Here’s a mini memoir I contributed to The Sitting Room‘s 2014 publication, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like. The question writers were asked to address was, When did you first realize you were a feminist?
Vying for Space
by Laura McHale Holland
Kathy, Mary Ruth and I unwrap Bazooka in the back seat while our father starts up the Ford Galaxy. Feeling lucky that I, the youngest in the family, landed the coveted window spot on the driver’s side, I pop an entire rectangle of gum in my mouth, chomp down, and relish a burst of flavor.
We crumple the wax papers and drop them one, two, three into her hand. She faces for-ward again. Our father backs down the drive. Excited at the prospect of seeing our grandmother soon, my sisters and I fidget, elbow each other and kick the back of the front seat.
“Stop that!” our father roars. He brakes; we all lurch forward. “Sit still, or you’re going right back in the house. No visiting Gramma today. I’ll count to three: one, two … three.”
We do our best to settle down, careful not to bump each other and set off a fight.
Our father resumes backing out just as our neighbors pull into their driveway. All four family members sit like mannequins in their respective places: father driving, son in front passenger seat, mother and daughter in back.
“That’s creepy—males in front, females in back,” Kathy says.
“They’re so weird,” Mary Ruth says. I bounce up and down in agreement.
“He’s got the right idea, girls,” my father says, catching my eye in the rearview mirror. “You’d just better hope my lovely wife doesn’t have a son someday. She might have to ride in back with you.” He pulls into the street, changes gears and accelerates.
I wince at the thought of a wiggling, squalling male heir in the front next to my father, and a full-grown woman vying for space in back with my sisters and me.
“That’s not funny, Daddy,” Mary Ruth says.
“It wasn’t meant to be.” He chortles, head thrown back.
We three sisters chew our gum in silence. The car crunches over gravel and hits a pot-hole. I kick the front seat right at the small of my father’s back. I kick hard enough to disturb him, but not so hard he won’t conclude the seat was just jostled by the bumpy road.
Are you a feminist?
(Photo is by Christopher Sessums and used under Creative Commons attribution license. My father’s Galaxy was white and a couple years older than the one pictured.)