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What Is Feminism? by Abby Frucht

PUBLISHED: November 5, 2012

Abby Frucht

Editor’s note: The following post is part of a series in which a diverse range of women writers discuss their definition, idea, or experience of feminism. For more background, take a look at our Fall 2012 issue, which features “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. You can find other pieces in this series by clicking here.


1965. Laundry room. Folding Dad’s crackly laundry. In school we learned about static vs. kinetic energy. The ball that stays still contains more energy than the ball that is rolling, because it is gathering energy into itself instead of throwing it away. Mom, admiring the sock-balls, the shirts with the crocodiles snug in the basket: You’ll make someone a perfect wife someday.

1970. Mom’s birthday. Dad gives her letterhead stationary. From the Desk of Mrs. Doctor Howard L. Frucht. But it is customary in our house to love all gifts, even our Aunt Hannah’s coffee cakes, the songs she screeches at the piano, her spinster shoes pedaling. Years later we commiserate. She was born at the wrong time. Was she virgin was she gay did she know it? I’m half crazy. Give me your answer do.

1977. Dinner party. We girls have helped with the washing of pots, but we don’t need to dry them, since the lady in Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room said, Why should we stand around drying dishes when they dry by themselves? The doctors’ wives laugh. Soon they’ll all read that book. I wonder if they fold the socks like we do, the little fists punched inward.

1980. Liz plans a year off school. Mom: You want to graduate so you can get a job. Dad: You’ve never had a job. Mom: I don’t want them to live like I do.

2008: Memory Ward.

Me: Who are you voting for, Dad? Obama or McCain?

Dad: Hilary.

2012: Mom used to like CNN, now FOX. The streets rage in Libya, Egypt, Sudan. For once I’m glad to see no women in the footage, because it means they’re at home, sitting at their windows, gathering their energy into themselves. They were born at the right time. All of us are.


About the author: Abby Frucht’s new collection of stories, The Bell at the End of a Rope, is forthcoming from Narrative Library. Her first collection, Fruit of the Month (University of Iowa Press), won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize in 1987, and was followed by five novels. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a New Voices Award from Quality Paperback Book Club, and several citations for notable books from The New York Times. Find out more at her website.


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