Summer Read: The Wednesday Sisters

Here’s what I believe: we need The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.

Clayton’s stories will help third- and fourth-wave feminists avoid political matricide.  The pungent stench of fear and powerlessness that Clayton’s characters face at critical junctures in their lives are–in a large part–history because of the work of second wave feminists.

I offer the following in a desperate attempt to convince high-school and college-aged women to read this scandalous book.*  With their mothers.  And their grandmothers.  And then fall down and kiss the Birkenstock-wearing feet of the nearest second-wave feminist in their neighborhoods.

When I graduated from high school, I received two “Senior Most” Awards.  One of them was “Senior Most Likely to Become a Women’s Libber.” I’m not sure that this category survived much beyond my graduating class, to tell the truth.  But it was a label I felt proud of.  I converted to feminism at the age of 10, on the afternoon that a boy in my class told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, and Mrs. Molitor gave me the word “sexist” to describe it.

And that’s just it–I could feel proud of being “Senior Most Likely to Become a Women’s Libber” because people like Mrs. Molitor had schooled me into feminism.  Mr. Haake handed me Herstory when I complained about the sexist bias of our “Bennedy” text.  Mrs. Grotto got a group of high school girls together and showed us a VHS tape called Killing Me Softly.  And in college, I took three semester’s worth of women’s history with Victoria Brown.  These authors and women told me their stories, and helped me see how my own was connected, like pieces of a quilt.  They trained me to see my story in light of what could have been, as well as in light of what still ought not be.

But most of my peers missed this training.  And now, I spend nine months out of every year surrounded by  students who are growing up without this training.  In its place, they have a constant live feed of Disney princesses and sexualized car advertisements on their iPod screens.  In class discussions, these young women will defend their oppressors to the death, insisting that their gender hasn’t limited them in any capacity, and that feminism has passed its usefulness.

We third and fourth wave feminists often cannot see the connections between our stories and the stories that once were, because we don’t know the stories that once were.  The Wednesday Sisters can help to bridge that gap.

*Disclaimer: Clayton’s book establishes some characters with very life-like marriages, for good and for ill.  This may be considered mature content by many readers.


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