The modern day woman is active. She is a political titan, a social idol and a domestic leader. She has a voice that carries the war cries and merciless intentions of her fallen, but not in vain, predecessors. She speaks not for the ears of others, but for the indulgence and dignity in hearing her own voice. She speaks in statements, she speaks in movements, she speaks for all the empty throats of the women whose voices were drowned out by the heavy lull of time’s ignorance. She is a powerful force beckoning us towards a greater purpose yet still forcing us to find it on our own. Identifying as a modern day woman means many things but, above all else, it requires self discovery and self empowerment. First, I had to discover that I am an invisible woman!
I should say, rather, that I am one among a growing population of invisible women; a group of those unregistered on the visible spectrum of feminism's woman---a woman who is strong, independent and selfish in the best way. She redefined the role of women in the mid-20th century and continues to forge forward in the pursuit of justice. As a movement, feminism has grown and changed to fit the many decades it spans, yet it’s ideal has remained rigidly constant. In 1963 Betty Friedan, a founder of feminism, wrote “A woman may live half her lifetime before she has the courage to listen to that voice and know that it is not enough to be a wife and mother, because she is a human being herself” (Friedan 5). For feminism’s woman, self-fulfillment is the key to true happiness. No longer should a woman aspire to home-making, but rather to education, to working and to making a life for herself. It is okay to be on a ruthless pursuit of self interest, as it is no longer selfish for a woman to want the best for herself since Friedan proclaimed, “Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to be themselves” (Friedan 10). This was an inspiring and welcomed change for the 1950’s woman because finally she could “learn to listen without fear to the voice inside her instead of smothering it” (Friedan 11). Feminism’s woman gained her trademark of independence to break ground on a new path and begin to change the course. There was now power and fashion behind this woman when the famous words of Gloria Steinem exclaimed, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” (Parker 9). I, at one time, wanted to be feminism’s woman; one who walks the Earth with eyes wide open, a heart impenetrable and arms outstretched with fingers to grasp only what she wants and palms to cast off that which she does not.
Furthermore, I had always felt that feminism was the most attainable form of liberation a woman could find, but even that no longer seemed true. I tried walking the path of the many remarkable women before me, all the while searching for small similarities to tell me I was headed towards the same great destination. However, all I had to do was look down because my footsteps were nowhere to be found. I had become invisible simply because I could not see myself in it. Alan Watts explains, “Just as sight is something more than all things seen, the foundation or 'ground' of our existence and our awareness cannot be understood in terms of things that are known” (Watts 21). Understandably so, I was invisible because I had tried to see my identity within the already established identity of another. Feminism’s woman was a role in the making years before I tried it on my own skin, which made it feel uncomfortable and restricting. It is of no use to hold onto such identities in “a human world that is changing so rapidly that much of what one learns in school is already obsolete on graduation day” (Watts 13). Thus, as a modern day woman I am challenged to make myself visible by creating my own individual path and understanding my own individual identity. Alan Watts said, “The less I preach, the more likely I am to be heard” (Watts 28). Similarly, the less I force myself upon the world, the more likely I am to be seen.
In this same degree, Gloria Anzaldua’s writing, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” explores creating individual identity against popular opinion. Although her story is one of national identity, the same theme of self-empowerment remains. She says, “Shame. Low estimation of self. Repeated attacks on our native tongue diminish our sense of self. The attacks continue throughout our life” (Anzaldua 2951). Constantly hearing the voices and opinions of others makes it nearly impossible to hear your own. These outside voices try to tell us a lot about ourselves, and believing them is the first way to let them know they are right. Trusting in your identity is just as important as discovering it because in the face of adversity, this is how we keep our tongues untamed and our feet planted in the ground. Anzaldua writes, “Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself… I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing” (Anzaldua 2951).
Certainly the modern day woman sees herself in many different ways, but often she neglects to understand the ways in which she is not seen. Through self discovery and self empowerment, we can truly understand individuality and identity. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man says “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (Ellison 3). I believe our invisibility occurs in three stages. The first is when our identity is ignored. Our differences go unappreciated by others, so we search to once again become visible in their eyes. We force ourselves into shapes we do not fit, try on uncomfortable skins and walk long paths with no destination in sight; and again, we find ourselves invisible. This time, however, it is because our identity is lost when our differences go unappreciated by ourselves. So again we search to become visible. We discover the reasons why these various shapes and skins and paths are uncomfortable and futile. And this time, we become invisible by choice when we discover our identity is separate from preconceived perceptions. We do not fall on the visible spectrum, because it is our individuality that becomes our identity; we discover the power in our invisibility.
I am an invisible woman; I am a blank piece of paper and an unmolded clay, I am all that has great potential and untold paths, I am all that possesses true freedom. Before I am anyone else, I am my own woman; I walk the Earth with eyes wide open as my heart and arms outstretched towards a great unknown, with fingers to grasp all that is new and palms to hold onto that which I shall keep for myself.
Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue." (n.d.): n. pag. 1987. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.
Ellison, Ralph. "Prologue." Introduction. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995.
Friedan, Betty. "Women Are People, Too!" Good Housekeeping. N.p., 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 06
Parker, Kathleen. "Clinton, Steinem and Albright Are #Outoftouch with Millennial Women."
HeraldCourier.com. N.p., 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.
Watts, Alan. "Inside Information." The Book. ABACUS ed. London: Sphere, 1973. N. pag. Print.