Category Archives: feminism

All Hail Sadie Hawkins!

Sadie Hawkins

 First of all – HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! I hope you and yours are celebrating in style. I’ll be curled up all day at home with my wife, snug and warm, safe from the arctic winds howling around our house. We will feast on fresh strawberries, cake, and a bottle of Vin Verde, the green wine of Portugal.

Now on to the topic of the day. If you have ever read the comic strip by Al Capp called L’il Abner (1934–1978), you’ll have heard of Sadie Hawkins. Known as the ‘homeliest gal in all them hills’ Sadie’s father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, knew he had to do something to get her hitched, because (gasp) heaven forbid a woman should not be married.  He gathered up all the eligible bachelor’s in the area, gave them a head start and then let loose his daughter. Whichever man she caught would be her husband. There’s no real mention as to why, exactly, the caught bachelor had to marry Sadie, but that’s the way the tradition started. In 1937, according to the cartoonist, the other unmarried women thought this wasn’t such a bad idea, because (gasp) heaven help them if they didn’t catch themselves a husband. Every November, all the eligible young men from Dogpatch and the surrounding hills would be chased by all the unmarried young women. Any gal that could catch her man and drag him across the finish line by sundown was guaranteed to be a bride. Presented in the satirical voice of Al Capp, the unheard of role reversal released some deeply held desire of the repressed women of the time to take charge of their own lives, to make decisions concerning who they would spend time with, and to be unashamedly interested in beginning a relationship with the man of her choosing. Daring thoughts for the time.

Daisy Mae chasing L’il Abner on Sadie Hawkins Day

By 1939, only two years after the ladies of Dogpatch declared their independence (if only for one day a year), the idea had caught fire in the imagination of America’s youth. Al Capp had intended it as a plot device, but the ideas popularity had brought him an abundance of fan letters asking that he make it a yearly event. By the early 1940s the November event in his comic became a phenomenon, eventually taking on a life of its own. Colleges and high schools began holding campus Sadie Hawkins races, which eventually became more sedate dances. At the height of its popularity in the mid 1950’s, Sadie Hawkins Day was celebrated at forty thousand known locations.

After tasting the forbidden fruits of freedom, it’s no wonder the women’s liberation front of the 1960’s and ’70’s centered around women’s demand for self-sovereignty. Women who had grown up with the yearly celebration of bucking convention were eager to take the dating reins in their own hands. Of course, the advent of the birth control pill started an entire sexual revolution, but don’t discount Sadie Hawkins’ contribution.

Comic strips have led the way to social change since the ink first dried. Although L’il Abner’s Sadie Hawkins race was framed in the language of women desperate to marry to avoid a life of spinsterhood and shame, and equally desperate men racing to avoid marriage to a strong minded woman, a fate worse than death, Al Capp accidentally fueled the idea that the sexual repression of women during the ’30’s and 40’s was as unfair as say, a footrace to determine a spouse.

I will confess to inviting a boy to one in the mid 1970’s myself, but I don’t think Sadie Hawkin’s Day dances are held anymore. At least, I never hear of them. Girls and women are free to ask boys and men out on dates these days, or even, as our editor-in-chief Lindsey demonstrated earlier this year, to propose marriage.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and Sadie Hawkins helped lead the charge.

Yes, All Women

As I’ve shared with you, I spent the long Memorial Day weekend at WisCon, a convention of feminist science fiction/fantasy enthusiasts. It was a growth experience that caused a steep rise in my personal learning curve.

While I was hip deep in discussions about diversity and privilege, how to reach readers and sell myself, queer radical theory and medieval POC, a shocking act of misogyny was unfolding in Isla Vista, California. The #YesAllWomen phenomenon began to grow, forcing a public discussion that was far more divisive and dismissive than the ones going on all around me.

Many people have addressed the messages posted on #YesAllWomen (if you visit this page, please do not post for reasons you will see below) as well as the truly ugly misogyny displayed in the first days at #NotAllMen. There have been some excellent blog posts and ezine articles discussing both sides of the issue of whether or not women have the right to complain about being treated badly by men.

Yes. You read that right. The discussion is not about how women are hurt by our rape culture and male privilege, it’s about women even bringing the subjects up at all. Some outrageous statements were made that basically shook down to ‘if women would sleep with any man who wants them, men wouldn’t join anti-women websites, write manifestos about how evil they are, or even take a bunch of loaded guns to hunt down any woman on the assumption she won’t go to bed with him’. Excuse me while I, and the entire rest of the female populace of the world, cry BULLSHIT.

Okay, and then there are the feminist allies who also derailed the conversation by insisting they be recognized as ‘not like that’. Women who posted their real life experiences were hunted down and hounded by men who demanded they stop being so angry at men. ‘Only some guys do that, so you should only be angry at THOSE GUYS.’

Um yeah, maybe, but even feminist men are not innocent of this aura of privilege all men across the face of our planet have, that women are denied from birth. You all, every single one of you, benefit from this system in ways so subtle you don’t even see it. By laughing at certain jokes, attending mainstream movies, participating in, or standing by in complicit silence while other men, and even unaware women, hold conversations where people are seen as ‘other than’ or ‘less than’ any man, you become part of the problem.

So, good men are upset. They want to be told how to fix the problem, how to stop the pain that the women they love suffer on and off throughout the entirety of their lives. They want to help. The only problem is, that’s not the discussion at hand right now.

Women want to be heard, in our entirety and with every voice we have. We need to tell our stories, so that in the sheer strength of our numbers we find solace in not being isolated, set apart from or worse, against each other. This is our opportunity, a time to talk as women, to women, about being women. I want to hear from others like me in gender, and unlike me in so many other ways. I want to have my eyes opened to my own privileges, to see them for what they are and to work so all women enjoy the same privileges an accident of birth granted me. I need to rant about wrongs done to me, and empathize with the outrageous experiences of others. I want to weep on womanly shoulders and offer comfort with my feminine arms.

I have needed to have this conversation for fifty-seven long years, and I just don’t have the time to be pulled aside and distracted by the needs of my male friends, no matter how loving and supportive they are. Guys, you’re on your own for a while. I am not available to tend to your wishes (talking to you right now), wants (worrying over your feelings), and desires (to see you as heroes). I’m busy with more important stuff. Talk amongst yourselves and look within for answers. I see and recognize your statements of support, and somewhere deep inside me I thank you for them. But I don’t want to talk to you, not at the moment.

I, and all women, must have this time to ourselves to mourn our dead and missing, to identify and localize horrific current events, to finally come to terms with the unfathomable depth of misogyny running through the cultures of the world. We need to self-identify and help our resistant sisters to lift the veil of our male centered societies from their eyes. We will heal from this and rise stronger, ready to reach out to allies and take up the intense struggle necessary to secure the safety of every, yes, all women.

And in an ironically infuriating addendum, I must report that the #YesAllWomen HT is being abandoned because its creator has been frightened sufficiently to request no one post to it any longer. Crazy people are making insane threats to her, and her family’s, safety. Her situation has become a stark example of why we need to tell our stories and reclaim our strength, synergizing courage in numbers.

#EachEveryWoman is an excellent place to be right now.