social issues or want to empower to initiate change, they tend to resort to single-cause issues that arise from deep passions. Unlike their parents, baby boomers tend not to organize around their own self interests. They are driven by passion and uncivic engagement. Boomers are a generation that questions social justice, and will continue to do so as they march into their golden years. We continue to empower others, and this becomes contagious from one woman to another and from generation to generation. The way I see it, we will do this until death do us part. As Joan Baez sang at Woodstock, "We shall overcome."
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