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Dreaming big
Giving thanks for 35 years of Ms. Magazine

By Ellen Snortland

Ms. magazine turns 35 this year. When I received the invitation to its big birthday gala on Dec. 1, I could barely believe how much time has passed since I proudly subscribed and called myself a "Ms." Ms. magazine is the "mother ship" because without her, I, along with many other gals - and guys too - would have been floating around in space with nowhere to dock and refuel.

Think back. Where were you 35 years ago? How were you defining yourself, particularly in the area of gender? Many of us were screwing up, screwing down and making fools of ourselves. Perhaps I should speak for myself here and let you reflect for yourself on your own fool status. "It is said that truth comes from the mouths of fools and children," said obscure German philosopher G.C. Lichtenberg.

Any movement worth a damn needs its fools and can't get started without them. For anything revolutionary to start, you've got to have the people who dream big, who are passionate, hearty and hardy out in front. We're going to make fools out of ourselves so you who hang back won't have to! Next time you run into a fool, thank them.

I was foolish and impassioned as a young feminist, for many reasons. When I read Robin Morgan's "Sisterhood is Powerful" in 1970, I saw for the first time that I was not alone in my frustrations. I realized that other women and girls also bridled at the limitations that we were handed in relationships, careers and family. It wasn't just me; I wasn't just a freak. (Well, that's subject to debate even now.) When Ms. magazine came out in 1972, I didn't just have a magazine, I had a community that I joined as a reader.

So no matter what you think of the so-called "women's movement," it has impacted each and every one of us, and liberated men too. And this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for 35 years of pioneering.

Here are 10 top reasons I'm thankful that Ms. magazine and the women's movement were born:

10.  I know when I get a call from a solicitor and they ask for "Mrs." that I can give them a lecture on why "Ms." is the correct honorific when one doesn't know the preference or marital status of a woman.

9.   I could get a mortgage on my own without the signature of a man - whether husband or father - an adult financial action not available to my grandmothers and possible for my mother only later in her life.

8.   I actually own my home on my own; the symbolic power of home ownership is revolutionary for women.

7.   I could get into a Jesuit law school, Loyola Los Angeles, on the basis of an ardently pro-choice essay I wrote because the priest on the admissions committee recognized and argued for my courage. "We need women with guts like these," Father Vachon insisted on my behalf.

6.   For my first wedding (gulp) in 1977, I insisted that my mother as well as my father "give" me away. I also insisted that my groom's parents "give" him away too. Only a few people thought I was completely nuts. Both of the mothers really appreciated being included since they had clocked a lot of time as housewives and mothers, raising us.

5.   I know at least 10 women who successfully fought back and prevented a more serious assault from going further because they learned how to defend themselves physically.

4.   I know many men who have redefined their roles as husbands and fathers. Unlike the men in my father's generation, they have full and satisfying relationships with their children because they carved out the time.

3.   The women's movement opened up sexual freedom so much that we could start to look beyond plumbing for partnerships. Now I can actually pick a domestic partner based on his or her true compatibility with me, not just his ability to "provide."

2.   My value is determined by factors other than my husband's statusor the accomplishments of my sons, which is a good thing since I currently have neither.

1.   And the No. 1 reason I'm thankful for the woman's movement: I could keep my incredibly delicate last name, Snortland, even as a married woman! See, I told you I'm a fool.

If you'd like to experience women in history on Dec. 1, the Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) celebration is open to the public. Besides honoring FMF founder Eleanor Smeal, it's an opportunity to see and hear Ms. founding editor Gloria Steinem, United Farm Workers co-founder and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and actors and activists Alfre Woodard, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Najimy, Margaret Cho and Tyne Daly. The event is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, 4401 W. 8th St., Los Angeles. To purchase tickets or arrange group ticket sales, call (310) 556-2500.

Pasadena Weekly: 11/22/07

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