Friday, June 26, 2015

The Big Story

When I was in the third grade we had an election each month for class president. I don't really recall what duties the office entailed, just that it was a big deal. These elections always came down to the boys versus the girls somehow. And the boys always won. And then one day the teacher sent the boys out to recess and met with the girls privately to give us a valuable piece of information.

The boys always pick just one candidate and the they all vote as a block. You all often have several candidates, so your vote is split. But there are actually more girls than boys in the class. If you united behind one candidate--

Aha! The lightbulb went off.

Of course it was still difficult for us to negotiate the pickup of one candidate. We weren't used to doing it that way. So we agreed that we would all take turns. Of course it was really about popularity, power, and the pecking order. And so the year ran out before it ever got to be "my turn."

But it was a valuable lesson. It was the first time I remember anyone pointing out that boys and girls were handling something differently and that simply understanding that gave me more opportunity, more choices, more power. This was in the Spring of 1969. Interesting. The first time I recall reading about and hearing about the "Women's Lib" movement was in 1969.

Now called Second Wave Feminism, the "Women's Lib" movement had been gathering momentum throughout the '60's but 1969 was the year it entered my consciousness. The assumptions of my middle class suburban world were being challenged. As a ten year old I didn't much know how to assess it all.

The media seemed to enjoy stories about bra-burning. I didn't get the point. I was looking forward to the rite of passage that meant being a teenager, wearing a bra, going on dates. (At this point in my life I'd happily participate in a bra burning, only it isn't a thing anymore.) But stories about wacky women burning their bras must have been easy for the male reporters in power to get their minds around. Hilarious, right?

The big story of 1969 for me was Mrs. Pollack, my third grade teacher, who took a little extra time to talk politics with the girls during recess. Do you have any stories like that?


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