On a certain kind of feminism

Every once in a while, I go to City Council meetings.  I didn’t go last night, though I did drop by the mayor’s office for a quick three-minute visit.  (And — by the way — there was a 45 minute wait to see him, which I think is great.)

As I was walking back to my car, I thought about the evenings I head back to my car after a City Council meeting.  Invariably, I see Konnie Lukes and Barbara Haller heading out together.  Maybe that only happens when I go to Council meetings, but I doubt it.

I don’t want to talk about their politics, or whether I agree with them, or whether I’ve ever voted for them. 

It’s just that when I see them together, walking back to their respective cars, I think of how each of them makes up a Type of Feminist, or at least the types of feminists I knew as a child.

When people who like Konnie talk about Konnie, they talk about her in the same terms as fans of Hillary Clinton use for Hillary; that is, that she’s much funnier/warmer/friendlier than her nay-sayers think, or that all of her good qualities only come out when you meet her in person.  (If you replace the words “Konnie Lukes” with “Hillary Clinton” in this old Dianne Williamson column, you’ll see what I mean.)

Lukes is the kind of feminist I respond to in a certain way: she’s a women’s college graduate, she attended law school when it was still relatively uncommon for a woman to be a lawyer, she wears pantsuits.

Haller is the other kind of feminist from that generation: a farm-school-collective-living-in-her-twenties, drop-out-of-college-and-return-in-her-mid-thirties, long-skirt-and-glasses-cord-wearing, sixties counterculture activist.   Like Lukes, Haller went into a male-dominated field (engineering) and — something else I find interesting — neither of the women was born nor raised in Worcester. 

Regardless what I feel about their politics, Haller and Lukes are part of a generation where it was common for parents to discourage their daughters from “real” careers (as Haller describes in this article) so they wouldn’t be threatening to the male of the species.  You could buy into that view of the world, or you could rebel against it.  And, if you rebelled against it, there were two different routes to take: the pantsuit route or the long hippie skirt route.

So, the next time you’re ready to head out after a City Council meeting, I suggest you wait until those two leave.  Then you’ll see those two types of feminism — the scarf-and-pin-wearing professional and the hair-in-a-bun activist — come together, in an elevator ride to the first floor.