Blog without a Bicycle Interviews Janet Grace Riehl

If you came of age, as I did, during the 1970s when the Feminist Movement began to strongly define itself (the Second Wave), you’ll remember the slogan, widely attributed to Irina Dunn, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” I even remember the silkscreens T-shirts this slogan was emblazoned on, though I didn’t own or wear one.

Elizabeth Curtis is in the next generation of Feminism (the third wave), and it seems quite natural that she’s chosen to honor the continuity of her fore-mother’s feminism with A Blog Without a Bicycle: Riding the Cyberwave of Feminism.

A Blog without a Bicycle is a part of Elizabeth’s M.A. thesis. She is a second-year graduate student in Women’s Studies at the George Washington University. Over the course of the 2006-2007 academic year, she has been completing a thesis that explores blogging and feminist self-presentation online.

Last friday she was kind enough to interview me on her blog, and here is the beginning of that interview. I hope you’ll be able to go visit her blog to read the rest of the interview and read around in more of her blog. I found it eye-opening. Elizabeth’s world opens cultural doors.

“Part of what made me think about blogging was how much time I spent in personal email and on listserves…and how I could perhaps maximize my impact through my blog.” -Janet Grace Riehl

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Do you identify as a “feminist”? How important, if at all, is being/not being a feminist to your identity?

Janet Grace Riehl: I don’t introduce myself as a feminist. I do my best to dodge most labels, because I’ve noticed they tend to cut connections, rather than create them. Probably if there were a checklist of values held by feminists, I would agree with many of these.

When the Feminist Movement was on the rise in the 1970s, I was in my 20s, and so these ideas were important to my thinking at the time.

My great-aunt Mim was a feminist—wearing bloomers and running the family farm long before these things were thought seemly in a woman.

My mother, who died last year at 90, was certainly a feminist, although she would never have called herself that. Mother was a matriarch and the daughter of a matriarch.

My father is a feminist in that without giving it a thought he treated his daughters with every equal opportunity to engage in his world of fixing and making things just as he did with his son.

My sister, a world-class physicist who died in 2004 in a car accident, was certainly a feminist and focused on bringing more women into science and math professions.

A Blog Without a Bicycle: Whether or not you identify as a feminist, what does “feminism” mean to you?

Janet Grace Riehl:
When I worked in Africa for five years in the 1970s, I saw strong women outside my family and culture. I thought, “These are women of power.” That’s what I feel “feminism” means in its best sense—a “woman-ism”—each woman achieving her fullest power in whatever way she defines this. Beyond this, equality of the sexes has to mean that men are included as well, in relieving their burdens as well as in supporting women’s.

In a broader sense, I feel feminism merges with humanism and I feel a strong connection to the feminista spirituality movement that draws on ancient myths around Gaia to fuel Eco-Activism. I see my Eco-Art Work and my participation in Womens Caucus for the Arts as feminist-related.

You can read the rest of the interview on A Blog Without A Bicycle here, and post comments if you wish

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