Becoming the Living Poet

My Life Without Me: The San Diego Feminist Book Group

Posted on: April 22, 2009

There’s an indie movie directed by Isabel Coixet starring Sarah Polley called My Life Without Me which I would sincerely recommend even though it is incredibly sad. It’s about a married mother in her 20’s who has two young daughters who suddenly discovers she has terminal cancer. Not wanting to alarm her family and feeling that she needs to make the most of the time she has left she makes a list of everything she wants to do before she dies. Among the items on her list is finding her husband a new wife to help him raise her daughters.

In a way that’s kind of what preparing to leave San Diego feels like. It’s as if the me that has lived in San Diego for the last 8 years is dying and I have to make sure all the space I used to occupy at my job and in my personal life is more or less filled before I am reborn into a completely foreign life. It’s scary to think that there might be consequences to my absence and sad to realize that I’m not as irreplaceable as I initially feared.

Just got back from the April meeting of the San Diego Feminist Book Group. The San Diego Feminist Book Group is such a vibrant, intelligent, and passionate group of people. I founded it back in July of last year and now the group is all grown up and ready to flourish without me. We’ve pretty much decided how all the tasks I used to oversee will be delegated starting in June. My last meeting isn’t until May 18th, but I didn’t want to leave all the planning to the last minute.

In high school I founded Carpe Diem Poetry Club and in college I founded Muir Poetry Club. Both of those groups were very meaningful for me while I was involved with them. Perhaps I’ll talk about them in greater detail at a later time. Unfortunately neither of those groups still exists because they both wilted and died pretty much the moment I wasn’t around to micromanage them. If it survives, and it looks like it will, the San Diego Feminist Book Group will be the first group I ever founded that was able to continue when I was no longer a member. There’s a slightly bittersweet feeling knowing that the group now has a life of its own and doesn’t need me to oversee it. But mostly there’s pride and gratitude.

Knowledge is power (yeah, I know it’s a terrible cliche, but it’s true) and with every book we read and discuss we’re learning to recognize and denounce sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia in our daily lives and the world around us. It’s feminist teaspooning at its humblest and most local, but I think the existence of the book group makes a difference, if only in the lives of the group’s members.

This month’s book choice was Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis. The group got into an interesting discussion about whether its better that women of different races and classes have their own feminist movements that prioritize their experiences and struggles or whether its more important to have an all-inclusive feminist movement. Angela Davis pointed out that the mainstream feminist movement has often failed to prioritize the struggles of working class women and women of color. During the heyday of the women’s liberation movement white middle class feminists narrowly focused the struggle for reproductive rights on the right to legal abortions and failed to address the issue of forced sterilization. The mainstream anti-rape movement ignored black women’s concerns over how false charges of raping white women have historically been used as an excuse for lynching innocent black men. Black feminists and womanists have achieved some impressive advances in black women’s rights, but they were usually seen as separate from the mainstream movement. Could white women have effectively advocated for black women’s issues or would that have been colonizing the black feminist movement? Does it make sense that women’s rights activists would fight most fiercely for rights that most directly affect themselves or is it a case of being blinded by one’s own privileges and biased to one’s own experiences? We didn’t really come to any solid conclusions, but it was nice to hear people speaking openly and respectfully about these concerns.

Personally I favor independent groups based around an issue or an identity that are mutually respectful of one another’s work and reasonably knowledgeable about one another’s priorities who can periodically mobilize around common struggles at key moments. I envisioned the San Diego Feminist Book Group as a space for cultivating knowledge of differences and recognition of common ground across feminist movements so I think coalition building and activism from the position of ally is entirely possible.

I’m going to try and do a monthly San Diego Feminist Book Group post to stay connected to the group.

I plan to keep reading the book selection each month and I’m slightly comforted by the fact that I’m still going to be doing the maintenance of the goodreads group. That said, I will truly miss going to meetings. As much as I’ve bullied out-of-state friends into joining the group claiming that we have a flourishing online community, the group’s purely online component is pretty anemic. It’s mostly an in-person interaction based group and that will probably not change with my departure alas alack. I might start a chapter in San Francisco, but only if I’m reasonably certain it won’t interfere with my MFA coursework.


1 Response to "My Life Without Me: The San Diego Feminist Book Group"

We miss you at the meetings…!

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