While I manage the food coop, Karl volunteers to drive a rental box truck to Boston to pick up our produce order in the warehouse district. It isn’t just for our store, we join with other coops in Vermont and New Hampshire so that the trip is worth it. His partner for the drive is Ellen, who turns out to be a radical feminist. For hours while they are trapped together in the cab of the truck, Ellen corrects every thoughtless male-domination type remark Karl makes, and there are lots. Karl comes home after the trip all sputtering and grumpy, though Karl used to think of himself as very enlightened, Ellen makes him aware that he has a long way to go. He complains that she is strident and humorless and points out that I never criticize him like that. I am still at the stage where if a man does the dishes he’s a feminist.
It’s funny how things change, how consciousness gets raised, whether or not you want it to.
Feminism is a burning issue, I mean in principle it’s still important but back then we discuss it constantly, critique our language, emphasize it in the way we raise our children, conduct our marriages. We hold consciousness raising groups for men, separate ones for women, we encourage a real push for sisterhood, ironic for those of us who have only seen other woman as competition. We give our girls trucks and shovels, dolls for the boys, dress them the same.
Our men’s group is husbands playing basketball while pretending to support one another in their fight against male chauvinist piggery. The woman’s group meets simultaneously but we drink wine and sit around in someone’s living room talking about our relationships with men. We are in our 30’s, confessional, most of us have children, jobs, we are finding our way, bragging, complaining, trying on compassion for size. One friend talks about her sexual problem, she is like a bitch in heat she tells us, she can hardly go an afternoon without having sex with her husband. She calls him at work and begs him to come home for a half hour. I am fascinated hearing this, I who am perfectly content fucking a few times a month. I didn’t know a woman could have so outrageous a sex drive.
That marriage didn’t last long, I think she wears out her husband and has to find a new one. In fact none of the marriages except mine are still intact, turns out one of the group was having a secret affair with another one’s husband, and the rest of the marriages just peter out I guess. With enlightenment can come dissatisfaction, I understand, and raised consciousness is no guarantee of love, just the opposite I think.