One night in a Madison bar, we met up with three ladies studying for their Masters in fiction at UW-Madison (and had our first taste of Wisconsin cheese curds). A long and winding feminist discussion ensued.
Summer: 31, worked for Court TV and the Christian Science Monitor until she moved to the Middle East and got married, came back to get her MFA in fiction, originally from Basking Ridge, NJ.
"I come from a very traditional family, my parents are immigrants from Lebanon and their roles are very defined...you can probably guess the details. When I got married, I really panicked, and was all worried, like 'Do I have to start cooking?' I just resisted it because it was so much the idea of a traditional mother, even though my husband never said anything about it...I had this weird experience where I start cooking all these meals out of anger...Now I'm more comfortable with the fact that my role is cooking in my marriage, but not because I'm a woman. We have our own way of splitting things."
Emma #1: 27, originally from Baltimore, went to Yale, taught in rural Louisiana and Beijing before going for her MFA.
"It's never really occurred to me to consider myself a feminist...I was having a conversation about this issue with my mother the other day, when Hillary Clinton beat Obama in New Hampshire, because she was super-excited, like 'Oh, this is so great for women, the idea of a woman president.' I was voicing to her, which she found to be heartening but also a little bit sad, that I just don't think about being female and being defined by that in the way that she does...It may just go back to childhood, because in my classes growing up, the girls were always smarter, more dynamic, talkative, and outgoing--the all-star students of the class."
Emma #2: 27, getting her fiction MFA, originally from New York, graduated from Oberlin.
"All my male friends now are single. They really don't feel pressure to get married the way some women our age do. They're all going out and dating and picking up girls in bars..and I'm not doing that, I've been in a relationship for 6 years now. I do feel this pressure, and it's connected to the idea of having children. If all women could have children at 45, it would be fine! I wouldn't worry about it. But it's not the case. And it's not like I want them to feel pressure, it's just frustrating."