No written law has ever been more binding than
unwritten custom supported by popular opinion.
--Carrie Chapman Catt, Senate Hearing on women's suffrage , 1900
Wednesday, I got to play hookey....At least that’s how it felt as I left my manuscript behind (I’m down to the last few chapters which aren’t flowing as easily as I’d hoped) and went over to take part in the Foothill Authors Series at Foothill College. This month is Women’s History Month. Since My Half of the Sky focuses on a young woman who wants to change with the day but is held back by tradition, I was pleased to speak on this auspicious occasion.
To be honest, though, I couldn’t remember Women’s History Month from my childhood. Or what we did. How we celebrated. I was relieved--sort of--to discover the reason was not my mental capacity. When I was a kid, Women’s History Month was only a day (which started in 1909). The day turned into a week in 1978. The week turned into a month in 1987. Perhaps if we can keep the momentum rolling, we can look forward to a year....a century....a millennium...forever. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The Foothill gathering was interesting, as one would expect with a room full of intelligent students. One question that particularly struck me was a student who asked, “Do you think that part of the culture that defines gender is speech? Are men and women’s speech different?”
Although I couldn’t think of examples in Chinese, I was reminded of Japan where there was definitely a difference in the way one spoke as a female/male, superior/inferior, stranger/friend. The question has me still thinking. Does the English language have gender-based speech differences? Can you think of examples in other cultures?
Book of the Week: The Soloist by Steve Lopez. LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez takes us on a fascinating trip into the life of gifted musician, Nathanial Ayers, a past student at Julliard who impressed the professors so much he was annually given a scholarship. The third year at Julliard Mr. Ayers went nuts. For thirty-some years he battled the demons in his head and wandered the streets. He was happy playing his music in the tunnels of LA and sleeping outside a factory in the toy district where he used a pair of drumsticks to keep rats at bay.Mr. Lopez often saw him on his way to work, and one day wrote a column about Mr. Ayers, thinking it was a one-off topic. But Lopez became so entrenched in the well-being of this man that each time he tried to back away, he was drawn back in. The story is his unsuspecting, funny, depressing, sometimes heartbreaking journey.
***If you haven’t had a chance, please ask your local library to order a copy of My Half of the Sky.
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