The passing of great women

In just one week, the world lost three amazing women: Wendy Wasserstein, Betty Friedan and Coretta Scott King. I’m sure there were many more amazing women who died that week as well, who did not have the fame each of these three had, but their lives were probably bettered in some way by at least one of these three. It made me think about the kind of backbone the leaders of civil rights movements have had. We now live in a time in which the corruption of governments, corporations and militaries, ‘authority’ in general seems so disconnected from the needs of people. It’s almost hard to believe that these systems depend on people’on human lives to operate.

Each of these women inspired me. They each had incredible strength of character to do things the way that seemed right to them, even when the environment they came from told them they were foolish or irrelevant. They did not write or organize for ego alone. They were willing to speak and live their truth for its own sake, which is probably what makes life meaningful.

I recently read Ghandi’s autobiography and I am reminded by this work and these women (especially Coretta Scott King), that the ability to change our world and our seemingly-deaf corporations and government is there, but that it begins first and foremost with ourselves. It is more helpful and meaningful to change our behaviours out of a commitment to our own integrity rather than hating what we wish were different outside of us. We do not have to co-operate with what causes us harm.

I am particularly saddened by Wendy Wasserstein’s premature death. First Gilda Radner, then Madeleine Kahn, now Wendy Wasserstein. I am about to make my first Off-Broadway appearance with my first play, and I am very conscious of the fact that women playwrights owe her a great debt. As involved as I was in feminist organizing in college and law school, I still often question whether or not the details of a uniquely female life will really be interesting and ‘important’ enough to include in my work. Reading Wasserstein’s work helps remind me that a woman’s life even feminist hopes are worth writing. It is the lives we don’t often hear about, even the mocked beliefs that are the most worth sharing’if they are part of an honest life, honest truth and, for me, heartfelt humor.

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