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From Betrayal to Power


Resistance is the secret of joy! --Alice Walker Possessing the Secret of Joy What does it mean to love a daughter in a culture that is hostile to her integrity? In a culture where power equals dominance and superiority, men's control of public life--the world of political and economic power that shapes the desires of private life--places mothers in a double bind as their daughters approach womanhood. The common ways that mothers have of guiding daughters--what we call "the paths of least resistance" in chapter two 1 --ask girls to make deep psychological sacrifices to straddle the cultural division of work, in the "male" public world of politics and business, and love, in the "female" private world of home and family. As girls find that they cannot enter patriarchy fully and powerfully as themselves, they feel betrayed by their mothers. But mothers did not create the separate spheres of public and private life. It is this cultural betrayal of human integrity, which divides our wholeness into these separate spheres, that makes loving and raising a daughter political work. The romance-into-mothering myth created in the mid-1800s told women that their true nature is best expressed in the home, in private life. 2 When market-driven factory life in the Industrial Revolution consumed women's traditional work of producing food, clothing, medicine, and crafts, women were suddenly stripped of their expertise and authority. Rather than adopting a "rationalist" solution of admitting "women into modern society ...

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