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feminism is power-full

by Susan Lebow

as i approached the seattle NOW outreach booth at the university street fair on this sunny sunday afternoon - after spending a lazy rainy day there yesterday - i was anticipating talking to all those interested in NOW - handing out brochures and NOWsletters - selling our clever newly printed t-shirts - bumper-stickers and buttons - and enduring the occasional woman-hater blaming NOW for every problem he has ever suffered - the christian homophobe absurdly wanting to confess to me thinking it will absolve them for their hate - and of course the anti-choicers who wants to make sure i know their myopic point of view. as i walked through the crowd and saw the commotion - i didn't think anything more than "oh something's going on" - till 20 feet from the NOW booth when i realized it was us under attack - by 12 operation rescue demonstrators - the usual hired thugs with necks like unskinned hams - and i had to dart through the 3-man police line infront of our booth to take my place at what was obviously the front-line -- since yesterday had been so quiet - i was totally unprepared for this - and my first nervous reaction was - "wow we're it". i hugged my sisterwarriors - stashed my purse - and studied their apparently calm smiling faces for any sign i should be afraid - detected none and thought as i imperceptibly quivered all over - what brave soldiers my sisters were - for it had to be screaming through their heads all the shootings and attacks on pro-choicers - and here we were - not a single ham-neck looking at us like people - we were the devil incarnate and they were gods champion. i was grateful for the police line - but (not one officer) so much as offered to reassure us or explain how long they would stay or what they would do in case of an attack - and i understood only too clearly the looks from the ham-necks - flexing those huge muscles - throwing their testosterone in our direction - crowding as close to the booth as police could prevent - that they were here for reasons that had nothing to do with god and everything to do with a vicious - thinly concealed and explosively unpredictable hatred of women - and the need to control us "for our own good" - and NOW was their usual target -- and then i looked at us - three conservative appearing middle-aged plumpish non-violent mild-mannered activists - who could be ferocious if needed - and knew though we weren't speaking of it - we were all really scared - our smiles stretched too thin across our teeth - talking too much and a bit too high-pitched - while outwardly calm - leaning on each other and into the storm and still standing - and - that many in the crowd were reaching through those ham-necks at risk of being hurt - and passed the police line to buy our "control yourself not me" t-shirts - our buttons - bumper-stickers - or just handing us money in support - some loud about their pro-choice stand - all thanking us for being here -- one young woman - slight-built - nearly invisible - stood quietly infront of the booth - vibrating to nerves like mine - i reached and touched her arm to let her know i appreciated her sisterhood - she smiled in instant bond - the power of feminism rushed between us - not being too afraid of the feeling to stop us from standing together - i was impressed to tears. we were out of NOWsletters and brochures hours before the fair closed - and even after the demonstrators left people continued coming by - thanking NOW for being there - buying all the rest of our stuff in support -- my two sisters and i agreed the demonstration had backfired big-time - for we raised more money that day than all the days - and laughed off how relieved we were those ham-necks were on a tight leash and had to leave for their next scheduled outrage - and - we finally admitted how exhausted from battle we were - and how elated that so many joined us - standing for women's rights. and i couldn't help but be reminded by the bulky opposition out-numbering us 5 to 1 - how power-full NOW and feminism are - and that power is sometimes the reason women are closet feminists - afraid of the F word - afraid to join us publicly - for society teaches girls to fear the feeling of power - and that owning that feeling will somehow make them less feminine - yet from the looks of the opposition today - and their need to over-poweringly intimidate us for simply wanting the rights and privileges extended to men in our society - which happens to include control over one's own body - with or without a penis - i would say feminism is intrinsically power-full - and we're stuck with the feeling - and have to find ways to help our closeted sisters who mistake this rush for the legitimate fear that may come with it - learn how to be comfortable with power - to maybe even like it. and that's empower - not power over.

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