obituaries

Before Feminism Was Mainstream: Sex Toys and Other Gutsy Stuff

When I think of handcuffs (which is very rare) my memory turns to westerns of my childhood rather than 50 Shades of Grey. Didn’t read it and skipped the poorly reviewed movie too. Although using sex toys have never been a focus of my relatively (it’s all relative right?) traditional sex history, can’t say I never held a vibrator.

BillytheKid_Wanted 3

As you may know, I love reading obituaries.

Dell Williams, 92, founder of Eve’s Garden passed away March 11th. I admit it, I did not know of her work and/or cause till I read the obit.

Dell Williams

Dell Williams

After having a humiliating experience buying a vibrator at Macy’s, Ms. Williams left the store thinking “someone ought to open a store where a woman can buy one of these things without some kid asking her what she’s going to do with it”. Check out Eves Garden to see more about Ms. Williams and her boutique (not AT ALL sleazy by the way) she opened in 1974. Or don’t because this whole topic offends you. That is up to you, as it should be – no shame, just choice.

Choice, freedom and economic parity are at the core of the women’s movement. And feminism is going strong. Take a look at what some young bold feminists have done and are doing on Feministing. We see more and more young women jumping on board and reinventing feminism rather than dismissing it as something no longer needed or outdated. Loved this list of inventions by women I saw yesterday which made me wonder again how many other earlier successful women were undervalued.

dishawasher

Via Buzzfeed: “Saving untold marriages over the last century and a half, the dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane in 1887. She marketed her invention to hotel owners, scandalously going to meetings without a husband, brother, or father to escort her, and eventually opened her own factory.”

The World Economic Forum predicts women will reach leadership parity in 2095. But TakeTheLeadWomen.com is thinking more like 25 years. Both are daunting goals but more and more possible as more women (and men) focus on the cause.

I remember my college roommate Carolyn being mocked for being a feminist on our conservative catholic college campus in 1968. People wondered (yes, this is true) “who would marry her”? That you may recall was a fate worse than death. And yes, it makes me cringe to even think about that ridiculous “worry”.

We need to remind ourselves to thank all those women – from Dell Williams to my roommate Carolyn who were fabulous and gutsy way before feminism became mainstream and nearly universally acclaimed in cultures like ours. We wouldn’t be sending a hastag for equality (#25not95) any more than we would be talking openly (or not) about enjoying sex toys.

Progress for women hasn’t been smooth and often appears to be a losing battle given some still existing regressive views. But regardless of whether you like sex toys or not, let’s take a moment to thank Dell Williams, my college roommate, and thousands of unnamed super women of an earlier time who brought us closer to gender equality than we thought we’d see in our lifetimes.

Patty Gill Webber

Obituaries As History Lessons

I am likely not the only fabulousover60 woman who faithfully reads (online or off) obituaries in their local or favorite national newspaper.

No, I did not do this under 50 – maybe not even under 55 or 60 – but at this point, at 65, I do read them. While what could be argued to be somewhat obvious — the older one is the more ‘death is a reality’ rather than something old people do. For me it isn’t so much morbid curiosity (so how did this person die?) as much as considering others’ lives as a whole and considering what (if anything) would be said about me if I died.

Many of us super competitive boomers are, if nothing else, curious how others “did” versus ourselves in the overall game or journey of life. Did I contribute as much to my field? Was I as philanthropic? What about my famous recipe that hundreds adored every holiday? Will I be missed by a large number of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Or anyone in particular?

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When reading the New York Times, whose obituaries are often terrific history lessons, I gravitate to people in my own professional field such as the two from 2014 noted below.

Warren G. Bennis, an eminent scholar and author who advised presidents and business executives on his academic specialty, the essence of successful leadership — a commodity he found in short supply in recent decades — died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 89.”

I read his books, heard him speak, and used his expertise to help my own. Warren was an un-introduced to mentor of mine.

Lillian B. Rubin, a sociologist and psychotherapist who wrote a series of popular books about the crippling effects of gender and class norms on human potential, died June 17 at her home in San Francisco. She was 90.”

Dying in California clearly ups your chances of making the NY Times. That or it shows that smart people retire to great weather and blue states as they age.

Dr. Rubin used qualitative research — interviewing people – hundreds of them in some cases — to write her many books on aspects of adult development. In her later years she wrote often for the online journal Salon on issues of culture, politics and sometimes, but rarely, about the realities of aging. “Sixty is not the new forty” she wrote. Fabulous absolutely agrees with that point and has said so repeatedly.

*Speaking of death and dying, Cathy called to my attention obituaries’ (local ones) use of odd euphemisms to mean death. Here are some favorites: “ended her battle with cancer”, “entered heaven’s gates”, “peacefully passed”, “went to be the Lord”, “went to her rest” and Cathy’s favorite – “earned her wings”. That line was of course borrowed from It’s A Wonderful Life, the 1946 movie that encouraged people to think of being a good person before one’s death so you could “earn one’s wings” rather than just pass away (that is, die) when the time came.

Its a wonderful life

Mostly though, obituaries remind me of the very limited ways we are truly remembered. Even when famous it is nearly impossible to get more than a column or two. We have to make sure if there is only one thing to say about us, we plan our lives to make that one thing clear. Or maybe not. Actually, I really like something else about Lillian Rubin. She wrote at age 88 that she had mixed feelings about living at that age, and dying too. “Ambivalence reigns”, she wrote, “in death as in life.” Yes, Dr. it does.

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