Feminism in fiction

Finished reading Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Female Persuasion. She does a good job of describing some recent generations of feminism: the Gloria Steinem generation, the generation that came of age when Steinem was already the grande dame of feminism and even, at the end, a very young woman now. That character sums up her feelings:

“ We should all definitely assert ourselves more in the world, that’s totally true. But I look at everything that women did and said in recent history, and somehow we still get to a caveman moment. And our responses to it just aren’t enough, because the structures are still in place, right?”

Pretty accurate, I have to admit. Yet at least the young woman has a sense of women’s history, which my generation didn’t growing up. The contributions of women were not simply “overlooked” but often suppressed, to the greater glory of the men in their lives, or because the achievements did not fit someone’s vision of a woman’s role. Just last week, I learned that Helen Keller was a co-founder of the ACLU and supported the NAACP. She was not only a victim of a disability but an activist—not as neat a story. But people are complicated, even and maybe especially women. That’s part of Wolitzer’s message, too.