The Future is Female: an Origin Story

By: Brooke Claflin

            On April 6th I attended a poetry reading in Healy 208, entitled “A Reading from How Did This Happen?: Poems for the Not So Young Anymore”. The book contains poems compiled by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez, both members of the Georgetown community, along with their commentary. In general, the two hoped to shed light on their experiences of aging while female, while also creating a work that others could relate to. One poem that spoke to me especially during the reading was Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do.” This poem along with the others articulated well the various, everyday narratives of life and growing older; however, the event itself was advertised for as “Poetry as Feminist Resistance.” Thus, I began to contemplate the ways in which the readings had reflected this idea of resistance.

            I ultimately decided that there is something about aging as a woman that our society has equated with the loss of power and dignity, whereas men experience the reverse. As women age we see ourselves diminishing in value in the eyes of those around us because so much of our worth in society still rests upon our youth and appearance. We have yet to achieve recognition for our accomplishments alone, there is always this other layer of judgement just beneath the surface.

            In thinking about this idea of female aging and feminine resistance I also began to wonder about the reemergence of the slogan: The Future is Female. Hillary Clinton herself used this phrase in her first address to the public after her loss to Donald Trump. The slogan, which comes from the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s, originally served to challenge the patriarchy and assert the agency of this marginalized group of women. Thus, the slogan of a small movement transformed into the cry of a much larger group of dissenters.

            However, what exactly does “the Future is Female” mean? After over 40 years the re-adoption of the slogan suggests that there is still work to be done, but I think it would be a mistake to oversimplify the slogan. Yes, it utilizes the gender binary to describe the future, which excludes around half the population (those who do not identify as female). Even so I don’t think it is meant to be taken literally, instead it is meant to point out that there is still progress to be made and to express the hope that many marginalized groups will experience a future in which they finally have a voice. Hopefully this latest trend can bring attention to the need for another movement of people, however they might identify, to seek out equal rights. Overall, although some have argued against the slogan as limiting, it still provides a powerful message to people of all ages that things will change.