April 04, 2021

What did we want to change? Nothing short of the whole world.


The Soul of a Woman: On Impatient Love, Long Life, and Good Witches
By Isabel Allende

Fondly remembering when my best friend and I started an all girls magazine in fifth grade (It's A Girl's World) and convinced some of our classmates to subscribe for a very minimal fee. I don't think we "published" it for very long, but I'm giving high fives & pats on the back to our former selves for being brave, cute, and feminist, before we even knew what that meant.

"Everything changed for me in 1967 when I started working as a journalist at Paula, a newly launched feminist magazine. (The name has nothing to do with my daughter's; it was one of those names that suddenly became popular and omnipresent.) The editor was Delia Vergara, a young and beautiful journalist who had lived in Europe and had a clear vision of the type of magazine she wanted. With that in mind, she gathered her small team. The magazine saved me from being suffocated by frustration. 
We were four young women in our twenties ready to shake up Chilean prudery. In our country, which was very conservative and had a provincial mentality, social mores had not changed much over the last century. We got inspiration from magazines and books from Europe and North America. We read Sylvia Plath and Betty Friedan, and later Germaine Greer, Kate Miller, and other writers who helped us define ideas and express them eloquently. 
I opted for humor because I soon realized that the most daring ideas can be accepted if they elicit a smile. That's how my column "Civilize Your Troglodyte" came to be. It made fun of machismo, and ironically became very popular among men. "I have a friend who is just like your troglodyte," they would say to me. (Always a friend.) Some female readers, on the other hand, felt threatened because the column shook the very foundation of their domestic world.
I was comfortable in my skin for the first time. I wasn't a lonely lunatic; millions of women shared my concerns. There was a women's liberation movement happening on the other side of the Andes Mountains and our magazine intended to spread it throughout Chile. 
From those foreign intellectuals whose books we read, I learned that anger without purpose is useless and even harmful; I had to act if I wanted change...
My three colleagues and I wrote with a knife between our teeth; we were a scary gang. What did we want to change? Nothing short of the whole world. With the arrogance of youth, we thought that could be done in ten or fifteen years. This was more than half a century ago and look where we still are today. But I have not lost faith that it can be achieved, and my accomplices from that time, who are as old as I, haven't either. And yes, I use the word old, which seems to be pejorative. I do so on purpose because I am proud of my age. Every year I have lived and every wrinkle I have tell my story."

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