Thursday, February 08, 2007

On Becoming a Feminist

**The story of how I came to identify as a feminist can’t be summed up as easily as my turn to labor history. This is post one of some ;-)**

Despite my genuine love of hot water cornbread, I don’t cook it. I can’t. It’s never shaped correctly. The outside is not crispy enough. The inside never seems done (though my aunt tells me all the time “The hot water cooks the cornmeal!”) It is a mental block, I know related to a disastrous episode of cooking when I was twelve years old.

My mother put some hot water cornbread on to fry, five pieces in a little black, cast iron skillet, then started to comb my sister's hair. That has always been some task, as her hair is thick and long and required some time to pull into ponytails. Hot water cornbread cooks quickly and my mom called me to check on it and turn it over in the grease.

I was a touch peeved--I'd been caught up in some book I probably had no business reading. But I couldn't display my anger overtly--my mom would've popped the hell out of me with the brush or whatever was close by. Instead, I marched into the kitchen in a nylon slip and jabbed the fork into the cornbread. All five pieces had fried together, so they lifted from the skillet together, then fell back down into the grease. Virtually every drop of boiling oil that was in the skillet splashed out and onto my nylon-clad stomach and thigh. I screamed.

From here, the story gets twisted in my family's collective memory. My mother claims that she jumped up, threw on clothes and rushed me to the ER.

My sister and I clearly remember that she looked at me, told me to take my time, and "Stop hollerin'. You a woman. You gon' get burned plenty of times cooking." Only after I went into the bathroom and tried to pry the nylon away from my bubbling and blistering skin, did she get up to check on me and realize that this was serious.

How, you're wondering, is that related to feminism? See, in the ER that day, suffering from 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and angry about that damned bread, I decided I was not going to be a woman. Not if this is what it entailed.

Later, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing in the world. I laughed at my twelve year old self. Silly girl, how could you not be a woman?

Now, I'm back to knowing exactly what I meant.

7 comments:

Gwyneth Bolton said...

Wow! At some point you realize you are going to have to work this into a publication. I can just see it as a longer essay in one of those third-wave feminism anthologies. Think about it...

JustMe said...

i can't wait to hear more! and i agree with gwyn, write a book!

Sylvia said...

Haha, that makes so much sense. It does seem like an opening chapter for a book...

(Especially since I come from a family dominated by women who do that "Take it like a woman" reassurance...)

ChasingMoksha said...

Sounds very painful.

Breena Ronan said...

I spilled candle wax on my neck and chest once and had to go to the emergency room. That was pretty bad, but your story sounds much worse. It gives me the heebee-geebees.

elle said...

me in a published anthology.

hmm...

wwwmama said...

yes yes yes! i love reading your stories. very powerful, very well written, very good at getting us to think about all the issues in a way that really is meaningful and personal. you get me thinking about what brought me to feminism...

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...