The following is a true story from the 1990’s

feminism is power-full

as i approached the seattle NOW outreach booth at the university street fair

on this sunny sunday afternoon – after spending a lazy rainy day there

yesterday – i was anticipating talking to all those interested in NOW –

handing out brochures and NOWsletters – selling our clever newly printed

t-shirts – bumper-stickers and buttons – and enduring the occasional

woman-hater blaming NOW for every problem he has ever suffered – the

christian homophobe absurdly wanting to confess to me thinking it will

absolve them for their hate – and of course the anti-choicers who want to

make sure i know their myopic point of view.  as i walked through the crowd

and saw the commotion – i didn’t think anything more than “oh something’s

going on” – till 20 feet from the NOW booth when i realized it was us under

attack – by 12 operation rescue demonstrators – the usual hired thugs with

necks like unskinned hams – and i had to dart through the 3-man police line

infront of our booth to take my place at what was obviously the front-line

— since yesterday had been so quiet – i was totally unprepared for this –

and my first nervous reaction was – “wow we’re it”.  i hugged my

sisterswarriors – stashed my purse – and studied their apparently calm

smiling faces for any sign i should be afraid – detected none and thought as

i imperceptibly quivered all over – what brave soldiers my sisters were –

for it had to be screaming through their heads all the shootings and attacks

on pro-choicers – and here we were – not a single ham-neck looking at us

like people – we were the devil incarnate and they were gods champion.  i

was grateful for the police line – but not one officer so much as offered to

reassure us or explain how long they would stay or what they would do in

case of an attack – and i understood only too clearly the looks from the

ham-necks – flexing those huge muscles – throwing their testosterone in our

direction – crowding as close to the booth as police could prevent – that

they were here for reasons that had nothing to do with god and everything to

do with a vicious – thinly concealed and explosively unpredictable hatred of

women – and the need to control us “for our own good” – and NOW was their

usual target — and then i looked at us – three conservative appearing

middle-aged plumpish non-violent mild-mannered activists – who could be

ferocious if needed – and knew though we weren’t speaking of it – we were

all really scared – our smiles stretched too thin across our teeth – talking

too much and a bit too high-pitched – while outwardly calm – leaning on each

other and into the storm and still standing – and – that many in the crowd

were reaching through those ham-necks at risk of being hurt – and passed the

police line to buy our “control yourself not me” t-shirts – our buttons –

our bumper-stickers – or just handing us money in support – some loud about

their pro-choice stand – all thanking us for being here — one young woman –

slight-built – nearly invisible – stood quietly infront of the booth –

vibrating to nerves like mine – i reached and touched her arm to let her

know i appreciated her sisterhood – she smiled in instant bond – the power

of feminism rushed between us – not being too afraid of the feeling to stop

us from standing together – i was impressed to tears.  we were out of

NOWsletters and brochures hours before the fair closed – and even after the

demonstrators left people continued coming by – thanking NOW for being there

– buying all the rest of our stuff in support — my two sisters and i agreed

the demonstration had backfired big-time – for we raised more money that day

than all the days – and laughed off how relieved we were those ham-necks

were on a tight leash and had to leave for their next scheduled outrage –

and – we finally admitted how exhausted from battle we were – and how elated

that so many joined us – standing for women’s rights.  and i couldn’t help

but be reminded by the bulky opposition out-numbering us 5 to 1 – how

power-full NOW and feminism is – and that power is sometimes the reason

women are closet feminists – afraid of the F word – afraid to join us

publicly – for society teaches girls to fear the feeling of power – and that

owning that feeling will somehow make them less feminine – yet from the

looks of the opposition today – and their need to over-poweringly intimidate

us for simply wanting the rights and privileges extended to men in our

society – which happens to include control over one’s own body – with or

without a penis – i would say feminism is intrinsically power-full – and

we’re stuck with the feeling – and have to find ways to help our closeted

sisters who mistake this rush for the legitimate fear that may also come

with it – learn how to be comfortable with power – to maybe even like it.

and that’s empower – not power over.

susan lebow