My older sister handed me this button over three years ago. She told me that it is an original button from a lecture by Gloria Steinem held at University of Houston Clear Lake. I had never seen this symbol and began to research it. I was shocked to realize here was a recent history I knew nothing about that profoundly affects the quality of my life. I'm smart, naturally inquisitive and I read a ton of books and articles. How had I missed this? I began to wonder, is this lack of connection to our past the reason we are not acting in the present?
- Toni Leago Valle
courtesy of The New York Times, 2008.
For full article, click here
I am in the process of researching a new evening-length concert, "Never again." For the past three years, I have been troubled by the political process that is systematically stripping women (and other groups too, but that is a whole other concert) of their basic human rights. There is a general apathy in our lives whenever something does not directly affect us where we can see it. I know I am guilty myself of having deep feelings about our current political climate, yet not being able to act on it.
I am deeply afraid of the full circle that has come about - women are being told what they can and cannot do with their bodies We are being forced into old stereotypes with lack of birth control availability, lack of equal rights, and strong opposition that creates a hostile and fearful environment.
We have won the right to vote, but we do not. Since the 1900's our ancestors have fought for our rights to be seen as equal, as humans, yet the majority of current women lay these rights down willingly by not participating. We have fought hard to recognize that rape is a crime we do not bring on ourselves, that No Means No, that violence is something we will not stand for, yet statistics show that 1 in 3 women will have a rape experience in their lifetime. We fought for our independence through laws that allow us to control our bodies, our reproduction, our lives. And yet, we are moving towards an age where women are forced to carry babies, where sex and reproduction will no longer be a choice but a means to control us, where once again we are seen as second-class citizens.
"Never again" will take a look back at the Women's Suffrage Movement, the Battle of Planned Parenthood and Birth Control, The Feminine Mystique, Roe vs Wade, the Equal Pay Act, Gloria Steinem, and the Violence Against Women Act. By focusing on our past, I hope to bring our attention to our future, and facilitate change in our thinking. Perhaps by exposing my own fear, I can touch others and collectively we can start to act so that we can remain first-class citizens, humans treated with respect, and retain the ability to make individual choices for ourselves.
I begin this summer by choreographing a piece to the classic short essay, "Why I Want a Wife," by Judy Brady. Published in 1972, "Why I Want a Wife," is a satire on women's perceived roles as a wife and mother.
Toni Leago Valle
by Judy Brady
I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children's doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children's clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife's income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.
I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife's duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them
I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d'oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.
I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife's duties. My God, who wouldn't want a wife.