In my last trip to my favorite bookstore (RiverRun, Portsmouth, NH), I picked up As If Women Mattered by Virginia DeLuca. It was a staff pick, and published by Piscataqua Press, RiverRun’s publishing company.
The premise, four women who meet at a women’s rally in 1972, who form their own circle and become lifelong friends, living their lives while navigating through a world that didn’t value women, raising families and trying to have careers. I was immediately drawn to the book, as a former women’s history major, and as a woman who thinks a lot about women’s roles in today’s society.
The four main characters are wonderful. Realistic, in the way they supported each other, fought with each other, gave and ignored advice, made good decisions and made mistakes. I felt like I could have been reading the combined diaries of the four women.
Mostly, I loved reading the narratives of four women who were living in a time when it was hard to be a woman, it seems to be. Constantly having to prove themselves, be strong, feminine, perfect, sexual, motherly, and in eighteen places at once. It made me think about where we are today, and what barriers women still face. While women like these four, who lived through the women’s liberation movement, paved the way for much of the freedom I enjoy today as a young, single female, we still have so far to go.
We still live in a society that values beauty, seemingly above all else. It’s not about who I am, but how I look, and I get judged on that every day. I was a little heartbroken for Vivian when Katie, who Vivian worked so hard to raise on her own, was so focused on her body and thinking she wasn’t pretty enough, which equaled not being good enough for a man. And remembered how cruel kids can be to each other about it.
We live in a society that doesn’t support the choices that women make for themselves and their families. A woman decides to work full time? She’s a bad mother. A woman decides to stay home and be a full time mom? She’s throwing away her education, and throwing away all of the work that women before her did so she could work. Why can’t we let women and their families decide for themselves, and save the judgement? I loved the turnaround that Alix’s mom experienced in the book. I actually cheered out loud at that last conversation they had!
We live in a world where girls are expected to grow up, get married and have a family (aka, children). How many times have you been to a wedding, or seen newlyweds being asked, “So when are you planning to have kids?” It’s a) no one else’s business, and b) not necessarily the next thing in life. Not everyone wants to have, or can have kids. I find it to be an incredibly rude question. I felt for Gemma when people would ask her about her and Willie having children, or when everyone assumed they would have kids.
I really appreciated this book, for being a wonderful story of four strong, amazing women and their lives, and for making me stop to think about my own life.