When Adrienne Rich died last month, it made me think back to my twenties when she rocked my world. Ms. Rich wrote incisively and shockingly about the complexities of women’s lives. She dared us to use our power (personal and political) to upend everything that was understood or accepted as ‘for women.’ It was the early 1980’s and I was trying to figure out the mundane stuff like how I was going to pay the bills. I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted a future that was rich in creativity and productivity―not just marriage and motherhood.
I wanted to live a ‘feminist worthy’ life but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Adrienne Rich is one of the women’s voices that made a searing impression. The essay titles in her book of nonfiction, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence were provocative : “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying;” “Motherhood in Bondage;” “Conditions for Work: The Common World of Women.”
She held up a vision of a social movement that I wanted to be a part of “a politics of asking women’s questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women―not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every aspect of culture.” I wanted to find a community of women (and later men) who shared my aspirations. Without the dreaming and writing of women like Adrienne Rich, I would not have known what I was missing or what was possible.
I and all the women and girls I hold most dear owe a debt of gratitude to Adrienne Rich because she made me brave, and encouraged me to question and think. And now I’m teaching my girls to do the same; Ms. Rich would expect nothing less.