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Women at Adolf Koch’s socialist body culture school, which drew on Reich’s ideas.
As a child of the 70's, I grew up right along-side the feminist movement. Feminism was in its second wave at that time, a new enthusiasm for the politics of that generation's grandmothers. In the early sixties, however,  
activists supporting women's rights were not so much standing on the shoulders suffragettes, who overturned legal obstacles making women's voting rights and property rights, as they were radicalizing their own ideals; namely reproductive rights and wage-equality in the workplace.  In 1967, San Fransisco's Haight-Ashbury district was rushed by 100,000 hippies during what was referred to as, "The Summer of Love," a period of time that can only truly be measured by the amount of LSD-25 dissolved under the tongue and the number of sexual encounters enjoyed during the season of free love. Occurring alongside the hippie movement of the sixties, new attitudes towards sexuality created a climate of accepted sexual freedom within the overlap of the two groups, and many women and men entered into a new-found open-market for satiating the senses. Ahhhh, orgies. In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say. 

My parents didn't meet in a joint-circle on the Haight, nor did either dance to keep the music out of their eyes at Woodstock. They met in small-town Kelso, Washington, right across the street from the old west Kelso brothel, where my father was protesting. He'd had his fill of filling his sexual appetites and of hallucinagens, and at that time was filled with a new high, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every day, he'd march, blazing a sign that read, "Where are YOU going to spend ETERNITY?" My mother tells me that every day when she drove past his one-man march, she'd roll her eyes and think, "God! I f***ing hate that guy!"  At some point, they must have found common ground, because (as my mother tells it) the next thing she knew, she was pregnant with twin babies and married to my father and a living with a bunch of crazy Holy Roller in a Jesus Commune.

Their stint on the commune came to an abrupt end almost as soon as it began; my parents were excommunicated (read: shunned) and kicked off the island (oops... I meant to say, "commune") when my father wanted to take a paying job to support his fledgling family (playing the DRUMS in local BARS) rather than share in the work of the community; selling Bibles door-to-door, with monies earned falling into a common pot. I remember hearing stories illustrating the strong, idealistic stance he took, saying he couldn't participate in a venture that charges people for Bibles, but he wouldn't necessarily be opposed to giving them away for free. I take great comfort in knowing that my father held firm in responsible decision making on behalf of his wife and twin newborns, even though we were all immediately homeless. He had held tight to his ideals and protected his right to ROCK. 

My father abandoned us immediately afterward to pursue his musical career.

When my mother returned home, shamefaced, to her family home, my grandfather told her she had two weeks to figure out a living situation for herself and her twin babies and be gone. On Beacon Hill, the modest neighborhood where my grandparents lived, the entire neighborhood was scandalized. In those days, at a community dance, you didn't even dance with another man who you wasn't your spouse, or the gossips would have you own as an adulteress before you could blink. Not one person on Beacon Hill even knew of a woman who was divorced, much less lived down the street from one. My mother was a pariah, cast out of her childhood home before her taint had a chance to rub off on any of her younger siblings. Her own twin, Monica, had discreetly arranged for a tubal ligation the day that she turned eighteen, walked out to the old freeway exit, and stuck her thumb out, heading for groovier climes. She wouldn't be seen or heard of again (or for that matter, spoken of) until years later, when rumors of her luck having run out and landed her in Mexico, where she lived, stranded, forced to wash her clothes upon a rock in a riverbed.  As I grew older, she would become my hero.

Somehow, my mother was able to apply for and receive welfare benefits and find housing (in her own neighborhood, albeit down the hill, in accordance to her lowered status as a divorced woman) within the two-week time-frame her father dictated. She enrolled in classes at the college, and recreated the power-structure within herself. She was NEVER going to be in a situation where she was left without the financial ability to make her own way if her husband stopped supporting her. She would never again have to RELY on a man for financial security. And she didn't. She married again, three times. The first (re)marriage was brief; a band-aid marriage to a man who's wife and two small children had tragically drowned when the car she was driving when over the bridge. The second (re)marriage was longer; a pedophile who abused me for the years before they divorced, to my great satisfaction.  (As an aside, family legend has it that my great-great uncle Carl, from Sweden, bought a piece of land who's previous owner had married his housekeeper to avoid having to pay her back pay she was owed, and one night, after months of fruitless requests for her salary owed, she calmly melted an object made of lead and poured it into his ear as he slept before the fire, killing him. Carl's brother, my  great grandfather, Frank, claimed that the money was all in gold, and was buried somewhere on the property, Every now and again, his son, my great-uncle Mike, packs his truck and drives to eastern Washington with his metal detector, determined to find the gold. I like to imagine my step-father shared a similar fate.) She and her current husband have been married for thirty-odd years. When they married, he offered that she might quit her job and stay home with my brother and I, but she refused. Years later, they were both glad for that decision when the mill he worked for was bought out and he lost both his regular income and his retirement, less than three months away. 
I have to admit; there is a part of me that resents my mother for her focus on her career. I would learn to hate her masculine business attire, the only mark of femininity the ridiculous polyester/nylon blouses with the bows tied modestly at the neck. There were so many times during my childhood I felt neglected; raised in childcare and spending my formative years in the care of a man who used his penis to "punish" me while high on the cocaine he sold to supplement his income. When I struggled with in-explainable depression that resulted from my repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, there was terrible friction within our family that I received the blame for. My mother appeared entirely disconnected from my need; her only point of connection seemed to be in preserving her marriage to avoid the further stigma of another divorce. As a child I was made vulnerable, a casualty of the times, but as an adult, I see my mother's own vulnerability in the backlash of the sexual revolution.
PictureThe "Power Suit," complete with shoulder pads and a neck bow.
While the second wave of feminism created a framework of ownership of one's own sexual choices, the supports had not yet been established for empowered women to leave bad marriages in a way that protected her children. Women worked long hours at wages far below what a man would earn in a similar position, making it a constant struggle to raise a family on one's own. Additionally, it used to be a common practice that when a man's wife was expecting his child, he could also expect a pay raise to cover the cost of the new baby, but no such allowance was made for women raising children on their own. My mother was fighting her way upstream in a career field that was dominated by men; the option of buying into the "good 'ol Boys" club was never there for her. Consequently, her only option was to create a way for herself, professionally, where there was no set standard that applied. The old male-dominated power structures still existed, but the face of female workers had changed. Tucked inside her mannish skirt-suit, she, along with women like her all across the nation, would make a way for the women who would follow. They would create the new standard for women in the workplace and how men were allowed to relate to them.

Changes that emerged during the baby-boom included refining sexual harassment laws that, while put into law in 1964 under section VII of the Civil Rights Act, was largely unenforcable. The act protected women from unwanted sexual attention from co-workers and evolved into a broader-spectrum of dictates that created a protective cushion around women, especially in their role as mothers, that did not previously exist when I was a child. Today, both women and men are allowed family leave when a new baby joins the family or a family member is ailing, a victory that not only protects women's place in the workforce, but proves that feminism is for men, too, in that men, for the first time in history, are honored as caregivers, equally, with women. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 opens the door to men's changing perceptions as to their gender roles within the family. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a women's right to take reasonable breaks to express breastmilk for up to a year after giving birth is guaranteed, as well as provide a location that is quiet, clean, and private to pump milk. While women of my mother's generation were socialized into lower paying jobs, traditionally finding careers in the service industry involving teaching, nursing, and secretarial work, women today can be more particular about their career path, choosing a profession based on the sense of fulfillment it gives her. Men, on the other hand, are often forced to find employment that they may find less satisfying in exchange for higher pay, as the job market is much more competitive with the advancement of women's rights in the the work arena. Even traditionally male-dominated jobs are becoming less attainable for men, as women have legal backing to protect them from employers refusing to hire them based solely on their gender.

Now, as an adult woman who's oldest child is now an adult herself, I've enjoyed the many freedoms that my mother paid for when raising me by herself. And here I stand, in the third wave of feminism, and as I look around me, I see that I'm not alone. 

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