Monday, February 16, 2009

My Mother My Self? Whatever!

Back in 1977 My Mother, My Self by Nancy Friday became an instant best-seller, coming out at a time when feminist ideals were riding high. My mother brought home a paperback copy of the book (probably a year later) and I remember reading it voraciously, even underlining passages. So last year when my mother suggested we reread it, I was eager to do so. She said she wanted to read it to better understand her relationship with her mother and that it would be interesting to read now that I am a mother and we have even more generations of women to consider (meaning my daughter) in our reading. I started reading it but nothing was clicking. I set the book aside but then after reading Bitch by Wurtzel I decided to give Friday’s book another chance. I figured that if I could not identify with Wurtzel’s feminism, maybe I needed to revisit Nancy Friday’s. I made it through another chapter and started another before I stopped again. I simply can’t recognize myself in these pages at all. Nor my mother. When Friday writes about how little boys know when they are aroused because they have a penis that gets harder but that little girls, because their anatomy is hidden and layered cannot tell, saying “there is no physical signal by which she can connect the inchoate feelings in her mind to the life of her body” she is not speaking for me or for my experience at all (102). It is disappointing, trying to re-read a book that clearly inspired me to underline with enthusiasm once upon a time and find it so utterly lacking in any relevance. I have a little more sympathy for Wurtzel when she says her generation (and she is only 5 years younger than I so not far removed from my own) cannot find themselves in the pages of feminist literature of the Steinam/Ms Magazine era. Then again, Ms Magazine declared that Friday is not a feminist so maybe it’s just a matter of one woman’s opinion over another. I wonder if my mother, upon rereading it, found anything relevant.

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