If I had my way, I will always go to bed at 10PM falling asleep to Anais Nin and wake up at 5AM to Rick Ross ala Kanye "Sanctified." Virginia Wolf makes less sense for me. Who knows, maybe too brilliant, too scholarly, too many literary and figurative spaces, too many references. I'll dig into "A Room With A View" more carefully but right now, definitely more drawn to feminist text that breathe passion and violence. "I like to see her dress up for the evening in barbaric jewelry, her face so vivid. She was not for gentle Paris, for the cafes. She was meant for the African jungle, orgies, dances." - "Lina" from Little Birds, Anais Nin.
I spent my International Women's Day actually celebrating it for the first time by attending three lectures at the Bookworm. This persisting self-discovery phase, dabbles in religion and feminism, seems a little asynchronous at this age. Not sure what happened in college for me when we're supposed to wrestle with identity issues. I'd always been too haughty to question anything since age sixteen, so at the cusp of becoming thirty, it only makes sense that I question everything. Humility is my new rose-colored lens to the world.
As for feminism, I'm still trying to process the main threads and tenor of the discussions that went on Saturday. I went to the talks partly to see who were in the audience, and what sort of energy/questions are generated in China. Feminism is an incredibly complex movement/ism to generalize, and in the context of China it morphs to something that is even more conflicting. Ostensibly you have Communism and the Cultural Revolution that catapulted women to "holding up half of the sky" and put forth certain policies in place that liberated women to gain ground in the work place. Another random stat, China also boasts 19 out of 45 top self-made female entrepreneurs billionaires in the world and more female entrepreneurs than the US population of 300 million. On the other hand, prostitution is the on the rise and China remains one of the few countries that doesn't even have a law against domestic violence. It seems to be a viable climate for very exceptional women, but for the average middle-class woman, because there's never been a "feminist movement," this sense of self and psychological / collective examination is lacking.
To be honest I don't even consider myself a feminist, though I know that declaration might be a little irresponsible. I think being a feminist, other than believing in gender equality (but what does that mean even??) requires action, perhaps actions that change our role in our community, and not simply our lens of the world. Right now I'm simply learning, and what I'm learning is I'm incredibly interested in female voices (just as I am interested in minority voices in general). The world is dominated by too many declarations from the middle-aged white man, and I find so many crevices of interestingness in other voices.
One of the hardest things about feminism for me is the stereotype of women who are a little angry. In fact, one of the moderators on Saturday began a talk with "I'm really angry" and here's why you should be. On the one hand, I think well-founded and expressed anger is essential for change and coloring the tone of any movement. For any change we need passion and people who truly care, and anger is a direct translation of that passion. There may be two (three? five?) layers to this argument. The lack of policies in any country to protect women in prostitution, sex trafficking, domestic and sexual abuse deserves stomps and shouts. On the other hand, modern middle-class women are facing many changes in their role at work and role at home in a knowledge economy. It is an ongoing collective mode of "self-discovery" that deserves patience rather than anger, sharing and contemplation over shouting what is right.
Being a woman, as with being a man, as with being a Chinese-American, as with any "identity" is about embracing everything that might make you, to be comfortable. It isn't about striving for "genderlessness" so much as freedom. Freedom to pursue what you want and not feel constrained by pre-ordained circumstances. It is important to advocate for policies to protect the minorities and act as a buffer to these pre-ordained factors. It is important to create an environment where each and every identity is comfortable with our fallacies and living as our true selves.
This means embracing, in some ways, clashing identities within the modern female. The independent, courageous woman who wants to carve a path for herself, and her wish to one day become a mother, a caretaker of her home. Let there be room for both.