This morning while I had my daily walk along the main road of my neighbourhood, a young lady in her twenties walked by me in the other direction. She captured my attention for more than one reason. She had a beautiful smile, the kind of smile that comes from happy thoughts. The smile gave her steps a rhythm. She swung slightly from one foot to the other. I immediately thought she wasn’t Italian. Her complexion was milk-white, and she exposed quite a quantity of skin to the sun considering she was in a city, Rome, rushing to catch the bus. She wore a short mini skirt that barely covered what it was designed to hide and a top with thin straps that left me wondering what else prevented the tank top from slithering down to her feet. In seconds, I had this feeling of déjà vu that took me back 50 years and more: same gait, same clothes I am wearing in a photo taken in 1971, on Valentine’s Day. Those were times when we were all like the young lady that had just crossed my path. We were happy and self-confident, danced while we walked, and had all our lives in front of us to make things right. In the 1960s and 1970s, we distanced light-years from our grandmothers’ and mothers’ way of life. In a few years, women’s rights rocketed. I say we, but I must admit, I’ve always been a loner. I participated in some sit-ins and many protest marches but was never part of one of those groups where women spent endless nights debating. Like many other personality traits I built up those years, feminism came to me through books. Simone De Beauvoir and Marie Cardinal were my first teachers: the French Second Wave, as it is called today. I must admit I don’t know much about Italian feminism. Today, I realize I’ve been an outsider in Italy in many ways. A consequence possibly of the second immigration. An experience I’ve already written about in this blog.
Thoughts about feminism and the past kept me company on my way home. I also remembered I had written something in the 1970s about feminism, men, and the bigger picture of human rights. I looked for it as soon as I got home. After so many years, it’s sounded naïf, somehow innocent, even if it’s full of unforgiving words like class conflict, enslaved people, safe house, and many gross synonyms for penis. I blushed all by myself in an empty room. Was that how I spoke when I was young? Well Yes. Every time of life has its language. Every generation has its lexicon.
One generation of women after the other have fought to design and get hold of their place in this world.
As Abigail Scott Dunaway wrote:
‘The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times, by spreading the light of freedom and of truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future’.
two steps back
Sometimes doesn’t it looks like we make three steps forward and two backwards? Yes, that’s what is happening today in the US, where the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion or, better, quoting The New York Times:” handed control over abortion restrictions back to the States”.
It already happened in January 2021 in Poland when the Constitutional Tribunal banned access to abortion in almost all circumstances.
One thing I will never forgive myself is not having understood for many years that whatever you have achieved in one generation can be taken away in the next. No right is acquired forever. Better to watch over.
What next? I think we all know what’s next. So, let’s take it as the opportunity to put together all the denied Human Rights and fight for them.
In the 1970s in Italy, the most famous catchline used by the Italian Feminist Movement was ‘Tremate, tremate le streghe son tornate’. That means ‘Tremble, Tremble the witches are back!’.
Today with my wrinkles and white hair, I look much more like a witch…so I’m ready, are You?
© Photo copyright Patrizia Verrecchia. All rights reserved.
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