Truth be told, I was terrified of Gloria Steinem growing up.
She seemed like a rebel more than an ally. She didn't smile a lot like other beautiful women I admired. Her eyes weren't doe-like and soft. They were covered by huge glasses that then covered her whole face. They weren't even fashionable.
Then there was the title of her magazine, 'Ms. Magazine'.
To me, the acronym Ms. meant a not-so-young, single, and alone cat lady living the repercussions of being a feminist. Which is precisely the opposite of the life I wanted to have for myself.
Living as a liberated, independent woman, like Mary Tyler Moore, was more my style. She was a role model I could relate to—a Gloria who smiled and wore contacts.
Until along came Ellen Ripley in 1979.
The first time I ever saw the movie Alien, I was shocked, least of all by the Alien. I expected Dallas (the ship's captain) and Ellen Ripley (a crew officer) to fall in love, have sex, kill an alien predator, save their spaceship and our world.
Just like in real life, sometimes the unimaginable happens. Dallas dies, not at the beginning or end, but smack in the middle of the movie—before they even had sex! It was the 'Ned Stark' moment of the time.
I kept thinking the next guy would end up being the hero, but one by one, they kept dying. Finally, I realized that Ripley was the only one who could save the day. The terror on her face doing it gave me a new understanding of leadership, and I walked away with a new feminist role model I could relate to. Had Mary Tyler Moore played Ripley, she would have been the first one dead. I wanted to be like Ripley. It changed my vision of womanhood. It's my favorite movie of all time.
And just when I thought I knew everything about this movie, I watched the 2021 Oscar-nominated movie, A Promising Young Woman, that I learned something new.
Ripley was part of a crew of men and women who didn't share ingrained prejudices or contempt for her. Alien takes place in a Universe without sexism, the opposite of ours.
A world A Promising Young Woman is dying to show us.
The day after I watched this movie, I read the following headline: "Minnesota Supreme Court throws out rape conviction because intoxicated woman willingly consumed alcohol." That's when the cherries on my self-awareness cake began to drop from the heavens.
There's an old saying my Grandmother repeatedly told me growing up for my own protection. "Remember what they say:"
'Cuiden Sus Gallinas Que Mi Gallo Está Suelto'
Translation: "Guard your hens because my rooster is on the loose." Her meaning was crystal clear: males can run around freely without any repercussions, but females, on the other hand, can't because of males. Therefore, beware.
As a child who grew up on an island with literal chickens running around, this seemed to make total sense at the time. After all, it was for my own protection. I knew why she said it.
However, I never thought about asking my Grandmother why "they" said it, who "they" were. Or what would happen when hens went away to college, where there would be lots of roosters running around free and no one to guard them. Weren't these the same dangerous Roosters I was supposed to marry? What A Promising Young Woman is all about, shocking the rules of the day.
I Goggled information about, and this is what I learned about Roosters and Hens.
Before 1772, an adult male chicken was called a cock. The more good-looking the cock, the more popular. Roosters symbolize awareness, masculinity, bravery, honesty, prudence, pride, strength, positivity, enthusiasm, and sexuality. A good Rooster will protect your hens and alert you to any danger from predators.
Hens are among the most promiscuous members of the animal kingdom. Hens will at times eject sperm a rooster's sperm as a form of birth control. Hens are soft-hearted, lovingly tender towards their chicks, and have a high pain threshold.
In the Chicken Universe, Hens run free, control their reproduction, and Roosters fight and are willing to die to protect them against predators, all predators, including predatorily Roosters.
This is what I learned about feminism from Chickens:
Liberal independent women will never have equal rights until they are as equally safe as men. They will never be equal until they can get blackout drunk and cry Rooster. "Looks like we made it after all," with a cute hat toss was, is, and never going to be enough.
Today on my 60th birthday, I want you to know I am officially a politically aware feminist who believes we have to do at least as well as chickens.
Gloria, I am sorry, it's never too late. You are the best kind of Hen.
We need more Roosters like you.