The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Elie Wiesel
I heard this in a church talk when I was about 14 and it has always stayed with me. Hate is still engagement – it is the trading of passion for passion. But indifference is the denial of emotion. It is the opposite of all that love brings us – connection, vulnerability, inspiration. I attended the Women’s Equality Day brunch this Sunday in Denver put on by 9 to 5, and I was struck, once again, by the indifference we have in the women’s movement. We talk about the war on women, but it is a war of attrition. Our passion has eroded. We have won just enough battles to be apathetic about our equality. Sunday, August 26, marked the 92nd anniversary of women winning the right to vote in this country. Not even a hundred years of voting. My grandmother was born without it and died with it. 3 generations between we can and we can’t. And we still don’t have an Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced in 1923.
I was a civically minded child. I was more excited to turn 18 and be able to vote than I was to turn 16 and drive. I remember the first time I actually got to vote. The amount of research I did was significant. I spent time in the library reading the details of the Democratic and Republican party platform stances so I could be informed (this was long before social media and the internet), as well as read up on each individual issue. I also confirmed my absentee ballot at least twice with the registrar, as well as my college address. I was committed to being part of the process. It felt so exciting to mail that envelope and, for the first time, know that when the votes were tallied, my voice would be part of the tally.
I’m still a committed voter. I don’t get that same sense of awe that I got from mailing that first ballot in, but I think it’s amazing that my voice is tallied. I didn’t know at 18 that my voice wouldn’t have been tallied if I had been born just decades earlier. That my femaleness would have been seen as evidence of my inability to carry that responsibility. And that women fought for 70 years to make that happen for me. I was indifferent.
I didn’t really understand how feminism applied to me. While I was bright and engaged, I was also very determined about my life path. What I wanted was to get married and raise children. I didn’t find room for my dreams within the feminist movement. In fact, my peers who were feminists belittled my hopes for myself. I wanted feminism to be a movement that broadened the choices for women, to include even my very traditional dream of mothering. And I still want that. I want us, as women, to get involved. To argue with each other about the course of feminism. To engage and grapple with the difficult topics of race and class and how that informs our understanding of women’s rights and needs. I want to us to love our movement and our future. I want us to get inspired together.
The opposite of love is indifference. And that indifference will cost us our dreams for a better future for us all.