Can’t have one without the other, not really. I don’t think so anyhow. Lookit, why I’m thinking about this, is — a few weeks ago, my buddy K and I went to a women’s meeting in a suburb of our city. Sometimes we go to meetings in exotic places like North Van or Burnaby or Steveston even. Sometimes we cross a border, other times we cross a bridge (!) and sometimes we cross both.
So this was a small meeting, and the women were lovely, as they are, all were white, most were middle-aged, a couple had these really deep smoky voices. They sounded like they’d been dispatching trucks or taxis for years, and they looked all tough and no-nonsense.
And of the 10 or 12 of them, over half were on anti-depressants.
This is not a revolution. These women are sober, and they are doing the work they need to do to stay sober and they are serious and loving of each other. They talked about how their lives were better than they were before they got sober, but they are still difficult, and there are these meds they are on, and they can’t stop taking them because life is even harder then.
They have recovery, but they do not have revolution. Recovery is not a movement. It’s something that’s helpful, though, for women in the women’s liberation movement — I am all over getting my allies and friends interested in sobriety. That’s through attraction not promotion — works the same in sobriety as with lesbianism, and in fact, feminism — you start telling women what you think they should do and we’ll do the exact opposite, don’t matter what. It’s a better strategy to do the right thing, be disciplined, responsible, kind and radical. If we show ’em how satisfying that is, to be part of something so big and important, and surrounded by such totally cool women — they’ll join.
Anyhow, but recovery, miraculous as it can appear, is not a movement. It’s political, ’cause any time we get together and take responsibility for each other’s well being and tell the truth, that’s a way to gain and share power. But it’s not, in that it’s not meant to challenge the power structures we operate in, and that operate in us. It’s just learning how to live sober. That’s all. It’s big, but it’s not challenging the powers that be.
The Women’s Liberation Movement, now, THAT’s a movement. They called it a movement back then because they were determined to MOVE things, shift the way we do things, alter the power structures, flatten them out so we could all participate. We take to the streets, we try to jam up the works of the powerful machines, we write letters and briefs, we stick our necks out, we get in front and we get each other’s backs.
I’ve found it way way easier to participate in this liberation movement as I sober up. As I learn to live. I was always a feminist. Always. But I was not always effective. Not as effective as I can be now. Which is still not as effective as I will be in another year, two, ten — if I keep doing the work. But the work of sobriety is not making the powerful give up their power and getting their boots of our necks — no AA or NA group will take to the streets with signs and megaphones or lobby politicians for changes to legislation in the name of AA — it’s ANONYMOUS.
Which is why women in recovery are still wired to pharmaceuticals. Life is way better, but they are still oppressed. It is part of the answer, but they’re not organized yet, to their own liberation. I talk some about feminism when I’m in twelve step meetings, but not a lot, because it’s an “outside issue” and AA has no opinion on outside issues. And I need that conservative guy over there to keep me sober. I will go toe-to-toe with him outside of the rooms, but inside, I just listen and take what’s useful and when I am asked to speak I tell the truth. On the other hand, outside, I know women in recovery and also in feminism, and we can find each other, and we can find the women who still suffer, the women in trouble — I often offer to go to a meeting with these women. I need them beside me. Need them.
Which is why it’s important to have feminist action as well. I can’t have either without both. Had I only stopped drinking and gone to meetings, I might be medicated in another way. Like those women in that meeting K and I went to. However, I’m really lucky in that I have opportunities to participate in a pretty vibrant scene here. My involvement with a feminist anti-male-violence organization has broadened my horizons of opportunities and expectations — and those of many other women, as well, to be sure. Not that there are not some times when medication is helpful. Necessary, even. But 50% of us? Really?
As K and I left that meeting, she made that observation — “you know,” she said, “there is something very wrong when more than half of the women in that meeting are on drugs.” Uh-huh.
Some people call “recovery” a movement. In a personal sense, I guess it is. But in a political sense, nope. Not so much.